When I was a little kid, I dropped a candy onto the ground. My mother picked it up, brushed it off, and said, “Here you go. It’s fine.”
“But it’s got some dirt on it, mum! I can’t eat dirt!”
“Nonsense,” she said. “You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.”
My little kid brain was flabbergasted. A peck of dirt? How much was a peck? (It’s eight quarts.) And – before you die? At what point does the dirt eating begin? Can it be done in stages? Or do you have to start shoveling this ‘peck’ of dirt in at some point in your life when your body can better process dirt? As a four- or five-year-old, I was pretty sure that dying was many, many years in the future, but that timing apparently had something to do with a large consumption of dirt. Could I stave off that fateful day, in some faraway time, if it depended on my ability to assimilate dirt into my regular diet?
As a child, death is a million years away. It’s not something kids think about, or factor into their life plans. I mean, sure, OLD people die. But not kids. Or so I thought. The years I’ve lived since those days would prove me sadly wrong on that hypothesis.
Now, I’m old. Just had another birthday, looked at the calendar, and yep … I’m old. Not old/old, not quite yet, but on a path that will inevitably lead to me being – old. And I’m good with that. Because I could rhyme off a list of people who’ve been on this long journey with me that didn’t make it to this age, and others who are praying they get to see their next birthday.
I know now that getting old is a gift that not everyone is assured of receiving.
Most of the time I don’t think about the future. I’m retired. I don’t need to work. I have a roof over my head, and people that love me. I’m luckier than a large portion of humanity in the year 2022.
I don’t fear death, maybe because I don’t believe there’s anything after that final sleep – which, if I have a choice in the matter, would be my preferred way to go. For a brief while after I die, those that love or like me will experience a Roxanne-shaped hole in their world, but in time, that hole will fill up with all of the other minutiae of life. As it should.
But now and again, like when I read things like this study that just came out, about how many books I can expect to read in my lifetime – well now – that hits home.
Literary Hub has done some calculations that took me aback. By taking stats from the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator, and defining readers as “average” (people who read 12 books per year,) “voracious” (50 books per year) OR “super readers” (80 books per year) they produced charts that predict how many more books you are likely to read in your lifetime.
You can check the link, (Literary Hub ) or crunch the numbers for yourself – in 2021, StatsCan noted that average life expectancy in Canada is 79.9 years for men and 84 years for women. I would consider myself an “extra super reader”, since I read well over 100 books a year.
I had to brace myself when I realized that I might only be able to read about 1500 books between this birthday and my final day. That means it’s time to cull the herd, in order to leave room for the books I really, really, really want to read.
Out with books I thought I should read, since they made some literary list. If a subject is not interesting, I have no time to develop an interest. Books that take over 100 pages to get to a starting point – gone. That 900-page romance that I might have enjoyed if I ever got to a beach – banished from the stack.
Have you seen the stack? This is just one – there’s a second stack just like this in the other room. These are the unread books that I thought I might enjoy if I ever found some ‘spare time.’ Oh – and beyond the front line, is a second group of books. That’s right, these shelves are two rows deep.
And the stacks of unread books compete with the seven other tall bookcases filled with books that I’ve already read, and thought I might read again some day. I’m beginning to suspect that’s not in the cards.
The penny has well and truly dropped. Life is too short to suffer through a book you just don’t like, and it’s definitely too short to waste on reading that book that someone else thought you might like.
Even more, that same sensibility is now pushing me towards examining what else is extraneous in my life. How many more television series or videos do I have time to watch? How many winter coats do I really need? How many more of these columns will I write? Will I ever get around to the jewelry projects I’ve been putting off for – oh, it can’t really be 25 years since I took that course!
Social media can be a fun timewaster, but perhaps I could spend less time on there, and more in my garden! Flora and fauna don’t pick fights or talk back, and they’re prettier than most of the people who like to argue about nonsense on Facebook.
Rather than rely on other people’s definitions of how best to pare down for the inevitable, I will now define every item in my possession by the measurement of how much time we have left to spend together.
And, just to be safe … I think I’ll avoid eating any dirt. Wanna keep that peck down a quart.
Since 2018, Bob Woodward has ridden a second wave of fame through his trilogy of tomes on the Dastardly Deeds of Donald the Trump.
The first book’s title, Fear:Trump in the White House, sprang from something Trump said to Woodward in a 2016 interview: “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, fear.” The book itself is based on “hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, contemporaneous meeting notes, files, documents and personal diaries.”
