No Law Just Disorder


by Roxanne Tellier

Generally, writing about the continuing political clown show in America is more exciting than writing about what are often picayune matters in Canadian politics.

Canada has practically sailed thru the pandemic, in comparison to other countries. We’ve been lucky, overall, and much of that success is because the majority of us are happy to comply with regulations that will help stop the spread of the virus. Things could most definitely have gone much worse.

Yes, I think we’ve handled the pandemic fairly well. Certainly, better than I have handled realizing exactly how selfish, self-centred, and horrible so many have become in the last nine months. No one is enjoying living through this crisis, but some are not only behaving like obnoxious, spoiled brats, they’re forcing others to carry them through their ‘trauma.’

This week, our activist citizens thrust themselves into global prominence with the arrest of Adam Skelly, a young man from a wealthy Leaside family, who claimed to be acting in the name of ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ when he defied the province’s 28- day ban on indoor dining at Toronto’s bars and restaurants.

Skelly owns a couple of restaurants in the city, including one in the suburbs of Etobicoke. When the ban was imposed, Skelly simply ignored the law, declaring on social media Monday night that he would open for business, including for in-person dining. On Tuesday, the city’s public health chief explicitly ordered him to close his doors, but on Wednesday, he continued to serve customers, resulting in non-criminal charges for Skelly, and the corporation that owns the restaurant.

The location became a gathering spot for anti-maskers, who congregated around the diner, protesting vocally and with placards, warning about political ‘communism.’  

The police and the city dithered for a few days, a mistake which allowed the protestors to gather in strength. However, on Thursday, the police finally acted, and led Mr. Skelly away in handcuffs.  

“Look Ma! No Mask!”

“On Thursday, police changed the locks on the restaurant, but allowed Skelly into a portion of the building they believed was not covered by the closure order from Toronto Public Health.

However, according to police, his supporters smashed through drywall to access the restaurant area to try and reopen it.

Skelly was led away in handcuffs and now faces a number of charges, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief under, failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act.

He appeared in court via video link on Friday, and was released after his wife posted $50,000 bail.“  (CTV News)

That bail likely came from a GoFundMe organized by his supporters immediately after his arrest. To date, that fund stands at $271,166. So – it’s been rather lucrative for the scofflaw.

Skelly and his customers were blatantly disrespecting not just the law, but their fellow citizens, whose lives they were risking for their own needs. And – here’s the thing; I’ll bet if you asked any of those protestors how they feel about ‘Defund the Police’ they’d be on the side of the Boys in Blue. Just not when those Boys are ‘interfering’ with what they consider to be their own privileged rights.

It’s true! Even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

Here’s Doug Ford proving the adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

“Speaking with CP24, criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said Skelly could face some serious further charges if he continues to defy the law.

“He could be charged with serious crimes that are called ‘fail to comply,’ Goldkind said. “And when you get charged with fail to comply, you’re taking your jeopardy of these mischief and obstruct charges and you’re increasing it greatly.”

Goldkind said the conditions of Skelly’s bail are “significant,” including the stipulation that he not use social media. That charge likely stems from his use of Instagram to announce that he would defy the lockdown orders and invite people to come eat at his restaurant, and his subsequent use of the platform to call for locksmiths and other help to re-open the restaurant after it was shut down by police and public health officials.” (CTVNews)

Whether or not Skellly’s protest works out financially for him (and I’m gonna bet it will,) we do have to look at the growing swell of Canadians who are totally fed up with what seems like arbitrary rules that ignore science, in deference to Big Business. Where is the justification in the closing of restaurants and shops that have bent over backwards to comply, while keeping their customers safe?

It all starts to look a lot like how the province behaved when the drive to stop smoking in public began. Businesses kept trying to comply, while the province kept making it harder for the businesses to do so. Yeah, I’m glad we’re not allowed to smoke in restaurants any more. I’m just very much against how they went about achieving that objective.

Small businesses all over the city are suffering under Ontario’s rules for surviving the pandemic. This time of year is when most count on making the bulk of the year’s profits. Ford played the Grinch when he decided to shut them down, while allowing Big Box stores to remain open.

By the spring, we’re going to see a flood of personal and business bankruptcies, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the Dirty Thirties.

Schools remain open, even as cases rise, and our hospitals worry they’ll once again have to cancel surgeries. Skelly playing scofflaw as others play by the rules only ups the ante for those who’re unable to pay their rents or staff.

