Let’s toss politics aside for a moment onto an issue that does not seem political at all but likely is the most political you can get- bullying.
How are bullies shaped really, if not by Ritalin induced-hormonal teenagers? Well, look at the bullying that goes on in the National Assembly between parties who can’t seem to agree on anything. Personal attacks rule over valid arguments, but… it starts much earlier- in the classroom.
You see, I went to elementary school in French, and had the rest of my education in English; therefore I’ve survived both solitudes. I’m not here to tell you my life story, just a sample. In the second grade I changed school. Aside from not knowing anyone, I was shy, reserved, a budding writer in the back of the class engrossed in Archie Comics- and oh, yes- an Anglophone in a French school- the perfect target.
My second grade teacher- who will remain anonymous because despite everything, I forgive her- was the caricature that represents Quebec in the media. Likely an army sergeant in her past life, walking into her class she had a cross at the top of the door and a prayer at the corner of the blackboard. She was also our religion teacher. Strangely, certain students liked her. While I didn’t yet understand what racism and xenophobia was, my gut knew… it just did. I clearly remember how she treated badly one student who happened to be black.
As for me, she didn’t like me. I felt it. I remember times where she would scold me in front of the class. I remember another time her asking me to put my head down to relax-apparently I kind of stood up to her. I had my face in my arms, crying. The class continued.
If you were absent, forget about receiving any gifts the class would get on Christmas or Valentine’s Day, though I had to deal with bronchitis. To an adult, these are petty things, but to an eight-year-old, your world crashes when your own teacher does this.
I kept this to myself for a while since at this age you don’t know the importance of someone respecting you, you simply figure adults are supposed to know better. By the time my marks were dropping my family finally realized what was going on, but the school year was too ahead to salvage. That year, I along with eight other students had to repeat the second grade. The teacher- she got fired two years later.
By age thirteen, I finished the sixth grade and was on my way to high school. I threw away all my class photos and everything relating to those times. For years I didn’t want to hear any French news or anything French- I was indoctrinated with more resentments to shake a stick at. The only problem is I was resentful toward the wrong people. I blamed a whole group of people instead of those who represent them- that’s what it’s like growing up in Quebec.
In high school my history courses were directed toward the British perspective, just like in elementary school it was toward the French perspective, a cup of alienation anyone? It’s no wonder we never learned about the Duplessis Orphans, or how people in Lower Canada couldn’t take part in politics until the mid-1800s. Yet we learn all about how the French and English hate each other.
In 2012, when the student strike took shape I had one semester in journalism and was given the chance to interview Francophone university students- the first to take part in the strike vote, and I realized something… They were not my enemy, not even in school. It hurt me to recognize all my missed out friendships growing up had to do with this system, and yet it took a strike to finally see that.
In the schoolyard, the biggest “threat” is the student with the glasses or the shy one who might know something about the math test everyone else doesn’t. As an adult, the “threat” is from the person wearing a headscarf, or the one who speaks a different language. Those who bully them are the future Harpers and Maroises, and the bystanders- their voters.
So blame the parents. Blame the school and the teachers for not doing anything- those are all fallacies. Bullies truly are products of the system. As Pastor Martin Niemöller said during WWII, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”
*** Originally published at: http://thequebecpoliticalscene.blogspot.ca/