Just a Little Respect


by Roxanne Tellier

The last Monday of May is when America celebrates Memorial Day, a federal holiday which honours and mourns the military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Patriots observe both this holiday, and the other day of note, Remembrance Day, to signify their appreciation and respect for past and present members of the military. These are America’s heroes.

This year, however, that holiday coincides with something that only a tiny percent of a percent of Americans, if any, have ever seen before – the sudden death of nearly 100,000 citizens in just two months, by the novel coronavirus known as COVID 19.   

North Americans have been spoiled for the last hundred years. Sure, there were two World Wars, and a Great Depression, but few under the age of 50 even remember those days, let alone recognize the impact these events had on people. As peacekeepers, Canada felt even less of the sting of loss.

When the Towers fell on 9/11, 2001, Americans came together to support each other. Within hours, support systems and charities had been organized to protect the victims and their families. America mourned the loss of those 2,974 victims confirmed to have died in the initial attacks, and they mourned those victims TOGETHER – as a nation.

I remember those days well – it cost me my online mail order business, but I understood the impulse and impetus of this wave of patriotism. Suddenly, America curled in on itself, and, to protect the country, turned it’s back on buying outside of its own borders. I remember companies offering incentives that ranged from deep discounts to free shipping, just to satisfy and supply those Americans who wanted to make their purchasing dollars part of their commitment to a greater and more unified UNITED States of America.

19 years later, America has never been more greatly divided. As the largest number of Americans to die in one place, in one short time period, than at any other time in modern history, mounts, America’s president stokes dissent and disunion, riling up gun toting ‘militia’ into attacking state capitals and journalists, and egging them on in their benighted plot to protect their ‘freedom’ to not wear a mask that might help one other citizen breathe one more day.

About 30% of Americans think that the virus is a hoax, perhaps perpetrated by the ‘deep state’ that will do anything to impede trump’s re-election. (In England, 1 in 5 believe the virus is a hoax, enacted by their government for some nefarious but usually incomprehensible conspiracy reason.) 

Sadly, a lot of those ‘freedom fighters’ are discovering the very hard way that not believing in COVID 19 is not a prophylactic – disbelief doesn’t protect them if they are infected at one of their rallies, or in their daily interactions. The illusion of freedom they might feel when not wearing a mask is easily trumped by the reality of a ventilator mask, should they or someone they love become ill.

Pelosi voiced her concern that a morbidly obese, elderly man take the unproven drug.

Shockingly, America’s president seems hell bent on decimating his own nation. Speaking with all the wit and intelligence of a man being fed bits of his own fried brain, he first urged the citizens to ignore the virus, even as it dug in to the lungs of the people. Once the disease was firmly in place and had killed about 50,000, he then mused aloud that perhaps the ingestion of bleach or other household cleaners, along with some sort of internal transfusion of lighting, might be the answer. When neither of those actions prevented another 50,000 from dying, he told the nation that he himself was taking the controversial drug, hydroxychloroquine, a drug so toxic that clinical trials attempting to verify its efficacy had to stopped because the fatalities far outnumbered those who experienced any relief from taking the pill. 

And as the total of American dead ticks upward to a round 100,000 … one hundred THOUSAND … dead – America’s hero goes golfing, for the 185th time since ascending to the presidency. This is the same inability to comprehend the pain of others that trump displayed on 9/11, when his only comment on the horror of the towers coming down was that now his own building would be the tallest in New York City.

 His lack of empathy, his lack of remorse or of any sense of responsibility for putting so many citizens, not only in mortal danger, but of having caused actual deaths, cannot be quantified. His actions are those of a man that is already dead inside.

In light of the controversy and accusations of trump being indebted and in service to Russia and Vladimir Putin, it is very, very hard not to wonder what further atrocities he could be committing were those accusations proven to be true.  Because at this point, Putin would seem to be on track to call the current state of America to be  ‘Mission Accomplished.” 

Meanwhile, trump sycophants and collaborators insist that the frightened citizenry should leave the safety of their homes, and return to their jobs and normal shopping habits, in order to restart an economy that has ground to a halt. Asking workers to return to a workplace that is as yet undetermined to be safe is a cruel request, which pits the worker’s financial needs over their health and wellbeing.

In truth, America’s economy could support the entire nation for years, if necessary, as it did during the Second World War, when America’s economy was essentially shut down for nearly four years, in service to the needs of wartime.

