Notorious RBG and a Last Wish


by Roxanne Tellier

I was preparing dinner in the kitchen on Friday night, when Shawn came into the room and said, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died.”  

One hand flew to my mouth, the other to my heart, and I gasped in shock, a reaction that I know was echoed by many in the 24 hours following news of her passing.

How can it be that one small, 87-year-old woman, riddled with cancer, became the only check in the vaunted checks and balances meant to keep an entire nation democratic? How did she become the last bastion of sanity and decency in a country that claims to be ‘exceptional’? Why did it take the loss of her presence on the Supreme Court to wake hundreds of millions of Americans to the stripping away of civil and human rights that awaits them, as early as next month?  

While those who claim to be pro-life insist that their religious beliefs should trump the rights of all women to control their own bodies, the Trump administration is already lined up to strip away the health care rights of EVERY American – male, female, black, white, young and old – when their request to invalidate the Affordable Care Act is heard. Some 20 million Americans, many of them low income, will lose health care coverage, and be denied any form of coverage due to pre-existing conditions (something that every single American may have following the COVID pandemic), and will discover that these changes will also disallow children from staying on their parents health plans until the age of 26.

Trump has repeatedly promised that he has a ‘beautiful! New!’ health care plan in the works, but after more than three years of these idle promises, no one should be holding their breath for that to emerge.

Roe v Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide nearly fifty years ago, is also on the line. Tom Cotton, one of trump’s proposed new jurists, is on record stating that this would be his first priority.

Short of overturning Wade, there are still several cases in the pipeline that could effectively restrict access to the procedure, including one case already before the court in which the trump admin has asked the justices to overturn a federal judge’s decision that lifted restrictions on telemedicine abortions during the pandemic. And in terms of the most common second trimester abortion procedure, the D&C, (dilation and evacuation) at least 10 states are on record seeking to outlaw clinics providing this option.

Women’s rights to control over their own body is not the only controversial issue. There’s even talk of rolling back the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education (1954) which famously dismantled segregation. The more recent cases that decided on the rights of the LGBTQ, the handicapped, and other minority communities will also be on the table with a fifth Conservative Supreme Justice.  

One small, fragile, senior, woman held back that tide of discrimination, prejudice, and misogyny for as long as she physically could. But within two hours of her death, and in defiance of her stated last wish that her seat remain unfilled until a new president was in power, trump was already declaring his intent to fill her seat with a person of his own choosing.

And that follows in a horrific pattern in which four out of five of the conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court (Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) were nominated by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote

Two of trump’s most loathsome minions, who campaigned ruthlessly to prevent President Obama from appointing a Justice in his last year of office, have reversed their ‘hand on the bible’ statements from 2016.

And today ….

But they are not the only Republican Senators displaying blatant hypocrisy, and a lack of ethical morality, in their decision to blindly follow in their leader’s doddering steps.

The very idea that matters considered so integral to how justice is allowed or denied should be in the hands of judges who profess fealty to a specific political party boggles the mind. Having trampled upon any pretense of a separation of church and state, the modern Court openly skews either liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. That can’t be right. The law must be the law, not something that can be warped to suit the needs of the politicians currently in power. If the decisions are made based on party, then the decisions are only opinions, frothy and transitory, as worthless as the blatherings of a drunk at the end of the bar.  The justices lose all credibility, cease to be the ultimate legal decision makers, and are instead mere pundits. .  

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Mitch McConnell seems determined to rush the seating of a lifetime justice, in hopes that, regardless of the outcome of this election, the conservative, Republican ideals will remain the law of the land for decades to come. McConnell is cementing his position as the man who broke American democracy, and brought the pillars of American justice down around it’s citizens, the modern-day Benedict Arnold, made mad thru his insatiable lust for relevance and power.

“According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  (Wikipedia)   

During this administration, each of those pillars has been systematically mocked, repeatedly attacked, and is in peril of becoming a dead issue.

ONE: “ a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections;

Despite having won (by Electoral College) the presidency in 2016, trump attacked all forms of voting, insisting, despite his own repeated investigations that found no tampering, that all American elections were fundamentally flawed and rigged. With the pandemic impairing the ability of citizens to safely vote in person, he then first verbally attacked mail-in voting, intentionally underfunded the Postal Service, and then appointed Louis Dejoy as Post Master General, who viciously decimated staff and equipment in the nation’s postal offices, bringing the mails to a slowdown unlike any in it’s history, and making the handling of the volumes of mail ensured by election mail-in voting nearly impossible to consider.

As some Americans opt for early voting in states like Virginia, trump’s goons are swarming polling locations and would be voters, in blatant acts of voter intimidation. Trump has already admitted that these acts of intimidation will be severely ramped up on Election Day, November 3. He has also admitted that he might challenge the 2020 election results, or even stay in the White House, despite a loss. It is quite likely that the final results may be delayed by days, or even weeks, based on these restrictions, and while a late decision on who has won is actually not illegal, trump’s mouthpieces are spreading disinformation on the legality of such a delay.

Two:  “the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; “

Trump’s first town hall meeting in, I believe, the entirety of his four-year term, was held just this past week. The people allowed to question him were thoroughly vetted, and most questions were fairly straightforward and logical. However, his answers merely echoed the beerhall rants familiar from his rallies – mainly incoherent, highly self-congratulatory, and rarely with any semblance to the real world everyone but trump is inhabiting.

Three: “protection of the human rights of all citizens; “  Since the first month of trump’s ascendency to the presidency, the rights of all citizens, American or otherwise, were secondary to his platform. Within hours of his first day in office, he began the process to repeal Obamacare, and within days, had put into place executive orders to set in motion travel bans and restrictions on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. By April, 800,000 ‘DREAMers’ had their lives upended and their futures made uncertain.

By the spring, new armies of ICE agents began arresting and deporting many immigrants who were in the process of becoming citizens. And of course, the infamous border wall, persecution of would be refugees, and camps for kids weren’t far behind.  

Four: “a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Attorney General William Barr … personal lawyer to the POTUS, and expediter of pardons and the overturning of legal decisions.

America is in crisis. American democracy is on its last legs. And as the citizens limp towards the election, burdened with a lethal pandemic, massive unemployment, and the threat of homelessness looming over the heads of about 40 million people, they must also contend with almost daily revelations informing them of trump’s knowledge of exactly how deadly this pandemic is, and that he hid that knowledge from the people, for his own re-election plans.

Rather than shore up America’s defenses, rather than trust the people whom he took an oath to protect and defend from this deadly virus, trump has instead relied on the snake oil sellers he’s seen hawking junk on FOX to its addled viewers. And now, finally, he’s admitted … his plan is to not have a plan, but instead to gamble on ‘herd immunity’.

This new non-plan will kill as many as 3 million people. “Trump has a plan for coronavirus: herd immunity. Say goodbye to your parents, your neighbors, and your friends. Because the Trump plan will kill millions in the next four years.”

And in the midst of all of this madness, and with a plan that’s not a plan but rather an abdication to the power of the virus, trump has told the American people that he believes that he alone has the right to name yet another conservative judge to the Supreme Court, to join the previous two that were foisted upon the nation.

Despite the last wish of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said, ‘ My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed’.

A NEW president. Not this used up condom of a failed, incompetent, wannabe dictator.

If Americans want to fulfill her last wish, with the added bonus of saving the nation from plunging into fascism, they’re going to have to vote like their lives depend upon it.

Because it does.

Return to Innocence Lost


by Roxanne Tellier

There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen.” 

Ain’t it the truth! Hey, Hi! It’s me, back from what seems like the hiatus that lasted an eternity.

Not that I’m complaining… no siree! I have been BUSY, my darlings … busier than a <fill in your corny but slightly amusing blank here.> Hellzapoppin’, dontcha know, and we’re careening sans seatbelts to what I expect to be a fiery finish to the apogee of the annus horribilis known as 2020.

One might even go so far as to say 2020 is the annus horribilis of all anni horribiles.

About the only good thing I can say about this year so far is that it was a good year for coleus.

Oh, and another good thing – the world took a much needed, deep breath. COVID-19 forced so many of us to slow down, for possibly the first time in our busy, busy lives. Not just slow down; in some cases, things came to a screeching halt. With very little notice, the fabric of our lives, the government offices, the libraries, the restaurants I loved to frequent – began to shut down around us, without the slightest hint of if or when they’d ever re-open.

COVID put a spoke in the wheel that belonged to the organizers of my high school reunion event. Fifty years! Man, that’s a long time! And I never would have even heard about the celebrations (now postponed to next July) if the occasion had not been postponed. With extra time, and unexpected time on their hands, some of the planners set about contacting as many of the old grads as they could. And I was one of their finds. 