With few exceptions, political leaders have bent over backwards to accommodate Big Business, many of which are also Big Donors to their campaigns. There’s been a real tippy toeing around the need to completely shut things down for the 4 to 6 weeks it would take to break the virus’ stranglehold on our economy. But had we done so back in the spring, we’d be looking forward to celebrating a much merrier Christmas by now.

Our leaders promised to “do whatever it takes” to stop COVID-19; and then, they didn’t.

Instead, the city and the province are allowing scofflaws and rabble to warp the narrative to their own agendas. Until those breaking these laws are fined heavily, and possibly arrested for multiple offenses, we can look forward to their anti-masking, anti-lockdown protests to scale up as tempers ramp up.

Every weekend, a group of anti-maskers gather at Dundas Square to share disinformation about “science” they’ve gleaned from the nonsense Russian bots convey on YouTube, and whatever flavour of nutso Parler has up that day. And every weekend, those crowds grow larger and louder. Why are the protestors – at the very least the instigators – not being fined for flaunting laws put into place for the safety at all?

I’ve heard from people who live in the area that these protestors will often spread out to other areas of the city after the rally, shouting at pedestrians and trying to rip the masks off other people’s faces. This is assault, even were there no public health laws in place for the safety of us all.

This has been a really rough year for everyone. It would be great if we could just try to get to the end of it in one piece, with our city intact.

Arresting Skelly is a first step. Now it’s time for our local, provincial, and federal officials to stop pandering to those who are too spoiled and selfish to care who they infect. It’s not about ‘freedom’ – it’s about a public health crisis, and the need to care for ALL Canadians.

God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise


by Roxanne Tellier

There’s only a few more weeks left of summer, before we get that Fall-ing feeling again.

That’s quite a while, in these troubled times. Kind of makes you wonder how different our world will look by then. After all, it’s certainly seemed like every day for the last few years has been an endless, nauseating, roller coaster ride. Fires, floods, droughts, plagues, economic turmoil, murder hornets – kind of frightening to think what might be next.

Take, for instance, daily life since March 2020. Experts say that if the United States had just followed three simple rules – wash your hands, keep a social distance from others, and when you can’t, wear a mask – it could have prevented at least 90% of the deaths of the 163,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 to date.

Which seems a pretty small ’ask,’ really. But somehow, that little, common-sense ask got politicized and weaponized. Now, those who are just as likely to become ill or die from this virus as those whom they disdain for being ‘sheeple,’ are in equal danger from the great unwashed and unmasked. Strangely, the virus doesn’t ask to see your voting preferences, or your SAT scores.

When the first trickles of information began dribbling in, back in March, about a new and potentially deadly epidemic being on its way, most people were motivated to go into ‘self-protection’ mode. A lot of us spent a lot of money on canned goods, medications, and toilet paper. Masks were hard to find, and even those cheap paper masks, like you’d wear at a doctor’s office, were a little pricey. But that was okay, because no one knew what would happen next in this ‘novel’ corona virus. We were playing it by ear. Most would prefer to be safe than sorry.

You’d have thought that preppers, and those who have been anticipating some sort of apocalyptic, dystopic, end of days would have been delighted to have a chance to give their hoards and bunkers a work out. But surprisingly few were enthusiastic about weathering an ACTUAL crisis.

Still, people coped. Those who survived the Great Toilet Paper Wars got crafty, with some generous souls showing others how a simple mask could be fashioned from just about any material, for next to nothing. Others got smart, and figured out how to turn a buck by selling their fashion masks to non-crafty people for major coin.

Predictably, trump decided that he had to be the figurehead in the fight against this ‘invisible enemy’ that he dubbed the China Virus. His meddling only roiled the waters, drove his cult to new heights of insanity, lead the gullible to drink bleach, and put the lives of those attempting to save American lives in danger.

All things considered, Canada has been pretty good, in a minimal sense, during this crisis. Really, I don’t blame anyone, either in government or in the sciences, for a response that has been merely ‘good.’ None of us – not even the most knowledgeable scientists, researchers, or doctors, even specialists in virology or respirology – could have anticipated all that we’ve come to learn about this particular virus, even within the last six months. It is NOVEL – and that means, it’s never happened before. Some nations had generic pandemic responses in place, and ready to go (notably, trump had disbanded those offices in the US long before the epidemic began) but what they had to work with on this new infection basically amounted to “Don’t forget your towel.”

