Giant Meteor Wins By A Landslide!


by Roxanne Tellier

Anyone paying attention to the primaries in New Hampshire last week?

If you thought it was about Bernie vs Buttigieg, you missed out on the best option that New Hampshirites were offered …. 

“Would you rather see a giant meteor strike the earth, extinguishing all human life? Or see President Trump re-elected?”

Sixty-four percent of the voters, including 68% of women polled, opted for the giant meteor and a fiery death, rather than four more years of trump. Me too.  

Truthfully, though, there WAS a giant asteroid heading straight for Earth this week. Apparently, it just skimmed by us. If you were asleep yesterday at 6:05 a.m., you slept through it.

I was rooting for the giant asteroid, but apparently, we’re gonna go by coronavirus instead. Ah well, either way, something massive seems to be en route to save the planet – not the people, but hopefully other living creatures, flora and fauna. About time. They deserve a break from humanity’s unending cruelty and selfishness.

I love the planet, but the people? Gotta go. We’re a virus on the earth, like a legion of marauding Huns or Vikings. Man has used, abused, raped, and defiled as much of the planet as they can get to, and is on track to find the last of the pristine land to despoil, all to have somewhere upon which to deposit their excrement and garbage.

Failing that quest, it’s off to other planets, by Space Force apparently. This garbage has to go somewhere!

We don’t deserve this planet. Maybe we never did. Or maybe we did for a while, but then we got off track, and let our ugliest selves take over. I don’t know. I just live here.

I’ve long come to the realization that those who deny climate change, despite the words of 97% of scientists, are fundamentally selfish, and unable to accept the responsibility and accountability for their actions. After all, if you agree that the climate is changing, and that our abuse of the planet has had a hand in damaging it, then you have to agree that we all have to do something about it.

It just makes sense to want a world where everyone can breathe cleaner air, and drink purer water. I want my kids and grandkids to have a life in a naturally beautiful nation, where they can enjoy the same wonders that I did as a child, and as my parents did, and as my grandparents did. I want them to be able to revel in the beauty that we took for granted for centuries, without having to first slog through and deal with other people’s trash and waste.

And that kind of accountable, grown up, respectful of others thinking just doesn’t seem to work for those who believe it is their absolute right, told to them right there in the Bible, that this land is theirs to do with as they wish.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Even those that haven’t darkened so much as a community centre, never mind a church, in decades take that as their licence to do as they please to a supine, and apparently passive and powerless, earth and her creatures.

Might not keep on being so easy, though, in the next few decades, or even years.  Seems like Mother Nature is getting a tad peeved.  

The forecast calls for a whole lot of weather events on their way, with phasers set on stun – colder winters, hotter summers, heatwaves, floods, and forest fires, as sea levels rise and take out the coasts. Lots more bugs and biting things, because of the heat and damp. There’ll be more frequent and more violent hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.

More than half of the living creatures that roamed the earth when I was a kid are long gone, and my grandkids will likely only know many beautiful, and now extinct, animals solely by seeing their pictures in books. We’re cutting down rain forests, biodiverse woodlands, and ancient trees, in order to plant palm oil trees to make face cream, and in the process, we are destroying the homes many wild animals need to survive.

Where exactly do you think the wild things go when their world is on fire?

And where exactly do you think WE will go when our world is too dirty, polluted and just plain unliveable for our children to survive, BESIDES being on fire or under water? 

And that, my dears, is why I was rooting for the giant asteroid all week. A quick ‘boom!’ and that’s it – no more worrying about how our selfish greed has soured the futures of our heirs. You won’t even have to study for that end of term exam. All good! And all gone!  (armageddon.jpg)

It seems that the alternative – to dig down deep, and find the resources and will to turn this car crash around – are beyond the abilities or will of most world leaders.

But on the bright side, they say the economy was booming.

——————————————————

On a lighter note, I was thinking about the American cities that are getting really angry at trump, and now pence, who have a habit of cruising into towns to throw a rally/party – and then skating on the tab. Apparently that tab, which inevitably winds up being downloaded onto the cities, and ultimately the tax prayers, is way past the million dollar mark. And mayors are getting angry. Justifiably. How will THEY run for re-election, when only a portion of their taxpayers are picking up the bill for a GOP rally they neither asked for nor wanted?

I have come up with a plan for those mayors. No need to thank me.

First, get your people on board. As more and more people opt for giant meteors instead of those four more years, it should be easy to convince the bulk of your citizens that paying for the freeloader and his hangers on to party on their dime just isn’t worth it. If you’ve got some really rabid trumpsters against the plan, maybe send them off to another city for the day, one that has one of those 3D IMAX screens and the latest super hero movie playing. Expensive. But remember – your OWN re-election is at stake!

So then, here’s the deal. Air Force One taxis into your city for a rally … but there’s no one there to greet them. The airport is empty.

