Category Archives: Battle of the Comments

Of Bloggers And Trolls: Oh, My!

Sometimes all it takes to get back into writing is to sit down and do it.

Got a comment this morning that I promptly deleted, since I’m just getting too old for that shit.

If you want to call me out objectively on anything I’ve written, step right up, my friend. Let’s have a beer and chew that chat, all right? I’m down with dissent, constructive criticism, and I don’t shy away from debating anyone I know. I call it like I see it ‘cos I’m too lazy to keep up with lies.

Love dissent and debate, in the real world. Online, who wants to type that much? Still, I try to engage.

But when the extent of your entire comment is “you’re rambling lately,” the delete bin is for you. I used to be one of these “Hey, I’ll publish every comment!” types who purport to be encouraging dialogue, but then I realised that, um, no, it’s just encouraging stupidity.

The older I get, the more I think they might’ve been onto something with eugenics. I’m very aware that, while the internet is giving much-needed voices the airplay they deserve, it’s also broadcasting some real fuckin’ tools.

Here’s the deal. If you go around commenting on posts all the time, and you don’t have a blog, and you’re always antagonistic and IN YO FACE BEYOTCH about it, then just shut the hell up. Really. Do some self-medicating, find a mountaintop guru for advice — I don’t care what you do, but just find a purpose in life, ‘cos it’s just sad, sad, sad to see what some folk get reduced to in life… commenter.

Thank god for the nice people who comment to share stories and are awesome and open and rah-rah-rah, because they’re the reason we keep pushing “publish.”

Them’s the new house rules. No more troll comments published. Dissent? Okay. Be smart and respectful and tell me I’m wronger than than wrong, I’m down with that.

Otherwise, hey, don’t like the writing? Don’t read it. Don’t like my opinions? There’s the door. There’s only 100 million blogs in the world, I’m sure you can find some carbon-copy of you out there somewhere. Good luck lookin’, Skippy.

Life’s short, man. I’m living it as me, writing what I want to say, and that’s the way the blogging cookie crumbles. If I gave a fuck about pleasing anyone in specific, I’d be checking my Google Analytics more than once a month. And probably swearing a LOT less.

Instead, I write or I don’t.

Sometimes the writing blows monkey chunks. Welcome to the “I’m a real person” thingie. Creativity isn’t a tap you turn on and it rushes out. We’re lucky to tame the whirlwind once in a storm season. Now and then: Brilliance. The rest of the time? It’s why sailboats come with motors. Sometimes you’re gonna coast a while.

And that’s blogging. A less-than-selective writing process.

You want consistency? Read a book.

You want real-time accuracy? Snapshots of a person’s life in weekly digestible bits, largely a little less censored than they ought to be, flaws hanging out for the world to see? Read a blog.

You want to be the loser that just writes negative comments without anything of value, lacking useful critiques? Don’t.

As much as many bloggers are self-involved twats, there are a lot of bloggers are ripping off Band-aids most publishers wouldn’t pay to publish. They’re being brutally real about their lives, thoughts, and worldviews.

Bloggers started this whole firestorm of openness and communication that we haven’t figured out how to use for the betterment of mankind yet — Twitter, Facebook updates, blogs, video blogging. It was all born because some dude began journaling on the web a couple decades ago.

Maybe blogging hasn’t definitively changed the world yet, maybe there are lots of twats making it look ugly to others, but I still believe in the power of blogging, the quest for individual truths, the dynamism of millions of voices saying what needs to be said if only for a dozen other people.

And when people who might be timid otherwise finally have the courage to click “publish” and start their blogs, they don’t need spineless hacks pissing on their parade.

There’s a growing call to remove “ANONYMOUS” comment ability. Having one’s name on their vitriol doesn’t make it any more valid, just not as despicable. Maybe one day I’ll remove anonymity here, too.

In the meantime, I blog on the things I think are interesting, important, or that I’m just obsessing about.

Because that’s what blogging’s for. We now return you to your scheduled silence.

I thank those of you who’ve read me (inexplicably) for years, who’ve shared your experiences and opinions. You’re awesome.

