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Multiculturalism: A Reason to Smile 

Chinaz from Nigeria. Mikhail from Philippines. Josef from Yugoslavia. Samuel from India. Monica from Spain. Avital from Iceland. Sayako from Japan. And me from China. All Canadians. All smiles.

My grad group picture makes me want to smile. Odd, every time I look at it, a current of electricity runs through me. It must be the energy of our smiles.

I curl in my bed, basking in the golden sunshine. The dulcet chorus of wild birds is whetting my fascination for Winnipeg. I am here for a five-week French immersion program. It is my third week here. We spent the first couple of weeks living in a rural Francophone community. So far this week, we have steeped ourselves in French theatre in the Collège Universitaire de St Boniface. The cross-culture experience has been wonderful! In fact, we will stage a production of Tartuffe in a couple of weeks. I wish my friends were here to share the fun and the smiles!

White thread. Yellow thread. Brown thread. Red thread. Streaming friendship of many cultures. Woven into a bracelet.

The friendship bracelet dangles on my wrist. My friends and I helped braid them for everyone in my high school. I will have to buy some thread soon, to make them here in Winnipeg, for as many new faces as possible.

Intertwined with the bracelet is a beaded wristlet of many colours. Lili, my best friend in China, mailed it to me. In her letters, she has always voiced her envy of the consummate multiculturalism here in Canada; the brilliant cultural diversity that we so celebrate gives her dream and hope. In China, she is an ardent believer of Falun. She is under threat of incarceration because of this faith. In China, there is neither freedom of religion, nor of speech, nor of basic human rights, let alone democracy—the premises for multiculturalism. I practice Falun too. I miss Lili's soft words and sweet dimples.

Lasagna Alfredo. Fried wonton. Herbed olio. Sesame chicken satay. Yakisoba platter. Energising our going-away party. And our demanding bellies. Céline Dion. Charlotte Brontë. Leonardo da Vinci. Joan of Arc. Confucius. Einstein. Praying to Buddha. Praying to God.

My mind drifts back and forth. I suddenly remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I remember running past cars engulfed in flames, and tumbling over carcasses lying on the ground, insides flowing out. The human rights movement there is still a fledgling, too weak, too young.

I think back to China, the brutal massacres and genocide in Tibet many years ago. It is better now, though still a long way to ideological tolerance. I often tell my friends in China: it is inevitable that China will soon take its first step because China, in many ways, parallels the ethnocentric and repressive medieval era in Europe. It evolved to the Renaissance, did it not? Then to the Industrial Revolution, and to eventually acknowledging basic human rights and democracy, in forging tolerance and acceptance—the common ground for multiculturalism.

I remember that today, on my way home, a stranger walking his dog smiled at me and said "bonjour."  

Multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism extends beyond the mere preservation of coexisting cultures and ideologies; it envelops the acceptance and celebration of the particularities in life. Surely, it helps us as human beings to find a happy medium in the relativity of our beliefs. In doing so, it helps to light up on everyone's face a bright smile. I have published numerous short stories and poems about my twelve rough years in China to promote multiculturalism. We all can in our own ways, dear friends, promote multiculturalism to the world. Make everyone see. Make everyone weep. So that one day, everyone will have a reason to smile.

 

 

Tai Meng | 孟泰 | Last Updated: July 23, 2013