In the Heat of the Moment

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I admit that I hadn’t given much serious thought to the issue of the 1995 Quebec referendum on whether or not to separate from Canada. Then I attended the rally at the Plaza of Nations in Vancouver.

I went because my son’s band had been invited to play. I returned home with the flame of patriotism rekindled and burning bright. I even purposed to follow the suggestion of the rally organizers—to pick up the phone and dial a Quebec area code followed by my own number.

The assumption was that we would possibly reach someone in the Province of Quebec, and we could then tell them we hoped they would vote to remain a part of Canada.

On Sunday, October 29, the day before the referendum, we did place that call. Actually, my son dialed the number and handed the phone to me. We did connect with one of our French Canadian neighbours. The conversation went like this…

“Parlez-vous anglaise?”

“Huh?”

“Parlez-vous anglaise?”

“What do you want?”

“I’m calling from Vancouver, British Columbia. On this day before your referendum, I want to tell you that we want Quebec to remain part of Canada. We would like you to vote ‘No’ tomorrow.”

“F— you. It’s too late. Why don’t you leave us alone?!”

“I just want you to know that we love you.”

“F——- a—h—!” he yelled, likening me to that part of the anatomy that rarely sees the light of day. He slammed the receiver down.

At first I was shocked, and a bit angry. The way my wife felt three weeks earlier when a young Indo Canadian man clipped her car as he wheeled into a parking lot and, when queried as to whether he was aware of what he had done, shot back, “I don’t talk to stupid white women.”

Our reactions, in the heat of the moment, can be our worst enemy. When the young man in the parking lot was approached a second time in a cool, composed manner he confessed that he was having a “crappy” day and had lost his head. He apologized. 

Had I the opportunity to chat a bit longer with my French Canadian friend, I might have learned the source of his hostility and built a bridge of understanding.

Jesus’ words, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”, were spoken as he hung in torment on a cross. If He could do that, surely I can learn to be more tolerant and forgiving. The effects of this approach would appear far gentler on the pages of history than the changes forced because of arrogance and anger.

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