Let’s Kill Hitler


For baby boomers, on whom the shadow of World War II fell the darkest , the post war years teemed with possibility. Our future lay before us like a shimmering landscape, designed by the brilliant minds now free to bring us sci fi and fantasy tales of a world filled with scientific and technical advances beyond our wildest dreams.

flying carFlying cars anyone?

But, if we looked to our families, who were now coping with war’s aftermath, or when we saw the shadow of a tattoo on someone’s wrist, we felt the pain of the millions who’d perished for a tyrant’s narcissistic wet dream, and, even the youngest of us wondered .. why didn’t anyone stop Hitler when he first started killing people?

During Hitler’s years in power, there were 42 failed assassination attempts on his life, that we know of. Surrounded by bodyguards and security forces, it’s pretty hard to kill a dictator.

But if you were a writer possessed of a fantastical mind, you might have asked yourself; what if you could go back in time, and kill a younger version of Hitler, before his rise to power?

It is perhaps unsurprising that this particular trope appealed to hundreds, if not thousands, of scribes, and that the attempt to find a time travel exemption to changing the past, continues to be tested. As recently as August 2011, my fave sci fi series, Doctor Who, took their own stab at the genre, in an episode called, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” (Spoiler alert; they failed to kill him.)

weird tales 1941 I Killed Hitler

 

Actually, the very first story to do so was published in Weird Tales, in July 1941, and was called, “I Killed Hitler.

 

In James Gleick’s book, Time Travel, he posits that “humans invented time travel to counter the regret that we only have one life to live. “ The question isn’t really, “Should you kill Baby Hitler?” But rather, “How do we best come to terms with a world where evil exists?””

But why do I bring this up, you ask? We’re all aware that Godwin’s Law says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” So it’s moot, right?

Well, here’s the thing… by June 24, 2018, even Mike Godwin had to admit that “The question of evil, understood historically, is bigger than party politics.”

“The seeds of future horrors are sometimes visible in the first steps a government takes toward institutionalizing cruelty. In his 1957 book “Language of the Third Reich,” Victor Klemperer recounted how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he “was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law” that he couldn’t imagine the horrors yet to come. “Regardless of how much worse it was going to get,” he added, “everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months.

So I don’t think Godwin’s Law needs to be updated or amended. It still serves us as a tool to recognize specious comparisons to Nazism — but also, by contrast, to recognize comparisons that aren’t. And sometimes the comparisons can spot the earliest symptoms of horrific “attitudes, actions and language” well before our society falls prey to the full-blown disease.”

So, why am I bringing up this comparison? The answer lies in a portion of a new digital exhibit, the 1938Projekt, that catalogues the final days of European Jewry.

” As was the case with French Jews who threw lavish parties in the months leading up to their deportation, or the Poles who helped manufacture the very weapons that would be used against them a year later, for my family the impending loss of their property, their homes, and even their lives seemed so surreal as to be almost impossible. They don’t actually mean it. They’ll make a show of it but we’ll be fine. There’s no chance we’ll really be gone tomorrow. The tragedy is that we don’t recognize how intractable these political climates are with a sudden timely realization, but rather as a slow burn—imperceptible until only after the damage is done.”

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You’d have to have been crazy to have predicted such a thing as the Holocaust. Most of them simply didn’t believe that there was any credible reason why things would suddenly surpass normal levels of anti-Semitism and go from bad to catastrophic.

It is the story of how easy it is to become inured to the progression of a deteriorating situation. Through its lens, we see the time more clearly for what it was: not just another brief chapter in the thousands-of-years-old story called anti-Semitism, but a tinderbox heating up with the passage of each day. It’s easy to look now and see a series of warnings plastered onto the walls of the past, plain and clear for all Jews to see, only for fools to ignore.

But if someone were to tell you about a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and swastikas graffitied on the Upper West Side and Nazi marches and Jewish cemeteries being defaced and a president who calls himself a nationalist and ordinances that dissolve the rights of immigrants and of the queer community and a caravan of refugees, and told you to leave behind your family business and your belongings and your home and move across the world to a place where you didn’t know a soul and didn’t know the language, would you? You’d have to be crazy.”       (https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/274646/what-it-was-like-to-be-a-german-jew-in-1938)

You see, I think that, like those long ago writers of science fiction who yearned to turn back the clock to a time before Hitler took power, we’re now living in a time when there is a chance to change what seems to be inevitable.

And I think that, if a change doesn’t happen, we’ll see future writers scribbling about wanting to time travel back and kill a baby Trump, before the real horrors began in America.

wh punished Acotsta more than khashoggi murderersUnlike a lot of people who still cling to the idea that checks and balances, and the application of the Constitution, will prevent anything too destructive from happening in America, I see that we are once again following a historic arc that has always moved in a horrific direction, and that swing is accelerating.

The assaults on the justice system and law itself are compounding daily. Where is the outrage over Khashoggi‘s murder? Why have those who swore to stand by AG Sessions, or to defend Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, suddenly disavowed their previous words?

What did you think it meant when President Trump suggested he could pull press credentials from any reporters who didn’t show him “respect.” Can you not see that Trump has essentially revoked the First Amendment without even having to use an ‘executive order’ to do so? Like all dictators, first they must take out the press, in any way possible, because the press are they that would show you the misdeeds the administration would rather conceal.

cronkite just read the newsThe POTUS, on his bully pulpit, cannot repeatedly tear down American institutions verbally, without risking their actual destruction. When every speech at his rallies sounds like the words of an authoritarian, the supposition of an authoritarian regime can’t be avoided.

Post midterms, and post some of the most despicable attempts to thwart a legitimate election in recent history, many Republicans are publicly calling the attempt to count every ballot cast, voter fraud, and an attempt to ‘steal’ an election. But this is not theft or a fraud … you may not recognize it, GOP, but this is democracy.

When I hear Americans cry, “...but this isn’t America. This isn’t who we are!” I have to beg to differ.

