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.
Have you ever bought a car, and suddenly noticed that nearly every car you see is the same colour and style? Or, if you are pregnant, have you been surprised to see that it seems that everybody else is pregnant as well?
This is known as the frequency illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s something that happens thru two separate psychological processes –selective attention and confirmation bias – coming together, that makes us believe that there is more going on around us than what meets the eye.
You’ve probably noticed something similar during the last two years, as we’ve dealt with COVID. Our ‘selective attention’ can force us to overlook a lot of other news that might normally catch our eye, since most of us are hyper-focused on anything new or important to do with the protections necessary to fend off the virus.
Confirmation bias leads us to search out this news, and to find ‘experts’ that agree with our already held beliefs. That’s why those people who are convinced that there is something wrong with the vaccines cannot stop searching out those that agree with them. They are desperate to find others who share their thoughts.
Whether it’s COVID, pregnant women, or the incredible number of red vans that prowl the streets of Toronto, becoming aware of something you hadn’t noticed before can throw you for a loop.
Since my little cat died a few weeks ago, I’ve become hyper aware of how many people have also lost pets recently. But it’s quite likely that my sadness and grief has made me more sensitive to information from those who are also dealing with losses.
It is, of course, the frequency illusion that has concentrated my attention on what appears to be an explosion of ill health amongst furry critters that so many of us have been experiencing. If I were not aware of this phenomenon, I might begin to believe that there is something sinister happening to our four-legged friends. There isn’t; it’s just a coincidence that the time of year, the weather, and the inevitable aging of our pets would have to eventually culminate in their passing on.
Whenever something occurs on which we become focused, there are several roads that appear before us. So it was for me, with my mourning of my long-time furry companion.
While I don’t know how I feel about adopting another animal any time soon, I’m very aware of how beneficial it can be to singles and seniors to have a pet that gives them a focus. We grow so close to our little friends, and they give us so much in return.
But pet love is increasingly expensive, and vet bills can cause pet owners a lot of pain – emotionally and financially. Trying to decide when to let a pet go, or when to engage in an expensive fight for its life, often depends on how much money we can devote to that fight.
Pets are incredibly important in the quality of life for those who spend a lot of time alone. My experiences with seniors and senior pets have shown me that there is a need for organizations to help defray final costs. In the future, I’d like to find a way to work with groups working to make that difficult time a little easier for both the human and the pet.
A few days after Farley died, and in the midst of a flurry of friends dealing with the unexpected losses of their pets, a fellow whom I’ve known for many years suddenly went on a Facebook rampage, in which he posited that there was something wrong with those who deeply mourn their pets. Unspoken but inferred was that the public mourning of a furry friend went beyond odd to possibly immoral. He contended that no one could or should equate the loss of a dog or a cat to the loss of a human child.
Of course, these are two very different kinds of losses; a pet is not a human being that we have brought forth from our own bodies.
On the other hand, many people don’t have children. Some never wanted to have children. And still others have children that they rarely see or have interactions with. Regardless of the circumstances, it seemed odd for someone to feel that they had the right to publicly pass judgment over how other people choose to express their grief at the passing of their pets.
I tried to explain that pets play different roles in different times of our lives; during COVID, many people adopted pets to take the place of people they couldn’t see in their isolation. The loss of a pet that has been a constant companion, that is, in some cases, a reason to get up in the morning, can often be no less painful than the loss of a person whom one loves, but with whom one has less frequent physical contact.
This fellow’s insistence on being the sole arbiter of what qualifies as a justifiable emotional pain felt like bullying to me.
I was not the only breathing creature dealing with the loss of Farley; his long-time feline companion was mourning as well. During Farley’s last days, Lady Jade tried to give him comfort, by crawling into his bed and sharing her warmth. For about 17 years, they shared their beds, their treats, and their lives.
After his final trip to the vet, little Jade, who is 18, blind, and quite small, was bereft. She crept quietly around the house, searching for him. She would silently appear in dark spaces, and was often in danger of being crushed by our feet when we’d fail to realize she was there. The only time she would calm was when either Shawn or I would hold her on our laps.
Since we’re packing and preparing to move house, I was having to choose between doing what was necessary, and comforting my poor old kitty. I needed a solution, and came up with an idea.
