How Much for Your Soul?


by Roxanne Tellier

On the day after 4 million students from all around the world marched to protest their respective governments’ lack of decisive action on climate change, Bob Lefsetz noted that the photos and the chatter had already been pushed off the pages of both terrestrial and online press sites. 

Just a few of those crazy 4 million kids who marched for climate change

Today I noticed several cynics on social media, who found the very idea of kids marching for climate change laughable. Rather than admire the strength and courage shown by Greta Thunberg and her supporters, they wallowed in the belief that there is no point in fighting those in power.

It’s like all the marches, the sit ins and bed ins and hunger strikes of the sixties never even happened. As though the broken heads and bodies of civil rights activists were a myth. As if the peaceful protests of leaders like Ghandi just didn’t matter. 

Listen. If protests didn’t work, governments wouldn’t be always trying to stop people from protesting.

When the people finally stand up and find their voices, the people can change the world. We boomers did; we stopped a war. Maybe these kids can save the planet. Maybe we can help them.

If we don’t then we’ve proved that this is how the world works now. We gear up towards an event, take our selfies, and then we’re on to the next crisis. Even if we really, really care about that event – a political debate, our children marching to try and save the planet – there’s always another spike, another shock, another jolt, coming at us before we’ve caught our breath from the last. Which means we never actually get anything done.

It’s exhausting. And it’s getting us nowhere.

All week long I’ve been trying to put my finger on the overwhelming atmosphere of our political environment. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing. It’s like we’ve had our adrenal glands hooked up to a milking machine. Our supply of fight or flight hormones are running so low now that many people would barely blink at a sharknado.   

While we can certainly point to the Mango Mussolini as the main culprit who has conditioned us to expect multiple adrenaline jolts per day, the media also bears a lot of responsibility for having married our emotions to this stressful world of social media and nonstop ‘breaking news!’

When I was growing up, the news occupied a sacred place in society. At fairly regular intervals, the citizenry would be asked to pause in what they were doing, and pay attention to the news of their country, and the world. Some read newspapers, some watched their televised updates at 6pm and before bed, but overall, most people had at least a vague sense of how governments ran. Sometimes we were told that things were good, and it was time to celebrate. Other times, we’d be informed of battles and wars that needed our attention, and sometimes, that required the service and sacrifice of our fittest young people. But overall … news was for grown ups, and it was important.

However, it was also something from which you could take a vacation, and return to, without missing much.

Those were the days when channels still ‘signed off’ for the night .. often with beautiful, patriotic, or regional slideshows. Remember CITY TVs paean to the city of Toronto?

That’s Toronto … People City ….

Good times.

But then, somewhere along the line, some edgy television exec decided that every broadcast moment had to turn a profit. Overnight, the sanctity of a news hour was discarded for the glitz and glamour of the tackiest of game show stages. Every decade, another of the venerable newscasters whom we’d come to trust and revere, was either rehabilitated into a botoxed, liposuctioned fashion plate, or unceremoniously shown the door for a younger, prettier, sexier, news reader.

On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news station. Headline News followed in 1982, .and MSNBC and FOX News were right behind them. News had effectively been monetized, and the world would never again be the same.  

I have to keep reminding myself that political junkies are only about 11% of the population. How are we supporting all of those stations?

It just seems like there must be even more of us. But that’s because social media – and a disturbingly populist wave –  has narrowed our visions. Everyone’s got an opinion on social media. But that doesn’t mean that everyone understands what they’re being force fed.

Right now, we in North America are awash in the hopes and dreams of political candidates, all of whom wish to steer their ships of state or nations.

But it seems that quite a lot of politicians – primarily those with a bend to the right – are more comfortable playing ‘gotcha!‘ with their opponents. Apparently that’s way easier than presenting a progressive, doable policy their party can follow, and their electorate can agree upon.

And many, many, many people are very easily lead. Once seeds of doubt and mistrust have been planted, social media is happy to keep watering those misdeeds with liberal tears.

A friend messaged me the other day, with this anecdote.

Who knew I never needed a head? or a brain?

“I was getting my hair cut, and they were all talking about Trudeau in blackface. I listened for about twenty minutes. None of them had seen the photo, but they were horrified. One had a friend that called her, crying.  When I explained that it was a picture of him at a party, dressed as Aladdin, and that he had darkened his face and hands, they all said, “ahhhh.. well that’s not so bad.” Then I quoted him as saying, “I am really pissed at myself.” They were all lovey dovey again until one of them started reading from her phone on why any colouring of the skin is racist and they were all up in arms again.”

