I stole Christmas

I will not wear a pink anything in support of breast cancer. Not now, not for the month of October, not for Valentine’s Day. I will not bare my breasts in support of breast cancer. I will not buy a pink pen, a pink golf ball, a pink ribbon, or a pink douche bottle, in support of breast cancer.

I will not wear a purple shirt in support of the people who kill themselves because they’re gay and mentally unstable and depressed. I will not wear a shirt that says “FCKH8” in support of gay marriage. I won’t spend a day doing these things, and I won’t spend money on it.

Sure, I’m an asshole. I get that.

I won’t do it because it’s bloody hype. It’s ridiculous. If you want to support breast cancer RESEARCH, then do that. Give your money to the Canadian Cancer Foundation for cancer research. Volunteer at a respite/palliative care home and take care of people dying of cancer, breast or otherwise.  Go to a wig/prosthesis shop and ask if there’s anything you can do for a woman who can’t afford to purchase her own supplies, for whatever reason.

Wearing a fucking purple shirt to commemorate people who were broken enough that they *killed themselves* is, in my opinion, ridiculous. If you’re really worried about kids killing themselves, then talk to them about suicide. These kids didn’t kill themselves *because they’re gay*, dummies. They killed themselves because they had mental illness. The bullying they recieved as a consequence of their being homosexual might have exacerbated their mental illness, but suicide is not something that healthy people do.

So if you want to support gay rights, then support gay rights. March in the gay pride parade. Be vocal whenever one of your friends makes an homophobic joke. Choose a church that *does not* alienate gay congregants. Teach your children that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that what’s wrong is people who think there’s something wrong with homosexuality.

Teach your children that bullying – *any* kind of bullying – is *always* wrong. If their schools don’t have policies against bullying, or if they have unenforcable policies against bullying, go to the school and demand better. Ask your kids’ school to actually enforce the policies they do have. Press charges.

What the hell does wearing a pink or purple shirt do? It sure doesn’t help my friend whose monther is dying of metastesized breast cancer. It doesn’t help the kids who’ve snuffed themselves. It probalby doesn’t help their famlies, either. My friend’s mother may or may not care that you support her as she dies of a disease that cannot be cured, but can only be treated.

It strikes me that these sorts of things are little more than lip service; something for people to do that makes them think they’re making a difference. I don’t know if The Captain thinks about how terrible bullying is every time he wears his pink anti-bullying shirt, but my guess is he wears the shirt because it’s clean.

I don’t begrudge the people who feel like they’re making a difference by wearing the shirts, or by buying the pink-iced cookies. More power to them. But you won’t catch me doing it. And I know this is all very poopy-noopy, and bitter, and snotty. But I have a family member who buys every bear that has a slogan on it for some cause, and she, bless her heart, feels like she’s making a difference, but she criticises me for donating time and work to charities. I always think, “who’s making the bigger difference?” and then bite my tongue and think happy thoughts.

So you won’t see me wearing purple on Wednesday in support of gay people not killing themselves. I mean, that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. On Wednesday, I’ll probably be wearing black (it’s the new beige) and worrying about  in which ways my children will end up broken. If you think wearing purple is going to make a difference, more power to you.

  17 comments for “I stole Christmas

  1. 17 October 2010 at 5:59 pm

    While I agree with most of what you said, (what’s that now? We’re agreeing on things? How did that happen?). I have to say one thing. I think that a lot of “mental illness” isn’t merely a product of your “chemistry” but of what is going on around you as well. Sure people can cope. Some of those people were given better tools to cope. I know what it feels like to be filled with so little hope that suicide does look like the only option (although I never acted on it…my “mental illness”, anxiety, trumped my depression on that one).

    If I wear purple on Wednesday (and I probably will as I wear a lot of purple and with my weight problem probably resemble Grimace a lot) it will because sometimes these kids don’t know that there are people out there who do support them while they are going through their trials and it feels like the whole world is against them. In this way, it is good to have these visual clues that they are not as alone as they think they are. There are adults and other kids and teachers and gay people and straight people who all feel that bullying is wrong and it is fine to be gay or not gay. That being said, there is more that can be done than just wearing purple.

    I have no response in regards to wearing pink for Breast Cancer Research other than a portion of those proceeds may or may not have gone to Breast Cancer Research.

