Nothing brings out the levels of intolerance in a community more than a controversial issue. The last three years, we have seen several controversial issues which have tested communities, and highlighted where communities need to do better. The most recent of these in our South Dundas community is Pride.
A year after a group of Seaway District High School students presented a proposal to paint a Progress Pride flag on a crosswalk in Iroquois, that work was completed at the start of June. June is Pride Month. It is a month that highlights the struggle that the LGBTQ2S+ community has faced against discrimination, and celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of that community. Less than two days after the crosswalk was painted, it was vandalized. Days later, the unveiling of the crosswalk with local and regional dignitaries was marred by an obscenity hurled at the group. Both acts – the vandalism and the obscenity – demonstrated overt intolerance. The undercurrents of subvert intolerance are much worse.
In social settings, the whispers and comments of intolerance echo loudly within a select group of people. There are many reasons the intolerant group of individuals may echo views that range from generational bias, to an unwillingness to accept anyone different from themselves. They may simply be unable to change their ways. Sadly, in a small town environment like South Dundas, or some other Eastern Ontario communities, these intolerances are common. Is it any wonder that some communities stand still in time? Progress is stunted in these communities. New jobs and housing skip communities that do not move forward.
The move by South Dundas council on June 19 to officially raise the Pride flag for the balance of June this year, and every June hereafter is a great move for the community. Again, within days of this act, intolerance continued. Hurtful comments and slurs. Those who feel offended or threatened by a rainbow flag flying over a building, feel the same as they do about a rainbow painted on pavement. This is sad for our community, but it clearly is not the first time this has happened. Similar undercurrents reverberated when the Every Child Matters flag flew at the South Dundas Municipal Centre commemorating the National Truth and Reconciliation Day last September 30. Similar words
Those who are prejudiced against these types of commemorations and celebrations hold the view that these differences reflect a zero-sum gain. If one group gets noticed, then everyone else will lose something. That is not the case. Celebrating – or at least tolerating – differences is not zero-sum, it is additive. Having all parts of the community be included in their community means the whole community gains. Those who are intolerant or prejudiced against others because of their gender, sexual orientation, religion, or race, should look inward and try to do better. Tolerance of others, even if it is a little uncomfortable, is the best way forward.