There’s an historic pattern of racism and xenophobia that has a long through line, from America’s very beginnings, right through to the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to gut a key element of the 1965 voting rights act, based on the election of a man of colour to the presidency. That law demanded that areas with a history of racial discrimination at the polls get prior authorisation before changing their election or voting laws. As we’ve just seen in the 2018 midterms – we really needed that provision. We all watched the disastrous Republican-run elections that slashed the rights and ability of people of colour and indigenous people, to cast their votes, in the name of non-existent voter fraud. What you saw was voter suppression.. they never got a chance to vote, so there was never a chance of fraudulence, except on the part of those making up these rules to benefit their own party.

That problem is solved,” Justice Roberts intoned, dismissing centuries of racism and exclusion.

“This isn’t who we are!” you say?

Do you remember the poem that begins, “first they came?” America’s version begins with calling Mexicans rapists and claiming that they bring drugs and crime, then moves on to the torment of American Muslims, before dancing on to the Dreamers, the Trans community, the LGBTQ, Puerto Ricans, Hondurans… and eventually, it comes to the Jews, as it ever has.

The massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue came at the hands of a white, middle aged, right wing, Trump supporter, who thinks Trump isn’t hard enough on the Jewish citizens of America, and so he murdered 11 people in Trump’s name.

Ironically, and In spite of his overtly racist leanings, Trump enjoys solid support from the Jewish community. One of his most fervent supporters, Miriam Adelson, the wife of Sheldon Adelson, will soon receive a Medal of Freedom, that is essentially her reward for her part in her husband’s donation of $113 million to Trump’s election and midterm support.

Like those in Germany, Poland and France that went to the movies, or threw parties, mere days before they were marched to camps, supporters like the Adelsons think his racism will stop with Mexican immigrants and African-Americans.

The pattern is too consistent. History shows horrible acts of racism, over and over and over again, against the most vulnerable of citizens. The United States, like 1984’s Oceania, has always been at war .. with itself.

This IS who you are, America.

Bill Maher has been calling this flaunting of law by the Trump administration a ‘slow moving coup‘ for the last year. With the illegal appointment of Whitaker to the position of Acting United States Attorney General, that coup picked up speed.

In third world dictatorships, the chief law enforcement officer‘s main qualification is – he doesn’t enforce the law. Officials of independent mind are hounded out, or shoved aside.”

As Maher said, “In mid 2017, I first read you my dictator checklist, but since this week is the week we first added, “install your personal protector as head of the justice department, ” after adding in September, “install your personal protector on the highest Court,” let’s review the dictator list one more time.

You’re a narcissist who likes to see his name and face on buildings.
You appoint family members to position of power
You hold rallies, even when you are not running, and they are scary.
You talk about jailing the press, and political opponents.
You want to hold military parades, and muse openly about being president for life.
You use your office for personal financial gain.
You love other dictators.
You lie so frequently your supporters don’t know what the truth is anymore, and don’t’ care.

For a coup to work, it is first necessary for truth itself to be destroyed – as well as the people who try to report it. So the dictator is free to say anything, and his followers believe it.

Adding to that dictator checklist, we now have state TV in this country, an actual propaganda channel, where the ‘reporters’ openly endorse the leaders. And we have people who oversee the elections they are running in.

In August of this year, Trump’s semi-liquid mob mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani, said “the truth isn’t the truth.”

So – truth isn’t truth, the press is the enemy of the people, there are ‘alternative facts,’ “there’s no proof of anything, ” “What you’re seeing and reading isn’t what’s happening.”

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In 1986, after 21 years of being the president (dictator) of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, and his wife, Imelda Marcos, had their reign of corruption overturned, and the family was sent into exile. It is estimated that the couple plundered between 5 and 10 $BILLION US dollars from the Philippine people during those years.

imelda w shoesAnd yet, Imelda made a comeback, and somehow managed to get elected to the the Philippine House of Representatives , not once, but FOUR times, despite having been called a kleptocrat by historians, being listed by Newsweek as one of the “greediest people of all time” and having had the distinction of having committed, along with her husband, the greatest robbery of a government, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

In November 2018, Mrs. Marcos was convicted of corruption involving US$200 million, from the time between 1978 and 184, when she was governor of Metro Manila. She has been sentenced to a total term of up to 77 years of imprisonment.

I’m telling you this because of the parallels between the Marcos and Trump camp … neither can quit their love for a self-serving, selfish, corrupt, world champion thief. Nothing you say will change the opinions of his or her cult. And just as the Filipinos kept voting Imelda back in, as she siphoned over $200 million from the people to her Swiss bank account, there will still be Americans voting for Trump some ten, twenty years down the road, and probably even after his death.. maybe especially after his death.

“Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law. It definitely wasn’t meant to shield our leaders from being slammed for the current fashion of pitching falsehoods as fact. These behaviors, distressing as they are, may not yet add up to a new Reich, but please forgive me for worrying that they’re the “embryonic form” of a horror we hoped we had put behind us.”      Mike Godwin
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veteran Remembrance Let politicians warLest we forget …. On this, and every Remembrance Day, I remember and thank my family for their sacrifice.
WWI: Uncle Len, Uncle Cecil
WWII: Uncle John, Auntie Anne, Auntie Pat
KOREA: Uncle Leo, my dad
and Uncle Dennis, who served in peacetime.

Daylight Savings And Other Idiocies


ENOUGH already with this daylight saving nonsense. The cost to the country, and it’s citizens, has been recorded and shown to be of little to no benefit to the nation.

daylight saving NativeI wonder if Ford has considered making this a pet project for Ontario. (Opting in or out of daylight saving is within a provincial premier’s purview.) It would fit into his stated platform, save money, and kill something that the ‘elites’ determined decades ago would be beneficial to the ‘little people.’ And, when he’s finally out of office, it will be one thing he can point to as having successfully and fairly easily accomplished.