I often use an organization called Freecycle to give away items that I no longer need, and to find odd things I’m looking for. In this case, I put up a request for a child wrap, or some kind of carrier, that would allow me to cradle Jade against my body, but still allow me to have movement to do household chores, pack, or even to just answer the door without having to disturb her.
Cat slings – it’s a thing.
Within a few days, I received an email from someone who wanted to know if I’d had any luck with my request. This woman was concerned because she’d had a similar situation when her older dog had passed, and his cat companion mourned him so deeply that a vet’s attention was necessary to prevent the cat from dying of grief.
This freecycler wanted to help, and by the next morning, she had decided that she would buy a baby wrap, called a ‘Cuddle Bug,’ that I could use for Jade, and we made arrangements for delivery.
When the packages arrived from Amazon that evening, I was stunned to see the extent of her generosity. Not only had she sent the wrap, she’d also sent an array of Jade’s favorite foods, and a new cat treat – Squeeze Ups – that I’d never heard of that must be kitty crack, because Jade can’t get enough of it.
I was quite dumbfounded by the kindness of this stranger.
In my mourning, there are lessons to be learned. I clarified to myself that my future would involve somehow being of help to others dealing with pet illness and death. I have seen the ugly side of someone who is unable to empathize with the pain that others feel, but I’ve also seen the beauty of a total stranger who responds with their whole heart to a cry for help from someone in pain.
Funny how life can show us the many ways that we can choose to live and interact with each other. Many paths lead us forward, but nothing is quite as wonderful as being able to grab hold of a hand that helps us in choosing the right direction, out of our pain, and into a shared light.
I had really hoped that taking a week off for a ‘mental health break’ would allow me to come back to the column with a fresh, breezy attitude, and a determination to sort through complicated ideas with ease and élan.
Didn’t happen. I’ll probably need way more than a week to get from here to there. I’m dealing with a ton of bits and pieces of life, some parts being more digestible than others. Nothing to see here, folks, move along – it’s just the stuff that life is made of.
That’s what being a human is about. At any given moment, every one of us is processing what’s going on in and around our lives, and somehow still managing to put one foot in front of the next to get through the days. We give very little thought to all the kinetic activity that surrounds us daily. We balance the input and output of our own minds as we perambulate through our days.
In life, and in general, we are more inclined to favour solutions that cater to our own wants and needs. That doesn’t always sit well with those in positions of power; the powerful also want what they want, and they are more likely to land up in situations where that is exactly what they’ll get.
When we’re in our peak adult years, dealing with finding love, growing our families, and focusing on bringing in enough income to pay for our needs, we usually don’t have a lot of time or headspace for worrying about external events. These are years in which we eschew too much philosophy, or follow much politics, favoring expediency over worrying too far ahead into the future.
It’s understandable that most people are too busy getting through their lives to worry about what can feel like abstract questions, compared to quotidian details. The cynical will say that we have always been pawns in a larger game, and that we are all victims of the lies of politicians and the powerful, therefore, complaint is pointless.
I have always had issues with situations that feel unfair, that slant towards the rich and powerful, and that leave the poorer and more vulnerable unprotected. But now the situations are more alarming, more encompassing, and contain more potential for long term disaster than ever before.
I can’t go for that. No can do. I’m a human being, and whether I like it or not, my life is impacted by political decisions. And my kids and grandkids, who will be around long after I’m gone, deserve a better planet than the one I’m currently poised to bequeath them.
Take human-caused global warming, for instance. This is settled science. There is no further need for debate; deliberation, in this case, is being used as a stall tactic, by those who profit from fossil fuels. We need to prioritize clean air and water, for ourselves and for our heirs. We cannot allow foot dragging and obstruction.
The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 is not faked, a conspiracy, or a ‘false flag.’ It is a very real pandemic ripping through the fragile bodies of people all over the globe, that has killed over 5 million people, and ruined the future health of millions more. There can be no excuse for failing to join in the fight against this virus.
The trial of a 17-year-old boy whose mother drove him over state lines, carrying an AR-15 that he was not legally allowed to own, and whose actions set into motion the death of two people and the near mortal harm of another, should have been a no-brainer for anyone with a shred of common sense; the deaths would not have happened had the boy not entered the picture. Yet, he will likely go free with a slap on the wrist, and a hero’s welcome from the Second Amendment brigade.
