Kady O'Malley writes, "Retired dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford was escorted by security out of a Senate committee meeting after refusing to heed the chair's warning that her allotted speaking time had run out — but not before threatening to make politicians "forget about Mike Duffy." " (CBC News, September 10 2014).
I watched the video of Ms.Bedford trying to make her case. I watched the frustration of the senators, Ms.Bedford herself, and all those present rise to overheating. I watched the comments and questions of people online following the Bedford presentation yesterday. With all honesty, I can say I know some of the most honourable, respectful, and caring people in this world. Not everyone was so kind to Ms.Bedford, including people who support Bill C-36.
My thoughts during her speech were: She sounds tired. She looks exhausted.
And after hearing comments of people supporting Bill C-36 after yesterday, they sound just as exhausted.
It is a long, weary battle being waged. Philosophical ideology, morality, legality, legislation, public perception, ethnicity, gender, constitutionality, reputable research — all this and more is being used to prove or disprove the legitmacy of prostitution, it's safety or lack thereof, women's choices, and the rights of victims of violence.
In the middle?
People who have been victims or are victims of violence in the sex trade; people who have chosen the sex trade; people who prostitution as a viable career path; people who support prostitution as inherently dangerous to all involved; people who have been lobbying Parliament Hill for what seems like years already; and people who have no knowledge of this rift whatsoever.
I don't think it would be far-fetched to say that everyone, whatever our position, is bone-tired. We all want safety for women and children; for people of all ethnic groups; and equal economic opportunities for those who would otherwise not have them.
Yet even in these common desires, we are so different. I happen to believe that prostitution is inherently violent. You cannot remove the danger from it through taxation. There will still be rape, assault, kidnapping, and murder. It still says that women are worth more naked than they are as whole people. Terri-Jean Bedford and I come from two very different places in how we would address prostitution in Canada.
That being said, she is not 'trash'.
Some of the comments yesterday gloried in Ms.Bedford's expulsion from the Senate. That only made my weary heart wearier. It hasn't been easy for anyone to speak before cabinet ministers, senators, reporters, and… people of the opposite viewpoint. Some of my friends who have been on Parliament Hill in the past year have reported the smugness and condescension from people of 'the other side'. I don't doubt there were those moments of intimidation, but I wasn't there. Perhaps 'our side' looked intimidating to them?
No matter which way this Bill goes; no matter who 'wins'; no matter what… we need to insist upon seeing The Other as fully and completely whole. Ms.Bedford is an articulate, intelligent, worthy woman. She is not deserving of name-calling, unfounded accusations, or cruelty.
You might think that this goes without saying.
Yet the Internet proves that (unfortunately) it does not.
We must consistently challenge ourselves on how to love our enemies with imagination, guts, counter-intuitiveness, and desire. We must be careful that our expressions aren't really pity or condescension masking as love. We must be willing to accept the reality ahead of time that our love might not be requited.
When our enemy is dragged through the mud, we must be prepared to stand in the gap with fresh garments, soap, and a humility that whispers to us: "We're in this muck too."
For when we dehumanize our enemy, she becomes little less than a caricature — an easy mark. Jesus spoke nowhere of easy marks. I only know that He became One. Resist the slurs, the namecalling, the baseless accusations (knowing there is a time and place to address founded accusations properly), and even stand up to those who would demean another human being.
I don't agree with Terri-Jean Bedford.
But I don't agree with tearing her apart in order to achieve an end.
Let us continue this weary battle as humans together.