So it CAN be done… it’s just that the current administration – egged on, as always by lobbyists for America’s largest corporations – does not want to do so. Returning to work, re-opening America (or Canada, for that matter) is not about some vaunted ‘freedom’ when the only ‘freedom’ here is to purposefully endanger oneself for the enrichment of others. No, pushing forward when safety is not even slightly guaranteed is solely to ensure that businesses and government treasuries can continue to enjoy record profits, built on the blood and phlegm of the sick and dying.

The people, confused and frightened, are being told lies, and are being given conflicting information on how to protect themselves, not from scientists and health care professionals, but from a man on record for having told 19,000 proven lies since being inaugurated in January 2017. 

They have been told that the majority of those dying just aren’t important, that those who suffer are old and frail, a burden on society. And yet, when the New York Times ran a full front page of obituaries today, of just one thousand who have died, just one percent of the one hundred thousand, the stories of those who have been sacrificed to the incompetency and lack of leadership, the economy, and a terror of losing re-election, was writ large upon the page.

Here were the names and details of people of all ages, from babies to seniors. Two of the dead were first responders on 9/11, heroes who ran back into burning buildings to save other Americans. There are business people, health care professionals, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and each and every one of these people were the fellow Americans who have, in some manner, in the last hundred years, been saved by the bravery and heroism of the United States Armed Forces that surviving Americans are supposedly remembering today.

No one is asking anyone on the planet to put on a uniform and march off to war against the coronavirus; this is not that kind of war. You are being asked only to show respect or love for your fellow men. That is what you honour today, or on Remembrance Day, or, hopefully, every time you attend the religious establishment of your choice. It’s not that kind of sacrifice. You’re only being asked to wear a mask and stay six feet away from other people. It’s not an encroachment on your rights and freedoms, it’s a request that we behave as though we really do believe that every single person is created equally and deserves to be treated with care, simply for being another human being.

In 1918, during the Spanish flu epidemic, people wore masks, to protect themselves and others, and so that they could continue to enjoy attending events. Recognizing and respecting the needs of others isn’t a hardship, any more than recognizing that the familiar, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” keeps your local establishment in a state that allows all to enjoy attending.   

Honestly, Canadians really can’t pat themselves on the back either. Although we’ve had significantly fewer deaths than the United States, we have our own share of disrespectful people who are playing Russian Roulette with not only their own health, but the health of others.

But it’s you that I don’t understand, America, because you are known for your patriotism and fierce national pride. When nearly 3000 people died in 9/11, many were so incensed at that attack on American soil that they wanted to nuke the perpetrators back to the Stone Age. In 2020, as 100,000 of your friends and neighbours perish, there are those refusing to acquiesce to the very rules meant simply to allow citizens to move around with a little more freedom, while armed groups try to snatch the mask off a journalist’s face.

What happened to the America that respected the dead, the first responders, and those hard-working journalists that brought you the nightly information you craved, often at their own peril?  

Now, as large groups of health care workers die in peace time, in their efforts to save you, or your mom, or your boss, you can’t even bring yourself to wear a mask. Just imagine if those doctors and nurses, EMTs and ambulance drivers, and the people who clean the buildings that you want to enter, demanded their own rights, and walked out en masse? Say goodbye to gramma, and maybe yourself

Where is the respect for those who put themselves on the line every day for YOU? Those people, considered essential workers, don’t have the luxury of staying at home, but are instead caring for you, feeding you, and cleaning up after you. They deserve no less freedom and rights than you do.

As Dan Levy so eloquently said,

“Imagine seeing it not as an infringement on your freedom but rather the simplest, easiest act of kindness that you can do in a day, not just for yourself but for other people who might have autoimmune issues,” he continued. “People who, if they were to contract [the disease] with those issues might have some devastating repercussions. So, yeah, see it not as anyone or anything infringing on your freedom but rather if you have the freedom to leave your house — if you have the good health to leave your house,  ‚why not put on a mask, make it your good deed for the day and do something nice for yourself and other people.”

It doesn’t always have to be about you –Memorial Day doesn’t honour cowards who stamp their feet and demand special treatment. Rather, we honour those who put the lives and needs of others over their own, because respecting the rights of others means a continuation of the respecting of our own rights. More than simple kindness, your good deed ensures that, someday, there will be someone somewhere alive to do a good deed for you in return.

What’s That In Your Pants?