Woodward’s book portrayed a grossly incompetent, fatally flawed, likely sociopathic man, hopelessly out of his depths, having somehow risen to the very pinnacle of the Peter Principle. Worse, he’d somehow managed to alienate and ‘cancel’ any potentially competent Republicans, including his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not agreeing to his hair-brained, knee jerk solutions to global affairs. Trump subjected Sessions to more than a year of cruel personal attacks, and not so privately called Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb southerner” before nastily dumping the man, and briefly replacing him with his own chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting AG, before William Barr donned the mantle.
2018 was also the year in which Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged, hit the stands. All three books described Trump’s “chaotic, dysfunctional, ill-prepared White House“. (CNN – Chris Cillizza)
In retrospect, these books, so shocking and titillating at the time, now merit little more than a raised eyebrow. Since then, there have been far too many books – eleventy billion at last count – exploding dozens of bombshells about the ineptitude and corruption of the Trump administration, the office and the man.
“Apres moi, le deluge,” is a French expression attributed to King Louis XV of France. “It is generally regarded as a nihilistic expression of indifference to whatever happens after one is gone, though it may also express a more literal forecasting of ruination.” (wiki)
Could the torrent of Post-Trumpian memoirs that followed Woodward and Wolff’s be any more appropriately themed?
“A duty to warn is a concept that arises in the law of torts in a number of circumstances, indicating that a party will be held liable for injuries caused to another, where the party had the opportunity to warn the other of a hazard and failed to do so.” (wiki)
Those first warning flares alerting the public to the disastrous behavior in the Oval Office acted like a starter’s pistol to a slew of bad actors, fleeing from the stench of being involved in Trump’s administration. Ghost writers made bank on the jumbled memories and stories of chaos in the White House hallways. Punters anxiously awaited each new salacious revelation, whether their goal was to confirm their own suspicions of misconduct, or to search for some misplaced tidbit that could be savaged and held up as proof of the writer’s malfeasance.
And as tome after tome in the Trump tautology has piled up on bookstands (and in my own library) I have become increasingly concerned that major, dangerously precarious moments in global history were concealed by writers more eager to scoop the competition with an explosive revelation, than to protect American and global citizens from potential catastrophes.
Bob Woodward’s book Rage revealed that Trump was well aware of the dangers of COVID-19 as early as February 2020, but that he sat on that info until his book was published that September.
Would more than a million Americans have died had Woodward been more forthcoming about Trump’s concealment of the deadly nature of COVID, believed to be five times more deadly than the common flu.?
Woodward simultaneously declares that COVID-19 “will be the biggest national security threat you [Trump] face in your presidency“, and then concludes that Trump was “the wrong man for the job.” Meanwhile, the ‘wrong man’ was telling Woodward that he “wanted to always play it down… I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Oddly, Trump’s public dismissal of the dangers of COVID is practically an afterthought in the book, as Woodward focuses on Trump’s handling of racial unrest, and his relationships with America’s highest-level official, and the leaders of Russia and North Korea.
Other writers who were active in Trump’s administration at the time were also aware of the dangers of COVID. Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff, wrote in his memoir, The Chief’s Chief about how sick Trump was during COVID, and of how they all knew that he – and later they – had the virus. He talked of how Trump, his family, and their aides, despite knowing that they were infected, attended – unmasked – the Trump/Biden debate. Trump, then 74 years old, was positive for the virus when he faced Biden, then 77, on September 29, 2020.
We will never know if that was a deliberate attempt on the part of Trump and his entourage to knowingly infect his rival.
John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, and Trump’s second chief of staff from mid-2017 to early 2019, was alarmed enough by Trump’s actions to be secretly “listening to all” of President Trump’s conversations without telling him. He also secretly consulted the bestseller edited by Bandy Lee, and released in 2017 entitled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book in which 27 mental health professionals warned that the president was psychologically unfit for the job, then used it as a guide in his attempts to cope with Trump’s irrational behavior. Kelly and many other cabinet secretaries and White House workers believed Trump was a pathological liar, and that he was not mentally stable.
The standard excuse given by every ‘truthteller’ in their post-admin accounts, is that they believed that all that they could do under the circumstances was to try to manage the situation, in an attempt to try and save the country. Which begs the question of why they themselves believed, like Trump, that ‘only they could fix it,” when it was a problem of gargantuan proportion.
Why did all of these people with first-hand knowledge of the disaster unfolding through those four years not tell the American people these truths at the time?
As the crucial midterms approach, several more books have appeared on the scene, with the works of Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker/Susan Glasser taking the most fire for failing to warn the public of critical information in a timely fashion.
