The word “fair” is of Germanic origin meaning pleasing or attractive. Eventually it was the given the meaning it has today; “Impartial and just treatment or behaviour without favouritism or discrimination” as defined by the Oxford dictionary. I first started caring about “fair” when my brother entered the world after I'd enjoyed two years of my parents' undivided attention. Suddenly, I was the bad guy, the bully, the one who should give way to the needs of his brother because they said, he was smaller and obviously more innocent. My brother was many things but innocent was not one of them. At age six, I remember standing in the hallway our first home and him saying that he could get me in trouble anytime he wanted. Of course, a dare could never be left unchallenged. “No way,” I said. "Watch," he replies and then doubles over yelling that I’d punched him in the stomach. When my dad and mom arrived he lay writhing on the floor. I was asked what happened. Had I not accepted his challenge I might have been more outraged and more convincing when I told them I'd done nothing. They didn't believe me and I was duly punished. My brother never admitted to the charade.
I was no angel. My brother was great with the words. If at first I didn't react, he simply escalate the level of insults to he arrived at "pig pen" which I just hated. My mom used Lenny Penny as a term of endearment. Then Brad Hannah, one of the neighbourhood got hold of it which was no big deal until his older brother heard who made the slight alteration. I'd always react but I couldn't do anything to Brad's older brother or Brad for that matter. But my brother would get a beating. Pathetic when I think back on it. Injustice wasn't at the top of my mind when my dad got home and my brother told on me and I got punished.
The breakdown of chores was a different matter. Somehow, starting from the age of eight, I was tasked with mowing the lawn in the summer and shovelling the snow in winter. I don’t even remember what my brother did. One hot summer day I took a break from mowing to join my mom and brother enjoying a drink in the shade of our plum tree and she remarked that she really liked to watch other people work. Really Mom? I thought. Yet, when I complained that my brother did nothing, he always got the better of me. He’d enumerate his pathetic list of tasks completed and how I hadn’t done anything. Then he'd talk about the stuff I’d been given and he hadn’t received and then it was privileges I’d received and he hadn’t. One of our babysitters got in a lot of trouble from my mom because she had allowed me to play outside later in the night than he. My brother was so angry he ran out into the street stark naked. But he didn’t care what anyone thought. He was mad. If I'd done the same, I would have been traumatized for weeks. After all, I was outraged when other kids called me names. My brother was an amazing manipulator of feelings and I'd get sidetracked by the smallest slight.
When Donald Trump refused to take part in a Republican leaders’ debate back in January, he claimed that he would not be treated fairly by Megyn Kelly. He says, “She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all...If I think I’m going to be treated unfairly, I’ll do something else.” This is after she’d helped moderate one of the previous Republican debates. After accusing Trump of calling women everything from "fat pigs", to "dogs, slobs and disgusting animals," he accused her of having “blood coming out of her wherever.” There’s a guy who can manipulate the idea of fairness. When he refused to pledge that he wouldn’t run as a third party candidate if he lost the Republican candidacy, he told the media, “All I ask is fairness.” Bill O’Reilly concurs that the media is not treating Donald Trump fairly.
The Alberta NDP also likes the word however the context is not so confusing. They want fair resource royalties, fair referring to citizens of Alberta and not the oil companies, mostly foreign owned. Fortunately for those companies, the Alberta Royalty Review set out to review the Royalties claimed they were already “fair” so we’re all good. The NDP government would also like to restore fairness to Alberta’s tax system. In the context of the conversation, fairness would be more tax to be taken from those earning over $120,000. There are lots of Albertans, some crazy mad, who think the NDP version of fairness is not so fair.
Lately, I’ve seen “fair” used by students when they write about whether wealthy Canadians should help support the less fortunate. For many of them, taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor is just not fair. If someone works hard for their money, they shouldn't have to give it to someone who sits around on the couch all day. “Fair” means nothing to me because it has to have a context. “Fair” for whom? My brother? My students? Their parents? That moron Donald Trump and his supporters? The Wildrose party? The NDP?
For fuck’s sake, I’ve long ago forgiven my brother and I understand my students but he rest? Really stop. Put your demands in a context that makes sense. Donald baby, you treat women like shit. You think they deserve it, then say so. Or not. Just don’t go into a pout because one gets the better of you. Or the Wildrose? You think the whole Canadian thing is a drain on the Canadian economy. Just come out and say it. Quit the pouting. And the NDP. Just please, don’t use that word. Say that everyone deserves a minimum standard of living and the rich can give up a few dollars without even knowing that it's gone.
When I think of fair, I think of the person who’s just been told they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or their child has been in a fatal car accident or they live in country caught in the middle of a civil war where they've narrowly escaped death from the shrapnel scattered by a barrel bomb dropped by government forces. Or that person who can’t feed their starving child or the adolescent girl born to a Moslem family in Somalia and the women of her family are celebrating her upcoming circumcision. Or that individual's house that has been destroyed by fire or wiped out by a tsunami.
If you think you’re not being treated fairly, find another word because there’s always a context. I didn’t think it was fair that my brother did fuck all at home while I was out mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk or riding my bike to the store to get the milk. Then again, I didn't have to worry about getting the crap beat out of me every time our parents left the house. And Megyn Kelly probably doesn't think it’s fair that a pig like Donald Trump gets to call her unfair after she's attempted to make him accountable for his vile statements about women.
Nothing's fair. And yet, I'm lying in bed last night thinking about the article emailed on my behalf to the local newspaper about our daughter who recently graduated from Cambridge University. My wife was given credit for having written it and I thought, "That's not fair."