It sure doesn’t seem like denigrating and mudslinging a political leader makes people very happy. In fact, it seems to only add to the miasma of uncertainty that so many have in recent elections.

Voters are already conflicted. Too many choose to vote against party leaders, rather than FOR a logical, progressive plan forward. Keep on tearing down those the voters want to look up to, and you’ll soon have an electorate that just can’t be bothered to vote at all.

That works out great for those parties that can’t win fairly. Those who choose to use dirty tricks, gossip and innuendo to attempt to sway swing voters towards their own party need to realize that these ruses serve to make voters even more distrustful and cynical of whomever is currently in charge of their country.  

Today’s smearing of Trudeau is tomorrow’s smearing of Scheer. And while both parties wallow in the mud, and try to defend themselves against attacks, neither party is actually working to make the voter’s life any better.

Most people are happiest when their country is chugging along, doing well economically, and not hurting those who are already hurting. Most people rarely think about hurting other people, just because they can.

But there are some people who will put financial gain above all else.

Today, the news is full of stories about American troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, to be used as paid mercenaries – soldiers of fortune against Iran. Trump says that America must put their own military on the line to die for ‘the kingdom’ because “Saudi Arabia pays cash.” 

The Saudis also paid cash to the murderers who perpetrated the attack on the United States on 9/11. And surely, their own dollars paid for the brutal murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Can you buy a nation’s soul with cash? Apparently you can, in the United States. The Saudis ‘pay cash’ … so they’ve bought trump .. and America’s might and military.

Canadians will soon be asked to either reinstate Justin Trudeau as prime minister, or to choose another leader to fill that position. That next leader will have to work with the United States, both economically, and politically.

The question we need to ask ourselves is .. will  our next leader also believe that everything we hold dear can be bought? Our planet, our bodies, our morals – are they all for sale? How much for our country ?

The question we need to ask ourselves is which leader we believe we can trust to behave morally and ethically when they are asked to make decisions about our relationship with America and the other countries of the world.

How much for your soul?

My City Was Gone


“Living just enough, just enough, for the city.”

The Big Cities of the past weren’t for everyone. In the hardscrabble days when I was growing up in Montreal or in Toronto, a city rat could always make ends meet, somehow, some way. There was always that neighbourhood where you could find a deal, that part of town where, while it might not be pretty, but, be it ever so humble, you could find a place to crash if you were short of dough. Or a place to score if you wanted to get high. You might not have a Rolex, but you could find a knockoff for a couple of bucks. k market 1976

When you’re really hungry, a bag of smelts tastes like caviar. And back then, the smaller, inner city groceries, run mostly by the children of immigrants, could always be counted on as somewhere to find something cheap and cheerful to feed the belly of the hungry.

 

 

But getting older often means learning the hard way that the city you once knew is gone forever, for good or for ill. Cities change, landmarks disappear, and the people’s needs change. Progress seeks to whitewash the reality of the poverty and the needy that always lurk in a big city’s depths. Your need to find a little corner of the metropolis to call your own won’t necessarily be fulfilled when you most need it, even if you’re willing to bend to nearly breaking point, just to stay where you’ve lived most of your life.

Life in the big city was never gonna be easy for everybody, but for those of us who came here chasing a dream, there was a time when it was easier to make it work. These days, the city rats have to give way to the up and coming high tech mice, who have the wherewithal to pay the big rents, the big mortgages, and who have enough of the ready to enjoy the best of the city that wants to be world class.

for sale signsWhen we sold our home in 2016, we didn’t worry about where we’d land up next. Surely we’d come up roses on a nice, new place to rent, someplace where we could keep our ‘stuff’ and exist comfortably for the foreseeable future.

But our search was far more difficult that we’d thought, and we didn’t find a cubby hole to curl up in straight away – there were a lot of twists and turns on the journey. And once here, the drawbacks of this particular rental surfaced, meaning that this isn’t where we’ll be staying long-term either.

But where we were lucky was in having a good credit rating, reasonably good health, and a couple of bucks in the bank. Not that any of that guarantees you’ll find a decent living space, but when you put them all together, it will help make the search just a little less frustrating.