As each new contact is added to the Facebook page, I find myself drifting back to the skinny, big eyed school girl I was then, staring dreamy eyed at the Roman profile of my first crush, Hugh, or walking home from school with Michael, who managed to con me out of my bus money every single day, so that he could satisfy his thirst for a family sized bottle of Coke. Gathering with Ann, Marianne and Donna to squeal over the new Monkees album. Getting ripped off, trying to buy pot for the first time, and being sold parsley in its place. Ah, those were the days.  

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2972834292777783

So, I guess that’s two things good about this annus … the coleus, and the reunion. Sadly, the rest of this year has really sucked.

Hmm, let’s see .. did anything else interesting happen since we last chatted, on August 9th?

Oh. Right. We discovered a few rather nasty things about that trump guy. Like, that he’s not actually as dozy, folksy and down home as he’s been pretending, and that, in fact, he’s got some rather interesting ideas about the 1.3 million active duty military of whom he’s currently Commander in Chief, as well as those countless millions of volunteers and draftees thru the decades, who went forth and around the globe to protect America and others from the horrors of fascism and dictatorship.

We already knew that he ‘preferred people who didn’t get captured’ in wartime, but we didn’t yet know that he thought that those who chose to serve were suckers, and those that became injured, prisoners of war, or who died for the cause, were losers, until the recent release of his ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen’s, new tell-all book.

But I think what came as the deepest gut punch was the realization that the elected and nominal ‘leader of men’ is completely unable to understand the selflessness and patriotism of those that gave their lives in service to their country. For trump, everything is transactional. Even love of country.

“I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Trump asked as he stood by the grave of General John Kelly’s son, killed in combat.

But even as we reeled in horror from the blatant entitlement of a creature who had himself medically deferred from serving, not once, but five times, there was another sucker punch waiting in the wings.

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward, half of the dynamic duo that brought down Nixon by exposing the Watergate scandal, released a new book detailing his late night, and uncensored chatty chats with the POTUS. And oh lordy, there were tapes.

Considering that trump is said not to drink alcohol, it’s hard to understand the ‘in vino veritas’ nature of his confidences. Was he bragging when he leaked top secret military information on future armaments to someone with no security clearance? Did he think that confessing his complicity in covering up Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s role in the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and journalist, would make him look like a strongman?

And most of all, did he care at all about the consequences of concealing exactly how deadly COVID-19 was, from the American people, whom he’d sworn an oath to defend?

The tapes confirm that trump knew that the virus was especially deadly in early February, even as he publicly told American citizens that there was nothing to worry about, and that the 15 official cases the U.S. currently had would soon be down to just a handful.

“It goes through the air. That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breath the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Trump told Woodward. 

In front of a South Carolina rally, just two days later, he told the crowd that the virus was just the Democrats’ ‘new hoax.”

On March 19, trump told Woodward that he “wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Strange words indeed from the man who has whipped up the fears of Americans daily – even hourly – since coming down the escalator to announce his intent to run for president, to save Americans from the ‘carnage’ about to befall them due to immigrants, people of colour, transsexuals, bathrooms, suburbs, and Muslims.

In March, trump also confided to Woodward that some “startling facts” had just come out about the virus’ targets. “It’s not just old, older. Young people, too, plenty of young people.”

It’s been a long year, so remind me .. when exactly did trump begin exhorting the nation to re-open it’s doors, in order to save ‘his’ economy? Oh right.. that would have been before Easter – April 12th this year.

And when did he begin demanding that kids, whom he claimed where virtually immune to the virus, prepare to return to schools?

July 6, 2020: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” he tweeted, and repeated again and again as the weeks went by, adding threats to withhold federal funds should the schools not obey his mandate.

Trump lied. People died. Trump lied to protect his ratings. He lied to get re-elected. He lied because he put his own needs above the needs of every single one of the 331 million Americans under his mantle. He lied, and he golfed, and he lied some more and golfed some more.

When confronted with his lies, trump began to spin like an intoxicated top. First, he insisted that his reticence to tell the people the extent of the virus was due to his reluctance to start a panic.

Imagine how very different the world would look today if, when the first bombs began to fall on London, Winston Churchill had told the people of England not to worry, because the Nazis would be gone by the spring. But that didn’t happen, because Churchill had faith in the British people. Trump did NOT have faith that the American people could cope with a pandemic.

Next, he tried to paint himself as some sort of cheerleader of the people. Let’s look back at Exhibit A, shall we? If you don’t trust your people enough to believe they could handle news of a pandemic .. just how ‘cheery’ are you? Time to turn in the pom poms, Missy.

And yet, even as over 6 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, with 4000 new infections and 1000 new deaths being tabulated every single day, with nearly 200,000 Americans tucked into body bags, and new estimates for year end rising to as high as 450,000, trump is still not telling his deluded base the truth, still mocking others for wearing masks and attempting to protect themselves from infection.

Despite the truth now being evident that children are not only carriers, but can themselves become ill and die, trump is not calling for the schools to be shut down, or ensuring public health standards are met, but instead, continues to pretend that all is well.

“Clap your hands if you believe in fairies!”

It’s as if he’s a starry-eyed seven-year-old at a Peter Pan pantomime matinee, still believing that if we all clap our hands, Tinkerbelle will come back to life, along with all those innocents he’s murdered through criminal negligence.

It’s mid September – just 50 plus days away from what will most assuredly be a memorable election on November 3rd.

For those who still wonder if he should be given the chance he’s requesting, to be re-elected so that he might, in effect, have a ‘do over’ … so that this time, he might actually accomplish one good thing for the American people NOT in the 1%, it must be remembered that his years in office have sent the economy into a tailspin, and millions to food banks and hostels; that he’s willfully and maliciously mismanaged the COVID-19 pandemic, while also attempting to bribe the Ukrainian Government into investigating a political rival, and begging China to help him in his quest for re-election. He’s supported white nationalist, white supremacist, racist causes while endorsing conspiracy theories about political opponents and minorities, withheld funds to states he believes have not shown enough gratitude to him, and kissed Kim Jung Un’s ass – possibly with tongue.  And that he’s told over 20,000 verified lies.

He’s separated untold thousands of children from their parents, and confined them in cages, where they have shivered, alone, untended, and unmedicated, to the point where some have died. He’s already been impeached, although his Republican colleagues refused to actually throw him out of office, due to their fear of his tweets and threats.

He’s continued to work to overturn policies that might attempt to mitigate climate change, and fired or silenced climate scientists, even as the west burns, and the south floods. He sold out the Kurds to suck up to Erdogan, and ignored North Korea’s building of a nuclear arsenal. He assigned unqualified and incompetent minions to prime positions, and assigned them to tear down the foundations of American government. He has yet to confront Putin over allegations that Russia is paying Afghan militants bounties to murder U.S. troops.  

He and his family have illegally used the White House grounds, personnel, and the military for partisan political events, for his own benefit, but paid for by taxpayer dollars. He’s used his presidential powers to enrich himself, his family, and his friends. He’s foisted unqualified judges upon the nation, which alone will ensure a continuation of his racist, bigoted, and misogynistic policies for decades to come.  

And he’s left the country holding their breath in fear for what will happen in the days leading up to Election Night, and what will happen after that, regardless of who wins the presidential race. It is pretty much a given that he will claim fraud of some sort, and rally his motley crue of toothless, but heavily armed ‘militias’ to come to his defence.

The election, like the one in 2000, may very well end up decided in the Supreme Court, at which point we can only hope that Chief Justice John Roberts, with his swing vote, will have the power to either save American democracy, or not allow the nation to lapse into chaos and possibly Civil War.

So, yeah – good to be back in the saddle, fellow babies. Strap in. It’s gonna be a helluva ride ….

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/RoxanneTellier

God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise


by Roxanne Tellier

There’s only a few more weeks left of summer, before we get that Fall-ing feeling again.

That’s quite a while, in these troubled times. Kind of makes you wonder how different our world will look by then. After all, it’s certainly seemed like every day for the last few years has been an endless, nauseating, roller coaster ride. Fires, floods, droughts, plagues, economic turmoil, murder hornets – kind of frightening to think what might be next.

Take, for instance, daily life since March 2020. Experts say that if the United States had just followed three simple rules – wash your hands, keep a social distance from others, and when you can’t, wear a mask – it could have prevented at least 90% of the deaths of the 163,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 to date.