    • 17 October 2010 at 6:07 pm

      I never said anything about what causes mental illness. I said that people who commit suicide are broken, and while being gay or being bullied because you’re gay may *exacerbate* the situation, it is never the *sole cause*.

      If you want to support gay youth (and you should), then do so. If you want to support mental health, then do so. But wearing purple in support of people who kill themselves is, I think, backward. It makes more sense to me to continue telling kids that it does get better. Tell them. I mean, do you think it’s going to make a lot of difference to a kid who’s thinking about suicide to know that someone they’ve never met thinks it’s okay that they’re different? That’s not going to stop the problem. What’s going to stop the problem is convincing people that “Gay” =/ “Different”.

      Gay is normal. When we get this through our heads, we’ll stop needing to try to convince people to wear purple and rainbow bracelets that it’s okay to be different. It’s just that I think we’re sending the wrong message. So I’ll say it again (and I know you already know this). Gay is not different. Gay is normal. Gay is good. Who cares how you prefer your dangly bits to fit together with your lover’s dangly bits?

      Chinese is normal. African is normal. Catholic is normal. Muslim is normal. That’s the message we need to send out there, not “support people who are different because it’s okay to be different”. We need to shake down the walls of what’s “normal”.

      • 17 October 2010 at 8:03 pm

        I don’t support their suicide. I support their plight and want them to know that they are not alone and things do get better. It did for me. Although my bullying had nothing to do with my bisexuality and everything to do with me just being a geek. Wearing a purple shirt is not supporting their decision to commit suicide but a visual cue for them.

        One of those kids actually committed suicide because he was perceived as gay as opposed to “actually gay” which we may never know if he was because he was bullied to a point of no return.

        And I never said anything about gay being different. The message I want to send out there isn’t that it is ok to be different (which it is although “different” is a whole other can of worms which you pointed out) but that they are not alone. Because I can tell you that this is exactly what they feel. Alone.

        In short. I am agreeing with your decision to wear green with yellow polkadots on Wednesday. I just don’t agree that the purple shirt is as useless as you feel it is. Maybe somewhere in that sea of purple on Wednesday is someone that a kid sees as someone safe to talk to. I don’t see how that can ever be a bad thing.

        • 17 October 2010 at 8:33 pm

          WRONG!
          Nobody should ever wear green with yellow polka dots

  2. Stark Raving Dad
    17 October 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Yes man, checking in. Agreeing with everything you say, then leaving quietly.

  3. 17 October 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I remember an episode on Seinfeld when Kramer wanted to participate in an AIDS marathon, but didn’t want to wear the ribbon. Everyone was hounding him to wear the ribbon.

  4. Green Assassin Brigade
    18 October 2010 at 6:57 am

    There is a small amount of moral support supposedly created by these gimmicks, shirts, ribbons, those damn toxic chemical plastic bracelets but I mostly agree with you. I write the cheques or volunteer the time for those things I find important.

    I will not wear the labels or consume the chocolate bars for charity, its an inefficient use of money and of peoples time selling the shit.

    • 18 October 2010 at 1:29 pm

      Whoa whoa whoa. Hold the phone here…I never said anything about not consuming *chocolate*…

      …no, but I kid. I buy the chocolate because it’s chocolate and I had to sell the bloody things to raise money for the band because when the football team needed new jerseys every year, the band got shafted. So I’ve a little more tolerance for chocolate…

  5. Smarty Pants
    18 October 2010 at 8:55 am

    FWIW, I think all these “campaigns” are a symptom of how the Western world has been doing business since WW2 – that is, see a problem, throw money at it – as opposed to actually *doing something*, as you say.
    Except now instead of throwing money at the problem, we throw money at “awareness”. When people wear purple or pink or green with yellow polka dots it “makes them feel good”. And that’s what we’re really about, isn’t it? We don’t really give 2 shits about cancer and all that, we just throw money at awareness so we can say we’ve done something and get rid of those mildly guilty feelings we have when we see bald, emaciated women with tubes in their arms…or kids needlessly blowing their brains out.
    So in a ranty, somewhat angry way, I agree with you.
    That being said – how do people become more aware of things like this and more inclined to *do* something if they don’t see a little public spectacle?

    • 18 October 2010 at 1:28 pm

      I should like to think they become aware of the world around them and care about it.