There are several reasons why living in the bigger cities of North America has become harder for the lower to middle class. We’ve lived through decades of foolish governments who hung on to power by failing to increase taxes enough to keep the city running. Our infrastructure has been strained to it’s limits without the injections of cash needed to keep the trains going, or the hospitals able to handle an aging society.

Those same governments, as a rule, also tended to side with commercial leasing entities over renters, allowing businesses to take huge tax write offs on over priced properties that could stand vacant for months and even years, until a lessee with big dollars took occupation.

Real estate prices have soared in the last decade, until even the tiniest, most rundown, residential property in the city starts at a million dollars, and goes up into the stratosphere from there. Real estate agents are becoming the nouveau riche. Who can afford to buy those properties?

And yet the ‘for sale’ signs go up, and in days, come down, with the replacement sign reading, ‘sold over asking.’ How many of these buyers are house poor, I wonder? And how will they pay the overblown mortgage should one half of a couple lose their jobs or become ill?

straight outta scarboroughGentrification has been excising the more interesting parts of the city for at least the last thirty years. Within another three to five years, Yonge Street south of Bloor will be as nondescript as a Scarborough mall, packed with chain stores, fast food franchises, Starbucks, and a Shopper’s Drug Mart on every corner.

If I wanted Scarborough drab .. I’d go to Scarborough. “Cleaning up” Yonge street really means erasing our sense of history and place, and of sanding down the grit of People City, leaving behind the sort of bland, generic playground that is fit only for the children of the very wealthy.

dying from exposureI know that this is no longer the city that I came to conquer back in 1976; there are new generations coming up behind me, young and hungry, and eager to prove themselves in their fields.

But how are they to survive, when those with the ability to raise them up, choose instead to shackle these young spirits with internships and exposure? Where exactly are they to find the bootstraps these strugglers are supposed to pull up?

And most importantly… where are these young tyros supposed to live? And how are they to eat? When living is reduced to just surviving, there’s little time or will to create.

Once upon a time, those who yearned to enjoy and participate in Canada’s culture flocked to Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, and took their chances, clawing their way to success, or falling by the wayside. But international big money has taken that option out of the equation.

If you didn’t buy real estate twenty years ago, you’re going to have to be in rarefied company to be able to afford to buy today. Even your ability to rent in a ‘better area’ of the metropolises is an iffy proposition.

Globalization, gentrification … we’re moving from the end of the industrial age into the fullness of the digital, high tech world. And our cities reflect that change, just as at one point they reflected the scions who traveled in horse and buggy.

The cities have begun to depend upon video, cellular communications, artificial intelligence, and eventually, a robotics industry that will force countries to accept a basic income that will keep the lower and middle class in just enough financial stability to stay alive … though that life may not be what many would have considered livable even a decade or two ago. The digital elite will own the residences; the rest of us will vie for the privilege of renting.

tent cities 2018And those who fall between the cracks will live in the tent cities that are now springing up to house the homeless.

The cities, as we knew them, are changing. Some cities, like San Francisco and New York, are already gone. and it could be argued that Vancouver is next, with Toronto not far behind.

As much as we may yearn to keep this from happening, globalization is inevitable, and as unstoppable as a tidal wave.

And, for many, that wave is washing away the possibility of aging in place in the Big City.

 

The Kids Are Alright


My kids are Gen Xers, the ‘middle child’ of generations. Praise the lawd and hope the creek don’t rise, they’re safely ensconced in solid careers. They’re good people, with good hearts and a firm grasp of reality, if at times, perhaps a little jaded from growing up in this society and as our kids.

millennials who why

The grandkids – well, that’s another story, yet to be written. Caught between two larger generations, the Gen Xers and the Boomers. the Millennials are poised to officially take over as the major demographic in North America in 2019, surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation.

And I couldn’t be happier.

It is time to marvel at how capable, thoughtful, media savvy, and socially conscious most of them are. It’s also time to be aware of what kind of country and world we want to live in, as, when this generation takes the reins, they will eventually becomes ‘the boss of us’ AND of our own kids, their parents.

Too many people of my age and slightly older still direct the course our governments have followed for decades. In an allegiance to slash and burn capitalism, and an inability to cede power, we are seeing a spastic, greedy final grasping at mining the best our countries have to offer in an effort to line their own pockets. It’s as though the physical siphoning away of these riches invigorates them like an infusion of virgin blood. That group of supposed fiscal conservatives have little consideration of the current or future environmental or financial welfare of the real inheritors of our countries – the kids.