But I do say minimal, because, both in Canada and the US, there was a serious lack of governments able to ‘say what they mean and mean what they say.’ It was clear, right from March, that controlling a world wide pandemic was going to take a steely will, and a populace that understood not only the seriousness of the disease, but the need to pull together, as nations, and as humanity, in order to beat the infection into submission.

In those countries with a strong right-wing political arm, even here in Canada, with a Liberal prime minister, there was a fear that actually letting the populace know the extent of the potential danger might cause the worst human traits to emerge – selfishness, hoarding, and panic.

They also worried that ‘telling people what to do’ as in, mandating the use of masks for the good of public health, would be – and sadly, is – considered governmental over-reach.

The nations that took that mandate seriously – all of which, strangely, had women leaders – did the best. Their people tightened their belts, stayed home, wore the masks, and took the economic hit, early in Phase One. Those countries are back to almost normal.

But those countries governed by a male, right wing leader, sadly, took the biggest hits, lost the most people, and continue to struggle as summer fades, and we begin to dread the very real possibility that a Second Wave hitting this winter, combined with seasonal cold and flus, could completely overwhelm available health care, resulting in a new tsunami of unnecessary illness and deaths.

For those of us who are lucky to be least affected by this pandemic, it’s often hard to grasp the magnitude of the disease, the suffering of those that fall to it, and, perhaps even worse than mere death, the possibility of having one’s heart, lungs, liver, and/or kidneys be significantly and permanently impaired, despite having ‘survived’ a full-fledged bout of COVID.

For those on pensions or governmental benefits, those who were able to work from home with little problem, and those in high levels of management, both business and political, there has been a very minor discomfort involved with the pandemic. If anything, the drop in foot and car traffic has been a boon. The middle class are not in peril.

But minimum wage employees, the ‘essential workers’ who were the ones called upon to ensure that the wheels kept turning, and that the groceries, pharmacies, and beer stores stayed open, those people were the ones that were sent out as ‘tributes’ to the disease.

Health care workers, including ambulance drivers, EMTs, nurses and doctors are very much represented in the list of the fallen as well. 

To that, we’ll soon be adding our children, their teachers, all of the support staff in the schools, and, of course, those the children will be physically closest to, their families.

Meanwhile, no upper management, and certainly very, very few political representatives, have returned to work. And even those who do, do so with extreme reluctance, and caution, along with demands that more attention be paid to the protection of their health, than to the job they’re hired to do.

I blame both the government, AND the media, for not doing what they have done so well in past national crises – putting a human face to the fear, anger, pain and uncertainty that the populace are experiencing. By essentially turning a blind eye to the emotional component of the pandemic, by focusing on the numbers of the dead, over the number of the ill or recovering, they’ve enabled an open season on the kind of anti-science and anti-mask sentiment that has been instilled in so many.

And for a huge proportion of those actively disseminating lies, half-truths, and propaganda – you’ve got to blame social media, and the trolls, bots, and right-wing operatives who lurk there, spreading these dangerous falsehoods to the gullible.

There are human beings behind those numbers of ill, recovering, and deceased. And yet, very few people within my own social circle know more than one of the deceased, personally.  

BREAKING: Darwin Awards for 2020 cancelled
due to too many competitors.

And because there’s been so little footage and reportage of how gruesome it is to become ill from COVID, so little information about those who have spent weeks, or months, in hospital, on a ventilator, attempting to recover, there’s a huge mass of unmasked, ignorant, and woefully uninformed, future Darwin Award winners, out in public, putting us all in danger of catching the virus.

It’s denial, just like people experience when they are told that they or a loved one has a terminal illness. First, there’s denial, a jaw-dropping recognition that this bad thing can happen to ME, despite my being ME.. Denial, and then anger, that it’s happening to ME.

Happens all over the planet, several times a day. But the difference in this particular diagnosis – and one shared with those who refuse to accept that the climate is changing – is that, instead of having a kindly doctor, or someone you trust and respect, guiding you through this horrible realization, and helping you to make good decisions on how to proceed, there’s half a planet willing to tell you lies about what happens next, and how you’re really over-reacting. It will all be fine. Most of those voices denying reality do NOT have your best interest top of mind.

And governments that are urging schools to reopen, in the name of the economy, are really, really, really not looking out for your best interest, or your child’s.

