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.
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
This has been a hellish week. We are watching the unthinkable perpetrated upon the peaceful people of Ukraine by a Russian despot who has become a madman.
During two years of solitude and paranoia, Putin seethed and simmered as he isolated in his dacha on the Black Sea coast, attempting to avoid contracting COVID-19. Eventually, the germophobe ended up in an echo chamber of his own crazed thoughts. These he shared on the Kremlin’s website on July 12, 2021 when his work was first published in the Ukrainian and Russian languages..
His 7,000 word manifesto, described as ‘rambling’ and riddled with ‘many (historical) myths’, denied Ukraine’s statehood, and laid claim to much of modern-day Ukrainian lands by stating that ‘they are entirely the brainchild of the Soviet era, and was to a large extent created at the expense of historical Russian lands.”
Putin repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for Ukrainian statehood, saying that the current policies in Kyiv are “anti-Russia .. which we will never accept.”
The passages contained ominous threats towards Ukraine, vowing to destroy Ukraine’s independence, a conflict begun during the inter-state war eight years ago, when Russia invaded and seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
He also repeated what he said to then-US President George Bush Jr at a NATO summit in 2008, that “Ukraine is not a country.”
“I am convinced that true Ukrainian sovereignty is only possible in partnership with Russia,” Mr. Putin wrote. “After all, we are one people.”
This manifesto, Putin’s own ‘Mein Kampf’, outlined his plans for Ukraine. And on February 24, 2022, he put those plans into effect, launching what he called a ‘special military operation’ into the country. At the onset, Putin claimed that the Russian military only sought ‘demilitarization and denazification,’ but attacks far beyond that scope followed soon, from multiple fronts, and towards multiple cities.
The man who at first claimed to only want to reunite his stray Russian lambs, has instead perpetrated the worst physical attack on another European country since World War II. Like a demented, cast aside lover, he has determined that if he can’t have Ukraine … no one can.
The original plan may have been to reunite the countries as one, but it is a strange sort of family unity when the father is murdering the children wholesale – an estimated 14,000 Ukrainians alone, and an uncounted amount of young Russian soldiers – and is pulverizing the ancient and historical buildings and monuments raised to honour both Russians and Ukrainians.
About 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine to date, fleeing to Poland, Hungary, and other NATO countries, seeking shelter for their most vulnerable. We will soon be in the middle of the worst refugee crisis in modern history.
Meanwhile, it is said that Putin has gathered his family members and hidden them away in a luxury, high tech bunker in an underground city in Siberia. Designed for protection in the event of nuclear war, the bunker is meant to keep Putin’s family safe, while the people of Russia suffer whatever fate befalls them.
As I gather these facts to share in the column, I touch my face, and realize that I have no idea how long I have been silently crying. The tears never stop flowing when I think of the tragic and pointless murder, destruction, and terror being inflicted upon the people of Ukraine, by a man whose gross miscalculation of his power will eventually find him and all of his cabinet tried and sentenced at the Hague for war crimes.
Putin and his generals have entered the end phase of their careers and lives. Trapped inside the rapidly tightening jail cell that was once their Russian playground, they have been stripped of their wealth, had their economy shattered, and will never again be allowed to travel outside the confines of Russia. Unfortunately, this means that they will have little reason to think or behave rationally, militarily.
And that, of course, is the saddest and most frightening aspect of the first ‘TikTok War’. We all watch, powerless, as caught up in watching the horror as any lookyloo on a highway unable to look away from a car crash.
This war was brought home to me forcibly when I learned that an old friend, musician Paul Christopher Caldeira, is one of the many needless casualties. Paul had been living in Chernihiv, which is at a strategic crossroad of major roads leading from Russia and Belarus to Kyiv. Short on meds and food, he had a heart attack when the tanks began to near the city, and died. I’m still in shock.
His old friend Greg Critchley kindly proffered this link to his SoundCloud account, and the 1996 album he produced and co-wrote. The songs have stood the test of time, and have given me some comfort since I heard the tragic news of Paul’s death.
The war has brought attention to music, past and present, that focuses on Ukraine’s beauty, and her wonderful people. Here’s a selection of tunes that have been revisited, or in some cases, written or re-written, in support of Ukraine.
Renaissance – Kiev from the album “Prologue” (1972)
Corey Hart – Komrade Kiev (1985)
Lyrics: “Shoot Komrade Kiev And through the pride and prejudice, you blind the truth you couldn’t miss. For the target you have drawn won’t bite the hand that cuts the arm. And when the story’s finally told, that each man’s heart was bought and sold, there was no enemy you see. Only the doubt in you and me I know the sun will shine thru winter time I pray the rain may someday end the flame”
Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performs Prayer for Ukraine – SNL Feb 26, 2022
Pink Floyd – Marooned (Official Music Video HD)
Major parts of this video were shot in Pripyat, a city in Ukraine. This is the area that was evacuated in view of the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant explosion that took place near it.
NCT – Boss
The majority of the shots in this video are filmed at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine in Kyiv. The video includes several shots of this popular K Pop group, NCT, at some popular locations in Ukraine.
Calum Scott –You Are The Reason (Official Video)
This video includes glimpses of the National Opera of Ukraine, the architectural beauty of St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Khreschatyk Street, and other sites.
Akçay Karaazmak -We are made of Love – Stop the war – Song for the peace for Ukraine – Ukraine Russia War
Harpin Norm – You’re a Master of War –March 2022
Океан Ельзи & Один в каное – Місто весни (official video) – 2021
Slava Vakarchukof Okean Elzy, one of the most popular rock bands in Eastern Europe.
