Here we go again. I have made a commitment to get less grouchy in my blog posts as it seems some potential clients were getting the wrong impression about my speech. They would read my honest perspectives addressing issues that annoy me and even though I make it very clear in every blog that my programs on stage are completely different than my blog, these same people worried that I might somehow offend the sensitive so why take a chance? I understand their concern and respect their decision but isn’t it ironic that last week, 10 satirical artists and journalists along with two police officers were killed by religious zealots with one mission…silence freedom! I apologize for yet again compromising my own promise to write positive and uplifting posts but this event cannot be ignored. Especially when for 34 years, and really, my whole life, has been dedicated to enlightenment and awareness through my spoken and written words.
I will not make any comment on the sensitive issue of the reason this all began as I know nothing of the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran. In fact, I truly wish someone would explain this to me as every conceivable brain cell I own is confounded. How could someone be offended by satire? How can anyone justify killing unarmed cartoonists for their cause? Why is the world left unhinged because a bunch of clearly deluded and mentally wacked out exctremists choose to kill innocent people so they can martyr themselves for such a belief? I don’t think I am alone in my confusion. I know I am not alone in my anger! WHAT IS WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?!
I want to tell you a little anecdote that might at least give you a smile and perhaps allow a little karma to the universe for whatever that might be worth.
It took a while for me to grow a sense of humour. It took me even longer to come into a sense of acceptance of my physical form. As you likely are aware (you are at my website), I have no arms. I was born this way so I didn’t have an “adjustment phase” like someone who might tragically lose their limbs, but I clearly went through a couple of my own “acceptance” phases. The first, and probably most predictable, was puberty. But the second actually happened a bit later than you might think. When I was 28 years old, I quit my government job and went out on my own to become a speaker. I had been a speaker for a while, but most of my work was localized to the Province of Saskatchewan, where I was quite well known. In 1985, I had spoken at my first national conference, ironically at my high school in Yorkton, where I graduated in 1978. I had travelled across Canada a bit and I had been outside of Canada a few times but in 1988, I began to travel across North America and travel a lot. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. I do wish I thought it was as cool after doing it for almost 27 years but I have to work on that. What was really cool was going to places I had always dreamed of going and in 1989, it was New York City. Okay, it was Laquardia Airport but I could see the Statue of Liberty when we flew into the city! I was travelling somewhere else that I don’t remember and it doesn’t matter. The point is, I was doing what travellers do all the time, but when I do it, I do it without arms! Take a moment to contemplate how that might work.
So, I need you to imagine something please. I do everything with my feet and that includes eat and drink. In 1989, it also included smoking (no judgment, ok?) and that was something you could do everywhere including on planes! Hard to believe, huh? I didn’t have a bad habit but it was definitely tied to drinking alcohol. So here I am in one of the world’s biggest airports with wall to wall people and I decide to go have a beer and a smoke. I mindlessly picked a small table with two chairs and put my luggage on one of them. The table was right next to the walkway where people were coming and going and the space was tight so those passing by were in close proximity. Don’t get ahead of me! I got my beer, lit my smoke and just sat there taking in the moment. Keep in mind, I have always been stared at…ALWAYS! I had to get used to it, but I never liked it…EVER! I have to admit, I understood why people stared, still do. But I just didn’t like it.
So as I am drinking and smoking with my right foot, I see a couple approaching and there is no prejudice here, but I need you to picture them. This couple were somewhat aged and from somewhere in Asia and they each had a ton of luggage on carts. As the man, who was in the lead, approached and got closer I sensed him spot me but he may have had bad eyesight because he was practically next to my table (about ten feet away) when he just stopped! His wife wasn’t ready and ran right into him and all their luggage got spilled. They started having a very animated conversation when the man pointed at me and then they both stared ignoring the fact their spillage was blocking traffic. As they were staring at me and I was watching this “train wreck”, I started to laugh. It all of a sudden occurred to me that it may have been a tad inappropriate to be laughing at someone’s misfortune, but I couldn’t help myself. Then the funniest thing happened. The man came over while his wife was re-stacking their bags, bowed and in very broken English apologized for staring. I stood up, bowed back and told him it was no problem even apologizing back for their luggage scattering. His wife then came over and also bowed and she didn’t say anything but her husband spoke something to her in their language and she smiled. I gave them a very brief and slowly spoken explanation of my circumstance and they both got tears in their eyes then offered to shake my hand (that’s happened a couple of times in my life) but realizing they coudn’t, they both gave me a hug, bowed again then went on their way, even turning around about fifty feet away and waving goodbye with big smiles on their faces. It was a weird moment. It was also the first time that the power of the moment of stranger’s spotting me crystalized…It’s Funny!
It is funny, isn’t it? If you don’t see the humour, that’s okay because we are all entitled to our opinion but shouldn’t that also come with respect for that opinion. We all have different senses of humour. I love Monty Python and some people don’t. I don’t find Melissa McCarthy from television and movies funny at all, yet many do. But I certainly wouldn’t track her down and shoot her in cold blood! I know that may seem an almost inappropriate stretch but that is exactly my point. How does satirical humour warrant a death sentence? By the way, I don’t accept that Charlie Hebdo crossed a line and committed a true offence but catered to their constituents who buy their publication with the express interest in humour, no matter how inappropriate it may be.
If you don’t like the show, change to channel, don’t like the music, change the station, don’t like the magazine, don’t buy it! Isn’t all of this blatantly obvious? But here is the real problem.
Again, my last blog challenged people to have the courage to say “Merry Christmas” and not succumb to the politically correct of “Happy Holidays” but it is obvious that a big chunk of our world has succumbed. What happened in Paris is obviously an isolated and extreme circumstance and just so were are perfectly clear here, I have countless Muslim friends and I respect completely their belief in Muhammad, Allah and the Koran. I would also hope they carry the same respect for my beliefs. This blog is about my deep concern that the gutless murder of these satirists will scare other satirists from publishing their material, and thus, the terrorists win. We cannot allow that to happen. Censorship is a slippery slope and although I agree we have had to censor some things like hate speech and print but satire isn’t about hate…it’s about humour!
When I learned to laugh at the not always funny reality of having no arms, it led to an acceptance and ultimately, an embracing of my own life. I just wish our whole world would lighten up a bit because as horrible as the events of last week in Paris truly were, I simply refuse to stop laughing, at me…at life!