Friday, June 9, 2017

The Canada I remember

I seem to be up with a cold, and am thinking that I made the right decision despite the tugging on my arm (and my heart) not to attend my daughter's field trip to a nearby pioneer town yesterday. I had come home and spent the morning on the couch instead, realizing that I really didn't feel so good, with head throbbing and eyes and nose watering, as the rain came down outside, wishing my daughter had worn better shoes like I'd asked her to repeatedly. I had had a bright idea in the office while I signed her permission form, saying to her that we could instead go there as a family in the summer. "That would be nice, wouldn't it?" As I walked away, torn as I often am as a parent, the things you would love to do, if the realities of everyday life didn't so often get in the way. A pioneer town for a day, one on one time with one of my children, a grade school memory as I find myself recalling, now sitting here at my desk in early morning. The birds have just awoken outside, the rain seems to have stopped, and I'm here with my own thoughts of grade school.

I've had this memory, who knows why it is that we remember the things that we do from our childhood. I grew up from the age of 9 in rural Nova Scotia, attending a little country school that my daughter's school reminds me so much of (which is why I am sad that it will be closing it at the end of this month), that which is small and personable, being replaced by bigger and more economical. There's so much happening in the world that some have tried to normalize. This is the new normal they tell us, while bodies and minds are being ripped apart, 'we can't let the terrorists win.' We can't let them win, they say; its hard for one to normalize what you know is not normal, because one remembers a time when such events were extremely rare.

And so I have this memory that I keep alluding to, I was 11 or so, at this little country school in rural Nova Scotia, which closed long ago, in favour of the bigger and amalgamated. We were sledding outside in winter, it wasn't so cold in the morning air. We weren't so concerned about the buttons on our coats, and someone had just told us that we needed to go inside for religion class. They reminded us that it was now held in the morning before school, instead of during school. For some reason this bit of instruction stayed with me, not really understanding why, but maybe it was because on some level I knew that the year before, all of the Catholic kids like myself did have religion class in school, while the non-Catholic kids (being a small minority in that town), left the class for the library. Strange that I would remember that, isn't it, with my sled on top of the hill, ready to go down, excitedly.

What I then remember is that years later, likely as a teenager, seeing a news anchor person on television discussing political correctness. "How do we know what is politically correct," she had asked the person being interviewed. I don't remember his response, which seemed quite formal and drawn out, but I remember the questions being asked. Looking back in hindsight, political correctness came in not long after religion class went out. Am I right? I'm guessing, less than a decade later.

Why am I asking this; why am I remembering this at 4 o' clock in the morning? It seems very ironic to me, when I think about what amounts to my life experience to this point. I grew up in the 80's and early 90's. I'm old enough to remember when there was still prayer in school, O' Canada followed by the Lord's prayer. I'm old enough to remember when that ended, and when political correctness came in years later, and when the announcer asked, but what is political correctness? How do we know what is politically correct?

When I was a kid in grade school, it's funny, but I don't remember there being a need for discussion, as to what was right and wrong. Everyone knew when the Challenger blew up around that time that this was a great tragedy. People were shocked at the loss of life and human potential. Teachers didn't really have to explain to us why something was right or wrong, everyone knew. It was expected. When I went to university years later, people there seemed to know too. I gained an appreciation for the greats of western civilization, western thought and culture. I was inspired by the greatness that I saw all around me, in people, and in the books that I was reading.

What am I getting at here? What I'm trying to express is that looking back now, to that moment on that snow hill in the middle of a Canadian winter, I was seeing or living through the decline of western Judeo-Christian society. It is very ironic to me, with that moment in time, now but a memory in my middle-aged mind, after years upon years of seeing my personal beliefs and values denigrated, after much thought and bewilderment at the changes that I see all around me, to come back to that announcer's question while our society seems to be in disarray, floundering with a new reality, a lost security: what is political correctness? How do we know what is politically correct?

When that kid grew up and moved to Ontario and found, as a simple rural Nova Scotian girl, many of my small town values challenged, I learned to curb my accent and expressions. I learned to expect to pay more for everything, to not be quite so simple in my outlook I was told, like one from the country. I continued into adult life and found that my personal beliefs were not welcome, were scorned as an artifact of an earlier time, too simple, too not -politically correct.

The ironic thing to me, as someone who responded to that challenge to question my assumptions, who did spend my time in the trenches looking at various worldviews, looking at arguments for God's existence, looking at Christianity historically and philosophically, among other options...I honestly think that we as the western world have abandoned a more coherent worldview for a less coherent worldview. What is political correctness? How do we know what is politically correct? I would now add my own question, what is it based on, if not simply, Judeo-Christian cultural assumption, or what's left of it.

And the funny thing to me, as a kid who grew up in a time when investigative journalism meant something, when ethics meant something, when we were taught to ask questions and think critically and think through what we said and wrote, who through study is realizing that we had a culture that was based on the historical church and the historical life of Christ, fused with Greco-Roman thought and culture as well. A foundation for ethics, if there ever was one! What do we have now? It is so ironic to me as I hear about news broadcasters literally having to set up the shots that they need -to get their story, the narrative they crave, Judeo-Christian cultural assumption.

What I think we're seeing is the failure of a worldview in secularism, which does not have the depth to compete with radical Islam, and so it clings to its own Christian heresy, a world without evil, where the human heart needs only to be educated, not redeemed. And it is so ironic to me as a seasoned Christian, to realize that the worldview that my culture has abandoned, orthodox Christianity, is the worldview that can compete with radical Islam, and expose Islam for what it arguably is, a 7th century, politically inspired Christian heresy. Along with Marxism and every other ism that sees history as linear and progressing toward a sought after utopia, whether God-made, or man-made, echoing their biblical influence, and unlike pre-Christian or Eastern religions, which see history as cyclical. This cultural sense of human dignity and purpose, yet progressing toward what, if there is no natural design and if Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world?

To be fair, getting back to the topic of changing norms and our seeming inability to confront present extremist realities, our secular society could confront the early history of Islam or other ideologies on historical grounds, or the Quran on scientific or ethical grounds, but based on what, if truth is relative and morals subjective? Am I arguing for the reintegration of church and state here? No, I'm simply saying that in the writing out and rewriting of western Judeo-Christian society as solely secular, we've lost a lot of the cultural and historical starting points that would really come in handy right about now, while a lot of people seem to not know what to say, or what to think. While more and more instead of discussion, we see denial and ignorance of our own history. I would like to see more openness in our society. I would like to see more of an acknowledgement on a cultural level, or freedom to appeal on a cultural level to our Judeo-Christian and classical history. We have a history too. We have a culture too, and it isn't all bad. Much of it, was extraordinary.

In closing, I'm left with my memories, and a present that doesn't fit with what I know to be true. In a world that demands uniformity, while it talks about diversity, while demanding intellectual submission. The authoritarian left with its Christian heresy shaking hands with authoritarian Islam and its Christian heresy. All in the name of tolerance and pluralism, while they cling to a egalitarian heritage that is not their own, though they strive to subdue and obliterate, what amounts to their very foundation. I think back to the little boy next to me on that little hill, waiting patiently for a little girl to go before him. He wasn't Catholic or even Christian that I knew. He was just a nice little boy, as were other kids that I grew up with, some from far away. I watched him go before me, contentedly, before I went to class. I miss him. I miss those kids. I miss those years, I miss that little school. Sometimes what seems like progress, may be the loss of our foundations.

Thanks for listening,

Margaret Harvey

Image result for children sledding

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