Sting – Russians
I’ve only rarely sung this song in the many years since it was written, because I never thought it would be relevant again. But, in the light of one man’s bloody and woefully misguided decision to invade a peaceful, unthreatening neighbor, the song is, once again, a plea for our common humanity. For the brave Ukrainians fighting against this brutal tyranny and also the many Russians who are protesting this outrage despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment – We, all of us, love our children. Stop the war. Supplies shipped to this warehouse in Poland are delivered in coordination with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and are guaranteed to go to people most in need
Wherehouse address: Pol-Cel Ramos Breska 63, 22-100 Chelm, Poland Every box should be labeled “HELP UKRAINE” and indicate the contents: “Medicines,” “Clothes,” “Food,” “Humanitarian Aid.” For more info, contact: UK +44 1353 885152 USA +1 855 725 1152 helpukraine.center
On the surface, what the Canadian truckers hoped to accomplish during their protracted occupation of the Nation’s capital was comprehensible. In the beginning, we, the audience, and they, the truckers and their camp followers, could take as the stated purpose of the convoy and protest a common ennui and a genuine wish to end the most onerous and rigorous of the precautions levied during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But even before the trucks had neared the rally points, word began to trickle out that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) prepared by the civilian, not trucker, leaders of this posse had little to do with the effects of the pandemic, and everything to do with a covert, if barely legible, attempt to overthrow Canada’s freely elected democracy.
Most of the truckers and their civilian clingons bought into the broad strokes of the MOU, believing incorrectly that a demand that the Governor General and the Senate unite to dissolve parliament and remove PM Trudeau from power was as simple as having a magical number of people sign a petition.
Had these signees paid attention during a civics class, or even taken an interest in how Canadian government works, they’d have seen that the GG and the Senate are political appointees, not elected, and don’t have the democratic legitimacy to dissolve government. But if the creators of the petition had told the petition signers that simple truth, they would probably not have been able to ask for donations (to the tune of millions) to make this magic a potential outcome.
The premise and promise of forcing all levels of government to end any COVID-19 measures and eliminate vaccine passports, while simultaneously re-instating all workers laid off due to vaccine requirements, appealed to many hard core anti vaxxers. Drunk on the promise of having their delusions legally sanctified, they ignored the poison pills buried within the MOU, which called for the overthrow of the federal government.
The actual bulk of the statement set out a framework to effectively dissolve the government, and replace it with a “Citizens of Canada Committee,” composed of the non-elected Senate, Governor General, and a civilian group selected by the separatist organization, Canada Unity.
This committee would then dissolve and replace 155 years of continuous parliamentary rule, ending the federal system that ranks us as one of the world’s oldest democracies, and replace it with a committee of entirely unelected figures who would then “instruct all levels of the Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal governments to immediately cease and desist all unconstitutional human rights, discriminatory and segregated actions.”
This gang of noisy truckers had as their explicit intent the overthrowing of a democratically elected government. They maintained this position until the third week of the occupation, raising over $20 million dollars in donations on this premise, much of which came from other countries with a vested interest in seeing Canada’s democracy shattered, as this would then serve as red flags to any citizens of their own countries who might have illusions of seeking independence from autocrats and dictatorships.
In intent, if not in actual practice, this was meant to be a Canadian version of the January 6th American assault on the Capitol in 2021. The MOU was an attempted coup of our government, with the intent of replacing our elected officials with the unelected leaders of their choice, under the pretext of eliminating the constraints put upon the nation to keep us in the enviable position of being one of the safest places in the world during this once every 100-years plague. (The total death toll of the pandemic in the US stands at about 919,000, compared to 35,500 in Canada)
Oh yeah, and there was a lot of stuff in there about “God.” And freedom. And peace. And love. And of how their faith in their own immunity systems trumped all modern science. All they needed were some tonsured Hari Krishnas dancing through the snow drifts to complete the picture – the Right Wing, the Religious Right, and the Tin Foil Hat Brigade finally had their own private Woodstock!
The organizers of the convoy played skillfully upon the battered psyches of their followers. They pushed all the right buttons, empathizing with the loneliness, pain and frustration that so many had felt over the last two years, bathing their shattered illusions in hot tubs, soothing their tension in steamy saunas, and inviting children (and drunken adults) to re-live their childhoods in bouncy castles.
The true puppeteers of the movement, the ex-RCMP, ex-military, ex-police, and political operatives of the separatist party, literally kept the peons at arms length, who were free to freeze in their idling trucks as they peed into juice bottles, while the leaders relaxed in luxury in nearby hotels, descending into the ranks to whip up new fervor, and more donations, donations in the millions, all streaming in from people who had suffered real or imagined deprivations over the last two years.
And when the people seemed to rouse, just a little, from the spell they were under, these leaders would inject new concerns into the original mess of pottage, reminding their minions of all the other promises that had been made and not fulfilled over the last decade or so; why had nothing been done about the water on native reserves that still ran murky? Where was the investigation into the missing and murdered indigenous women? Why did groceries keep going up in price while wages stayed stagnant? Where was their ‘buck a beer’ they’d been promised?
The anger, that had originally focused on mask and vaccine mandates now began to spill out in every direction. Government overreach! Economic inequality! Wealth gaps! No free daycare! And the flags arrived, popping up like crocuses in the spring – Confederate, Nazi, Don’t Tread on Me, and Trump 2024, all waving merrily in the February breeze.
Suddenly it was like the festival of Woodstock had married Festivus, the festivus for the rest of us, with the airing of grievances skipping cheek by jowl with the half naked, drunken, rowdy boys taunting the police like the hippies that once tried to put flower stems into the barrels of guns.
Reminder: that did not end so well.
And neither did this. But, thanks to our being Canadians, at least it did not end in bloodshed. Yet strangely, considering that our protestors were Canadian, it also didn’t end with us apologizing to the citizens and the police for the mess we’d made, and picking up all the litter either.
Despite many feeling that PM Trudeau’s decision to unleash the Emergencies Act (EA) was overreach, the choice did indeed finally allow enough police power to subdue and roust the not so merry caravan that had terrorized the nation’s capital, and its citizens, for nearly a month.
And, once the emergency was under control, the EA was revoked, just nine days after it had been invoked, when it was decided that there was no longer an emergency that could not be controlled by normal means, as the police finally had all the tools they’d need to continue to deal with unlawful protestors.
The Prime Minister said that the sweeping powers of the Emergencies Act were meant to be proportional, time-limited, and only put in place to deal with an ‘acute’ emergency. He added that the small pockets of protestors that remain across the country would continue to be monitored.