Or in the case of America, of the fate of most of their citizens. The decisions made by the current government reward the wealthiest of the people, at the expense of the social safety net.

child will burn down the villageWe can plan for our futures, and keep our fingers crossed that we get from cradle to grave without too many inconveniences, but we have to acknowledge the truth – the quo rarely stays statused.

Stuff happens. People get sick, and people get old. Some will lay down their lives for their countries, while others will never have the wherewithal to become productive members of society. No one can really plan for the catastrophic effects of extreme social or climate change, but there are towns, cities, and countries coping with it anyway. Natural disasters and human frailties take lives, and leave calamitous after-effects.

This is the core of community, the reality of a society that places it’s trust and bets it’s life that everyone in the community will work together for the common good, that the strong will lift up the weak, and that every human being has equal rights.

tax cut bybacksThat kind of thinking seems foreign and weak to those that have made their fortunes, and risen to power, with a dog eat dog attitude that screams, “ME FIRST! ME ALWAYS!”

But the Millennials have grown up watching this lascivious corporate greed and disregard for the well being of others. They have looked on as the ruling class redefines what we call ‘normal‘ – and they strongly disagree.

These Millennials simply don’t have the moral apathy of their elders. They are becoming fully fledged adults,  at a time in which the world has never appeared more off-balance, and they refuse to acquiesce to the attitudes of those that made it that way.

They’ve watched as we, their elders and supposed advisers, snidely point to the law breaking, insanity and inanities of the left and right and tear each other apart politically, and they have seen that a lack of diplomacy and the inability to negotiate, in politics or in business, endangers all citizens, not just those who will profit from posturing and aggression.

They’ve watched as political leaders plop their nuclear insecurities onto the war table, and wondered why these ammosexuals cannot see that the use of nuclear weapons would kill millions of their enemies, but also slaughter their own people.

trump crueltyThey’ve watched in disbelief as America’s president, with all of the class of a cornered rabid dog, exhibits a cruelty on a Grand Guignol scale, with no perceived opponent too big or too small to publicly crush and humiliate. He exhibits not a shred of compassion, no ability to feel or even acknowledge the pain of others, and considers his brutish, meaningless, contempt and cruelty for all of his subjects to be a feature, not a bug, of his reign.

Incompetent, ignorant, and unable to comprehend his own ineptitude, he and his equally vile henchmen have begun the normalization of social instability, as psychological distress, along with housing, medical, and food insecurity, ramps up to a fever pitch.

And the kids have been watching.

They have watched as their natural inheritance has been squandered and poisoned in service to those too married to greed to acknowledge their own incompetence and complete abdication of sanity, morality and ethics.

They have watched as we have asked them to consider it ‘normal‘ that a president of the United States would advocate the death penalty for those who produce or sell opioids. A president who casually dismisses countries with a largely black population as ‘shitholes, and who believes that the police system should violate due process whenever due process is inconvenient. A president who tells police officers to unleash their own brutality on prisoners, guilty or not.

They have watched as the president of the United States demands complete fealty, as he makes sweeping decisions of national consequence that he later upends and denies ever having said, all the while assuring his citizens that he never lies and must be trusted unconditionally.

A president who, despite already exhibiting signs of dementia with a little over a year in office under his belt, muses aloud about the possibility of extending his term in office to ‘unlimited.’

sessions justiceThey’ve watched as this normalization of the abnormal extends to what would appear to be treason – an allegiance to a foreign power – even as mounting and incontrovertible evidence proves that Russia is attacking American democracy. His refusal to impose sanctions nearly unanimously agreed upon by the House and Senate – hell, his refusal to so much as mildly rebuke the Russian intrusions – point to a president that is severely compromised, and should be removed from power.

They have watched as everything that we claimed to believe and to pledge allegiance to is overturned… and they have judged us, and found us wanting. And they are right. We seem to have caved to those who seek loopholes that would pervert the rules of law, and unbalance the scales in the hands of Justice. They cannot, and will not, live in that world. We didn’t raise them to live in that world. And now they’re holding us to what we promised them.

More than any previous generation, the Millennials have been taught to not see colour, religion or gender. They clearly see through the hysteria and misinformation the bigots and misogynists bray, and are politically engaged beyond the standards of our own youth. We led them to believe that they were capable, and nurtured their interests and abilities. They are doing what we taught them to do on the playground, in their class rooms; they are paying attention, and talking and listening to each other.

