Democracy Died in Daylight


by Roxanne Tellier

In the last several years, I’ve written umpteen thousands of words about the trump presidency. I’ve tried my best to point readers and voters towards the truth of what so many warned us about – a rogue presidency ending in political, financial, and physical disaster for American citizens.

Three years into his disastrous reign, the damage being inflicted on the people, their institutions, and, sadly, their psyches, is no longer up for question. If there is to be any hope for the country in the future, it will require decades of labour, just to bring things back to where they were in November 2016, when Trump won the Electoral College, after losing the popular vote to Clinton by 2.8 million votes.

Whether America will ever get the chance to even start that repair, is now moot.

Despite the guardrails set in place by the Founders and the Constitution, trump has successfully kept two of the three governing branches under his thumb, coupled with his having put two trump loyalists in the Supreme Court, and installing a trump sycophant as Attorney General of the United States. With the entire system rigged against dissent, many hoped that there might be a few patriots remaining in the Republican Party who could look beyond their own wealth and best interests for long enough to rein in trump’s excesses. 

‘You’re’ .. but they got the rest right…

But that was a lost cause; there are no heroes in the GOP, just a lot of evil, incompetent, long past their best before date, cowards.

Nancy Pelosi didn’t want an impeachment investigation during her time as Minority Leader. She often declared that she would prefer the next presidency be decided at the ballot box. Her reticence might perhaps also have been partially due to the line of succession; in the event that a president is successfully impeached and removed from office, the presidency then goes to the Vice-President, and if he is also impeached, goes to the Minority Leader. That could be construed a conflict of interest, if the articles of impeachment were deemed not to rise to a sufficient level of concern.

When Pelosi finally opted for an impeachment investigation, it was predicated by a whistle-blower’s suspicions, which were later corroborated by several witnesses, that the president had engaged in bribery, by withholding funds that Congress had voted to give to the Ukraine for their defence against Russian aggression.  Trump insisted that he would not release those funds, nor formally acknowledge/host the new president of the Ukraine, until an investigation was announced that would look into possible corruption on the part of Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, who is currently the front runner for the Democratic party in the run up to the November 2020 election.

The funds were eventually dispersed, after the whistle-blower’s allegations emerged.

Despite the president’s denials, withholding those funds DID have a negative impact on the Ukraine.

“At least 13 Ukrainian soldiers were killed while President Donald Trump’s administration was withholding military aid from the country from mid-July to mid-September. The men, aged from 20 to 45, are among at least 78 Ukrainian soldiers killed in action up to mid-September this year in the east of the country, according to various local media and Ukrainian government reports.

It is impossible to say whether timely delivery of American aid would have helped any individual soldier. But their deaths are a potent reminder that while the Trump administration was wrangling over military assistance, Kiev was—and remains—locked in a deadly struggle with its Russian-backed separatist adversaries.” (Newsweek, Oct 2019)

Throughout the impeachment process, the Republicans in both the House and the Senate behaved like spoiled children being denied their candy; they impeded the process at every turn. Rather than mount a defense against the alleged crimes, they attacked the process itself, and the White House repeatedly refused to allow people in the administration to testify during the preliminary meetings. They also refused to release documentation that would have clarified much of the testimony.

They upped the ante during the trial itself, with trump’s ‘tv’ lawyers perjuring themselves endlessly, while Justice Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sat like a bump on a log in a dress, ignoring falsehoods and outright lies with a ‘supreme’ lack of interest.

Despite the brilliant outlining of the crimes with which trump was being charged, the Republican Senators in the Congress ignored what they could not deny, playing crossword puzzles, doodling, checking their (illegal) phones, or dozing during Democratic testimony. And when the time came for the Senators to vote on whether or not to allow additional witnesses, the GOP decided that they’d heard enough, and denied the request.

There has never been an impeachment trial, in the history of the US, that did not include witnesses, and proper evidence. The trial was rigged, from start to finish, with the aid of the president, the Senate, and the Supreme Court.

This trial made a mockery of justice in America. And, on Wednesday, when these same Senators vote to acquit the president of the charges, they will, in effect, raise the president to the position of King, establishing a trump monarchy as the government of the United States.  

“If the president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment, “ Dershowitz said.

L’Etat – c’est moi……

Incredibly, many of the Senators agreed that the president WAS guilty as charged, they just didn’t think it rose to the level of impeachment. Some said that they feared what an impeachment might do to the country. Considering what happened in Kentucky on Jan 31st, they might have had a point.

Gun rights activists carrying semi-automatic firearms pose for a photograph in the Capitol Building on January 31, 2020 in Frankfort, Kentucky.

From Twitter: “Weirdest thing about guns in the Kentucky Capitol: if you have one, you’re told to walk around the metal detector. Others must pass through and get wanded.

Also, and probably to be expected, many of the Senators blamed the Democrats for having insufficient witnesses or evidence, despite these lacks being wholly the fault of trump and the White House.

“We will never know how this impeachment trial would have unfolded if the House had waited to secure additional testimony and court orders. One thing is certain, however: The case against President Trump could only have become stronger,” wrote law professor and House Judiciary witness Jonathan Turley.”

Without being able to call witnesses, and without further requested evidence, there’s nothing left now but for the Republican party to vote on Wednesday, and do as they have said they would do all along – acquit him of the charges. Despite the oath that they swore, promising to perform honestly and with due diligence, and despite knowing – and ADMITTING – that he is guilty of the charges, they have opted to ignore his corruption, and, essentially, proclaim that the president of the United States is literally above the law.  Trump becomes America’s first King.

And America is about to get royally reamed.

Wanting presidential accountability Is not about party. It’s not a ‘trump delusion syndrome’. It’s not about assessing how he’s behaved all of his life, unfaithful to the women in his life, screwing over those unfortunates who did work for him for which they’ve never been properly paid, or even that he’s been pathologically dishonest throughout his entire presidency.

No. It’s about looking at the facts, objectively, and seeing the truth – that the role of president needs to be held by someone who is better than this, but more than that, that the president must be held accountable for criminal actions.

Denying that accountability renders the rule of law moot. Elevating the POTUS to Monarch is exactly what the Founders tried so hard to prevent, in demanding accountability through impeachment.

“There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republicif you can keep it.” 

How crazy could things get in a post-impeachment America? Well, just yesterday, Wyoming State Rep Rodney Garcia made a statement at a state party gathering in which Garcia’s concern about socialists ‘entering our government’ and socialists ‘everywhere’ in Billings, ended with Garcia insisting that the Constitution says to either shoot socialists, or put them in jail – despite his inability to point out exactly where in the Constitution this is written.

As Jim Wright, aka StoneKettle Station, wrote yesterday, we have to accept the reality that the Republican party is not just protecting their own seats, or being cowardly, they are profoundly evil. Just like all those who committed atrocities and horrors in the past.

“It’s easier to believe that the people who are right now selling out the Republic are doing so because of some vast complex invisible multinational conspiracy, than to believe they are just … bad people.

As if the Nazis needed to blackmailed into being genocidal monsters.

As if the Confederacy or the Klan needed be blackmailed into racism.

As if the Proud Boys had to be blackmailed into hating women.

As if all the people who’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years only did so because Vladimir Putin threatened to kill their kids.

As if human nature wasn’t enough.

I don’t know.

Maybe it speaks well of you that you believe these are decent people who have to be blackmailed into doing terrible things.

Maybe you’re a better person than me, probably you are, in that you believe there has to be more than just hate and fear, ignorance, deliberate stupidity, greed, selfishness, and lust for power.

Maybe.”

Evil has won. On Wednesday the Republican party will sell out the country when they vote to acquit a man they admit is guilty of the crimes outlined in the impeachment process. Trump will be acquitted, but he will still be impeached. That doesn’t go away.

There will be no show of integrity, duty, or courage on the part of the Senators casting their votes. And when, inevitably, more crimes are committed, more citizens are harmed by his hair-brained, demented ideas, more countries are denied access to the nation, and inevitably, tales of sadistic, horrific injuries are perpetrated against trump’s enemies, they will clutch their pearls, and deny their part in the atrocities. 

