This has been a hellish week. We are watching the unthinkable perpetrated upon the peaceful people of Ukraine by a Russian despot who has become a madman.
During two years of solitude and paranoia, Putin seethed and simmered as he isolated in his dacha on the Black Sea coast, attempting to avoid contracting COVID-19. Eventually, the germophobe ended up in an echo chamber of his own crazed thoughts. These he shared on the Kremlin’s website on July 12, 2021 when his work was first published in the Ukrainian and Russian languages..
His 7,000 word manifesto, described as ‘rambling’ and riddled with ‘many (historical) myths’, denied Ukraine’s statehood, and laid claim to much of modern-day Ukrainian lands by stating that ‘they are entirely the brainchild of the Soviet era, and was to a large extent created at the expense of historical Russian lands.”
Putin repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for Ukrainian statehood, saying that the current policies in Kyiv are “anti-Russia .. which we will never accept.”
The passages contained ominous threats towards Ukraine, vowing to destroy Ukraine’s independence, a conflict begun during the inter-state war eight years ago, when Russia invaded and seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
He also repeated what he said to then-US President George Bush Jr at a NATO summit in 2008, that “Ukraine is not a country.”
“I am convinced that true Ukrainian sovereignty is only possible in partnership with Russia,” Mr. Putin wrote. “After all, we are one people.”
This manifesto, Putin’s own ‘Mein Kampf’, outlined his plans for Ukraine. And on February 24, 2022, he put those plans into effect, launching what he called a ‘special military operation’ into the country. At the onset, Putin claimed that the Russian military only sought ‘demilitarization and denazification,’ but attacks far beyond that scope followed soon, from multiple fronts, and towards multiple cities.
The man who at first claimed to only want to reunite his stray Russian lambs, has instead perpetrated the worst physical attack on another European country since World War II. Like a demented, cast aside lover, he has determined that if he can’t have Ukraine … no one can.
The original plan may have been to reunite the countries as one, but it is a strange sort of family unity when the father is murdering the children wholesale – an estimated 14,000 Ukrainians alone, and an uncounted amount of young Russian soldiers – and is pulverizing the ancient and historical buildings and monuments raised to honour both Russians and Ukrainians.
About 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine to date, fleeing to Poland, Hungary, and other NATO countries, seeking shelter for their most vulnerable. We will soon be in the middle of the worst refugee crisis in modern history.
Meanwhile, it is said that Putin has gathered his family members and hidden them away in a luxury, high tech bunker in an underground city in Siberia. Designed for protection in the event of nuclear war, the bunker is meant to keep Putin’s family safe, while the people of Russia suffer whatever fate befalls them.
As I gather these facts to share in the column, I touch my face, and realize that I have no idea how long I have been silently crying. The tears never stop flowing when I think of the tragic and pointless murder, destruction, and terror being inflicted upon the people of Ukraine, by a man whose gross miscalculation of his power will eventually find him and all of his cabinet tried and sentenced at the Hague for war crimes.
Putin and his generals have entered the end phase of their careers and lives. Trapped inside the rapidly tightening jail cell that was once their Russian playground, they have been stripped of their wealth, had their economy shattered, and will never again be allowed to travel outside the confines of Russia. Unfortunately, this means that they will have little reason to think or behave rationally, militarily.
And that, of course, is the saddest and most frightening aspect of the first ‘TikTok War’. We all watch, powerless, as caught up in watching the horror as any lookyloo on a highway unable to look away from a car crash.
This war was brought home to me forcibly when I learned that an old friend, musician Paul Christopher Caldeira, is one of the many needless casualties. Paul had been living in Chernihiv, which is at a strategic crossroad of major roads leading from Russia and Belarus to Kyiv. Short on meds and food, he had a heart attack when the tanks began to near the city, and died. I’m still in shock.
His old friend Greg Critchley kindly proffered this link to his SoundCloud account, and the 1996 album he produced and co-wrote. The songs have stood the test of time, and have given me some comfort since I heard the tragic news of Paul’s death.
The war has brought attention to music, past and present, that focuses on Ukraine’s beauty, and her wonderful people. Here’s a selection of tunes that have been revisited, or in some cases, written or re-written, in support of Ukraine.
Renaissance – Kiev from the album “Prologue” (1972)
Corey Hart – Komrade Kiev (1985)
Lyrics: “Shoot Komrade Kiev And through the pride and prejudice, you blind the truth you couldn’t miss. For the target you have drawn won’t bite the hand that cuts the arm. And when the story’s finally told, that each man’s heart was bought and sold, there was no enemy you see. Only the doubt in you and me I know the sun will shine thru winter time I pray the rain may someday end the flame”
Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performs Prayer for Ukraine – SNL Feb 26, 2022
Pink Floyd – Marooned (Official Music Video HD)
Major parts of this video were shot in Pripyat, a city in Ukraine. This is the area that was evacuated in view of the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant explosion that took place near it.
NCT – Boss
The majority of the shots in this video are filmed at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine in Kyiv. The video includes several shots of this popular K Pop group, NCT, at some popular locations in Ukraine.
Calum Scott –You Are The Reason (Official Video)
This video includes glimpses of the National Opera of Ukraine, the architectural beauty of St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Khreschatyk Street, and other sites.
Akçay Karaazmak -We are made of Love – Stop the war – Song for the peace for Ukraine – Ukraine Russia War
Harpin Norm – You’re a Master of War –March 2022
Океан Ельзи & Один в каное – Місто весни (official video) – 2021
Slava Vakarchukof Okean Elzy, one of the most popular rock bands in Eastern Europe.
Sting – Russians
I’ve only rarely sung this song in the many years since it was written, because I never thought it would be relevant again. But, in the light of one man’s bloody and woefully misguided decision to invade a peaceful, unthreatening neighbor, the song is, once again, a plea for our common humanity. For the brave Ukrainians fighting against this brutal tyranny and also the many Russians who are protesting this outrage despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment – We, all of us, love our children. Stop the war. Supplies shipped to this warehouse in Poland are delivered in coordination with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and are guaranteed to go to people most in need
Wherehouse address: Pol-Cel Ramos Breska 63, 22-100 Chelm, Poland Every box should be labeled “HELP UKRAINE” and indicate the contents: “Medicines,” “Clothes,” “Food,” “Humanitarian Aid.” For more info, contact: UK +44 1353 885152 USA +1 855 725 1152 helpukraine.center
On the surface, what the Canadian truckers hoped to accomplish during their protracted occupation of the Nation’s capital was comprehensible. In the beginning, we, the audience, and they, the truckers and their camp followers, could take as the stated purpose of the convoy and protest a common ennui and a genuine wish to end the most onerous and rigorous of the precautions levied during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But even before the trucks had neared the rally points, word began to trickle out that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) prepared by the civilian, not trucker, leaders of this posse had little to do with the effects of the pandemic, and everything to do with a covert, if barely legible, attempt to overthrow Canada’s freely elected democracy.
Most of the truckers and their civilian clingons bought into the broad strokes of the MOU, believing incorrectly that a demand that the Governor General and the Senate unite to dissolve parliament and remove PM Trudeau from power was as simple as having a magical number of people sign a petition.
Had these signees paid attention during a civics class, or even taken an interest in how Canadian government works, they’d have seen that the GG and the Senate are political appointees, not elected, and don’t have the democratic legitimacy to dissolve government. But if the creators of the petition had told the petition signers that simple truth, they would probably not have been able to ask for donations (to the tune of millions) to make this magic a potential outcome.
The premise and promise of forcing all levels of government to end any COVID-19 measures and eliminate vaccine passports, while simultaneously re-instating all workers laid off due to vaccine requirements, appealed to many hard core anti vaxxers. Drunk on the promise of having their delusions legally sanctified, they ignored the poison pills buried within the MOU, which called for the overthrow of the federal government.
The actual bulk of the statement set out a framework to effectively dissolve the government, and replace it with a “Citizens of Canada Committee,” composed of the non-elected Senate, Governor General, and a civilian group selected by the separatist organization, Canada Unity.
This committee would then dissolve and replace 155 years of continuous parliamentary rule, ending the federal system that ranks us as one of the world’s oldest democracies, and replace it with a committee of entirely unelected figures who would then “instruct all levels of the Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal governments to immediately cease and desist all unconstitutional human rights, discriminatory and segregated actions.”