Trump’s handlers fling open the plane’s plug door to discover there’s no waiting flight of stairs. After several minutes of discussion, and despite Melania’s complaints, the crew, along with trump and his camp followers, decide they’ll have to use the emergency exit slide, and hope they can rouse the airport’s landing crew later. 

There’s no motorcade waiting, so trump and his goons get into a convoy of luggage carts and putt putt towards the arena where he’s supposed to speak, but – it’s locked! Not a creature is stirring, not even an attendant to let them in.

But in the parking lot, the out of town, trump faithful are gathered, crowding around their pickup trucks and RVs bearing trump positive stickers. A lot of overly excited, red faced and red hatted people are alternating tossing their garbage on to the pavement, and eating each other’s pets on tailgate grills, cuz there’s no food stalls open.

Wisely, the Secret Service throw a bag over trump’s head before he can see the faithful, and launch into a Nuremburg-worthy rant.

The VIP golf cart cortege putt putts into the city, but there’s not a soul on the streets. You could shoot a cannon down Main Street, and not hit anyone. Pompeo gives it a try with a ceremonial cannon he finds on a war memorial.

There’s no response when trump’s Secret Service detail empty their pistols into a closed hot dog vendor’s stall. The odd vertical blind twitches in a window, but the city is otherwise silent and still. (Tell your people not to giggle.)

The minions huddle to strategize, but, with no cheering crowds, trump’s getting very whiny. If they can’t find some loyal trumplodytes soon, or at least a couple of scoops of ice cream, there’s gonna be trouble.

When the luggage carts run out of gas, the decision is made for them – they need to move out. But trump and his goons now have to limp back to the airport, carrying trump, who refuses to walk, and is having a tantrum, his arms and legs flailing as the tears fall, and all of that drama makes it even harder for the Secret Service to carry him.

Melania gamely chooses to walk as well, despite having broken a nail. When a light drizzle begins to fall, she’s grateful to have remembered to bring her favorite rain jacket. 

Hours later, they get back to the airport, the plane’s been jacked up, and three of its wheels are missing.

You can flesh out the rest of the plan to suit your own city, Mr Mayor. And … you’re welcome.

Tags: DBAWIS, Bob Segarini, Roxanne Tellier, Giant Meteor, New Hampshire. Space Force. Bible, Mother Nature, 3D IMAX,  Air Force One, Secret Service, save the planet, extinction

Revenge of the Creature Redux


by Roxanne Tellier

America was never ‘perfect,’ despite the first settler’s early claims that ‘manifest destiny’ made anything Americans wanted to do, in the name of ‘a more perfect union,’ perfectly fine and utterly legit. 

But while they might have contended that the special virtues of the American people and their institutions made colonialism, slavery, and the unchecked and wholesale, uncontested, swallowing up of the country ‘god’s will’ for the benefit of the powerful, these presumably lofty ideals, and ‘an irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty’ never held much water to the people whose lands were seized in the name of ‘the divine.’ 

Manifest Destiny was the idea that white Americans were divinely ordained to settle the entire continent of North America. The ideology of Manifest Destiny inspired a variety of measures designed to remove or destroy the native population.

Fast forward to February 2020, when the Republican party, lead by an immoral, craven Senate leader, and under the sway of a blatantly avaricious, sadistic, narcissist POTUS, took the whole idea of manifest destiny one step further, and crowned their leader Lord and King of America. 

Although trump was charged with both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the Republican party, in a show of cowardice and cultism unparalleled in modern American history, chose to acquit, thereby finally allowing trump to claim what he always believed to be his due – to be completely above the law, and to ascend to the monarchy.

Analyzing exactly HOW this moment came about would drive a saint mad, but there’s no question that the combination of a virulent social media, combined with a mainstream media desperate for ratings, provided a lack of context and nuance that greased the wheels of weaponizing the words of not just the powerful, but the common man. Trump’s own abuse of Twitter, which he uses in lieu of press conferences or a state media, allows him to avoid actual interaction with those who might have, in better days, used their intelligence and knowledge of history to point out obvious fallacies and wrong thinking.

It boggles the mind, to think that anyone … ANYONE … thought that granting this limitless amount of power – to be above the law, incapable of committing a crime, entitled to scoff at Congressional oversight – should be given to the most corrupt, incapable, malevolent, sadistic, and possibly senile creature ever to soil the carpets of the White House. I am truly left speechless at that calumny.

I honestly can’t even think of any other president in America’s history who would either want or even ACCEPT that power; it is the power of kings, or of a god. 

And sure enough, the morning after the acquittal, while attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast, trump did, indeed, take the time to let speaker Arthur Brooks and the other attendees know that, no, trump did not subscribe to the words of the New Testament or Jesus Christ. In fact, he did not believe that Christians should forgive their enemies. Instead, he would demand unholy retribution.

And as to the very concept of prayer –

he targeted Speaker Pelosi, who has said she prays for Mr. Trump, saying, “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that’s not so.”