Meanwhile, had he not been white, he’d likely not even have made it home from that fateful encounter. This is more about race than it is about guns, but those with their own priorities have highjacked the case.
Hysterical reportage from the U.S. has decried a shortage of people needed for low paid, low benefit, positions. These are often the same jobs that just last year, at the height of the pandemic, were considered ‘essential.’ Not essential enough to merit a living wage, but ….
Yet studies have shown that there are many seeking employment, but not being hired. And one study showed that the assertion of a truck driver shortage was untrue; there’s tons of able, licensed, drivers. It’s just that those drivers are unwilling to play by the same unfair rules and pay scales that were commonplace pre-pandemic.
Turns out there’s lots of people looking for jobs, but the jobseekers are as capitalistic as the potential employers; they know about supply and demand. You need supply – they’re making demands.
In the early months of 2020, when the pandemic first hit the planet, the cost of energy was down. People were working from home, and offices and factories were often closed or idle. The roads and airports were empty, and gas prices were low. As the economy slowly gears back up, the price of gas is on the rise. That’s not attributable to presidents or prime ministers. It’s a global phenomenon that should have been expected, had we been paying attention.
Donald Trump’s Big Lie is the fabricated conspiracy of a poor loser, bolstered by the seditious and treasonous in his cult who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And yet there are many, even sitting in the halls of Congress, who deny Biden’s election win, and who plot to overthrow the legitimately elected POTUS. Democrats need to put some bite into their investigation into what was most definitely a coup, planned by the former president and his minions.
Far too much of what passes for terrestrial news, over the last five years or more, has been crippled with misinformation, lies, and even deliberately manufactured counterpoints to reality. That’s not what ‘news’ is supposed to do; news is meant to simply illustrate important events and to warn the viewer about events, financial issues, traffic issues, or weather that might impact their daily lives. Instead, the news has been commercialized, and is now partisan.
That is simply not fair, or right. The average person makes dozens of miniature decisions during even the most boring day. Asking that same person to now ‘do the research’ and parse out a dozen different possibilities to determine the veracity of what they are being told is simply asking too much. The news is not supposed to be political. Ain’t nobody got that kind of time.
Live long enough, and you’ll see everything, they say. I know I would never have dreamed that there would come a time when people in power would play quite so fast and loose with the truth. When Sean Spicer’s vehemently insisted that trump’s inaugural drew more lookyloos than Obama’s, we laughed. When U.S. Counselor to the President, KellyAnne Conway, used the phrase ‘alternative facts’ to defend Spicer’s lies, we crept a little closer to madness. And on almost every day in the four years of trump’s presidency, we were bombarded with more lies, more misinformation, more deliberate manipulation in the truth, culminating with a criminal disregard of the safety of the U.S. citizens trump had sworn to defend and protect when he took the oath on that very inauguration.
He’s been gone a year, and he’s STILL lying. No one should have been surprised that trump lied about having won the presidential election; he’d primed millions of his supporters to believe exactly that, since he won the first election, and somehow whined about that. He taught his cult to ignore what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears, and to only respond to what he and his minions told them was real, and he very nearly succeeded in a treasonous coup to overthrow a free and fair election.
In order for trump, his family, and his defenders to survive and thrive, they needed to alter how people perceived reality, and to pervert justice. They did both of these things very well, and continue to manipulate the rule of law to their benefits in 2021.
Each of us, no matter where we are, or where we live, wakes up every morning and deals with all the machinations of the day. It’s asking too much of us that we also contend with an altered universe where things may or may not be as they seem, where we are manipulated into believing whatever works to benefit the rich and powerful is good and necessary, while our children’s and grandchildren’s futures are being gambled away for the temporary gain of the few.
We have to learn from the past. We have to see that manipulating reality, and demanding the wholesale swallowing of lies are the tools of those that seek to destroy democracy. We cannot allow our human rights to be perverted for the benefit of the few.
It’s simply too much to ask. And that way, madness lies.
