“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us, somewhere.” – West Side Story
This is a subject I don’t really want to talk about, but I feel I have to.
I am one of the extremely privileged FEW who has never had to deal with severe racism. I’m thoroughly Canadian, born and raised, and I have never been discriminated against because of my culture or physical appearance or anything of that nature. But, we’ve all been following the news lately, and racism is a very prevalent part of our society’s culture. In Canada, I think we’re a bit better off, but every now and then there are those stories of people facing prejudice and hatred because of the place they were born, the beliefs they ascribe to, the clothes they wear, any number of things. I’m not qualified to speak about these specific issues because, like I said, I’ve never been in the position to be discriminated against in this way. However, I can state my opinion, which is that racial, religious, discrimination of any kind is wrong, horrible and detrimental to our overall society and well-being.
This past Monday night, I watched West Side Story in its entirety for the first time ever. It is my mom’s favourite musical and has been since she was a child, and although I’ve always been familiar with the songs and the story (especially considering that it was derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), I can’t say I’ve ever seen all of the scenes of the movie adaptation. On Monday, when I stumbled upon the film on Turner Classic Movies, I sat myself down and watched all of it…and ended up crying a few times along the way. Now, I should say that I’m not really a crier – a movie has to be downright depressing to get me to shed a tear. I’m much more likely to cry while reading a book because I’ve journeyed with the characters for longer. Anyway, something about West Side Story really got to me. Maybe it’s the fact that Maria doesn’t die at the end like her counterpart Juliet and is instead forced to live without her newfound love Tony. Or, perhaps and probably more likely, it’s the fact that Tony dies for absolutely NO GOOD REASON. Discussions about gun violence are prevalent enough nowadays that I don’t have to get into that. But what I do also find ludicrous is that Tony is murdered in cold blood simply because he is hated by another group of people. The Sharks despise the Jets, the Puerto Ricans and the “real Americans” just can’t get along, and so a young man with his entire life, a fine future full of love and happiness ahead of him has to die. This seems utterly senseless to me.
Like I said, I’ve never faced true discrimination. I’m incredibly lucky in that way. But, I have experienced hatred and racism and prejudice on a smaller scale, even within my closest circles. There are a lot of people in this world who refuse to accept those who don’t think exactly like them. My father, mother, brother and I are pretty open and honest about our beliefs and this isn’t always easy for us because not everyone, sometimes not even those people who are supposed to know and love us best, chooses to respect our opinions. Furthermore, my fiancé is from the Middle East, as is my mom’s family, and that carries its own difficulties and sources of misunderstanding. It’s all a little pathetic in my opinion because I pride myself in being open-minded under all circumstances – I was raised to never be judgmental. But fine, I can handle if someone wants to judge and criticize me – I just think it’s sad and is going to ruin what little peace and dignity there is left in our world.
What am I trying to say here? Well, I’m not trying to get all preachy, although it seems like I have. All I want to say is that I watched West Side Story this week and I loved it…but I also hated it, because fiction has become far too real recently, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is learning from the stories around them anymore. And in that sense, I think the readers of all sorts of fiction are starting to fail themselves these days.
Girl with a Green Heart