If anyone had said to me, even a couple of months ago, that in July of 2017 the President of the United States would suddenly decree, apropos of nothing, and via Twitter no less! to “please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military”  … I’d have snorted like an outraged donkey.trump trans tweet

What the lemon scented fart? If any further proof was needed that the POTUS is not only ignorant of the Constitution, civil rights and the year, his homophobic proclamation sealed the deal.

I get it. He’s 71, and possibly – no, make that probably – suffering from senile dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and was never the hippest dude on the block even during his heyday, but this ridiculous knee-jerk revealed the ignorant, paranoid and prejudiced clod that somehow managed to fool enough of America to hit his Peter Principle pinnacle; the American paper fortune tellierPresident has reached the extreme tippity top limit of his competence, and is sliding into total incompetence and irrelevance, while clutching America’s nuclear codes like a paper fortune teller.

The news cycle went into overdrive after his tweet. Possible reasons for this cruel verdict included the reveal that a congressional fight over gender reassignment surgery, which threatened funding for his controversial wall with Mexico, was at least partly to blame. This despite studies that clearly showed that the highest possible cost estimates of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery would range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, (equivalent to two or three Trump weekend getaways to Mar A Lago.) Costs overall would represent an “exceedingly small proportion” of total health care.

The militarsarah huckabee sandersy spends much more on Viagra. The Department of Defence spends $49.3 billion each year on health care.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President was concerned about the policy. “This is a very expensive and disruptive policy and, based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team, he came to the conclusion that is erodes military readiness and unit cohesion and made the decision based on that,” she said.

I’m gonna guess that consultation involved less of the security team and more of his little, green, G.I. Joe figurines.toys for boys and girls

Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA’s director of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program said Mr Trump’s decision violated the human rights of all transgender Americans, adding: “It lays bare the president’s prejudice and underlines the fact that creating policy based on bigotry is becoming a dangerous and cruel pattern for President Trump.”

In other words, his own prejudice about how he personally would feel about serving alongside transgender military personnel was to supersede the many surveys and studies done within the actual military community that concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few (between 1,320 and 6,630) in the military’s 1.3 million-member force. Awful big talk from the Bone Spur Kingtrump bone spurs

Beyond any real or imaginary financial or morale implications, Trump’s words were a dog whistle to his base, those who agree with his fearful and intolerant ravings. Thankfully, there are less and less of them.

Without getting into all of the macho silliness and obvious fear of sexual inadequacy 45 has displayed throughout his life, you’d still think that he’d, by the age of seventy-one, at least be over his fear that the gay might get on him.

Because at the heart of it, an awful lot of people, especially older men like Trump, fear that their sexuality is a delicate thing. Masculinity, defined by male genitalia, is apparently so fragile that even a chance encounter with another male’s naughty bits will break it. Those kids in school who feared getting the gay cooties, who thought the queer might rub off on them if they even spoke to a transgendered kid, or who yelled out “fag” at anyone who broke fashion ranks with the ‘boys’ are more scared of their fragile grasp on their own sexuality than their victims are of their tormentors.

Even the word “homophobia” is a misnomer. A phobia is defined as an “irrational fear or hate,” something you might feel about heights, or spiders. If anything, the term would more appropriately be “homoism” since the range of negative attitudes and feelings towards those whose sexual taste differs from one’s own is more akin to words like racism, sexism, or ageism.

(Homophobia) has been defined as contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy, may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs.” (wikipedia)

Those emotions are a lot more definitive and deep seated than any you’d bring to bear on that poor spider who just happened to wander into your shower.

No, this whole ridiculous and overt terror that some ostensibly macho men exhibit is their fear that contact of any kind with homosexuals or the transgendered might change their “All Boy” identity into one that is “not-normal“.

It’s also that they’re afraid that a man will hit on them the way they hit on women.

It’s so irrational that it even out-irrationalizes racism; a bigot may hate people of a different colour, but he’s really not too worried that he might wake up one morning and find his skin tone has changed to black. No, that would be silly!

i woke up like this. jpgBut a homophobe does have a secret fear that they could wake up one fine morning and find that they suddenly crave the touch and scent and feel of someone who’s got all the same plumbing as they themselves are concealing in their boxers.