Anyone got Dougie’s ear?

 

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Hey, it’s Indie Week! My colleagues have written a fair bit about what that means, musically, so I won’t belabour the possible tuneful delights that your wristbands can get you into. There IS a lot of great music, I assure you, a veritable cornucopia of raw talent.

But .. I probably won’t get to many of the shows. You see, I’m more like those people that buy Playboy for the articles.. I like the conferences. I like to learn from people with experience and stories to tell.

So, on Wednesday, you’ll likely find me checking out a forum on anxiety, depression and mental health, or taking notes at Martin Atkins’ discourse on “How to Make an Extra $100K in the Next Year.”

On Friday, there’s a seminar on Women Influencers, and another on “New Rules in the Music Industry.”

And those are the things that interest moi … but that’s moi. Why don’t YOU check out what’s available this week, and see what turns your crank? I’ll see you there!
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We’re now literally days away from the American midterm elections, when those who will exercise their right to vote will determine the arc of America’s future. It really is a critical moment in time. Voting Democrat will enable the guardrails to keep Trump and his madness in check. Voting Republican will tell Trump that his madness and rush to a fascist dictatorship is A-OK with the citizens of the United States

VOTING IS HOW YOU SEIZE POWER. And that’s why old people, rich people and people who are terrified of change… are ALWAYS voting, every chance they get. That is why there are old, rich, white men in power in the U.S., who’ve been voted back in every time those old, rich, white, scared people get a chance to enter the voting booth. That is why there is a lying, perjuring, accused sexual assailant on the Supreme Court.

Does your vote count? Damned straight it does! And mouthing off that it ‘won’t change anything anyway’ is not a ‘too cool for the pool,’ detached cynicism, it’s a naive, and entitled sentiment that betrays an ignorance of how democracy works.

Are you enjoying Trump’s America? Because, despite how many people tell me that I am incorrect about America sliding into fascism… it’s looking pretty textbook fascist-y right about now.

Fascism is a form of government which is a type of one-party dictatorship. Fascists are against democracy. They work for a totalitarian one-party state. This aim is to prepare the nation for armed conflict, and to respond to economic difficulties. Fascism puts nation and often race above the individual. It stands for a centralized government headed by a dictator. Historically, fascist governments tend to be militaristic, and racist. In the Third Reich German society was pictured as a racially unified hierarchy, the Volksgemeinschaft..” (wikipedia)

The country has been steamrollered under the armoured treads of an administration that has control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency, AND the Supreme Court. Except for the horrific tax cuts that sent billions of dollars to the 1 per cent, the majority of Trump accomplishments have come about through the high handed use of ‘executive orders,’ which, when used in lieu of democratic debate, compromise, and bipartisanship, are, of course, the way dictators govern.

Now, there may have been times in America’s history where one party having control of ALL aspects of government might not have been quite as frightening as it is in 2018. But the horrors that we’ve seen to date can’t hold a candle to what we’ll see in the future, if the midterms keep the power in the Republican party’s hands.

While you might have been aware that the Supreme Court newbie, Kavanaugh, has some interesting views on presidential reach and abortion, and that the other newbie, Gorsuch, has some equally interesting opinions on religious liberty and the rights of LGBTQ citizens …. did you know that the Supreme Court is about to begin debate on whether or not America will be maintaining a separation of church and state?

That’s kind of a biggie right there. What will be left of America, when it is only the furthest hard right thinkers who decide what citizens are allowed to do, in public, or in the privacy of their own homes?

Many of those who agree with the far right’s racism and xenophobia are not only falling prey to the president’s Hail Mary pass to save control of the House and/or Senate through terrorizing the people with talks of war and invasions, they’re whipping up even further paranoia by declaring that migrants have a super power that enables them to bring extinct diseases back into the American mainstream.

APTOPIX Central America Migrant CaravanAmerica needs a Zanax. Despite Trump’s assurance that the migrant caravan is an invading horde, his words, and those of the Foxy Friends who agree with him, are nothing more than a panicked attempt to continue their icy grip on America’s gonads.

Imagine the desperation that would make you gather up your family, what little you could carry, and force you to walk thousands of miles, to somewhere that you hoped .. didn’t know for sure, but hoped … would grant you sanctuary. This is an apocalyptic scenario. You’ve seen it in movies, in ‘after the end of the world‘ scripts, but this is real life for these migrants.

It is believed that there are two caravans, one traveling thru southern Mexico, and the other just now crossing Guatemala into Mexico. The second group is believed to be mostly the family members of the first caravan. The number of people in both of these caravans fluctuates daily, but is estimated to be between a thousand to five thousand people total. (And, bear in mind, neither of these groups would be converging at any one American border, all at the same time.)

Among the sympathizers to Trump’s cause and senile paranoia are the citizen militia, who, with significant armament, are hoping to join the even more heavily armed 15,000 troops, 20,000 border guards, and 10,000 Nation Guard members gathering to dispel .. with brute force and severe prejudice – the few thousand dusty, dirty, thirsty, tired refugees fleeing gang violence and government corruption in Honduras.

Sadly.. those migrants are walking right into the unwelcoming arms of America’s own home-grown violence and government corruption.

america is not the home of the brave anymoreThe sight of this gang of tens of thousands, shoulder to shoulder against these desperate people, should be the most humiliating spectacle that America ever hopes to see. Home of the Brave? No, it’s the land of the loose bowelled, chicken shits.

As of November 2nd, the caravans are in Matias Romero, a town in the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca. They are at least several weeks away from reaching the United States, although the Department of Homeland Security – well known for fudging and outright lying of facts – has said they could arrive at the border somewhere in between four days and two weeks from now.