We’ve gotten used to a way of thinking that doesn’t really differentiate between jobs we want to do, and slave labour. Either way, the average workie is beholden to their position, until they can find something better. So, if the government decides that greasing the economy’s wheels means that anyone without big money or big power had better get their shoulder back to the wheel, the workers are going to have to do so, regardless of their health concerns.

For many, this means that they’ve got to get the kids back to school so that the adults can get back to work, and keep an income flowing, in order to keep their place in the economic order. Keeping a roof over one’s head, keeping food in everyone’s belly – those are basic needs for everyone.

While parents try to parse through the logistics, they’re being bombarded with distractions, and coaxed to believe that the advantages of socialization of the kids outweighs the very real possibility that the physical return to school will not only be dangerous for all concerned, but that the new constraints on behaviour within the classes may turn their children against the idea of schooling permanently.

And that means that parents, despite their fears of what might happen, what will ensue down the line, when the kids inevitably bring home illness for the whole family to share, are fighting back the anxiety that is telling them that using their precious children as the canaries in the COVID coalmine is insanity, and doomed to failure.

Our children are our future. Our children need education, but they need to live long enough, hopefully with live parents, to graduate and join the work force themselves at some point. THAT is how economies work. Sacrificing our young to keep today’s economy going is surrendering the nation’s economic future.   

Saddest of all, it’s looking like even those in charge know that they’re really only throwing your kids’ lives against the wall to see what sticks. They already know that there will be illness, amongst the students and staffs, and that the logistics of trying to keep the kids apart, and wearing masks, is a near-impossibility.  

Reading between the lines, even those most adamant for the kids to return to school are well aware that the odds greatly favour closure of those same schools sooner rather than later. Such a lot of worry, time and money wasting, all to feed the economic machine.

Yes, none of us knows what will be, although all of us think we’d like a quick peek at the future.

For now, we wait, disempowered, disenfranchised, and disoriented at the dizzying changes to our world in this Year of Our Lord 2020.

See you in September, the good lord willing, and the creek don’t rise..

Your bonus video. “ The Dumbest Man in America”

Just a Little Respect


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Dan Levy so eloquently said,

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

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

Hang in There, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

Argggh!!! Woke up in a ‘mood’ this morning, and the weather – grey, cold and damp – isn’t helping at all.

It’s not that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s more that I’m just tired of playing pandemic. In February, I could still see a path ahead, even though it wasn’t clear how long our preparations and quarantine would last. Still, I had hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright future. Turned out it was an oncoming train. 

As the weeks, and now months, have dragged by, we’re all starting to realize that there’s not gonna be a special day, like an armistice, when we can all, globally, agree that this is all over and we can now crack open the champagne. There will never be our old ‘normal’ again. From now on, we will redefine our interactions with the world by how we all behaved BC – Before COVID and AC – After COVID.

And I’m not being a whining Negative Nelly when I say that. It’s just the truth. COVID 19 will go on as long as it has to, and then gradually taper off over months or even years. We’ll develop a vaccine, and many will opt out of being vaccinated, which will mean the virus will stay dormant, bubbling underneath, for a good long while. But eventually the most vulnerable will die, the majority will be vaccinated or immune, and life will go on … until the next time. 

I’m not sure if this wonderfully mild winter has helped or hindered any kind of seasonal distress. Usually I write at least one column over this time period, talking about cabin fever and ‘hygge’ but somehow, that kind of distress never really crossed my mind, what with … well, worrying about dying and all.  As we come out of the winter months and edge into Spring, my thoughts are on what sort of plants I might bring home, for décor or culinary purposes, or whether I should consider germinating the seedlings I want to be ready by the end of May.

One thing I suddenly realized this morning was how little I’ve done that I thought I might do, in this time of lockdown. I really thought I had it made, with my hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books stacked around me, and dozens of DVDs I’ve stockpiled for that day when I actually find myself with time on my hands and nothing to do. Didn’t happen.

Instead, like so many, I’ve been more active than ever on social media. Both Shawn and I are on Facebook far more than I’d usually consider healthy in normal times. But of course, these times definitely fall under the ‘abnormal’ umbrella.

And even though, as a couple of retirees, our social calendars are not positively bursting with exciting events, we’ve always had places to go, people to see, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and yes, the odd musical jam to look forward to, not to mention doctor and dentist appointments to keep. Not any more. Now every day on the calendar remains resolutely blank.

Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted one may be, we generally can count on getting out of our little shells now and again, if only for a trip up to the mall or the grocers. To have absolutely no where to go is daunting, even if you are lucky enough to never actually need to buy something for yourself or someone else.

Beyond that, we are living in a time when we are bombarded with negative messaging. Every day, multiple times a day, and always around dinner, we have bombastic, self-obsessed, needy trump horning in on what should be a simple ten- or fifteen-minute briefing on the virus’ progress. Instead, for hours, he mumbles through a teleprompter reading, horns in on what the specialists have to say, lies and spews misinformation (the Spanish flu began in January 1918, I want to scream at the television. STOP saying it started in 1917!) and then harangues and verbally attacks the few reporters still allowed to attend these putative press briefings which are really nothing more than a sop to his ego since he can no long hold his Nuremburg styled rallies for his party faithful. 

You know how we used to joke about all the happy happy schlock load of ‘affirmations’ epitomized by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley? It was out there, but it worked -it energizes, it keeps us moving forward.

Negative messaging is really hard on our psyches. Negative messaging leaves us tired, worried, and feeling like we’re struggling under burdens far too heavy to carry. It makes us crave some sort of relief, and when we are locked down and unable to find comfort, it can actually damage our health.

The more you think and speak positively, the more positive you feel about yourself and your surroundings. Conversely, the more negative messaging you receive during the day, the worse you’ll feel about yourself and the world.

When I spend my day on social media, with CNN or MSNBC or a Canadian news source, that is constantly updating the numbers of the sick, dying and dead, while hysterically describing the precautions necessary for a simple trip to the grocers, well – I’m not gonna be a very happy camper. Instead, I’ll constantly feel anxious and scared.

In health terms, that nonstop deluge of fearmongering provokes a flight or fight instinct, which ratchets up the adrenaline produced, and eventually leaves one exhausted. It also can lead to serious mental health problems and cardio vascular disease.

That’s the reason why we’re all feeling so tired and out of energy, and why that small walk you took just to get out of the house leaves you feeling like you just ran a 10K.. We really do underestimate how much energy it takes to get through our days and our lives until we are tested this severely.

These hard times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. As if we weren’t all feeling stressed and out of sorts, there are factions of people who’ve decided that their own needs and whims outweigh the health and safety of others. 

”So, what are you guys gonna do during the pandemic?

“Well, a bunch of us are gonna go protest the lock down, try and disrupt the sitting government while they try to figure out how to use what few medical supplies they have. Maybe barricade the ambulance lane so that the vehicles can’t get in.”

“Are you going to wear protective gear?” 

“Yeah. But only ironically.” 

And this too, we must live with. The sad truth is that we are all living in survival mode, on high alert, and scared. This is not an easy time to be a human. We’re drawing on reserves of energy deeper than we knew we had, and the fuel we need to top up those reserves – hitting Starbucks to share a cappuccino with a friend, or getting out to a bar for a brewski and some fresh tuneage – isn’t gonna happen. The best we can hope for is to reach out by phone, text, or messaging, while constantly feeling that we might be missing out on those important moments we hoped to share with our loved ones and community.

It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. And it can make you feel a little bit crazy. But it is what it is, and it’s okay to feel like things are just too hard and that you wish this was all a dream and that you’ll wake up to the world you used to know.

That’s not gonna happen. But eventually, this too shall pass. And then we’ll deal with what’s next. Just like we’ve always done, and our parents did, and our grandparents and ancestors did. 

Because we are humans. We are resilient, right up until the day we’re not. But that’s not today.

Hang in there, babe.

……………………………

Life in BizarroWorld …..

Character


by Roxanne Tellier

Maybe it’s from a lack of fresh air, but I have found myself getting a little giddy lately, here in O’SheaWorld.  Also, I have had an epiphany. Turns out that the reason that I don’t do a lot of the things expected of me isn’t because there isn’t enough time, but because I’m lazy.   

Shawn and I have already done our 14-day isolation, but there’s really nowhere to go, beyond strictly controlled and policed grocery shopping. My baser instincts want me to run wild and free through the aisles of non-essential goods, but sadly, this is frowned upon in this age of plague.  

I’m sure that there are other people who have taken the quarantine as seriously as we have, but trusting others to have been vigilant takes on a whole different flavour when it’s your life you’re betting on.  