Several studies have linked homophobia to latent homosexual arousal. Maybe. After all, it’s not uncommon for those entering puberty to wonder about their own sex’s sexy bits, as well as the opposite’s. Most young people are worried that the acting out of their desires will disqualify them from fitting in with their peers. Closet homosexuals, therefore, have the most to fear; namely, that they’ll be found out, and socially ostracized.

henry rollins gay marriageIt’s crazy and irrational, and that’s why civilized society had to take a stand, and let the grownups decide that the establishment of civil rights made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone. ” And that means ALL people, regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin, and, since 1974, gender.

Which didn’t stop a small group of people, all puffed up with religious arrogance, from deciding that their own Holy Book‘s preachings gave them the right to ignore that legislation, and discriminate against legal same sex marriage.

By late 2014, same-sex marriage had become legal in states that contained more than 70% of the United States population. More than 70% of Americans lived in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples could legally marry. .. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses” (wiki)

Those who morally disagreed with this decision pushed back. Some, putting the lie to that old saying, “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake,” refused to bake wedding cakes for gay marriages. So sue me, they said. And the newlyweds did …

What makes people fear the gay and gay marriage? It’s because you’re giving these people equality. And that’s the biggest fear that people with power have: that you’ll get some too.

“I don’t want to be married. But if two people are crazy enough to be that in love with each other, damn, that’s a great thing. Give them a break. Life’s really short.

If you don’t want a gay marriage, then don’t have one.”

Henry Rollins on Big Think

Trump’s declaration of war upon those who protect their fellow citizens during times of both war and peace is unsavory, ill-advised, homophobic, and unconstitutional. It’s also very ill timed, since it was just last June 30, 2016, that then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that transgender people would be able to serve openly in the military in a memorandum directing the completion of such inclusion by June 30, 2017.

With the deadline approaching, current Defense Secretary James ‘Mad Dog” Mattis announced that he would be delaying the policy, writing: “After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months. … We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.” mattis isis waswas

Mattis and Trump seem unaware of the legally sticky wicket they’re facing with this strategy. An attempt to enforce a reinstated ban against transgender persons currently serving in the military would face steep legal challenges and precedent. Under well-settled law, the courts would almost certainly hold that soldiers who came out as openly transgender in reliance on the military’s own policy could not be subsequently penalized for doing so. Current transgender soldiers, who are relying not just on a policy of de facto tolerance, but on an official policy expressly permitting open service, could and would take legal action.

More importantly, and on a human level, the conversation about transgender military service should not revolve around numbers, or deeply held, albeit illegal, prejudices. Either America respects it’s values and citizens, or it does not. The current President of all Americans has drawn a hard line demonstrating that he stands with those who lack respect for the value and rights of LGBTQ American citizens.
……………………….

And now, a musical interlude to clear your palate …

In the bad old days, the majority of LGBTQ people in the entertainment business strove to cover their sexual proclivities. But there were a few brave souls who dared to flaunt their fabulousness.

Jackie Shane YongeSt_onstageOne bright light that graced Toronto‘s stages was Jackie Shane. Born in Nashville in 1940, he cut his teeth touring with musical house mother, ‘Queen of the Blues’, Marion James, eventually becoming part of the band, The Motley Crew, which was based in Toronto.

Jackie was a soul/R&B singer who frequently performed at the Sapphire Tavern. His appearance was androgynous; he often wore makeup, and sometimes an evening gown.

His flamboyant stage act, makeup and attire so threatened the media gatekeepers that even the  CHUM radio station refused to interview him on-air, and only began playing his hit single, “Any Other Way,” after it had begun climbing the charts, finally peaking at the number two spot in Canada in 1962.

“Jackie Shane wasn’t bringing his act to Toronto so it could be better understood. Instead he was taking it out of context, to someplace where it seemed more alien and strange. Maybe he liked it better that way. By coming to Toronto he was escaping segregation and getting to perform to white people with presumably deeper pockets, who had never seen anything like him before. You could cross over in the States, but then you’d have to pull a Little Richard and turn your ‘freak’ show into a clown act, taking out the gay innuendo.” (Carl Wilson, music journalist)

Shane was the stuff of mystery and legend. Rumours swirled around him, including one that claimed Shane was cousin to Little Richard. Shane left Toronto in 1971, moving to Los Angeles, where Jackie turned down an offer to be part of the band Funkadelic.

After returning to Nashville after her mother’s death, Jackie lived as a woman. Shane had become a legend, and, like most legends, there were rumours of her death, including one claiming that she had been murdered in 1998.

She was gone – but not forgotten.

