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.

DSC04279.CR2

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/

And Then I Wrote


by Roxanne Tellier

From time to time, people have accused me of ‘hating’ Donald Trump irrationally. But really, there’s nothing irrational about me hating the guy. I admit it, I despise him, and everything he is, has been, and currently represents. So should any free-thinking lover of progress, freedom, individual and civil rights, and most of all – democracy.

I might even argue that it’s irrational to LIKE the guy, since, no matter how hard you search, you are unlikely to find even one moment of his life, or one action that he has taken, that has been in service to anything other than himself and his ego.

What’s to like? Go ahead, throw a dozen things you like about him at me, and I’ll knock them back to you with a rebuttal quicker than the most expensive ball player could do in his entire career.  You may not agree, you may not believe me, you may call it ‘fake news, ’ but at some point, and in the fullness of time, even his most devoted and loving acolyte will be soundly and permanently disabused of the idea that trump’s got anything but contempt and disdain for anyone but himself.

You don’t even have to take my word for it. At last count, pretty much all of the current best sellers listed in the nonfiction section were written by people who were, at one time, not only colleagues of the man, but counted themselves as faithful and loyal friends, even family. Right up until the day they were booted out the door, and trump told the press that he never met them, might have seen them in passing in the hall, but that he’d always considered them weak, stupid losers that he – as a form of noblesse oblige – had deigned to allow to sit in his regal presence for a short time.

The walrus-moustachioed John Bolton, formerly the late, unlamentedNational Security Advisor of the United States,  is the latest ex to literately spill the tea on his OrangeNess, ripping off the title The Room Where It Happened from the hit musical Hamilton, perhaps hoping that a little bit of the musical’s hipness would rub off on his tome.

The funny thing about Bolton is not that extravagant and clearly well-loved moustache, it’s that he’s disliked equally on both sides of the political scene. And while we’re all happy to snicker over the revelations the books has produced, despite it’s not even being available (supposedly – I’ve already got a pdf of it) until Tuesday, most people are planning to avoid actually BUYING a copy. The libraries will serve as the greatest resource for his wordy work, I have heard. 

People resent that Bolton dragged his feet when asked to contribute to the pre-impeachment discovery sessions, waiting until offered a cool $2 million to tell the world what he really should have said then – that the president had not only committed the crimes with which he’d been charged, but several other impeachable offenses that the Democrats had not added to their suit. In fact, he was pretty snippy about the Dems not having done so, despite the fact that he had not actually given them any of the requested information.

Some would say that Bolton screwed Americans over twice – once as a trump appointee who failed to ‘tell all’ when his country needed him … and now as a very well-paid author of a ‘tell all.’

He’s joined the rogues gallery of cowards who laboured under trump, took his money, and then spilled their guts when their hearts were broken. Eventually pretty much every one of his handpicked, adoring cadre will have their own moment in the author spotlight. And these aren’t the ‘never trumpers’ .. they’re the die hard fans for whom he could do no harm.

History offers a plethora of examples of presidents who’ve clashed with their staff, but this is an extraordinary deluge of those who once grovelled at his feet and kissed the ground upon which he walked, who are now expecting us to believe that they’ve had an epiphany since being bounced from the White House. NOW they realize that he’s incompetent, incapable, and, yes, as bad as his critics said he was. NOW they want us to believe that they thought he was just fooling when he told them straight out that he was a snake.

Having bought back the souls they sold to trump to secure employment, they are now happy to resell their souls for a chance at political redemption, along with the fat advances they’re receiving from publishers. And the public eats it up.  

In 2020 alone, we’ve had Bolton’s book, along with a tome from Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig titled A Very Stable Genius, and a book written by trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump, whose axe to grind is titled Too Much and Never Enough; How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.  

Last year saw six books, from everyone from Jim Acosta to Anonymous, Victor Davis Hanson, James Poniewozik, Rick Reilly, and Michael Wolff, which joined the thirteen books published in 2018, and the eighteen penned in 2017.

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who stood by while trump cut taxes on the rich, demanded an expensive and nonsensical border wall, and who turned a blind eye to cruel practices designed to hurt Muslims, immigrants and Dreamers, yet nevertheless managed to release his “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea, “ in which he revealed that trump knew nothing about governing and operated on ‘knee-jerk reactions.”  