      I’m probably wrong on that, but please don’t burst my bubble. I want to think of my world as an essentially good place with some cock-knuckles milling about, rather than as a horrid, unfeeling place spattered with a few saints.

  6. Der Kaptin
    19 October 2010 at 6:48 am

    I think it’s interesting that you have “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” in your book montage, and yet you call into question the power of symbolism. There are symbols of our awareness, symbols of our caring, and they matterl I agree with SmartyPants’ last comment — how do people become aware? How do you keep important issues like these in front of the minds of enough people in the face of the 1,467 channel universe? By keeping the symbols around. Having said that, it can’t be the whole of your response, if you really do care. You have to do more than put on the shirt. That’s the tragedy of this age — you hop into your Hummer to run your toilet paper tubes down to the recycling bin, and feel at peace. Gah. The “pinking” of all sorts of commercial products is an obnoxious process to be sure. Those KFC admen should only deep-free in their own personal hell. But there’s that aphorism “it’s better to light one candle than merely to curse the darkness.” (What else is a poet for?)So even if it’s only a birthday-cake candle, it must be cherished, because you never know which candle will start the cleansing inferno.(Sorry, I mean “go viral”.)

    • 19 October 2010 at 7:20 am

      Okay, but when does the symbol stop being a reminder and start being a product? When does the, if you will, market become so saturated with saccharine that the symbol is no longer useful? I think the pink bee ess did that years ago, and I think the purple shirts are running in close second, even though they were just only “invented” recently. Perhaps this is what ultimately bothers me: the commodification of grief or of support.

      I suppose it’s not unusual to commodify grief – to buy a bunch of flowers and a card in a time of turmoil. Who am I to criticise that? Well, I’m cenobyte, I guess, and I do criticise it, perhaps unfairly. Putting a $4.99 price tag on suffering that is supposed to say “let me share your grief, for I care about you, and as you hurt, so do I” but actually says, in great, swoopy typeface, “thinking of you in your time of need” really grinds my teeth.

      So when the symbol stops meaning “here, let me show you that I want to help” and starts meaning “I am making a difference by spending money (so that I don’t have to spend time or too much money in the act of helping)”, what’s the point? You’ve lost the original connection to that thing which the symbol represents.

      That’s why you won’t catch me wearing pink, purple, or fricking *ribbons* for *diabetes*.

  7. AJ
    19 October 2010 at 4:33 pm

    My problem with things like the ribbons and bracelets and small stuff is that it doesn’t raise awareness of the issue. It might remind you that there is an issue… but not even which issue it is. If I see you wearing a red ribbon, I know you are thinking of some issue. Good for you. Which of the red ribbon issues are you supporting? I could guess, but only if I already know what those issues include. That pink ribbon is in support of the new Pepto Bismol campaign to cure nausea, right?

    Similarly, wearing a colour for a certain day only identifies you to others in the know. Although, I suppose if many of you gather in a group I might wonder what was going on that so many were dressed alike… before I shrugged and passed you by to get on with the things going on in my own life.

    I also agree with the previously identified upsetting issue of money for a charity being wasted on useless garbage. The irritation doesn’t end there, though; then I think of all the people wearing ribbons so that people will recognise their sacrifice — let me be clear, I know that not all ribbon-wearers want to be acknowledged, but many do — and I want to yell at them that an act of charity is cheapened by begging for praise and recognition.

    If you want to raise awareness then talk to people or give them something to read that informs them about the issue/problem and makes them want to get involved. Engage them. Your ribbon means nothing to me and I’m not sure it means anything to you… except perhaps that you like ribbons.

    • 19 October 2010 at 7:20 pm

      Yes, that’s it exactly.

  8. DesB
    20 October 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I wrote down a big thing and got to the end and thought:

    There isn’t to much else I can say that hasn’t been said by you talented people.

    All I have to say is that I am disappointed that someone somewhere is probably making a lot of money off these kinds of day selling the socially required article of clothing. I mean someone has to make these things right?

    I know sometimes all the profit goes to the charity organization of choice, but someone along the line has to be cashing in before it gets to the end.

    Great article Ceno. :)

  9. Cori May
    25 October 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Does the Captain really care if his shirt is clean when he picks it?

    • 25 October 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Strangely enough, he does.

      He also does his own laundry, so if his shirts aren’t clean, that’s his problem.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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