Explicitly rejecting the message of tolerance offered at the National Prayer Breakfast just moments before he took the lectern, Mr. Trump — without naming them — singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting just a few feet away at the head table, and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah who voted to convict him, accusing them of hypocrisy for citing their faith while supporting his impeachment.

“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Mr. Trump said. (The New York Times, Feb 7, 2020)

Meanwhile, back at the ‘ranch’ – there’s no one left to speak up against whatever the all powerful POTUS chooses to say or do. Furthermore, since the acquittal, and his subsequent retribution upon those who spoke up against him, it’s unlikely that anyone ever will again.   

Based on our knowledge of who remains to give trump ideas and direction on how best to abuse this godlike power – McConnell, and Stephen Miller amongst the main proponents – AND the historic lack of original thought evidenced by the GOP in the past, I think we can count on what is to come in the next few months to resemble a medley of the greatest hits of Joseph McCarthy, Torquemada, Adolf Hitler, and the tenets of Putin’s beloved KGB, with nods to George Orwell’s 1984.

Trump Jr’s tweet on Friday sent a real chill down my spine. This stank of Big Brother, cruelty and an abuse of power by proxy.

The guardrails of U.S. democracy are definitely falling off.

Trump has begun his reign of terror; Friday was the ‘night of the long knives 2020,’ as Lt Col Alex Vindman AND his twin brother (who had nothing to do with the Lt Col’s testimony) were both frogmarched out of the White House like common criminals. 

Within hours, Gordon Sondland, the loyalist whose ambassadorial position cost him a cool million-dollar donation, was also summarily dismissed.

Most of those who testified, called by subpoenas they did not ignore, have had to leave their posts, whether voluntarily or not.  What was first bullying and intimidation has now become outright vengeance and retribution.

Yes, these actions violate a federal law. It is indeed illegal to retaliate against a witness, victim or an informant. But since trump is now above all laws, he can feel free to act with impunity. I’m gonna guess he’s just getting started. 

We’ve seen how executive pique has punished the trump enemies – ask Puerto Rico what it’s like to try and survive natural disasters after incurring his wrath. Add the states of New York and California to the list – both are learning that there are a million ways to be hobbled when the Attorney General of the United States lives in the POTUS’ pocket.

While trump cannot fire elected officials, he can continue to make life hell for top Democrats, like Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and more, and in the process force them to spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers to clear their names.

On the Sunday political news shows, loyalist Lindsay Graham seemed to be calling for a ‘thorough’ investigation of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, which will, of course, be costly, exhausting, and ultimately cause just enough suspicion – even amongst the leftiest left leaners – to reconsider a vote for Biden.

Is it possible there have already been investigations started on the other candidates? Do Warren, Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg, Yang, and Steyer need to worry? Because, this summer, once a candidate has been selected to run as the Democratic lead, you can bet your bottom dollar that Barr’s Department of (in)Justice will be on them like … you get the picture.

All blatantly political. All filled with malice, and an ego that can never be sated. All very third world, banana republic, where those who dissent are imprisoned. And all with the zeal of a convert who simply can’t stop flagellating those who might have different beliefs.

And, according to Alan Dershowitz, none of his actions will be illegal, now or forever, if he’s leading from his ‘heart,’ in believing that the use of government services and tax payer money to smear his opponents, is in the nation’s best interest. 

Neither the DOJ nor the corrupt Republicans of the Senate will expect or coerce trump to obey any of America’s laws. His illegal retaliation against those who testified of his illegal actions will be ignored. It remains to be seen if Defense Secretary Mark Esper, or the Department of Defense, who swore to Vindman that they would see that he did not suffer retaliation or reprisals, will keep those promises. Even the DOD may find itself powerless against a fascist dictator, unhinged, and unchained from any form of accountability.

What you see every day becomes normalized, no matter how awful, no matter how evil. With trump, the evil is baked into the cake, as it has been since his childhood. A certain type of American citizen has not only accepted trump’s version of reality, they have revelled in it, delighted in the racism, bullying, and xenophobia.

Can those who are disgusted and angry with politics in America find a savior to vote for, to lead them out of this wilderness, in November? I don’t know. I hope so. But meanwhile, as these white nationalists with the group “Patriot Front” marched through Washington DC yesterday, it’s hard not to be mindful of the quote from Orwell’s 1984

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Democracy Died in Daylight


by Roxanne Tellier

In the last several years, I’ve written umpteen thousands of words about the trump presidency. I’ve tried my best to point readers and voters towards the truth of what so many warned us about – a rogue presidency ending in political, financial, and physical disaster for American citizens.

Three years into his disastrous reign, the damage being inflicted on the people, their institutions, and, sadly, their psyches, is no longer up for question. If there is to be any hope for the country in the future, it will require decades of labour, just to bring things back to where they were in November 2016, when Trump won the Electoral College, after losing the popular vote to Clinton by 2.8 million votes.

Whether America will ever get the chance to even start that repair, is now moot.