“Let’s be very clear: The threat continues. We do see, whether it’s social media activity or people who continue to be focused on protesting, and perhaps illegally protesting, that we need to be monitoring,” he said.
PMTrudeau speaks Feb 23 2022
On February 20th, Bob Rae, the best Prime Minister Canada never had, and current Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted:
“A truck is not a speech. A horn is not a voice. An occupation is not a protest. A blockade is not freedom, it blocks the liberty of all. A demand to overthrow a government is not a dialogue. The expression of hatred is not a difference of opinion. A lie is not the truth.”
In September of 2021, voters had the option of voting for several parties, including the People’s Party of Canada, which, most notably, promised an immediate end to federal vaccine mandates, but said only that they would “oppose” such measures at the provincial level. The party scored just 4.94 per cent of the popular vote. Over 95% of Canadian voters backed the parties that supported some form of vaccine passport. The majority favours tightening the screws on the unvaccinated, not throwing open the doors to any new variant that crosses our borders, and fills our hospitals.
And yet … in this ‘woke’ moment in history, there are still some who remain on the fence about the fates of those that attempted a political coup, and held Ottawa and her citizens hostage for three weeks. Just the other day, I saw a comment on social media that asked if the situation could have been avoided, had PM Trudeau just ‘spoken to the truckers and explained that the vaccine mandates would be lifted by a certain time.”
And perhaps, in some ersatz, BizarroWorld, Woodstock of the Right, there might be a democratic nation of politicians that would bow to the bullying and intimidation of large, gas belching, horn blasting, machines, draped in posters that alternated between calling for the death of, or the f*cking of, their duly elected leader, driven by owners of the same attributes as their machines …
But I really doubt it. No one’s that woke.
The situation might have been avoided had the drivers and camp followers of the convoy taken the time to inform themselves on the real motives behind the demands of the ‘spokespeople,’ who conned them into showing up with ultimatums that were not only impossible to grant, but that opened said drivers and followers to severe financial and legal peril, post convoy.
No, the opening up of discussions with intimidators using strong-arm tactics, who wish to re-write our constitution to cover their idiocy, was simply never going to be an option. You don’t negotiate with terrorists. As the U.S. discovered during their four years of diplomatic hell under trump, you don’t even say their names, never mind visit them and exchange pleasantries, unless you wish to elevate the actions of bullies to the level of actual world leaders. These kinds of creatures must never be seen to be the equivalent of elected officials, because they are not; they are wannabe dictators and autocrats.
The rich countries where people want to live, like Canada, are places where people can believe in the rules of law, standards of behavior, institutions, and the social and cultural conventions that make us feel that we are safe and secure. Rich countries are rich because the people AND the money are seen to be safe and secure.
These standards must be seen to be honoured, and those that seek to overturn them, must be seen to be punished, as a deterrent to others that might consider similar actions.
And yet, good, kind Canadians that we are, there are many who watched the sacking of Ottawa, and who are now having a hard time seeing those who were responsible for the havoc, receiving the consequences of their actions.
It’s possible that some of us watched the revellers enjoying themselves, and thought about all of the events that they missed during the last two years – the weddings, the funerals, the birthday parties and the dances that they didn’t get to attend. There may well have been a twinge of envy for some, who felt that they’d suffered all of the deprivations, but who now were watching what seemed to be the hedonistic event of the decade, enjoyed by some but not all. It’s only human to feel that way.
And it’s not wrong to be sympathetic to the plights of those who are now being held accountable for their actions. It’s very hard to see people – Canadians, just like us, who’ve had a rough time over the last two years – being penalized for doing things that they may not have thought were criminal at the time.
But these people were told, repeatedly, that their actions were harmful, and probably illegal. Those people that used their children as human shields, to prevent the police from advancing, or from entering their vehicles, did so willingly, even though these are actions that are considered ‘war crimes’ in most countries.
Some of the protestors left their homes and their jobs behind, in order to join what they chose to believe was a righteous cause, although their own holy books clearly told them that was not the case.
Many of these people were duped into giving of their time, their money, and potentially, their actual legal freedom. But they were adults, who had a choice to make, and chose wrongly. Yes, they were lied to. Yes, they chose to believe unreliable sources. But ignorance of the law is no excuse, and ignorance of the impact of your actions on others does not remove your responsibility for the consequences faced when your actions are finally judged, and found to be criminal.
It’s hard to see people losing their jobs, their businesses, and in some cases, their freedom, when they are arrested and imprisoned for terrorizing so many people and animals during their three-week ‘rumspringa.’
But, if we’re honest, this is exactly what we wanted to see happen, during those hellish weeks in February, when we were all glued to our tv screens, watching our police forces stand back, unable to move on the occupiers, with apparent impotence, and sometimes, even seeming to be giving aid and succor to these barbarians. We wanted to see the revellers held accountable. We needed there to be serious consequences. We wanted those consequences to serve as a deterrent to any people or parties that might consider a similar onslaught in the future. We didn’t want this occupation to happen then, and we never want it to happen again.
Yet now that many of these people will lose their jobs, be charged, arrested, and in some cases, have their lives ruined for what they’ve done, there’s a kindness inside most Canadians that will still feel sympathy, and even hold out a hand to help those that need it.
That’s what being a Canadian is about. We are good, kind, decent citizens of a country that is struggling right now, in a fight to defeat a novel enemy. And for the most part, we have come together to do what is right for ALL of us, not just an entitled few.
We spent most of February glued to our screens, hoping for the best, fearing for the worst, spending our time and energy on one minority’s idea of “freedom,” only to end the month watching Ukraine’s people fleeing from an evil war criminal seeking to shatter their democracy and steal their real freedoms.
I hope that we, as a country, are wise enough to recognize the difference.
“The “Freedom Convoy” that converged in Ottawa on Jan. 28 began in response to the federal government’s move to require Canadian truck drivers crossing the U.S. border be fully vaccinated to avoid testing and quarantine requirements, but has evolved into a protest of all public health measures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say they will not end their protest until all measures are dropped.”
