We live in a very tolerant and accepting society. We take pride in striving to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Yet, in recent weeks, we have been reminded that there are still those who face exclusion and discrimination.
In the town of Morris, Manitoba, the owners of Pots N Hands Restaurant announced that they were closing their doors due to discriminatory and bigoted remarks. It is important to say that these actions do not represent the majority of Morris residents. In fact, Pots N Hands has received an outpouring of support from Manitobans, including many Morris locals.
That being said, the fact that this incident occurred is a deeply troubling and sad reminder that ignorance and bigotry—particularly towards the LGBTT* community—is still a fact of life, even in 21st-century Canada. That hate still exists, and that we have not fully moved beyond prejudice as a society is a disappointing but unfortunate reality.
As we consider this, it is important to recognize that the capacity for both compassion and cruelty resides within each of us. While we must hold others accountable when they act in an ignorant way, it is also important that we look into our own hearts and minds, and face those aspects of ourselves that prevent us from respecting the dignity of others.
What we need, then, is not merely condemnation—although bigotry must be forcefully condemned—but also compassion. We need compassion primarily for those who are discriminated against, and also—as difficult as it can be—for those who act in an ignorant and harmful manner. Living with an angry and closed heart cannot be a joyful existence, and behind the outward expression of bigotry and hate is often fear and sadness.
Those who act from a place of ignorance have forgotten that life is difficult for all of us. We will each try to manage our journey through this challenging and sometimes overwhelming world as best as we can. We come into this world the same way, and we cannot escape our ultimate fate. In these shared truths, we see how similar we are to each other, and we can see that causing pain to others brings pain to ourselves.
Recognizing this, we can choose to add to the difficulties of others or work to ease their burdens. We can be hurtful or we can be loving. We can understand that every human being deserves to be treated fairly, and that there is no justification, no matter how cleverly made or carefully worded, that makes it acceptable to treat someone as less than an equal member of the human family.
One by one, the arguments for bigotry and discrimination are revealed as misguided and empty of any truth or significance. It will be no different with discrimination towards members of the LGBTT* community. Though we have been reminded in recent weeks that bigotry still exists, we can trust in our ability to create a world in which everyone is afforded the respect and dignity that is the birthright of every human soul.