I’m trying to remember the last time I went trick-or-treating as a child. It was in Montreal, and might have been when we lived in Park Ex, which was, back then, really not a place that was safe for a young’un to be out alone late, and especially not to be traipsing around in the dark.
But hey – free candy! Sometimes pennies! Maybe even a free razor blade! Or was that just an urban myth?
Halloween was ‘one night only.’ You might have started thinking about a costume in the last week of October, but most of us borrowed heavily from the closets of our older siblings or parents, and if all else failed, you could always grab an old sheet and go as a ghost.
By the time my daughter was of age to panhandle from the neighbours, costumes had become a lot more sophisticated. She became increasingly creative and daring with her outfits as she grew older, and these days, she has a storeroom of fabulous costumes she created for her kids over the years, too good to part with willingly.
But something spooky started happening about six weeks ago, in my neighbourhood; people began to compete to be the house with the most awesome Halloween decorations. Around the middle of September, when the visual aperitifs of the holiday started to appear in the flyers, there were already hints of ghostly décor to come, up and down these windy streets.
For young, comfortably middle-class, families with kids, Halloween is beginning to overtake Christmas for flash. After all, Christmas doesn’t focus quite so strongly on kids and community togetherness as do activities like trick-or-treating. And who doesn’t want to be the house with the biggest, scariest, and loudest dragon inflatable on the block?
Some residents will spend far more time and money on elaborate Halloween decorations than they will on their Christmas or Hanukkah displays.
It’s gone a little bit crazier every year for the last decade or so. Consumers will spend about 30% more on Halloween this year than 10 years ago, about an average of $92 on Halloween food and decorations, a holiday that only lasts for a day. (I spend that on just the candy we shell out.) In comparison, the average shopper will spend around $227 for all of their winter holiday needs, which spans the two months from November 1 to December 31st.
Around here, people start plugging in the inflatables and lighting the bat garlands just before the sun sets. A stroll down Swanwick Avenue is a walk through a haunted street of enormous, prowling, black cats, 12-foot-tall ghosts, full Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin displays, and, yes, a fire breathing, moving, purple dragon, that will cost you nearly $300, including tax.
During last year’s Covid Halloween, there was a move to completely eliminate the trick or treat aspect of the holiday, by moving candy distribution to other venues, like schools and community centres. But that didn’t go over well with parents who wanted their kids to have the ‘full experience,’ even if that meant the kid bringing home some virus with their chocolate.
And so those who wanted to shell out despite restrictions turned to some interesting methods of candy delivery. Some just left bowls of candy out, trusting that the little ghouls and ghosties would respect an ‘honour system.’
A few of the more hands-on participants chose to ‘suit up’ in full protective gear in order to ‘keep the dress up spirit in the holiday’, while still others invented candy catapults, horrific handouts, and zombie ziplines.
So what has caused Halloween to become the newest big thing in holidays? Retailers trace this trend to millennials, young adults who have completely embraced an opportunity to dress up in ‘sexy’ or politically incorrect costumes, to use the abundance of inexpensive décor to create Instagrammable gatherings for a night off from worry, and to decorate their homes and yards to entertain themselves and their kids.
Social media has a lot to do with the rise of the holiday; what better way to tell your story than thru videos and photos of your creative self-expression. It’s a great time to show your Facebook and Instagram friends just how cute you are, all dressed and made up. Make them jelly when they see how much fun you’re having without them around!
If you were a big “Halloween person” as a kid, you’re very likely to want to continue being one as an adult. You’ve probably now got the money to go all out with your ideas, and showing the kids how you celebrated in your own childhood is an excuse to keep the fun going by sharing the scaring with your progeny.
Halloween merch is everywhere, from the dollar stores to Amazon, and people begin shopping early, since the stores run out of the ‘best’ goodies well before the day. Pumpkins and even hay bales begin appearing in stores at the beginning of October, and some families compete to see how many fun and unique Jack o Lantern carvings they can display.
There’s less ‘baggage’ to Halloween, and that’s appealing to time-strapped families. From Thanksgiving through to the New Year, there’s family baggage, cultural baggage, and, for many, a sense of obligation. There’s guilt in not spending enough money and time on and with family at Christmas or Hanukkah, but all you need for Halloween sharing are some photos or a nicely shot video to include those you might not otherwise see but once a year.