American will continue its descent into a sinkhole of depravity. Good people will continue to be emotionally, physically, and financially abused by his policies. Attempts to fight back – legal, peaceful protests protected under the first amendment – will soon be deemed to be ‘against the nation’s best interests.’ Eventually protests will be banned, and protestors, most likely found guilty without trial, will discover their possessions forfeited under new laws that only serve those in power.  

The early lessons learned from tormenting the likes of comedian Kathy Griffin will blossom into full-blown assaults designed not just to humiliate those who fail to show loyalty, but to grind them into total subservience.

It’s entirely possible that trump will simply cancel the 2020 elections, but whether he does or not, we can rest assured that a lack of prophylactic work beforehand to keep the elections from being rigged pretty much guarantees that the outcome is already determined, as surely as Russia’s have been for decades.

Meanwhile, on social media, some are demanding that the Democrats walk out on Wednesday’s vote to impeach, as a protest against the rigged trial. Others think that the invitation to the State of the Union should be rescinded.

But none of that matters anymore. The game is already lost. I wouldn’t bet the farm on a ‘blue wave’ where they’ll get to vote all the bad guys out. I wouldn’t bet the farm on there even being anything resembling a normal election.

All this kind of thinking does is push the battle along, to be fought months away from now. They’re saying, let’s not fight the battle now, while the war is raging, but somewhere down the line where, if Jupiter aligns with Mars, and the exact right, suitably virtuous, Dem is given the nod, well, maybe … maybe … maybe …

This all smacks of wishful, magical thinking.  

Americans have to face the truth, and that is that Lady Justice is not just blind, she’s been raped and murdered, her broken body left on the steps of the Washington Monument.

Democracy dies in darkness, but this week, it was murdered in broad daylight, by the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” in the Upper house of the United States Congress.

Protesting in the Era of Trump


by Roxanne Tellier

guthrie old man trump

A reaction to America’s president telling four Congresswoman of colour to “go back to where they came from?”

No, these are the words Woody Guthrie wrote in 1954, about the discriminatory rental policies of the POTUS’s dad, Fred. Fred did not want to rent to black people, and made sure that his rental agents were diligent in keeping people of colour from the cluster of sixteen residential buildings he owned in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Guthrie had moved into an apartment at Beach Haven, near Coney Island, in 1950. It would be nearly twenty years later, in the 1970s, before Trump Elder was accused and charged with creating a “substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity” at Beach Haven, under the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. (The case was eventually settled.)

woody guthrieSeveral handwritten drafts of the lyrics—sometimes titled “Beach Haven Race Hate,” “Beach Haven Ain’t My Home,” and “Old Man Trump”—are presently on display at the Woody Guthrie Center, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 2016, Beach Haven Apartments Associates, now owned by Fred’s son Donald, was hit with the largest fine that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ever levied against an apartment building for the mishandling of human waste, in this case, two hundred thousand gallons of untreated sewage being dumped into Coney Island Creek each day.

Later that year, Trump would become President of the United States of America. There’s a symmetry there.

So it would seem that Trump comes by his racism and bigotry honestly… he learned it at his father’s knee. I wonder if that drives a lot of his cruelty; is he sad that his father cannot see how successful the son has been in turning the hands of the clock back to the days before the rights of women, and people of colour in America, were legally protected? Is that anger at the Environmental Conservation Department one of the reasons he is hell-bent on tearing away all protections from America’s lands and waters?

Lately I’ve heard idle talk about the lack of protest songs for this frightening era of government supported violence, xenophobia and racism. There ARE songs out there, but it’s not like the sixties, where the transistors and family radios kept songs like Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, or Barry McGuire‘s Eve of Destruction front and center thru the long hot summer days and nights.

Where are the songs that not only skewer the wrong doings of the government, but become the ear worm of a time? Where’s the Ohio, that warned that the tin soldiers and Nixon were coming to kill your college kids? Where’s the Black Day in July, written by Gordon Lightfoot, that cautioned that race wars like those in Detroit could take down cities and governments?

Maybe the closest we’ve come to a real response to Trump’s overt racism occurred way back, in April 2016, when YG and Nipsey Hussle released ‘FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)’ a song so angry that YG says the Secret Service contacted Def Jam records to see what was in the rest of his album.

YG and Nipsey shout out to Trump’s “racist ass”, includes calling him a “cancer”, declaring “I like white people but I don’t like you”, and admitting, “He got me appreciating Obama way more.”

But these are interesting times, my friend. In the beginning of Trump’s campaign, and the early months of his presidency, most artists chose to mock his hands, or his words captured on the infamous Access Hollywood clip.

will.i.am ft Apl.de.ap and Liane V – GRAB’m by the PU$$Y

“When I’m president I won’t be like be Obama
If anyone talks sh** about me, I’ll bomb em
I’m grabbin’ that (hey) like there’s no tomorrow
And if we have problems with Russia I’ll bomb em”

Franz FerdinandDemagogue

“It feels so good to be dumb,” From the Wall/Straight to La Cuenta, those pussy-grabbing fingers won’t let go of me now.”

Rocky Mountain Mike‘s Hey Mr Tangerine Man is more silly than salient. But that’s okay. In a democracy, you’re allowed to make fun of the most powerful man in the world. Well  – it used to be okay. We may be moving closer to a time when it’s punishable by death.

Censorship

“Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, build a wall for me
I’m not that bright and don’t know that you’re not going to
Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, keep Muslims away from me
With my jingoistic world view, I’ll come following you

Fake me out with this, I’ll be your newest apprentice
My sister thinks you’re a trip All my friends say “Get a grip”
And my skull’s too numb to think
Waiting only for the bullshit you’ve been pedaling”

Gorillaz featuring Benjamin ClementineHallelujah Money

Band member Murdoc wrote on his Facebook page ‘In these dark times, we all need someone to look up to. Me, that’s why I’m giving you this new Gorillaz song, a lightning bolt of truth in the black night’. Gorillaz leader, Damon Albarn, is known for not backing away from a political fight, and this track, with it’s references to walls and the political narrative of politics in 2016/2017 takes aim squarely at Donald Trump.

Politically inclined musicians have always channeled their outrage into song. Once the Trump reign of errors had fully come into play, many stars, past and present, began to serve up a piece of their mind.

Billy Bragg completely nailed the racism arc to come in his rewrite of Bob Dylan‘s protest classic, “The Times They Are A-Changing.” In The Times They Are A-Changing Back, Bragg skewers Trump’s policies, and warns vulnerable Americans not to get too comfortable.

“Come Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT, and Jews
Keep your eyes wide open for what’s on the news.
For President Trump is expressing his views,
And I fear the mob he’s inciting
Will soon break your windows and burn down your schools
Cuz the times, they are a changin’… back.”

Not all of the protest songs come from conventional musicians. This clip, from Late Night with Seth Meyers, features Amber Ruffin and the Go Back to Your Country Girls, performing their song about people telling them to go back to their country.

So, where we at now? In June, Madonna dropped this political bomb on gun control, with the song, God Control, and an entreaty that we take her pleas seriously. “This is your wake up call. Gun violence disproportionately affects children, teenagers and the marginalized in our communities. Honor the victims and demand GUN CONTROL. NOW. Volunteer, stand up, donate, reach out. Wake up and insist on common-sense gun safety legislation. Innocent lives depend on it.”

For my money, the reluctance of the Democrats currently holding the House to move for Trump’s impeachment is a huge mistake. That’s something with which most of the protest songwriters out there would seem to agree to be the case.

Parody ProjectImpeachment?

The Parody Project, founded in August, 2017, has a slew of political song parodies online. It’s originator, film-maker/composer Don Caron, creates these parodies as a means of “surviving the current political and social mire by laughing and helping others to do the same.”

I always get a kick out of his videos. Took me ages before I realized that no matter how many ‘performers’ he had on a song, it was always just Don in a different Hawaiian shirt and a bad wig. Mr Caron is a one of a kind politically savvy, musical caricaturist for our times.

