Monday, February 15, 2016

Human Rights

Surprises are the best!

One of my best friends, Kim, lives in Hamilton, Ontario. On an adventure to Hamilton to do some house searching many, many moons ago, Kim and I were introduced and basically became instant best friends. She shared her life story, while I listened and played with our mutual friend Cory’s cat. It really was the beginning of an awesome friendship-- from that day I knew that when my wonderful husband and I finally moved to Hamilton, there was one person I could rely on for a hangout, an errand run, and other general fun.

Fast forward to the end of 2015 and Kim and I hadn’t seen each other in 11 months. We skyped and texted to remain in contact, but my move to Winnipeg left us thousands of miles apart. While the length of time between visits wasn’t supposed to be this long, surprise visit after re-scheduled surprise visit never ended up working out. Until Christmas…

Kim’s boyfriend bought her a surprise trip to Winnipeg for her holiday time off work. She found out on Christmas eve and arrived in Winterpeg on Christmas day! It was fun to hangout and do life together again—spending hours on the couch watching movies, colouring, drinking peach cosmo’s and obviously Taylor Swift in the form of music and concert (on apple music, haha) was involved. As much as we could jam pack our days lingering in the warmth of the apartment, I knew I would need to plan a few things to do together. One of the scheduled outings was to the Human Rights Museum.

Kim and I after our museum adventure.
Even after hearing mixed reviews about the museum, I knew Kim and I would both enjoy our time taking in all the information and exhibits the museum had to offer. We arrived on a chilly Sunday morning eager to use our expired student ID’s and learn more about human rights.

The museum was rich with information on a global history of how human rights have been denied to many people—from the holocaust, to the residential school system where aboriginal children were removed from their homes and placed elsewhere; from those with disabilities being looked at as a sub-human, to rights of freedom of speech, hate speech and other discriminatory issues. It was eye opening to learn so many unknown facets behind common events. While some historical atrocities are known to most people, it’s amazing how many have happened that we had no idea about—and how many are still happening that no one speaks of.

One display in particular which really resonated with me was on how our consumerism affects human rights around the world. The display was made up of solid white replicas of common items we use—canola oil, cell phones, makeup, etc. You would stand where one item was on display, touch the screen in front of you, and see the information which shows how we, as Canadians and as members of modern society, are negatively impacting those around us. From information about minerals being mined for our cell phones, to children picking cotton for our clothing, it was a display I hope people take to heart when they visit.

The ‘inspiring change’ area was obviously my favourite part of the museum. As you journey from the first floor up to the seventh, you learn about both the forward strides and pitfalls of human rights around the world. It's easy to be discouraged, but it's also be a great time to reflect on what we can do to make a difference.  Reflection is encouraged and a space is provided for you reflect, write and share your thoughts on a card to be displayed. Each card begins with a prompt which vary from “I Imagine…” to “I am inspired by…”, “I believe…”, “Reconciliation is…”, “Inclusion is…” and more.

As someone who is aware of some of the issues where human rights are denied in the areas of human trafficking, there were so many things I wanted to write on all of the various cards.
“I imagine a world where humans are treated as people with hearts and minds, and not as property to be bought and sold.”
“I believe a world with less greed will be a world where human rights problems are solved.”
“I am inspired by the stories of human trafficking survivors who teach us to never give up hope, to fight for what is right, and who encourage us that one person speaking up for the voiceless can make a real difference.”

While all these thoughts came to mind I was drawn to the “Respect is…” card.
Respect is something we give out like currency based on the actions of those around us. Say something I don’t agree with that is perhaps slanderous to another person? You loose some respect. Stand up for someone? You gain respect. Make a poor business decision? Respect is lost. Make financially sound decisions? You are respected...

This becomes tricky. Handing out respect like currency is like handing out joy, freedom, honesty, and even hate, jealousy and anger with price tags attached—each one providing you with value, each one making you either a better person or a worse person. What’s more, is we openly share our personal views of other people to reflect their ‘value’ in our eyes. ‘That person is weird’, ‘That person did xyz so I don’t respect them’, ‘This person is arrogant’. It’s a vicious cycle of negativity stemming from one person thinking their opinion of another is the most important, and their experience dictates what another person should or shouldn’t believe.

“Respect is… understanding acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. You can love + respect those with different ideals while holding onto your own.”

Our job isn’t to judge, it’s to love and listen and discuss and accept people regardless of what they do or what they think. You can disagree with someone’s choices in life or opinions on things without negatively dragging them down or saying they are wrong. To them, they are right.

While this doesn’t work in all extreme cases (murdering someone doesn’t gain a ‘you be you’ response), in the case of accepting and loving our neighbors, co-workers, bank tellers, waiters, sales associates, and ‘friends of a friend’, it makes a big difference.

Respect is required.  I can respect you and disagree with your choices. I can love you as a human being even if I don’t want to live a life like you do. The concept isn’t hard to understand—let’s make living it out that easy too!

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