Omarosa Maningault Newman, Trump’s former communications director for the Office of Public Liaison, and his token African American female, left us with “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” in which she revealed trump as a racist with no aversion to repeatedly using the “N-word” as he slimed people of colour behind their backs. 

The list goes on and on …. Anthony Scaramucci, Sean Spicer, James Comey, Hope Hicks, H.R. McMaster, even convicted presidential campaign adviser Roger Stone – all have profited from their association with trump.

Tell all’s about trump are nothing new. In 1993, Harry Hurt III published “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump,” an unauthorized biography that used parts of trump’s first wife, Ivana’s, divorce deposition to describe his cruelty. 

“The part of the book that caused the most controversy concerns Trump’s divorce from his first wife, Ivana. Hurt obtained a copy of her sworn divorce deposition, from 1990, in which she stated that, the previous year, her husband had raped her in a fit of rage. In Hurt’s account, Trump was furious that a “scalp reduction” operation he’d undergone to eliminate a bald spot had been unexpectedly painful. Ivana had recommended the plastic surgeon. In retaliation, Hurt wrote, Trump yanked out a handful of his wife’s hair, and then forced himself on her sexually. Afterward, according to the book, she spent the night locked in a bedroom, crying; in the morning, Trump asked her, “with menacing casualness, ‘Does it hurt?’ ” Trump has denied both the rape allegation and the suggestion that he had a scalp-reduction procedure. Hurt said that the incident, which is detailed in Ivana’s deposition, was confirmed by two of her friends.”

At some point, even the most fervent supporter has got to see that there is indeed something about trump, and it’s disgusting. Just ask anyone who has been in his presence for more than – how long did Scaramucci last, eleven days?

So it’s not just me, is what I’m saying. And I’m gonna keep on hating trump – rationally or irrationally – for as long as he is resident on this planet, whether that be as president or, hopefully, in good time, as a long-term political prisoner.

……………………………………………….

I caught this 2019 ideaCity talk on YouTube last week, and was just blown away. I hope those who cherish democracy, and who have been wondering if there’s any hope for the planet, will take some comfort from Marie Henein’s calm, yet passionate, defence of democracy, and the free speech that enables democratic nations. This one’s a keeper.

“Here’s the three things that I noticed happen. The democratic dialogue has been replaced with a digital screaming match. Our ideas of democracy began to unmoor from liberalism, and the concept of democracy was suddenly equated with populism. Or as some authors have called it, we see the rise of Illiberal democracy.  And thirdly, caught in the eye of the storm were many of the values and freedoms so essential to reconcile the success of the democracy with the protection of minorities, of the marginalized, of those who did not have the majority vote. “

Democracy and Freedom of Speech – Marie Henein

Perspective


by Roxanne Tellier

I blame social media and reality TV.

I blame reality TV because the flood of singing, dancing, housewifing and endurancing series that became ubiquitous during the early 2000s were the catalyst for too many narcissists to believe that their big fish in a small local pond anonymity was only an audition and a bunch of ‘likes and shares’ away from stardom. And that belief, that, in the past, would have been knocked out of them by cruel reality, has gone right to our collective heads.   

I blame social media because it gave us a forum, a place where we could not only display our new found talents, but that also laid down a platform from which some of the worst ‘thinkers’ and ‘philosophers’ imaginable could find the like minded, and share their convoluted and wrong headed ‘theories.

Having seen people who seem ‘just like us!’ achieve a little traction, if not actual fame, on the television, and on social media, many seized on the idea that this gives everyone not just the right, but the obligation, to get our own talents and ideas out there.

We really want to have our say on things. We insist, in fact, on others hearing our every opinion, on every subject, regardless of our relative knowledge or ignorance of a given subject. And we not only want you to hear what we think – we insist you agree. And we’ll hound you to the ends of the earth, if that’s what it takes, to pound our truth into your skull. (Just LIKE them .. maybe then they’ll go away.)

The belief that, despite lacking education, training, or experience, any of us is capable of being anyone from a Kardashian sibling to a POTUS – couldn’t have come at a more chaotic moment in time.