Getting Philosophical about Bad Writing

I’m reading a badly-written book. It’s also one of the books I think I most identify with as a life philosophy. This is where my ability to read between the lines and extract only what I like comes in handy, because the majority of the book is the kind of trash I hope I’m never reduced to writing.

I suspect most “readers” have books they love that they secretly have a hard time defending.

For me, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged fall into that category. They’re complete crap, from a writing point of view. She’s tedious, redundant, overly dramatic, black/white in her characters, arrogantly simplistic in her views of how the average person is. Even her philosophies are so ridiculously black/white that they’re just laughable, and it’s why the book has met with such disdain for seven decades.

Arguably, if I ever had a drink with Ayn Rand, I’d pitch my drink in her face. She seems wholly unlikable in her ridiculous in-book dialogue, if it’s any kind of reflection of who she is — and given the monotonous voice in which all her characters speak, it’s absolutely reflecting her.

And yet…

Probably no book has defined my values in life creatively or professionally more than The Fountainhead has. (Or, as some I’ve known would argue, the more literary approach to the ‘selfishness as a virtue’ concept, aka egoism, is found with more palatable shades of grey in Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.)

***

I’ve been going through a “thing” in the last couple of days. I’m tired of people, not from a “let’s hang out” point of view, but from an ideological point of view. I’m tired of flip-floppy sorts I see everywhere in the media, in social media, and in daily life. (Flip-floppy — ethically, I mean, not, say, being vegetarian then not. Consistency in ethical behaviour is everything, IMHO.)

There are those who cannot be painted with that brush — they’re people I admire, enjoy, and am more inclined to see than most others (if I suggest doing things with you EVER, you’re in this group) — but there are many who leave me exasperated at who and what they are.

I’m under no illusions of how many people like or dislike me. I’d like to say I don’t care who doesn’t like me, but that’d be a lie. Everyone wants to be liked.

But there are indeed people whose opinions mean shit to me. They’re the folks whose opinions are easily bought and sold, or who worry about being seen at all the right places all the time, seem scared to be alone with their thoughts, or who have elevated fake sincerity to brand-new heights.

It’s understandable such people might find me hard to take. That’s fine; it’s mutual.

The trouble with being in the modern world, living a 24/7 plugged-in life is: You see people more often, whether in digital form or in the flesh — and, when it comes to online, who they are lingers on-screen for so much longer. As does my ability to judge them.

And the more I see people, the more they’re out there trying to be seen/heard/loved, the more I find them being insincere or full of platitudes — and not worth my time.

I’m being reminded as I skim through The Fountainhead just how socially ill-equipped I can be at times. People like me, sure, but they dislike me just as often.

I don’t have that internal censor most people have. I blurt things out. It’s terrible. I seldom mean things as brashly as they sound, but lord knows it gets misconstrued. At least I’m honest and I say the things I really think, so anyone who doesn’t dig me generally does so for arguably valid reasons. And if they dislike me for being myself, being honest, then I figure they’ve saved me the time of getting to know them, since they’re obviously Not My Sort.

Also, the older I get, the more I think I won’t be bought, and it’s beginning to make me question my desire for self-employment, given the Schmooze Factor required.

***

Trivia? I made the mistake of selling Filter Queen vacuums for about 2 weeks when I was 18. It became a lesson in who I never, ever wanted to be. Filter Queen vacuums might come with a lifetime warranty, but it was 19 years ago & then were priced $1498. For a vacuum. Yeah. About $400 was commission.

I can sell. God knows I can sell. I can almost smell who has money to blow.

Example: I once worked at a toy store (’96-97) and had an $8 “train whistle” sale with this lady, and while ringing it up, got into small-talk with the customer, who owned a special private preschool in South Korea. 45 minutes later, I got to charge $1900 on her card as I sold her toys from all around the store.

Did I feel guilty? No, she had the money to spend.

But when it was a few years earlier, my Filter Queen bosses demanded I pressure a family of five living in a 2-bedroom rented condo and barely making ends meet, to buy this ridiculously overpriced vacuum — “always make the sale,” very Glengarry Glenn Ross-like — and it went against every value I ever had.