Which seems a pretty small ’ask,’ really. But somehow, that little, common-sense ask got politicized and weaponized. Now, those who are just as likely to become ill or die from this virus as those whom they disdain for being ‘sheeple,’ are in equal danger from the great unwashed and unmasked. Strangely, the virus doesn’t ask to see your voting preferences, or your SAT scores.

When the first trickles of information began dribbling in, back in March, about a new and potentially deadly epidemic being on its way, most people were motivated to go into ‘self-protection’ mode. A lot of us spent a lot of money on canned goods, medications, and toilet paper. Masks were hard to find, and even those cheap paper masks, like you’d wear at a doctor’s office, were a little pricey. But that was okay, because no one knew what would happen next in this ‘novel’ corona virus. We were playing it by ear. Most would prefer to be safe than sorry.

You’d have thought that preppers, and those who have been anticipating some sort of apocalyptic, dystopic, end of days would have been delighted to have a chance to give their hoards and bunkers a work out. But surprisingly few were enthusiastic about weathering an ACTUAL crisis.

Still, people coped. Those who survived the Great Toilet Paper Wars got crafty, with some generous souls showing others how a simple mask could be fashioned from just about any material, for next to nothing. Others got smart, and figured out how to turn a buck by selling their fashion masks to non-crafty people for major coin.

Predictably, trump decided that he had to be the figurehead in the fight against this ‘invisible enemy’ that he dubbed the China Virus. His meddling only roiled the waters, drove his cult to new heights of insanity, lead the gullible to drink bleach, and put the lives of those attempting to save American lives in danger.

All things considered, Canada has been pretty good, in a minimal sense, during this crisis. Really, I don’t blame anyone, either in government or in the sciences, for a response that has been merely ‘good.’ None of us – not even the most knowledgeable scientists, researchers, or doctors, even specialists in virology or respirology – could have anticipated all that we’ve come to learn about this particular virus, even within the last six months. It is NOVEL – and that means, it’s never happened before. Some nations had generic pandemic responses in place, and ready to go (notably, trump had disbanded those offices in the US long before the epidemic began) but what they had to work with on this new infection basically amounted to “Don’t forget your towel.”

But I do say minimal, because, both in Canada and the US, there was a serious lack of governments able to ‘say what they mean and mean what they say.’ It was clear, right from March, that controlling a world wide pandemic was going to take a steely will, and a populace that understood not only the seriousness of the disease, but the need to pull together, as nations, and as humanity, in order to beat the infection into submission.

In those countries with a strong right-wing political arm, even here in Canada, with a Liberal prime minister, there was a fear that actually letting the populace know the extent of the potential danger might cause the worst human traits to emerge – selfishness, hoarding, and panic.

They also worried that ‘telling people what to do’ as in, mandating the use of masks for the good of public health, would be – and sadly, is – considered governmental over-reach.

The nations that took that mandate seriously – all of which, strangely, had women leaders – did the best. Their people tightened their belts, stayed home, wore the masks, and took the economic hit, early in Phase One. Those countries are back to almost normal.

But those countries governed by a male, right wing leader, sadly, took the biggest hits, lost the most people, and continue to struggle as summer fades, and we begin to dread the very real possibility that a Second Wave hitting this winter, combined with seasonal cold and flus, could completely overwhelm available health care, resulting in a new tsunami of unnecessary illness and deaths.

For those of us who are lucky to be least affected by this pandemic, it’s often hard to grasp the magnitude of the disease, the suffering of those that fall to it, and, perhaps even worse than mere death, the possibility of having one’s heart, lungs, liver, and/or kidneys be significantly and permanently impaired, despite having ‘survived’ a full-fledged bout of COVID.

For those on pensions or governmental benefits, those who were able to work from home with little problem, and those in high levels of management, both business and political, there has been a very minor discomfort involved with the pandemic. If anything, the drop in foot and car traffic has been a boon. The middle class are not in peril.

But minimum wage employees, the ‘essential workers’ who were the ones called upon to ensure that the wheels kept turning, and that the groceries, pharmacies, and beer stores stayed open, those people were the ones that were sent out as ‘tributes’ to the disease.

Health care workers, including ambulance drivers, EMTs, nurses and doctors are very much represented in the list of the fallen as well. 

To that, we’ll soon be adding our children, their teachers, all of the support staff in the schools, and, of course, those the children will be physically closest to, their families.

Meanwhile, no upper management, and certainly very, very few political representatives, have returned to work. And even those who do, do so with extreme reluctance, and caution, along with demands that more attention be paid to the protection of their health, than to the job they’re hired to do.

I blame both the government, AND the media, for not doing what they have done so well in past national crises – putting a human face to the fear, anger, pain and uncertainty that the populace are experiencing. By essentially turning a blind eye to the emotional component of the pandemic, by focusing on the numbers of the dead, over the number of the ill or recovering, they’ve enabled an open season on the kind of anti-science and anti-mask sentiment that has been instilled in so many.

And for a huge proportion of those actively disseminating lies, half-truths, and propaganda – you’ve got to blame social media, and the trolls, bots, and right-wing operatives who lurk there, spreading these dangerous falsehoods to the gullible.

There are human beings behind those numbers of ill, recovering, and deceased. And yet, very few people within my own social circle know more than one of the deceased, personally.  

BREAKING: Darwin Awards for 2020 cancelled
due to too many competitors.

And because there’s been so little footage and reportage of how gruesome it is to become ill from COVID, so little information about those who have spent weeks, or months, in hospital, on a ventilator, attempting to recover, there’s a huge mass of unmasked, ignorant, and woefully uninformed, future Darwin Award winners, out in public, putting us all in danger of catching the virus.

It’s denial, just like people experience when they are told that they or a loved one has a terminal illness. First, there’s denial, a jaw-dropping recognition that this bad thing can happen to ME, despite my being ME.. Denial, and then anger, that it’s happening to ME.

Happens all over the planet, several times a day. But the difference in this particular diagnosis – and one shared with those who refuse to accept that the climate is changing – is that, instead of having a kindly doctor, or someone you trust and respect, guiding you through this horrible realization, and helping you to make good decisions on how to proceed, there’s half a planet willing to tell you lies about what happens next, and how you’re really over-reacting. It will all be fine. Most of those voices denying reality do NOT have your best interest top of mind.

And governments that are urging schools to reopen, in the name of the economy, are really, really, really not looking out for your best interest, or your child’s.

We’ve gotten used to a way of thinking that doesn’t really differentiate between jobs we want to do, and slave labour. Either way, the average workie is beholden to their position, until they can find something better. So, if the government decides that greasing the economy’s wheels means that anyone without big money or big power had better get their shoulder back to the wheel, the workers are going to have to do so, regardless of their health concerns.

For many, this means that they’ve got to get the kids back to school so that the adults can get back to work, and keep an income flowing, in order to keep their place in the economic order. Keeping a roof over one’s head, keeping food in everyone’s belly – those are basic needs for everyone.

While parents try to parse through the logistics, they’re being bombarded with distractions, and coaxed to believe that the advantages of socialization of the kids outweighs the very real possibility that the physical return to school will not only be dangerous for all concerned, but that the new constraints on behaviour within the classes may turn their children against the idea of schooling permanently.

And that means that parents, despite their fears of what might happen, what will ensue down the line, when the kids inevitably bring home illness for the whole family to share, are fighting back the anxiety that is telling them that using their precious children as the canaries in the COVID coalmine is insanity, and doomed to failure.

Our children are our future. Our children need education, but they need to live long enough, hopefully with live parents, to graduate and join the work force themselves at some point. THAT is how economies work. Sacrificing our young to keep today’s economy going is surrendering the nation’s economic future.   

Saddest of all, it’s looking like even those in charge know that they’re really only throwing your kids’ lives against the wall to see what sticks. They already know that there will be illness, amongst the students and staffs, and that the logistics of trying to keep the kids apart, and wearing masks, is a near-impossibility.  

Reading between the lines, even those most adamant for the kids to return to school are well aware that the odds greatly favour closure of those same schools sooner rather than later. Such a lot of worry, time and money wasting, all to feed the economic machine.

Yes, none of us knows what will be, although all of us think we’d like a quick peek at the future.

For now, we wait, disempowered, disenfranchised, and disoriented at the dizzying changes to our world in this Year of Our Lord 2020.

See you in September, the good lord willing, and the creek don’t rise..

Your bonus video. “ The Dumbest Man in America”

Dear Old COVID School Days


by Roxanne Tellier

When you’re a kid that is being bullied, the only thing you can really do is wait for the day that the bully graduates and finally leaves you alone.