Peter Baker and wife Susan Glasser began interviewing Trump after the election, but prior to the January 6th insurrection. In The Divider, which spotlights the danger of Trump’s presidency, there is a passage that contains a quote from Trump, captured in the days following the loss of the election. “Sitting in his dining room, at one point, he saw Biden on the tv screen. “Can you believe I lost to this fucking guy?” he groused.”
Journalist Mehdi Hasan has taken writers to task, noting that, for example, Baker’s quote proves that Trump DID know, and DID concede that he lost, even though he later said that he didn’t believe that he had. Should that information have gone to the January 6th committee, rather than be stashed away in the pages of a book?
Hasan opined that, “One of the rules of journalism is to be sitting in the middle and trying to treat both sides fairly, some would say equally. But is that an appropriate approach when covering someone like Trump? There are no ‘both sides’ to a Donald Trump. There’s never been anyone like Donald Trump.”
Baker countered Hasan’s assertion by saying, “It’s factual to say that there has never been anyone like Donald Trump. I don’t think the rules of journalism require a false equivalence. I think the rules require an unblinking, straightforward, truth-focused look at what is out there in front of us, and no pretending that some things are the same.”
“There has never been a president like Donald Trump. There has never been a president that tried to overturn a democratic election, who told the public, again and again, something that he knew, or at least had reason to know, was a lie, about the stolen election. He was told by his own people, his own Attorney General, his own elections chief, his own campaign manager… All of them told him there was no basis for this, and he went out there and told people this anyway. Not only told people this, he pressured governors and secretarys of state, his own justice department, members of congress, and of course, ultimately his own vice president, to go out and do something that was wrong. So I don’t think we need to flinch away from saying that. I think that it IS journalism to point that out.”
“(During his term) Donald Trump came up with over 30,000 false or misleading statements, all catalogued in the Washington Post. We can’t trust his recitation of the facts. He tried to turn the institution of government into his own personal instruments of power. January 6th wasn’t an aberration. It was the inexorable conclusion of a four-year war on American institutions.”
Maggie Haberman, aka The Trump Whisperer, describes in her new book, Confidence Man, released in October 2022, times when Trump raised the prospect of bombing Mexican drug labs, how he thought ethnic minority staffers were waiters, and documents a history of homophobic remarks allegedly uttered by Trump.
She also writes that she knew he took top secret documents from the White House to MarALago as far back as the summer of 2021, when he alluded to it in a conversation.
In another section of the book, she reports that the White House toilet was often clogged with printed paper, and that aides believed he had torn up and flushed documents, which contravened the Presidential Records Act. Perhaps this explains Trump’s long obsession with low-flush toilets.
Haberman concludes that most of the affection and respect Trump acolytes have exhibited in the past, and currently, can be traced to the reality show The Apprentice, in which Trump essentially played himself, on a glittering, but fake,business facade put together by producer Mark Burnett, a fan of The Art of the Deal.
Haberman explains: “The series was staged to make the broken-down, eroding empire look magnificent for the screen… But this was the presentation that viewers saw. I didn’t really understand this until I was in Iowa, and I was interviewing voters, during the Iowa caucuses of 2016, and I was asking people at one of the final rallies a very leading question, which was, “Basically, are you here because this is the last time you’ll see him, the spectacle is ending, “ and I kept hearing, “No, I’m caucusing for him, because I watched him run his business. “ And they meant – The Apprentice. By the time he became a candidate, a lot of voters in the Republican base believed he was this hyper-successful tycoon. And that base wouldn’t believe anything else that anyone told them about him.
So, without The Apprentice, which was television, all illusion, there is no Donald Trump presidency.”
When asked how voters should consider the proven lies and misstatements by which Trump, as a defeated former president who demands to be heard, should be judged, Haberman said, “It would not be responsible to ignore what Trump is saying now, post-presidency. I do think it’s responsible to contextualize it.”
“He was (talking about birtherism) way before … 2011 … We all thought we were factchecking him, when in fact, all we were doing was spreading it further.”
Stephen Colbert, while interviewing Haberman about her new book, asked … “So, if you shouldn’t ignore him, and what he’s saying are lies, by checking the lies you REPEAT the lies and drive them further into people’s heads, so they forget the lies, and remember only the accusations… what’s left?”
To which Haberman replied, “At this point, we can’t ignore him. We should have done things differently; I just don’t think we thought about what that meant. He exists in 10 or 20 minutes increments of time, but we exist in 24 hours.”
The debate over a journalistic duty to warn seems unresolvable, under these Trumpian circumstances.
