The Opposite of Love
For the past week, St. Michael’s College in Toronto has been making the news every day because of the extremely disturbing sexual assault that happened on its premises and resembled a scene from the controversial TV show Thirteen Reasons Why. I first read about this story in a Toronto Star opinion piece (Warning: graphic content) that tied it to a story about a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy being coerced into lying down in a muddy stream to serve as a “human bridge” so other students could step on his back when crossing.
These incredible displays of cruelty—attempts to so thoroughly dehumanize another—wrench my heart and bring me near tears. I cannot fathom how someone can do this to another human being. I am completely at a loss, and yet, all that said, I am even more terrified by the fact that, as far as we know, no one did anything to stop these incidents, which is exactly what columnist Rosie DiManno pointed out.
As Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
And that’s why I’m writing about these incidents, even though they appear to have nothing to do with abortion or euthanasia. I am not, in fact, just virtue-signalling. I genuinely think that the lack of concern or compassion in many high school students is devastating for our cause.
There is an almost universal consensus that teenage boys are human beings deserving of human rights and yet, injustices were committed against these boys without any intervention from bystanders.
How could we possibly hope to convince Canadians to intervene in the injustice of abortion, then, when the unborn are commonly viewed as a whole lot less deserving of human rights than teenage boys?
But even further than that, the term “a culture of life,” does not just refer to protecting the unborn, the elderly, the ill, and the disabled. It means creating a culture in which the dignity of every single human being is upheld and any human rights injustice or attempt to dehumanize another is met with a fierce and vocal resistance. The fact that there was no immediate response to a high school freshman with a disability being walked over or another young man being sexually violated by his peers just shows how far away we are from establishing a culture of life.
It is in our human nature to care, to empathize when we witness suffering. Even little children have this capability. There is so much suffering in this world, though, that constantly caring becomes exhausting, and so we try to quiet the voice of our conscience and the more we do so, the easier it becomes, until that voice is so quiet that when our very own classmates are humiliated and degraded we remain mum.
And when it comes to life issues, this apathy literally kills.
I am aware that I’m likely preaching to the choir. Kind of. But I think it is all too poignant to quote the novel Thirteen Reasons Why: “A lot of you cared, just not enough.”
I don’t mean that to be a condemnation. I mean it to be a plea that for every person who doesn’t care, we, myself included, must care all the more. Their inaction must be met with action. For every bit their hearts shrink, ours must grow. We must resist the tendency towards indifference that we're all vulnerable to.
To quote Elie Wiesel once again: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”