I guess if they all grow wings it’s possible. But these are families, that include women, children, and at least one newborn who made her appearance just a day or two ago.

american gestapoI can draw a straight line from the ‘no room at the inn‘ prejudice and xenophobia of 2000 years ago to the cruelty and barbarism we’re seeing at the American border today. Two thousand years later, what these ‘warriors’ choose to cloak themselves in on a Sunday morning doesn’t look very much like Christianity at all.

This is Trump’s Last Stand, this desperate Mexican standoff, and he’s got all of his hopes pinned on his belief that America will believe the lies and hyperventilation that he, his administration and FOX News have poured into the far right’s ears like so much aural poison. I am hoping that Americans are smarter, and better human beings, than that.

World compassion

I want to believe that justice will prevail in America. I want to believe that there will be a fair election, and that America and the world will be able to believe that the results of the voting are just and true, and show the real will of the people.

That’s what I want to believe, America. That’s what I need to believe. All you have to do, America, is listen to your better angels. Listen to them now, while they still live.

 

Our Flag is Red and White


biggest protest in canadaCanadians … we love our country, but that’s never stopped us from having our beefs with how it’s run. Unlike many other countries, we feel free to speak up about what angers us. For all our reputation of being a polite and respectful people, we reserve the right to disagree with those who would impose their will upon the nation.

We love our healthcare, but are aware it needs tweaking to be all that it should be. We know that it is not ‘greedy’ or ‘entitled’ to demand that the healthcare that we pay for with our taxes, works for every Canadian.

We love our democracy, but want to ensure that we remain democratic, which calls for electoral reform. We don`t want to run the risk of any party taking control of the system and bending it to it`s favour – we won’t accept trickery or gerrymandering in our elections.

don't do it againMany were angry at the direction we took in the last decade, under the Conservative prime minister . We now have a Liberal prime minister, and likely just as many have issues with his party. In our Canadian way, we will protest against what we dislike, and in due course, vote for the direction we would like to have in the future.

Because this is not a “my country – love it or leave it‘ place, we can and will criticize those in power, and insist upon our right to do so.

On July 1, we honoured the establishment of Confederation in 1867. But the interesting thing about the adoption of the July 1867 date is that, at that time, Canada consisted of only four provinces; Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. While Canada Day acknowledges an important national milestone, it’s not really celebrating all of the country we now call Canada.

Nor does the concept of Canada Day include the indigenous peoples who were here before the settlers came from Europe. Even our national anthem ignores the fact that this is not our native land. Instead, we live ON native land, 89% of which is Crown Land administered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and still in dispute, hundreds of years after the first treaties were written.

resistance150The First Nations people have been here for over 13,000 years, and for many, the celebration of Canada Day amounts to ” celebrating resource extraction of our territories. The Indian Act is still in place. The government is not allowing First Nations to have a voice. So why would I ever celebrate?”” (Anishinaabe traditional storyteller and teacher Isaac Murdoch.)

The #Resistance150 movement was created nearly eight months ago by Murdoch, Michif visual artist Christi Belcourt, Cree activist Tanya Kappo and Métis author Maria Campbell, as the group discussed the festivities planned by the Liberal government for Canada 150. They found it increasingly difficult to accept that the government, while giving lip service to plans of reconciliation, continued to ignore the ongoing fraught relationships between native Canadians and the rest of Canada.

Canada150 protestTheir resistance movement was developed to inspire other indigenous people to reclaim what they lost during colonization; their land, language and traditional ways.

The group created a camp for indigenous children and youth to attend called Nimkii Aazhibikong on Ompa Lake, located about 20 kilometres north of Elliott Lake, Ont. this year. Here the children can immerse themselves in traditional languages, explore their culture, and discover their environment under the tutelage of visiting local elders.

“Beyond attention to culture, Murdoch`s group also wishes to send a strong message on the negative effects of climate change and the First Nations longstanding dispute with the government over land ownership.

All over the country there’s this free-for-all in resource extraction that’s happening,” he said. “First Nations people are screaming and saying, ‘No’ and Canada just keeps saying, ‘Yes.’”

first-nations-elections-law-oct15-9-638On top of sounding the alarm over how resource extraction and pollution is hurting the environment, Murdoch said the #Resistance150 movement is also calling for the abolition of the Indian Act, which was first introduced in 1857 by the British colonial government, and reads very much like a treatise from the Southern Baptist religionists banning dancing in the 1984 film Footloose. Cruel, vindictive and petty, the Act aimed to crush the people and their culture, by any means available.

” Over the next hundred years the Indian Act was amended a number of times but each time was aimed at a more efficient means of assimilating First Nations into white society. The Act was amended to ban the “Sun Dance” an important ritual among the Lakota and other Plains aboriginal cultures. On the west coast the “Pot Latch”, an elaborate ceremony of feasting and gift giving was also banned. With an eye to forced assimilation, the Act authorized the forced removal of children to Residential Schools and stripped any Indian who obtained a University Education or Ordination of his rights under the Act.

The act vested title to reserve land to the Crown represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs deeming it “Crown Land set aside for the use of a Band of Indians.”

The 1876 act also made it illegal for an Indian to sell or produce goods without the written permission of the local Indian Agent, who became the de-facto ruler of Indians on reserve. (this includes fruits, vegetables, and farming, to this day.) Indian Agents had to give written permission for Indians who wanted to leave the reserve for any reason.

Status Indians were not allowed to vote until 1961.”

When I speak with many middle aged to older Canadians about the past, present and future of our First Nations people, whether status or non, it’s clear there is a confusion in what is believed to be true and what is fact. Sadly, the contents of the Truth and Reconciliation documents mean little if you’ve already made a pre-judgment on the nature of a people.

However, fairness and justice is what we should be working towards, for all Canadians. There are specific problems that need to be addressed amongst indigenous people. Some of these problems are brought about by where the reserves are located. There are currently about 150 long-term and short-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities that are difficult to reach in good weather, and impossible to reach in winter.

In some of these far flung communities, suicide rates, especially among the young, are five to seven times higher than the national average.

