America the Beautiful

barden

When you send your children to school in the US it becomes part of your life to be in tune with the current events of the neighbors to the South. This has been part of my life for close to three decades, ever since I was a young student at Dartmouth. My curiosity has been heightened the past six years since Tristan and Aidan have been at school. In the past year the political events going on down south have caused me to seriously consider the consequences of what could be a tumultuous November when a new President is elected.

I am a Canadian, first generation son of immigrants that came to Canada from India. When I think about how far I have come since my mother and then my father stepped into this country I am amazed at what they accomplished and I have been able to accomplish through their decision to start anew here in Canada. Based on my background it would be safe to assume I am not a proponent of the Donald Trump school of thought. His campaign that started with the calling out of Mexicans, only brings back the painful history of my teacher father coming home and telling my mother of the racial slurs that were written about him in school textbooks. Those memories still sting.

When I read the news and listen to the political commentary that emanates from the United States I am amazed at the lunacy of the events. How did this powerful nation get to this point of fragmentation and divisiveness? Is there any common sense at all when it comes to politics? I think of my oldest son, Tristan, sitting among his American friends possibly shaking his head in disbelief. Do they talk politics? Where do his friends stand on the issue of the Second Amendment, Black Lives Matter, the birther issue, political transparency, national security and the Supreme Court? Do they care or are they so immersed in college life, lacrosse and parties that these conversations are left for post graduation? I hope not. I hope he can pass on Canadian wisdom from his “outsider” perspective. I would like to think he is compassionate and caring, and able to formulate positions based on the goodness of human beings.

It is very difficult to separate ourselves from what is going on in the United States. Tristan’s closest friends are American, his girlfriend is American, he is a Canadian living his life in America. This was not more evident than in December 2012. Tracey was visiting Tristan as he played in the Christmas tournament with his Westminster hockey team. On December 14th a young man opened fire in Sandy Hook school killing 26 people including 20 young children. The mass shooting occurred a few hours away from where they were, but it shook up the entire country. It shook me up. The United States and the gun culture. When you send your child to the US to go to school you should not have to worry about guns, but I can tell you that it is on my mind every day. I listen to the politicians debate the Second Amendment and it boggles my mind that a country as powerful as the US can not do something to reduce the number of gun deaths. Is it too hard to change or has everyone accepted the fact that gun violence is the norm in American daily life?

After the tragic events at Sandy Hook, the Westminster hockey coach printed out name tags for the players that bore the names of children lost that day in Sandy Hook. Instead of their lockers bearing each player’s name and number the lockers now would say the name of a child from Sandy Hook. Coach Tim Joncas, bless his heart, was trying to give his players perspective of what their life was all about and the fragility of their existence. I did not find out about this until after the school year, but that action taken by Coach Joncas still profoundly affects me. Tristan’s locker now bore the name of Daniel Barden, a beautiful seven year old boy that died that December day. To see more about Daniel I urge you to go to this Facebook page. I carefully read each new post on that page because I want to remember Daniel and not let him become a distant memory. That would be too easy.

On January 5, 2016 Daniel’s father Mark introduced President Obama before the President announced new executive actions on gun control. When I saw Mark Barden I thought of his beautiful little boy and I thought of my boys. I thought of my American friends and their country. I thought of their kids. I watched Obama wipe away his tears and I saw a man who cared deeply about his beautiful country. Something that had seemed so far from me suddenly came hitting home to me. That press conference was so difficult to watch. It still resonates with me so maybe that is why this election seems so personal to me. With one son in the US and possible another one there next fall there is so much at stake in this election, I truly believe the beauty and grace of America is at stake and the entire world is watching. I am hopeful the beauty of America wins this election.

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