Ottawa Citizen, Feb 13, 2022
A Canadian February is generally pretty ‘meh.’ Kids are starting to look forward to Easter holidays. Singles consider chancing a bit of skating or skiing in hopes of some ‘apres ski’ fun. Writers write articles about seasonal affective disorder, and string out a definition of the Danish word ‘hygge’ for 1500 words.
“When the government shuts you down, you get a warning and some financial assistance. They do express a degree of discomfort and regret. When Freedom Convoy shuts you down there is no notice, no financial assistance and you are supposed to shut the f up and support not working for the people who couldn’t work, which is you in the first place.” Georgia Herring, owner, Old School Mechanic Shop
It was around this time, two years ago, that the world turned upside down. My daughter had celebrated her Valentine’s Day birthday, and I was picking out some presents for my husband’s March birthday, which included a couple of live shows we’d never get to attend.
When the first lockdown went into place, it didn’t have a lot of effect on my life. I’m retired. I don’t get out of the house as much as I’d like, though I did used to really enjoy my long lunches with friends.
About a month into that first lockdown, after we’d heard that an old friend had contracted COVID 19 and died, I asked Shawn if he’d have done anything differently, before the pandemic, had he known what was coming. He didn’t think so.
See, most of us believe that whatever is going on now, in our lives, will go on always. We have our comfort zones, our friends and family, our routines, and, unless something drastic happens, we just keep on keeping on. We think that if things are going well for us, things will always be in our favour.
“Abusing the freedom to protest government overreach to the point of ensuring more government overreach.”Russ Boswell
The last two years taught us that everything we find familiar can all change in an instant.
And very few of us are happy with the changes that have come.
“Not going to lie folks. I would have taken 2 months more of the mandates if required for
our healthcare system, rather than over two weeks of this “occupation”.
Kayla Burgess, Stop the Ottawa Occupation 2022
There are some very bad people involved in what was billed as a “Freedom Convoy.” Very bad people indeed.
“Don’t think that the triad of Bulford, Quiggen and Marazzo won’t win this. They have the intelligence, the ruthlessness and probably endless funding and weapons. “
The group Police on Guard, formed during the pandemic, has endorsed the truck convoy. On its website, it publicly identifies more than 150 mostly retired police officers who are against government-imposed public health measures, such as vaccine mandates. More than 50 former Canadian Forces soldiers are also named on its site.
The organization says it has “boots on the ground” in Ottawa and has linked to YouTube videos of its members participating in the protest.
Furthermore, the leadership team for the protesters calling themselves the Freedom Convoy includes:
Daniel Bulford, a former RCMP officer who was on the prime minister’s security detail. He quit last year after refusing to get the vaccine and is the convoy’s head of security.
Tom Quiggin, a former military intelligence officer who also worked with the RCMP and was considered one of the country’s top counter-terrorism experts.
Tom Marazzo, an ex-military officer who, according to his LinkedIn profile, served in the Canadian Forces for 25 years and now works as a freelance software developer.“ (CBC.ca, Feb 9, 2022)
“This movement didn’t start on January 15th, 2022 when the Canadian Government imposed mandates on cross-border transportation drivers. It didn’t start on December 15th, 2021 when the Canadian Government announced these mandates. It started in February 2019, when James Bauder created the “Canada Unity” Facebook page. It had absolutely nothing to do with “mandates.” It had everything to do with trying to dissolve the Canadian Government. “
February 19, 2019 – James Bauder created the “Canada Unity” Facebook page
February 27, 2021 – Bauder made a Facebook status that said, “I’m creating a Canadian Federal Grass Roots Political Party.”
March 13, 2021 – Bauder created the Canada Unity website
August 23, 2021 – Bauder posted on his personal Facebook page that he would start a “Federal Unity Party” that would break from the monarchy, and make Canada a free and independent nation. He hoped to collect 350 signatures (out of a required 1000) to form a party. His goal was for a Spring 2022 start.
August 20, 2021 – Bauder posted on his personal Facebook page that he would start a “Convoy for Freedom”
October 1, 2021 – Bauder, his wife Sandra, and fellow Canada Unity member, Martin Broadmann, penned the “Memorandum of Understanding.” (M.O.U.) This is a document that called for the removal of the current government unless mandates regarding COVID protocols were removed. The M.O.U. states that if the current government does not meet their requests, they must be replaced, and that Canada Unity will have a say in who is elected. The M.O.U. is the grounds for their protest.
December 16, 2021 – Pat King, who is a founder of the movement, made a statement in a live stream that, “The only way this is going to be solved is with bullets.”
January 14, 2022 – Tamara Lich set up the “GoFundMe” account for the Freedom Convoy
January 15, 2022 – Lich invites B.J. Dietcher to ‘come on board.’
January 18, 2022 – Bauder goes on a live stream with Pat King to promote the Canada Unity website and to announce it as the official page for “Bearhug,” or “Freedom Convoy”
But, although a state of emergency has been called, the police must tread carefully. The protestors are desperately hoping to shift this crisis into a second phase, in which they can claim police brutality, a government overreach, a police state. To give their leaders these images, increasing disinformation and whipping up sympathy, would be irresponsible. The world is watching.
Dealing with a well-organized group with a plan to overthrow democracy takes time and strategy, not brute force. But Canada doesn’t have much time, now that the Ambassador Bridge siege in Windsor brought American attention to what the protestors are doing to the Canadian/American vehicle trade and economy.
The problem lies in how many of their most vocal supporters and followers are pawns, enticed into joining the ‘party’ by the idea that COVID, the hated mandates, nasty vaccines, and ugly masks would simply disappear, if we all just wanted it enough. To that end, the group has been given free food, hugs and money, parties with live music, hot tubs, saunas, even bouncy castles!
Bouncy castles? Why yes, for the enjoyment of the kids that have been brought into the occupation, to be used, sadly, as human shields. The cops can’t use tear gas or tear down shelters for fear of hurting the kids that might be inside. The presence of the children, who are often seen frolicking with their pets, is meant to soften the image of the occupiers. While some worry about child endangerment, especially as weeks drag on without comfy beds and baths for the little ones, other get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the image of these little displaced families.
