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Ted Markle: From the mouths of babes and ‘bad dudes’

Multicultural Christmas
Multicultural Christmas

In contemplating a dizzying week of headlines, protests and “alternative facts,” I recalled an experience from more than 20 years ago. It was “bring your parents to school day.”

Ted Markle

My oldest boy, Simon, was in junior kindergarten and had just turned 4.

The class was small – maybe a dozen children. His teacher, Madame Mireille, was white-haired and tiny – almost gnome like. I remember her rising not far above the munchkins under her care. She was also experienced, enthusiastic and entirely without cynicism – a combination of qualities that I would find all too rare among my children’s educators.

I had been taught by my mother (herself, a stern yet passionate teacher) to make quick, ruthless assessments by observing the orderliness of a teacher’s classroom. With labeled bins, (perfectly aligned), tidy, colourful bulletin boards and attentive pupils, this one rated an A+.

Despite the invitation and warm reception, as parents, we knew we were trespassing and tried to remain discreet.

Madame Mireille requested her crew follow her to the carpeted end of class and sit in a circle. They quickly followed her instructions and she reached for an oversized, hardcover book.

It was story time.

She would read a line and then turn the book towards her audience to show the illustrations. She put questions to the class that they happily answered. Simon remained silent, if not distracted.

Then, near the end of the story, the teacher showed the class a two-page illustration of children of clearly different cultures, dress and ethic groups.

Madame Mireille asked them to describe what they saw.

In turns, they remarked on some of the details they observed. One of the children said they saw an Inuit (or as was said in those days, Eskimo). Another spoke to the varied headdresses.

After these, Simon finally raised his arm. “I have something to say,” he asserted. Since he had yet to do anything to stand out on this day, I hoped this was not a request for permission to head to the bathroom. Madame Mireille asked Simon what it was he wanted to add.

“The children may look different - but they’re all the same in their hearts.”

He really said it.

If such a thing as human rights exist – that there are things we should never allow to be done to one another – these depend on the structure and force of government for enforcement – otherwise they are meaningless.

That’s what makes someone a refugee. They have no state or government to provide them with rights and protection. That’s why we invite them in.

Yes, only a damn fool would let someone who intended them harm into their home. Yes, we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Yes, there are ”bad dudes” out there. There are those who believe that we deserve to die because we are infidels. Just like young Bissionnette apparently believed Muslims deserved to die. Just like young Roof thought African Americans deserved to die.

The greatest lie (or alternative fact) is that we are not the same – that some group – be it Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Christians, Blacks, or Muslims, is inherently different in its heart.

Any of us is well on his way to becoming a “bad dude” when he believes this lie.

Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at – Twitter : @tedmarkle

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