I got bullied A LOT in school. I was always the scrawny street rat. My sister, five years younger, was even scrawnier. We were poor, lived in a rough neighbourhood, and for a few years, had only the protection of a single mum, in a world where two parents were the norm. We weren’t very well dressed, and didn’t have the kind of clothes the ‘cool kids’ wore. We were ‘different.’ I spent a lot of time defending Jodi from bullies of her own age, and then went to class, and dealt with my own bullies.

In the fifties and sixties, kids were expected to suck it up, pretty much. If we told an adult, we were ‘tattle tales.’ If a bigger kid hurt us, and we cried, grownups usually just told us to  ‘grow a pair,’ ‘get over it,’ if you can’t take this, how will you survive in the real world?’ Schools tended to turn a blind eye, if the bully was someone on a sports team, a “Big Man on Campus.” It was just expected that those big kids would need to ‘blow off some steam,’ and if you got in their way, well, you should have known better. That toilet swirlie was totally your own fault, Pointdexter.   

Did you know that there is actually a ‘type’ of personality that bullies, sexual predators, and serial killers prefer to prey upon? It’s usually the outsider, the one that’s not like the others. The one that doesn’t have a lot of friends. They’ll be the introvert, with a heightened sensitivity to ridicule. Quiet by nature, these kids tend to be highly vulnerable to conflict, and are prone to sustaining life-long trauma from experiences that another child might just laugh off.  

This type of person grows up to be a little fearful of authority, since appeals for justice rarely helped, in their view. Even as adults, they’ll be the quieter, shyer person in the office, the one who seems passive, a little weak. They may feel insecure, and that they are inferior to others.

A bully smells that kind of personality from miles away. They see the averted gaze, the fidgety hands and feet of their prey, and will zero in with surgical precision.

If, lord help you, you married a bully in those days, the police would be of no help; domestics were left to households to sort out on their own. Windows adorned with lace curtains would often conceal the battered woman within.

Many bullies grow up to become abusive spouses and parents. Since they generally have an inflated sense of self, and believe that they are superior to others in all ways, a captive audience at home is a real gift. After eight hours of office bullying, they’re happy to go home and kick around the partner/kids/pets. Since they believe themselves ‘above it all’ by virtue of superiority, they see nothing wrong with terrorizing the occupants of their home. This type of bully is particularly contemptuous of any person, adult or child, who challenges their opinions and beliefs.

The worst kind of grown up bully is the sociopath. They are the most destructive creatures of all, with a complete lack of empathy for anyone but themselves. Experts at manipulating the emotions of others, they tend to somehow still rise to positions of power, where their cruelty is often aided and abetted by those who sense that they can ride his coattails to move up the ranks as well. 

The very worst kind of bully is a narcissistic sociopath who grows up and is elected as the head of a nation, surrounds himself with other bullies, and then torments the most vulnerable people until he is finally deposed. Usually with extreme prejudice.

“Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and marks any heart not tough or strong enough.”

I often think about how we baby boomers survived our formative years. Those years and attitudes shaped us, and made us into the men and women we are today, in our sixties and seventies. Many of us have never really progressed, emotionally, from those days.

While today’s kids are raised by ‘helicopter parents,’ entertained with high end game systems (that Dad uses after they’ve gone to bed) and are taught in schools where aggressiveness is discouraged, bullies are expelled, and corporal punishment is but a distant memory, Grammy and Grampa often still carry a very different image of what it means to be a child and student.

The harsh and severe ways children endured in classes in the past is not at all what kids today expect or receive. So, when Grammy and Grampa are encouraging the grandkids to pull up their big boy or big girl pants, stop being such little wusses, put on a mask, and head off to school in this time of COVID, Grammy and Grampa are talking thru their blue hair. And they’re wrong.

Within the Conservative government (in Canada) and the Republican party (in the US) there is an impassioned need for a restarting of the economy. I mean, we all want things to get back to ‘normal,’ but it’s the right leaners who hit that gong the hardest, because, frankly, they have nothing else to tout. Neither the CONS nor the GOP have anything good to hold up to the average person when elections roll around, because they spend most of their time in office in partisan fights over how best to defund and privatize entities put into place by much leftier leaning governments in the past.

So – the economy is their shining idol, their Golden Calf. It is only by pointing to a healthy GDP, and a galloping stock market (which helps, primarily, only those with money to invest) that they can justify their time in office.

Since the onset of COVID, right leaning politicians in the ‘Free World’ have attempted to deflect from the seriousness of the illness. Trump, Pence, most of the GOP, along with Boris Johnson in the UK, and Bolsonaro in Brazil, have decried the use of masks, literally embracing patients, ill with the virus, as though their manly manliness would protect them from infection. BoJo found out the hard way that he was wrong. So did Bolsonaro. Trump and Pence have so far escaped the disease, but several of their admin have succumbed, with Herman Cain, once a presidential hopeful, passing away just this week, after attending a trump rally, maskless.

What do all of these (male) politicians have in common? They are all baby boomers, raised with that rough and tumble, let the chips fall where they may, suck it up, boys will be boys mentality. AND – they are all leaders of countries where COVID got a good strong toe hold early on, and refuses to let go. (Although the UK is doing better than either the US or Brazil, perhaps because it is a smaller, island nation.)

We’ve heard a lot about trump’s insistence on schools reopening in the US this fall. Regardless of reality, science, or the growing death toll, trump believes that it is only by sacrificing children, teachers, administrators and support staff that he can bring back his vaunted economy. So .. into the volcano they must go, to take their places with the ambulance drivers, EMT techs, nurses, and doctors that died because of a lack of protective gear.  

Under the pretext of being in the best interests of children, the GOP in the US are claiming that it is only by the grace of teachers in their schools that many American children are fed, soothed, get health care, are monitored for physical for sexual abuse, and are, overall, protected from harm.

However, schools and teachers in the US have been consistently underfunded, year after year, to the point where these same underpaid teachers are often subsidizing not only the needs of their classrooms, but of their students. And that’s not right, not in a country that can hand over trillions to corporate interests without blinking.

The gun trump’s holding to the heads of the parents of the students is that the children must be physically present in school, or he’ll take away all funding … unemployment, school funding, lord knows what else. He’s a bully, so he’s prepared to take it all, and leave them nothing, not even enough to bury their precious children.

I ask myself – how many Americans need to be sacrificed to the Republican Gods of Ignorance, before they are satisfied? Is it a half million? A million? Ten million men, women and children who never needed to die, had trump taken a firm leadership role from the beginning, and lead from the front, instead of bullying from the rear? 

The only leadership America has at all on how to deal with the virus is the venerable Dr Anthony Fauci, and rather than heed and respect his advice, trump and his goons prefer to pick fights with him, and bully this man with so much more knowledge than they’ll every acquire in their lifetimes.

Fox’s snippy little Pekinese, the smarmy Tucker Carlson, has this to say about a disgusting attack upon Fauci from Jim Jordan, a hyperactive jerk and ex-jock who appears to be the poster boy for steroid abuse, exemplifying the sort of discourteous disrespect trump encourages amongst his little band of incompetent trolls and ogres.

Meanwhile, a feckless Republican party looks on, mouth breathing, refusing to extend financial protections to the 54 million unemployed Americans, 28 million of them in danger of becoming homeless, and swans off for a long summer weekend, while thousands line up at food banks, desperate for a handout. Every single member of the GOP is complicit in the abuse of American citizens.

It’s like a horrific, real life Truman Show. They are ‘experimenting’ … making American children, students, the canaries in the COVID coal mine. We know what will happen, but for some reason, these fiends want to see the dead bodies for themselves. Some of the most vulnerable Americans – children, seniors, the homeless, the disabled, those that most need federal help – are the pawns in this grotesque reality show, where the millions in cash prizes only flow upwards to trump supporters.  

American children, the poor, and minorities are being abused by the most powerful man on the planet. It’s tantamount to genocide. It’s a death cult, where trump is playing the role of Jim Jones, and COVID is the Kool-Aid.

It was revealed this weekend that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser, who had assumed a role in the White House’s pandemic response, oversaw a secret project to devise a comprehensive plan that would have massively ramped up and coordinated testing for COVID-19 at the federal level.

That response was abandoned in March, however, apparently because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert. (Vanity Fair, August 1, 2020)

Trump suppressed access to test-kits, forcing the states to bid against each other to acquire test-kits on the world market.

Apparently Kushner and his band of merry psychopaths were unaware that there are Republicans, trump voters, in all 50 states, even the blue ones. But his actions, apparently with the approval of the trump administration and leadership, prove that no one – not even the most fanatical, gun-toting, Confederate flag-waving, MAGA wearing, trump cultist is safe from either COVID-19 or the sadistic, self-centered, cruelty of the White House occupant.