We are living in an exceptional period, when external pressures – a global pandemic, that brought about an economic freefall, that then coincided with an onslaught of videotaped police overstepping and brutality, which has drawn worldwide attention to systemic racism – has rocked the planet. It’s a powder keg.

There are some huge issues being discussed. The status quo, economic and social inequality, and the sense that injustice and poor governance were simply the way things are and would never change, has been challenged.

And that’s hard to get our head’s around, on some days, because in the bigger picture, life might feel off kilter, and like we’re living in BizarroWorld, but we don’t see all that much difference in our day to day circumstances. I adjust. You adjust. We all adjust, and the changes slowly become the new normal.

On my street, there’s little difference between this June and last. It’s not like every second house has someone who is ill or has died. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone walking up the street that wasn’t white. Most of the vehicles on my street are of current vintage, and the guy that comes around to root through the recycling bins for empties always finds a treasure trove, because people in this neighbourhood can afford to be generous with what they discard.  

No one that we’ve spoken to, in this area, has lost anyone to COVID. They might know someone who had a winter flu/cold that just wouldn’t go away, but few know of anyone affected personally.

Contrast that with the people who work in the health care industry, who have had to face the ugly reality of illness and death by this virus. Those who are living in the belly of the beast reach out to us, on the television, on the radio, on social media, warning us of the horrors possible during our 2020 plague.  

And since those two realities – one in which one is unaffected, and the other in which one is soaking in misery – are so very different, many just don’t know what to believe. How does the reality of millions infected, and that hundreds of thousands are dead, equate with the lack of concern we see in our every day lives?

This is a time when, instead of ‘sorry’ being the hardest word, actually saying ‘I don’t know’ has become anathema. And yet, it’s also a time when literally NO BODY, despite not knowing what is going to happen next, can stop talking about what they think might happen. We know that we would like our lives to go back to pre-COVID normalcy, we know that there are going to be some hard economic times ahead, and we really wish that police in Canada would stop mistreating and killing indigenous people, and that police in the US would stop torturing and murdering people of colour.

But not a single one of us – and that includes all of those people who have spent their lives studying disease, economics, politics and racial issues – knows for certain what tomorrow is going to look like.  

Which still doesn’t stop many of us from weighing in on what we believe is happening, what we would personally like to happen, rather than admitting that we just don’t know what is happening.

There’s a meme going around on social media that suggests that everyone should just do whatever they want to do, and leave everyone else alone to do what ever those other people want to do. Which is the kind of thing that kids say before they’ve spent much time out in society and learned that there are rules and laws in every civilization that are put into place to protect us from well-meaning idiots.

Despite all of that, social and mass media are afloat in the uninformed spouting their theories on how best to tackle COVID, the economic crisis, racism, and what should be done in the event that we fall into either a second wave of COVID or another global Depression.  

As America confronts it’s racial injustice and systemic racism, under a president that seems to revel in his own racism and bigotry, Canada has to look to its own self to see what can be done within our own country to root out the sins and crimes that allowed our nation to grow and thrive, often at the expense of our original people.

There’s never been a time when we’ve been more in need of generous, empathic, and wise leaders. Sadly, leaders of such calibre are rare.

But there sure are a lot of ‘experts’ on social media that think that they alone have all the answers. Say – isn’t that how trump got the POTUS gig? How’s that working out for you so far, kiddies?

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Comedian Dave Chappelle released this short, heartbreaking commentary on American racism on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon it had been viewed over 13 million times. I may watch it 13 million more times.

Society’s Child


by Roxanne Tellier

Kids really know how to push their parent’s buttons. As a smart-ass teenager in the sixties, I pushed quite a few myself. At one family dinner, while I silently pondered the lyrics to Janis Ian’s song, Society’s Child, I suddenly announced to the table, “I’d marry a black man, if I was in love with him.” 

BOOM!

It was 1965. Only a few years had passed since the United States had begun desegregating schools, and we were still three years away from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Although talk of civil rights was rife, it was far off and far away. Still, you’d think I’d have known that bringing up interracial integration wasn’t really going to enhance our dinner conversation, especially when one of the people at the table was a redneck from Alberta. But it was the sixties, and everything was changing. Or at least, we believed that was the case.