The holiday is so significant now that events begin at the start of the month, and go on through all four weeks, with kids and adults enjoying everything from costume parties to parades. For many families, a car tour of the neighbourhood to enjoy décor and light displays is now as important as their Christmas drive throughs once were.
Halloween is ‘low-obligation;’ it’s escapism. It’s a night for the normally repressed to howl, for the shy to show their sexy side, for the repressed to express what they might not have the courage to do on any other night. It’s a safe way to have fun by changing how we appear to others, and to play chicken with our fears.
And, of course, on the political side – it’s yet another opportunity for Big Business to rake in the Big Money as we gleefully spend, spend, spend …..
Ah, lighten up. It’s Halloween. Get your pumpkin on, and howl like a werewolf!
For the political …
A few interesting costume ideas to consider for All Hallows Eve revelry ….
And here’s some wonderful creepiness to have playing in the background while you launch your candy into the maws of witches and goblins …. Listen to David Tennant read vampire stories ….
When did people start ending every conversation with “be safe. Keep yourself safe”? Am I the only one that wonders when it was decided that we are living in a time of war or zombie attacks? And why is it so incredibly sad to know that the enemy we’re being cautioned against is a disease too often spread to us by our own loved ones and ‘friends’?
The other day I suddenly thought about Gary ‘17’ Webb. For a few moments I wondered how he was doing, and what clubs he was monitoring for his webpage. And then I remembered that he’d passed in December of 2020 – not from COVID, but from another health issue.
It got me thinking about the sadly large number of friends and acquaintances that we’ve lost during this time. It’s an extensive list, and it continues to grow, from the pandemic, but also from the complications of health care in a time of ‘plague.’ Without funerals, and often with memorials and tributes put on hold indefinitely, how many of the dead will fade from our thoughts in the coming years? Humans need to gather to mourn; COVID took that away from us.
We lost so many in our music/entertainment community over the last two years. And countless more in other fields and endeavors. Sometime in the future, someone will ask you when one of these luminaries passed, and you won’t remember, lost in the flood of the names of the famous and infamous whose leaving went almost unnoticed in the sheer volume of deaths recorded.
Humans are funny creatures. Of all of the living species, we are likely the only species that understands that we are finite beings. We are born, we live our lives, and at some point, we die. It’s the natural order of things; we see it in all of the living beings around us, in nature, in the seasons. We know without a doubt that we are finite. But most of us choose to pretend that we are not.
Society and civilization depend on the collective mind believing that there is a productive and better future to come. It’s our gamble. It’s why we buy insurance. There’d be no economic incentive to build cities or empires if we didn’t believe that our hard work and sacrifices wouldn’t ultimately pay off, for us, and for our heirs. We want a future; we can’t anticipate a time when there won’t be one for us.
I recently read that a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most productive age in human life is between 60-70 years of age. The second most productive stage of the human being is from 70 to 80 years of age. The third. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age.
That means that the best years of your life are between 60 and 80 years of age, and that, at age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s.
And yet, because of our submerged, unvoiced fear of aging and death, birthdays after 50 are too often greeted with sadness, gifts of tonics and hemorrhoid creams, black balloons, and cards that inform us that we’ve gone “Over the Hill.”
While we may have, in our youth, invested in collectibles, antiques and art, we are now informed that not all things increase in value with age. People, it would seem, diminish in worth.
But how can that be? In some societies, elders are revered as wisdom holders, the keepers of the culture, the teachers, the mentors, replete with the wisdom of a life well spent! In an ideal world, an elder that has walked the path in their field would be actively sought after for their insights.
In our modern world, long term care facilities are often modern-day ice floes upon which we place our old and sick, so that they might drift far away, and not disturb our fast-paced lives. During COVID, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, even suggested that patriotic oldsters would gladly die to save the economy.
But failing to respect and access the accumulated knowledge and experience that many elders possess is to potentially throw away some of the most valuable assets that we possess. Ideally, our society would accept and anticipate becoming a respected elder, who is available to provide valuable insights, based on their years of experience.
Not all elders are wise, nor are they always right in their opinions. But no one is right, all the time, and even the wunderkinds don’t understand every field that exists.