First Nations and Metis are 2-3 times higher at risk for diabetes than the non-Aboriginal population, while tuberculosis – almost nonexistent among non-Aboriginals, is 26.4 times more prevalent in First Nations Canadians.

Canada Day 20170701I am proud of my country, but I know that my country has to include ALL of it’s people – those who came before us, and those who will join us in the future – to be strong and united. As a country, we can do so much better. And I have faith that we will work towards being a better, stronger, fairer country in the coming years.

In an article on what it means to be a Canadian, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ” “This is something we are able to do in this country, because we define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background, but by a set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people and the world share.”

And as writer Mike MacNeil responded to those concerned that the Canada Day150 celebrations ignored Canadian history and absolved us of our crimes against the First Nations people, “ It”s not the pilfering and genocide that’s being celebrated. It’s instead – and finally – the recognition that something positive is being done to correct decades of misuse and mistreatment. It’s slow, granted. It’s imperceptible, granted. The pace of change could be infinitely faster, granted. But the change – however it’s characterized – is there.”

And that’s Canadian, eh.

Inaction and Consequences


There are risks and costs to action…But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.          John F. Kennedy – 1917-1963, 35th U.S. President

Somewhere along the line – was it in the disco 70s? The ‘Me” decade of the 80’s? The Naughty 90’s? The despair of the Noughties?

Somewhere in there, we lost our way.rox-1964-5th-grade-lacademie-assomption

In the 1950s, we were all shook up, and in the sixties, we tuned in, turned on, and changed the world. We believed in ourselves and that our actions had global impact. And we were right.

But all that action was exhausting.  We couldn’t keep it up, and we were busy patting ourselves on the back for being so hip and cool and groovy. We had used our flower power to launch a civil rights movement, and to stop an unjust war! The U.S. landed a man on the moon! Now we dance!

civil rights 60s protest.jpgRetribution for the changes we had wrought came swiftly. Those who hate change targeted those who encouraged change. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy – all assassinated for daring to dream of a better world.

Racism and ignorance tore the bright and shiny dreams of peace and equality of the sixties into shreds, and now, it threatens to do so again. The way forward is not paved with bullets and brutality. The raised voice and fist of dictatorship enslaves;  it does not elevate a people or a culture, it tramples them into the ground.

Our years of ‘comfortable inaction’ have birthed some of the worst, most self-indulgent, and reprehensible political representatives of all time. Around the world, and at every level of government, the choices are dismal, with little to discern one corrupt, manipulative and greedy candidate from another.

Before you point the finger – know that you did this to yourselves. Know that wanting our own well-being at any cost, opting for indulgences as we decimated the middle class, slotting anyone who didn’t look or act like us into the reject pile of life … all of these ‘inactions,’  in the name of comfort, created the monsters we now see before us.

walle_interactionThe years of focusing on what made us happy; on choosing the cheap over the well-made (and in that group, I include the ‘heroes’ we pedestaled;) the crude and ugly brutality of racism and bigotry whipped up by leaders who chose fear of others as their platforms; the laziness of passionate if largely uninformed opinion over fact and reason; the years of “too long: didn’t read”  – all of those   combined – have given us the governments we deserve.

govt-we-deserveWe lost belief in ourselves, and demanded less of our leaders. We lost sight of the fact that every action we take has global impact. We refused responsibility. We chose comfort for ourselves over the welfare of the planet.

The actions we could have, and should have, taken in controlling our voracious greed for wealth and power, never happened.

And now we are reaping the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

Privilege …. is Such a Lonely Word


I already had a column drafted and ready for editing this morning, but my muse took a hard left turn and demanded a re-write.

I wanted to talk about how important it is to be true to yourself; in your own life, in the way you present to your loved ones, and the realities of pursuing the path by which you pay your bills. But all of that sounds rather pretentious, in the face of current events.

What I came to realize is that the only reason that old, white women like me can spend any time at all dreaming of improving themselves and their surroundings – never mind assuming that anyone else would be interested in reading those thoughts –  is that we have ‘privilege.

privilegeI know that’s a dirty word to many. “If I’m so privileged, why can’t I get a decent job? Why do I struggle just to make ends meet? Tell ME about privilege, when I grew up poor, with an abusive family, and no chance at a decent education!?”

And all of that is valid. You probably DID and ARE getting a raw deal on some aspects of your life. We live in troubled times of massive fiscal inequality. That you were able to fight your way through the obstacles, and are currently reading this on your cellphone/laptop/desktop/magic mirror, shows that you drew on all of your resources, and triumphed.

But what you didn’t do, if you were born white, was wake up every day, look into the mirror, and see visible proof that you were a minority, with all of the attendant prejudices that an accident of birth conferred upon you.

privilege types.pngJust by being born white, in Canada or the U.S., you won a lottery you never knew you’d entered. If you were also born male, able-bodied, straight, and into a family that was financially stable, you lucked into a super bonus.  Something you had no say in, no choice, granted certain privileges on you from the day you entered this world.

Not all privilege is exactly the same. Where we are in terms of ‘class,’ as an economic indicator, also affects what we can expect to access in higher education, and with whom we can expect to interact. justice fishcartoon.jpgOne kind of privilege doesn’t add or subtract from another – being discriminated against for having non-white skin doesn’t negate being discriminated against for being female, or non-straight, old, or disabled … all of these factors have bearing, and cannot be minimalized.

But if you woke up this morning, and a white face looked back at you from the mirror, you faced one less challenge than those who saw a face of another colour in their reflection. As rich and famous as Oprah Winfrey is, she still encounters those who think her unworthy of holding corporate power, and is not immune from discrimination in a luxury Zurich handbag store.

And you can just get off your high horse of pretending that systemic racism is only a problem in the U.S. Yes, their problem is more visible, and more violent, and yes, the spectacle of an openly racist presidential candidate whipping up the basest of armed citizens, potentially leading to Civil War II, is horrific.

