January 27, 1995 Halifax Herald

Nightmares from our history provide inspiration for future

On January 16th, the day set aside in the United States to honour the memory of Dr. Martin Luther-King Jr., I found myself remembering all the people in history who have, by their sacrifices and heroism, instilled in me an unremitting desire to do whatever I can, however small, to help realize the end of intolerance and senseless racial hatred throughout the world. After careful consideration, I've decided to share some of these remembrances and thoughts with you.

I thought about the 16th-, 17th-, 18th-, 19th-, and even the 20th-century Micmac who were brought to the edge of extinction because of greed and racism. I thought of how they died of starvation and disease while being surrounded by prosperity and plenty in the white community, and of those who were hunted down like wild animals because of British bounties on their heads.

My thoughts then turned to the other great Aboriginal Nations of the Americas, whose civilizations were reduced to ruins and who saw, in many cases, their populations brought to the edge of extinction, or to extinction itself. I lamented the tens of millions of Native Americans lives that were snuffed out in the name of satisfying European imperialist territorial ambitions that were fuelled by racist hatreds and greed.

Reading and learning about the almost unbelievable horrors suffered by Native Americans has instilled in me a determination to see that their stories will no longer sit unlamented and gathering dust in the closet. I'll do everything I can to insure that our children are someday taught the true human cost of the European invasion of the Americas and the nature of the horrors visited upon a mostly defenceless people. The time for the fairy-tale versions of this history of horrors has passed; truth should now prevail.

I thought about the thousands of Acadians who were rounded up like cattle by Governor Lawrence's troops and forcibly dispersed to points unknown. In many cases, they were separated forever from families and friends, and dying of mistreatment in the holds of strange ships.

Then the 20th-century horrors of the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz, Belzec, Treblinka and so on went marching through my mind. I could picture the people being stripped of their clothing and jewelry, and having any teeth that were filled with gold pulled, and having their hair shaved off before being marched off to horrible deaths in gas chambers. All this was done to attempt to satisfy the insatiable monster known as racial hatred.

The monsters of history, some emanating from European and other royal houses, the Conquistadors, Cornwallis, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and other barbarians to numerous to mention here, were recalled to mind, and the rivers of blood they were collectively responsible for spilling were envisioned.

I then thought about the millions of Black people who were ripped out of the heart of Africa and sold as slaves throughout the world, and how they were tortured, murdered, raped and debased beyond human endurance. I pictured them being paraded naked before potential buyers for examination and prodding, before being sold as pieces of property.

When thinking about the horrors that have occurred throughout history, one often thinks that one must be dreaming - for how could such hellish nightmares have come to pass?

I have many heros coming from the multitudes of oppressed peoples who fought tooth and nail to overcome the barricades of exclusion set up by the majority or the empowered. A small number of the many are: Sitting Bull, Grand Chief Louis Benjamin Porminout, Golda Meir, Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi. The millions of people, who were brave enough to follow these leaders and others into the unknown venture of seeking justice for their peoples, must also be mentioned.

But my modern-day hero is Rev. King. I watched in the 1950s as he took up the fight against segregation in the southern United States. I realized then, and know today, that his efforts not only spearheaded the drive to end official segregation in the south, it also spearheaded the drive to end unofficial and official segregation in both the northern United States and Canada. His heroic efforts inspired the oppressed of North America and the world to demand the right to be treated with dignity and to have justice done for them.

One of Dr. King's best-known statements was to the effect that he had a dream of seeing people of all races, religions and so on, marching hand in hand as brothers and sisters into the future. But the one that has proven to be most inspirational to me is the one I have framed and hanging on our wall. It reads: "A winner is someone who sets his goals, commits himself to those goals, and then pursues his goals with all the ability given him." "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

The battle against racism in Canada is slowly being won. Please join with us and do whatever you can to help eradicate it forever from the soul of our society. Repeats of the hellish historical legacies I just mentioned will never reoccur if we can someday realize, as a memorial to all of the principled individuals who laboured so hard to see it, the end of racial, religious and sexual intolerance.

Daniel N. Paul


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