So we continue to maintain a strict protective stance, keeping our hands and the items around us as clean and as non-contaminated as possible. 

I read a lot, research a bunch, and write a little. Lately we mainly keep ourselves amused by sharing some of the best quips we read in our emails and social media. Well, mostly we just yell punchlines at each other, he from his perch in the living room to me, and my chair in the office area.

I get a massive kick out of some of the clever memes, cartoons, and songs coming out of a planet trying to come to grips with social distancing. Art will always survive. This is how we cope, laugh, learn, and search for common emotional ground.

Does this guy sum it up, or what?

And there’s no shortage of the obvious “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” parodies out there.

We chafe because it’s not ‘normal’ for our mobile society to be dealing with this crisis, each in our own little cells. Capitalism, consumerism – we are constantly reminded that our duty is to get out there and buy things, and to then compare those things to our friends and neighbours’ things, which will then drive us into a frenzy to make more money so we can buy even more things that will make our friends and neighbours jealous. It’s kind of like a game, except that nobody ever really wins, which is why we keep going to jobs, even when we don’t like the job or the people we work with. Our societal constructs keep the workers running like hamsters in an exercise wheel, right up until the day we cannot run any more.  

But now, the wheel has suddenly stopped, and many of us have fallen off.

I’ve worked in bars, owned businesses, and worked in demanding occupations, and I’m well aware that a sudden stoppage of the activities we’ve done, religiously, and with our whole heart and soul, whether we loved our jobs or not, is like hitting a brick wall at 90 miles an hour. That’s gonna leave a mark.

When it happens to others, it’s the way the world works. When it happens to us, it’s a disaster.

These are challenging times. No one is exempt from a pandemic, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful you may be. A virus doesn’t care how much you earn, though, sadly, what you earn can certainly determine how well you are treated in an American hospital.  

Often, we have run so fast, and for so long, that we’ve stopped thinking clearly. Everything is ‘just in time,’ and ‘good enough.’ We pretend that there will be more time, somehow, someday, when we will go back and fix those half-done tasks, but tomorrow never comes, and the next day’s output is as faulty as yesterdays. 

How people behave when the world is running down says so much more about them than what they say about themselves. It’s a lot like that old line about dating – how your date treats the waitstaff will tell you all you need to know about their real character.

Character. An old-fashioned word, to many, and yet it says everything about a person’s true self. It’s so easy to be a good person when things are going well. It’s another thing entirely to be composed, thoughtful, kind, and empathetic when the chips are down.

Someone who can be trusted, counted on, is solid, a mensch, a good soul, a stand-up person. We know them when we see them because their reputation for doing what’s right – not expedient – precedes them.

When you know someone who has a good, strong character, you know that they won’t flake in the crunch. They won’t turn away when you need a hard favour, they’re the first to share what ever they have, no matter how little, and they’re going to stand beside you and take your side when the rest of the world can find only fault. They might kid you when you screw up, but they won’t be in the kicking party when you’re down.

If there is someone like that in your life, cherish them. They are as rare and as precious as gold. 

Hard times make us rethink the things that we slough off in the short run. In our careers we’ll often put up with bullies, sneaks, lunch stealers, and coworkers with attitude larger than their talent, just because it’s easier to work around them than to trade up to better colleagues. Plus – a pay cheque is a pay cheque, and keeping a job – even a bad one – is easier than finding another one.

And while we might, in normal times, endure unhappy romantic relationships for fear that this bad actor is the best we can do, when the shit hits the fan, we realize that life is too short to ‘settle’ for mediocrity.   

It’s the same when we ourselves chose – even for just a moment – to abandon our own principles, to be selfish, to be a bully, or to act on an impulse that would be foreign to us when we’re feeling content and comfortable. In hard times, we have to fight the impulse to be morally lethargic, and instead, take the opportunity to bench press those principles. If our principles can be abandoned in hard times, then they were never our principles, they were only the stage dressing of our lives.

Tough times don’t last – tough people do. I am hoping that this spoke in the wheels of the world economy will slow us down for long enough to remember that character, and the maintaining of solid, honest principles, are the characteristics of those people we’d take to the end of the world, at the end of the world.

Meanwhile, the skies are bluer, the waters are cleaner, and the birds are coming home from their southern nests. Spring will come, and this too will pass.

And, while you may have the time to listen to all 16:56 minutes of the new Bob Dylan song – if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Life is good ….

Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.