But Canada’s treatment of First Nations people is despicable. Denying that it isn’t our own flavour of racism doesn’t address the very real injustices perpetrated against the people who were here before us.

Consider this commonplace incident that occurred yesterday, in Calgary. RCMP, making an arrest, entered a home on the Siksika First Nation around 6 a.m. The RCMP are alleged to have battered an Alberta First Nation man, hauling him naked from his home and bringing him to a detachment before realizing he needed an ambulance.

christian-duck-chief.jpg“Christian Duck Chief, 23, is recovering from a broken eye socket, fractured cheek bone, fracture to the back of his head and a broken nose.

Duck Chief and his wife say they were sleeping in their home on the Siksika First Nation southeast of Calgary Friday when RCMP from the Gleichen detachment entered their home around 6 a.m. to arrest him.

They acknowledge Duck Chief struggled at first, saying he was on his stomach when woken and didn’t know it was police. But they allege an RCMP officer hit him at least 20 times after he stopped struggling and shouted that he wasn’t resisting, even as he lay handcuffed on the floor.

Duck Chief — who has been charged in connection with the incident — and his lawyer said the force used by the officer was excessive.
….
(The couple) suspect the arrest occurred either because a friend had visited them the night before in a stolen vehicle or that RCMP wrongly believed Duck Chief was still under a bail condition that he not be in the home with his wife.

Duck Chief said he struggled at first because he thought someone had broken into their home and was attacking them, and initially bit the officer’s finger. He has been charged in connection to the incident.” (cbc.ca)

That scenario is almost as Kafkaesque as the spectacle of Philando Castile’s girlfriend talking calmly and calling the officer ‘Sir’, as he forced her out of the car and onto her knees after he shot her boyfriend dead in front of her and her four-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop.

who police killed in 2015Do either of those scenarios, of the First Nations man in Alberta, or the man in Minnesota who died from a broken taillight, strike you as something that would happen to a white citizen? That this would be the subject of a discussion heavily loaded with justifications to decide if the victims deserved what happened to them? No. Privilege.

The people of colour in the U.S., and the First Nations people in Canada, are both being told that their very real fear of the police and authorities must be addressed in calm, respectful, and reverent tones.  While those who beat and kill them are not held to anywhere near the same standards.

blm-torontoThe us-against-them-against-who now?  arguments that broke out last week over the actions of BLM-TO (Black Lives Matter – Toronto) at the Pride parade exemplifies how divided even minorities have become, and how quick we are to pick a side. As emotions subside, speakers from both the BLM community and the LGBTQ community have moved to a middle ground of understanding. There have been talks, apologies, and re-commitments to values.

Except for white people. White people are still using real and imagined information about the actions of two beleaguered minorities, adding in the public attitudes on policing, finally declaring one side or the other a villain. It’s not even their battle! But that’s how privilege works … you still expect to not only have a right to an opinion on something you have not personally experienced, you believe your opinion should be heard and agreed upon.

Privilege.

Earlier this week, the executives in charge of Toronto’s CNE events made a disastrous faux pas, and announced that disabled patrons would no longer receive complimentary entry, citing a need for ‘equality.’

CNE.jpgThe CNE has posted the policy change on its website, saying it strives to respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” Caregivers can still get in free.

Am I reading that right? The disabled will pay, but their (presumably non-disabled) caretakers will get in free? What an odd definition of equality!

Their publicity department insisted, self-righteously, that their decision was solely based on allowing all fair-goers equal entry, despite the reality of the thousands of free passes that are given to city councillors, employees of other attractions, anyone famous enough to be recognized at the Gates, and, ultimately, their own friends.

While the City weaseled out of the fight by fobbing off critique while they ‘discussed’ the situation, it fell to disability advocate and former Lieutenant Governor David Onley to lead a charge of harsh criticism, which forced the CNE to reverse their decision. They caved, as bullies will, when their petty actions are shown to be discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Public opinion, bolstered by social media, brought too much negative attention to the parsimony.

“The CNE had argued it simply wanted to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else. But Onley said the decision was purely economic and if the CNE was truly concerned with equality, it should look at the number of people with disabilities it employs — a figure general manager Virginia Ludy didn’t know when asked on Wednesday.

Onley also said some 1.8 million Ontarians have some kind of disability and, of those, more than 400,000 live on Ontario Disability Support Program payments. That amounts to about $14,000 a year plus medical benefits, “meaning that you live in a state of virtual poverty … it’s not a good state,” Onley said.“

Privilege puts money above compassion and empathy. It bandies the word ‘equality’  about, while ignoring the reality of those who are physically or economically challenged.

Canada Post.pngNothing is too low for those who use blunt force to achieve their ends. Look to the actions of Canada Post CEO, Deepak Chopra, who has forced his will upon postal workers by refusing to continue talks. He’ll lock out the workers, and impose a stoppage of mail, eventually forcing the workers to take whatever he’ll decide to give them.

Some of the issues? Equal pay. In 2016, the same 2016 that Trudeau used as a banner and a reason to have a gender-even counsel, we’re dithering on whether men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. But for Canada Post, apparently equal pay is just not ‘this year’ enough.

“”Our rural and suburban mail carrier unit, which is predominately made up of women, get paid 28 per cent less than their predominantly male counterparts in the urban operations unit for doing the exact same work.””

Pensions are also on the table. “a two-tier pension system might become the reality for postal workers. Canada Post wants the union to accept a defined contribution plan for new employees. “The proposed change would alter the plan such that the contributions made by each worker would be set, but there would be no guarantee of the benefits they would receive in retirement,” wrote rabble labour reporter Teuila Fautai”

No guarantees in retirement. Well …  isn’t that comforting. Tell me how this can be justified by CEOs and government officials whose handsome pensions are locked down and guaranteed, ensuring they’ll live out their golden years in comfort.

Privilege.