Randy RainbowJust Impeach Him

Randy Rainbow is the most commercial of the parodists and satirists out there, with a huge fan following both on Youtube, and on tour – I’m still bummed I missed his show last March at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I’m waiting with baited breath for his next release, but it seems he’s on an endless tour of the United States these days. Lucky you if he’s coming to a theatre near you!

Meanwhile, Randy and I are on the same page about POTUS …. Just Impeach Him.

What I realized as I searched for new protest songs is that, in truth, there are songs out there. They are just not rising to the top of the social media consciousness.

I also think that many with a yen for current events are beginning to feel that nothing that can be said or sung can stop Trump’s rush to an abolishment of democracy, and a rush to convert America to White Sovereignty. It really does seem like Trump is able to grab every flaming arrow aimed at his corrupt government and turn it back on the person that sent it.

Despite daily revelations of his corruption, lack of morals or ethics, and even as he lights the fuse of a race war, no one can lay a finger on him.

No matter how we try, we never do get him. He wriggles away, aided and abetted by equally corrupt courtiers. He doubles and triples down on disgustingly un-American rhetoric, and despite credible accusations that would have had any other president impeached and imprisoned a dozen times over, he stands proudly on the White House lawn, spewing yet more lies and bile.

Elizabeth Warren, who Trump taunted with the name ‘Pocahontas’ for years, may be the poster child for Trump’s puzzling ability.. When she finally released the findings of a DNA test proving her native ancestry, her rebuttal was turned back on her and used as evidence that she is a flakey, insecure female, and likely unfit for public office. Still – she persisted, and is now a plausible candidate to replace the Moron in Chief.

How did that happen? It’s a kind of black magic that anyone who’s gone up against Trump has felt – the president feels no need to show empathy, openness to the opinions of others, or any sense of a presidential demeanour. He just wants to hit back harder and more viciously at those defending their own existence in his world. His appetite for revenge is voracious, and he never forgets a slur.

trump saluteHe is a bully with awesome presidential powers, and a taste for the abuse of those powers.

Only look to the cowed and cowardly Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, who rush to carry the president’s water, despite being the targets for some of his cruelest and crudest slurs.

Trump’s a world class bully, in a world where he holds all the instruments necessary for the carrying out of his own perverted justice.

As we edge toward the next election, and the possibility that it may only be the beginnings of a long reign comprising multiple terms in office, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that we will ever be able to vote the narcissist in chief out of office – or that we’ll even be able to oust him from the White House, should he not be re-elected next November – no matter how well-written or relevant our protest songs may be.

 

and.. last minute.. new Randy Rainbow! 😉

A Sunday Pot Luck


You ready, Canada?

Legal weed can go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2018. Cue the screaming and yelling from those who have never seen a Reefer Madness poster that didn’t give them a semi-erotic frisson of fear.

reefer madness man.gif

I’ve talked about this over and over .. I’ve researched what’s gonna happen until I’m blue in the face. Nothing I say is gonna move a real pot hater to change their opinion by Wednesday. And I know that. I’m not even gonna try.

But, this is my prediction; those people who fear pot and of the possibility of losing control after ingestion, will one night be talked into trying an edible. Or someone they like will dare them to take a toke, and they’ll feel kind of cool and cutting edge. Then they’ll find that an edible, or maybe some CBD  or THC oil, will help with a health issue, or send them off to a lovely sleep, and within a few years, we will be wondering what all the freaking out was about.

Patch-Smoke-EmBecause, whether you knew it or not, whether you liked it or not, a very large percentage of Canadians have been quietly enjoying pot in one form or another for decades. World didn’t end. Won’t from this either. That’s not how we’ll go.

It’s not that big a deal.

Just wait until we inevitably decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.. like they did in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and the Netherlands.

Then you’ll realize that freaking out over this tiny loosening of our cannabis laws just shows that a small group of Canadians have never really gotten over their fear of the unknown, or of any kind of intoxicant, be it alcohol or cannabis.

Bill Hicks talking about pot

There’s just so many more, far more, important things to worry about. Like, Why are the United States and Canada suddenly turning back the clock on the civil rights of Native  Americans?

voting right PO Box Oct 2018 N DakotaOn October 10, the American Supreme Court ruled to uphold a decision by the state’s courts that requires a residential street address in order to vote in North Dakota’s elections. Since much of the state’s Native American population, which lives largely on tribal land and whose IDs typically feature P.O. boxes, cannot comply, the decision is expected to steal away the right to vote of thousands of Indigenous North Dakotans, along with those who share their residences.

“While North Dakota claims that tribal IDs qualify under its law, most tribal IDs do not have a residential address printed on them. This is due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. postal service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities. Thus, most tribal members use a PO Box. If a tribal ID has an address, it is typically the PO Box address, which does not satisfy North Dakota’s restrictive voter ID law.” (Rewire.news)

We have ways of legally stopping a fair vote.N Dakota new tactical vehicle

This is an utterly unacceptable ruling. It should be noted that new Justice, Kavanaugh, did not participate in the decision, and that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented.

As America turns back the clock on progress for it’s most vulnerable citizens, the larger concern to America’s Native Americans becomes – how long will it take until other states follow suit?

no vote no taxesIf that’s not enough to make you howl in frustration, Canada actually one-upped that stance, when our own Canadian Supreme Court ruled that politicians do not need to consult First Nations when drafting new legislation that may affect Indigenous rights.

“One judge wrote such a duty would be “highly disruptive” to the lawmaking process.

The decision came just over a month after a federal court reversed Canada’s approval of Kinder Morgan‘s Trans Mountain pipeline over a lack of meaningful First Nations consultation. In response, the feds have appointed a former Supreme Court judge to redo the project’s consultations.

… Canada’s commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples supersedes today’s ruling. Canada signed onto the UN declaration in 2016, and in doing so committed to obtaining free, prior and informed consent on all matters impacting Indigenous rights. “That’s the principle piece,” Clogg told VICE. “We would be expecting Canada to live up to its obligations, particularly around obtaining consent.”” (Vice.com)

trudeau on native rightsNow .. is it just me, or does that not sound an awful lot like the democracy and the civil rights are being drained out of Canada’s interaction with First Nations people?

It started with Harper; in two omnibus bills, he jiggered water and fishery protection laws so that he could ram through whatever measures energy companies needed to start digging and drilling.

But with this new, egregious disrespect for the rights of the people to determine what happens ON THEIR OWN LAND, we’re starting a descent very like that of America’s, where wealthy corporations can push forward whatever process benefits the corporation, at the expense of the people living on the land being exploited.

And the government is complicit.

I think most Canadians thought that rejecting a decade of Harper’s hard right, capitalist/corporation friendly government would lead to a kinder, gentler form of governance. After all, that is what we were promised on the campaign trail.

But that’s the thing about campaign promises – they often disappear when the cold reality of day to day management of a country is involved.

Remember this, from 2015? ” As part of his 32-point plan to “restore democracy,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that if elected, he would create a special, all-party parliamentary committee to study alternatives to the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, including ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting and online voting.” (CBC.ca)

Trudeau FPTP memeAnd in Febuary, 2017: ” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his promise to reform Canada’s electoral system on Wednesday, claiming no consensus has been found on an alternative system.

… Trudeau’s decision shelves months of work by a special House of Commons committee, two separate public engagement and consultation exercises, numerous MP town hall meetings and one cross-country ministerial tour.

The move was called a “betrayal” by the opposition New Democrats, who accused Trudeau of lying to progressive voters when he made electoral reform a central promise in the 2015 election.”   (TheStar.com)

And then there’s the recent reveal, via The Guardian, that exposed a disgusting bit of information; “The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which manages $366.6bn in pension funds on behalf of some 20 million Canadian retirees, holds US$5.9m of stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, immigration detention firms profiting from Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ Mexico border policy.

The move to increase holdings comes despite criticisms from Canadian politicians about US detention policies and following international outcry over the US “zero-tolerance” crackdown this summer on the US-Mexico border that led to children being separated from families.”