In Windsor on Saturday, veterans formed a line between the police and the truckers at the Bridge. But on closer inspection, the uniforms, badges, and medals didn’t appear to be of Canadian military.
Still, imagine the headlines and the social media frenzy if the police had employed violent tactics, like the use of tear gas, against the veterans and children.
The last few days have seen a seesawing of public opinion, with harsh divides between friends and families as mini civil wars began over which side was really on the side of right.
Two years of real and perceived deprivations, combined with long-held grievances against local, provincial and federal inaction over matters held dear, have provoked many into a frenzied response against their country.
It must be remembered, however, that the same people who claim that they are not free, have driven across the country unimpeded, camped illegally in their nation’s capital, and are still free this morning to set up mass breakfasts and entertainment, despite their insurrection and the unlawful occupation of these locales.
I love my country, but I fear for this country. A vocal minority has bullied a democracy, demanding the overthrow of their elected government, in order to replace it with themselves.
They are little fascist dictators in training, eager to burn down all that they could never begin to understand. Putin would be so proud of them.
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.
Today is the 12th of December, and that means that Shawn and I are exactly one month away from the Big Move, from Toronto, to Windsor, Ontario. The drive is a mere 230 in earth miles, but, in some integral ways, it’s also the equivalent of moving from the Moon to the Sun.
Interspersed with frenzied packing have been ‘last lunches,’ and ‘quick meets for coffee’ that lasted long, lovely hours, and opportunities to visit audio and visual touchstones of my nearly four decades in Toronto. Like last week’s pilgrimage to The Rex, where Kevin Quain serenaded a few stalwarts that made their way through the wind and snow to enjoy his musical stylings on the Rex’s grand piano. He cut his musical teeth there, and his mix of originals and classics always hits the spot.
We’re heading into the meat of winter, and the snow has begun to fall, so I’ve been fixated on getting all of my outdoor and gardening necessities packed and protected from the weather. I work outside when I can, and then in the house, stuffing the interminable detritus of a life well lived into cartons that once held various liquors. There are nearly 200 boxes wedged into one side of the living room now, and another area holds the shelves that were once filled with books, art, and chotchkes.
And then there’s the plants …
Just packing up my hobbies and the bulk of my office will bring that box number to about 300. And then I’ll have to get serious about packing up the kitchen…
Oh yes, I’m busy. Most days I wake about 4 a.m., jerking bolt upright, tensed with anxiety, list of things to do, to remember, by my side, with new items underlined in red ink, and try to unclench my teeth and bones. I’m often dotted with medicinal A-535 patches, have a heating pad attached to my spine and a brace jauntily gracing my right knee. As the cat squawks in alarm, the day begins, a race from the start to the 8 or 9 pm finish, when I collapse back into the bed, unread book in my hand, and the reading lamp blazing, forgotten.
When I take a break from packing, I will usually relax with some entertainment I’ve PVRed, that I know I’ll be interested enough to watch for at least a few minutes before nodding off. My tastes remain eclectic, but something I’ve learned as my time becomes more precious, currently and in the bigger picture of life, is that I’m not terribly eager to embrace new casts of characters. I like the way old friends, both of the earthly variety and of those only known to us on our screens, fit my moods and needs.
Fr’instance, I really enjoyed binging the 10-episode arc to the new CSI: Las Vegas franchise. While there were new, young, hip main characters, my interest was in the inclusion of Sarah Sidle and Gil Grissom, an intriguing couple of scientists from the original; seeing them was like catching up on what’s been going on with chums I miss from the wayback.
And having these remembered characters marvel at the new tech that’s come along since their own heyday seemed somehow so very right, in a time when extraordinary leaps of science are being rejected by those who would gladly pull the world backward to a darker, uglier time.
There’s no denying that we’re living in a very different world than the one we knew, even no further back than 2016. It’s gone topsy turvy, and, after 4 years of political madness, the cherry on top of our new reality was COVID, a global pandemic.
But the good news is that, while the regressives struggle to pull us back, the progressives continue to pull us forward.
In 2018 I wrote a column about the Lift and Co Expo, held at the Metro Convention Centre, before Canada had actually legalized marijuana. (https://tinyurl.com/yckurrur)
This year’s 2021 conference, held in mid November, outdid the previous years’ conventions by leaps and bounds. The exhibit floor fairly groaned with the weight of the enormous machinery in use in full scale production of the now legal pot. And the list of available seminars, which ranged from the technical to the opining on the future of the marketing of psychedelics in Ontario, was fulsome and fulfilling.
As I wandered the aisles, speaking to some of the friendly representatives of diverse companies that specialized in everything from gummies to the highest of high tech, my mind kept reaching back to the early days, pre-legalisation, when there was, at least for me, a sense that legalisation could still wind up a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. A lot of the conversations I had in 2018 seemed to be of the breath-holding variety, that is, we could see a new horizon – but only if everything were to go right, in every way, from the conference, to the maneuverings of legislators and Big Business, all the way to Legal Pot Day.
But maybe I was projecting. After all, I was already 50 years past the first puff I’d ever taken, and those 50 years had seen so many smart and open-minded ideas be crushed under the iron fists of those that, to this day, fear cannabis as ‘the devil’s weed’, and who, even today, eschew any of it’s benefits to society.
At home with my swag bags, filled with goodies of all kinds from the generous retailer’s booths, I realized that cannabis’ future has very little to do with those ubiquitous corner pot shops that have popped up on every Toronto street. No, it’s not about the corner store at all; it’s about the future of every country that begins to look at the wonders of a natural herb for ways that it can benefit their societies medically, socially, and technically, rather than be the cause of crime and punishment.
Some days I marvel at the possibilities that lie in store for my grandchildren. Much of what is to come is likely inconceivable today, just as the innovative technologies of the year 2000 would have dazzled my grandmother, had she lived to see them.