Despite the guardrails set in place by the Founders and the Constitution, trump has successfully kept two of the three governing branches under his thumb, coupled with his having put two trump loyalists in the Supreme Court, and installing a trump sycophant as Attorney General of the United States. With the entire system rigged against dissent, many hoped that there might be a few patriots remaining in the Republican Party who could look beyond their own wealth and best interests for long enough to rein in trump’s excesses. 

‘You’re’ .. but they got the rest right…

But that was a lost cause; there are no heroes in the GOP, just a lot of evil, incompetent, long past their best before date, cowards.

Nancy Pelosi didn’t want an impeachment investigation during her time as Minority Leader. She often declared that she would prefer the next presidency be decided at the ballot box. Her reticence might perhaps also have been partially due to the line of succession; in the event that a president is successfully impeached and removed from office, the presidency then goes to the Vice-President, and if he is also impeached, goes to the Minority Leader. That could be construed a conflict of interest, if the articles of impeachment were deemed not to rise to a sufficient level of concern.

When Pelosi finally opted for an impeachment investigation, it was predicated by a whistle-blower’s suspicions, which were later corroborated by several witnesses, that the president had engaged in bribery, by withholding funds that Congress had voted to give to the Ukraine for their defence against Russian aggression.  Trump insisted that he would not release those funds, nor formally acknowledge/host the new president of the Ukraine, until an investigation was announced that would look into possible corruption on the part of Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, who is currently the front runner for the Democratic party in the run up to the November 2020 election.

The funds were eventually dispersed, after the whistle-blower’s allegations emerged.

Despite the president’s denials, withholding those funds DID have a negative impact on the Ukraine.

“At least 13 Ukrainian soldiers were killed while President Donald Trump’s administration was withholding military aid from the country from mid-July to mid-September. The men, aged from 20 to 45, are among at least 78 Ukrainian soldiers killed in action up to mid-September this year in the east of the country, according to various local media and Ukrainian government reports.

It is impossible to say whether timely delivery of American aid would have helped any individual soldier. But their deaths are a potent reminder that while the Trump administration was wrangling over military assistance, Kiev was—and remains—locked in a deadly struggle with its Russian-backed separatist adversaries.” (Newsweek, Oct 2019)

Throughout the impeachment process, the Republicans in both the House and the Senate behaved like spoiled children being denied their candy; they impeded the process at every turn. Rather than mount a defense against the alleged crimes, they attacked the process itself, and the White House repeatedly refused to allow people in the administration to testify during the preliminary meetings. They also refused to release documentation that would have clarified much of the testimony.

They upped the ante during the trial itself, with trump’s ‘tv’ lawyers perjuring themselves endlessly, while Justice Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sat like a bump on a log in a dress, ignoring falsehoods and outright lies with a ‘supreme’ lack of interest.

Despite the brilliant outlining of the crimes with which trump was being charged, the Republican Senators in the Congress ignored what they could not deny, playing crossword puzzles, doodling, checking their (illegal) phones, or dozing during Democratic testimony. And when the time came for the Senators to vote on whether or not to allow additional witnesses, the GOP decided that they’d heard enough, and denied the request.

There has never been an impeachment trial, in the history of the US, that did not include witnesses, and proper evidence. The trial was rigged, from start to finish, with the aid of the president, the Senate, and the Supreme Court.

This trial made a mockery of justice in America. And, on Wednesday, when these same Senators vote to acquit the president of the charges, they will, in effect, raise the president to the position of King, establishing a trump monarchy as the government of the United States.  

“If the president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment, “ Dershowitz said.

L’Etat – c’est moi……

Incredibly, many of the Senators agreed that the president WAS guilty as charged, they just didn’t think it rose to the level of impeachment. Some said that they feared what an impeachment might do to the country. Considering what happened in Kentucky on Jan 31st, they might have had a point.

Gun rights activists carrying semi-automatic firearms pose for a photograph in the Capitol Building on January 31, 2020 in Frankfort, Kentucky.

From Twitter: “Weirdest thing about guns in the Kentucky Capitol: if you have one, you’re told to walk around the metal detector. Others must pass through and get wanded.

Also, and probably to be expected, many of the Senators blamed the Democrats for having insufficient witnesses or evidence, despite these lacks being wholly the fault of trump and the White House.

“We will never know how this impeachment trial would have unfolded if the House had waited to secure additional testimony and court orders. One thing is certain, however: The case against President Trump could only have become stronger,” wrote law professor and House Judiciary witness Jonathan Turley.”

Without being able to call witnesses, and without further requested evidence, there’s nothing left now but for the Republican party to vote on Wednesday, and do as they have said they would do all along – acquit him of the charges. Despite the oath that they swore, promising to perform honestly and with due diligence, and despite knowing – and ADMITTING – that he is guilty of the charges, they have opted to ignore his corruption, and, essentially, proclaim that the president of the United States is literally above the law.  Trump becomes America’s first King.

And America is about to get royally reamed.