Everybody Hurts


by Roxanne Tellier

Like many, I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was a young child. Poor old Joe Btfsplk, the Andy Capp character who lived under a cloud at all times, had nothing on me. I had an ulcer by the time I was ten years old, and toyed with the idea of suicide throughout my teens.  

Sadly, that’s not at all unusual. Right now, there are people all around you struggling with sadness and fear, and often those sufferers can’t really put a finger on why they feel like they do, or what they can do to stop feeling so miserable. Over 7% of people in North America admit to suffering from depression, and, amongst those in the 15-29 age range, suicide is the leading cause of death.

It’s the famous ‘Black Dog,” a state of depression characterized by a lack of will to do anything. A lack of dopamine stimulating pleasure centres of the brain. Anhedonia. Reduced motivation. A reduction of anticipatory pleasure (wanting), reduced consummatory pleasure (liking), and deficits in reinforcement learning. In short, a really unpleasant way to go through life.  

And yet – there’s still so much stigma around admitting that you have a mental health issue. It’s almost the last taboo. People will confess to murder or drug trafficking before they’ll admit they’re barely able to get out of bed – even to get more drugs.

For the last couple of decades, many of us have been told that our depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.  I understand why that happened – my hunch is that doctors and social scientists wanted to have some ‘real’ bogeyman to pin the tail on the depression donkey. But in truth, it’s a very, very small percentage of depressives that can be helped by treating a chemical imbalance. And yet, most doctors will first experiment on our poor brains, trying this or that drug, before looking to see if there could be some other explanation for this aching sadness.

Pills didn’t work for me. I tried more than a few, from the mildest to the heaviest. But once I realized that they weren’t helping, and that I could very well instead develop an addiction to them, to add to my other addictions, and thus create yet another reason to be depressed, I ditched the meds.

In truth, for many, depression and anxiety are not caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains. It is far more likely that we’re attempting to deal with crippling social issues that we cannot control or rise above. Situational depression is very often why we’re so scarily morose and unable to cope with life.

In a recent book called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression & the Unexpected Solutions, award-winning journalist Johann Hari described how, after years of research, travel to countries with wildly different attitudes and treatments for depression, and after documenting multiple experiments, he uncovered nine real causes of depression and anxiety. That led him to scientists who are working on seven very different solutions, that appear to be having more success than the treatments used in the past.

His first epiphany came when he realized that every one of the social and psychological causes of depression and anxiety had something in common; they were all forms of disconnection. In each case, they were situations in which we feel cut off from something we innately need, but seemed to have lost in the course of our lives.

“We need to feel we belong to a group; we need to feel we have a stable future; we need to feel that we are valued; we need to feel we have meaning and purpose in our lives.”

While two of these causes are biological, the rest Johann discovered were related to social and personal disconnection.

The other causes of depression include:

  • Disconnection from others
  • Disconnection from childhood trauma
  • Disconnection from meaningful work
  • Disconnection from meaningful values
  • Disconnection from status
  • Disconnection from a hopeful future
  • Disconnection from nature

Mr. Hari describes nine solutions for resolving cultural disconnection, all of which involve social and cultural reconnection. By reconnecting with the most important pillars of our lives – what we consider our values, our purpose, and what work we consider meaningful, and by reaching out to our friends, families, and communities, we can improve our mental health, while elevating our relationship with, and hopes for, our futures.

Hari believes that the meaning of ‘antidepressant’ should be expanded from simply meaning a chemical antidepressant, to anything that makes people feel less depressed and anxious.

However, he cautions, “For something as devastating as depression—the worst thing I have ever been through—we need every strategy and tool on the table.”

In putting together this column, I looked up some current information on how Americans are handling the chaos of the trump administration. These figures show the past year’s prevalence of major depressive episode among U.S. adults aged 18 or older in 2017.

  • An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.
  • The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adult females (8.7%) compared to males (5.3%).
  • The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (13.1%).
  • The prevalence of major depressive episode was highest among adults reporting identifying as being of two or more races (11.3%).

North Americans are indeed experiencing more depressive episodes, in the last five years. It seems like the combination of politics and mental health is not … healthy.

The American Psychiatric Association reported that from 2016 to 2017, the proportion of adults who described themselves as more anxious than the previous year was 36 percent. In 2017, more than 17 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode, as did three million adolescents ages 12 to 17.Forty million adults now suffer from an anxiety disorder — nearly 20 percent of the adult population. (These are the known cases of depression and anxiety. The actual numbers must be dumbfounding.)

The really sorrowful reports concern suicide. Among all Americans, the suicide rate increased by 33 percent between 1999 and 2017.” (The New York Tmes, January 2020)

I dread seeing the figures for the years 2018—2020 when they are finally released. There has simply never been a harder time for many people, suffering under the multiple burdens of a global pandemic, a collapsing economy, a lack of equality, and a dawning recognition that the ‘normal’ we took for granted most of our lives, is really only beneficial to a small percentage of the population … and that doesn’t include you or me.

I highly recommend Lost Connections for anyone seeking to understand a little more about their own depression, and how to see, and understand, the ‘hurt’ so many of us live with on a daily basis. Kindness only kills when we deny it to ourselves and others.

No Sex Please We’re Plaguish


by Roxanne Tellier

Sum-sum-summertime! Toronto is in the middle of what seems like an unending heatwave. (And was that a tornado that just whizzed through my neighbourhood?)  

But, to be honest, I don’t mind the heat that much. I’m already staying inside most of the time, except to feed the critters, water the plants, and hit the ‘senior hour’ at the grocery store, because that’s where all the cool kids hang out.

Around the house, I can wear minimal clothing, and the lockdown means much fewer people just ‘dropping by,’ so my COVID hair and added avoirdupois aren’t the issues they’d be were I trying to socialize.

No, I don’t mind summer too much. Winter, now winter I truly hate, because winter hates me. Winter means dark days, depression, cold, damp, and my old bones crying out for warmth. I was born in winter, and winter will probably be the death of me.

Summer’s okay. Well, except for chocolate. Summer wants to melt my chocolate. But apart from that, I’m good.

How about you? How’s your sex life?  Let’s talk about sex, baby. Porn. Over-active hormones. The basic human need for people to interact, flirt with each other, get together, and press the flesh, nudge nudge wink wink.

Sex will always, always, always be more important to the passionate person, attempting to harness that raging and undeniable libido, than nearly anything else but raw survival. In the middle of fleeing a zombie attack, it is virtually guaranteed that at least one person will be unable to stop themselves from dropping trou and getting it on, be it with the living and/or the dead.

And that’s just as true during a once in a century, global pandemic.

Of course, that drives ‘spiritual leaders’ insane, because they know, from personal experience, that their doctrines are worth nothing in the face of passion. Sex is a stronger impulse than the need to worship. You’re a lot less likely to be tithing if you need that money to find and keep a honey….

What I’m saying is – it’s human nature to want to find a partner. And usually sex is a large part of the partnership.  And nothing anyone says is strong enough to stop a human with a high sex drive and raging hormones from inserting part A into part B. It’s going to happen, even in the middle of a pandemic. 

It happened when people worried about dying from venereal diseases like syphilis or gonorrhea. It happened when getting the crabs was a social faux pas. It happened when herpes came along, and when HIV/AIDS arrived on the scene. We still got together. We still gambled our sexual health on those people with enough chemistry to entice us to let down our guards, because no one that good looking could possibly be carrying a disease.  You know that’s how we rolled. 

Prior to this outbreak, Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Happn, Hinge – all of those apps sat unashamedly on the phone screens of people of all ages and inclinations. People loved being able to ‘swipe right’ to see who else might be out there. And they still do. Libido. Curiosity. Boredom. Swipe, swipe, swipe.

So now, they’ve got these new ads on TV for dating companies, promising to match people up, regardless of people being locked down. People around the world will always crave human connection. But these ads make me laugh, then shake my head. Human nature. People gonna hook up, no matter what or when.

I’m just not sure that watching people watching other people, and critiquing how they cook, exercise or iron their clothing, is really the right way to encourage a prospective dating client.       

In this new normal, many people can’t actually be physically together – they can’t touch, kiss, hug, have sex – but they experience virtual relationships, over their laptops, on Zoom, by phone. Some will decide to ‘Netflix and chill’ simultaneously. They’re bonding, they say. It’s just that they’re physically miles apart.

