The Things I Didn’t Say

(Names have been changed.)

“I’d never go back to Cuba,” Gerry went on. “Lousy place. Except for this one incident. Two hundred and fifty Russians came to the resort we were staying with. Terrible people, those Russians. Anyway. Seven of them decided to get drunk. They got loud, started fighting with one another.

“The Gestapo showed up. They escorted those seven people back to their rooms. They had ’em pack up their stuff. They escorted them to the plane. Deported. Immediately. Never allowed back in the country.

“That was fantastic. That’s what we oughta do. Best idea ever.”

Fred nodded his agreement. “Yep. Someone comes to this country, they should get exactly zero chances.”

“Right,” Gerry agreed. “Those kids in the lower mainland, street racing, somebody ends up killed, nothin’ happens to ’em. Should deport ’em right now. No questions asked.”

Fred was still nodding. “Yep! No trial. No lawyer. Just back on the boat. And not just for big stuff. I’m talking a parking ticket. Jaywalking. Anything.”

I caught my brother’s eye. He looked acutely uncomfortable, and said nothing.

I took a sip of coffee, and asked, not looking at anybody in particular, “No lawyer, eh? What if he didn’t do it? Innocent … they got the wrong guy.”

“Ha!” Fred retorted. “They should be lucky we don’t send ’em back with a bullet.” Gerry smiled in agreement.

I took another sip of coffee, trying to stay calm. “What if he was born here?”

Gerry sneered. “Ninety-five percent of them weren’t.”

I thought for a moment, and began to speak.

“I want to postulate a scenario, an observation, and a point.

“You guys know Pravin, right? One of my best friends growing up. Great guy, brilliant, professional. His parents moved here from India when he was three. He has no practical experience of living in India. He doesn’t know the language. He kind of knows the culture, but indirectly, through his parents and relatives. He grew up completely westernised, much to his mother’s chagrin.

“When he was sixteen, he was driving home. Came up to a T intersection with a stop sign. Hardly ever any traffic there, and this time there was no-one coming. He puts on his left turn signal, slows down, looks left, looks right, looks left again, and makes the left turn.

“The policeman saw him, though, and pulled him over. Gave him a ticket for not coming to a full and complete stop at the stop sign. Stupid ticket. We’ve all had those.

“But under your previous statements, he’d have been deported. At the age of sixteen. To a country of which he has no memory. He would have been profoundly unprepared to even survive there. And you would advocate for a police state that would pack him up and ship him out. And you didn’t come right out and say it, but it’s because he’s not your particular shade of skin tone, and his parents speak English with a funny accent.

“That’s the scenario. On to the observation.

“We call ourselves Christians. We believe that voluntarily aligning ourselves with the person of Jesus the Messiah is essential for the salvation of our eternal souls. Those that reject Jesus are in danger of spending eternity forever separated from God and from anything that can be considered ‘good’.

“Though all of us call ourselves Christians, we have people in our extended family that grew up in a Christian environment but have nevertheless come to the erroneous conclusion that Christianity is equivalent to bigotry, intolerance, unkindness and lack of love. These ‘qualities’ are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus. They should know that, but despite all the sermons and Sunday School and Children’s Church and even, in some cases, post-secondary Christian education, they for some reason have this mistaken idea about Christianity.

“The conversation I just witnessed would strongly reinforce that mistaken idea. Here we are, sitting in a crowded Denny’s filled with people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, loudly proposing that they be deported for the slightest infraction of Canada’s convoluted and arbitrary laws, and they should be grateful that we don’t just shoot them.

“And now, here’s my point.

“You men call yourselves Christians, but you dare to propose this hate-filled, cruel, intolerant and bigoted political opinion. Crudely. Loudly. Surrounded by people who, from their appearance, may very well be from China or Japan or India or a wide variety of similar places.

“I know that you are good men. I have seen kindness and generosity from you. But this perspective and attitude towards ‘immigrants’ is completely evil. I am acutely embarrassed and ashamed right now, and I feel like apologising to everyone in this room for even sitting at this table.”

Or rather, that’s what I wish I had said. But I didn’t. I just excused myself to the washroom, and felt nauseous.

3 thoughts on “The Things I Didn’t Say”

  1. Obviously, anyone who chooses to stay at a resort in Cuba chooses not to see Cuba; go to Club Med people. Everything after “I want to postulate a scenario…” well, that is bang on… except for the… oh never mind. 😮

    Kudos to ya.


  2. This post is really interesting, from my own personal experience. Question: what is an immigrant? The impression that a lot of people have is that they’re straight off the boat, sponging of the State, taking jobs away yaddayaddayadda. But in this day an age, where international travel is so common, it’s funny how the stereotypes die hard. I am an immigrant, as right now I’m living outside my country of origin. I have encountered similar stereotypes by my adopted country (not as much as if I were a visible minority) but the issue of ‘asylum seekers’ is so contentious in the UK; but I think it has more to do with the fact that asylum seekers are allowed to claim state benefit (aka welfare, or The Dole) and a condition of my immigration was that if I touched public funds for 3 years I could be kicked out of the country. As well, with the expansion of the European Union, so many ‘Eastern Europeans’ are flooding the country to find work which is creating a strain on the medical and school systems. This is another debate that is raging–they are here legally but what do the native British population feel about them.

    My husband will soon be an immigrant as we are packing up to move back to Canada. Even though he is white and British he is scared that he will be perceived as ‘taking jobs away from Canadians’ and that he will encounter prejudice on the job market. Some might say ‘yeah, well he doesn’t count because…’ but he’s still an immigrant. Just like an American moving up to Canada. My point is that immigration can’t simply be pigeon-holed; it has many facets and faces.

    So even though Canada has traditionally and proudly welcomed immigrants the debate which your post highlighted is…are Canadians slightly prejudiced against them? I think the Gov’t for one is scared of having this debate at the risk of appearing ‘racist’ but I think that it is a topic that average people whisper about in coffee shops and discuss amongst themselves (as your post illustrates) but dare not really speak its name.

    There is no easy answer and I’m no political expert but I just wanted to stick my head above the parapet and share my opinion. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Comments are closed.