Wanting presidential accountability Is not about party. It’s not a ‘trump delusion syndrome’. It’s not about assessing how he’s behaved all of his life, unfaithful to the women in his life, screwing over those unfortunates who did work for him for which they’ve never been properly paid, or even that he’s been pathologically dishonest throughout his entire presidency.

No. It’s about looking at the facts, objectively, and seeing the truth – that the role of president needs to be held by someone who is better than this, but more than that, that the president must be held accountable for criminal actions.

Denying that accountability renders the rule of law moot. Elevating the POTUS to Monarch is exactly what the Founders tried so hard to prevent, in demanding accountability through impeachment.

“There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republicif you can keep it.” 

How crazy could things get in a post-impeachment America? Well, just yesterday, Wyoming State Rep Rodney Garcia made a statement at a state party gathering in which Garcia’s concern about socialists ‘entering our government’ and socialists ‘everywhere’ in Billings, ended with Garcia insisting that the Constitution says to either shoot socialists, or put them in jail – despite his inability to point out exactly where in the Constitution this is written.

As Jim Wright, aka StoneKettle Station, wrote yesterday, we have to accept the reality that the Republican party is not just protecting their own seats, or being cowardly, they are profoundly evil. Just like all those who committed atrocities and horrors in the past.

“It’s easier to believe that the people who are right now selling out the Republic are doing so because of some vast complex invisible multinational conspiracy, than to believe they are just … bad people.

As if the Nazis needed to blackmailed into being genocidal monsters.

As if the Confederacy or the Klan needed be blackmailed into racism.

As if the Proud Boys had to be blackmailed into hating women.

As if all the people who’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh for the last 20 years only did so because Vladimir Putin threatened to kill their kids.

As if human nature wasn’t enough.

I don’t know.

Maybe it speaks well of you that you believe these are decent people who have to be blackmailed into doing terrible things.

Maybe you’re a better person than me, probably you are, in that you believe there has to be more than just hate and fear, ignorance, deliberate stupidity, greed, selfishness, and lust for power.

Maybe.”

Evil has won. On Wednesday the Republican party will sell out the country when they vote to acquit a man they admit is guilty of the crimes outlined in the impeachment process. Trump will be acquitted, but he will still be impeached. That doesn’t go away.

There will be no show of integrity, duty, or courage on the part of the Senators casting their votes. And when, inevitably, more crimes are committed, more citizens are harmed by his hair-brained, demented ideas, more countries are denied access to the nation, and inevitably, tales of sadistic, horrific injuries are perpetrated against trump’s enemies, they will clutch their pearls, and deny their part in the atrocities. 

American will continue its descent into a sinkhole of depravity. Good people will continue to be emotionally, physically, and financially abused by his policies. Attempts to fight back – legal, peaceful protests protected under the first amendment – will soon be deemed to be ‘against the nation’s best interests.’ Eventually protests will be banned, and protestors, most likely found guilty without trial, will discover their possessions forfeited under new laws that only serve those in power.  

The early lessons learned from tormenting the likes of comedian Kathy Griffin will blossom into full-blown assaults designed not just to humiliate those who fail to show loyalty, but to grind them into total subservience.

It’s entirely possible that trump will simply cancel the 2020 elections, but whether he does or not, we can rest assured that a lack of prophylactic work beforehand to keep the elections from being rigged pretty much guarantees that the outcome is already determined, as surely as Russia’s have been for decades.

Meanwhile, on social media, some are demanding that the Democrats walk out on Wednesday’s vote to impeach, as a protest against the rigged trial. Others think that the invitation to the State of the Union should be rescinded.

But none of that matters anymore. The game is already lost. I wouldn’t bet the farm on a ‘blue wave’ where they’ll get to vote all the bad guys out. I wouldn’t bet the farm on there even being anything resembling a normal election.

All this kind of thinking does is push the battle along, to be fought months away from now. They’re saying, let’s not fight the battle now, while the war is raging, but somewhere down the line where, if Jupiter aligns with Mars, and the exact right, suitably virtuous, Dem is given the nod, well, maybe … maybe … maybe …

This all smacks of wishful, magical thinking.  

Americans have to face the truth, and that is that Lady Justice is not just blind, she’s been raped and murdered, her broken body left on the steps of the Washington Monument.

Democracy dies in darkness, but this week, it was murdered in broad daylight, by the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” in the Upper house of the United States Congress.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other


by Roxanne Tellier

At a party last summer, I met someone who looked very like Patrick Stewart, aka, Captain Picard of Star Trek fame.

He seemed like a nice enough guy. He had a lovely smile, and a soft, even childlike, air.

Picard, the character, is universally beloved, and, in that role, exhibits extraordinary intelligence, patience, kindness, and empathy, while he simultaneously pilots a starship and its crew to adventures and destinations unknown.

The fellow that I met, the Picard lookalike, was a very nice man. What he WASN’T … was Patrick Stewart. And there’s an odd thing about how humans process information; when we see someone who looks like someone we admire, we expect them to be very like that person. It’s like we believe that our appearance is the augur of our destiny.  

