Why We Should Care About Paris. Yes, Especially With Everything Else Going On In the World.

I want to write about Paris.

I want to write in particular about the discomfort some feel with the attention this tragedy is getting, at least compared to other larger-scale violence in the world. Aren’t people dying violently every day? Isn’t there a refugee crisis on our hands? Where’s the outrage there?

I hear you. And while I don’t agree with all the discourse, here is what I hope we can all agree on.

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First: A human life is a human life is a human life. Country of origin does not make your life more or less valuable.

Second: Death is, excuse the word, total shit. As someone who has dealt with her fair share of it in the last month, I know the heartbreaking ripple of pain any death leaves. And deaths which are particularly senseless, or violent, or bred out of hatred? They’re the worst. They’re so bad, we have laws and systems in place to stop people from causing those deaths.

Third: In some places, you can count on those don’t-kill-each-other laws to make things a little safer. In other places, not so much. The system in place to protect citizens from brutal, unnecessary violence is a little more dependable in some countries than others. That’s one of the reasons we have a refugee crisis right now; people would prefer to live in a country where they have chance to survive, thankyouverymuch.

The fact of the matter is, the whole “law” thing isn’t really working in every country. In many places, there are broken governments, really bad neighbours, powerful extremist groups, and all sorts of corruption standing in the way of peoples’ safety.

Now, I can’t speak for how individuals feel when they hear about people dying in these less-than-safe countries, but here are two things we probably don’t feel: We don’t feel overly surprised. And most of us don’t feel like there is a whole lot we can do.

It’s a little different when people die violently and senselessly in countries that are supposed to be safe. A shock pulses through the world because it is, well, shocking. There is confusion and horror and, oh yes, headlines and hashtags. If that country is democratic and has a decent economy, there is an increased urgency from the general population; a feeling that we can do something, that we should do something, that we have both the responsibility and the resources to keep this country safe.

And if we don’t? Well, then, the fear is that there is no such thing as safety, or law and order. If this brutality can penetrate Paris, where does it stop?

These might seem like hyperbolic questions. I get that. But this is where the outpouring of coverage and discourse is coming from. Everyone feels a little less safe in a place where they are supposed to feel safe. A place sought by refugees because it was perceived to be free of the violence they tried to escape.

After all, if the whole world becomes unsafe, where would these refugees go?

NOW, let’s get back to those things we agree on.

1) Every life is valuable;
2) Death is shit;
3) Some places are, sadly, safer than others. 

With that in mind, it is appalling to me that anyone would use this as an opportunity to keep innocent people out of safer places.

There are serious questions facing our governments right now: How do we separate the victims from the perpetrators when they knock on our doors? When we take people from a place suffering from chaos and hatred, how do we keep them from bringing some of that chaos and hatred with them? Safe countries, after all, have an obligation to keep their current citizens safe. And so I understand temporary measures put in place to find answers to these questions before accepting more refugees.

I understand them, but I do not accept them as a long-term “solution.” Letting countless innocent people die by permanently locking down borders is not the answer. That only adds to the already devastating number of victims.

Let us mourn the deaths of the Paris attack.

Let us work together to keep our countries safe and secure.

But let us not allow our fear to unnecessarily raise the headcount.

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Sex, Lies, and Storytime: “It’s okay, you’re not broken.”

I have wanted to write about this for a long time.  I have so much to say about it. The problem is that I don’t have any stories about it– not that I am willing to share, at least. The world belongs to people who have the best stories.  Sexual liberation belongs to women who are willing to stand up and say “I have sex! I have this much sex with this many people, and it’s okay!” or  “I dress like this, so take that society!” Purity, modesty, and all that is pro-Virgin power comes from personal testimonies and Conservatively told bible stories.

And then there’s me.

Of course, I admire people who do tell their stories. They have changed my life, and the world really does belong to them.  Stories have a neat way of improving social consciousness, evolving into full-blown movements. [Insert Pokemon evolution joke here?].

Me, I really don’t have a story that will change your life.  I could probably make you laugh, but ultimately I’m not willing to share whether I’ve said Yes or No–certainly, I’m not telling the internet, nor my parents, nor most people I know. That doesn’t make me ashamed, by the way. I am fully comfortable with my sexuality. And I’m fully comfortable with keeping it to myself.

But since stories run the show, I will tell you the stories I know.

I know stories about women saying Yes, and it being a big problem. I know stories about women saying No, and it being a big problem. I know stories about misogyny disguised as miscommunication.  I also know stories of miscommunication disguised as misogyny–God bless the little boys who receive mixed messages and lowered bars from society every day.

I know stories about people ashamed of what they have done, because that big bully “Society” told them they ought to be.  Then there the people ashamed of what they haven’t done. There’s also shame in the couldn’t do, wouldn’t do–or, God forbid, like to do.

Oh, and there’s shame in what people don’t like to do, too. Sometimes, the don’t likes meet the likes and they confuse and shame each other.  Fun, right?