Corona My House, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

So – that was a pretty wild month, right? Even for a leap year? At this time of year, I’m usually talking about cabin fever, and writing about ‘hygge’ and how to cope when winter just won’t leave.

But not this year! This will definitely be a February to remember. We’ve had early primaries and voting that’s driven some Democrats to the edge of hysteria – James Carville may never survive the Bern. Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so we can hope for an early spring. And Trump unveiled Kushner’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, causing the Palestinian National Authority to cut all ties with the US and Israel.

Trump’s obsequious and sycophantic GOP acquitted him, despite pretty much all of the Senators agreeing that baby’d done a bad, bad thing.  I mean … COME ON, folks… Trump’s already so narcissistic he expects presents on Mothers Day. Now he believes he is America’s King and the presumed second coming of their Lord and Savior. He is a mad king, high on his own infallibility, trying, but miserably failing, to oversee a pivotal moment in history. We can thank the spineless, power mad, Republican party for this ‘very special’ moment in American history.

And – oh yeah, we got hit with a plague.

Whether you believe history repeats or rhymes, studying what’s gone before tells us much about where we are now. People smarter than myself have warned for decades that the planet was long overdue for a global pandemic. It’s a cycle, and one which has, in the last 12,000 years, killed between 300-500 million people. We’ve had cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and of course, influenza. Heck, the Antonine Plague of 165 AD is thought to have been either smallpox or measles, something the 5 million people who died in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy had never heard of before it hit hard.

In the seven years that the Black Death decimated Europe, Africa and Asia, there was an estimated death toll of about 200 million.

Over the last two hundred years, we’ve had odd outbreaks of cholera and flu, but apart from the great flu pandemic of 1918 that killed about 50 million humans, there have been smaller death tolls, and a quicker response, saving millions of lives, through a wise and well prepared use of science and good health policies.

No matter when an epidemic appears, or where, there are two key measures necessary to halt the spread as quickly as possible, and to care for those who become infected by these diseases.  A society needs to be prepared, with prophylactic obstructions organized to routinely stop the movement of illness across borders. And once infected, a society needs to be kept informed as to how to protect themselves, how to care for those who fall to an illness, how to deal with the necessary complications of everyday life, and how to stop the spread of the illness to any vulnerable citizens.  

However, with this current epidemic, the trump administration has opted to politicize the response, and to muzzle trusted experts by insisting that they only report to VP Pence, who will, ostensibly, then bowdlerize whatever the experts say, and squeeze that through a funnel that may or may not be trump’s colon, before releasing it to an anxious nation.

The first problem with that ‘solution; is that no one believes or trusts, trump’s words. As of January 2020, he’d racked up almost 17,000 out and out disproven lies. Would you trust your life to this man?   

Pence and trump are willfully walking down exactly the same path that Iran did; when confronted with the virus, they attempted to deny the truth. And they should hope that they don’t get a similar outcome

In early February, as rumours about coronavirus cases and deaths started spreading in Iran, the Iranian regime went into full-scale denial mode and held the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Islamic Revolution. Hundreds of thousands marched on the streets, met, spent lots of time in very close proximity to each other.

And the Iranian Regime continued to deny any coronavirus cases despite being in the middle of an outbreak.

Last week, just a few days prior to their sham elections on Friday, it seems that the situation got so bad that the regime could not deny it anymore. They had to admit to numerous cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. Nonetheless, they decided to go ahead with their sham election in the middle of an outbreak of a highly contagious virus.

The result has been that many in the Iranian Regime have been infected, including the vice deputy of health and one of the vice presidents. 6 parliamentarians have also been infected, with one of them having died already. It’s even probable that President Rouhani, who held cabinet meetings with some of the infected ministers, is also infected. It should also surprise no-one if many of the religious leaders are infected, as well.

Trump is actively making matters worse. After spending several years dismantling the government apparatuses that were set up to handle precisely this type of situation, he’s calling the epidemic a ‘hoax, ’ saying that it’s just another thing the Dems have cooked up to hobble his campaign.  

(kudos to the Dems for going all in on the hoaxing, right? I mean… talking China and North Korea into ‘faking’ their symptoms and all of those deaths, not to mention having the Iranian vice president hospitalized … that deserves a round of applause, at the very least!)