And ‘dying at the hands of a psychologically wounded fellow student ‘ was not on any to-do list that we gave them.

millenials voteIn the last election, 35% of Americans were willfully blind to the lack of ethics and morality, never mind good business practices, that were so evident, and they gleefully placed their X next to Trump’s name.

But this year, millions of Millennials will be eligible to vote.

And they’ve been watching us.

 

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a late addition .. I do love Randy Rainbow! 😉

 

Touring Murmuration Nation with Emily Saliers


If you came of age in the 90s, you’ll likely remember Amy Ray and Emily Saliers as the Indigo Girls. Their music was the background music of the indie lifestyle, and indeed, they seemed to be everywhere, racking up Gold and Platinum records, receiving a Grammy in 1990 for Best Contemporary Folk Album, and becoming part of our mass consciousness, referenced in such diverse environs as Stephen King‘s Rose Madder, and the television series, Will and Grace, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory.

With their first major hit, Closer to Fine, a collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers, the Girls secured a place in the hearts of their followers. The first album was followed by a dozen more.

Flash forward thirty years, and Amy and Emily still keep the Indigo Girls flame alight, but both have also dabbled in other enterprises, including solo albums that allow each to follow their personal musical paths. While Amy’s on her seventh solo album, Emily has just released her first, Murmuration Nation.

Emily’s been involved in many non-musical ventures, including the co-ownership of Watershed, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, and the co-writing of a book called A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice with her father, Don Saliers , a retired theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

With so many diverse interests and abilities, touring the Indigo Girls was enough to keep Salier’s  musical itch in neutral, until about two years ago, when she began to ponder the source of her musical inspiration. Born in Connecticut, but raised in Georgia, her ‘white girl in a folk singer’s body’ is still infused with her first musical loves; rhythm and blues, soul music, funk and hip hop, the sounds that are at the core of her rhythmic centre.

The new album, produced by Lyris Hung, a classically trained violinist who has worked with the Girls for years, was conceived when Emily sent Lyris some musical bits and pieces that Lyris cobbled together, just for fun, into something wonderful in her home studio.

Inspired by the directions Lyris had taken the ideas, a project was born, and grew into Murmuration Nation. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the CD is an always moving aural river of sounds, ideas and rhythms.

With dollops of social commentary, a hard nod to social justice, and an eagle eye to environmental issues, the songs flow naturally, commenting wryly on our past, present and future, the personal, and the impersonal. Deep thoughts, yes, but also gentle musings on the fascination of relationships, and always with a beat you can dance to.

Spider” kicks off the album in an explosion of pop/art rock, before settling into a hypnotic groove, setting the pace for the songs to come.

Growing up in Georgia meant being influenced by a myriad of musical styles, and rubbing shoulders with other musicians, including the members of country vocal group, Sugarland. A vocal romp with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles dazzles on the most commercial tune on the CD, “Long Haul.”

OK Corral is specifically about our mental illness with our relationship with guns. Even as kids we knew about gunslingers. But the wool has been pulled over some people’s eyes because of a very powerful group like the NRA. Those of us who want sane gun legislation are not saying ‘take ALL the guns away,’ we’re saying that when you have a country of people, many of them ill, and they have access to multiple weapons all of the time … something sets them off, and in a moment of impulsivity, lives are lost. We have to deal with that, on a legislative effort, and we have to start talking to each other about what sane gun legislation means.”

murmurationFly” was written right after the presidential election. “‘Fly’ is kind of at the crux of the album, ” Saliers explains. “A murmuration of birds is practically inexplicable to scientists, but it’s a very powerful thing to watch, and I see it happening in our country in an amazing way right now. From Black Lives Matter to the Women’s March to Standing Rock, there are all these grassroots movements starting to coalesce, and I take great comfort in the way people are instinctually moving together to fight injustice and hate.”

“I’m High I’m On High” looks to the roots of violent religious zealotry.

“Go find someone who’s got nothing left to lose
Brand him a hero, make him think he gets to choose
Between an earthly life of filth and apostates
Or a martyr’s lair where God and virgins wait”

This current tour takes Emily from Maine to Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina, with a stop here in Toronto’s Mod Club on Tuesday, November 21. Expect an organic, audio/visual presentation, featuring stalwart player and producer Lyris Hung in a powerful five piece unit.