Most Canadians would not agree to an investment into the incarceration of children in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, and the separation of families. But most Canadians also have a real problem with how the government is dealing with our energy resources. Sure feels like we’re not being listened to much, between elections.

Prior to the purchase of the pipeline, the majority of Canadians were onside. After the purchase, and the follow-up reports that proved we’d just invested $4.5 billion into a proverbial white elephant, the majority shrank quickly to a minority.

And that’s without taking into account the protests of environmentalists, scientists, and the people of BC who just couldn’t reconcile profit over losing their clean air and water.

I just find it sad, now. When the UN released it’s report this week, saying that we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, that would include extreme heat, drought, floods, forest fires and poverty, I wondered which country would blink first.

We knew it wouldn’t be the United States; Trump has always contended that global warming is a Chinese hoax, put into place to trip up any possible manufacturing competition. Trump’s cancellation of climate policies that might have cut U.S. carbon emissions by about half of what was necessary, mean that they have NO plans in place.

mountie-on-a-bearBut we in Canada seemed to be talking a better game; our image involves mountains, lakes, lumber jacks and mounties, for pete’s sake!

In reality, we are little better than America. Canadian Petroleum Producers say oil production will surge 33 per cent by 2035.

” New exploratory drilling permits for fossil fuels, publicly owned pipelines for oilsands bitumen, and the endorsement of highly questionable mega-projects like British Columbia’s Site C dam. And now LNG Canada.

Just this week, Canada’s environment minister appeared on Vancouver CBC. As bright, articulate and telegenic as she is, Catherine McKenna came off more like the minister of finance or fossil fuels than the person leading the war against global warming.”

…. The reason that politicians like McKenna, and her counterparts around the world, don’t get it, is that getting it means taking serious hits to the gross domestic product and employment.

Trudeau Notley Climate Change

The PM talked about 10,000 jobs, even though, when the construction phase is done, the real number will be tiny. 

In making the announcement, Trudeau sounded more like former B.C. premier Christy Clark than the man who told the world in Paris that Canada was back on the environmental file.

Government decisions marketed by big jobs numbers can sometimes be a path to policy hell.

In the 1990s, the Mulroney government wouldn’t reduce quotas or close the cod fishery off Newfoundland because 100,000 regional jobs depended on it. The overfishing continued until the northern cod collapsed and disappeared as a commercial fishery.

The jobs carrot can also leave a government stranded on the moral low ground. After the disappearance and suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a group of bipartisan U.S. senators lobbied to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Trump opposes that idea, saying it would hurt American jobs. “(Michael Harris, ipolitics.ca)

existenceeconomySo here we are, then. A stalemate where our self-interests outweigh what would seem to be our possible demise.

It’s like that old joke, where the robber says to the victim, “Your money or your life!” and the victim says, “Take my life. I’m saving my money for my old age!

It really is that insane. We can do nothing without the politicians being far braver than they have shown themselves to be. On the campaign trail, politicians come on strong, promising to save the world, but once in power, the focus moves from changing the world to keeping power via re-election.

Doing the right thing is hard. And it’s rarely rewarded come election time. So those in power, the ones we need to make the power moves, fear strong moves will get them booted out of their cushy jobs.

Better, they think, to keep the focus on bringing money in to the country’s coffers, by hook or by crook. We can think about the future .. .in the future.

child internment campsAnd, c’mon … be honest … no matter how virtuous and outwardly concerned we are about the planet, or about the morality of investing in Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, or about the ethos of denying Indigenous people a voice on the discussions on how best to destroy their land …

at the end of the day, we tend to turn a blind eye to what goes on around us. We don’t want to see the blood on the diamond. We don’t want to know how the hamburgers are made. We’re saving our money for our old age.

Not a one of us is individually capable of doing the sacrificing necessary to save the planet, and no one person or country can do it alone.

Which means – it’s over. You can give up now. Once a full blown climate catastrophe hits, there will be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. According to the UN’s scientists, that could be as soon as twelve years from now. We will also see more and more extreme climate events, like the recent disaster in Florida, as we build up to the real weather horrors that await.

Make your peace with whatever deity you subscribe to, and be glad you’re not gonna have to worry about outliving your money…

And be grateful for small mercies, like the legal cannabis you can enjoy starting Wednesday,  ‘anywhere cigarettes can be smoked‘, in Ontario.

Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em. You’re gonna need it.

Watching The Dream Die


lbj lowest black man

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.
— Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the United States of America

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. And he died for it, along with the many others, of all colours, who fought to bring the civil rights movement to America.

Norman Rockwell Murder in MississippiIt took many years, and many lives, but the leaders of the civil rights movement persevered with the goal of securing legal rights for African Americans, rights that other Americans had already held. The movement resulted in large legislative impacts, including the installment of the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. Mountains were moved to accomplish their goals of ending legal racial segregation and discrimination. Using non-violent campaigns, they achieved new recognitions in the legal, federal protection of ALL Americans.

 

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate. Marshall earned an important place in American history on the basis of two accomplishments. First, as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Second, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court–the nation’s first black justice–he crafted a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent.” 

Norman Rockwell Right to Know

Donald Trump is the nightmare that people of colour have wrestled with all of their lives, the creature that haunts their dreams and makes them hold their babies closer. And his minions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and most especially that evil gnome Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have waited patiently for decades for just this moment in time to arrive, and vindicate their most malevolent, bigoted thoughts. At first, he was just the fool who egged on racists throughout Barack Obama‘s presidency with his ridiculous birtherism theory, but now Trump’s tweets and rants have galvanized fear and ignorance, like a lit match dropped into the gasoline of repressed racism. To his base’s clear delight, they are relaxing into an overt racism in which they can lawfully and openly show their hatred of people of colour, supported by their horrific master.

trump supports hate facesTrump’s tweeting is beyond a dog whistle to his racist supporters – it’s even beyond a bull horn. It’s an IV of disgusting, depraved poison, that is constant and inescapable and that excites the part of his follower’s brain that delights in cruelty and chaos.

By contrast, consider the struggle for civil rights in America. I’m old enough to remember how violently so many struggled to prevent integration. There were threats, there were beatings, there were murders. We in Canada watched from afar as the country battled it’s way to a new view on human rights and human dignity.

rosa parks on busEverything that Trump does and says is another giant step towards obliterating that essential moment in American history.

Now, even if you are someone that believes that free speech, even hate speech, is your right, what has to be remembered is that this division of the population is not just unsettling – it’s fundamentally a national security issue. The nation is weaker when the people are fighting against each other.

This weekend is the one year anniversary of the murder of an innocent woman who had been counter-protesting racists marching on Charlottesville. A group of white supremacists, screaming racist, ethnic and misogynistic slogans and carrying tiki torches, rallied to “Unite The Right“. During that protest, one person was killed and 19 others were injured when a car sped into a group of counter-protesters.

charlottesville nazisThe original reason for the 2017 march centered around, amongst other things, protesting the removal of statues of Confederate leaders. Unless you are a pigeon with no other options, the removal of a statue should not really be either cause for alarm, or a reason to hurt another person.

And here’s the most interesting thing about those statues. The Confederacy was a treasonous attack on the United States of America. It was only because of Lincoln’s decision not to ’embarrass’ the people who’d supported the Confederate Army that the leaders escaped being hung for treason.

Northerners took a pragmatic approach to the war’s end. They realized the impracticality of trying thousands of Southerners for disloyalty in states where juries were unlikely to deliver guilty verdicts, and that continued cries of treason would interfere with the more important task of nation-building.

Ironically, the lenient approach allowed Robert E. Lee and other Confederate leaders to become heroic figures to later generations of Americans of all sections, says Blair, citing words written by Union Gen. George Thomas in 1868: “The crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand-in-hand with the defenders of the (US) Government.”  (see: www.futurity.org.)