My husband’s grandmother was a darling. She looked like Mrs. Claus, and she had a formidable appetite for hard work and spotless homes. For her, there was no greater joy in life than family, and service – first to the family, then to others. Whenever she’d see her children, grandchildren, or their partners, she took great interest in how they were faring, particularly in how they earned their daily bread.
“How are you! Are you … working!” she’d half-whisper, and you knew that the answer should never be “No.” To work was to be useful; to work was to be a gift, not a burden.
As a young woman, she’d immigrated from Finland, unable to speak a word of English, with little education, but with a good attitude, willing hands, and a strong back. She made a good life here, raising a family, and never shirking duty. Work defined her life – past, present and future. She worked deep into her eighties, helping to care for other senior women, most of whom outweighed her by a factor of at least three.
She, like so many of our forebears, packed her Bible in her luggage when she immigrated, along with that Protestant work ethic/pre-Reformation Catholic spirit, that tied so nearly into the essence of capitalism, and the development of the New World. The core of those theological philosophies revolved around the idea that hard labour, being a ‘calling’ from God, was in fact a noble vocation, fulfilled through dedication to the work, no matter how humble.
This work ethic reshaped the very idea of ‘work’ in any form as a duty and an obligation to consistently work towards the manifestation of grace in one’s life. Work was the means by which one became a blessing to others. The gathering of riches through hard work and frugality was a sign that the worker had pleased their God. And in time, the people around them became attracted to those qualities, and to strive to be like those burghers.
These concepts – one theological, one economical – are often credited with helping to define our North American societies, as well as those of most of Europe. And it could be argued that the combination of these two concepts is what has led to today’s deification of the rich and powerful, as beacons of what can be achieved by the lowliest of the low, if they could just get themselves right with some magical god that bestows bounty on his best beloveds.
The mindset of the Calvinist Protestant work ethic was largely responsible for Western Europe’s 16th century transition from feudalism to capitalism. With the flight of settlers to the New World, the ethic flourished. The poor needed to work; the rich needed hard workers.
The enmeshing of religion and economic progress is so deep-rooted that it is now an inherent characteristic of American values. Its principles are so deeply embedded that some venal Christian churches preach the ‘prosperity gospel’ as a way to enrich their parishioners, and of course, enrich themselves, all in the name of The Lord.
Politicians wishing to cater to that mindset love to deny the humanity of anyone not deemed to be ‘working hard enough.” If you’re homeless it’s your fault, pick yourself up by your bootstraps. If you’re sick, suck it up, and get back to work. It’s the world of quid pro quo – an exchange of goods and/or services. Something for something.
“if you would just work a little harder.” Happiness and worthiness, we’re told, is always just out of reach, but attainable.
As a rule, the average North America is defined by their position in life, and their net worth. Our meeting and mating rituals start with “what do you DO? What’s your job?” and for many, that’s the only question and answer that matters.
The other day I heard someone describe another person simply by one attribute; wealth. What goes through your mind when you hear someone being described as ‘rich’? With just that qualifier, do you make any immediate assumptions about the character of the rich person? Do you jump to the conclusions that this person must be ‘good/smart/accomplished/worthy’ or ‘kind/trustworthy/fair’ because the possession of wealth is entangled in your mind with the possession of exquisite character?
It’s lovely if you can claim the title of rich and powerful, but for the rest of us peons, the internalization of what it is necessary to do or to own in order to be someone worthy of being admired or loved can rip our sense of self to shreds.
Remember that SNL skit, about the snarky receptionist (played by David Spade) who made all of his boss’ visitors fight to be seen as worthy of entering the office of the Mighty?
That’s how a lot of people struggling with a lack of confidence feel every day – unworthy. Incapable. Not enough. That mentality of feeling can steal away all your hopes and dreams, cripple your ambitions, put a stake through a relationship’s heart, and lead to a life of unhappiness and poor health.
Any number of factors can make people feel that way, though it can usually be traced to earlier times in our lives when we were made to feel unwanted and useless. Those early messages created pathways in our thinking that can lead to a need to prove oneself, over and over, as being worthy of the attention of those we love, admire, or respect.
In a sort of self-bullying, some can begin to feel like everyone else knows what’s going on, and how to do things perfectly, while they themselves don’t even know where to begin.
If everyone around you values a respectable job or a big bank account over the attributes you bring to the table, it can be hard to feel you deserve a seat there.
We learn not to play with fire when we’ve been burned. The pain of rejection will wear a soul out. Just enough of a struggle to find our place will invigorate us, and lead to a healthy self-image. But if there are too many rebuffs, too many unbeatable challenges, a sense of demoralization can set in, leaving us not in the mood to try again.
