The Oppression Olympics

olympic medalsWhen I was a kid, a couple of the key values that were literally drummed into me were stoicism and toughness. There are not many things that Metis people respect more than toughness, and stoicism just comes with the territory when your people are a tiny minority who stood up to the government.

People often comment on my personal toughness. I often play football with injuries that would make other people take a game or three off, heck I even played through kidney issues that would have sidelined almost anyone. I have straightened my own finger out after a dislocation and break, and I have played with broken ribs (something I would never do again for any amount of money).

I come by this “gift” honestly, because living in the bush often results in some painful mishaps. My family has a ridiculously high pain tolerance because of where we live. That being said, I do not enjoy pain and will go out of my way to avoid it if possible.

I am not special in this way; in fact my family are pretty much the same. Even if we are in some serious discomfort, you probably won’t know it. One Winter, I was working in the bush with Merv. (Now if you know Merv you will know he is very specific about job site safety, unless its his own). We were changing the blade on a bulldozer and he removed a central pin. Now the rule (Merv’s rule) is that you never lift the blade without that pin in it, because the blade can slip and crush whatever it lands on. I saw him pull the pin and then signal for me to lift the blade. I yelled “Put the pin back in!” and he yelled “Just do what I said!” I looked at him and lifted the blade slightly off the ground. He then yelled “Shake it a little bit!” I looked at him funny and he yelled “Just do it!” so I did. The blade slipped free and dropped about a foot. Merv looked at me with an odd look on his face and then yelled “Pick it up” so I lifted the blade up. He turned and walked back to the truck. After sitting on the dozer for a few minutes, curiosity got the better of me. I walked over to the truck and saw Merv had his moccasin off and was looking at his toe which had been crushed. He looked at me and said “”That’s a good one” I just shook my head and said “You shouldn’t have taken the pin out.” Anyway I had just worked a 14-hour shift, and there was still about 6 hours worth of work to do. Merv put his moccasin back on and said “Take the truck home, grab 6 hours of sleep then come get me in the morning.” I said “Dude, you gotta go to the hospital. I’ll drive you and then come back and finish up.” Merv shook his head and replied “You just worked 14 hours. It’s 3 hours to town and back and 6 more hours on the cat. You will fall asleep at the wheel. I’ll just finish up, then in the morning you come get me and maybe I’ll go to the hospital.” Before I could argue, he got out of the truck and got on the machine. It was 45 below zero and he must have been in agony with his foot, but he finished the work and went to the hospital in the morning. He never mentions it either, unless I am teasing him about job safety. THAT’S TOUGHNESS.

Now the reason I was thinking about all this tonight was someone wrote an article regarding a woman who wore an offensive costume for Halloween. Her costume was an Indian Head-dress and makeup to show horrific injuries. It is offensive in the extreme. Her post on Facebook was even more so “I’m an Indian who was killed by a cowboy.” Really? Someone wrote how offended they were by it, and I would have agreed with them wholeheartedly but then they wrote:

“Would Dowding dress as a World War II-era European Jew wearing bullet-riddled concentration camp clothing and a Star of David? Would she dress as a Civil War-era African slave, and have her back made up to resemble open wounds from a slave-driver’s whip? “

That’s when I realized that person is not Metis, and she was trying to win a medal in what I call the “Oppression Olympics” where people try to make stupid statements to get some pity.

I must have missed the memo where someone said it was OK to use other marginalized and oppressed peoples tragedies to highlight our own. It’s not an oppression Olympics where we need to compare tragedies. That’s a game that nobody wins. Was there any point in turning the suffering of other oppressed minorities into an argument rather than empathizing with them? I have never believed that is something we should ever do.

I see the “Palestinians” doing this all the time. They would win a gold medal in every oppression Olympics. In their minds, they have undergone far worse atrocities than Indians and Jews combined. Just ask them… according to them, they have undergone a genocide just like the Holocaust and the Native North Americans – never mind that their population actually exploded from 750,000 to over 6 million worldwide, or that they were never forced to convert or speak another language. Never mind that there were no residential schools or death camps in “Palestine”. Trail of tears? Small potatoes – have you heard about Arabs having to walk 50 km into Syria from Israel? Wounded knee? Meh, you should hear about Deir Yassein. Warsaw Ghetto? Come on, it’s not even close to being as bad as Gaza, the open air prison with a water park. Auschwitz you say? Sabra and Shatilla were way worse except wait, that wasn’t even really the Jews. Now anyone with a working brain knows that those comparisons are patently ridiculous, yet I have seen people make similar statements in a serious way.

This marginalization of true and actual genocides and perversion of history is being attempted at the same time as the exaggeration of the palestinian situation, because without it, people would literally laugh them out of the conversation. They would not even be in the running for a medal. But to hear them speak you would think they were front-runners.

Conversely, Jews don’t actually quote the Holocaust very often. In fact, I find that they rarely do at all unless its in response to some douchebag marginalizing it. I find that people who have gone through a genocide rarely find the need to talk about it ad nauseum. I rarely hear Jews speak of the horrors of the treatment their people received because they are a very tough people. They have turned complaining into an art form, but kvetching isn’t really serious – it’s almost always done in a joking way.

All in all I refuse to play their game. If they want the gold medal they can have it, because if there is one thing much better than winning a gold medal in the Oppression Olympics, it’s NOT BEING A VICTIM.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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