After the Charlottesville riots, Trump refused to call out the militant right marching under a Nazi banner. Instead, the President of the United States said :

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

david duke kkk tweetAs CNN explained in an editorial in August 2017, “ Both sides don’t scream racist and anti-Semitic things at people with whom they disagree. They don’t base a belief system on the superiority of one race over others. They don’t get into fistfights with people who don’t see things their way. They don’t create chaos and leave a trail of injured behind them.

 Arguing that “both sides do it” deeply misunderstands the hate and intolerance at the core of this “Unite the Right” rally. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.

 Trying to fit these hate-mongers into the political/ideological spectrum — which appears to be what Trump is doing — speaks to his failure to grasp what’s at play here. This is not a “conservatives say this, liberals say that” sort of situation. We all should stand against this sort of violent intolerance and work to eradicate it from our society — whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or not political in the least.”

And as actor/director Spike Lee told an interviewer just this week,  “The President of the United States had a chance to denounce hate. The whole world saw what happened and he didn’t do it.”

There is no “other side” to racism if you live in a democracy. There is no “right” to be racist. There is no ‘racist amendment’ that would allow racists to be tolerated in any situation. There is NO validity to their arguments of white superiority, only anti-social activity that tears apart society.

Norman Rockwell 1964 young girl

However, the climate fomented and nurtured by Trump’s administration not only encourages overt racism, it is tacitly welcomed and rarely held accountable for the pain and discomfort of those upon whom this abuse is waged.

This new fad of calling 911 on people living their life while being black will most certainly, inevitably, eventually, get someone killed. People of colour know that siccing the cops on a person of colour can and will often devolve into a life or death situation.

Just ask actor Ving Rhames, who was a target of racial profiling earlier this year. A neighbour called the LAPD  after a neighbour claimed to have seen a ‘large black man breaking into a house.”

Rhames, who had been watching television in his Santa Monica home with his two English bulldogs, answered the door.

“I get up, I open the door, there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a 9 millimeter,” Rhames. “And they say, ‘Put up your hands.'”

Last year, NBA All-Star Lebron James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized with N-word graffitti, and in March of this year, Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown was seen in a video being tackled to the ground for a parking infraction.

bbqing while blackJust being AWBAlive While Black – has lead to a fad of white people calling 911 to report their fear of black people golfing too slowly, eating waffles, waiting for a client in a Starbucks, handing out campaign literature, napping at lunch, barbecuing at a public park, asking to use a valid coupon, eating their lunch, being a real estate agent, swimming in their public community pool, checking out of an AirBnB without acknowledging a wave, or seeing an 8 year old child selling cold bottled water on a warm day.

And in response to these frantic calls from white people, most of these innocent people had to deal with the police showing up, with flashing sirens and guns blazing. After all, the steadfast perspective of white callers seems to always be far more trustworthy than the potentially criminal actions of law-abiding, tax- paying, black citizens.

I’ve yet to hear of any accountability being demanded of the people who are wasting precious police resources by calling the police on innocent parties. Nor have I heard of any of those who’ve had their lives put into danger, successfully suing the callers or their employers. But I hope that becomes a fad, and soon.

From his first speech on the campaign trail, Trump has been overtly, aggressively, racist, condemning and dismissing people of colour. Although an elected president is supposed to be the president of all of the people, he is selective about whom he chooses to favour or flay.  As if his spoken and tweeted attacks on (black) football players for their non-violent protest of taking a knee during the National Anthem, despite their repeated explanations of what the protest means, weren’t annoying enough, his continued attacks actually break two laws.

law on kneeling for flag

A federal law, enacted in 1943, says that no citizen can be forced to participate in rituals that are used with the flag or any other symbol of the United States.

And 18 U.S. Code 227 is a law that could be used against Trump in response to his various statements about private businesses, including the NFL. This law prohibits “the President, as well as members of Congress and other federal officials, from “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions.” Persons convicted under this statute face up to 15 years in prison and disqualification from public office.

Trump continuously recommending, even commanding, that protesting players be fired or punished seems to fit 18 U.S. Code § 227’s basic definition.”

Racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism; when the president and his administration tell the country to turn against a huge segment of their own people, that country is ripe for exploitation by those that will use that division for their own purposes and gain. When the president demonizes certain segments of the working population as somehow being less fit, less trustworthy or less capable, the enemies of the United States have their toehold into an internal, fractured, weakness that can be used against the country.

But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for anyone in this administration to call him on either of these crimes. They are all too busy dismantling America and democracy.

And killing that beautiful dream….

 

 

 

 

Empathy and a God in Our Own Image


The holiday season is a good time to think about our interactions with other people. We really want to make our loved ones smile, so we’ll do as much as we can to please them. We search out gifts for giving that we think will delight our friends and acquaintances, hoping to strike that balance between spending too much or not enough. And, in the best case scenario, we find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to donate a little to those who have less than we do; some of us will do that because we think it’s right to share what we have with others, while some will do so because donations can be written off on next year’s taxes. Either way – our donations and caring will have some impact on those in need.

For most of us, that is all that the holidays require; a little thought for others, an attempt to ease some of the stress and strain that we humans navigate most days. Our songs and stories commemorate how we feel when we come together, in peace and joy, ‘heart to heart and hand in hand,” and lift the winter’s darkness for a short time.

lincoln empathyWe are driven by kindness and care, and empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings and emotions of others. The quality is usually strongest in children, who can be almost clairvoyant in their ability to feel the pain of others, either human or animal.  From a very early age, we can sense goodness and meanness in the intent of others, and even as babies, we instinctively dislike those who are cruel to others. Little children have yet to learn that most grownups are oblivious and indifferent to the feelings of animals. And many children, sadly, will grow up into adults who will, very often, be just as oblivious to the feelings of those who are different from themselves.

Different by virtue of skin colour, or gender, or by an accident of birth that sticks a silver spoon in one child’s mouth, and bitter alms in another. Children are born all over the planet, every minute of every day, but not every child will be welcomed by it’s family, or it’s people, or by those who hold power over the powerless.

So, here we are, with Christmas 2017 behind us. The days will get shorter now, and for many, the snow will fall far more than we’d like. The young, the old, the sick and the well – all of us will cope with good and bad events, to varying degrees, and with varying success.

The poor will suffer the most, since winter is hardest on those who live in inadequate housing, with uncertain heat, and even more uncertain nutrition. The middle class will struggle along, carrying the largest burden, since it is the middle class that invariably bears the cost of keeping society afloat. And the wealthy  … ah, the wealthy will have their own special burden, that of hiding their untold riches in ever more clever niches.

Inequality, already a societally crushing issue in the United States, was exacerbated last week when a group of old, mostly white, and mostly male Republicans forced through a bill looting the Treasury coffers, while enriching themselves and their donors. There is no other way to look at the tax scam perpetrated by the Trump administration than as the brutal rape of the American taxpayer, for the benefit of the wealthy.

tax scam 2017Every tax payer in America will suffer, and I say ‘every taxpayer’ because the wealthy were already well ahead of most Americans in the non-paying of taxes. Even as the rhetoric on American taxation being ‘the highest in the world’ (it’s not) crescendoed, the wealthy and corporations snickered up their sleeves, knowing that their trusty accountants and willing elected officials had long ago resolved that little problem. Very rarely do the tax bills of the 1% exceed 1% – it’s more likely that they’ll be coasting on credits from past corporate ‘losses,’ government grants, and well established tax havens in other countries.

The Republicans gathered to celebrate these cuts that were given to those who are currently sitting on trillions of dollars that they cannot be bothered to invest in their own employees and companies, and the corporations responded by cutting staff and automating the lowest paid jobs. And buying back their own stock. And giving themselves massive, million dollar bonuses.  Oh – and bemoaning a rise to minimum wage, as it would impact their bottom line.

trump tax ripoff

Meanwhile, the American people can look forward to death by a thousand tax cuts. There are cuts to pretty much everything necessary to live, not the American Dream, but a life not lived on the streets.