This gang of noisy truckers had as their explicit intent the overthrowing of a democratically elected government. They maintained this position until the third week of the occupation, raising over $20 million dollars in donations on this premise, much of which came from other countries with a vested interest in seeing Canada’s democracy shattered, as this would then serve as red flags to any citizens of their own countries who might have illusions of seeking independence from autocrats and dictatorships.
In intent, if not in actual practice, this was meant to be a Canadian version of the January 6th American assault on the Capitol in 2021. The MOU was an attempted coup of our government, with the intent of replacing our elected officials with the unelected leaders of their choice, under the pretext of eliminating the constraints put upon the nation to keep us in the enviable position of being one of the safest places in the world during this once every 100-years plague. (The total death toll of the pandemic in the US stands at about 919,000, compared to 35,500 in Canada)
Oh yeah, and there was a lot of stuff in there about “God.” And freedom. And peace. And love. And of how their faith in their own immunity systems trumped all modern science. All they needed were some tonsured Hari Krishnas dancing through the snow drifts to complete the picture – the Right Wing, the Religious Right, and the Tin Foil Hat Brigade finally had their own private Woodstock!
The organizers of the convoy played skillfully upon the battered psyches of their followers. They pushed all the right buttons, empathizing with the loneliness, pain and frustration that so many had felt over the last two years, bathing their shattered illusions in hot tubs, soothing their tension in steamy saunas, and inviting children (and drunken adults) to re-live their childhoods in bouncy castles.
The true puppeteers of the movement, the ex-RCMP, ex-military, ex-police, and political operatives of the separatist party, literally kept the peons at arms length, who were free to freeze in their idling trucks as they peed into juice bottles, while the leaders relaxed in luxury in nearby hotels, descending into the ranks to whip up new fervor, and more donations, donations in the millions, all streaming in from people who had suffered real or imagined deprivations over the last two years.
And when the people seemed to rouse, just a little, from the spell they were under, these leaders would inject new concerns into the original mess of pottage, reminding their minions of all the other promises that had been made and not fulfilled over the last decade or so; why had nothing been done about the water on native reserves that still ran murky? Where was the investigation into the missing and murdered indigenous women? Why did groceries keep going up in price while wages stayed stagnant? Where was their ‘buck a beer’ they’d been promised?
The anger, that had originally focused on mask and vaccine mandates now began to spill out in every direction. Government overreach! Economic inequality! Wealth gaps! No free daycare! And the flags arrived, popping up like crocuses in the spring – Confederate, Nazi, Don’t Tread on Me, and Trump 2024, all waving merrily in the February breeze.
Suddenly it was like the festival of Woodstock had married Festivus, the festivus for the rest of us, with the airing of grievances skipping cheek by jowl with the half naked, drunken, rowdy boys taunting the police like the hippies that once tried to put flower stems into the barrels of guns.
Reminder: that did not end so well.
And neither did this. But, thanks to our being Canadians, at least it did not end in bloodshed. Yet strangely, considering that our protestors were Canadian, it also didn’t end with us apologizing to the citizens and the police for the mess we’d made, and picking up all the litter either.
Despite many feeling that PM Trudeau’s decision to unleash the Emergencies Act (EA) was overreach, the choice did indeed finally allow enough police power to subdue and roust the not so merry caravan that had terrorized the nation’s capital, and its citizens, for nearly a month.
And, once the emergency was under control, the EA was revoked, just nine days after it had been invoked, when it was decided that there was no longer an emergency that could not be controlled by normal means, as the police finally had all the tools they’d need to continue to deal with unlawful protestors.
The Prime Minister said that the sweeping powers of the Emergencies Act were meant to be proportional, time-limited, and only put in place to deal with an ‘acute’ emergency. He added that the small pockets of protestors that remain across the country would continue to be monitored.
“Let’s be very clear: The threat continues. We do see, whether it’s social media activity or people who continue to be focused on protesting, and perhaps illegally protesting, that we need to be monitoring,” he said.
PMTrudeau speaks Feb 23 2022
On February 20th, Bob Rae, the best Prime Minister Canada never had, and current Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted:
“A truck is not a speech. A horn is not a voice. An occupation is not a protest. A blockade is not freedom, it blocks the liberty of all. A demand to overthrow a government is not a dialogue. The expression of hatred is not a difference of opinion. A lie is not the truth.”
In September of 2021, voters had the option of voting for several parties, including the People’s Party of Canada, which, most notably, promised an immediate end to federal vaccine mandates, but said only that they would “oppose” such measures at the provincial level. The party scored just 4.94 per cent of the popular vote. Over 95% of Canadian voters backed the parties that supported some form of vaccine passport. The majority favours tightening the screws on the unvaccinated, not throwing open the doors to any new variant that crosses our borders, and fills our hospitals.
And yet … in this ‘woke’ moment in history, there are still some who remain on the fence about the fates of those that attempted a political coup, and held Ottawa and her citizens hostage for three weeks. Just the other day, I saw a comment on social media that asked if the situation could have been avoided, had PM Trudeau just ‘spoken to the truckers and explained that the vaccine mandates would be lifted by a certain time.”
And perhaps, in some ersatz, BizarroWorld, Woodstock of the Right, there might be a democratic nation of politicians that would bow to the bullying and intimidation of large, gas belching, horn blasting, machines, draped in posters that alternated between calling for the death of, or the f*cking of, their duly elected leader, driven by owners of the same attributes as their machines …
But I really doubt it. No one’s that woke.
The situation might have been avoided had the drivers and camp followers of the convoy taken the time to inform themselves on the real motives behind the demands of the ‘spokespeople,’ who conned them into showing up with ultimatums that were not only impossible to grant, but that opened said drivers and followers to severe financial and legal peril, post convoy.
No, the opening up of discussions with intimidators using strong-arm tactics, who wish to re-write our constitution to cover their idiocy, was simply never going to be an option. You don’t negotiate with terrorists. As the U.S. discovered during their four years of diplomatic hell under trump, you don’t even say their names, never mind visit them and exchange pleasantries, unless you wish to elevate the actions of bullies to the level of actual world leaders. These kinds of creatures must never be seen to be the equivalent of elected officials, because they are not; they are wannabe dictators and autocrats.
The rich countries where people want to live, like Canada, are places where people can believe in the rules of law, standards of behavior, institutions, and the social and cultural conventions that make us feel that we are safe and secure. Rich countries are rich because the people AND the money are seen to be safe and secure.
These standards must be seen to be honoured, and those that seek to overturn them, must be seen to be punished, as a deterrent to others that might consider similar actions.
And yet, good, kind Canadians that we are, there are many who watched the sacking of Ottawa, and who are now having a hard time seeing those who were responsible for the havoc, receiving the consequences of their actions.
It’s possible that some of us watched the revellers enjoying themselves, and thought about all of the events that they missed during the last two years – the weddings, the funerals, the birthday parties and the dances that they didn’t get to attend. There may well have been a twinge of envy for some, who felt that they’d suffered all of the deprivations, but who now were watching what seemed to be the hedonistic event of the decade, enjoyed by some but not all. It’s only human to feel that way.
And it’s not wrong to be sympathetic to the plights of those who are now being held accountable for their actions. It’s very hard to see people – Canadians, just like us, who’ve had a rough time over the last two years – being penalized for doing things that they may not have thought were criminal at the time.
But these people were told, repeatedly, that their actions were harmful, and probably illegal. Those people that used their children as human shields, to prevent the police from advancing, or from entering their vehicles, did so willingly, even though these are actions that are considered ‘war crimes’ in most countries.
Some of the protestors left their homes and their jobs behind, in order to join what they chose to believe was a righteous cause, although their own holy books clearly told them that was not the case.
Many of these people were duped into giving of their time, their money, and potentially, their actual legal freedom. But they were adults, who had a choice to make, and chose wrongly. Yes, they were lied to. Yes, they chose to believe unreliable sources. But ignorance of the law is no excuse, and ignorance of the impact of your actions on others does not remove your responsibility for the consequences faced when your actions are finally judged, and found to be criminal.
It’s hard to see people losing their jobs, their businesses, and in some cases, their freedom, when they are arrested and imprisoned for terrorizing so many people and animals during their three-week ‘rumspringa.’