To be fair, it must be noted that my exposure to people of colour had been minimal to that point. There’d been a little girl about my age whom I’d met one summer, and there were one or two girls at Academie Assomption, but since I’d moved to Montreal, the only non-whites I’d met were the Raeburn family from Grenada, who were active in the church my family attended. In truth, I’d never lived anywhere where there were many non-whites. In Alberta, the prejudices were thick on the ground, but mostly directed at immigrants who didn’t conform to established conservative ways.

And of course, the real prejudice of the West was against indigenous people, but we didn’t talk about that, because it was just the way it was. That’s Canada’s shame, just as slavery is America’s shame. And those were the days when kids played Cowboys and Indians, wearing their Davy Crockett coonskin caps, and shouting “Hi Ho SILVER!”

None of which excuses how we treated people who were unlike our own white selves. The term ‘privilege’ was about five decades away from being coined, but it certainly described the smug, complacent attitude of many Albertan first families, as it did the people still clinging to the idea of a glorious Confederacy.

With perspective, I can look back to the middle of the twentieth century and see how even the most progressive nations and leaders were struggling with their own prejudices and biases, while attempting to bring their countries and citizens forward into the twenty first century. If we could send a man to the moon, the thought went, surely, we could accept a person of colour sitting beside us at the lunch counter.

But in truth, many of those leaders, despite good intentions, struggled to get past their own innate beliefs that minorities simply weren’t equal to those that controlled the political, financial, and religious foundations of society.

And so, a lot of promises were made, that really amounted to telling people of colour that their time would come… and white people would be the judge of when that time would be.

People are funny; we tend to be accepting of most of what comes to us, until someone gives us a plausible reason why we should not. I was raised without prejudices, I would have argued, taught to feel empathy and kindness to everyone. When I looked at other kids, I measured them against my own sliding scale of kids that were bigger or smaller, smarter or more talented, and either nice or mean in temperament. Nothing else really mattered, and why should it?

When I ignited my dad’s rage by suggesting that I might be amenable to a racial intermarriage, I was too young and new to the world to understand that my dad had deep seated prejudices, based on his own life experiences. I thought that racism was just something that the American South had to worry about.  

In truth, the roots of prejudice are deep in the hearts and souls of all countries, including our own.

Over the last few years, I have come to many conclusions about life. Fr’instance, until two years ago, I’d never realized that the “r” in Tellier was silent. It just didn’t occur to me. In the same way, it never occurred to me that I have often had to defend my defense of the victims of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and a host of other very ugly ideas, by claiming an alliance of some kind. Kind of like when you realize that the misogyny that propelled action and the #MeToo movement really did impact a lot of your generation. Sometimes it takes a while for truth to percolate.

I had intuited that my belief in the equality and humanity of someone who was not white (or male) had to have a twist in the tail, some kinship that I could claim, in order to be deemed viable. On some level, I understood that my good intentions alone were not enough of an acceptable criterion to those whose personal identity required that there be someone else whom we all agreed was ‘less than’ themselves.  

Racism can be subtle

But subconsciously, I knew. There was a subtle bullying in the schools, in the work place, and in many parts of the entertainment world. You were welcome to hold your belief of equality, but only if you realized that bucking the trend would cost, in some way. It might be that the people you worked with would close ranks against you, or, if the prejudicial treatment came down from upper management, you could find your career grossly sidelined, without the slightest recourse.

Some of us chose to be silent when we heard cruel comments aimed against women or minorities, as a way to ‘go along to get along.’  If you’re desperate to keep your job, you can be easily persuaded that towing the party line is the best way forward. Even if a part of your conscience considers those remarks insulting to not just the despised but to all of humanity, bucking the tide can have consequences.

I’d speak out, but I’d tie my words to words that were feminine enough to stump the bullies. I defended women because I was a woman. Because I have family and friends who were indigenous or people of colour, I could stand by them without recourse.  

I was finding workarounds to avoid the bullies.  I was making excuses for why I honestly cared about others being mistreated. And it took me nearly a lifetime to finally see that the real villains were those who shamed those of us who just simply cared about the well-being of others. I should never have felt that I had to claim kinship to justify my alliance, but I was always aware that there were far too many people in power who – subtly, or outrightly – will shoot first and ask questions later. We are bullied into silence, while the racism goes on all around us.