One of these things is not like the other.

Our society lionizes the successful, the beautiful, rich, famous, and powerful. Accordingly, we have a surplus of people ready and willing to jump at the chance to ‘pretend’ to be one of our idols, to imitate them, in the hopes of drawing from the fans a little of the same love and respect – and maybe some wealth of their own. “Tribute’ or clone acts fill the entertainment world, and those lucky enough to resemble actors or world leaders can make a ton of money, just showing up at conferences, conventions, and forums, and shaking hands with the faithful.

But of course, looks have very little to do with ability, intelligence, artistry or character. Sow’s ear, silk purse … you can dress a clown in an expensive suit, but that doesn’t mean the clown can do much more than twist a balloon into a poodle shape. And, no matter how persuasive the clown, or how nice the suit, you really shouldn’t give that clown access to a button that can potentially blow up the world.

We are so enamoured by fame that we’ve gone from idolizing those who were indisputably the best in the world at what they did, to pedestalling those who are famous for simply being famous. To this, we can now add those who are famous simply because they look like someone famous.

The people of the United States of America love fame so much that they appointed a failed businessman cum reality show actor to lead and control the enormous wealth and power of their nation. Hasn’t gone quite as well as they’d expected. But that’s because, as I mentioned above, the fact that someone APPEARS a certain way, does not mean that they have any of the attributes of that façade.

Trump was a creation, a confection fashioned by hanging an expensive suit on a broken coat rack, and surrounding him with what the hoi polloi imagine is luxury…. beautiful women, gilded spittoons, champagnes and yachts. In reality, the trump that strutted on the stage sprang nearly fully formed from the forehead of Mark Burnett, show creator extraordinaire. 

After the success of Survivor, Burnett wanted to try another ‘social experiment’ – ‘Survivor in the City’ This one would feature contestants competing for a corporate job in the URBAN jungle.

From The New Yorker magazine, January 2019. “He needed someone to play the role of a heavyweight tycoon. Burnett, who tends to narrate stories from his own life in the bravura language of a Hollywood pitch, once said of the show, “It’s got to have a hook to it, right? They’ve got to be working for someone big and special and important. Cut to: I’ve rented this skating rink.”

In 2002, Burnett rented Wollman Rink, in Central Park, for a live broadcast of the Season 4 finale of “Survivor.” The property was controlled by Donald Trump, who had obtained the lease to operate the rink in 1986, and had plastered his name on it. Before the segment started, Burnett addressed fifteen hundred spectators who had been corralled for the occasion, and noticed Trump sitting with Melania Knauss, then his girlfriend, in the front row. Burnett prides himself on his ability to “read the room”: to size up the personalities in his audience, suss out what they want, and then give it to them.

“I need to show respect to Mr. Trump,” Burnett recounted, in a 2013 speech in Vancouver. “I said, ‘Welcome, everybody, to Trump Wollman skating rink. The Trump Wollman skating rink is a fine facility, built by Mr. Donald Trump. Thank you, Mr. Trump. Because the Trump Wollman skating rink is the place we are tonight and we love being at the Trump Wollman skating rink, Mr. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.” As Burnett told the story, he had scarcely got offstage before Trump was shaking his hand, proclaiming, “You’re a genius!”………………

Trump had been a celebrity since the eighties, his persona shaped by the best-selling book “The Art of the Deal.” But his business had foundered, and by 2003 he had become a garish figure of local interest—a punch line on Page Six. “The Apprentice” mythologized him anew, and on a much bigger scale, turning him into an icon of American success. …

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” Braun told me. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.”

This is an oddly common refrain among people who were involved in “The Apprentice”: that the show was camp, and that the image of Trump as an avatar of prosperity was delivered with a wink. Somehow, this interpretation eluded the audience. Jonathon Braun marvelled, “People started taking it seriously!”

To paraphrase Burnett – cut to: Trump on an escalator.

“Trump has succeeded in politics, in part, by borrowing the tropes of the show. Jonathon Braun pointed out to me that when Trump announced his candidacy, in 2015, he did so in the atrium of Trump Tower, and made his entrance by descending the gold-colored escalator—choreography that Burnett and his team had repeatedly used on the show. After Trump’s announcement, reports suggested that people who had filled the space and cheered during his speech had been hired to do so, like TV extras, for a day rate of fifty dollars. Earlier this year, the White House started issuing brief video monologues from the President that strongly evoke his appearances on Burnett’s show. Justin McConney, a former director of new media for the Trump Organization, told New York that, whenever Trump works with camera people, he instructs them, “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice.’ ”

On the days that I am feeling generous about what would make any human, never mind a professional politician who has sworn an oath on a Bible they claim to hold dear, to believe that trump is a leader ordained by god, elected by 60 million Americans to hold their futures in his tiny hands, I assume it must be, overall, about their own buy-in to his apparent ‘fame.’