But, if we’re honest, this is exactly what we wanted to see happen, during those hellish weeks in February, when we were all glued to our tv screens, watching our police forces stand back, unable to move on the occupiers, with apparent impotence, and sometimes, even seeming to be giving aid and succor to these barbarians. We wanted to see the revellers held accountable. We needed there to be serious consequences. We wanted those consequences to serve as a deterrent to any people or parties that might consider a similar onslaught in the future. We didn’t want this occupation to happen then, and we never want it to happen again.
Yet now that many of these people will lose their jobs, be charged, arrested, and in some cases, have their lives ruined for what they’ve done, there’s a kindness inside most Canadians that will still feel sympathy, and even hold out a hand to help those that need it.
That’s what being a Canadian is about. We are good, kind, decent citizens of a country that is struggling right now, in a fight to defeat a novel enemy. And for the most part, we have come together to do what is right for ALL of us, not just an entitled few.
We spent most of February glued to our screens, hoping for the best, fearing for the worst, spending our time and energy on one minority’s idea of “freedom,” only to end the month watching Ukraine’s people fleeing from an evil war criminal seeking to shatter their democracy and steal their real freedoms.
I hope that we, as a country, are wise enough to recognize the difference.
“The “Freedom Convoy” that converged in Ottawa on Jan. 28 began in response to the federal government’s move to require Canadian truck drivers crossing the U.S. border be fully vaccinated to avoid testing and quarantine requirements, but has evolved into a protest of all public health measures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say they will not end their protest until all measures are dropped.”
Ottawa Citizen, Feb 13, 2022
A Canadian February is generally pretty ‘meh.’ Kids are starting to look forward to Easter holidays. Singles consider chancing a bit of skating or skiing in hopes of some ‘apres ski’ fun. Writers write articles about seasonal affective disorder, and string out a definition of the Danish word ‘hygge’ for 1500 words.
“When the government shuts you down, you get a warning and some financial assistance. They do express a degree of discomfort and regret. When Freedom Convoy shuts you down there is no notice, no financial assistance and you are supposed to shut the f up and support not working for the people who couldn’t work, which is you in the first place.” Georgia Herring, owner, Old School Mechanic Shop
It was around this time, two years ago, that the world turned upside down. My daughter had celebrated her Valentine’s Day birthday, and I was picking out some presents for my husband’s March birthday, which included a couple of live shows we’d never get to attend.
When the first lockdown went into place, it didn’t have a lot of effect on my life. I’m retired. I don’t get out of the house as much as I’d like, though I did used to really enjoy my long lunches with friends.
About a month into that first lockdown, after we’d heard that an old friend had contracted COVID 19 and died, I asked Shawn if he’d have done anything differently, before the pandemic, had he known what was coming. He didn’t think so.
See, most of us believe that whatever is going on now, in our lives, will go on always. We have our comfort zones, our friends and family, our routines, and, unless something drastic happens, we just keep on keeping on. We think that if things are going well for us, things will always be in our favour.
“Abusing the freedom to protest government overreach to the point of ensuring more government overreach.”Russ Boswell
The last two years taught us that everything we find familiar can all change in an instant.
And very few of us are happy with the changes that have come.
“Not going to lie folks. I would have taken 2 months more of the mandates if required for
our healthcare system, rather than over two weeks of this “occupation”.
Kayla Burgess, Stop the Ottawa Occupation 2022
There are some very bad people involved in what was billed as a “Freedom Convoy.” Very bad people indeed.
“Don’t think that the triad of Bulford, Quiggen and Marazzo won’t win this. They have the intelligence, the ruthlessness and probably endless funding and weapons. “
The group Police on Guard, formed during the pandemic, has endorsed the truck convoy. On its website, it publicly identifies more than 150 mostly retired police officers who are against government-imposed public health measures, such as vaccine mandates. More than 50 former Canadian Forces soldiers are also named on its site.
The organization says it has “boots on the ground” in Ottawa and has linked to YouTube videos of its members participating in the protest.
Furthermore, the leadership team for the protesters calling themselves the Freedom Convoy includes:
Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who was on the prime minister’s security detail. He quit last year after refusing to get the vaccine and is the convoy’s head of security.
Tom Quiggin, a former military intelligence officer who also worked with the RCMP and was considered one of the country’s top counter-terrorism experts.
Tom Marazzo, an ex-military officer who, according to his LinkedIn profile, served in the Canadian Forces for 25 years and now works as a freelance software developer.“ (CBC.ca, Feb 9, 2022)
“This movement didn’t start on January 15th, 2022 when the Canadian Government imposed mandates on cross-border transportation drivers. It didn’t start on December 15th, 2021 when the Canadian Government announced these mandates. It started in February 2019, when James Bauder created the “Canada Unity” Facebook page. It had absolutely nothing to do with “mandates.” It had everything to do with trying to dissolve the Canadian Government. “
February 19, 2019 – James Bauder created the “Canada Unity” Facebook page
February 27, 2021 – Bauder made a Facebook status that said, “I’m creating a Canadian Federal Grass Roots Political Party.”
March 13, 2021 – Bauder created the Canada Unity website
August 23, 2021 – Bauder posted on his personal Facebook page that he would start a “Federal Unity Party” that would break from the monarchy, and make Canada a free and independent nation. He hoped to collect 350 signatures (out of a required 1000) to form a party. His goal was for a Spring 2022 start.
August 20, 2021 – Bauder posted on his personal Facebook page that he would start a “Convoy for Freedom”
October 1, 2021 – Bauder, his wife Sandra, and fellow Canada Unity member, Martin Broadmann, penned the “Memorandum of Understanding.” (M.O.U.) This is a document that called for the removal of the current government unless mandates regarding COVID protocols were removed. The M.O.U. states that if the current government does not meet their requests, they must be replaced, and that Canada Unity will have a say in who is elected. The M.O.U. is the grounds for their protest.
December 16, 2021 – Pat King, who is a founder of the movement, made a statement in a live stream that, “The only way this is going to be solved is with bullets.”
January 14, 2022 – Tamara Lich set up the “GoFundMe” account for the Freedom Convoy
January 15, 2022 – Lich invites B.J. Dietcher to ‘come on board.’
January 18, 2022 – Bauder goes on a live stream with Pat King to promote the Canada Unity website and to announce it as the official page for “Bearhug,” or “Freedom Convoy”
But, although a state of emergency has been called, the police must tread carefully. The protestors are desperately hoping to shift this crisis into a second phase, in which they can claim police brutality, a government overreach, a police state. To give their leaders these images, increasing disinformation and whipping up sympathy, would be irresponsible. The world is watching.
Dealing with a well-organized group with a plan to overthrow democracy takes time and strategy, not brute force. But Canada doesn’t have much time, now that the Ambassador Bridge siege in Windsor brought American attention to what the protestors are doing to the Canadian/American vehicle trade and economy.
The problem lies in how many of their most vocal supporters and followers are pawns, enticed into joining the ‘party’ by the idea that COVID, the hated mandates, nasty vaccines, and ugly masks would simply disappear, if we all just wanted it enough. To that end, the group has been given free food, hugs and money, parties with live music, hot tubs, saunas, even bouncy castles!
Bouncy castles? Why yes, for the enjoyment of the kids that have been brought into the occupation, to be used, sadly, as human shields. The cops can’t use tear gas or tear down shelters for fear of hurting the kids that might be inside. The presence of the children, who are often seen frolicking with their pets, is meant to soften the image of the occupiers. While some worry about child endangerment, especially as weeks drag on without comfy beds and baths for the little ones, other get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the image of these little displaced families.
In Windsor on Saturday, veterans formed a line between the police and the truckers at the Bridge. But on closer inspection, the uniforms, badges, and medals didn’t appear to be of Canadian military.
Still, imagine the headlines and the social media frenzy if the police had employed violent tactics, like the use of tear gas, against the veterans and children.
The last few days have seen a seesawing of public opinion, with harsh divides between friends and families as mini civil wars began over which side was really on the side of right.
Two years of real and perceived deprivations, combined with long-held grievances against local, provincial and federal inaction over matters held dear, have provoked many into a frenzied response against their country.