So, I sold one, not to Condo Family, then quit.

***

These days, I can’t do it. I can’t do product reviews out of expectations, just for free crap. I can’t do sponsored tweets. I don’t want to avail myself for free shit at restaurants just so I can tweet about it, etc. Do I begrudge those who do? No, not in the least. Everyone needs to eat.

But I can’t do that. Not right now. I’m done.

I want to go out of life knowing I met my standards, knowing I never compromised myself for your benefit, or anyone else’s.

Doing “swag” reviews, for example, are just not my bag. Lord knows I’ve tried. Life would be easier if my stupid ethics didn’t get in my way, but they do, and to deny them would be foolish, to live without them would be denying everything I am.

Will I make it to the other side of life without compromising? Ever? Probably not. Probably not even close. But I can avoid major concessions. I can avoid the things that make me wake up with the durrrty morning-after feeling.

***

And no matter how ridiculously extreme the character of Howard Roark is made in The Fountainhead, I “get” him. I get the idea of never compromising your art. I get the concept of “any means necessary” being too high a price to pay if it means losing what makes your work you. I get the concept of not using one’s name for others’ benefit, especially when others’ ethos aren’t meshing with my own.

The older I become, though, the more I find I’m inflexible about what my values are and why. Does it make me the perfectly moral person? Jesus, no.

Does it make me a better writer? Hmm. Good question. I would hope so. Less and less, I find myself writing because you should have something to read. More and more, I find myself writing only when life inspires me to do so. This is good. Too bad it’s so infrequent.

I should write more. I would like to do just that. This recent picking-up-of-books-and-even-reading-them thing is a big change for me, after years of barely reading. I hope it rekindles my love of words.

***

In a way, I’m going back to The Fountainhead because it was the start of something for me. Out of everything that was in my life when I was 18, the only things that remain are writing and photography. Only, I write far more now, and far better.

But, when I read The Fountainhead, something about Howard Roark’s idea of architecture, and the metaphor it could be for all things in life, resonated with me then and screams in agreement with me now.

I want to be a more streamlined writer. I want to be moved to do things in life because they take me closer to goals — likely not what you think; a bungalow on the ocean would do me fine & allow me the simple life I crave, the life that gets lost in this city.

Like Howard Roark sees architecture, I kind of see life and creativity right now:

Rules? Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn’t borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn’t borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window, and stairway to express it.

I realise I’ve come to despise ornate architecture, people who incessantly overdress, haughty writing, and intellectuals who think their degree is some sort of validation of who they are just because they’ve got paper to prove it.

I want simple, real things. Simple, real people. I want ideas that are whole and expansive, that don’t come with qualifying, egos, and justification. I want people who are endlessly authentic and can’t be bought, quiet conversations and zero flash.

I want to feel like I write for the sake of writing — not to sell ads, not for your fulfillment, not to make the world a better place, but for the most pure reason of all: To explore ideas and give voice to thoughts. My voice.

I want these things.

Unfortunately, I live in the real world where such ethos don’t pay the rent. The balancing act between how idealistic I can be while still putting food on my table, well, it’s a struggle. It will probably remain a struggle.

And part of the life I want, part of the goals I’d love to achieve, might require I rethink what I’m willing to do for success or not.

I’ve been lost in thought on these struggles for a couple of weeks now, but it’s escalated this week. Tomorrow is my birthday. I’m hoping some great epiphany dawns tonight in which I finally realize how I can reconcile both professional and personal values into one amazing existence.

Something tells me that’s a birthday gift I won’t be receiving just yet. Fortunately, I’m not hung up on deadlines.

Oh, Silly Little Troll. Okay. I’ll Bite.

An anonymous snivelling little loser troll decided to pick on me tonight and I decided I would pick back, just for the heck of it.

Personally, I think reading my reply is pretty good for a giggle, and think it’d be a crime if I didn’t hyperlink to it from here.

So, read the Pride post, and check out the comments. Apparently I’m a closeted bisexual who’s kinda a loser.