There’s a bright side, though. Experts say that it’s possible to free ourselves from thinking that we’re not enough, no matter how deeply rooted those feelings may be. It all begins with challenging the not-enough mindset, with doing what it is that makes you – not other people – feel happy.
It’s important to be able to see our inherent self-worth, not in terms of self-importance, but in the spirit of knowing our value, and the stance that we’ll always tackle problems to our very best ability.
“You are enough.” As complex, as difficult, as flawed and as perfect as you are, you are exactly who you are supposed to be. For all your qualities, good and bad, you are normal, and you don’t need anything more to be appreciated as the valuable, one-of-a-kind, worthy person that you already are.
And ‘being enough’ means being able to share that same feeling of belonging with all of those that you meet, live, and work with. It’s not about the job one holds, or the political or financial place they fill in the world, but about what makes that person unique. And enough.
People are funny; they want their lives to be interesting and noteworthy, but most of us are good for about 24 hours of novelty before we’re pining for ‘the good old days.’
What’s ‘normal’ anyway? Normal is whatever you believe it is, in your mind, in your life, and in your world. Normal is ‘the usual,” “my regular,” the commonplace, the typical thing that you like to do or say or eat or whatever it is you do in your spare time; I’m not judging.
What it isn’t, is exciting. It’s waking up at the usual time, having my regular breakfast, and then going to work or play in the way I do on a typical day. It’s going to the same places over and over, because you like what they serve, and it’s where “everybody knows your name.”
Before we moved in January, normal for me would have been reaching out to touch the odds and ends that used to live in and on my missing bedside table. Where it’s gone, nobody knows.
But in the bigger picture, on a scale of one to earthquake, my life, and the life of many others, has been less than normal for some time.
We have just celebrated the second anniversary of the onset of COVID-19 regulations, worldwide. Though I’m not sure that ‘celebrating’ is how most of us felt when we thought about two years of fear, discomfort, and hand sanitizer.
Brides Magazine says that “The traditional second-anniversary gift is cotton, making this the prime time to splurge on upgraded bedding or a cozy throw you can use when snuggled up together on the couch.”
Sounds about right. That was pretty much all that anyone did for at least the first twelve months of the plague: overeat and binge watch Netflix. Remember those heady first days, when we all masked up, avoided each other, sterilized anything that didn’t wiggle away from the Lysol spray, and prayed for a vaccine?
In those first few months, that was normal. It was also normal for us to bang pots and pans every night around dinner time, to encourage those health care workers that were (and still are) literally sacrificing their own health to take care of us.
In January 2022, a load of frustrated truckers formed a convoy and honked their horns 24/7 to protest for what they believed to be their rights – which included their right to NOT receive a vaccine – and THAT became normal, for the poor souls in Ottawa who had to deal with what the Convoy wrought, bouncy castles and all.
Over the last half decade, we’ve normalized things which we could never have dreamed of having to deal with. In this I include the disastrous tenure of Trump; a poor beginning to the handling of a once in a century pandemic, and the subsequent whining once a life-saving vaccine became available; an attempted overthrow of the American government in January 2021, followed by something quite similar, if veiled under a web of candy flossed hot tubs, masquerading as ‘freedom’ while demanding a parallel overthrow of the Canadian government in January 2022; and then topped with a drizzle of a Russian attack on Ukraine, completely with threats of nuclear war, that sent many Boomers scurrying to find a school desk to cower under.
So what’s normal, exactly?
Many of life’s aspects, that we would have considered normal pre-COVID, have shown themselves to work for some, but not for others. For a while, it seemed like people realized the importance of community and mutual aid. When we were all pulling together, it did seem like we might be working towards a better normal.
But then, one day, that spirit of working for the common good began to splinter; some leaned into science, embracing vaccines, eager to see a world where everyone could be protected from a virus, while others opted to refuse the serum approved for use by every governmental and health agency in favour of quack cures and unproven placebos.
That was a normal that I really didn’t see coming.
For the majority of North Americans, normal is a world in which we’ve normalized one set of laws for the rich and powerful, and another set of far more extreme laws and punishments for those who are not white, cis, males.
All over the planet, normal is women knowing that they have to dress and behave in approved manners, if they want to avoid being attacked for the crime of being female. And normal is knowing that, if they are beaten, or raped, they cannot be assured that their story will be believed, or that their attacker will face any consequences. Normal is police stations filled with rape kit tests that pile up in storerooms, but are never prioritized for analysis.
Normal is people of colour knowing that there is nowhere that they are completely safe from assault, even in their own beds, in their own homes. Even if they are fleeing from a war, normal is knowing that white citizens will be prioritized in the rush to safety.