It must be remembered, however, that the same people who claim that they are not free, have driven across the country unimpeded, camped illegally in their nation’s capital, and are still free this morning to set up mass breakfasts and entertainment, despite their insurrection and the unlawful occupation of these locales.
I love my country, but I fear for this country. A vocal minority has bullied a democracy, demanding the overthrow of their elected government, in order to replace it with themselves.
They are little fascist dictators in training, eager to burn down all that they could never begin to understand. Putin would be so proud of them.
When I was a kid, growing up in Alberta, I encountered precisely two black families. One family, that ran a boarding house near my school, had a little girl about my age. When I went to L’Academie Assomption, which was a private girl’s school, the daughters of football player Rollie Miles were the only students of colour.
When we moved to Montreal, I became friends with a girl whose family was from Grenada; her mother played the organ at church every Sunday, and I loved to sing the grandiose high mass in Latin, so the relationship was mutually beneficial.
While there was a dearth of people of colour in my youthly travels, I can assure you that there were a lot of other groups of people that were abused and/or ridiculed in Edmonton and Montreal in the 60s and 70s. Whether you called it ‘prejudice’ or ‘racism,’ I never thought that the people other people bullied and censured had to be of a certain colour; it just always seemed to me to be about ‘us vs them,’ with the ‘us’ being the people in the majority.
There were lots and lots of immigrants, at that time, many of whom had come to Canada after WWII and the Korean conflict. There were people that ate food that smelled strange to my white nose, and there were people that practiced religions that were very different to the Catholic religion that was the norm in Edmonton and Montreal. And, in Edmonton, which back then, was still the land of ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ there were many indigenous people, whose mere presence would often inflame an old settler.
In Montreal, as I later discovered was also true of Toronto, many of the immigrants were Jewish. It has often seemed to me that both cities had a love/hate relationship with these new Canadians. On the one hand, many Canadians had fought to bring freedom to these survivors, many of whom still bore the tattoos of their imprisonment. On the other hand, there was a tendency, then as now, for many to shun people that held different beliefs.
And ALL of the racist tropes would come into play, if a Canadian born, non-Jewish, person felt that their own rights were being overridden by these newcomers.
My experiences were not unusual for a white Catholic in those days.
Whoopi Goldberg, on the other hand, is a 66-year-old Black, American woman, born in Manhattan, who was raised Catholic. She was born Caryn Elaine Johnson, but took on the stage names of Whoopi and Goldberg when she got into comedy as a young woman.
It is safe to say that her upbringing was very much unlike my own, if only by dint of her being born a Black American. That alone would have guaranteed that her experiences with prejudice and racism would be nothing like what I encountered as a White Canadian.
Whoopi’s been a host and a driving force on the television show “The View” since 2007. While it’s not a ‘hard news’ program, over the years it’s become an influential political talk show, according to a New York Times featured article in 2019.
Whoopi’s take on issues have often been controversial. She defended Michael Vick’s participation in dogfighting as part of his ‘cultural upbringing,’ famously championed Mel Gibson in 2006 after he was caught drunkenly spouting antisemitic rhetoric, saying “I don’t like what he did here, but I know Mel and I know he’s not a racist,” and initially was a defender of Bill Cosby in 2015, when he was accused of multiple rapes. (Later she changed her stance, stating that “all of the information that’s out there kinda points to ‘guilt’.
This week, however, Goldberg got into some seriously hot water when she stated her opinion that the Holocaust was not based on race, but on ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ She added, “This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.”
Although she apologized on Twitter later that day, she then went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that night, and reiterated that the Nazi issue was with ethnicity, and not race.
“In the United States, physical distinctions between most Black and most white people have misled some into thinking that the American conception of race is somehow more “real” than the racial fictions on which the Nazis based their campaign of extermination. Applying the American color line to Europe, the Holocaust appears merely to be a form of sectarian violence, “white people” attacking “white people,” which seems nonsensical. But those persecuting Jews in Europe saw Jews as beastly subhumans, an “alien race” whom they were justified in destroying in order to defend German “racial purity.” The “racial” distinctions between master and slave may be more familiar to Americans, but they were and are no more real than those between Gentile and Jew.”
Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, February, 2022.
On air the next day, Goldberg again apologized for the comment. But hours later, Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, suspended her from the show for two weeks, calling Whoopi’s remarks “wrong and hurtful. While Whoopi has apologized, I’ve asked her to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments.”
Forgive me if I found Godwin’s prissy little pearl-clutching pretty racist in itself. Toddlers in day care get time-outs. To hand a two-week, onerous, over-reaching time out to a 66-year-old Black woman DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH…
I have no words. Or rather, I do. But few are printable.
But the whole episode, which nearly overshadowed the very real racism of pro American football teams who have been neatly avoiding culpability for their dearth of black pro coaches for decades, did indeed get me thinking about the concept of race.
The very idea of ‘race’ is a relatively modern concept, and it all had to do with the distinction of ‘otherness,’ an attempt to divide people into groups in which one group enjoyed more wealth and/or power than another. It’s believed that the first stirrings of this type of divisioning followed the Moorish conquest of Andalusia in the eighth century, when the Iberian Peninsula became the site of the greatest ever intermingling between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers. At that time, colour was not the main concern.
“The concept of race has historically signified the division of humanity into a small number of groups based upon five criteria: (1) Races reflect some type of biological foundation, be it Aristotelian essences or modern genes; (2) This biological foundation generates discrete racial groupings, such that all and only all members of one race share a set of biological characteristics that are not shared by members of other races; (3) This biological foundation is inherited from generation to generation, allowing observers to identify an individual’s race through her ancestry or genealogy; (4) Genealogical investigation should identify each race’s geographic origin, typically in Africa, Europe, Asia, or North and South America; and (5) This inherited racial biological foundation manifests itself primarily in physical phenotypes, such as skin color, eye shape, hair texture, and bone structure, and perhaps also behavioral phenotypes, such as intelligence or delinquency.”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Fast forward to last century, when Hitler and his followers believed that Aryans were a ‘master race.’ Hitler actually issued his first written comment on the “Jewish Question” in 1919, when he defined the Jews as a race, and not a religious community. He characterized the effect of a Jewish presence as a “race-tuberculosis of the peoples,” and identified the initial goal of a German government to be discriminatory legislation against Jews, saying that the “ultimate goal must definitely be the removal of the Jews altogether.” (From the files of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia)
The Nazis defined those of the Jewish faith, whether they were practicing their religion or not, as a race, which was inherited from generation to generation.
In Canada, a regional white racism became controversial after a front-page Globe and Mail article, written by Jan Wong, argued that the term “pure laine” revealed a uniquely Quebecois brand of racism. In her article entitled, “Get under the desk,” written just three days after a mass shooting at Montreal’s Dawson College, she drew a link between all three school shootings in Quebec history, and the nature of Quebec society under its protective language laws.
Wong suggested that the three perpetrators, who were not “old stock French Quebecers,” were alienated from a Quebec society concerned with “racial purity.”
“Québecois has conventionally been used to signify the descendants of Québec settlers from France, the majority habitants of the province, who are otherwise referred to as pure laine (pure wool) or Québecois de souche (of the base of the tree, or root). However, the changing face of Québec’s increasingly diverse population challenges the privileged place of those French descendants and calls for a more inclusive notion of what it means to be Québecois or a Quebecer.“
Wong was accused of “Quebec bashing, “with the column creating a public outcry in Quebec, and political condemnation from Quebec Premier Jean Charest, as well as from then PM Stephen Harper. The House of Commons of Canada unanimously passed a motion on September 5,2006 requesting an apology for the column.
“Pure laine.” “Old Stock French Québécois.” “Racial purity.” These terms, although decried, were still frequently used in both English and French media. In 2007, the Taylor-Bouchard Commission included the recommendation that the use of the expression “Québécois de souche” be ended and replaced with the term “Quebecers of French-Canadian origin.” (Wikipedia)
At this point in world history, as we struggle with real and increasing assaults against democracy, have a looming threat of war in some of the very areas once devastated during World War II’s Holocaust, and continue to try to end a global pandemic, while juggling the spectres of climate change and rising inequality, the very idea of suspending a grown woman for her personal opinion on race seems ridiculous.