Saliers is looking forward to the Toronto visit, as she’s no stranger to the city. Her wife, former Indigo Girls tour manager Tristin Chipman, is an Albertan native who spent most of her adult life in Toronto, has also worked for CARAS, and was the Tragically Hip’s tour manager for their final tour.

“There are a lot of heavy, serious topics on this album,” says Saliers, “but there’s also a lot of whimsical groove and pop to it. That mix is important to me because it’s like the ebb-and-flow, peak-and-valley journey of life. I think this record is very reflective of my personality. I need fast and I need slow; I need grooves and I need a little bit of edge.”

Tickets are still available for Tuesday’s show, and doors open at 7 p.m. Saliers will be signing after the show, and hopes to see you there!

 

(addendum: This post was written prior to the Toronto show on November 21, and a terrible, no fun cold, prevented me from posting it in a timely manner, or getting to see the concert. However – the CD is terrific, and a worthy purchase. )

 

When Babies and Bath Water Fly


And once again, we’re having to dodge the flying babies and bathwater. Oh my, dear readers, when will we learn to take a collective deep breath before opining on the veracity and morality of what we read on social media?

The cause célèbre of the last several weeks has been the rash of sexual harassment/attack accusations being launched at some very powerful people. This is not a new thing, but it is a good thing, in how it is being conducted. For too long, pretty much every accusation put forward by a woman against a powerful man has simply been met with denial.

Anita Hill Clarence Thomas TIMEEven in the cases that were adjudicated in the courts, the female accuser would most often be slandered and humiliated, and the powerful male would walk away, legally unimpeded.

Not true, you say? Well golly gosh gee, why don’t you ask Anita Hill how she thinks the 1991 Clarence Thomas trial turned out? Pretty sure he wound up on the Supreme Court, and she wound up being condemned as a liar, despite there being four other female witnesses ready to testify, but never called.

jian ghomeshiOr cast your mind back to the 2016 Jian Ghomeshi trial. Like Miramax‘s Harvey Weinstein, Ghomeshi’s penchant for sexual harassment was legendary, an ‘open secret’ to most women in the Toronto media biz. Still, Ghomeshi walked, although his reputation was badly smeared.

But now, in the final months of 2017, a flood of accusations against bad actors in the entertainment, corporate and political world has been unleashed. It would be business as usual, except that this time around, we’re not waiting for the accusers to have their day in court. Instead, we’re actually believing the women who’ve come forward.

Since the first explosive charges against Weinstein, the hits have kept coming against other powerful men … this is, without a doubt, the biggest national conversation on sexual harassment since the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas battle of the early ’90s.

Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Chris Sovino, Roy Price and then NO! not Mark Halperin! No! Not Matt Lauer! NO!!  Not Louis CK! Oh it’s just all too much!

What’s a liberal to do?

And then, the lowest blow of all … Senator Al Franken. Not Al Franken! This one had to be the worst accusation of all. Franken has been the only bright light worth watching or rooting for in the congressional vetting of Trump’s horrible string of nominees, each more disgusting, unqualified, and oblivious than the next.

Within hours of the Franken Fracas, the liberals on social media had staked out their martyr’s place, and had decided that Franken would have to take up residence on the cross, post haste.

Wisely, the Senator has expressed concern for how these events have been remembered and described, and he has demanded that a full Senate Ethics Committee investigation be launched .. upon himself.

What does the Senator know that his critics do not?

franken and tweeden USOI will not take a side on the LeeAnn Tweeden/Al Franken situation; there are simply too many reports, photos and timelines around the event to consider it anything but suspect.

I will say this, though – if it turns out that Tweeden’s accusations were more politically motivated than deeply felt, she will have done an incredible disservice to the brave women who are actually coming forward, at great emotional cost to themselves, against powerful people who have been abusing their power.

And there is absolutely no moral equivalency between Franken’s actions, and the criminal intent and pedophilia of Roy Moore. Franken’s crimes seem to have been a taste for low comedy and an over-abundance of Midwestern bonhomie. A prank, faked “boob grab” photo simply does not rise to the level of assault. Let’s not whinge on about slut-shaming and victim blaming if the reality is that the accusers are actually hard-core political operatives. The investigation will tell us which way that wind actually blows.

salem witch trialsI don’t care how ‘woke’ you are, it’s time to take it down a notch, because right now, this is all starting to look and sound a lot like the Salem Witch trials .. a whole lot of hysteria, self-flagellation, and possibly politically motivated accusations. And when it’s over .. just a lot of red, shamed faces, and the dead bodies of the innocent to show for it all.