There are some instances in which an elder should be discouraged from commenting, and in that, I would include technology that they have not yet encountered, understood, or conquered. It would be folly to ask, as members of the U.S. Congress did recently, that senior members, who are not fluent in current internet tech, rule on how technology will go forward in the years to come, when they will most likely not be around to live under those rules.
Each of us must respect the stages of life. We must also be aware that those coming up behind us will need the time and space to enter into the workplace and develop their own experience and wisdom. In time, their wisdom will be of use to the generation that is coming up behind them.
If we all could look forward to a beneficial aging, rather than a collective shunning, we could be more proactive in our ‘golden’ years.
It’s not a crime, or shameful, to realize how aging will affect us. While there will be a lucky few that escape the ravages of time largely unscathed, many of us already know what lies ahead, in terms of wellness and personal vulnerability.
I decided long ago that I would be honest with myself about how aging and illness would affect my life, my living quarters, and my need for independence.
A few years ago, I was contemplating the purchase of an e-scooter, something that I could use to do errands, and to maintain some independence from needing to use public transit or cadging rides from others. But the more I thought about a two wheeled scooter, the more I realized that it wouldn’t really suit my long-term needs. I needed something with room to transport groceries, or library items. I also worried about maintaining my balance on two wheels.
So, when I saw an ad for a beat-up old mobility scooter on the buy and sell board of my supermarket, I decided to go for it. It was going for much less than a scooter, new or used, and I figured it would be a good ‘first vehicle’ for me. And I was right. Learning to steer and properly drive any vehicle can be a period of trial and error, and it can sometimes turn deadly. I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to learn while I still have full use of my limbs and faculties.
Sure, it was a little embarrassing, buying into the whole mobility scooter look, but it freed me up to do my errands when I wanted, how I wanted. And that independence means a great deal to me. Had I waited until a mobility scooter was my only choice for transportation, I might not have had the flexibility to roll with the learning curve punches.
I’m under no illusions about aging. I look at my face in the mirror every day, and it’s not the face (or hair, or body) that once looked back at me. Aging is inevitable, and non-negotiable. This is where the GIGO ends; garbage in equals garbage out, and if you chose to fuel yourself with ‘garbage’ throughout your life, garbage is what you’re left with to negotiate your last years.
With that being said, it’s not only fun to soothe our egos with mementos of our glorious youths – sometimes it can be a life saver. The conceit that our past precedes us can do real damage in situations where our pasts are unknown.
When two of my doctors retired, exhausted from the restraints of COVID regulations, I was suddenly faced with entrusting my continued healthcare to a new doctor who had never known me as anyone other than the senior person they saw sitting in front of them. They don’t know my past experiences, which means that they can’t see how those experiences resonate in my choices of today.
That’s why I brought along a portfolio of photos from my youth with me to my first face-to-face encounter with my new family doctor. She’s a busy woman, and I can’t expect her to waste her time in trying to imagine where my thoughts and feelings come from. So I showed her photos of myself on stage, in community settings, with my kids and grandkids. I let her know that I’m not just a new patient that falls neatly into a geriatric box, but rather, a person who has had a full and rewarding life, that’s not ready to be sloughed aside in any form of triage, based on age.
Maybe I’m fooling myself, and those photos made no impression on her. All I could do was try and visually show her that my present visage may appear to be old and vulnerable, but my youth prepared me for a good fight to the finish.
Bette Davis was right – old age is not for sissies. Having a full, rewarding old age takes work. But consider the alternative … it ain’t pretty.
The east end of Toronto has always been an interesting mix of peoples. Heavily treed and with many well tended parks, it’s a beautiful area, diverse and dynamic.
As real estate mania crested, beginning in the ‘80s, the traditional division of what was considered the highly priced Beach kept moving northward from the original Queen Street East designator. I’ve seen homes above Gerrard and just below the Danforth being called “Upper Beach” housing. Madness. Big Money.
The homes, be they bungalows, duplexes, or single dwelling two- and three-story homes, have soared in value. Finding anything for sale for less than $1 million and a half is pretty much like a unicorn sighting. A tiny bungalow across the street from our rental bungalow was listed last year for about $699,000. It was snapped up within a week for a million more than list price.