As someone with a platform, ABC had an option beyond the humiliating of Whoopi Goldberg. They could have left her on the air, where she would have continued to apologize, and the show could have had some interesting guests and sane discussions about racism, antisemitism, and the homegrown, white nationalist, terror groups who are gleefully jumping on this moment in time to further separate us all, regardless of our colours or creeds.
Instead we watched a television network head fingerwag at a mature, famed, black woman whom she deemed needed two weeks in the 28 day period of Black History Month to reflect upon her words.
In the 1980’s, sociologist Neil Postman said that television would eventually and inevitably impose limitations on the sophistication and variety of ideas that could be expressed on the medium. It would appear that he was correct to be worried.
It’s ironic, and yet so timely, that the cohosts of The View’s attempt to discuss the implications of a Tennessean school board’s decision not to require 9th graders to read the graphic novel Maus began with the possibility of the development of a rational argument before devolving into the very kind of cultural provocation that exists solely to sell ad time.
With apologies to Al Franken, I am utterly sick of Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them. Sick to death of the posturing, the gaslighting, the sneaky grins that escape their mouths when they think we can’t see them.
I am exhausted from having to watch the machinations of old men pretending to be young and strong, for an audience of increasingly ill-informed or misinformed citizens. And I am stunned that America, for all it’s claims of might and right, is apparently unable to find a man under the age of 70, of either party, with the integrity, honesty, and moral vision to run in the 2024 election to lead a nation of 332 million citizens.
I am disgusted that Donald Trump appears to be getting away with committing, if not treason, then most certainly sedition, while his reprehensible party pearl-clutch and fail to hold him accountable for any of his heinous misdeeds.
I’m sick to death of watching a straight-faced Mitch McConnell utter his bazillionth BS-ery as he makes up twisted tales meant to frustrate the actual ruling party and to ensure that his ugly minority trumps America’s actual majority, and of watching Chuck Grassley stammer thru his false teeth about some arcane decision of 1866, of which apparently he was party to, that would disallow any Democratic president of ever installing a liberal Supreme Court Justice.
I blaze with anger when I see the po-faced liars in the GOP who were privy to information about the January 6th insurrection, who may well have been instrumental in perpetrating the incursion, and who yet daily continue to mouth platitudes about the outcome of the 2020 election, who perpetrate the Big Lie, while they lie to themselves and their constituents that they are upholding their party, it’s former conservative mandate, and the Constitution.
And every single one of those liars is running again for another term. And may well win.
I cringe at the failure of nearly all social and terrestrial media, that regularly allows ‘both sides’ of any given event to be argued, rather than use their journalistic talents to investigate and make a proper pronouncement on the society they claim to be defining with their presence. They have failed to learn the most important aspect of journalism, which is that, if one party says it’s raining, and the other says it’s sunny, it’s not the reporter’s job to give both options equal time, but rather to get out the bloody door and see for themselves if it’s dry or wet outside.
I am still reeling at the twisted mis- and disinformation that has poured from nearly every nation as the deadly COVID pandemic pulsed out from wherever it originated, and insinuated itself into every square inch of our planet, twisting itself into permutations that have cruelly taken the lives of nearly six million humans. From its onset, those meant to be giving us the truth have been politically manipulated in an effort to make a virus do their bidding. Instead, the virus showed us that we are mere mortals, and it would do as it wished, regardless of our pleas.
And, that lying from the people on high allowed this current climate of distrust and anger to form, preventing nations from truly dealing with the crisis properly, and ensuring that, in the end, man may propose, but God (and virii) will dispose.
I cannot bear that we are constantly being manipulated, used, and lied to by every social media app that we dutifully use to the point of addiction, and that there is little to no recourse when the apps turn against us.
“Everyone bitches about Facebook. But where else are its users supposed to go? Ditto re Instagram. And TikTok. And YouTube. Of course, there’s some crossover between all these platforms, but in many ways they’re unique. Whereas the similarities between Amazon, Apple and Spotify far outweigh the differences. You can switch platforms and not lose that much. Hell, Apple is now pushing that you can hear Neil on its music service. You don’t see some social media company doing the same, competing with Facebook.
So this is a test case. This is where the war is being fought.
It should be fought at Facebook. But because of the lack of competition and the hubris of Mark Zuckerberg, along with the duplicity and misinformation of Sheryl Sandberg and the rest of the execs, the company evades accountability and ultimately doesn’t change. As for change…it’s all algorithms, a secret sauce no one who doesn’t work at the company is privy to. And after the whistleblower, Facebook has been siloed, you can work there and have no idea what is going on at the company other than in your own vertical.
But we’ve got to push back against technology. We have to recapture truth from the techies who have taken it from us, knowingly or unknowingly.“
Bob Lefsetz, lefsetz.com
I’m revolted at the sight of Putin pushing his bare chest into the faces of Ukraine, NATO, and the world, capering like an over aged, over the hill, wannabe satyr who denies he’s about to plunge his saber into the maiden, even as his troops gather along the skirts of her nether regions. His motives are completely self-serving, an attempt to cement his place in Russian history, when in truth, his legacy will be one of terror, murder, grand theft larceny, and a terrifying lack of self-knowledge. Indeed, his foolish attempt to reunite Mother Russia will most likely only succeed in destabilizing his country, and to make Russians poorer, angrier and, ultimately, more eager for the change that another leader – ANY other leader – will bring.
I’m angry. I want change, but I don’t want change. I want things to be like they used to be, but I also want those things to be better, and I don’t know how to achieve that.
We are all reeling from not just the last two years of COVID, but from decades of lies, that have increased and compounded and torn our nations apart, pushing us all to the edge of civil war.
But the answer is not an insurrection, or a Trucker Convoy that brings the disgruntled, violent, and divisive into our nations’ capitals, drunk on social media attention and the millions pouring into a GoFundMe enriched by the dollars of the bored, the riled up, and the Canadian far right, American militants, and Russian nihilists who would love to see our country fail.
The answer is within each of us. We have to stop allowing ourselves to believe convenient (and inconvenient) lies, and start respecting ourselves, our fellow citizens, and the people that we have elected to lead us in tough times.
No more desecrating of the statues of our heroes. No more dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or peeing on the Cenotaph. No more bullying and theft from homeless shelters, or aiding and abetting those who willingly create violence or commit crimes just because the group presence allows them to do so.
Start with yourself. Stop lying to yourself. Then let it spread outward.
I guarantee you, there will come a day when you’ll once again be proud to look at your own face in the mirror.
I know that because our real heroes have always been those who have at least tried to tell you the truth. And that’s why they are our heroes.
“This isn’t some grand, far-reaching cultural movement. It’s a handful of people who want to claim victimhood to recast their personal gripes into a heroic narrative.”
Passage: RoundUp January 28, 2022
I haven’t put up a column in a while … moving and all that … but I have been compiling some thoughts on this truck convoy, and, with the help and inspiration of other people’s thoughts, would like to comment on the event.
I find it very interesting that the organizers of this rally – which is similar in tone to the ill-fated American attempt to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021 – do not seem to have attempted to contact any high-ranking governmental official in the proper manner. This is a democracy, which means that there are procedures that are followed, one of which is formally requesting meetings with elected officials. Instead, there seems to have been some sort of quasi manifesto posted on social media, which has more in common with the creaky old westerns of the fifties, in which the new gunslinger taunted the old gunslinger to a gunfight at High Noon.
In any case, they planned a rally for a Saturday (get real; the House doesn’t meet on the weekend, not even if you’ve dragged your butt all the way from BC on your own dime.)
Prior to their frenzied demands, there were already plans in the works ages ago for the PM and his family to visit BC. Takes a bit to organize the flight plans of a high ranking-official; more than once, my daughter has accompanied them, in her role as an RCMP officer. It’s a Big Deal.
So they’ve planned to show up on a day when Ottawa is typically closed for business, in a month when Ottawa is totally closed for dining and entertainment of any kind, due to COVID restrictions. That’s not very clever planning.
They also seemed to believe that, after weeks of saber rattling, horrible threats and screeds on social media, and a plethora of signs saying “F*CK TRUDEAU,” that he would be delighted to walk down and greet them, and usher them into the Parliament Building for a nice cup of tea. An uninvited rally of angry, swearing, yelling, possibly weapons-wielding protestors, who have amassed a caravan of trucks, RVs, and cars WITHOUT a parade permit, actually expected that outcome?