And that’s a good thing. As much as we may revel in the fun we had in the past, the old must be left behind in order to make room for the new. If we greet each new opportunity with an open mind and heart, there’s no telling what wonders may lie ahead. No matter how hard you try, you can’t hold back tomorrow, any more than you can hold back the tide.
“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death,” said Jerome Lawrence. To enjoy the banquet of life, you have to be willing to try those things that might first scare you a little – things like escargot, chocolate covered crickets … and moving to another city.
Giant leaps of faith are still the best exercise anyone can do, at any age.
It’s a winter wonderland! A marshmallow world! And way too soon! It’s only November, dammit!
I’m not ready for winter. I’m nowhere near done with the packing and the sorting that has to be done in the back of the house, and yet, here we are. Oh, climate change, why could you not have brought palm trees to Toronto, instead of this untimely dump of white stuff?
We’ve been incredibly busy, in the last month, working out all the paperwork and miscellanea that needs to be done for our move in January. The ‘to-do’ lists are endless, and include low key celebrations of an anniversary, the recording of some Christmas songs, (for me) the recording of some the heymacs songs, (for Shawn) and the filming of a new the heymacs video next week, the day after my birthday.
I have now packed 160 large boxes, and I’m guessing I’ll need to do, at minimum, another 100 before we’re ready to leave here. I’m running out of room to pile up said boxes, and we’ve grown used to walking sideways to get past the stacks. I’m keeping the massage studios and back pain pill companies in business, and trying not to die from the malnutrition that comes from eating nothing but frozen pizzas and tinned beans.
It’s been a blur of activity, compounded by much needed breaks for lunches and get-togethers with friends. I even managed to squeeze in a trip to the Lift&Co Expo 2021, which I’ll be writing about next week.
Which is all to say that I haven’t spent much time worrying about ‘maybes,’ ‘whatifs’ and ‘possiblys’ of late, and that’s a good thing. It took several months to come down from the hysteria of the trump era, but having to focus so minutely on all that it takes to buy a home 250 miles away, sight unseen, has finally pushed away any remaining need to focus on what comes next in the Great Faux Election Steal of 2020. Done. Finito. The whole gang that couldn’t elect straight is no longer on my radar. I’ll let them return to top of mind when we’re trying to figure out which prisons will have the pleasure of their company.
There are a couple of issues that I’ve got simmering on the back burners of my mind, including the reports of the new Omicron mutation of the COVID virus. This was NOT what I wanted for Christmas; this is even worse than that time I got a vacuum cleaner from ‘Santa’. The biggest problem here is that it’s quite possible this mutation may effectively wipe out all the protection our previous vaccines had given us, which would mean we’d be as vulnerable as we were at the beginning of the pandemic.
And I really could have done without a news dump, two days before the American thanksgiving, that touted an unprecedented strengthening of ties between China and Russia. Both countries see an opportunity to strike at what the media is presenting as a weakened United States, and this, as tensions escalate between the East and West, portends a climate of fear as the holidays near. Also not what we needed at this time.
And you have to wonder precisely why the media is pursuing both of these disparate issues with such glee. Yes, we have to know what’s going on around the world, and yes, we need to be ready to protect ourselves from enemies at home or abroad, but could we just maybe take a breath or two before we dive headfirst into another vat of fearmongering?
Americans should be celebrating the passage of part one of a massive infrastructure bill, that will plow $1.2 trillion back into the economy, while repairing roads and bridges, and providing much needed broadband across the nation.
There were record breaking sales figures for the orgy of commercialism that is Black Friday, despite the media trumpeting that the collapse of the supply chain would result in empty shelves for the winter holidays.
More than 5.5 million new jobs have been created in the last ten months, and unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been since 1969. Workers’ pay has risen, and anyone who wants a job should be able to write their own ticket, since employers are screaming for more staff.
Americans are also enjoying more than $5 billion in rental assistance, and the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit, to the tune of $66 billion, which has gone out to more than 36 million households. The child poverty rate has been cut in half, for pete’s sake!
Sure, it’s not perfect. Nothing is, as any person with a fully functioning brain knows. But there’s something quite ugly about the media failing to acknowledge all the positives of the last 10 months, while banging the drum of failure, war, and plague.
It just stinks of a voracious, avaricious, mob of greedy, thankless, demanding spoiled brats. If you’re looking for your plague of zombies, look no further than the hordes who can never be satisfied, and who are intent on tearing their nation in two, to satisfy their masters, and some sort of political tapeworm.
The real bad guys are in your house, on your phone, and in your tv. But they were invited in, and warmly given a place at your table. They can just as easily be shown the door, and asked not to come back until they’ve got something better to offer.
We’re about to enter the last month of the year, December, a month that is filled to the brim with opportunities to gather together joyfully, to link arms with friends and family in a spirit of peace and community, and to reach out and share with those that need our help financially, physically, or emotionally. Every major and minor religion has a holiday in this time period, designed specifically to bring us together, to get us through the cold, dark months, and to prepare us for a brand spanking new year.
“Every religion I know of, including in the Pagan traditions, celebrates light in some form around the Winter Solstice. Each one relates to the coming of darkness, the need to collect and preserve that which nurtures (including foods) through dark times, and planning for the coming return of light with the Vernal Equinox/Easter/Passover, et al. It is a perfect time for reflection (another light analogy) and introspection. Without both shadow and light, there is no form, after all. We ignore equal attention to both at our peril.”
Mara Seaforest, from a Facebook comment.
Each of us has the opportunity to choose to see the bright light of coming together in love and peace, or to decide to chase after the darkness of divisiveness. Choose wisely. We have no idea what lies ahead for us, but facing uncertainty is easiest when faced together.
Have you ever bought a car, and suddenly noticed that nearly every car you see is the same colour and style? Or, if you are pregnant, have you been surprised to see that it seems that everybody else is pregnant as well?
This is known as the frequency illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It’s something that happens thru two separate psychological processes –selective attention and confirmation bias – coming together, that makes us believe that there is more going on around us than what meets the eye.
