To the Editor;
Due to the limitations of law-enforcement and letter-writing, Justin Trudeau’s suggestion that “the next time you see a woman in a hijab or a family out for a stroll, give them a smile,” may be the healthiest response by caring individuals toward all acts of targeted hate.
I decided to do just that as a rebellious response to the anticipated acts of anti-Muslim hate that soon followed Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory. Anti-Trump demonstrators’ catchy slogan was “Love Trumps Hate”. Though I’m not much for loving non-family (except for dark chocolate truffle ice cream), I would do the next best thing: offer a smile.
But when offering a smile, one should do so promptly. In my first attempt, with a passing woman wearing a Muslim head scarf, I hesitated long enough (likely for fear of possibly offending her modesty) for her to catch my blank stare and quickly look away. Thus the opposite of my intended friendly greeting was likely perceived by her.
I can imagine the woman, presumably also aware of the jubilant post-election pro-Trump/anti-Muslim mood southward, taking me for just another Islamophobic creep. To this day, it remains for me a bitter example of the road to hell also being paved with good intentions.
I made sure to not repeat the mistake, however, as I passed a middle-aged Black woman along the sidewalk. To me, she had a lined expression of one who’d endured a hard life. I gave her a smile, and her seemingly tired face lit up with her own smile, as though mine was the last thing she’d expected to receive. Since then, we always greet one another and even converse while awaiting the bus.
In today’s climate of bigotry, I feel it’s not enough to just not think/act hateful; we all also need to display kindness, perhaps through a sincere smile.
Frank Sterle Jr.
White Rock, B.C.
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