So I've been numb for a few days. Honestly most of the news makes me numb, so much that I usually avoid the news when I can. But the van attack that happened in Toronto this week that killed 10 people and injured 16 (most of whom were women) has stirred something in me. Basically ... I'm pissed.
This attack was a violent crime of hatred geared towards women. I was four years old when the Montreal Massacre happened at École Polytechnique and I don't remember it. This one hit close to home because Toronto is my home. I've lived here for 10 years. I've performed a few times at the Toronto Centre for the Arts which is at the doorstep of where this attack took place. Unfortunately it takes a "it could have been me" for people to wake up and realize that this problem is not so far from reality.
There were a few things that were different about this attack. First of all, Maclean's Magazine recognized this attack as The One Where The Officer Didn't Shoot. That one makes me damn proud. In the footage that was released of the stand-off between the attacker and the police officer, I saw a man that was terrified and a police officer that was not. The officer was present enough to recognize that the attacker had no weapon on him and also looked terrified. He even reached back into the police cruiser to turn off the siren, knowing that the siren only causes perpetrators further anxiety. There was something about the man that haunted me. It was the pleading to be shot. He wasn't going to do it himself. And when the officer took him down, there was zero resistance. His hands went up willingly and with no physical force needed, he got down to the ground. He had just murdered countless people and when put face-to-face with another human being, one that refused to shoot and disregard his life because of what he had done, his humanity struck him. That man did not want to die.
No one is born with the desire to hurt others. There is no way I can look into the face of my newborn baby niece who was born 4 days before this attack, and say that she wishes harm on anyone. Our humanity compels us to love, compels us to find human connection with one another. As humans we cannot survive alone. We need each other.
But where there is love there is hatred. Where there is community there is abandonment. Where there is acceptance there is also violence. And this is what I am coming to consciousness of. Violence exists in all of us. I have witnessed violence growing up. And I have been violent to those I love. We cannot pretend we are above this. What we can do is look at it, understand that these emotions are not us, remember that we do not want to cause anyone harm, and put it in the Art.
As the Creative Facilitator of SExT, I feel a responsibility to make sure our show reflects the realities that our youth are experiencing. I also feel a responsibility to mentor. Our youth are growing up so fast. They are now peer educators to the next generation. How can I teach them how to express their sadness, their heartbreak, and their violence in a healthy way? How can I teach them what it means to be to be gentle and to be kind to yourself? How can I teach them that nobody owes you anything - be it money, be it opportunities, be it sex, be it someone's well-being? You are the master of your own ship. Art is the best way to express yourself. Don't be the person that you hate and that you denounce. The more you show love to yourself and to others, the more love will be given back to you.
God, I sound like an after school special. Maybe I don't know how to talk to youth. Maybe that's why it's better for youth to talk to youth. Maybe that's why SExT works so well and why so many people respond to this program. Maybe the best thing I can do is be that example. And put it in the Art.
The heartbreak is real.
You broke my spirit with your fast running wheels
You ripped apart what I called "home"
Now "home" is a word for something that is not mine
The walls are burnt down to the ground
We breathe the same air
We share the same space
The borders that were once in place
On maps that I studied but my memory erased
Are constructs that only made us feel safe
Because the human race it grows too fast
My sister had a baby, now she's 10 feet tall
But you broke her down before she even had the chance
The world is tainted and you coloured it red
Why is red the colour of blood-soaked destruction
That woman was 22, she looked just like me
You hate me so much, is it something I said?
Was it something I did when I wanted a shot?
Was it something I yelled when you called me a slut?
Was it something I looked like when I made myself small,
When I looked at your anger and couldn't face mine,
So I shut myself down 'cuz someone else felt so big
And there's not enough room for all of this simmering shit
That I hide behind a smile or a glance or my wit
But my wit it is failing, I'm really not that smart
Because I'm powerless to everything and to nothing at all
And the latter is harder, it's easier to fall
But there you go breaking my heart with your hate
And I want to scream and rip you apart with my teeth
I'm an animal.
Right down to to the bone.
And we are face to face.
And my heart pounds fast
And my claws dig down
And my growl is deep, and it's painful, and it's raw
And you stand there and ask me to just end it all.
But I don't and I won't and I can't and I HOWL
I choose to live my way
And pour blood on the page
And when it's all over
I choose to look deeper
Cuz this hate isn't me.
- Post by Elena Juatco, SExT Creative Facilitator
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