To a Happy New Year (one that’s worth fighting for)

My past two New Years posts have been a little…flippant. At the end of 2010 it was because 2010 had been so personally sad for me. At the end of 2011 it was because the year had been so personally awesome. But this year–this year 2012 that has just passed–requires, I think, some honest reflection.

For me personally, 2012 was good. Had the world actually ended on December 21, I would have had little to complain about. The year 2012 was intellectually fulfilling: I did more writing than I’ve done in a long time, and the fact that I was taking classes allowed me to get incredibly constructive feedback. The year 2012 was artistically fulfilling: I watched my talented friends perform my play Libation Bearers (the Flame), and it was everything I could have asked for. As far as adventures go, nothing could have topped our visit to the Galapagos Islands this autumn. And as for my heart, I became engaged to the man I love, and throughout this past year and all years I have received love and support from my family and friends. 2012 was kind to me.

But the year 2012 was not kind to everyone. November and December, especially, took a darker turn. My hometown lost another young man to suicide. A much loved and respected colleague at work succumbed to cancer. Other colleagues have been dealing with serious illness, either battling it themselves or watching a loved one suffer. Aaron Johnson, the director and founder of the Vancouver Circus School (where I have trained in aerial silks for the past five years) fell into a coma and passed away this autumn (this is the man who taught me to do a headstand at the age of 23). And just as the year was drawing to a close, a member of my father’s family was taken suddenly. An aunt, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, a sister–all these things in one person, and all these things to miss.

On a wider scope, I have felt the weight of this particular autumn. A cosmic force did not end the world on December 21, but it’s becoming obvious humanity is more than capable of bringing about its downfall. Bill C45 reduced the number of protected waterways in Canada on an unprecedented scale. The “Idle No More” movement has been met in many parts of the country with ignorance, racism, or, in the case of our own Prime Minister, a complete lack of recognition for the responsibilities the government has for the well-being of ALL Canadians (not just the ones that vote Conservative). It has been announced that the Victoria hearings into the proposed Enbridge Pipeline (which would pump bitumen from Alberta to BC’s coast, to be loaded onto tankers and shipped through extremely dangerous and environmentally significant waterways) will no longer be public, despite the potentially disastrous impact it would have on the environment, livelihoods, and citizens of BC.

In the United States, the deaths of the innocent children and schoolteachers in the Sandy Hook massacre shocked and sickened us, and still hateful groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the NRA have chosen to use this tragedy as a platform towards their own ends.

In India, a young woman died after being brutally beaten and gang raped, exposing a (dare I say global) culture that accepts that women, 50% of the population, are not safe, and that very little is being done to foster underlying societal attitudes that would keep them safe.

It all sounds very bleak. But I say “Happy New Year”. Why? Because, as the saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.”

Out with a government, a culture, a country, that turns its back on its obligations to its First Nations people. Out with a government that ignores its people, is afraid of its people, and does whatever it can to turn its citizens against each other. Out with short-sighted economic policy that fails to recognize that a completely gutted environment will yield nothing but loss–to our health, our culture, and our economy. Out with a government that banks on our ignorance and complacence. The tools are in our hands (I’m typing on one right now). We can inform ourselves and we can act. We have to live with this particular government until at least the next election, but we don’t have to make it comfortable for them.

Out with outdated stigmas and ineffective support for people with mental illness. Out with waiting for yet another tragedy to finally decide that attitudes need to change, that asking for help is not weakness, and that anyone reaching out for mental health assistance should find it readily available.

Out with being too afraid of gun lobbyists to finally just make it harder for someone to obtain a dangerous weapon whose reason for existence is killing people.

Out with accepting that women should just be content with feeling unsafe. That their safety is the price they pay for daring to participate in public life, or for deciding to act, travel, work, etc. independently.

And, for me (and hopefully for you), out, OUT with being too paralyzed by the shades of grey in the world, the plethora of information, the never ending bad news, or the fear of offending someone, to actually take a stand and believe in something, and be willing to fight for something.

I am a feminist. I am pro-choice. I am against the Enbridge Pipeline. I support marriage equality. I am a member of the federal New Democratic Party. I support Canada’s First Nations and the Idle No More movement. I am committed to learning more about Canada’s environmental and treaty laws. I am committed to telling people what I believe. I will donate my money (when I can), I will sign a petition, I will blog, I will read the news, I will share the news, I will march when I can march, I will yell when I can yell. I will continue to love my family and my friends and my fiance and my country deeply because they are the point of the fight.

And so I wish you a Happy New Year because we don’t have a choice. Either we fight for a happy 2013 or we lose ourselves to indifference, violence, hatred, and fear. Tonight, I hope you are having a wonderful (and safe) time with people you care about. Eat, drink, and be merry. Tomorrow, and each day after, get up and fight. Happiness, like all truly good things, is worth fighting for.

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