You’ve probably noticed something similar during the last two years, as we’ve dealt with COVID. Our ‘selective attention’ can force us to overlook a lot of other news that might normally catch our eye, since most of us are hyper-focused on anything new or important to do with the protections necessary to fend off the virus.
Confirmation bias leads us to search out this news, and to find ‘experts’ that agree with our already held beliefs. That’s why those people who are convinced that there is something wrong with the vaccines cannot stop searching out those that agree with them. They are desperate to find others who share their thoughts.
Whether it’s COVID, pregnant women, or the incredible number of red vans that prowl the streets of Toronto, becoming aware of something you hadn’t noticed before can throw you for a loop.
Since my little cat died a few weeks ago, I’ve become hyper aware of how many people have also lost pets recently. But it’s quite likely that my sadness and grief has made me more sensitive to information from those who are also dealing with losses.
It is, of course, the frequency illusion that has concentrated my attention on what appears to be an explosion of ill health amongst furry critters that so many of us have been experiencing. If I were not aware of this phenomenon, I might begin to believe that there is something sinister happening to our four-legged friends. There isn’t; it’s just a coincidence that the time of year, the weather, and the inevitable aging of our pets would have to eventually culminate in their passing on.
Whenever something occurs on which we become focused, there are several roads that appear before us. So it was for me, with my mourning of my long-time furry companion.
While I don’t know how I feel about adopting another animal any time soon, I’m very aware of how beneficial it can be to singles and seniors to have a pet that gives them a focus. We grow so close to our little friends, and they give us so much in return.
But pet love is increasingly expensive, and vet bills can cause pet owners a lot of pain – emotionally and financially. Trying to decide when to let a pet go, or when to engage in an expensive fight for its life, often depends on how much money we can devote to that fight.
Pets are incredibly important in the quality of life for those who spend a lot of time alone. My experiences with seniors and senior pets have shown me that there is a need for organizations to help defray final costs. In the future, I’d like to find a way to work with groups working to make that difficult time a little easier for both the human and the pet.
A few days after Farley died, and in the midst of a flurry of friends dealing with the unexpected losses of their pets, a fellow whom I’ve known for many years suddenly went on a Facebook rampage, in which he posited that there was something wrong with those who deeply mourn their pets. Unspoken but inferred was that the public mourning of a furry friend went beyond odd to possibly immoral. He contended that no one could or should equate the loss of a dog or a cat to the loss of a human child.
Of course, these are two very different kinds of losses; a pet is not a human being that we have brought forth from our own bodies.
On the other hand, many people don’t have children. Some never wanted to have children. And still others have children that they rarely see or have interactions with. Regardless of the circumstances, it seemed odd for someone to feel that they had the right to publicly pass judgment over how other people choose to express their grief at the passing of their pets.
I tried to explain that pets play different roles in different times of our lives; during COVID, many people adopted pets to take the place of people they couldn’t see in their isolation. The loss of a pet that has been a constant companion, that is, in some cases, a reason to get up in the morning, can often be no less painful than the loss of a person whom one loves, but with whom one has less frequent physical contact.
This fellow’s insistence on being the sole arbiter of what qualifies as a justifiable emotional pain felt like bullying to me.
I was not the only breathing creature dealing with the loss of Farley; his long-time feline companion was mourning as well. During Farley’s last days, Lady Jade tried to give him comfort, by crawling into his bed and sharing her warmth. For about 17 years, they shared their beds, their treats, and their lives.
After his final trip to the vet, little Jade, who is 18, blind, and quite small, was bereft. She crept quietly around the house, searching for him. She would silently appear in dark spaces, and was often in danger of being crushed by our feet when we’d fail to realize she was there. The only time she would calm was when either Shawn or I would hold her on our laps.
Since we’re packing and preparing to move house, I was having to choose between doing what was necessary, and comforting my poor old kitty. I needed a solution, and came up with an idea.
I often use an organization called Freecycle to give away items that I no longer need, and to find odd things I’m looking for. In this case, I put up a request for a child wrap, or some kind of carrier, that would allow me to cradle Jade against my body, but still allow me to have movement to do household chores, pack, or even to just answer the door without having to disturb her.
Cat slings – it’s a thing.
Within a few days, I received an email from someone who wanted to know if I’d had any luck with my request. This woman was concerned because she’d had a similar situation when her older dog had passed, and his cat companion mourned him so deeply that a vet’s attention was necessary to prevent the cat from dying of grief.
This freecycler wanted to help, and by the next morning, she had decided that she would buy a baby wrap, called a ‘Cuddle Bug,’ that I could use for Jade, and we made arrangements for delivery.
When the packages arrived from Amazon that evening, I was stunned to see the extent of her generosity. Not only had she sent the wrap, she’d also sent an array of Jade’s favorite foods, and a new cat treat – Squeeze Ups – that I’d never heard of that must be kitty crack, because Jade can’t get enough of it.
I was quite dumbfounded by the kindness of this stranger.
In my mourning, there are lessons to be learned. I clarified to myself that my future would involve somehow being of help to others dealing with pet illness and death. I have seen the ugly side of someone who is unable to empathize with the pain that others feel, but I’ve also seen the beauty of a total stranger who responds with their whole heart to a cry for help from someone in pain.
Funny how life can show us the many ways that we can choose to live and interact with each other. Many paths lead us forward, but nothing is quite as wonderful as being able to grab hold of a hand that helps us in choosing the right direction, out of our pain, and into a shared light.
I had really hoped that taking a week off for a ‘mental health break’ would allow me to come back to the column with a fresh, breezy attitude, and a determination to sort through complicated ideas with ease and élan.
Didn’t happen. I’ll probably need way more than a week to get from here to there. I’m dealing with a ton of bits and pieces of life, some parts being more digestible than others. Nothing to see here, folks, move along – it’s just the stuff that life is made of.
That’s what being a human is about. At any given moment, every one of us is processing what’s going on in and around our lives, and somehow still managing to put one foot in front of the next to get through the days. We give very little thought to all the kinetic activity that surrounds us daily. We balance the input and output of our own minds as we perambulate through our days.