Normal is a complete lack of action or attention to the future of a planet where the Arctic temperatures are now routinely higher than the temperature in downtown Toronto.
Normal is watching the world’s richest individuals get richer during the pandemic, while the world’s poorest individuals fell further behind.
What we call ‘normal’ today is what we have decided to call normal. It wouldn’t be normal in any other space or time, but it’s what we’ve become used to living in and with, in order to be part of our society.
The unemployment rate in the United States, at 3.8%, is the lowest it’s been in history. Canada’s rate is 4.2%, and has traditionally been higher than in the U.S. or Europe, mainly because we have a higher proportion of seasonal industries, as well as a higher proportion of population in smaller, more isolated communities.
No matter where we live, there are many who are very nervous about returning to life, as it was defined, pre-COVID. The pandemic and our isolation revealed that our routines of commutes, office work, water cooler small talk, and the like weren’t necessarily conducive to a better quality of life. We discovered that many of us – mostly white collar workers – could work from home, in less rigid conditions that allowed those with physical or mental issues the space to thrive.
This year, 47 million people, mostly millennials, have joined the “Great Resignation” in search of better careers, with higher wages, remote options, and greater flexibility. It must be noted that they are privileged to be in higher end careers; these options are not available for the bulk of those who labour in minimum wage positions.
But for those that have this option, they’ve discovered that time is too precious to spend commuting, and that they want to work for a company that is as committed to finding a work-life balance as they are.
We have collectively learned that the ‘normal’ we are returning to, may not be so normal after all. Some things we can change, but many broad social problems are simply beyond our grasp at this time. For social change to happen, we will have to find a communal force of will in which we all refuse to return to the harmful systems that were highlighted by the pandemic.
To do that, we will need to re-learn the art of working together for a common good.
If we don’t or won’t demand change, we will have wasted what might be our last great opportunity for a societal re-set.
Last week I wrote about local bullies, and those that terrorize the citizens that elected them locally and nationally. More often than we might have thought, those elected bullies, unsated by the billions they suck from their people’s coffers, opt to extend their reign indefinitely. When they do so, they morph from being barely restrained autocratic bullies, into full-fledged, unrestrained, dictators.
Let’s look at a shocking reality: based on the definition of a dictator being a ruler of a land rated “Not Free” by the Freedom House, there are currently 50 dictatorships in the world. There are 19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 in the Middle East and North Africa, 8 in Asia-Pacific, 7 in Eurasia, 3 in the Americas, and 1 in Europe.
From Afghanistan to Yemen, and 48 places in between, these monsters hold the power of life and death over millions of human souls. Dictators not only do not love the people that put them in power, they don’t even see their people as human. Men, women and children are just numbers to be juggled, creatures to serve them and to be subjugated.
We can reel off the names of some of these men (and they’re all men;) Putin, Xi, Ortega, Maduro, Kim Jong-Un, el Assad, Erdogan … what they all have in common is the need to not just dominate others, but to crush them, to own their very souls. They are cruel, world class bullies, who have perfected what they likely began in the school yard … insulting, hurting, threatening others who are weaker, smaller, less powerful and more vulnerable. They seek to destroy any vestige of freedom or pride in anyone who dares try to stop them.
North America’s 24/7 ‘breaking news’ media has kept us soaking in the bullying actions of Putin as he wreaks hell on Ukraine. But even as we gaze upon the horrors of Mariupol being pummelled into dust, dictators around the world have not stopped their assault on their own people.
As The Atlantic said recently, in an article entitled, “Dictators aren’t Pretending Anymore,” autocrats now openly steal elections, stage coups, and invade other countries.
In the February 2022 Freedom House report on the state of democracy in the world, they stated that the world has entered the 16th consecutive year of what the political scientist Larry Diamond has termed a ‘democratic recession.’
“Democratic institutions and civil rights deteriorated in 60 countries, with Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Tunisia, and Sudan experiencing especially precipitous declines. At the beginning of the democratic recession, about half of the world’s population lived in a country classified as “free.” Now only two out of every 10 people do, while four in 10 live in “partly free” nations like India, and another four in 10 live in “unfree” nations like Saudi Arabia.”
In most of the last century, the enemies of democracy embraced the use of political violence, seizing power at the point of a gun. However, in the last few decades, dictators have generally first come to power democratically, winning seemingly free and fair elections, which they used as a jumping off point to concentrate power into their own hands, and eventually manoeuvred into a situation in which they could no longer be removed from office by democratic means.
In the last few years, however, there has been a return to violence, with the number of military coups worldwide jumping to seven. Over the past year, Myanmar, Sudan and Mali, military officers have used force to install their leaders into dictatorship positions.