No sector of society has been left untouched. Health costs will soar, children will die from the loss of medication and treatments. The young, the old, the poor, the sick, small businesses, students, home owners, veterans, ‘dreamers,’ refugees and immigrants … all will pay the price for the corporations’ champagne dreams.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, but now, she’s beckoning them closer so that she can mug them, and then sell their blood and organs to the highest bidder.

The astonishing lack of empathy or fellowship shown in this tax scam is frightening. How do you explain to someone what it means to care about their fellow man? To care for their neighbour, not just because there’s something in it for them, but because their own laws say that all men are created equal?

I don’t know how to open the eyes of those who cannot see the suffering in front of them, or who do see the suffering, but brush it away with impatience. The greed and detached cruelty of those who have the power to ease the misery of others, to elevate the standard of living for all, and yet fail to do so, is astounding.

The gleeful joy and unbelievable callousness exhibited by those who passed this bill is beyond me. I think it’s likely beyond even our fictional monsters. It took Scrooge three ghosts to understand his perfidy, but I think the Republicans cut back the ghost jobs last year, and replaced them with automation.

I’ve got mine, Jack,” they gloat. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” they say, neglecting to mention that the bootstraps and ladders they used to climb to power were pulled up behind them, and the door closed to those who might use those means to succeed in the future.

There are practical, and even self-serving reasons, to make sure that all of your people have health care, public education or access to higher education, and better paying jobs that enable the masses to buy the junk that corporations have made in cheaper lands. But even that doesn’t penetrate the scaly skins of the elected officials.

minimum-wage-graphic Ontario 2017Years of recession, of belt tightening, of cutting staff to the bone, have weakened respect for workers, and tested our own belief in the value of what we do. After all, if we had any importance, surely our jobs and wages would not be treated with such disdain and indifference! When we are no longer valued for what we bring to a company, when corporations would prefer to pay as little as they can get away with, rather than pay a minimum wage that would allow their workers to have a decent life, the very idea of the dignity of work loses meaning.

When we see hundreds or thousands of jobs cut, and the CEO rewarded with multi million dollar bonuses for his/her skill at excising these workers, we begin to see our lowly place in the big picture. We see that minimum wage is, indeed, the lowest amount a company can legally pay a worker, but that they’d gladly drop that amount by even more, or welcome slavery, if only it would come back into fashion and usage.

Minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1950. That’s why some households have two, or even three, family members, all desperately working as hard as they can, just to bring in enough to cover their basic survival needs. That house of cards shivers every time something unexpected happens – an accident, an illness, an unanticipated expense … or the cost of an education that might allow a family member to dream of a better job.

min wage earnersWhen I see the memes of the self-righteous, those who sneer at those who fill these jobs that pay only a minimum wage, I cringe. It chills me, especially when those jeers come from someone who grew up in a time when there WAS a more level playing field, more opportunities for advancement, or who came from a middle class family able to pay for the speaker to get a leg up in life.

Those people are often under the false impression that it is only the young and incompetent that work for such a low salary. They are very wrong. And even when it is shown to them that they are wrong, they will defend their position, trotting out sexist, racist, or xenophobic tropes to bolster their words.

I don’t know if such an ugly and pitiless state of mind comes from the mindset of a political party, the real and imagined fears of the unknown or unknowable that plagues some as they age, or just a sheer bloodymindedness and complete lack of empathy for anyone other than oneself. I don’t know – because it is unimaginable to me.

Worst of all, those who propound these horrors, ‘for the good of the economy,‘ most often profess  to be good Christians, following the Bible, manipulating and misquoting it’s words to defend their deeds.

golden rule empathyIn all religions, there is one rule above all others, and the only one that must be followed. It is always some variation on the Golden Rule … “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Somehow, the importance of that must have gotten lost in the conservative/right wing/Republicans’ bibles.

These people worship riches, not a God. They deify those who have amassed assets beyond any conceivable use, and spit upon those who have not been ‘blessed’ with wealth. And yet, they simultaneously and methodically put into place barriers prohibiting the vast majority of others of ever attaining a similar goal. It is inexplicable. Somewhere along the line, our justified laughter at the silly crassness of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” morphed into an adulation at the altar of the Kardashians.  And it ain’t pretty, folks, it ain’t pretty at all. In fact – it’s nauseating.

Religions tell us that we were made in God’s image. That we are little God mini-me’s. It suits their purposes, because they can then mold our thinking to what works for the benefit of the religion, the church, and for those who profit from the preaching of the tenets of the faith. If we are just like God, we must be right and just. What we fear or hate is rational, as it is God’s own fear. We must love those that believe as we do, and hate those who believe differently. Carrot and stick – behave in the way we’ve outlined, and you get to go to Heaven. Misbehave, and it’s eternal damnation for you, buddy!

In reality, we create our Gods in our own image. We decide what a God should be, and it would seem that we’ve decided that’s he’s a pretty nasty creature, who demands absolute adoration, and will strike down all of ‘his’ children at the slightest indiscretion. He needs money, apparently, lots of money, to build fancy places of worship. This faux God insists that he is the arbiter of faiths, and that all who profess different beliefs are infidels, and must be converted, or murdered so that our religion is the only one worshiped.

What a vicious, reprehensible, ugly, vile, bugger some have chosen to represent the Almighty! Is this really how an all knowing, all seeing being, capable of creating the heavens and the earths would wish to be portrayed?

A benevolent God doesn’t hate poor people – in fact, they are his best beloved, along with children, the sick, the lame, the blind, and all of the others that elected governments prefer to throw under the bus, in order to curry favour with those who already have too much wealth and power.

rich need bigger needleGod DID hate those who wielded money and power like a weapon. Remember when he threw the money changers out of the Temple? Or that bit about the camel and the needle? Were you aware that the word “Gospel” literally means “Good News,” and that, at the time of this usage, had no religious feature, but instead meant ‘the forgiving of debt?’

An omniscient God doesn’t hate gay people, or refugees, or those with a different coloured skin or language. A compassionate God loves all mankind, not just a neat subsection of people exactly like Himself – or yourself.

A Vengeful God that spits out vindictive words and bile about ANY other human being is a false God, created in the image of the fallible and power hungry.  When the likes and dislikes of those imperfect humans are foisted onto a deity of your choice, the only religion that can be carved out is one that reflects our own prejudices and fears of ‘the other.”

empathy religion. JpgThe essence of empathy is an understanding that we are all equal, and all deserving of love and compassion. When empathy is removed from business and politics, we are on a slippery slope to the collapse of an Empire.

A nation is built upon the backs of ALL of it’s citizens, all of whom must have a place at the table. When the political administration in power only caters to the wealthy, they have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of all of the people … and that their time in power is only temporary, and at the whim of those people.

This holiday season, the Republican party flaunted a lack of empathy and a slavish devotion to the upper class, all the while telling the middle class that they were giving them a ‘Christmas present.’  Those same smiling faces said that this year, you could once again say “Merry Christmas,” as though there had been some admonition against it while ‘the black man’ was president.  In truth, you could always say “Merry Christmas,” but after this tax scam, you just won’t be able to have one. strong people. jpg

The new year will reveal exactly how low they are willing to go in their abject fealty to these overlords. With luck, it will also open the eyes of those who’ve enabled their ugly, selfish, partisan goals, and lead us all to a world where fairness and democracy replace greed and apathy.

My wish is that 2018 be the year when we finally understand that ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’ was never meant to last for just a day, but rather, needs to be our goal, every day, every where, and for all people.

happy-new-year-quotes-2018

 

 

Mid August


Mid August, and most days I feel like, this year, summer never really got started. Maybe it’s the weather, or the political climate, but something feels off-kilter. My potted veg and herbs are in shock; it’s been either torrential rain or temps in the 90s – sometimes in the same 24 hours – every day since they were planted. Sodden pots sit cheek by jowl with containers so arid they threaten to burst into flame. There won’t be much of a harvest this year.

Mid August, and the back to school sales have started. Being an eternal student at heart, I always get really excited about 3 ring binders, coloured pencils, pencil cases, and the like. Which is probably why I have about ten boxes in storage of said items. I’m a victim of stationery covetousness.