“Aside from denouncing the vaccine mandate, it was unclear what form the protests would take. One group affiliated with the convoy intends to try, for a second time, to convince the governor general, Canada’s official (if ceremonial) head of state as Queen Elizabeth’s representative, and the appointed members of the Senate to strike down all pandemic laws and rules imposed by all levels of government — something well beyond their constitutional powers.
Others have called for protests outside politicians’ homes. But since the House of Commons is currently not in session — it resumes sitting on Monday — many lawmakers are not in town.”
The New York Times, Jan 29, 2022
Set aside the delusional aspect of their proposed ‘meeting’ for a moment, and let’s consider who is involved in this convoy.
90% of the Canadian Trucking Industry are fully vaccinated, and have condemned this rally. The two main organizers are well-known, anti-Canadian/anti-government protestors, one of whom has long been active in the “WEXit” movement, wishing to separate Alberta from Canada, and the other, a ‘yellow jacket’ who is against government of any kind.
They have managed to raise nearly $8 million dollars in a GoFundMe that has been frozen by GoFundMe, as it requires, “documentation […] about how funds will be properly distributed.”)
*GoFundMe has now released $1 million to the organizers.*
At the onset, there were lofty claims that the truckers would be reimbursed for their travel, but as time wore on, it became apparent that greed was setting in on the organizer’s part, and it now says that the funds raised, “ will be dispersed to our Truckers to aid them with the cost of the journey. Funds will be spent to help cover the cost of fuel for our Truckers first and foremost, will be used to assist with food if needed and contribute to shelter if needed. Any left over donations will be donated to a credible Veterans organization which will be chosen by the donors.”
But in truth, the bulk of the cash will go to the two organizers, and most likely into their own pockets, and into their political coffers, in aid of dismantling our current government. Sadly, there’s always room for corruption when the money total gets high.
To sum up, a group of people, some of whom are genuinely unsettled truckers (less than 200, at last count) and many people who are always ready to get out the pitchforks and torches, especially when there’s nothing else to do in winter anyway, are going to converge on Ottawa’s capital, which is essentially ‘closed for business,’ for a meeting with a PM who isn’t even in town.
There they will attempt to recreate a Canadian version of the US’s January 6 assault on the Capital. Many will be arrested, many more will likely be wounded in some manner, either by their own companions, or by the people trying to keep the peace in the Capital.
All in aid of attempting to get one half of a border equation, which is 50/50 controlled by the US/Canada, changed to suit their needs. In other words, even if they succeeded in forcing the PM to change the law, and allow them to re-enter Canada, unvaxxed, after an American run, they would not be allowed into the US to begin that run in the first place.
Most of these truckers will be out a lot of money at the end of this unpaid vacation, and if they think the rules and regs around getting money out of the gov’t are tricky, wait until they try and pry that money out of the hands of the organizers.
There’s no logic here, just ennui at a pandemic and rules that have infringed on what lazy, entitled Canadians think are their ‘rights.’
Sadly, I remember when Canadians gathered along roads and highways to cheer on the REAL Canadian heroes; … Terry Fox, who ran across Canada ON ONE LEG to raise money for cancer research. Or Rick Hansen, who did the same in a wheelchair to follow his dream of creating an accessible and inclusive world and finding a cure for spinal cord injury.
Remember how we lined the 401, the Highway of Heroes, to honour our dead soldiers? It seems we’ve changed whom we honour, in 2022. Now, we honour a small group of unvaxxed truckers and their supporters, who have been hijacked by a bunch of wobbly minded conspiracy theory idiots, and who are being funded by political disrupters, the likes of Trump, Tucker Carlson, and Elon Musk – the very man who intends to end all truckers’ livelihoods with his automated delivery systems. Suckers!
These organizers, and the truckers, are just out for the ‘likes’ and the grift. The truckers are pawns being played by fools, to line the organizers pockets.
The convoy is not a protest, it’s a grift. Each of the truckers and their followers are only out for themselves, and would burn down the world to get what THEY want. It’s not about helping anyone … but themselves.
90% of truckers are vaxxed and out there moving the goods. 10% – a minority by any calculation – are whining about the cross border mandate .. which is effective on BOTH sides of the border.
“ The Freedom Convoy isn’t some benign oddity that deserves uncritical media attention. As with so many things that seem to germinate online, the convoy has obvious and deep links to the far right. While Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, told CBC Radio that the movement has “morphed into a kind of protest against all vaccine and COVID-related shutdowns,” this ignores the fact that the convoy has been associated with the far right from the beginning. Global News even reported that some supporters saw the convoy as a “January 6 event,” hoping to piggyback off the protest’s media success to stage a violent insurrection. “ Passage: Roundup, January 28, 2022
Can you still call it democracy when the minority believe their rights overrule the majority, and the lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum?
A few days ago, as I motored back from the grocery story with yet more packing boxes, I passed an old station wagon in the local mall’s parking lot. There were pillows, blankets, and clothing schmooshed up against every side window. And the front window was impressively ice encrusted.
I am not a wealthy woman. And I have not lived a particularly charmed or lucky life. I am just a little bit fortunate that my husband and I were careful with our money, despite a lot of economic ups and downs over the years, and that we managed to save enough to be able to afford a roof over our heads as we head into our senior years.
But it was clear to me that the people who were in that station wagon, for whatever reason, were not so fortunate.
I’m a mere 10 days out from a pretty epic change of circumstances myself, but I know that my move, although chaotic, likely done in snow and cold, to a background of fulsome curses, and with a future that will probably be filled with many surprises at the onset, is of our own choosing, and that the road we travel leads to a warm home with a roof (that needs repairs) to shield us from the cold and snow.
The snow and biting cold this morning was a nasty surprise. For days I’ve been warning my husband that we needed to get the last of the outdoor furniture, gardening supplies, and the like, under cover and out of the weather. I’ve had a persistent vision of the cursing that will ensure as we try to dig chairs and wheelbarrows out from under a foot of snow and ice, to pile them, dripping with icicles, into the moving truck.
But even yesterday it was warm enough for me to be tossing around boxes in the shed without so much as a jacket. That’s not the case today, when January’s reality has arrived. The birds and squirrels were thick on the porch at feeding time, desperate for the seeds and nuts I provide. That food keeps them alive. I worry about what they’ll do when I leave, and their food source is gone. I’ll leave some provender behind for the next tenant to dole out, but I won’t be here to ensure it’s done on a consistent and timely basis. And that haunts me.
Our little cat also worries me. She has not been herself since she lost Farley, her lifelong companion, in November. She’s old, blind, and seems terribly depressed. Her habits have completely changed. She now wakes, screaming, from a troubled sleep every two or three hours, demanding food, and then has to be soothed back to another short period of rest before she wakes again, howling as she is reminded of her loss. This schedule is not particularly conducive to anyone – either human or animal – getting a good night’s sleep.
Ten days out from the move, I’m in that terrifying position of still needing to pack but a) having little space to put the packed boxes, and b) being pretty much down to the things that I thought I’d need in the last days here.
Of course, I grossly overestimated how much I’d need to keep on hand. I’ve got a king’s ransom of cleaning supplies. I’ve kept enough beauty supplies and clothing on hand to supply a cast of a Cecil B DeMille spectacle. I still have far too much food and drink on hand, though every day I make a dent in what’s been living in the freezer for the last many months.
I’m now at the Sophie’s Choice part of packing – what’s left must be packed, but must be chosen carefully. Essentials misplaced, if mispacked, will cause problems. When we sold our house in Scarborough, all of my shoes disappeared, and I spent six months wearing scuffed orange garden clogs. That’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but most especially not someone from Montreal. The horror!
How do you decide what can be safely stowed, and what must be clasped tightly until safely deposited at the other end of the move? I mean, besides the cat … of course the cat will be safely secured, along with her own collection of necessities. I am not at all looking forward to THAT part of the journey;
Today’s the second day of the new year. I’m doing a lot of sorting, a modicum of packing, and an infinite amount of worrying. Hoping all this rehearsing will mean that it’ll be ‘alright on the night,” as they say in the theatre.
The holiday gift giving tradition goes waaay back … back, back, no, even further back. Before the kid in the stable, even.
