A young child’s falsehood generates big news

By PAT WATSON

You know when you get that funny feeling that something about a news story is not right? It was the feeling that came with the report during the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when American swimmer Ryan Loche said he was robbed. Something about his story did not feel right.

Eventually, Loche admitted that he “over exaggerated”. In fact, he had lied about what happened at a Rio gas station in the early hours one morning. Loche and his friends got into some bad behavior and then tried to cover it with a fantastical fabrication.

Which beings us to the events of a few days ago in this city in which an 11-year-old girl made news headlines for telling a story about being approached by “an Asian man” of about “age 25” who approached her with scissors in hand twice as she was on her way to school and attempted to cut of her hijab – a head covering worn by women and girls in observance of their Muslim faith practices.

Now, there may be any number of reasons a young child might make up a story like this. And, it may be going too far to speculate what her real reasons may have been. Yet in the larger picture, the type of hostility that has been directed toward people of Muslim faith in the Western world at least since the deadly terror attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. in September 2001 has to be considered. That is longer than this girl has been alive. She was born into this hostility.

Children are living with the awareness that the faith of their families puts then under suspicion and under attack. It would not be a stretch to see how frightening news reports of other attacks on Muslim women especially could give rise to imaginative expressions of fear from the young ones.

By the way, if this were “not how we behave in Canada”, that little girl would not have the raw material from which to make up such a story. So let’s stop dragging up that nonsensical expression and instead acknowledge the presence of a significant element in Canada that either harbours or acts on racism and hostility towards so-called others.

It might not even be coincidental that the girl’s story came close to the January 29 anniversary of the worst terror killing of Muslims in this country. For, it was just one year ago that one radicalized young man walked into the Islamic Culture Centre in Quebec City during the prayer hour and proceeded to shoot six people to death and injure 19 others.

The other matter that this story raises has to do with the seeming haste with which some stories land in news media. Social media can set fire to any goings-on and sometimes news media seeking to keep pace will jump the gun. This seems to be yet another one of those stories.

Finally, this will most likely be an unforgettable lesson for one young child about the heavy consequences of falsely crying wolf.

A note on s#*/@#…

It was fascinating to observe how major news media handled reporting the top offensive remark last week from the United States’ iconoclastic president. It must have been an interesting time in editorial newsrooms as decisions were taken on how to report accurately on the derogatory comments Donald Trump made about countries including Haiti, El Salvador and pretty much the entire African continent. In reporting what Trump said, (and it won’t be repeated here) some gave a pre-emptive warning about the “vulgar” language they were about to quote, so that children would not be unnecessarily exposed. If it’s not clear yet, American politics has definitely fallen down the rabbit hole into a nether world reality. Oh, and, Trump is racist.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

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AT EACH AGE, ITS OWN VIRTUES – E-book Excerpt

Hello Reading Community,

Here is another of the selected columns included in my debut publication, In Through A Coloured Lens, currently available at Amazon.com. As always, thank you for making time for these compositions.

Oct. 13, 2010

At Each Age, Its Own Virtues

 

Rushing to get somewhere last week in that stressed state we all recognize as a part of city life, there came a rhythmic chi-chip, chi-chip, chi-chip behind me along the sidewalk. Then, there she was, about eight years old, red jacket open to the wind, blue backpack not yet weighed down with the kind of responsibility that comes with the higher grades. And so endearing, with her two little afro puffs bouncing from side to side as she skipped along, making her way home, heading away from the nearby school. Skipping comes with being happy. And young.

Released from my stress by the sight of her little carefree self, without saying a word, I thanked her for reminding me of what it means to still be a child. For you know that if you saw someone five times her age chi-chipping along the sidewalk, knees bouncing up, arms swinging wildly in like manner you would wonder at his or her mental state. Jogging yes, but skipping? No.

It’s always a good idea to cover your milestones at the appropriate time; otherwise, the desire to engage in certain age-specific activities beyond the cutoff date will raise questions regarding mental or emotional well-being. Not only that, but not engaging in certain age-appropriate activities could in the end also mean a life not well lived.

On another day, in the subway, where so much of city life reveals itself, the clap-clap-clap coming from the hands of two little girls playing a familiar game reminded me of how strong oral tradition still is. Does anyone who every played a clapping game remember learning it from an adult? No classroom lesson ever passes ‘Miss Mary Mack-Mack-Mack’ from one generation of schoolgirls to the next, from one country to the next. Yet there they were in the after-school rush hour linking the present with the past, completely oblivious to any of that.

It is to be hoped that we all had our fair share of hours with Miss Mary Mack and the ‘salt-mustard-vinegar-pepper’ of the skipping rope at full speed. It was fun at recess time in elementary school and it is fun to be reminded. How would it be at this point to think of jumping rope as fun and not just something to do to keep our heart healthy, according to doctor’s orders?

A family member who is now in the university years recently lamented that she doesn’t enjoy getting mail as much as she used to when she was younger. Why? When very young people get mail, it usually means a birthday or Christmas card, or some other such joyous occasion. But past a certain age, the only things that come in the mail are bills to be paid. Or worse, reminders that bills are overdue.

Even so, who would turn back the clock if they could? Few indeed would trade experience for time. It’s enough on a nice fall afternoon to receive a little vicarious happiness from some young one skipping along on her own journey.