The slow weakening of democratic norms, the slide into ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative reality’ has allowed those in high positions to kick away the illusion of a democratic legitimacy, and behave as ruthlessly as they wish. Laws meant to stop powerful people from abusing their power and authority have been so attacked and bowdlerized that it is increasingly unlikely that, even in a democracy, any elected official need fear an overlong prison sentence, if a sentence is given at all.
As we witnessed on January 6, 2021, social media worked alongside former president Trump and his enablers to ramp up allies when they attempted to overthrow the results of the free and fair 2020 election. More than a year later, Trump is preparing to run again, in 2024, despite laws that forbid anyone who was involved in an insurrection from seeking public office. And if he’s elected again, the path will be clear for him to ascend to dictatorship in the United States.
(*Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who has violated their oath of office, by engaging in insurrection or aiding in a rebellion, from running for federal office.)
Canadians had a near miss this January with another sort of coup, an epidemic of full-scale bullying, when the Trucker Convoy blasted and blared their way into the news, and the downtown heart of Ottawa, with a headline concern of “Freedom” and a much longer manifesto that demanded, in small print that their supporters would never read, that all of the current federal government step down and be replaced with a governance of their convoy leaders’ choice.
These attacks on democracy are far too close for comfort. The enemy is not just on your wide screen, the enemy is at our gates.
Putin has attempted to keep NATO and other countries friendly to Ukraine at bay by holding the threat of nuclear war over our collective heads. Many fear that appeasing his appetites at this time will merely sacrifice Ukraine, while enabling him to then continue gobbling up the rest of Europe. Certainly, it would appear that he is determined to win at any cost.
“In June 2020, Putin signed a decree—the Basic Principles of the Russian Federation’s State Policy in the Domain of Nuclear Deterrence—that specifies two conditions under which Russia would use nuclear weapons. The first is unsurprising: “The Russian Federation retains the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies…” But that sentence ends with an unusual statement: “… and also in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is put under threat” [emphasis added].
In his February 24 speech, Putin echoed that unusual language to describe his Ukraine invasion. The United States, he claimed, was creating a hostile “anti-Russia” next to Russia and in Russia’s historic land. “For the United States and its allies, it is a policy of containing Russia, with obvious geopolitical dividends,” he said. “For our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historical future as a nation. This is not an exaggeration; this is a fact. It is not only a very real threat to our interests but to the very existence of our state and to its sovereignty” [emphasis added]. Putin has defined the current situation as one in which, in line with the principles of its deterrence policy, Russia retains the right to use nuclear weapons.” 
That’s some world class bullying, right there.
But does all of this sabre-rattling lead to the conclusion that the only way to stop a bully is with a bigger bully? That would depend on how we define our systems of justice.
Post World War II there were consequences for Hitler and his party. But the process of the Allies seeking justice in response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany were intended to establish a precedent that they hoped would prevent war crimes from ever occurring again. We’ve seen, in Putin’s criminal actions in the Ukraine, that the rules and laws will not stop a determined warmonger.
Nonetheless, democratic systems of justice, and criminal sanctions are not bullying; they are the way societies are governed, in order to protect all members of nations.
Without a crystal ball, I cannot say what will happen next in the Ukraine/Russian war. I do feel though, that whether we are ready to admit to it or not, we are already part of the launch of World War III.
“As Russian troops advance toward Kyiv, democracy is no longer the only game on the global stage. And so the coming decades won’t just pit democracies against autocracies in key territorial battlegrounds like Ukraine. They will also pit the defenders of democracy against those who blatantly reject the supposed decadence of popular self-determination in the sphere of ideas.” (The Atlantic, Feb 2022)
As a child, my sister was often the target of bullies. Bullies sniff out the weak, the vulnerable, those who have already experienced the wrath of others. I spent a lot of my own childhood trying to protect Jodi from those who had nothing better to do with their time than to torment a shy, fragile, little girl.
While I didn’t have much truck with bullies in school, once I was out in the work world, I quickly learned the Golden Rule; he that has the gold, makes the rules. Which meant that those who had better jobs, or more power in their position, could choose to use or abuse their underlings. I found it very hard to kowtow to people who were often not nearly as clever or capable as I was. Being a woman in the workplace last century was often an onerous, frustrating position. I’m sure for many women that it still is, in this century.
Eventually I chose to be an entrepreneur, to work for myself, rather than to work for others. It was just easier, being the boss.