Because it can’t be based on any type of actual success he has achieved; his business history is strewn with bankruptcies, court orders, and law suits from people who have been royally ripped off by trump and his family. It can’t be from his success with interpersonal relationships; his three marriages, all of which were plagued by his cheating with any female within grabbing range, would belie his ability to maintain a close, intimate relationship, even with a mate. And although trump has leaned heavily upon, and capitalized on the fawning adoration of the Evangelicals, he himself shows less than a passing interest in religion. Even ‘two Corinthians’ had to be coerced out of him.

I have to come to the conclusion that this mist, this miasma of perceived fame, is what blurred the vision of those who opted to follow trump down the escalator and into a perversion of a Republican party concocted by the Machiavellian Mitch McConnell.

Even those who ran against his presidential bid, whom he skewered like so many cocktail weenies and left to wither on the sidelines, have had a ‘come to Jesus!’ moment, in which they substituted the Jesus for the two faced Janus.

Maybe we’ll learn, years from now, exactly how trump’s former opponents became some of his fiercest defenders. For now, we can just watch, goggle-eyed, as the like of Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio abase themselves at his feet.

Few in the GOP are courageous enough to face the POTUS’ wrath, and really, you can’t blame them for being such cowards. The power of his office is vast, and there is no atrocity he will not countenance. After his yawning dismissal of the murder of Kashoggi by bone saw, it’s pretty clear that he believes all is fair when it comes to disposing – literally – of your enemies.

So I think most of us were rather surprised when Matt Gaetz, another fawning sycophant who seemed to be on the fast track to some prestigious position or posting, suddenly found a conscience, and lent his support to the House’s war powers resolution, which would limit the ability of the president to engage in further military action against Iran without congressional approval.

Gaetz was immediately excoriated by his party, and summarily removed from the defense team being put together for the Impeachment trial.  While Gaetz seemed genuinely hurt by the cold shoulder, he also had a few choice words for the media after watching how the Dems and GOP conducted themselves in said trial. While he praised the House Dems for their presentation, saying that ‘they made their case as if it were cable news,” and commending their use of multimedia to make points, he had little respect for the (unpaid) trump defense team, whom he said ‘looked like an eighth-grade book report. Actually, no, I take that back. An eighth-grader would know how to use PowerPoint and iPads.”  

Gaetz is, of course, one of the many angry Republicans who just can’t seem to speak without screaming their ‘truth’ over whomever is attempting to make a point. I won’t give him a pass for seeing the defense team as sloppy and lazy; his disdain seems primarily motivated by his narcissistic belief that it is their loss for keeping him off that team.

After the first few hours of the lacklustre defense provided by trump’s defense, he may well be right. After all, we’ve just seen three days, a solid 24 hours, of superior, informed, well-expressed, cogent, political rhetoric, which outlined in every detail exactly WHY trump has to be removed from office, culminating with Adam Schiff’s powerful summation, that – assuming there’s a nation and a democracy after trump’s evil reign – will likely become as renowned as the signature speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., John F Kennedy, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was that good.

“If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what he did was not right. You know, that’s what they do in the old country, that Colonel Vindman’s father came from or the old country that my great-grandfather came from, or the old countries that your ancestors came from or that maybe you came from. But here, right is supposed to matter.

It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on Earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”

No, one of these things is not like the other.

It is beyond me how those in the trump cult can continue to follow their false Messiah, even as he tears down the foundations of their once great nation. Indeed, even as the Impeachment trial attempts to decide if his crimes are sufficient to remove him from office, he’s flaunting his obstruction, (“We have all the material. They don’t have the material.”) overturning legislation that for 50 years has protected the waters and environment of the country, and telling the politicians and billionaires attending Davos the ‘entitlements’ of social security, Medicare, and Medicaid are his targets to be cut, should he win a second term.

“It’ll be toward the end of the year,” Trump said from Davos, Switzerland. “And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a big percentage. “

And really, how big a deal is the prospective deaths of a couple of hundred million Americans through his actions, in the face of climate change, and the accelerated political unrest around the globe, that has enough people so on edge and fearful that it’s moved us to a mere one hundred seconds from Doomsday?



One of these things is not like the others. One spells the end of democracy, and possibly the planet. The other hopes that the children of the world are strong and determined enough to snatch back all of our futures from the brink that crazed, populist, right wing politicians have dragged us toward.

And, unless humanity makes some smart decisions very soon, that direction may ultimately have very little to do with what we would choose, even assuming that we’re given a choice.

 

Ho Ho Holiday Memories!


by Roxanne Tellier

“Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, at the Christmas party hop.”  “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” Oh NOes! Must be getting close to the holidays – the earworms are out in full force!

Here comes Christmas 2019. Before you know it, it will be a bright and shiny new 2020! Let’s hope that 2020 applies to our vision, rather than to our hindsight.

I’ve got a holiday gathering to go to this afternoon, and every year, it takes me a little longer to get ready to be serially hugged. But one of the perks of having written a weekly column for many years is that, now and again, we can reach back into those past ponderings and re-release them into the present, dusted off, re-edited, and ready to be digested anew.

