Friday night was one of the most inspiring, uplifting, and humbling evenings I have experienced since my arrival in the Comox Valley, 29 months ago.
I had the honour of attending the Community Witnessing Ceremony for the 2016 Critical Incident Response Protocol at the K’omoks Big House. I was also a signatory, on behalf of The Comox Valley Record.
I consider the Critical Incident Response Protocol to be among the most important current public documents in existence in our community, because it addresses actions and attitudes entirely within our control.
The CIRP is not only about protecting and treating victims, but also about taking a stand against hate and intolerance. It’s about standing up for each other. It’s about treating each other with respect, regardless of skin tone, sexual identity, or socio-economic placement.
It’s about realizing that we are all the same. We all live; we all die. It’s time we treat everyone alike - like family.
The next time you look at someone with disdain as they panhandle for change on the meridian, think twice. How would you react if that were a member of your own family? The chances of that person begging by choice are lower than the chances he or she will have a hot meal tonight.
The next time you mock someone for their sexual identity, put a family spin on it. Would you treat your son the same way, if he were gay? Your daughter? Your cousin?
Consider this: Statistically speaking, the odds of homosexuality not playing a role in your family are so minute that there is likely one of three scenarios at play:
1) you’re in denial,
2) someone in your family is in denial, or,
3) you come from a very, very small family.
Changing society’s attitudes can only start by changing our own. It’s not an easy request, and it is one I fail at, more often than I care to admit. But I do accept that, and am encouraged by that recognition. If you don’t recognize yourself as having faults, you’ll never be able to correct them. And we all have faults.
I encourage anyone who was not at the witnessing ceremony, or is unfamiliar with the Critical Incident Response Protocol, to go to the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre website at cjc-comoxvalley.com and access the “Organizing Against Racism and Hatred” page. There, you can read about the history of the protocol, and read the original 2009 document. (I’ve been promised the 2016 updated CIRP will be posted soon.)
It could be a life-changing read.
And if you were there, talk to someone who wasn’t. Talk to someone who is intolerant towards anyone different than them. We all know someone who fits that description.
If every person who was at last week’s presentation could change the attitude of just one other person, that would make such a difference. And if that person could do the same, the effect would double.
It takes but one person to start a societal shift. Be that person.
One of the guest speakers on Friday, and an original signatory, Andrew Stringfellow, wrapped up his presentation perfectly, by reading the Helen Kromer poem, One Man Awake.
Thank you Andrew, and moreover, Helen, for such appropriate words:
One man awake
Can waken another;
The second can waken
His next door brother.
The three awake
Can rouse a town,
By turning the whole
Place upside down.
The many awake
Can make such a fuss,
That it finally wakens
The rest of us!
One man up,
With dawn in his eyes,
Awaken, Comox Valley. We’ve much work to do.
Terry Farrell is the editor of The Comox Valley Record