Exchanging gifts at a midwinter feast seems to have started as both a magical AND practical way to share the bounties of the year with family and friends. The people that gave the best gifts to others were respected for their generosity.
During the Roman winter solstice festival, Saturnalia, citizens spent a week feasting, decorating trees, and then showing generosity to the poor in a display of goodwill towards all. The Roman New Year, Kalends, which started on January 1st, featured gifts being ritually exchanged by being tied to the boughs of the greenery that people used to decorate their homes.
In the colder countries, this feasting and bestowing of goods served another, more practical, purpose as well; it was often too expensive to keep one’s cattle fed and comfortable through a long cold winter. It wasn’t unusual for families to bring favoured pigs and chickens into the home to share the long nights of January, February, and March.
But if there was a glut of food animals to deal with, slaughtering many of them to prepare giant feasts that cemented one’s place in their community as respectable, business-savvy, providers could go a long way in making the burgher’s prospects even brighter in the new year.
Early Christianity borrowed lavishly from pagan religions and traditions. Long before modern day religions, many faiths worshipped gods who were born to virgins, who performed miracles, were killed, and then came back to life. Many of those religions also placed the date of their savior’s birth as December 25th.
Check out Richard Gillooly’s book, All About Adam and Eve, for a major accounting of Capricornian Gods, which include Horus, Osiris, Attis, Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, and a host of others. As a popular date, and likely as a sop to other faiths, December 25th was declared a holiday that celebrated Syrian god Sol Invictus, by the Roman Empire in 274 AD. Fifty years later, Roman Emperor Constantine swapped the day out for the celebrating of the birth of the god of his newly acquired religion, Christianity.
Gifting – what and how we gift – says so much more about us than we realize. My mother emphasized that the getting of gifts was secondary to the bestowing of gifts upon others, to show family and friends that they were loved and appreciated. As a child, I also took to heart the message of O. Henry’s 1905 short story, The Gift of the Magi, which told the tale of a young husband and wife, and of how their deep love led them to sacrifice their most precious possessions in order to give gifts to each other.
So, for me, Christmas was always about providing for my loved ones. Even when money was tight, when I had little to spend, I’d somehow whip together something to gift; one year, on the road and practically penniless, I bought a load of wool, and knitted everyone long, Dr Who-style, scarves. In the years when I was flush, my family were surprised with huge bags of lavish presents on Christmas morning. Feast or famine, Christmas has never found me empty handed, when it came to gifting.
Everyone approaches holiday gift giving in their own way. Some are practical, others, selectively generous. Some want to show off their wealth, while others want to find gifts that impart some of their own hard-won knowledge or skills to a younger generation.
Like almost everything to do with interactions amongst humans, it all comes down to how we communicate our own needs, and how we discover what is necessary to keep those we love happy and feeling loved, appreciated, and respected.
A few years back, a well-known marriage counsellor named Gary Chapman released a book entitled The 5 Love Languages, which outlined how different personalities give and receive love within their relationships.
The key to good gift giving is in knowing what to give to someone that you love and appreciate. In order to do so, you need to understand what is their core ‘language’ – what speaks to their heart.
For some, the receiving of gifts is vitally important. This is not about materialism, or the cost of the gift, but rather on the love, thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift. For these people, the perfect gift or gesture indicates that they are cared for, and that they are more important to the giver than whatever was sacrificed to attain the gift. These gifts are usually treasured and carefully kept close, as a visual representation of their partner’s love.
For the partner or friend of someone who speaks this language, a gift might be a piece of jewelry that alludes to a hobby or work they do, a book on a pet subject, or tickets to an event.
For others, the greatest gift they can receive is quality time with their loved one. The gift of full, undivided attention means more to them than anything bought in a store, as it makes them feel truly special and loved.
Acts of service – sometimes actions speak louder than words. Remember those little books kids (and broke spouses) used to make for each other, promising to ease another’s physical or household burdens to come? Washing a pile of dishes, vacuuming the floors, doing the laundry, or dusting may seem like meaningless household chores, but for some people, those actions speak volumes.
Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important. But words of affirmation are a love language that uses positive affirmations from your partner to send your heart soaring. Unsolicited compliments given at just the right moment can make the sun come out on a cloudy day. Encouraging words that are kind and soothing are life-giving, while insults will leave this language-type disillusioned, and unlikely to forget or forgive.
The last language is spoken by those who crave appropriate physical touch. It’s not all about sex, it’s more the sort of touchy-feely thing that involves holding hands, hugs, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder or face. Slow dances in the kitchen after dinner that show how much we love and care about each other. While kind, gentle physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging, neglect or abuse can be unforgiveable, and cause irreparable damage to the relationship.
Understanding the ‘language of love’ that our partners, family, and friends speak makes gift giving a snap. All you need is a language decoder ring …and you earn that by really paying attention to what lies beneath what the ones you love don’t say out loud.
Gift giving in 2021 can be frustrating and exhausting, but then, that’s the way it’s always been. Somewhere along the line we lost the true meaning of giving and receiving. Maybe it rolled under a Coca Cola polar bear, or was stolen by a porch pirate. Who can say?
It used to be that giving gifts was how you showed your love for others, and for some that meant that the bigger the gift, the more you loved. But expensive gifts mean nothing if the gift doesn’t fit the giftee.
And gifting out of a sense of obligation does little to make you or the giftee happy, since a gift you never wanted to give is nearly always all wrong for the person that receives it. Aren’t Amazon and the other big suppliers of gag gifts and useless paraphernalia rich enough?
Here’s my gift giving advice for this holiday season: Set a budget you can live with. Choose who you’re gifting, and how much you can afford to spend. You don’t need to spend a fortune to show how much you care. Give to strengthen your ties to family and friends. And make the criteria for what you give commensurate with how much joy you can spread around to your loved ones.
Merry Christmas to all, and a wish that you have the happiest of New Years. DBAWIS is on hiatus until mid January. When we return, I’m sure we writers will have lots to share about our adventures and misadventures during the holiday season.
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas, 2021, and like the Little Drummer Boy, I have no gift to bring. Shall I play for you, pa rum pah pum pum?
Today is the 12th of December, and that means that Shawn and I are exactly one month away from the Big Move, from Toronto, to Windsor, Ontario. The drive is a mere 230 in earth miles, but, in some integral ways, it’s also the equivalent of moving from the Moon to the Sun.
Interspersed with frenzied packing have been ‘last lunches,’ and ‘quick meets for coffee’ that lasted long, lovely hours, and opportunities to visit audio and visual touchstones of my nearly four decades in Toronto. Like last week’s pilgrimage to The Rex, where Kevin Quain serenaded a few stalwarts that made their way through the wind and snow to enjoy his musical stylings on the Rex’s grand piano. He cut his musical teeth there, and his mix of originals and classics always hits the spot.
We’re heading into the meat of winter, and the snow has begun to fall, so I’ve been fixated on getting all of my outdoor and gardening necessities packed and protected from the weather. I work outside when I can, and then in the house, stuffing the interminable detritus of a life well lived into cartons that once held various liquors. There are nearly 200 boxes wedged into one side of the living room now, and another area holds the shelves that were once filled with books, art, and chotchkes.
And then there’s the plants …
Just packing up my hobbies and the bulk of my office will bring that box number to about 300. And then I’ll have to get serious about packing up the kitchen…
Oh yes, I’m busy. Most days I wake about 4 a.m., jerking bolt upright, tensed with anxiety, list of things to do, to remember, by my side, with new items underlined in red ink, and try to unclench my teeth and bones. I’m often dotted with medicinal A-535 patches, have a heating pad attached to my spine and a brace jauntily gracing my right knee. As the cat squawks in alarm, the day begins, a race from the start to the 8 or 9 pm finish, when I collapse back into the bed, unread book in my hand, and the reading lamp blazing, forgotten.
When I take a break from packing, I will usually relax with some entertainment I’ve PVRed, that I know I’ll be interested enough to watch for at least a few minutes before nodding off. My tastes remain eclectic, but something I’ve learned as my time becomes more precious, currently and in the bigger picture of life, is that I’m not terribly eager to embrace new casts of characters. I like the way old friends, both of the earthly variety and of those only known to us on our screens, fit my moods and needs.