I spoke my truth, but I spoke softly, afraid to bring down the same mistreatment upon myself for seeking that we all be treated fairly, as equals.

People don’t generally divide neatly into good or evil categories, but there are many who have wonderfully good intentions who never get around to being the helpers of the world. Some can’t bring themselves to speak up, when others traffic in racism, bigotry, and misogyny. Some stay in power by denying true equality to others, in order to keep other racists and bigots happy.  

Chris Rock Bad Apple Metaphor 

That’s why this battle for equality has gone on for far too long. People tell me that things are going to be different after this protest, that there’ll be real change. They tell me that the little ones growing up now are different, and that those kids will insist on everyone being treated as equals. And I hope they are right. I hope those kids grow up to become the adults who do good things, and that there is hope for an inclusive future for all.

But a part of me is still that kid that thought we were on the right track way back in ’65. And in the 70s, and in the 90s, after the Rodney King riots. I’ve lived through all of the horrible mass shootings, including Sandy Hook, and I remember how we said things were gonna change. I remember a president weeping over those tiny bodies. And when I look around, I see that there have been 2,482 mass shootings since Sandy Hook. In 2015 alone, American police killed more than 100 unarmed black people.

So many dead. So many people of colour beaten, or raped, or murdered. It’s almost like all of those ‘thoughts and prayers’ didn’t matter at all.

I want to believe we can change. But to do so, we need leaders who insist on stoking our better angels, and who will accept nothing but our best. We deserved better. And our children deserve better.

We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd | Patriot Act 

Mourning as Minnesota Burns


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m pretty sure we’ve been living in an alternate reality since 2008, created by firing up the Large Hadron Collider. What else could explain this bizarre branch of a timeline we’re currently experiencing?   

Just when you almost get a little less uncomfortable with this new normal of a global pandemic, you get word that marauding monkeys attacked a lab worker in India, before grabbing and fleeing with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients. Now, if that is not the premise of some next level, ‘ripped from the headlines’, straight to video, Planet of the Apes sequel right there, I don’t know what is.

But apparently nothing is ever going to make sense again, at least according to the mass murderer currently occupying the White House. The guy that has spent the last four years looting America’s treasury is not fond of those who only loot as a side gig. This weekend, as protestors surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trump’s bull roars  alternated between cries of “Get off my lawn!” with “Release the hounds!”

America, desperately in need of a true leader to guide them through a unique moment in time, is instead saddled with an incompetent and increasingly paranoid madman, who is utterly incapable of handling any of the problems he brought upon himself by dismantling the nation with the zeal of a toddler eviscerating a butterfly.

America needs someone that can listen and attempt to understand the anguish of the people of colour who, along with the rest of the world, this week watched a New York City woman willfully attempt to summon triggered police to come to her ‘rescue’ from an African American male who dared to tell her to leash her dog.   

The nation needs someone who can pour enough calming oil on the current conflagration to begin to defuse the righteous anger boiling over in the streets as yet another black man is brutally murdered in broad daylight and in high definition video. Trump offers only more gasoline for the flames.

The country needs someone to begin the process of reuniting what was once the United States of America, lest they find themselves instead reliving the horrors of the first Civil War, in a second one in which a core group of the combatants routinely carry some of the deadliest weapons on the planet for a visit to their local supermarket or restaurant.

Instead of a steady hand on the tiller of state, the US has the misfortune of having elected someone who made it his mission to frighten the nation with tales of the boogie men that ‘he alone’ could save them from. Terrified and vulnerable, Americans were putty in his snake oil salesman tiny hands, and rushed to buy the hats that assured them that trump was the one who could Make America Great Again.  Like all rubes, they then discovered the bait and switch of trump’s vision for their future, which he had led them to believe was like a Norman Rockwell painting on a Life magazine cover, but that instead more closely resembled New York City’s mean and dirty streets of the nineties. Trump’s shell game substituted Shangri La with something more resembling a scene from Escape from New York. Bullies, bad guys, corruption, porn, graft, and petty-minded spite are the Special of the Day, every day, under this fast food presidency. 