Seems to work for at least some of them. To me, I just wonder when the novelty will wear off, like it did with the Tamagotchi virtual pets. I wonder what ever happened to mine. I haven’t fed it since 1998.

Remember a couple of years back, when everyone was worried that teens would ruin their future sex lives by getting addicted to sex sites like Pornhub? The worry was that people – not just teens – would become desensitized to the idea of having sex with others, because of how easy it would be to have sex with yourself, the person who truly knows what turns your sexual crank.  

Today, there are few adults, male or female, that have not visited a porn site at some time.

I remember reading similar warnings when vibrators and other sex toys became ubiquitous. When the people enjoy that much control over their own sexuality, governments get nervous. They need people to be controllable.

And remember all those magazine articles taking the sides of those people who had high, low or zero sex drives, and how to deal with those ‘needs’? (Spoiler alert; any level is fine. But you’ll be happiest if you partner with someone who is on the same wave length.)   

This COVID thing … it’s a doozie. The virus has been found in saliva, semen, and feces. You can barely tell if you’re coming or going.

Luckily for you, most world governments have laid down some info on how to deal with these urges. They’re advocating masturbation, as a good way to keep it to yourself. Just be sure to wash your hands and sex toys with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after getting your self on.

They’re saying that you should be good to go if you’ve got a steady partner, that you live with. But they do warn that close contact, including sex, is best kept within a small circle of friends. Oh, you naughty government, with your wicked advice!  

So where does that leave our wannabe Leisure Suit Larrys?  Not in a great place. That ‘thing going on’ is gonna be a problem.

While we’re talking about partners, spare a thought for those of us who are in relationships. About a month into the lockdown, it was already getting hairy. We have all discovered that there CAN be too much togetherness. As a friend said recently, “It’s true that we’re all going to be so happy when we finally can get together with those we love and have missed. Just not those people that we’ve been locked down with… those people can go to hell… “ 

But hey! Look at the bright side. A research paper came out today that should radically kickstart a search for a vaccine and cure – the state of the penis is implicated. There may be erectile dysfunction to worry about!  Ventilator/Schmentilator. If there’s a penis somewhere that is unable to erect, we must sound the alarms!

“ Despite being a trivial matter for patients in intensive care units (ICUs), erectile dysfunction (ED) is a likely consequence of COVID-19 for survivors, and considering the high transmissibility of the infection and the higher contagion rates among elderly men, a worrying phenomenon for a large part of affected patients.

… Endothelial dysfunction, subclinical hypogonadism, psychological distress and impaired pulmonary hemodynamics all contribute to the potential onset of ED. Additionally, COVID-19 might exacerbate cardiovascular conditions; therefore, further increasing the risk of ED. Testicular function in COVID-19 patients requires careful investigation for the unclear association with testosterone deficiency and the possible consequences for reproductive health. Treatment with phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors might be beneficial for both COVID-19 and ED.” (NCBI.NIM.NIH. GOV.)

Truth be told, there’s always been some people who like to be in relationships, but would really rather not deal with another person, in person. They don’t want the hassle of dealing with someone else’s needs. Or smells. Or laundry.  For those people, this quarantine is a little slice of heaven.

Still, I know there’s hope, down the line. Someday, there will be hugs again. At some point we’ll all emerge from our caves like hibernating bears, and stagger about, clutching at each other.

And all we’ll have to do is get over our terror of other people’s COVID cooties.

Summer of Song Redux


by Roxanne Tellier

I’ve been overwhelmed, recently, with the events swirling around us. It’s too much. And today, although I had planned a look into trump and Ford’s plans to re-open schools this fall, I’m gonna take a pass, and a day off. Instead of current affairs, let’s enjoy the summer sun, and take a stroll down Memory Lane, to this slightly edited column that I first wrote in August of 2015. 

How very different things look now, from the perspective of 2020, and this time of plague! Seems almost naughty to see people gathered together, without masks or social distancing! And I’m not sure if any of the places I mentioned then, are open now. Never mind… Take my hand, come along with me on the wayback machine, and forget about life for a while ….

**************************************

Idaho. Lower Salmon River. Playing guitar around campfire. MR

This is not likely to ever make the cut as a ‘best summer.’ I’m well past cavorting on beaches, fending off amorous, slight intoxicated hotties while sprinting across hot sand in an improbable bikini, and then gathering around a romantic campfire eating s’mores, while some talented and ‘mature’ looking fellow strums a guitar for a singalong.

Nope, them days are long gone, if they ever existed. And they probably only ever belonged to Annette Funicello – she may have even held the copyright on Beach Blanket Bingos … and maybe Bob, in his Stockton youth, could lay claim to the times. The Beach Boys definitely had a lock on the sound of summer itself.

Canadian summers were always a little more sedate. Maybe it’s because Canadian winters, being endlessly cold and dark, except in beer commercials, ramp up the anticipation for a few days of sun and relaxation until nothing – and certainly not the few weeks of uncertain rain or shine we generally ‘enjoy’ – can quite compete with the hype.

Canadian beach sand can be very hot, but the water, primarily lake-derived, rarely gets over the temperature of a cold bath. An intrepid Canuck would-be swimmer learns early that the proper beach protocol is to dip in a toe, shiver, and then gird your loins for a plunge into the freezing liquid, where you immediately duck under until all but your head is submerged. You must then yell to your fellow revelers, a phrase as Canadian as, “take off, eh” ….  

“It’s not so bad once you’re in!”

For the timid and the dreamy, a trip to the beach is more likely to involve stumbling over the jagged stones on the shore in your flip flops, hoping to catch just enough of a breeze and spray to cool down.

There are many incredibly lovely lakes in Ontario… Sand Dunes comes to mind, where we once spent a few hours, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other families determined to have just one fun day in the sun, and trying to keep the flies and the sand off the sandwiches.  

Torontonians can ferry out to the Toronto Islands, with families heading straight for Centreville, where apparently the sun is always shining on Far Enough Farm and the kiddie rides. You can bring a picnic, and rent a bike, a canoe, or a kayak, while humming the Cowsill’sIndian Lake.”  The daring head for the clothing-optional beach on the western shore of Hanlan’s Point

It was all so different when I was a kid. Even beyond the fantasies induced by Beach Party flicks, Elvis romps, and Beach Boys songs. In the sixties, come summer, a kid was usually on his or her own, barring maybe a couple of week stint in a community day camp, and most of the time, my sister and I would have to fend for ourselves in the heat.

Montreal summers were glaringly bright, the sun reflecting harshly off the concrete, and the crowded, standing room only, buses reeked of sweat, garlic, and dime store perfume. It was a time to check out Jarry Park to catch the Expos, or to take an insanely long bus ride out to Belmont Park, which was falling apart in a wonderfully creepy fashion. The arcade reeked of burnt popcorn and worse, and the rides – especially the Wild Mouse – were suspect. But a kid could spend a whole day there for under a buck, including bus fare.  

As a teen, my summers were mainly city bound. My girlfriends and I would start tanning in the spring, lying bonelessly in our back yards, slathered from head to toe in baby oil. The truly fashionable used sun reflectors to capture every ray. This ritual was necessary before heading toe the local outdoor community pool, where it would have been beyond devastating to appear with any part of your body revealed to be ‘fish belly white.’   

The cool kids would always gather near the pool’s deep end, clustered by age group or appearance. Few would actually swim; pool water, with its high chlorine content, could do a real number on our Summer Blonde or lemon streaked hair. And bathing suits, pre-spandex, tended to stretch out with or without much exertion. No, we were there to see and be seen, our transistor radios blaring, and fingers crossed that the boys would see beyond our gawky physique to the teen angel concealed within. Those were the Peggy March, ‘I Will Follow Him’ days, when even the most casual encounter with the opposite sex meant that we were going to be together forever … or at least until school was back in session.

It was either summer school or a summer job in the sixties. Kids would try to get hired at the hot gathering spots, like the Dairy Queen, the Orange Julep, or the A&W. One of the benefits of working at any place where other kids hung out was that the owners were usually savvy enough to keep their radios set to a happening station, like CFOX, where Dean Hagopian, Charles P. Rodney (Chuckie) Chandler, or Roger Scott played the hits.

By 1969, CKGM-FM has morphed into CHOM-FM, and the music got really groovy. Doug Pringle was the city’s top DJ, and he was THE voice of Montreal for years, entertaining us with new music, while letting us listen in on his interviews with everyone from Marc Bolan to Jesse Winchester, with multiple stops in between.

The summer of ’72 brought the Watergate Scandal,  the horror of 11 Israeli athletes being murdered at the Munich Olympics, and the first talk of the IRA planting car bombs in Ireland.