Check-Your-PrivilegeIt’s all around you, and tied up in bows that dissolve in your hands, leaving those of visible and invisible minorities with nothing but slime to show for the strident claims of equality and justice for all.  Those with privilege point to laws and regulations designed to create a level playing field, and dismiss the cries of those who note that those fields are often studded with landmines, and protected from access by the high cost of pursuing justice in the courts.

No one is saying that it’s a crime to be straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied or male. There’s no need to don hair shirts or self-flagellate for the circumstances of your birth, no need to feel guilty for enjoying those privileges. In fact … please DO enjoy them! They are your birthright!

What those who have been denied access to the same privileges simply ask for is an acknowledgment of those differences. They ask that we be aware of how much more difficult it can be to compete in a world where others will never comprehend what it’s like to have to work twice as hard, just to be considered almost equal to a peer who has never known the same adversities or discriminations.

tolerating-intoleranceb.jpgUntil then, it seems we’ll live in a world where ‘tolerance’ is defined as not immediately killing those who don’t look like you.

 

(first published July 10/16 … bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/roxanne-tellier-privilege-is-such-a-lonely-word/)

 

Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City


Bruce Springsteen’s refusal to play North Carolina because of new, drastic LGBT laws might have shocked some people, but it didn’t surprise me at all.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cancelled their Greensboro, NC concert because of the state’s new law blocking anti-discrimination rules for the LGBTQ community. The so called “bathroom law” clause in the bill forbids transgender people from using the restroom that matches the gender they identify with, and that’s a real problem for transgendered people.

missippi bathroom lawsSo far, North Carolina is just the latest state to go this route, following in the footsteps of Mississippi and those looking to do something similar: Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.   As of last Tuesday, the National Center for Transgender Equality was tracking 49 bills across America, 32 of which dealt with bathroom access. More than a third (12) of those bathroom bills are still actively being considered.

From Funny or Die …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqASSN5S2CI

Also tucked inside North Carolina’s HB2 act is a sneaky little Trojan horse that strips workers in the state of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion, you no longer have a basic remedy,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh.

Conservative media and internet pundits sprang to attention at Springsteen’s decision. Most postings were sad admissions of the lack of truly ‘conservative ‘artists, and the pain it caused them to  have to be exposed to thoughts unlike their own, all in the name of entertainment. Like this poor fellow …

 “if I refused to watch any movie or show, listen to any music or laugh at any jokes by people who are flaming liberals, entertainment options would probably come down to a choice between Ron White or watching paint dry.”

States-transgender-lawRepublican Mark Walker unwisely weighed in on the controversy. “I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

No, sir – it’s the state that’s doing the bullying. Springsteen is reacting to discrimination, and the loss of civil rights, levied by the state. And so is PayPal, recently cancelling its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, that would have employed 400 people, following the passage of the law. Add to that basketball great Charles Barkley, who has urged the National Basketball Association to move its All-Star Game next year away from Charlotte, N.C., unless the law is repealed.

Springsteen’s been down this road before – remember Sun City?

sun city artists againstSpringsteen, Steve Van Zandt, producer Arthur Baker and journalist Danny Schechter gathered  together what rock critic Dave Marsh called  “the most diverse line up of popular musicians ever assembled for a single session,” in 1985 to record an album, and video, protesting apartheid in South Africa. The artists also pledged to never perform at Sun City, as long as apartheid was an issue. The group were dubbed Artists United Against Apartheid.

The Sun City video, described by Schecter as “a song about change not charity, freedom not famine,” featured  Miles Davis , Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Clarence Clemons, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah, Bono, Peter Wolf, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Stiv Bators, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil Scott-Heron, Nona Hendryx, Lotti Golden, Lakshminarayana Shankar and Joey Ramone, with the signature background vocal sound created by Lotti Golden, B.J.Nelson and Tina B.

From Wikipedia: “The song “Sun City” was only a modest success in the US, reaching #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1985. Only about half of American radio stations played “Sun City,” with some objecting to the lyrics’ explicit criticism of President Ronald Reagan’s policy of “constructive engagement.” Meanwhile, “Sun City” was a major success in countries where there was little or no radio station resistance to the record or its messages, reaching #4 in Australia, #10 in Canada and #21 in the UK. The song was banned in South Africa.”

Said Jackson Browne at the time, “Sun City’s become a symbol of a society which is very oppressive and denies basic rights to the majority of its citizens. In a sense, Sun City is also a symbol of that society’s ‘right’ to entertain itself in any way that it wants to, to basically try to buy us off and to buy off world opinion.”

Could the Boss have seen North Carolina’s new law as anything other than “very oppressive and a denial of basic rights?”  Of course not.

The apartheid regime in South Africa finally ended in 1994.But injustice and discrimination flourish around the world.

Almost unknown, and virtually invisible, is a newer group against apartheid, this time in artists against apartheidthe Middle East. (ArtistsAgainstApartheid.org). No matter which side of the political fence you or your country are on, this group has the right to organize and protest.

“Artists Against Apartheid Declaration of 2010: Artists Against Apartheid is an international alliance committed to Equal Rights and Justice, and the elimination of apartheid in our world. While crimes of apartheid are ongoing in Palestine-Israel, we will stand in solidarity with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS,) and the cultural boycott of Israel.”

A quick search on ‘artists against discrimination’ nets hundreds of thousands of results, from all over the globe, from Australia, to France, and to Mexico, with all stops in between and around.

We don’t hear much about the Guerrilla Girls, a protest group launched in 1985, that call themselves “the conscience of the art world.”  And as they admit, after 30 years of protest, there’s been very little change.

ageism after sexismNor do we hear about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receiving more than 19,000 age discrimination complaints in each of the past two years.