Here! Enjoy! (On both counts.)

Hate Lives Here

Yesterday a local Vancouver paper asked a question on its Facebook page: “Do you think more could be done to combat homophobia?”

In the ensuing comments, a White Pride freak — who I’m really fucking wanting to identify by name here but don’t feel like dealing with the legal hassle as a little blogger girl — put some very, very hateful anti-gay comments.

I wouldn’t call his statements “homophobia” because it was too hate-fuelled to be a mere ambivalence toward gays. White Pride Freak would rather live in a world where they didn’t exist, and it sounded like “by any means necessary”.

The aftermath of WPF’s comments were pretty routine — a few people like me distancing themselves from the “white” part of his comments that smears us by inclusion — and a lot of people laughing it off with “This guy can’t be real” reactions.

The fencepost upon which gay man Matthew Shepard was beaten & left to die.

YES.

YES, he can be real. YES, he can be dangerous. YES, he can be in the house next door.

Someone commented to me that it didn’t seem possible a dude like that could live north of Raleigh or west of Calgary.

YES. It’s not only possible, but it’s real.

We’ve had gay-bashing incidents of late here in uber-liberal Vancouver — by other minorities!

Hey, let’s keep the wagon wheel of hate rolling.

By saying these guys can’t be real, we’re avoiding truth. We’re ducking the reality that hatred fuels much of what goes on in our world — whether it’s women’s centres being bombed, Middle Eastern women being stoned for adultery, gays being bashed for holding hands on the street, or prejudices rising everywhere daily, never mind national strife like Palestine-v-Israel, or Iran spouting rhetoric.

Hatred’s out there, man. Don’t think otherwise.

The Georgia Straight’s Facebook moderator decided it prudent to delete the offensive comments on this particular thread. I disagree. My reply comment:

I’m sort of disappointed that [skinhead motherfucker]’s homophobic, hate-filled rants were deleted.

By a) responding with “haw-haw, he can’t be real” and b) knee-jerk “how dare you” replies, then deleting his words, we’re pulling the wool over allour eyes.

We say “HEY, THERE’S A REAL PROBLEM OUT THERE” about hatred or racism, but then we sanitize the web so no feelings get hurt.

Let’s hurt some feelings! Let’s see these bastards for who they are! Let their names be known! Let their evidence stay up so we can point and say THAT IS NOT RIGHT, LET’S FIGHT THAT, LET’S PROVE HIM WRONG.

Sure, a bunch of people got all bent outta shape reading that kind of hate speech — but the mentality of “Well, if it’d been worded more politely, it’d be okay and we could ‘dialogue’ ” is just ridiculous!

IT’S HATE. Let’s see it for what it is.

Let the world see that it’s still out there, regardless of our pretty little fast-food metrosexual ever-so-aesthetic iPoddy 21st century.

Then let’s fight back and end that hate where it lives. END it, not delete it.

From Wikipedia's "lynching" page. The lynching of Laura Nelson in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1911; she had tried to protect her son, who was lynched together with her.

Deleting the thread has all the brilliance of when a Canadian bookstore chain decided it would never, ever stock nor order Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Right, because ignoring the book the first time worked out so well for us.

KNOW THY ENEMY.

If we want to overcome hatred, racism, homophobia, elitism, all of it, then we need to know exactly what their thoughts are so we can break those down.

This is the internet — the home of anonymity, the tool of free speech, the widest platform for idea-expressing ever invented.

But every motherfucking site has a moderator who goes and deletes the hate, hiding the nasty fuckers that we need exposed.

Deep down inside, we all know cruel people are out there, and we know they’re cowards who hide real, real good.

Thus it’s become easier when we hide them too, and go on with our lovely little domesticated modern lives. God forbid our routines get injected with realism.

These people are real.

They live where you are.

They’re more marginalized and angrier than ever.

And we’re giving them a pass by letting them say what they say, then deleting it. So, then they run back to their little web microcosms and fester with their continuing hate spiel, palling with their little hatin’ buddies, all the while leaving us blissfully ignorant that hate-filled fucks like them are more prevalent than we’d like to think.

