I'm no one in particular, yet I sometimes unwillingly become everyone at once. I'm not a victim, yet that's how I'm being portrayed. I'm not a public danger, yet news report how disturbing I am on a quasi weekly basis. Yes, human nature is suspicious of the unknown and is protective of its own values. And it may foster a certain distance, even insults... but the opposite is also true.
I received, throughout my short life, more kind words than bad ones. I use these kind words to dodge cheap shots and skewed looks. Everyone thinks they know best when it comes to living in a society. Yet, too often, we forget that there is no one truth. Each individual has their own, a truth that is suitable for who they are, their experience, their personality, the education they received. I gather that's what makes our crazy world so exciting.
I always considered myself a Québécoise, but I learned that I needed to prove it. When you don't physically fit the mold, you're labeled: "Warning, fragile package, comes from elsewhere."
Yet, my radio played Marie-Chantal Toupin and Dany Bédar as far back as I remember. I shiver at the words of Richard Desjardins. I was a fan of Véronique Cloutier before I was born. Ever since I began understanding social and political issues, Pierre Falardeau has been one of my biggest role models with his activism. I cried when watching Maurice Richard (the movie). Forget clichés... Les Charbonniers de l'enfer and Les Cowboys fringants are among my favorite bands.
When I return to Lebanon and people emphasize my Canadian citizenship, I think: "Yes, but Québécoise above all!". It's part of my identity and I've long since abandoned the idea of choosing between the two. I quickly realized I could have the best of both worlds.
But where am I heading you wonder?... simple... I don't want to be tolerated... I don't think I need to be. Johann Wolfgang once said: "Tolerance should be a transitory state. It should lead to respect. To tolerate is to offend." Being tolerated is to feel like a burden. The vast majority of people of different ethnicities simply want to blend in, become more or less like any other Québécois. The ones don't have to tolerate the others.
In fact, the only thing I want to have to tolerate in my life, are everyday banalities... young people who talk too loud on the bus... a slow cashier at the supermarket... a teacher who continues to speak 10 minutes after the course is over. Ultimately, I can also tolerate my mother-in-law, but this is a different story.
In short, I don't want to tolerate the religious faith of a person, nor customs and beliefs that seem twisted. No, I don't want to tolerate them, I want to accept them, respect them and, at the end, make a detail out of them.
I want my veil, a fragment of religious and cultural intertwine, to become the biggest detail of myself when interacting with someone. Being asked about it doesn't bother me (it's part of me), but I don't want it to be a hurdle during a job interview. I don't want it to become a reason for customers to switch cash registers at work. I don't want to be told that I'm unhappy without knowing it. Above all, I don't want it to stifle my Québécois identity and let anyone under the impression that one excludes the other.
Being in Québec is to have the incredible chance of living on a piece of land that thrives on freedom. It's also the chance to know countries all over the world while staying at home; Québec breathes diversity. This is a place where life is good, where each individual is himself, with his opinions sometimes too crude, beliefs sometimes too blatant, differences sometimes too sharp. Being in Québec is to claim individual freedom in all its forms. Being in Québec is to reject the word tolerance and adopt the word respect. To be Québécoise is never by chance. In my case, I am first and foremost because I choose to be.
Translated from a letter by Dalila Awada, published in La Presse [in French], February 18, 2012.