In the absence of an official Consoler in Chief, Joe Biden is leaping into the breech, and starting to make an argument that Trump is literally attempting to kill the very people that elected him to the position of POTUS. From the disastrous mishandling of everything to do with controlling the pandemic, to his irresponsible and possibly fatal medical advice, to his jeering at those wearing masks to protect themselves and others, trump daily makes the case that his primary mission is not to lead his people out of the wilderness, but instead into the Valley of Death, with each member of his cult toting a Solo Cup of Lysol bleach with a hydroxychloroquine chaser.

Trump tweets his eagerness to sic vicious dogs on protestors, while he shoots a wink and a nod to the white supremacists and vigilantes answering his calls for violence in the streets. He craves the clamour of his rallies, where the spittle infused and unmasked cultists scream out his name as if his mere presence brings them to orgasm. They are his PowerPill, his magical genies in bottles, who are there to allow him to bask in their reverence. That’s how he gains his strength, and if getting tens of thousands of his minions together in one place means widespread transmission of a deadly virus, causing the supporters or members of their family to become ill or die, why, this is the price you must be willing to pay for having your savior so very close. At least, they console themselves and each other, we’re not ‘sissies’ like those lefty liberal mask wearers.

These trumpCultists have always had the sheen of weekend warriors, like Furries or LARPers, people that like to pretend to be something other than what they really are, if just for an hour or a day. Most of them are as cowardly as their leader, but revel in feeling like naughty little ‘despicables’ while they caress their AR 15s. Dying for trump would be a ‘badge of honour’ as he called it, the stigmata of a true believer.

(Try as I might, I cannot fathom why the “Right” would want to encourage the spread of a fatal disease amongst their own supporters. Oh sure, we’re starting to get a few mayors, governors, and even Shawn Hannity, who are encouraging people to keep themselves safe, but I just can’t understand how so many city and state leaders are so spineless that they’ll fail to protect their citizens in order to keep trump from howling his displeasure. It’s like they’ll never have to worry about people voting them back into office. Hmmmmm …do they know something we don’t know?)

Last week, the Lincoln Project released an anti trump advertisement entitled “Mourning in America.“ This week they’ll have enough footage of looted and burned out businesses across America to recreate “Mississippi Burning.” 

I’m tired, dear reader, I’m so very, very tired of this president, who constantly needs more attention than a new born babe, and will just not leave us alone for even a quiet hour of reflection. Instead, we must continuously suffer the drip drip drip of his venomous tweets, until he’s called on the carpet for disregarding site regulations, and immediately vows that social media will PAY for not licking his toes correctly. He can’t legally shut down Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of the other social media sites yet … but you can bet your best booties that it is one of the first things he’ll get done should he get a second term.  

And if I can’t get away from his looming influence, and I’m way over here in Canada, imagine how draining it must be to live under his depressing regime in any of the states, but particularly in any of the Red States that are slavishly subservient to trump’s every whim. It must be terrifying, made all the more terrifying if you are also a person of colour, where cries for help are met with callous indifference, and quite often, a brutal slaying by those charged with serving and protecting the masses.

In trump’s America, white, heavily armed protestors have free reign to storm the state Capital in Michigan, disrupting the legislators working inside it’s walls, because the white protestors are ‘exercising their constitutional rights.”

But in Minnesota, in the minds of these same officials, black protestors are rioters and looters, fit only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,

For a person of colour in today’s America, even the most educated, renowned and respected can never be certain if they, or their children, will survive an encounter with their local police.

“Do you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we saw in Minneapolis on Wednesday night? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.   

I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.

I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably, and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet.”   

………….. Yes, Gregory and Travis McMichael — along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s killing on cellphone video — have been arrested and charged with murder. And yes, Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers who watched him kill Floyd have been fired, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be filed against them.

But if the only result is another couple of trial-of-the-century media circuses that produce lots of drama and controversy but no justice, then nothing will change.” (Eugene Robinson, May 30,2020, Washington Post.)

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and a native of South Africa, has the luxury of not being from the United States, and is therefore known to have a little perspective on the treatment of people of colour in America.

I’ll leave you with his very compassionate musings on these days of conflict.