He’s made himself and his party the real victims here, claiming that the Dems are somehow complicit in ruining his re-election efforts. Doesn’t seem to register in his pea brain that the Dems are knee deep in their own election concerns, as the contenders vie for party leader in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Trump’s managed to maneuver several Republican led states into forgoing caucuses or primaries in 2020, so he essentially has no party competition between himself and a fall re-election. Nonetheless, he refuses to abandon his Nuremburg style rallies, in which both he and his faithful cult apparently seek a simultaneous climax through the mangling and ingestion of his tasty word salads.

In the face of the coronavirus, that fervor is quite likely to turn many of their gathering places into seething, simmering petri dishes of disease.   

Trump’s only interest is to protect himself, his money, his re election… the people aren’t even close to the top of his list of concerns. And that’s sad, because most of those people who follow him really love him, and they’re about to get sick, and maybe even die, as they follow his dance to the cliff’s edge. Sadder still – he just doesn’t care.

For the last three years, any laws, rules or regulations that would benefit the lower- and middle-class voters of the United States have been deregulated, cut, or have simply disappeared from the budget. Despite repeatedly swearing to his base that he would never take away their Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, all three of those are on the chopping block in the budget he and his minions are in the midst of preparing.

And, to date, he’s cut the working budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, (entire global security health unit) Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.  

Not only that, “In its latest budget proposal, the Trump administration sought to cut CDC funding by 16% — even as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar seeks emergency spending from lawmakers to combat the coronavirus.”

The remarks come amid warnings from CDC experts that the virus’ spread in the US was “inevitable” and urged Americans to prepare. But the Trump administration has spent the last two years gutting critical positions and programs that health experts say weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.

In 2018, the White House eliminated a position on the National Security Council tasked with coordinating a global pandemic response. The CDC that same year also axed 80% of its efforts combating disease outbreaks overseas because its funds were depleted.”

The funds we used to spend on global pandemic preparedness were not wasted money – that was the nation’s first line of defense

And now clinics and hospitals face a shortage not only of face masks, but of working testing kits that would help them to identify new victims of the virus.

There are other issues here, though, and we need to be making a plan of what to do next. American citizens lack a lot of the amenities that might have made the handling of this health crisis a lot easier. Having a proper health care plan would have been good. Instead, we’re hearing that those who seek medical aid are being hit with bills of over $300, just to determine if they have the virus. How are they expected to pay for treatment, if it turns out they are infected? 

Minimum wage earners likely haven’t got the option of taking sick days, but they are also unlikely to have any extra money lying around to get them through a period of not working. What happens when cashiers, restaurant servers, cooks, bartenders, gas station attendants, and the like just stop going to work, either because of their own illness, or to help soothe the illness of a child or spouse?

What happens when restaurants and stores close, because there’s no staff, and there aren’t enough customers to keep the doors open? What happens when the “just in time” ordering that has kept businesses financially solvent for decades, comes up against China not having the people or resources to keep the supply chain lubricated?

The stock market lost $6 trillion dollars last week. How many people will lose their jobs due to that drop?

What happens to the homeless, who are already in poor health? What about the immigrants and refugees, mostly little kids, crammed together in camps around the nation? Those camps are ripe for spreading contamination.

It’s hard to believe, but even as America begins to count its own dead, the trump administration continues to call for funds – $3.8 billion this week – to be steered from other congressionally approved budgets, like the Department of Defense, to be used to build that infernal wall, instead of using any and all available money to save their own citizens.  

The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, called for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to help fight the coronavirus, which was three times the $2.5 billion that trump had requested be released.  

Meanwhile, the head of Homeland Security told American citizens that a vaccine was at least ten or eleven months away, but when it was available, not all citizens would be able to afford it. (Although their taxes WOULD pay for the research and distribution of the drug.)   

And White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Americans were guilty of paying too much attention to the small amount of information media was at liberty to give them. While he admitted that their everyday lives would be fraught with school closures and public transit issues, he thought it best the average Joe “turn off your televisions for 24 hours.”  After all, anyone concerned with school closures and public transit issues is hardly likely to be someone the trump administration cares much about, after they’ve got their vote.

These are scary times, all over the world. From Australia to Africa, Russia to South Korea, we’re worrying about ourselves, and each other, and wondering what happens next. Nothing we’ve ever known in our lives has prepared us for this.

Pretty sure that whomever can figure out some way to lift that Chinese curse about living in ‘interesting times” could retire a trillionaire.

In the meantime, all I have to offer is this information from WHO on how to properly wash your hands.