The kids playing on the block look like they’re done with summer. Perhaps they are apprehensive about returning to the restrictions of another year of school, of seeing if their old friends have changed, and of having to meet new people who may be friend or foe. Or maybe they’re just caught their parents’ malaise. Either way, the little girl that pushes the doll stroller up and down the street while wearing her mother’s high heels just doesn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for the task these days.

Mid August, when we postpone the reality of the coming chill with a two week, overheated, ExTravaganza! Yes, the CNE began on Friday, with Burton Cummings and the boys kicking it off with their usual flair.

CNE midwayThe Ex holds less appeal for me every year. I’m still mourning the loss of the Alpine Way, and my ears still keen to hear the dulcet tones of the barker demanding that we come to see the “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla GURL!”

It’s all downhill after the Gorilla Girl leaves. I can’t even be motivated by fried chicken feet.

Mid August, and news that the legendary recording studio, Le Studio, in Morin Heights (about 90 kilometres north-west of Montreal,) has been destroyed by fire, possibly arson. This, coming just a week or two after news that a successful GoFundMe project had enabled musician Richard Baxter to begin renovating the old girl with a team of volunteers.

Founded in 1974 by Quebec record producer Andre Perry, the studio and residence was once the ‘go to’ spot for Canadian and international artists, including Rush, the Police, the Bee Gees, Sting, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, April Wine, Keith Richards and the Ramones.

But not me. I never even had the pleasure of visiting the place, which was a pity, because I spent some pretty formative years in the area as a teen. I’ve always liked to tell myself that Le Studio was built on the site of the old Alpino Lodge. I neither know nor care if that is true.

In the 60’s, my friend Marianne and I would camp by the little lake that wound it’s path around and about the Alpino, babysitting her younger brother, fishing for our food, and generally waiting for the weekend to arrive and the party to start. Those were the days when it was not only possible for a couple of 14 year old girls to be abandoned in the woods for a week at a time, near a lodge that catered to the wealthy and the jaded, with only an eight year old boy as companion and protector, but for said kiddies to not only survive, but thrive, and indeed have a very merry time.

true romance magWhat did we do all day, I asked myself recently. How did we fill all of the hours when we weren’t minding the brat, fishing, picking berries, tending the smoky fire, or reading soggy comic books and True Romance magazines? Mostly we talked, for hours at a time, about our dreams, hopes, and fears. Some days, I’d make Marianne laugh so hard that she’d pee her pants. If I was in a mood, I’d keep it up until her week’s worth of undies were all strung up on nearby branches.

And we’d wait for Friday night. On Friday night, Marianne’s mother and boyfriend would arrive from Montreal, bringing supplies, and freeing us from babysitting duties. On Friday night, we’d clean ourselves up as best we could, and present our under aged selves to the Lodge, where the full spectrum of Morin Heightians, converged for an evening of dancing and drinking. No one frowned on a young woman or man dancing with an older woman or man, or even a man dancing with another man. The point was the dance, the movement sparked by the music of a local combo giving it all they’d got. And no one asked for i.d.

When the night’s entertainment packed up, the teens that had been slouching on the lodge’s porch, smoking home rolleds and doobies that they would light with a wooden match struck on a boot sole or a pant zipper, would all pile into the back of some sixteen year old guy’s pickup truck. We didn’t need no steenback of pickupking seat belts! And off we’d go, the gang of us, with maybe a dog, and a musical instrument or two for company, headlong down the steep road, high as kites, heading for the dam so that we could continue the revelry, at least until the purple micro dots wore off and/or the sun came up.

(My daughter told me recently that she’ll not allow her eight year old daughter to walk the two blocks to school by herself until Kay’s about twelve. Or maybe thirteen. And then, only if there’s a friend nearby who’ll walk with her. In the daytime. Two blocks away. Different times.)

Mid August, and many of my friends are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. I remember schoolmates who got caught up in the hoopla and abandoned the city for hippie dreams, disappearing in a puff of smoke and patchouli, heading for communal farms that put the lie to the middle class dream of suburbia and two car garages. hippies 60s communeI wonder what ever happened to Donna, the dreamy blue eyed beauty that loved the Monkees as much as I did, but chose a hardscrabble life mucking out barns instead, determined to stand by her longhaired, drug dealing, man. Is she still living in rural Canada or America, amidst macrame pot holders and peace symbols? Or did she wake up one morning and realize in a horror stricken panic that she could have been and done anything she wanted to, had she chosen differently?

Mid August, and my flabber is still ghasted when I contemplate the summer madness that allows some, in the U.S., and sadly, even in Canada, to agree with Trump that the removal of these ‘beautiful’ statues erected to honour Confederate generals would be a hardship upon those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see such ‘works of art.’

Can you hear the dog whistle in that observation?

ugly confed statueBecause, it is implied, even if the art is not Louvre-worthy, that people of colour, and the inner city poor, should at least have the opportunity to feast their eyes upon such statuary. That the monument honours a man in support of slavery and a slave trade that treated the park’s attendees ancestors as human cattle, is a mere peccadillo in their eyes.

A year ago, Zyahna, a young, African-American resident of the city of Charlottesville, petitioned for the removal of one such statue, and to have the park she and her friends frequented re-named from Robert E. Lee Park to Lee Park, saying, “I am often exposed to different forms of racism that are embedded in the history of the south and particularly this city. It makes us feel uncomfortable and it is very offensive.

When I think of Robert E. Lee I instantly think of someone fighting in favor of slavery. Thoughts of physical harm, cruelty, and disenfranchisement flood my mind. … I am offended every time I pass it. I am reminded over and over again of the pain of my ancestors and all of the fighting that they had to go through for us to be where we are now. Quite frankly I am disgusted with the selective display of history in this city. There is more to Charlottesville than just the memories of Confederate fighters. There is more to this city that makes it great.

Let’s not forget that Robert E. Lee fought for perpetual bondage of slaves and the bigotry of the South that kept most black citizens as slaves and servants for the entirety of their lives. As a result, legislatures of the south chose to ignore and turn a blind eye to the injustices of African Americans from Jim Crow and anti-black terrorism to integrated education. These are all some things that this statue stands for. It is about more than just an individual, but rather what that individual believes in and the things that he stands for.”

In 2016, the petition fell just 270 supporters short of it’s goal of 1000 in concurrence with her appeal. A year later, the city council did indeed agree with young Zyahna, putting into motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the death of one young woman, and two police officers.

bread and circusesMake no mistake; the decision to remove the statue was a democratic decision. The reasoning behind the removal was sound, fiscally conservative, and sensitive to ALL of the residents of the city, not just those who wanted it to remain.

The only ones incensed by the decision were those who continue to believe that the emotions and history of white Americans are innately superior to those of other colours. Even the sidestep, that defends the artistry of the statues while denying the inherent racism implied, revolves around the right of white Americans to continue fawning over defeated, racist and bigoted leaders over the sensibility of those who were physically, emotionally, and financially damaged by those same leaders.

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”

Will this cataclysmic rift in ideology tear the country in half, ending in a Civil War Part Deux? And, more importantly for we in the North, as we read the words of many Canadians on social media agreeing with this cockeyed rationale for racist ‘art’, is Canada moving relentlessly towards a similar, more openly racist and bigoted point of view?

Mid August, and it’s never felt so much like that black day in July, 50 years ago …

 

Blackberries and Entitlement


There is a very nice house on the corner of my street. The back yard is surrounded by a tall fence, but as you walk by, you can peep through, and see that there is a lovely garden inside, with a deck, and a nice patio seating area. It’s all very well kept and tidy.

Plants peek out through the fence, as plants will. There are some flowers, and a few weeds, and some of those long, brambly, blackberry stalks, the sort that seem to go from manageable to ‘ow! that long branch just scratched my arm!” in a matter of seconds.

blackberry bushA few months ago, the blackberries appeared. Blackberries start out red and inedible. It’s not until they turn black that they become tasty. There is usually about one week in the summer when the berries all hit peak perfection simultaneously. At my old house, I had a wall of blackberry bushes. When they were ready to pick, I would go into hyper drive, trying to get as many of the berries harvested as I possibly could, so that I could make a summer jam. I’d also offer my neighbours some of the bounty. And, inevitably, the birds, squirrels and raccoons would have a messy feast as well.