The tenants of these homes are now a mixture of the original owners, and the new owners, those who can afford to buy into these lovely streets. And that can cause some interesting problems, depending on how the residents, both new and old, react to neighbourhood incidents.
Long term EastEnders tend to be old school, a little bit lefty, but very property proud. The newer residents are generally younger, and upwardly mobile. They have to be, in order to afford these prices.
A couple of years ago I noticed a torrent of messages in a page on Facebook that is populated by people living in the Woodbine and Danforth area. It was a lovely summer night. As the sun began to set, someone posted that a man and his son had erected a tent in the center of East Lynn Park, and were blasting tunes quite loudly.
The poster’s concern was that they had just put their kids to bed, and that the noise was keeping the little ones awake. They also wondered what would prompt someone to treat a city park as a camp ground.
Within moments the chain of messages headed for AbsurdiaLand, as far left proponents speculated on the circumstances, and began a campaign to politicize the event. This was around the time when people were beginning to ‘occupy’ Toronto parks, in protest, and several people assumed that this was the case here.
Others presumed that this incursion had to do with the man and his son being homeless and indigent; several proposed gathering up food, water, blankets, and other welcoming items for the two.
Many respondents were angry with those who agreed with the first poster, that this was noise pollution. It soon became apparent that noise was the least of their worries, as comments soon appeared that noted that the boy, and the dog they had with them, were using the kiddie wading pool as a toilet.
And then there was the drink and drugs that were being used – hey, it’s legal now, said some. Others thought that the presence of a child, in a children’s park, indicated that this was not the right place in which to indulge such habits.
Hundreds of belligerent, and of escalating emotional messages later, the Battle of East Lynn Park concluded when it was discovered that the man and his son had rolled up their tent and left. The war of words had been fought in a flurry of suppositions and assumptions, because, as it turned out, the man and his son were simply nearby residents who had decided to play camp that night.
But following that evening’s arguments, many long-time neighbours began a cold war of resentment against each other’s political views.
During the pandemic, something similar happened with the arrival of ‘porch pirates.’ While most people who had their deliveries of groceries or Amazon goodies pinched were justifiably angry and disturbed when things they ordered were stolen, there was a very loud faction of residents in the East End who felt that exceptions must be made for people who might be stealing those items due to financial misfortune, or psychological impairment.
One woman wailed that her delivery of groceries had been stolen off her porch in the time between when she’d received a phone call announcing it’s delivery, and her walk from her kitchen to her porch. No sympathy was extended to her, however, by those who felt that the groceries might have been righteously purloined by people financially inconvenienced, who might need that food more than she, a resident in a well-to-do neighbourhood, could ever be expected to understand.
No matter how egregious the actions, there was always a noisy faction that could find every conceivable excuse for the thieves, excuses that absolved the crimes, and placed the onus on the innocents who merely expected to receive the things they’d bought and paid for, in a time when many were afraid to leave their homes and mingle with the great unmasked.
As we near Halloween and the holiday season, people are starting to worry about teens looking to pull pranks on neighbours. Some pranks are relatively harmless, while others can be considered vandalism and malicious. We can’t write off the fears and damage done to residents and property by kids enjoying themselves by absolving the perpetrators, and blaming the victims for having the temerity to own homes in a desirable neighbourhood.
There have been incidents along Queen Street East, and into the Beach area, throughout the pandemic. There have been unsupervised bonfires, dogs being sicced on baby foxes, and reports of roving gangs of teens damaging property along the main street. In one well publicized incident, a rave up devolved into horror when a partygoer began running through the Leslie Spit, threatening people with a chainsaw.
Toronto police have not been very responsive, and can rarely be bothered to respond in a timely manner to residents requests for help. Add to that the far-left voices that seek to absolve the kids of their crimes, and who, remembering their own halcyon days of the toilet papering of neighbours and other minor acts of vandalism, chuckle that ‘it’s just kids!” and ‘boys will be boys!’
Small comfort when it’s your porch that’s been trashed, your garden that reeks of urine, and your job to clean up the mess left behind by the youthful marauders.