But we were far more interested in listening to Seals and Croft.

By ’76, single again, and with the Olympics in full swing in Montreal, my footsteps kept time to the music. When I wasn’t hanging out at the Olympic Village, I was cruising Crescent Street, dancing to disco in my platform sandals. Soon I’d leave for Toronto, but in the summer of ’76, the city was mine, and I was taking my joy to the streets.

The summer of 1983. New wave was now firmly established in the charts and in the street. We’d gone from girl Groups like The Go Gos and The Bangles owning the summer charts in 1980, ’81, and ’82, to a more mature sound emerging as the artists of the 70s, like Martha Davis of The Motels, lost their youths and innocence, just like the rest of us. The boomers, once again, were growing older as a group, with the music guiding our journey.

The Tragically Hip, who appeared on the scene in 1987, burst out of the gate sounding like the voice of Canada. ‘Blow at High Dough’, ’38 Years Old,’ and ‘Fifty Mission Cap’ pulled a Maple Leaf flag over the band, but in 1998, they nailed Ontario summers forever with ‘Bobcaygeon.

These days there aren’t as many songs that, for me, capture that ‘summery’ feeling. Hitting it in the summer is not the same as having a classic summer song. Sure, you had Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’ in 2002, but that was mainly about getting jiggy, in any season. 2010s ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry was fun, but couldn’t hold a candle to either the Beach Boys, or even the Van Halen rendition of ‘California Girls.’

I’m the first to admit that I’m well out of the new music loop. Still, I’d gladly stack any of my summer songs against any that have come along in the last decade and a half. From the innocence of the Loving Spoonful’s ‘Rain on the Roof’ to the Who’s raucous, ‘Summertime Blues,’ Martha and the Vandella’s ‘Heatwave,’ and The Kinks louche ‘Sunny Afternoon,’ to the brassy horns of Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park.’ I’ve got a full house AND a royal flush of bona fide summer time music.

And that’s even before I pull out Billy Stewart’s 1966 hybrid of ‘Summertime’ that insists you feel the heat of the ‘hot’ summertime.

It’s summer. Find that Walkman you packed away a decade ago, fire up your favorite collection of greatest golden oldie summertime tunes on CD, and head on down to the nearest boardwalk. As the Doors once told us, ‘Summer’s almost gone,’ and before you know it, you’ll be saying, ‘See you in September.’

Pande-Malaise


by Roxanne Tellier  

Got an email from a friend the other day, headed “Enough already!”  Like so many of us – especially we older folks – she’s sick and tired of being locked down, exasperated with the conflicting information we’ve received, really scared of leaving her home unless it’s absolutely necessary, and furious with the scoffers who put her health in danger with their refusal to wear a mask.  

Really doesn’t help that we’ve had a lot of very hot days in the last few weeks. Everything’s a little worse when the heat sets in, and you’ve spent far more time with the same person than you ever counted on doing, way back when you first hooked up, and you both had lives, and jobs to go to.

Combine that with any amount of time on social media, and it’s a recipe for disaster, divorce, or defenestration. Gonna have to go on a diet, cut way back on my media, social or terrestrial, before I blow a fuse.

I’m just not made for these times, but, here’s the thing, though … nobody in today’s citizenry is really mentally equipped to handle months and months of isolation, waiting in lines, sacrificing, or accommodating crazy conditions, or for rallying around a flag in support of their nation. Our parents were, but that was then, and not at all like now, when the rallying cry and demand that one’s personal rights be respected is drowning out the cries of those actually fearful of becoming sick or dying. And those cries jockey for place with the cries for social justice, equality, an end to police brutality, and the need for a haircut and somewhere to enjoy a cold beer.

In many places in the world, strong leadership and a compliant citizenry have beaten back the worst of this modern plague. The key is to stay vigilant, and to follow the public health guidelines. Little by little, we’re moving in the right direction.

Not so in the US, natch, where the Feckless Leader has politicized the infectious disease, and has been rewarded with the deaths of nearly 130,000 Americans. After months of downplaying the seriousness of this pandemic, and sloughing the jobs off onto his sycophantic state governors, the new talking point out of the White House is that Americans “need to live with it.”

Apparently, trump has now realized that this bug is not going away so easily, and might still be a problem in November, when he hopes to be re-elected. Top officials are therefore pushing the need for life to move forward, regardless of reality, all in an effort to try and force the economy back to pre-pandemic days.

The virus is with us, but we need to live with it.

Hmm.. I think I’d rather avoid getting a terrible disease by doing a few simple things, like washing my hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing But hey… you do you.

The cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease,” trump intoned, by which he meant that he needed you guys – the voters, the essential workers – to get out there and get the economy restarted so that he could brag about it, and get re-elected. He sure as heck wasn’t gonna go be a greeter at WalMart or load a truck. And he never, ever cared if going out there got you killed. Not his problem, he kept telling you.

Talking points. Grand scale bull pucky. Lies, fantasy, magical thinking, “And then one day, it will just go away, like a miracle.” Seems a tad naïve coming from a 74 year old.

But sadly – too many of his adoring fans buy what he’s selling. It’s all branding, his words get repeated like they’re gospel, and like good little monkeys, the cultists swallow the dis- and misinformation they’re fed.

We gotta stop this, folks. Time to STOP with the retweeting and share of his moronic pronouncements, the pictures of his giant butt with a suspicious stain on the crotch, the inane flag and daughter molesting … yeah, it’s funny to you because you don’t like the guy, or his supporters, but all you’re doing is reinforcing his importance in their eyes.

Remember that it was the billions of dollars worth of free publicity given to him by mainstream and social media that won him the office in 2016! Repeating his name, showing his photo, making a fashion idol of his wife and daughter… and noting his lack of ability to be a hundred per cent sure which is which… is not helping. People are stupid. They have a lot to do, a lot to see, they’re working, they’re dealing with their lives, and you repeating his name over and over like it’s gonna summon CandyMan just gives more credence to him, in their eyes.

“You have Donald Trump coming along and getting all this coverage without spending a dime,” said Paul Senatori, chief analytics officer at Portland-based mediaQuant.

The real estate magnate got $4.96 billion in free earned media in the year leading up to the presidential election. He received $5.6 billion throughout the entirety of his campaign, more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio combined.

Over the past 12 months, the president-elect received more than $800 million in free earned broadcast media, compared to $666 million for Clinton, and $2.6 billion in free earned online news attention, compared to $1.6 billion for his rival. He edged out her and other major political names in American and worldwide newspapers as well.  (The Street, Nov 2016)

He’s ugly, he’s stupid, his family sucks baboons. We know. And if anyone recognizes how tempting it is to post or share another unflattering photo of that gang, it’s me. But we have to stop handing him another term.

Meanwhile, we’ve got this whole summer to get through, and some of us are having a harder time with it than others. Geez, if you’re not getting a government cheque of some kind, or doing an ‘essential worker’ job that hopefully won’t get you sick, there’s hard times and troubles a coming. I don’t think most of us realized how interconnected we all were until we got to this place in time, and for many, it’s a disaster.

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On the other hand – refusing to face reality because it’s too negative, well, that’s a lot like pretending you’re Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. And we all know that blindfold is not gonna stop the monsters from coming.  Being willfully blind to reality is not gonna help.

Sure, it’s better to ‘think positively’ but trump’s playing cheerleader for the States hasn’t stopped 130 thousand deaths. How’s that working out for him? Or them?

There’s things we have to discuss, bloody big things, like the economy, racism and police brutality, equality, how our banking systems work, what we do with our ‘dirty’ money, how we feel about our own political systems, and what happens if things go even worse down South. All of that is not going to go away, no matter how willfully a blind eye we turn to it. In this case, thinking positively is pretty much down to having a good income regardless of the circumstances, and not caring about how others are doing. In other words… that’s privilege, bud. 

In truth, things could be worse. A lot worse. And look how much HASN’T gone wrong yet. Though I may be speaking too soon ….  

I wanna talk about how we can move forward to a new normal, because that old normal wasn’t great for very many people. Let’s shake it up, let’s talk about progress, moving forward, helping each other, building futures for our kids and grandkids, remembering that, because of COVID-19, we haven’t been really paying a lot of attention to climate change, but it never stopped while we looked away.

I’m still reeling from the realization that, while we’re just trying to get through this year, Premier Ford’s been putting into place some pretty nasty things that made ZERO sense, but that he’s claimed are important to the economy. I fail to see how allowing environmental degradation, and cutting off protections for our land and water, helps anyone but his cronies.