The first sighting of the blackberry plants escaping the fence on the corner house gave me a little frisson of emotion, a combination of happiness at seeing the familiar fruit, and a twinge of sadness at no longer having my little Scarborough fruit and veg garden. Planting in containers just isn’t the same.

Halfway through July, the magic moment arrived, and suddenly the branches bent low with beautiful, glossy black berries.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only passer-by that helped herself to a berry or two when I walked by the house. The branches were, after all, bordering the sidewalk, and just a tiny portion of the plants that lined the inside of the fence.

The day after the appearance of the berries, a small sign, written in crayon, and in a child’s handwriting, appeared on the fence. It said, “Please don’t pick the berries. Thank you.”

depressed personNow, perhaps my chagrin at seeing that sign stemmed from a desire to be inside the fence, gobbling down handfuls of the berries before harvesting a bushel or so for jam making.

But the first thought that crossed my mind was that someone had missed a wonderful opportunity to teach a child about sharing and responsibility. Since the home owner had allowed their plants to cross over into common ground, the berries were, ostensibly, now to be had by anyone who passed by the branches on their way down the street.

And if someone picked a berry and enjoyed it, that was a way of spreading the wealth, so to speak, without having to make any real effort. A way to allow others to enjoy a little treat, without that gift costing our benefactors any loss or stress. You  might not know who enjoyed that pleasure, and they might never know that it was you that let them have it, but there can be a strange, inner joy that comes from simply giving away some of the surplus of what you have.

Instead, the parents of that child taught her that she needed to keep a firm grip on what she ‘owned,’ even if that ‘property’ wasn’t actually contained within its bounds.  Best to assume that others will take things away from you, if you’re not stern and disciplined, and keep a firm grasp on your ‘stuff.’ And if you don’t tell them to back off, they’ll take and take and …oh!

i've got mineThat’s a weird and ugly paradigm that many live by now; the world of “I’ve got mine, and I’ll fight anyone that tries to get some for themselves!”

That’s the mindset of those who are threatened by anyone else enjoying even a sip of life’s cup, since it is a sip they feel to be taken from their own mouths. It’s what people earning a comfortable living feel like when they hear the minimum wage might be raised so that others with more menial jobs can actually afford to live. And it’s the way that many Canadians feel when they hear that there is a cost to ignoring the civil rights of other Canadians, and in the resentment they feel when the courts actually have to shell out millions to pay those costs to the victim.

It’s in the self-righteousness of the outwardly religious who piously mouth the Lord’s Prayer, but deny Christ’s preaching to love everyone as he loved them, and to treat others as they wish to be treated.  It’s in those who would put the possible cost of healthcare for transgendered people in the military over a respect for those peoples’ basic rights, as they spend their lives in the defence of their country.  It’s even in the behaviour of the driver who feels the need to be in constant touch by telephone entitles him or her to break the law and answer their cell phone while zipping down the highway at 140km an hour.

It’s a selfishness and entitlement that can be seen daily, on the streets, and in the houses of corporate and political power. The real trickle down that we’ve seen over the last few decades hasn’t been the money that the rich and powerful never did let fall on the lowly, but the examples that they’ve shown us, of how disrespect, lying, and a lack of accountability can enrich those who simply don’t care about anyone other than themselves.

We want to celebrate those who have stood on the shoulders of giants, but instead we are too often and too loudly confronted by those with feet of clay, who prefer to stand on the throats of the weak.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

baby crying over statue removalNowhere was the inevitable down slide of perverted entitlement seen more clearly than in this weekend’s parades, protests, and riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. Far-right activists descended upon the city for a Unite the Right rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate leader, Robert E. Lee.

In April, the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the bronze statue that stands in downtown Charlottesville. The city council also unanimously voted to rename Lee Park. However, two members of the five-member city council still voted against removing the statue. In May, a judge halted that removal for six months.

For those playing along at home, Lee was the general who lead the charge of the Confederate Army, in defence of slavery, against the prevailing American forces of the time. The Confederacy lost. The statue was commissioned in 1917, 52 years after the war ended, and was finally erected in 1924, 59 years after the war ended.

The march of the alt-right was composed primarily of young, white, decently dressed young men, who seemed to feel that their lack of melanin outweighed their concurrent lack of anything remotely special about themselves. Just having been born white and American has lead them to believe that they should have everything they feel they deserve in life – even if it means taking from others less fortunate.

Some are equating this all-white/alt-right protest to the Black Lives Matter protests. I would unequivocally disagree. One is a group seeking to elevate themselves socially by denying the rights of others, while the other is a traditionally oppressed group seeking their civil rights. Violent protests are wrong no matter who participates, but the messages are in no way equivalent.

“[…] I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

A state’s leader that would qualify his objection to ‘hatred, bigotry and violence‘ by adding “on many sides” is no leader at all, but rather a fool who dog whistles to his bigoted and racist followers, egging them on to further violence, in a game of false equivalency.

“… there was strong reaction to Trump’s refusal to denounce far-right extremists who had marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and setting upon their opponents.

The clashes started after white nationalists planned a rally around a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee that is slated to be removed, and culminated in a car being deliberately driven into a group of people peacefully protesting the far right rally, killing one person and injuring at least 19.”

Even those within his own party disapproved of Trump’s lukewarm response.

The Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted: “Mr President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” This was echoed by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who lost a brother in the second world war. “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” ”  (The Guardian)

Despite the public disavowal of those who committed these offences, there were still many on social media who defended their racism by claiming that their protests are a reaction to what they see (the removal of a statue of a Confederate general) as a ‘direct assault against white people.”

Essentially, they are saying they’ll go to civil war to protect the past in an effort to avoid moving forward. The lives of those they harm are of no consequence; their actions say that their traditions and history are more important than the lives of other human beings.

charlottesville carThe Rebel staffer, Faith Goldy, was complaining about left-wing protesters not being inclusive, when she was interrupted by the killing of one of them, preserved on video as it happened.

The truth that must be said, that must be shouted and proclaimed, by not only the President of the United States but by all of his followers and sycophants, is that there is no equivalency between those who marched for their white rights, and those who had finally had enough of those who believe they can only be ‘equal’ if they are allowed to be superior to others through oppression. This was domestic terrorism, as deadly and frightening as any other sort of terrorism. The difference here is that this terrorism is being nurtured by other Americans.

White Americans, and especially young, white, male Americans, aren’t oppressed in the least. No one is trying to take their guns or Christmas away from them. Their churches are not being burned, and there are no burning crosses on the lawns of ‘whitey.’ No one is trying to take away their right to marry the person of their choice. They are under no worse of a travel ban than the need to remove their shoes before being allowed entry onto an airplane. No one feels so threatened by their very presence and colour that even the murder of a child walking home from school can be justified because someone ‘feared for their life.’ And there are no political groups so threatened by ‘the white demographic’ that they have to jury rig districts to ensure the right/white candidate is elected.

They don’t have grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through slavery and systemic racism that took from them even the hope of the prosperity of the average white American. Their parents weren’t imprisoned for marrying someone of a different colour, or for merely being mistaken for an actual criminal because ‘they all look alike to me.’

Racism and bigotry – that’s America’s real history and legacy. Great strides toward a more equal and civilized society have been made in the last several decades, but the actions of those who would ‘make America great again’ by ‘making America white again’ threaten to halt that progress, and tear the nation apart. It is only by accepting the ugly past, and learning from it, that a better future can be attained.

The willfully ignorant, those who are armed and dangerous to anyone who disagrees with their bigoted beliefs, who create their own echo chamber filled with half-truths and lies, are the cancer that will bring America to it’s knees.

America’s president has been very bold in denouncing global terrorism. It is apparently only domestic terrorism that keeps him silent.