Now, here’s the thing. The demographics of the vocal minority of the left are surprisingly similar to that of the right; as a rule, those speaking in defense of minorities, the poor, and the disenfranchised are actually the better educated, wealthier people, in two-parent households. Couples who wait to have kids and buy homes tend to have higher incomes and better social mobility, and that can make them more attuned to the real or perceived lack of funds and rights of people struggling with less.
But that attunement can pitch them into a battle against the people on the right who feel no such empathy towards those who have, for financial, physical, or emotional reasons, eschewed the traditional paths of a family friendly agenda.
And it’s definitely causing huge divides, even between the centre left and the left, and that’s a battle that can lead to some pretty severe consequences politically, in time. While it’s currently more visible in the States, where the centre left leaning Democrats are battling with their own party’s far-left leaning members, to the detriment of the nation, we’re daily creating our own smaller divisions that are sending milder, less vocal, small and capital L liberals to the ‘other side.’
When people act in extreme ways, when we see the hysterics of the far right or the far left, we can easily see how off-putting this is to those whose beliefs and needs lie straight down the middle. What we often fail to see is that this can lead to the actual, less vocal, majority moving towards the conservative right, which has traditionally been the home of the politically conservative, veering towards regressive, voters.
That’s what’s happening to the Democratic party in the States right now. On the far left, the vocal majority is imperilling the good that could come from the Build Back Better Act by emphasizing tactics and ideology that repel the centre left. Centrists in the party believe that some of the demands of the younger, more progressive members leave them open to attacks from the Republicans, who will use the more ‘out there’ demands to paint the entire Democratic party as radical socialists, all of whom want nothing more than to enact far-left positions like late term abortions and defunding the police.
Democratic senators Manchin and Sinema, far to the right of centrism at the best of times, are able to ride that position in their own states to justify denying important infrastructure projects, on the grounds that their conservative viewpoints can’t accept using funds to help with college tuitions, childcare, senior care, and major action on climate change. Their decisions to deny funding anything they disagree with, will effectively kill any likelihood that all Americans will be able to profit from the use of their own tax dollars to improve their lives, when the Act has been ripped to shreds to satisfy the outliers, both on the left and the right of centre.
That’s what happens when we give extremism too much free reign. Many of us have solid opinions, and have strongly held views about our society and our neighbours, and that’s our right. What we don’t have the right to do is to quash other people’s opinions and views. In a civilized society, in a democracy, we all have rights, and the key to keeping things moving forward is balancing the right and the left, so that neither side is given too much sway in how we live our daily lives.
The place to start, where we begin to work together rather than to tear each other apart, is right in our own neighbourhoods.
Having empathy and understanding means being able to hold two thoughts in one’s mind simultaneously. We need to be able to look at acts that threaten our values and rights in a balanced fashion. This means that those who commit crimes, regardless of the motivation, need to be held responsible for their actions. If their actions were compelled by socio-economic or psychological problems, their actions still endangered, or damaged property owned by another person, and there needs to be some justice done to mitigate that crime. We can talk about how we can help that bad actor to change their life path AFTER we address the damage that they have done to our society through their bad actions. No one is entitled to ‘more justice’ than the next person. Justice demands balance.
Can we really be living in a time when we’re addressing issues like the #MeToo movement, but simultaneously saying “Kids will be Kids… Boys will be Boys” and allowing them to engage in destructive and bullying patterns that will transition with them from childhood to adulthood?
Children who are indulged when they engage in pranking, bullying neighbours, or hurting animals are just kids in training for a future where they believe that bullying women, children, minorities and animals are fair game.
It may be difficult to look at the young, shining face of a child or teen and find them guilty of harming others by what seems to be mere childish pranks, but for every kid that gleefully ran up to a door and rang the bell at midnight, there’s an adult who has spent hours finally getting a child to sleep; a senior suffering from a painful illness who just found a comfy spot in their bed; a beloved pet jolted from rest and into defensive mode at a sound in the night.
We shape our future society by what we teach our kids, and how we encourage them to engage with others. If we teach them to respect the needs, values and rights of others, we get a society we all enjoy. But if we allow our children and each other to selfishly demand that our rights and needs be given precedence over that of others, we choose a path of anger and chaos, and a society where we run the chance of people in positions of power taking away our rights, since we clearly aren’t able to handle them for ourselves.