In life, and in general, we are more inclined to favour solutions that cater to our own wants and needs. That doesn’t always sit well with those in positions of power; the powerful also want what they want, and they are more likely to land up in situations where that is exactly what they’ll get.
When we’re in our peak adult years, dealing with finding love, growing our families, and focusing on bringing in enough income to pay for our needs, we usually don’t have a lot of time or headspace for worrying about external events. These are years in which we eschew too much philosophy, or follow much politics, favoring expediency over worrying too far ahead into the future.
It’s understandable that most people are too busy getting through their lives to worry about what can feel like abstract questions, compared to quotidian details. The cynical will say that we have always been pawns in a larger game, and that we are all victims of the lies of politicians and the powerful, therefore, complaint is pointless.
I have always had issues with situations that feel unfair, that slant towards the rich and powerful, and that leave the poorer and more vulnerable unprotected. But now the situations are more alarming, more encompassing, and contain more potential for long term disaster than ever before.
I can’t go for that. No can do. I’m a human being, and whether I like it or not, my life is impacted by political decisions. And my kids and grandkids, who will be around long after I’m gone, deserve a better planet than the one I’m currently poised to bequeath them.
Take human-caused global warming, for instance. This is settled science. There is no further need for debate; deliberation, in this case, is being used as a stall tactic, by those who profit from fossil fuels. We need to prioritize clean air and water, for ourselves and for our heirs. We cannot allow foot dragging and obstruction.
The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 is not faked, a conspiracy, or a ‘false flag.’ It is a very real pandemic ripping through the fragile bodies of people all over the globe, that has killed over 5 million people, and ruined the future health of millions more. There can be no excuse for failing to join in the fight against this virus.
The trial of a 17-year-old boy whose mother drove him over state lines, carrying an AR-15 that he was not legally allowed to own, and whose actions set into motion the death of two people and the near mortal harm of another, should have been a no-brainer for anyone with a shred of common sense; the deaths would not have happened had the boy not entered the picture. Yet, he will likely go free with a slap on the wrist, and a hero’s welcome from the Second Amendment brigade.
Meanwhile, had he not been white, he’d likely not even have made it home from that fateful encounter. This is more about race than it is about guns, but those with their own priorities have highjacked the case.
Hysterical reportage from the U.S. has decried a shortage of people needed for low paid, low benefit, positions. These are often the same jobs that just last year, at the height of the pandemic, were considered ‘essential.’ Not essential enough to merit a living wage, but ….
Yet studies have shown that there are many seeking employment, but not being hired. And one study showed that the assertion of a truck driver shortage was untrue; there’s tons of able, licensed, drivers. It’s just that those drivers are unwilling to play by the same unfair rules and pay scales that were commonplace pre-pandemic.
Turns out there’s lots of people looking for jobs, but the jobseekers are as capitalistic as the potential employers; they know about supply and demand. You need supply – they’re making demands.
In the early months of 2020, when the pandemic first hit the planet, the cost of energy was down. People were working from home, and offices and factories were often closed or idle. The roads and airports were empty, and gas prices were low. As the economy slowly gears back up, the price of gas is on the rise. That’s not attributable to presidents or prime ministers. It’s a global phenomenon that should have been expected, had we been paying attention.
Donald Trump’s Big Lie is the fabricated conspiracy of a poor loser, bolstered by the seditious and treasonous in his cult who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And yet there are many, even sitting in the halls of Congress, who deny Biden’s election win, and who plot to overthrow the legitimately elected POTUS. Democrats need to put some bite into their investigation into what was most definitely a coup, planned by the former president and his minions.
Far too much of what passes for terrestrial news, over the last five years or more, has been crippled with misinformation, lies, and even deliberately manufactured counterpoints to reality. That’s not what ‘news’ is supposed to do; news is meant to simply illustrate important events and to warn the viewer about events, financial issues, traffic issues, or weather that might impact their daily lives. Instead, the news has been commercialized, and is now partisan.
That is simply not fair, or right. The average person makes dozens of miniature decisions during even the most boring day. Asking that same person to now ‘do the research’ and parse out a dozen different possibilities to determine the veracity of what they are being told is simply asking too much. The news is not supposed to be political. Ain’t nobody got that kind of time.
Live long enough, and you’ll see everything, they say. I know I would never have dreamed that there would come a time when people in power would play quite so fast and loose with the truth. When Sean Spicer’s vehemently insisted that trump’s inaugural drew more lookyloos than Obama’s, we laughed. When U.S. Counselor to the President, KellyAnne Conway, used the phrase ‘alternative facts’ to defend Spicer’s lies, we crept a little closer to madness. And on almost every day in the four years of trump’s presidency, we were bombarded with more lies, more misinformation, more deliberate manipulation in the truth, culminating with a criminal disregard of the safety of the U.S. citizens trump had sworn to defend and protect when he took the oath on that very inauguration.
He’s been gone a year, and he’s STILL lying. No one should have been surprised that trump lied about having won the presidential election; he’d primed millions of his supporters to believe exactly that, since he won the first election, and somehow whined about that. He taught his cult to ignore what they saw with their own eyes or heard with their own ears, and to only respond to what he and his minions told them was real, and he very nearly succeeded in a treasonous coup to overthrow a free and fair election.
In order for trump, his family, and his defenders to survive and thrive, they needed to alter how people perceived reality, and to pervert justice. They did both of these things very well, and continue to manipulate the rule of law to their benefits in 2021.
Each of us, no matter where we are, or where we live, wakes up every morning and deals with all the machinations of the day. It’s asking too much of us that we also contend with an altered universe where things may or may not be as they seem, where we are manipulated into believing whatever works to benefit the rich and powerful is good and necessary, while our children’s and grandchildren’s futures are being gambled away for the temporary gain of the few.
We have to learn from the past. We have to see that manipulating reality, and demanding the wholesale swallowing of lies are the tools of those that seek to destroy democracy. We cannot allow our human rights to be perverted for the benefit of the few.
It’s simply too much to ask. And that way, madness lies.