I know stories about women who proudly wear the title “sexually liberated” because, well, they have a lot of sex and they want to own it and good for them.  I know stories about women who are “sexually liberated,” or “sex positive,” but don’t have a lot of sex at all.  I have heard tall tales from people who pretend they have more sex than they actually do, because they want to be part of the conversation. And then, of course, there are heartbreaking stories from folks who pretend they have less sex than they actually do, because that’s what is acceptable.

To make matters more confusing, these stories can all belong to the same person.  Whether you’re in a Eucharist line or a picket line, chances are your sexual history is more definitive of who you are as a person than it should be.

Yes, I know stories.  And so many of these stories make want to run up and give their keepers a big hug and say “It’s okay! You’re okay! You aren’t broken.”

Everyone is just trying to figure their shit out. If sexuality was sensible, reasonable, formulated, and mundane, then it wouldn’t be so friggin’ funny. And it is funny. It’s ridiculous. It’s romantic. It’s silly.

Welcome to human relationships, friends–they’re weird.  When people take their clothes off, they get even weirder. So no, they don’t need your judgement.  They need love, they need information.  Please leave the close-mindedness at the door.

Oh, yes, there are serious things involved in sexuality: Health. Pregnancy. HIV. Disease. Emotional well-being. Rape. Consent.  And we’re awfully good at confusing people about the serious parts by making up stupid rules about the ridiculous parts.  These things need to be discussed honestly, but we keep loading them down with arbitrary social standards.  Why? Do we really need to make sex more emotionally loaded and confusing?

Here’s what we need to do:  Care about the stories. Let them speak. Respect the storytellers.  Share your own stories, if you want to.  And whatever your story is, however different it is than someone elses, whatever you choose to do with it: You aren’t broken.

You’re just another person with a story and a body, and no matter what, those two things belong to you and you alone.

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Thanks to the overwhelming response to this blog post, I started an online project to tap into the power of sharing our stories. Check it out here: http://tabootab.com/category/sexuality/

The Truth About Hockey: It’s All in Our Stories, Folks

I’m getting sick of getting sick of the lockout.

What I mean is, I’m getting sick of pretending that I care about the NHL. I don’t care about the NHL. I like that the NHL combines great players/franchises, and that it keeps hockey entertaining.  That’s about it. Every other thing I like about hockey, about the league, my favourite team…it comes down to stories.

These stories belong to me.  These stories belong to hockey, too. But they do not, and I’m realizing this more and more, belong to the NHL.

Here’s why I “care” about the NHL:  Because I still remember when I started cheering for the Sens instead of the Leafs.  Because one time, I rescheduled a date when I realized Ottawa and Montreal were facing off that night (I lived with a Habs fan at the time. This was serious business.).  Because in second year, I picked up a contract job at the All Star Game and it was awesome.  Because I made it to Scotiabank Place for a cheap student game night when I had a cold (and could barely talk, let alone cheer). Because after a long day, Hockey Night in Canada is just the best.

These stories may be completely drenched in the NHL, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people.

They’re about sipping hot chocolate as Krissy digs out her old jersey, or begging Michelle to come out to the pub because “this one’s a BIG DEAL.” They’re about long distance calls home to hash out the highlights. They’re about meeting folks from New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal—and connecting with them, just because we’re all hockey fans.   They’re about cheering with people I’ve never even met, just because of seat proximity (or, some nights, the simple hashtag #GoSens).

If the Lockout has shown me anything, it’s that these memories (NHL-affiliated as they may be) do not revolve around the league itself. At their core, these stories are about the sport, community, and whatever weird passions are involved in me caring too much about scores and stats.  NHL or no NHL, I have been waking up at 4 am to watch the World Juniors.  I have been reminiscing on my ball hockey days with my little brother, who still retains a mini stick collection.  And long before I worked at the All Star Game, I volunteered for a local TV station.  (It was 2008.  My hometown hosted the Ontario Hockey League championships. I worked cameras and graphics for the postgame show. The Kitchener Rangers made it to the finals. We lost to the Spokane Chiefs, and the cup snapped in half as they held it up. I laughed hysterically, even though my still heart hurt a bit from the loss.)

I remember this. I remember cuing up highlights, and watching missed games alongside the local hosts (I still revel at their endless knowledge of the game).  I remember when, in one of my slower moments, I finally understood what an offside was.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the NHL.

Neither does the fact that this morning, my little brother busted in and turned on my light at 3:55 am.  This was exactly 5 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, and 35 minutes before Canada faced the USA in the World Juniors.  I had worn my red and white Canada scarf to bed.  “Bed,” by the way, was a 2 hour nap between 2 and 4 in the morning.  Classy is as classy does.

Why?  Because I watch hockey. So does my brother. And if the World Juniors are being held in Russia, then I’m microwaving pizza and mocking pregame blabber at an ungodly hour. It’s that simple. And in the end, it’s about us—he and I, the country we love, the game…me singing obnoxiously to bug him, smeared make up, early morning Diet Coke.  Who cares about the NHL?

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What I care about is right here.