Yes, we need to believe women. No, all offenses are not equal. You don’t get to be more offended than a victim. I get it .. we’re all giggly because wow .. finally! The bad guys are getting outed! But be careful what you wish for – the furor will die down, and Trump will still be president. That should tell you more than any other thing you read.

Here’s the thing, though …

trump grab em by the pussyThere have always been bad people accused of bad actions who simply chose to deny the claims. Trump did it last year during his run for President. Roy Moore is doing it now. Men like those are the sort that will continue to deny what they have done, even in the face of audio and video evidence.

(this just in … President Donald Trump now claims that the Access Hollywood tape on which he boasted of sexually assaulting women may not be genuine, according to a report in The New York Times. According to the Times, the president told a senator earlier this year that the tape was not genuine and repeated the claim to an adviser recently.)

The rich and powerful will always try to keep their victims powerless. Trump is in the process of attempting to rewrite history, and to rig the legal system in his, and other abusers, favour.

” The clearest example came in March. It received little coverage at the time. President Donald Trump reversed an Obama-era order that forbid federal contractors from keeping secret sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

The 2014 rule prohibited these companies, which employ about 26 million people, from forcing workers to resolve complaints through arbitration, an increasingly common method businesses use to settle disputes out of the public eye.” Huffington Post

So we’re in an interesting position, we liberal thinkers. On the one hand, we need to keep the pressure on, believing the courageous women who come forward with statements of abuse, and demanding justice; on the other hand, we have to beware of those who will subvert these times, and force us to throw our own best people under the bus.

We cannot play into the Republican playbook of deflect, deflect, deny, deflect. We have to be better than that. Right now, Roy Moore could be found with a dead 14 year old’s body in his trunk and he’d deny it. Not us liberals … we’d lead the blood hounds right to the trunk.

torches_and_pitchforksIt ain’t a level playing field. Don’t pretend that it is.

 

It’s asking a lot of us, emotionally. Perhaps this might be the time when we take a deep breath, and wait for a little more information before we take to the ‘streets’ of social media with our torches and pitchforks.

 

Our Flag is Red and White


biggest protest in canadaCanadians … we love our country, but that’s never stopped us from having our beefs with how it’s run. Unlike many other countries, we feel free to speak up about what angers us. For all our reputation of being a polite and respectful people, we reserve the right to disagree with those who would impose their will upon the nation.

We love our healthcare, but are aware it needs tweaking to be all that it should be. We know that it is not ‘greedy’ or ‘entitled’ to demand that the healthcare that we pay for with our taxes, works for every Canadian.

We love our democracy, but want to ensure that we remain democratic, which calls for electoral reform. We don`t want to run the risk of any party taking control of the system and bending it to it`s favour – we won’t accept trickery or gerrymandering in our elections.

don't do it againMany were angry at the direction we took in the last decade, under the Conservative prime minister . We now have a Liberal prime minister, and likely just as many have issues with his party. In our Canadian way, we will protest against what we dislike, and in due course, vote for the direction we would like to have in the future.

Because this is not a “my country – love it or leave it‘ place, we can and will criticize those in power, and insist upon our right to do so.

On July 1, we honoured the establishment of Confederation in 1867. But the interesting thing about the adoption of the July 1867 date is that, at that time, Canada consisted of only four provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. While Canada Day acknowledges an important national milestone, it’s not really celebrating all of the country we now call Canada.

Nor does the concept of Canada Day include the indigenous peoples who were here before the settlers came from Europe. Even our national anthem ignores the fact that this is not our native land. Instead, we live ON native land, 89% of which is Crown Land administered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and still in dispute, hundreds of years after the first treaties were written.

resistance150The First Nations people have been here for over 13,000 years, and for many, the celebration of Canada Day amounts to ” celebrating resource extraction of our territories. The Indian Act is still in place. The government is not allowing First Nations to have a voice. So why would I ever celebrate?”” (Anishinaabe traditional storyteller and teacher Isaac Murdoch.)

The #Resistance150 movement was created nearly eight months ago by Murdoch, Michif visual artist Christi Belcourt, Cree activist Tanya Kappo and Métis author Maria Campbell, as the group discussed the festivities planned by the Liberal government for Canada 150. They found it increasingly difficult to accept that the government, while giving lip service to plans of reconciliation, continued to ignore the ongoing fraught relationships between native Canadians and the rest of Canada.