“On April 1, citing the pandemic, the government suspended a broad swath of environmental protection law, effectively allowing the province to push forward environmentally significant projects or policy changes — even those that don’t relate to COVID-19 — without consulting or notifying the public.”  (National Observer, May 2020)

Why? Because he could, and you were too busy just trying to survive to notice.

But on the other hand, consider this. We have a chance to change our world, to demand that it change, because ‘business as usual’ has taken a holiday. 

As my buddy Michael Scrivener and I dissected this COVIDy world over lunch the other day, (well, someone has to take it apart and put it back together PROPERLY!) we mused on the things that seemed unlikely to ever return.  Like ‘power suits,’ ties, even pants, which for some reason seems one of the first things a guy likes to divest himself of, given half a chance. Commuting – why? Who would want to suffer an hour or more on public transit, now braving far worse than the lack of a seat, or a fellow passenger’s bad breath, when one could simply plop oneself down in front of a home computer – pantless, if desired – and get started on the day with a coffee at hand that didn’t cost $5?

Even the most controlling middle manager would likely prefer to torment you by twitter or private message than to budge his middle class butt from his middle class bungalow in some much less expensive suburb far far away.

And then what about commercial real estate? Why rent an entire floor in a downtown office tower if your satellite workers are themselves paying for the roof over their heads?

Ah, you say, but what then of all those towers blocking our sight-lines?  Would they be empty vessels, swaying in the breeze?  

Well, how about the people reclaim that territory? Most of those buildings already have multiple elevator banks in place, that divvy up the floors. You could easily put the remaining office types in the higher floors, whisked up and away to their offices with expensive views, while leaving the lower floors for better usage.

Like rejigging all that lovely square footage into rent controlled apartments and rentable rooms for the homeless, the elderly, anyone who loves this city but can’t afford to live in it. Why not create floors of work and practice studios for artists, musicians, dancers? And while you’re at it…, put in some performance spaces, big and empty enough to allow social distancing.

It’s your world. The sky COULD be the limit. You wanna think positive? Start right here with what matters to you. Think about how YOU would fix this world. We need to use this ‘pause’ in the world turning to see that the old normal had quite a lot wrong with how it worked, but if we work cooperatively, and demand progressive change, we might be able to turn this Titanic disaster into a luxury cruise.

Eyes on the prize! Only you can prevent Kanye West from becoming president!

I Me My Narcissism


by Roxanne Tellier

Richard Nixon gave a defiant concession speech in 1962 that ended with …. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

The incredible narcissism and entitlement in that statement, coming from a man that was lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, still sends a frisson up my spine.

Had Nixon not heeded the potentates of his own party who advised him to resign, he would surely have been impeached by the House and removed from office by a trial in the Senate for his complicity in the Watergate burglary and ensuing coverup. As it was, 69 of his cronies were indicted, and 48 of those people were convicted and penalized.

Watergate came to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, including bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious; ordering investigations of activist groups and political figures; and using the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency,  and the Internal Revenue Service as political weapons.”  (Wikipedia)

Man – trump’s reign of terror is not just history rhyming, that’s a whole poetry slam right there.

The common denominator? An overwhelming self-entitlement, a belief that their acts and place in history should be above the law, a willingness to use the most powerful position in America like Negan used Lucille in The Walking Dead … and malignant narcissism.

To a narcissist, the absolute worst thing that they can threaten you with is their absence. They can’t imagine the horror your life would be without them in it. Their message is “How will you cope without me in your world? I am the sun of your universe, I cannot conceive of a world without me in it, and neither should you!”

The world is filled with narcissists, not just in politics, but in big business, the sciences, the entertainment world, and in our homes.

(“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.”  Mayo Clinic, 2017.)

No one can definitively say what causes someone to believe that they are more important than everyone else that they know. Nonetheless, the disorder seems to be growing exponentially.

While full-bodied narcissistic personality disorder is still a fairly unusual diagnosis, the rise of reality tv, social media, and the glorification of this type of personality has upped the ante. Modern narcissism isn’t so much about the disorder as it is about the rise in narcissistic traits.

It’s been a slippery slope for those with the tendency to self-promote. Remember when we used to laugh at those people who never saw a meal they couldn’t find a way to photograph, glorify and show their friends and followers on Facebook? When Instagram came along, narcissists were in their glory, showing off their clothing, homes, and vacations, all so that those with less would feel envious.  

The more we abandoned any pretence of humility, the more the spotlight shone on our deficiencies and perceived imperfections. By 2015 the waiting lists for cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and alternative ‘enhancements’ were stretching around the block and two streets over.

Like needy children, we wanted everyone to ‘watch me, mommy!’ as we posed, sang, danced, and twirled before our imagined audiences. But that was just the beginning.

Many narcissists in the public eye choose to display a lack of caring for others, and a disdain for empathy, which neatly coexists with a glorification of one’s own talents and popularity.  Even the relevance of celebrity deaths, for instance, can only be understood in the context of their own loss.

When these people are informed of terrible tragedies – babies in cages at the border, the Charlie Hebdo attack, millions starving and dying from thirst and bombs in far flung countries – their concern is not for those in misery, but rather, in how to best spin their public reactions to switch the focus from those suffering, to themselves, as the ‘real victims.’ No matter how tragic an event, the narcissist only sees the calamity in the context of their own reactive wretchedness.

We used to be able to shrug off most garden variety narcissists as laughable, childish, needy creatures. But the tendency to believe that one is extraordinary (along with the obvious problem, which is that most people are simply and resoundingly NOT special) is increasing by the day.

The narcissist’s beliefs are unrealistic, but in a world where a financially and morally bankrupt ‘celebrity’ malignant narcissist can become president of the United States, how exactly do you define ‘unrealistic’?

I can’t swear that the rise of trump is tied to a rise in narcissism in North America, though I do see a through line in the rise of populist leaders, who tend to speak to the basest of our individual appetites. Three recent studies would seem to agree with that premise.

“A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.

The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.

The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.” (Science Daily.com)

I don’t even play a political scientist on TV. But what I DO know, is that, in the age of COVID-19, narcissists can be extremely dangerous to your health.  

During this pandemic, people have been asked to observe a few simple health precautions, to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay about 2 metres away from others.

That shouldn’t be that big a deal, or terribly hard to do. After all, all the wearing of a mask says is that the wearer recognizes their membership in their community.

But for some, covering their mouth and nose with cloth or other semipermeable material when near strangers in public settings inspires fear of an over-reaching government, and a denial of their ‘rights.’

Yes, this whole pandemic thing is a major pain in the butt. Yes, the mask can feel hot and itchy, and make your glasses fog up, while making those of us with lung issues feel claustrophobic and shorter of breath than usual.

But for many of us, there’s no real issue there. If wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and keeping surfaces sanitized to prevent a viral infection is necessary, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not 1865, and we’re not Dr Joseph Lister trying to sell his discovery that washing hands could allow mothers to survive childbirth; this is 2020, and we should all be intelligent and mature enough to follow simple precepts that have been the norm for cleanliness and safety for over a century and a half.

But those pesky narcissists don’t think in terms of what is best for all, because they are emotionally immature. They believe that their ‘rights’ make them exempt from social norms, even during a pandemic, and they lack empathy, which leads them to believe that no one’s health but their own is of any concern.

Being a narcissist is to live inside a bubble of need and entitlement. Without the slightest concept of altruism, the life and death worries of others are just not a concern. Even when they are told that they will have to continue to live in a ‘new normal’ that means that they can’t get out to have fun with their friends, even as the European Union and other countries put the USA on a no entry list, and even as people continue to become infected .. and die … from a virus that other countries are able to control through sane public health regulations, they continue to believe that their own personal rights and freedoms supersede the personal rights and freedoms of others.

Entitlement. My rights over yours.  My needs being more needy and important than yours. My rights to be the victim superseding the actual hospitalization and death of the more vulnerable.  And if granny or mummy dies, it’s all about my loss, not her death, cuz poor little me is now an orphan!

It’s emotional bullying, and in many cases, physical bullying.  The armed militia groups dressed in army fatigues that stormed government offices to demand their rights were trampling ALL over the rights of everyone in their path. But narcissism … it’s a hell of a drug.

People who enjoy the rights, freedoms and privileges of our society do not have the right to refuse to acknowledge that other people have those same rights, freedoms and privileges. 

And there’s really nothing sadder than an over privileged narcissist finally discovering the very hard way that their personal world is not the centre of the universe.

PS… NEW Randy Rainbow! 😉

BONUS ROUND:

Are YOU a narcissist? Why not take this simple test and see!?

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/NPI/