COLUMN Listen before passing judgment

Western Edge Theatre stages a reading of Homegrown at Nanaimo Entertainment Centre

The mainstream view toward terrorism hasn’t changed much since Sept. 11, 2001.

Terrorism is bad. Full stop. End of story.

No one would argue with that. But what we seem to argue about is whether we can have any sympathy or understanding for the events that create a terrorist.

Homegrown, a play about a woman’s involvement with one of the members of the Toronto 18, a group of alleged terrorists, some of whom were later convicted, was derided by federal government for glorifying terrorism.

Does it? I have no idea because I haven’t seen it, but I’ll find out July 15, 7:30 p.m., when Western Edge Theatre stages a reading at Nanaimo Entertainment Centre.

The reading is a protest to the federal government’s decision to deny a $45,000 grant to SummerWorks theatre festival in Toronto, which staged Homegrown last year.

Other theatre companies across the country followed Western Edge’s example and are staging protest readings as well.

Although it looks suspicious, it’s impossible to say for certain whether the grant denial was linked directly to the play. Governments have the privilege of funding their own priorities, and the Conservatives made it clear that arts and culture funding is not one.

Except for the $500,000 the feds granted Canada’s Walk of Fame to promote Canadian celebrities in a glitzy gala in Toronto. The hypocrisy astounds me.

The issue has sparked debate around what’s appropriate for government to fund and, surprisingly, what’s appropriate for artists to create.

In my final year of my journalism degree from University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University), our program hosted a discussion about the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks.

We were trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy and we had the luxury of gathering with our professors to learn and heal from the debate.

Of the many viewpoints presented that day, one faculty member spoke about the need for the United States and its allies, including Canada, to look internally at the foreign policy factors which may have fostered the hatred that led to the attacks.

To say that the idea was met with resistance once it was reported in the local paper is an understatement.

Letter writers vehemently opposed not only the idea but the person’s right to say it, calling for resignations from faculty attending the forum.

The university’s president was at the event and no discipline was handed out, at least that I’m aware of.

It was a great lesson for a young reporter to be cautious, meticulous and empathetic when writing about complicated issues because they have ramifications for people in the community.

We may not want to explore the ideas in Homegrown, but should we simply dismiss the playwright’s message without hearing first what she has to say?

It may be uncomfortable and at times offensive, but that is the purpose of art – to question, explore and challenge the way we think about important issues that influence our lives.

Only once we’ve seen, heard and listened can we decide.

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