Stop protecting us, website moderators.

Our ignorance will not inspire their change. We need all the good peoples in on this fight.

People are People: Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Come morning, everything always changes. New. Nice. No fuck-ups yet. Yesterday’s badness has fallen away, but it’s left me in thought — not surprising, given I dig thinkin’. And here’s the thinkin’ it produced on humanity in general.

Sometimes we get unfortunate reminders of just how far-ranging humanity is. Good people, bad people. Ugly-ass people.

It’s like that moment from the creepy ’50s sci-fi movie where the scared teen boy looks in the camera and whispers, voice shaking: “We are not alone.”

A popular poster of a reliable friendship.

People bring out the best and worst in each other. We feed or flounder off whatever is projected at us. Here on the interwebs? Hoo-whee! We get schooled but good on humanity here.

Anonymity is the greatest thing to ever happen to cowards.

Some people thrive from hurting others, get adrenaline from it. We shake our heads and mutter “I don’t understand.” But what’s there to understand? They’re nuts.

There’s crazy then there’s The Crazy, as my bi-polar friend says.

It happens. Hate happens. Shit happens. Life happens. It happens.

One of the haters from this past weekend sent a bunch of extremely personal emails to the presenters, using our open lives to launch their attack.

I won’t indulge the meglomaniacal jerk’s wish to get limelighted. There’s a reason I moderate comments, his will never be published.

Stupid fuck, as if. Waste yer time if you like, pal — no blogspace for your hate!

But, boy, it reinforces my thinking on people.

I’ve always been that person who knows, if I have five REAL friends when I die, I’m a lucky gal. Most folks just walk away. That’s reality.

Trust me. Wait until life gets hard. Most people will walk. The ones who don’t, they’re keepers.*

The best thing that can happen to you in adversity is to find out who’s real and who’s not. At least then you’re on sure footing. Look at the lemonade you’ve made from those lemons: Now you know who’ll take bullets for you.

And don’t kid yourself, you’ll be surprised when the sieve of life separates the real friends from your illusory ones. It’s often not who you think it’ll be that makes the cut.

Here’s what I know: Good people assume most people are good. Sure, they are. But, the bad, they take up more real estate in our lives.

Have you ever heard the saying about retail, that 80% of your customers take up 20% of your time, but the other 20% take up 80% of your time with their bullshit? That’s kinda like people in real life, too. That 20% of people really know how to dial up the angst, betrayal, lies, and fear.

That consumes us, it takes over. If we let it.

Most people in life have serious flaws. Just remember that. Remember your own imperfections.  Most don’t have it in them to give “true” friendship to more than a few people. Don’t be surprised if you don’t make their cut.

You’ll have a few real friends in your life. But not many.

Welcome to Realityville.

Hey, your dead-body-removal crew should never have more than 6 people in it anyhow. That would make it too difficult to kill those who know your secrets. Too many to bury in your average backyard. Hardy-har-har.

But, seriously, it’s true. There’s only so many people you can rely on. Everyone else, sooner or later, will fail you. Most fail in small, meaningless ways, but sometimes in huge ways. We dismiss the small failings, but they should serve as indicators for The Bigger Things, because some chances hurt too much to take.

That penchant for flaws is not some price we pay in modern life. People have always been flawed. We just like to dupe ourselves into believing everyone has our moral code.

But they don’t.

And we act all shocked when we see this. Really? You didn’t suspect dickheads roamed the planet? Nazis? Killers? ZOMBIES?

I’m really not surprised some asshole spewing vitriol has emerged from this weekend. I’m only surprised they’ve been sitting around making notes for months, trying to create a destructive picture of who we are out of snippets we’ve revealed. Oh, yeah, there’s a healthy life.

That’s what I’m surprised about. Takes a special knack to be this pathetic for this long.

The rest of it, it’s just life as usual. Like great writers say, betrayals come in love and war, and every other time of year.

I’ll smile and chat with most people, pass a few moments in their company, but when the crunch-time comes, I know they’re not who I’ll be calling.

When the word comes down, handshakes are exchanged, tallies added up, I remember: I never would’ve called them for that dead-body haul anyhow.

