Happy Independence Day. No, not for America. For myself.
The last time I spoke to my father in any serious capacity was on July 4th, 2019. I have struggled with telling this story because it feels like “too much information” or TMI. Since that day, I’ve reflected a lot and truth be told, it has influenced my teaching philosophy greatly. I tell this story now, not because I need to get anything off my chest. Instead, I tell this story because of the environment we find ourselves in today. Polarized, broken, and fighting each other with information and misinformation. We think that this is an isolated incident in the United States, but we only need to look at the Freedom Convoy to see similar ideology in our own backyard.
Everyone has a Ph.D. from Facebook, Twitter, or Rebel News. Information and expertise have been twisted to form a narrative that aligns with one’s beliefs. We bring our experts to the table, you bring yours. Science is no longer about “the pursuit and application of knowledge following a systematic methodology based on evidence”. Evidence is whatever some alt-right fascist posts on Facebook or YouTube. According to another one of my family members, “Fact-checking is a nice way to cancel speech you don’t like vs debating and coming up with group consensus. Following the science only works in debate settings”.
I struggle to follow that logic, but I guess that’s what these people believe. However, I digress.
Let’s get back to the story…
July 4, 2019
I remember that day as if it happened yesterday. On July 4th my father started his trip from Toronto, where he was visiting his family. I worked that day, like any normal day. However, I kept my eye glued to my phone screen as I was receiving text message updates periodically as he inched closer to Ottawa to visit me.
Him: At your house at 2?
Me: Meet me at work instead?
Him: 1 hour away.
I remember this day because it was fucking awkward. Why? Because my father and I do not see eye-to-eye on many topics. One particularly volatile topic is politics. We argued about politics throughout my adult life. He’s a wannabe Republican. You see, my family moved to Alabama when I was in high school. I didn’t go with them. I stayed in Canada, something years later I would be fucking thankful for. My father is like a sponge, absorbing and trying to fit in where ever he goes, even if that means sacrificing his own beliefs in the process. Sad.
So he arrives in Ottawa, picks me up from work and we run some errands. At some point, my father asked if I was planning to come down to the U.S. sometime. This was pre-COVID, but not pre-Trump and my off-the-cuff comment was something like “not while Trump is in the white house”.
A few of us go out to dinner and somehow, in the middle of it all we volunteer to drop off a portable air conditioner at a friend’s place on our way back to my house (who is from Bangladesh).
The straw that broke the camel’s back
Our drive home was pretty quiet. No one said anything. Out of the blue, he turns to me and says, “do you think people should be allowed to wear burkas in an airport?” No doubt, this xenophobic, racist argument was the result of dropping off the air conditioner to a “non-white” friend. I have paraphrased the next part of the conversation but it still resonates with me to this day.
Me: “Yes, people have religious freedoms. They should be allowed to wear burkas in an airport”.
He responded: “but is it safe?”
Me: Thinking WTF. Seriously? “Yes, read our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have you ever read it?
Him: “I don’t need to read it. Stop bringing it up. Should we change laws for religious freedom?”
Many things were said, including him telling me to “get out of my liberal bubble” and to “get cultured”. I’m sorry, do you think Alabama is the cultural melting pot of the world?
The day I lost a father
That day I lost a father, he didn’t die, but he was no longer something I wanted to be related to. You should look up to your father, not pity them. I pity my father that he became brainwashed trying to fit in with our neighbours to the south. More specifically, the extreme alt-right movement.
I told my father to leave. There was no way that a xenophobic, racist was going to be staying with me. We haven’t spoken in any serious capacity since. I have been privy to posts that he has made on social media that are based on conspiracy theories, misinformation and questionable sources. The way he talks to his family is deplorable. However, through that pity I feel for my father. It has given me the strength to educate people to be smart consumers of information. Not someone brainwashed in their own filter bubble.