Generally, decent people are always trying to make situations work for everyone in a group. But whether you’re in the established business world, academia, the trades, or the arts, at some point, most of us will encounter grown up bullies who seem to thrive on making life miserable for others. Put a group of people together, and, sooner or later, someone decides they deserve a better, more special treatment than the rest of the gang.
Some kids are just more aggressive by nature, but usually, bullies are made, not born. The behavior is usually learned very young, from an adult role model – a parent, a teacher, or a coach, for example – that is unable to handle anger well. A bully may have older siblings, who were bullied themselves, and so will bully a younger sibling to make themselves feel empowered. As a rule, a child learns to be a bully because he/she is not getting enough good parental attention, leading the bully to lash out at others for attention they need.
Grown up social bullies have poor self-esteem, although they’ll usually come across as narcissists with God complexes. They see the weak as contemptuous, and crave power and attention. They are unable to understand how their behavior makes other people feel, and simply don’t care about the feelings of others. They’ll dominate, play the victim, blame others, and never accept the consequences of their actions.
And that, in a nutshell, describes the political bullies that pull the world’s strings.
I first became interested in the stories behind the political news during the Stephen Harper Decade – he who was so convinced of his own infallibility and right to lead Canada that he literally rebranded the federal government the “Harper Government.” An excessively partisan break with tradition, and a slap in the face to the other parties that have helped shape Canada, taxpayers spent more than $85,000 in the first year alone of helping the Cons solidify their Golden Calf’s place in shredder history.
During Harper’s prime ministerial career, his bullying style attracted a lot of notice. The nature of his political discourse was belittling, contemptuous of the value of other political groups and ideas. By devaluing other parties, and brooking no collaboration with leaders with other input, he oppressed democracy in Canada, but so subtly that his enablers could paint Harper’s derision as simply ‘fighting back’ against his detractors.
Devaluing others is a product of insecurity, at best, and often grossly oppressive to the ‘out-group’ that is the target of the bully. When a country broadly paints another country as an ‘enemy,’ because of a warring history, or a current conflict, citizens pull together against a common enemy. But when that same contempt is expressed towards political equals, it becomes a form of bigotry, a marginalization of our own peers by denying or devaluing their abilities, and even their right to citizenship within their own country.
Harper regularly used bullying and open contempt in the attack ads used against opponents, from his slurs against Stephane Dion, then-Liberal leader in 2007, who dared to run against him, using ‘gotcha!’ video, and baritone voice-overs derisively asserting that “Stephane Dion is not a leader,” to his diatribes in 2008 against the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois, whom he demonized as ‘the separatists.’
And then, of course, there were the attack ads that branded Justin Trudeau as ‘just not ready,’ and a contrived ‘expose’ on young Trudeau’s participation in brownface makeup in an Arabian Nights themed event at the private school where he was a teacher in 2001.
I’m still hearing about that one from the Trudeau haters. There’s a fascinating 2019 article and investigation into that ‘scandal’ that was put together by Free the Press Canada. All signs seem to point to a high-level manipulation of information put together by powerful Conservative operatives.
When Harper was ousted from power in 2015, it felt like Canadians could finally take a deep breath of fresh, non-Harper air. But on June 7, 2018, one bully was exchanged for another when Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s premier.
Brother of bumbling Rob, Doug blew into Queen’s Park with a chip on his shoulder the size of the CN Tower, and a determination to make the city of Toronto pay for what he considered unfair treatment to brother Rob during his mayoralty. First off, and within what seemed like minutes of taking office, he was the first premier in Ontario’s history to use the Notwithstanding Clause to cut the number of Toronto’s city council – then in the middle of an election – in half, an act of bullying so extreme that the City of Toronto appealed the law, arguing that it interfered with the rights to free expression and free and fair elections. (Follow up – the Supreme Court, in a split 5/4 decision, disagreed, on the grounds that the Charter Right applied only to federal and provincial legislatures, not to municipalities.)
Ford proceeded to throw his considerable weight around at Queen’s Park, ensuring that deep cuts to programs for Ontario youth, education, and health were passed, while ensuring that his long-time cronies found a friend in Ontario’s deep pockets and green spaces.
History will paint an interesting picture of Ford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford’s bumbling reign came on the heels of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, and people often noted their similar natures. Born to privilege, and convinced of their own special ability to lead, Ford’s bullying nature paled, however, in comparison to the vigor of Trump’s.
And if Trump, a master bullier and wannabe dictator, soared to loftier heights of mock victimhood and ‘fake news,’ his gilded First Lady left the world speechless when she announced her “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign, based on her belief that she was ‘the most bullied person in the world.”
Next week: World Class Bullies and where they live
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.