That’s why it’s important when artists of Springsteen’s stature take a stance on injustice. As he said, he could have confined himself to making a political statement from the stage during the concert, but cancelling the concert, which officials have told the media will cost the Greensboro Coliseum a loss of about $100,000, “ is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Most of us can’t make a big dent on injustice. The old saw about ‘voting with your wallet’ can certainly help turn the tide in some commercial issues,  but when governments pass laws that cause companies to decide against investing in your state, and artists to refuse to entertain you, the dilemma that the Religious Right and many Republican states must face becomes clear … as much as you may want and need jobs and entertainment, you’re gonna have to decide which is more important –  your fiscal duties or your need to control other peoples’ genitalia.

Interesting Times


May you live in interesting times.” Not a blessing, some say, but a curse, as though only times of peace and contentment are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Perhaps we mean it ironically, as all times, across all eras, have had interesting aspects. Specific conditions change, but people still bend or break in reaction. Those who lived through the Great Depression, World Wars, Kennedy’s assassination, the Age of Aquarius, and the onset of the Computer Age, came out the other end either subtly or grossly altered. And those who look back fondly at rosy tinted times are prisoners of nostalgia, blinded by imaginings that neatly snip out the bits that disturb the dream.

beauty in chaosSo many dread and fear changes to their lives, and yet, there can be great beauty in chaos. Certainly, coping with new information can be problematic, but without profound change, we are static and boring. We even bore ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a forced march through our days, stuck deep in a rut of habit and preconceptions. Creativity demands a spur. You cannot rage against that with which you have not grappled.

We can try to hide away when change threatens our equilibrium. Or we can rush toward change, willing to embrace whatever life throws at us. Either way, change will come. The only difference will be in how you accept the inevitable.  Will you accommodate the newness, incorporating what is different, and weaving its strands into your existence? Or will you rail impotently at what is to come, in a foolish attempt to cling to the past, to slow down what cannot be stopped?  The present doesn’t care. The present continually dances to each new reality, with or without your approval.

The refusal to embrace change has reached its zenith in American politics. Long groomed by the Religious Right and a lockstep Republican party‘s fanatical refusal and repudiation of science and actual facts, a good part of the nation now stumbles along behind the Godzilla of Gaslighting, a man so devoid of empathy for his fellow man (or woman) that he feels free to tar whole segments of humanity with his own prejudices and biases. A textbook narcissist, willing to say or do anything to stay in the spotlight, and keep a constant stream of attention upon his silly self, he manipulates his followers through their nostalgic yearning for happier times … Make America Great Again, he cries, as though only he has Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to the future. The future he’s selling, though, seems to have to first detour through the past.

He wants to return America to the “good old days,” when life was simple. Well, simple for a certain segment of society, before civil rights and equal rights. Not so good, and a giant step backwards, for women, people of colour, or immigrants, be they legal or illegal.

we hope we despairHis followers yearn for an America that never existed except on film. They are led not so much by what he says, but what they fear – reality itself. They want to stop the world, just for a while, “just until we figure out what’s going on.”  He’s going to make life all better, more understandable, and “you’re gonna love it. There will be so much winning, you’ll get sick of winning.”

Like a slimy, used car salesman , the Sultan of Slurs seduces with words of no more than three syllables, absolutely devoid of facts or actual plans, and replete with self-aggrandizement. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs producing President that God ever created. I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people.”

TheTrumpHouse.jpgDespite zero political experience, and a chequered, peppered with bankruptcy, past, he has nonetheless captured the lazy and the selfish, those who have yet to grasp that they are being sold a bill of goods. It seems almost preordained – behold your next President, brought to you by a media that prizes sound bites over content, the election reduced to a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer. And bought by those too foolish to grasp the precept, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Meanwhile, politicians with actual platforms run smack into that same unwillingness to grasp change, or hope for the future. After declaring in Ohio that her coal plan would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary Clinton, with almost terminal foot in mouth disease, was soundly booed and condemned by coal country lawmakers.  Meanwhile, the $30 billion alternative being offered for investment in the clean-energy economy was completely dismissed. Because, yes, there will be more jobs in clean energy, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in coal mining, it’s a leap too far, particularly for people with little confidence in current government And especially since, as former Representative Barney Frank put it, “the likelihood that 58-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.

That guy is more likely to be thinking, “if Black Lung and lung cancer were good enough for my dad … they’re good enough for me.”

nothing but a twigDespair. Fear.  Anger.  So much anger.  Anger that simmers just below the surface, until released in the form of the fist of a 78-year old man, sucker punching a young, black dissenter. A  mindless, impotent, unending anger against politicians, Wall Street, terrorists, immigrants snatching the few remaining jobs, governments kinder to corporations than its voting citizens. Anger against a dream denied, a life that might have been, a life ‘as seen on TV.’  An anger that is fear disguised as action and reaction.

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” Rebecca Solnit

The stories that are told to us, and the stories we tell ourselves, about our pasts, our presents, and our possible futures, reflect only one aspect at a time. If the narrator chooses to emphasize the negative over the positive, our emotions can be twisted, causing us to accept or reject the narrative. It’s often very much in how you look at things that determines how the experience ends.opportunities

This same society, this same world, which can be perceived as cold and unforgiving, can also be a place of wonder and delight. Each step forward, plagued as it can be by those who resent change, represents shifts in ideas and perspectives. Social change is happening. The very framework of how we view sexuality is shifting.  There are progressive advances in the sciences that we would never have anticipated, even months ago. All of these marvels are going on in real time, minute by minute. But if your expectations are shaped by those who desperately cling to the past, you’ll be stuck back there with them. If all you are focused on is what is temporarily amusing, or that which jibes with your own, delicate, beliefs, you’ll blink and miss glimpses of your future.

We have little control over the times in which we live. Indeed, no one has total control of anything, or anyone, other than themselves, and even that doesn’t always run smooth. So you may as well surrender to uncertainty. When we are willing to step into the unknown, free from all preconceptions, those ‘interesting times’ become the opening notes to a symphony of possibilities.

 

(first pubished March 20/16: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/roxanne-tellier-interesting-times/)