From Now Toronto‘s Michael Rancic, ” In 2010 the CBC produced a radio documentary about her life, and rare live footage of Shane was featured in Bruce McDonald’s three-part TV documentary, Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories, in 2011.

Noted music journalist Carl Wilson wrote his own extensive take on Shane’s enduring relevance for Hazlitt in 2013, placing Shane within a larger context of the history of queer and Black performers. The following year, Videofag hosted an exhibition for an animation by Sonya Reynolds and Lauren Hortie called Whatever Happened To Jackie Shane?

Her live album was nominated for the Polaris Heritage Prize in both 2015 and 2016, and earlier this year, The Globe And Mail published an article calling Shane a “lost transgender superstar,” and a volume of Toronto queer history, Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, was published by Coach House and featured an essay by Steven Maynard.

Archival record label Numero Group is releasing the first-ever artist-approved collection of soul singer Jackie Shane’s work.

Named after her most well-known single, Any Other Way is an extensive collection of all six of Shane’s 45s, highlights from the often bootlegged 1967 live set recorded at Toronto’s famed Sapphire Tavern, as well as three never-before-heard tracks.”

Any Other Way is out October 20.

Canadians Mustn’t Die to Protect Harper’s Ego


Whenever I watch anything about war, be it fiction or non-fiction, featuring North Americans, or any other soldiers on the planet, I am struck by one horrible, indefensible truth.

I am long past romanticizing war. The young men … the young and the foolish and brave men, barely past their teens or just into their twenties … believe with all of their hearts that they are acting in the best interests of their tribes. quote-young-men-go-to-war-sometimes-because-they-are-have-to-sometimes-because-they-want-to-always-mitch-albom-206250

Young men, whose hearts are in the right place, but who have yet to achieve total mental maturity, take up arms against others, others that they have been told either have something their country needs, or others who have a predetermined antipathy against their country.

cheneyOld men, men that could not be drafted into service, send these babes out in to the world, armed with little knowledge, but strong prejudices, drilled into them through military exercises, and constant reminders that the most honourable thing they can do is to die for their country.

Those who survive the horror of war, at least since Vietnam, come home not to respect and a grateful nation, but to a country set on denying them timely help in recovering from physical or emotional trauma. Canada and the United States are unable to cope with the wounded from the last several skirmishes. There are veterans of foreign wars living on the streets in North America, while others battle endless bureaucracy to simply get the care they were promised would be available at the end of their military tours. Some of these veterans will kill themselves in despair, willingly or through drug usage meant to dull the pain, before they finally get to the top of the treatment line.

political hypocrisyAnd yet, come Remembrance Day, every politician will be piously doffing their metaphorical hats in respect, a respect in lip service only.

And now, this Easter weekend, Prime unseat harperMinister Stephen Harper, so terrified of losing his seat in Parliament that he will inflate one drug addled, mentally ill man’s assault on the Parliament into terrorist activity, has decided to plunge Canada into what is essentially an illegal war, unsanctioned by the United Nations, and unasked of by the Canadian citizens who will be paying the bill for yet another foreign war, and sending their sons and daughters to be slaughtered to his monumental hubris, and need for power at any cost – even that of the Canadians he was elected to serve.

“”Our last war, in Afghanistan, lasted 12 years. The kill count was 158 Canadian service men and women, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. There are some 2,100 Afghanistan veterans trying to recover from combat and other non-battle injuries. In terms of treasure, the total bill to the country is $12 billion. This includes $8.4 billion for the mission itself and $447-million to take care of our veterans.”  http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/why-is-canada-at-war-the-politics-of-fear-listener-mail-school-of-gospel-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-1.3018334/why-is-canada-at-war-michael-s-essay-1.3018363

He has no right, and no mandate, to take Canada into a war slipped through on the eve of Easter and Passover weekend. His cadre of supporters, more cowed supplicants than devoted fellow party members, voted 142 to 129 to pass this war resolution. It is a shameful, vile moment in Canada’s long history of peace keeping.

“War is the ultimate acknowledgement of collective failure. War means that we don’t know how to confront evil by any means other than killing and dying.” Michael Enright.

In generations to come, Stephen Harper’s legacy will include this decision to side with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose family has been slaughtering Syrians for decades and continues to do so. His reputation in the rest of the civilized world may never recover. But it is we, the Canadians, who will have to live with the shame and our shattered world image.

war is failure