Whatever We Do, We Need Respect
A few weeks ago, I was in the subway. It was on a Sunday evening, around eight o’clock. The subway was relatively empty. There were people sitting down, but not all the seats were occupied. I was the only person standing. I was leaning with my back against a set of doors, and scanning around as I usually do.
What I observed not long into my ride were a boy and a girl who were playing around across from me and a little to the left. They were pretty young, maybe around four, or five years old. Their mother was sitting next to them, legs crossed and an arm resting on her leg, with her hand supporting her head. Her eyes were closed. She looked tired, or maybe “sick and tired”. The kids continued to goof around when a man to my left, who was sitting down across from them, suddenly told the kids to stop. At that point, the kids sat down on their seats and quieted down.
I took a guess that he was their father, since he called the boy out by his name. As I continued to glance at the man, who could not see my face unless he would have turned right and looked a little back and up, I saw he held a tall can of alcoholic apple cider in his right hand. It was an odd thing to see because here in Toronto, it is not legally allowed to drink alcohol if You are not in a private establishment. People do not walk around with beers in their hands down the street, as they do in Europe.
I did not catch what triggered the man but after a couple of minutes, out of nowhere he said quite loud: “I love Chinese people. They have the best culture!”
That threw me off guard a little. He was not talking to anyone in specific, nor was anyone talking to him. On top of which, he was a Caucasian man, in his mid-fifties. It wasn’t like some Chinese man was showing gratitude towards his fellow Chinese brothers and sisters, or the culture.
The man beside me continued with: “They really do have the best culture. They’re taking over everything. They’re winning.”
That is when I understood that I was standing beside a bigot; a racist and a hypocrite. His tone of voice had a clear sign of sarcasm when lauding “Chinese culture”. I for one was not going to have any of that but for me that was a great social experiment because the cart was not empty. There were people around who could hear him. I was waiting to see if anyone would stop his spewing of hatred.
I was not fully disappointed when after him saying over and over how he loves “Chinese culture” and how they are “everywhere”, a younger Asian guy, perhaps in his early twenties, who was sitting a little further down to the man’s left, did say that: “Actually Chinese culture is very beautiful.” Even though the man ignored what the younger Asian guy said and continued to robotically repeat how “Chinese culture wins over any other culture”, I was glad someone at least got themselves together to say anything at all. With that observation in the past, I decided enough was enough and it was time to end the nonsense.
I took a step forward, to enter his peripheral vision and turned a little towards him, looking at him. He looked back at me, with red, glossy eyes. I’m sure I didn’t look particularly happy (although I was happy to stand-up to a bully – I’ll do it anytime) and with a dry voice I told him to put-down the alcohol and stop insulting people because “insulting strangers never helped anyone”.
“I’m not insulting anyone” he said laughing. “Chinese culture is great! Look they’re everywhere”, waving his left arm towards two Asian girls sitting next to his wife and children.
I was so not going to have any of his sarcasm, denials, racism, or anything else at that point so, I told him I wasn’t born yesterday and that the alcohol is not helping him judge and/or make decisions.
“You should watch it,” I said while pointing at the can of cider in his hand.
“You should watch it” came a quick, direct and a little threatening response from him. The tone had definitely changed.
“I do watch it. I do not drink alcohol” I said again in a very dry and forcing tone. It was time to shut him up for good. I did not give him a chance to say anything else. I allowed anger to race through my veins, to heat up my body. I felt the hairs on my arms rise-up and I went-off on him:
“You’re upset that Chinese people are here in Canada?! So, it was okay for your family to come here decades upon decades ago but it isn’t okay for Chinese people to come here now?! You’re white. Where are You from?
“I’m Irish”, he responded a little more settled.
Burning him with my eyes I pointed at the ground or, the floor of the subway to be more precise and told him in the same forceful tone:
“This is Native Land! Your people are not from here. This is Native Land and You have no right to be upset about Chinese people coming here! Or, You can leave and go back to Ireland.”
By now he was looking at me worryingly, as I was fuming and almost quietly, he said:
“Yes, You’re right. Native people have been here long before. You got the math right… They’ve been here for many thousands of years.”
It was done. I turned my back to him facing the set of doors through which I had to exit the subway at the following stop. I did watch him in the reflection from the window on the subway doors, as I had my back at him. I missed the moment when he dropped his can of apple cider but I did hear the "thump" and as I looked in the reflection of the window, I saw his can spilling and rolling on the floor. He shrugged at his kids and put his index finger to his lips, as in telling the children to be quiet.
Haha!! I think I’m sweating just from writing this. I was ready to tear that man to pieces. Such disrespect straight-out in public, I had not seen in a long time and I do wish people would not allow this type of behavior to take place. Stand up. Say something. You can lose your life but You cannot lose your honor. Honor You only lose when You give it up.
And why is it so hard to be respectful? We need to have respect in our relationships to one another. Societies cannot function otherwise. Anyone could be a disrespectful prick all they want if they live alone in the mountains, or in the desert. Not in communities though. Not when so many of us live together and we have to interact with one another.
For me it goes unsaid that we have to try to be helpful, be kind, be loving, be thoughtful, be accepting, be understanding, be truthful, be compassionate. We have to communicate well with others and make sure we only judge at an individual level and only judge people by their actions. We cannot judge people based on their religion, colour, culture, etc. Lastly, we have to have the strength to apologize for our mistakes and work at not repeating them. We cannot apologize today and do the same thing tomorrow.
It’s enough. Rudeness, disrespect, hatred and the like have no place in my world. So, I will not put-up with any of those. Not around me and not if I can help it. The world I wish to create is different and it has no room for people like the man in the subway. That type of attitude is no longer acceptable.
All the best to everyone!