Communication key, not confrontation

By R. Paul Dyck

In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, we are made witness to a community bursting with racial tension–tension that eventually erupts into a mass riot where several racial groups become the targets of violence. In spite of this event, two characters from opposing races meet in the aftermath to discuss and expose their anger and bitterness towards one another. The tensions still exist but there is redemption in the characters’ ability to confront them through words and reason.

I had the opportunity to work in Bosnia this summer, and it might seem strange that these scenes from Do the Right Thing come to mind as I reflect on the experience. However, allow me a moment to explain myself.

For those unfamiliar with Bosnia, it existed as part of Yugoslavia before declaring independence in 1992. It is a nation with intense internal conflict–Bosnia not only houses three unique ethnic groups, but also three different religious groups. Enormous tensions exist between each of these groups and, as a result, Bosnia has been at war regularly since its inception. The people of Bosnia are quick to mention that they go to war every 50 years.

Presently, NATO forces exist in Bosnia to maintain national stability, which they have done successfully since 1996. But although NATO successfully maintains peace, they cannot remove the scars that remain from hundreds of years of war, both on the face of the land and in the hearts of the Bosnian people. Feelings of bitterness run so deeply that many believe war will resume the moment NATO steps out.

It may seem like an unfair comparison, but much of the friction experienced in Bosnia is found in Canada, albeit to a lesser degree. Canada is nation of diversity, housing people of differing ethnicities, religions, languages and sexual orientations. And as in Bosnia, many of these people experience injustices at the hands of others, breeding contempt and bitterness that often threatens to tear us apart.

The difference is, whereas Bosnia experiences war to relieve these tensions, we as Canadians are able to dialogue and discuss the source of our conflict. We may continue to disagree, but hopefully through deliberation we not only understand each other better but also come closer to resolving these conflicts that separate people.

Often these conflicts do not go away, and as in Bosnia, the scars caused by hatred and injustice often run deep. But as with the characters in Do the Right Thing, we should meet on the grounds of our conflicts and seek to make things right.