Would those you’d call still come when asked?

Then you’ll be just fine. Forget the rest. Seriously.

*And people walk for myriad reasons, not all of which deserve your judgment. Sometimes our own battles don’t allow us to be there for others. We have to make our choices. Don’t take it personally all the time. Take it for what it is: Revealing who WILL be there. Don’t judge too harshly those who can’t be.

The Dishonour of Honour Killings

Recently, here in the Great White North, a murder trial ended and the accused were sentenced to life.

A father and his son killed his daughter, all because she was too progressive to be a good little Islamic girl.

Muhammad Parvez and Waqas, his son, murdered Aqsa Parvez on December 10, 2007, in the guise of avenging their family pride in the face of her scandalous embracing of Western culture and lifestyle, even though they lived here.

These cultural-killing cases weigh heavily upon me.

I loathe what they do to the image of Islam, and what they do to my thinking, despite my best efforts.

Honour killing: image from The Baltimore Reporter.

I used to teach ESL a long time ago. Here, there. In people’s homes. It always gave me an interesting perspective on cultures I’d only ever seen from the flipside of a take-out menu or on the big screen.

For the most part here in Vancouver, that meant working with Taiwanese, Koreans, and the Mainland Chinese.

Once, though, I worked with two young Islamic women from Saudi Arabia. They were both married, under age 25, and would wear full burqas when out in the world, but, at home, wore tight jeans and cute trendy t-shirts that clung tightly to their breasts.

Their husbands were charming kind men who spoke to me often about our culture and tried to compare that with their traditional culture at home, so I could know more about them.

Their hospitality and the respect they showed me was warm and sincere. I always felt welcomed and appreciated, and never judged for being “Western” and very liberal. They even knew I wrote about sex, and the men found my blog entertaining.

I truly thought they were all wonderful people, and the kindness and graciousness shown me by them has lingered long in my memory as an example as what the true basic beliefs in Islam are — very similar to any a “good Christian” might follow.

But the burqas never sat well with me — the hypocrisy of bouncy, beautiful breasts being savoured in private but the pretense that this feminine beauty doesn’t exist in the world, or the suggestion that they’re doing what is right and good by Allah when hiding the feminine form from the world at large, despite the fact that Allah created all they hold in esteem.

But that’s a whole other issue that’s too large in scope to tackle, and which I’m not nearly informed enough to weigh in on without research.

It is, however, indicative of just how large a chasm exists between fundamentalist Islam and the standard Western world-view.

So, when a  family like the Parvez move here from Pakistan, there’s a galaxy of culture-clash to contend with.

Me, I’m so white I’m of the fish-belly variety of humans. With Irish/Scottish and French dotting my ancestry, I don’t even have a culture, let alone any experience with culture-clash — except for that which lands on our shores.

But that’s who we are. We’re Canadians.

We’ve got an open-door policy, and because we’re the most multicultural country on the planet, we’re constantly shaping who we are as a result of the immigrants who land here and build lives, for better and for worse.

You know what? I love that.

I love that, when Pierre Elliott Trudeau died, I had to take a cab that day and my driver was a man from South Africa. He was constantly wiping his eyes and sniffling as we moved slowly through rush-hour traffic.

In his thick, thick accent, he told me how hard he’d struggled to move to Canada two decades ago, that it had become his dream after this Canadian Prime Minister had been the only leader in the world to cry out against Apartheit in South Africa in the 1970s, that he saw Canada as being a place that held true to the belief that all men were equal — even beyond our borders.

This man made me cry that day — this immigrant, he and his love for my country, what we stood for, and what he wanted it to keep standing for now that he had given up his S.A. citizenship to become a Canadian. We cried together over a leader who divided the country but ultimately contributed more to what “being Canadian” meant than any leader in our history.*

It’s conversations with men like him who make me believe deep down inside that the majority of those who emigrate to Canada are those who ultimately admire our lifestyle and our tolerance of others.

So, yes, when I hear of honour killings, I’m left wondering how much it hurts the progressives who’ve immigrated long before these fundamentalist assholes, and how hard it makes life domestically for them.