Canada150 protestTheir resistance movement was developed to inspire other indigenous people to reclaim what they lost during colonization; their land, language and traditional ways.

The group created a camp for indigenous children and youth to attend called Nimkii Aazhibikong on Ompa Lake, located about 20 kilometres north of Elliott Lake, Ont. this year. Here the children can immerse themselves in traditional languages, explore their culture, and discover their environment under the tutelage of visiting local elders.

“Beyond attention to culture, Murdoch`s group also wishes to send a strong message on the negative effects of climate change and the First Nations longstanding dispute with the government over land ownership.

All over the country there’s this free-for-all in resource extraction that’s happening,” he said. “First Nations people are screaming and saying, ‘No’ and Canada just keeps saying, ‘Yes.’”

first-nations-elections-law-oct15-9-638On top of sounding the alarm over how resource extraction and pollution is hurting the environment, Murdoch said the #Resistance150 movement is also calling for the abolition of the Indian Act, which was first introduced in 1857 by the British colonial government, and reads very much like a treatise from the Southern Baptist religionists banning dancing in the 1984 film Footloose. Cruel, vindictive and petty, the Act aimed to crush the people and their culture, by any means available.

” Over the next hundred years the Indian Act was amended a number of times but each time was aimed at a more efficient means of assimilating First Nations into white society. The Act was amended to ban the “Sun Dance” an important ritual among the Lakota and other Plains aboriginal cultures. On the west coast the “Pot Latch”, an elaborate ceremony of feasting and gift giving was also banned. With an eye to forced assimilation, the Act authorized the forced removal of children to Residential Schools and stripped any Indian who obtained a University Education or Ordination of his rights under the Act.

The act vested title to reserve land to the Crown represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs deeming it “Crown Land set aside for the use of a Band of Indians.”

The 1876 act also made it illegal for an Indian to sell or produce goods without the written permission of the local Indian Agent, who became the de-facto ruler of Indians on reserve. (this includes fruits, vegetables, and farming, to this day.) Indian Agents had to give written permission for Indians who wanted to leave the reserve for any reason.

Status Indians were not allowed to vote until 1961.”

When I speak with many middle aged to older Canadians about the past, present and future of our First Nations people, whether status or non, it’s clear there is a confusion in what is believed to be true and what is fact. Sadly, the contents of the Truth and Reconciliation documents mean little if you’ve already made a pre-judgment on the nature of a people.

However, fairness and justice is what we should be working towards, for all Canadians. There are specific problems that need to be addressed amongst indigenous people. Some of these problems are brought about by where the reserves are located. There are currently about 150 long-term and short-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities that are difficult to reach in good weather, and impossible to reach in winter.

In some of these far flung communities, suicide rates, especially among the young, are five to seven times higher than the national average.

First Nations and Metis are 2-3 times higher at risk for diabetes than the non-Aboriginal population, while tuberculosis – almost nonexistent among non-Aboriginals, is 26.4 times more prevalent in First Nations Canadians.

Canada Day 20170701I am proud of my country, but I know that my country has to include ALL of it’s people – those who came before us, and those who will join us in the future – to be strong and united. As a country, we can do so much better. And I have faith that we will work towards being a better, stronger, fairer country in the coming years.

In an article on what it means to be a Canadian, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ” “This is something we are able to do in this country, because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people and the world share.”

And as writer Mike MacNeil responded to those concerned that the Canada Day150 celebrations ignored Canadian history and absolved us of our crimes against the First Nations people, “ It”s not the pilfering and genocide that’s being celebrated. It’s instead – and finally – the recognition that something positive is being done to correct decades of misuse and mistreatment. It’s slow, granted. It’s imperceptible, granted. The pace of change could be infinitely faster, granted. But the change – however it’s characterized – is there.”

And that’s Canadian, eh.

Wild and Wacky Weathering


In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”     
age of miracles
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise.  Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.

And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to  the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
trump alone at G20

Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.

It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.

Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.

Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.

All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.

But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph.  Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.

I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.

elephant left to rotAnd when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance.  Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.

But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.

We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.

All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.

We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.

When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.

The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.

We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.

Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear  and fatalism.

Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).

ecoanxiety
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:

“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”

While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us.  Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.