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The importance of NO in a “YES WE CAN” world.

The first word which empowers the child…


From the time we come into the world, we resist it. Defiance is crucial to our mental development–to our very survival. It is the shield which keeps us safe. Unharmed. It is the word that defines our limits and keeps our inner temples ours.

I look around and I am discouraged at the messages being irresponsibly forced on our youth. 2010, and we are still leading them to the spiritual slaughterhouse. Harsh words? I don’t believe they are harsh enough. In a time when gay bashing, anorexia, depression, mental illness, and bullying seem to be the “saveur du jour” in the media, we should all be pondering the effect of our weak rhetoric.

What are we saying to these young, still very much impressionable youths? Not in black and white words, but in our actions? We have built a world on two shaky pillars: compromise and patience. I hear and see it everywhere.

Yes we can if we try.

All good things come to those who wait.

There is no need to get angry about the state of affairs. Anger leads to nothing. Be sensible. Be grateful for what you have.

Turn the other cheek.

Forgiveness is the key to happiness.

Do you see a pattern here?

What about justice? Respect? Rewards based on merit? Truth? I don’t understand how we can raise a whole generation thinking that meekness is a virtue. Where is the sense in that?

If I had been told the value of my physical and mental integrity from the time I was born–if I had been able to look up to adults and see their strength, their unflinching committment to themselves–If I had seen them cast out a friend or a family member who spoke ill about a black man, or a gay woman…If I had known in my heart that they respected life, cherished morality, and we’re strong and true, then maybe I would have had the reflex to say the word no that one time, long a go.

Instead, I was a victim. And it took me twenty years to break free from that thinking. That’s a lot of time. I’d say, a lot of waste time.

To those being harassed, bullied, threatened, intimidated, neglected, blackmailed, manipulated, touched inappropriately, rejected or invaded: I tell you, don’t wait for others to step in. Begin with the word no. Understand what it means to you. And if you are not in a position to safely say those two vital letters to your tormentor, for fear of losing even more,  then fuck, at least, say it to yourself.

Get angry. Resist in any way possible. Reach out to people you think you can trust. That’s very tricky. Most people are dumbasses deluding themselves into thinking that having principles and not acting on them is all right. Be smart. Be brave. And by all means, get pissed.

Oh and, by the way, have no fear and don’t choke on your toffu  my complacent tree-hugging nemeses, I am not inciting to violence…All though, I do believe nothing gets the shit out of the tree better than shaking it.

I’m asking: where’s that resounding, mountain moving NO?

I support the whole “it gets better” movement, and I think it’s very affirming, but what about making it better now?


As I type these lines, I know there is a kid sitting in a bathroom stall somewhere. Hiding. Thinking some pretty nasty, destructive thoughts. Thinking about a permanent way out.

Telling him that it’s going to get better is a step in the right direction.

Yes, it can get better, but the sad part is, no matter how great it gets tomorrow, today, our youth is being robbed of what should be its best years.

But you know, in North America, we’re all about reacting. We’re good at that. We recover. We get over things.

Probably why most of us are walking around with holes in our souls. Forgiveness is a patch. A band-aid.

Under neath all our therapy, the wound is always there.

So what if instead of promising these kids healing, we gave them a world of no wounds?


About Mel

Montreal queer fiction writer.

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