Muhammad and Waqas Parvez are not your typical Pakistani-Canadians.

They are not your common Muslims.

And while honour killings aren’t common in Canada, they do happen.

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Let’s face it. Much of what women have gained in the West, in terms of freedom to be who they want to be, has come in the last 60 years. We’re a young culture, too.

Islam, however, and its main regions of practice (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq) forms the seat of all of civilization.

For thousands of years these principles have been in place. They’ll come undone, but it’ll be slowly.

The world needs to stand against honour killings, and while these sentences are a start here in Canada, they’ll do little to effect change in the high mountains of the Khyber Pass and throughout Mohammad’s land in Saudi Arabia.

Here, in Canada, some will experience anger and disdain toward Islam, as if these men represent all of what the Qu’ran teaches.

Like most religions, Islam teaches some pretty fucked-up things. Ask any cartoonist.

Any religion has proverbs that, taken word-for-word, could unleash hell with the devout. Islam is certainly not far from the path of nuttiness with ideas like Jihad and honour killings and the rants against cartoons and Salman Rushdie.

It doesn’t mean Islam’s unholy and hell-bent on destruction or death. That’s bullshit.

What men like the Parvezes do, though, is, they give validity to those who would tar Islam and rail against its practitioners with the belief that all who practice it are extremists who are literal about Allah’s messages in the Qu’ran.

And they make women like me scared of dating Islamic men.

I hate that.

The thing is, I’m not particularly afraid of dating a Muslim man — as long as he’s not a fundamentalist.

But I wouldn’t date ANY religious fundamentalist. I’d probably try to avoid most men who practiced religion of any kind, really, but I would think a Muslim would better understand why I’m not following his faith than a Christian would, since I was raised in Christianity and now reject the practice of it. Try to make sense of THAT, eh?

So, yeah, I’m not afraid of dating a Muslim man at all.

I’m afraid of dating his extended family.

Let’s face it. Families are nuts. You should meet mine.

There’s some serious fuckin’ wackadoos in the extended-family works here, and I would hate for anyone to judge me on the basis of being related to them. But they’re there.

And that’s the thing. A Muslim guy might be incredible, and god knows I find men of Persian descent incredibly hot, but I’m scared what Uncle Mojinder might be like or what distant Cousin Navez might get up to if I get a little rowdy one night, since I’m not exactly Miss I Don’t Drink.

It’s hard enough keeping philosophically on-page with a lover, but when there’s a cultural heritage that has the potential of honour killings in their extended family, it’s a little unnerving a concept for some of us who are given to misbehaviour.

I’m not sure how to end this piece, I don’t think there’s a comfortable “pat” conclusion I can offer.

It’s a terrible thing, honour killings — for what it does to women, for the rise of the fear and suspicions we nurse against an entire faith, all because of what some select group of them do.

It’s horrible that I feel justified in my fears, that I’m apprehensive of men based on their faith, not because I don’t trust them but because I fear their families.

And even that is hard on me, because I love what I know of the traditional Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern family lives.

Yet.

Yet this one thing exists, a small niggling fear — this negligible concept of  “honour” and what it is for and to others, and the price one can pay for damaging it.

In the end, there’s a reason I’m not religious anymore. I stopped believing in Catholicism in my teens, and by rights all other religions, because of the fear and judgment they sought to have me live life under.

Life has many chains that will bind me, but religion will not be amongst them.

I want to know, I guess, how honour killings affect you.

What do you think of them? How have they changed your thoughts on Muslims?

If you’re a woman, does it make you apprehensive of dating men who are Muslims but super-hip and very liberal, just because you fear their family?

Have you ever had a friend who has been under the thumb of this religion and wanted out?

Talk to me. I want to hear about this.

*On his death, the stories I heard from second-generation Canadians who immigrated to Canada with their parents when Trudeau was leader, just blew my mind. The reverence they held for P.E.T., and the esteem they held Canada in, made my heart explode with patriotic pride. Yeah. That’s who we are, Canada. We’re the port in the storm.