Fr’instance, I really enjoyed binging the 10-episode arc to the new CSI: Las Vegas franchise. While there were new, young, hip main characters, my interest was in the inclusion of Sarah Sidle and Gil Grissom, an intriguing couple of scientists from the original; seeing them was like catching up on what’s been going on with chums I miss from the wayback.
And having these remembered characters marvel at the new tech that’s come along since their own heyday seemed somehow so very right, in a time when extraordinary leaps of science are being rejected by those who would gladly pull the world backward to a darker, uglier time.
There’s no denying that we’re living in a very different world than the one we knew, even no further back than 2016. It’s gone topsy turvy, and, after 4 years of political madness, the cherry on top of our new reality was COVID, a global pandemic.
But the good news is that, while the regressives struggle to pull us back, the progressives continue to pull us forward.
In 2018 I wrote a column about the Lift and Co Expo, held at the Metro Convention Centre, before Canada had actually legalized marijuana. (https://tinyurl.com/yckurrur)
This year’s 2021 conference, held in mid November, outdid the previous years’ conventions by leaps and bounds. The exhibit floor fairly groaned with the weight of the enormous machinery in use in full scale production of the now legal pot. And the list of available seminars, which ranged from the technical to the opining on the future of the marketing of psychedelics in Ontario, was fulsome and fulfilling.
As I wandered the aisles, speaking to some of the friendly representatives of diverse companies that specialized in everything from gummies to the highest of high tech, my mind kept reaching back to the early days, pre-legalisation, when there was, at least for me, a sense that legalisation could still wind up a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. A lot of the conversations I had in 2018 seemed to be of the breath-holding variety, that is, we could see a new horizon – but only if everything were to go right, in every way, from the conference, to the maneuverings of legislators and Big Business, all the way to Legal Pot Day.
But maybe I was projecting. After all, I was already 50 years past the first puff I’d ever taken, and those 50 years had seen so many smart and open-minded ideas be crushed under the iron fists of those that, to this day, fear cannabis as ‘the devil’s weed’, and who, even today, eschew any of it’s benefits to society.
At home with my swag bags, filled with goodies of all kinds from the generous retailer’s booths, I realized that cannabis’ future has very little to do with those ubiquitous corner pot shops that have popped up on every Toronto street. No, it’s not about the corner store at all; it’s about the future of every country that begins to look at the wonders of a natural herb for ways that it can benefit their societies medically, socially, and technically, rather than be the cause of crime and punishment.
Some days I marvel at the possibilities that lie in store for my grandchildren. Much of what is to come is likely inconceivable today, just as the innovative technologies of the year 2000 would have dazzled my grandmother, had she lived to see them.
And that’s a good thing. As much as we may revel in the fun we had in the past, the old must be left behind in order to make room for the new. If we greet each new opportunity with an open mind and heart, there’s no telling what wonders may lie ahead. No matter how hard you try, you can’t hold back tomorrow, any more than you can hold back the tide.
“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death,” said Jerome Lawrence. To enjoy the banquet of life, you have to be willing to try those things that might first scare you a little – things like escargot, chocolate covered crickets … and moving to another city.
Giant leaps of faith are still the best exercise anyone can do, at any age.
It’s a winter wonderland! A marshmallow world! And way too soon! It’s only November, dammit!
I’m not ready for winter. I’m nowhere near done with the packing and the sorting that has to be done in the back of the house, and yet, here we are. Oh, climate change, why could you not have brought palm trees to Toronto, instead of this untimely dump of white stuff?
We’ve been incredibly busy, in the last month, working out all the paperwork and miscellanea that needs to be done for our move in January. The ‘to-do’ lists are endless, and include low key celebrations of an anniversary, the recording of some Christmas songs, (for me) the recording of some the heymacs songs, (for Shawn) and the filming of a new the heymacs video next week, the day after my birthday.
I have now packed 160 large boxes, and I’m guessing I’ll need to do, at minimum, another 100 before we’re ready to leave here. I’m running out of room to pile up said boxes, and we’ve grown used to walking sideways to get past the stacks. I’m keeping the massage studios and back pain pill companies in business, and trying not to die from the malnutrition that comes from eating nothing but frozen pizzas and tinned beans.
It’s been a blur of activity, compounded by much needed breaks for lunches and get-togethers with friends. I even managed to squeeze in a trip to the Lift&Co Expo 2021, which I’ll be writing about next week.
Which is all to say that I haven’t spent much time worrying about ‘maybes,’ ‘whatifs’ and ‘possiblys’ of late, and that’s a good thing. It took several months to come down from the hysteria of the trump era, but having to focus so minutely on all that it takes to buy a home 250 miles away, sight unseen, has finally pushed away any remaining need to focus on what comes next in the Great Faux Election Steal of 2020. Done. Finito. The whole gang that couldn’t elect straight is no longer on my radar. I’ll let them return to top of mind when we’re trying to figure out which prisons will have the pleasure of their company.
There are a couple of issues that I’ve got simmering on the back burners of my mind, including the reports of the new Omicron mutation of the COVID virus. This was NOT what I wanted for Christmas; this is even worse than that time I got a vacuum cleaner from ‘Santa’. The biggest problem here is that it’s quite possible this mutation may effectively wipe out all the protection our previous vaccines had given us, which would mean we’d be as vulnerable as we were at the beginning of the pandemic.
And I really could have done without a news dump, two days before the American thanksgiving, that touted an unprecedented strengthening of ties between China and Russia. Both countries see an opportunity to strike at what the media is presenting as a weakened United States, and this, as tensions escalate between the East and West, portends a climate of fear as the holidays near. Also not what we needed at this time.
And you have to wonder precisely why the media is pursuing both of these disparate issues with such glee. Yes, we have to know what’s going on around the world, and yes, we need to be ready to protect ourselves from enemies at home or abroad, but could we just maybe take a breath or two before we dive headfirst into another vat of fearmongering?
Americans should be celebrating the passage of part one of a massive infrastructure bill, that will plow $1.2 trillion back into the economy, while repairing roads and bridges, and providing much needed broadband across the nation.
There were record breaking sales figures for the orgy of commercialism that is Black Friday, despite the media trumpeting that the collapse of the supply chain would result in empty shelves for the winter holidays.
More than 5.5 million new jobs have been created in the last ten months, and unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been since 1969. Workers’ pay has risen, and anyone who wants a job should be able to write their own ticket, since employers are screaming for more staff.
Americans are also enjoying more than $5 billion in rental assistance, and the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit, to the tune of $66 billion, which has gone out to more than 36 million households. The child poverty rate has been cut in half, for pete’s sake!
Sure, it’s not perfect. Nothing is, as any person with a fully functioning brain knows. But there’s something quite ugly about the media failing to acknowledge all the positives of the last 10 months, while banging the drum of failure, war, and plague.
It just stinks of a voracious, avaricious, mob of greedy, thankless, demanding spoiled brats. If you’re looking for your plague of zombies, look no further than the hordes who can never be satisfied, and who are intent on tearing their nation in two, to satisfy their masters, and some sort of political tapeworm.
The real bad guys are in your house, on your phone, and in your tv. But they were invited in, and warmly given a place at your table. They can just as easily be shown the door, and asked not to come back until they’ve got something better to offer.
We’re about to enter the last month of the year, December, a month that is filled to the brim with opportunities to gather together joyfully, to link arms with friends and family in a spirit of peace and community, and to reach out and share with those that need our help financially, physically, or emotionally. Every major and minor religion has a holiday in this time period, designed specifically to bring us together, to get us through the cold, dark months, and to prepare us for a brand spanking new year.
“Every religion I know of, including in the Pagan traditions, celebrates light in some form around the Winter Solstice. Each one relates to the coming of darkness, the need to collect and preserve that which nurtures (including foods) through dark times, and planning for the coming return of light with the Vernal Equinox/Easter/Passover, et al. It is a perfect time for reflection (another light analogy) and introspection. Without both shadow and light, there is no form, after all. We ignore equal attention to both at our peril.”
Mara Seaforest, from a Facebook comment.
Each of us has the opportunity to choose to see the bright light of coming together in love and peace, or to decide to chase after the darkness of divisiveness. Choose wisely. We have no idea what lies ahead for us, but facing uncertainty is easiest when faced together.