For your Christmas reading, wonderment and wandering …. a few morsels from my past holiday tables …

Originally published December 14, 2014 – Zombie Christmas

Zombies love shopping on Black Friday .. Deals!

It’s lurching toward you … the days tick by, and you rock between anticipating and dreading the upcoming holiday season. You’re looking forward to seeing friends and family, but wonder how you’ll juggle all that you still have to do to get ready for the Big Day.

The pressure is on to try and create a meaningful experience that will leave everyone – including yourself – with lasting memories of “goodwill towards men,” exemplified by overeating and overspending, but you can already envision how exhausted you will be, and what the credit card balances are going to look like in January. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like a zombie Christmas …. 

I remember the year that I realized that Christmas presents were to be both given AND received. That was a shocker. My mum gave me a whopping $5.00 to spend on the family, and I trotted down to the Army and Navy Stores in downtown Edmonton. I bought gifts for everyone one the list; GrandMere and GrandPere, my aunt Noella, my sister, and my parents, and STILL had change jingling in my pocket on the way home. I was proudest of the perfume I had bought for my mother – Max Factor’s finest .. Sophisticat

The best Christmases are the ones that center on the very young or the very old. It’s impossible not to smile at the look of awe on a child’s face as he or she approaches Santa’s throne, grubby list in a damp, clenched hand, gathering up the courage to sit on the venerable old gentleman’s knee, and whisper their most secret wishes. Still believing in Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, still believing that anything is possible, that magic can happen. That innocence is gone so soon. 

Somewhere along the way, most of us go from true believers to frantic shoppers, desperate to find that perfect gift for our perfect someone, forgetting what the holiday season should really mean. We become Christmas Zombies, lurching through the malls, snatching up the toys and goodies strewn before us, all part of the multi-billion dollar industry that corporations count on to fatten their bottom line.

When, really, it’s all about the festive spirit, whether you call this festivity Christmas, or Hanukah, the winter solstice or Saturnalia, Festivus or Kwanza. It’s about the smell of holiday baking, the taste of buttery shortbread, and the eggnog spiked with a drop of rum, the cold raw scent of a Douglas pine, the twinkling porch lights that glow beneath a soft layer of fresh snow, the sound of carols and the snow crunching under your boots. Spending time with friends and family, making happy memories, not of senseless consumerism, but of this glorious feast for the senses.

originally published December 13, 2015 – Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past

My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmases as merry and bright as she could. 

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we really had, enough to share, was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask for from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

Nor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. And she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

She’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait breathlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.  

There was also one special Christmas box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full-coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

“We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise.

originally published December 20/2015  It’s the war on Christmas, Carol

As hard as it might be to imagine holiday songs battling it out, the plain fact is … Christmas songs mean big bucks. Over and over and over again. A Number One Christmas song can mean early retirement for the writer, with a nice pension income supplemented every year in December.

Sound cynical? Maybe. But it’s the reason why many writers and artists get their ho-ho-ho’s in gear in time to hit the December charts. Pop songs come and go; a classic holiday song lives forever. 

Picture “Jingle Bells” pummelling “Santa Claus is coming to town” a la UFC, though I would think songs like “The Christmas Song” and ‘Silver Bells” would never lower themselves to a fight. Perhaps they would slap each other’s little faces with their velvety gloves, and request a sunrise duel.

I tell you, the battles are real. In England, perhaps more so than anywhere else.

The furious fight for The #1 British Christmas Song first took shape in 1973. Three songs were vying for the top spot; “Step into Christmas” from Elton John, “I Wish That It Was Christmas Every Day” by Wizzard, and “Merry Christmas Everybody” by Slade. The numbers were close, and since these were the days before computers were commonplace, the tallying went on right up until the last moment. 

Slade

Elton stalled out at #36, while Slade and Wizzard held their collective breaths … Wizzard took a respectable 4th place, and it was Slade by an angel’s hair! It seems most Britons preferred their seasonal greetings shouted at them. Still, 40 plus years later, both songs continue to enrich their writers, and keep the British public dancing.

“”The Performing Right Society put out a statement saying Slade’s Merry Christmas is the most heard song in the world because royalties come in from more countries than for any other song. The estimate is that it’s been heard by 42% of the planet, more than 3 billion people, whether they wanted to hear it or not.” – Jim Lea, Slade.

Things settled down for the next decade, but by 1984, another battle caught the public’s attention. Bob Geldof/Midge Ure’s Band Aid release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” was tugging at our hearts, and the video, with it’s array of current and venerable pop stars, was delighting the little girls. So, no matter how adorable George Michael was in Wham’s, “Last Christmas,” Band Aid took the prize.

Both songs were re-released the following year, so George had another kick at the top spot, but alas… only came in second for the second time in a row. Maybe that’s what sent him off in his quest for love in all the wrong bathrooms.

originally published in December 11, 2016 –  Christmas Presents

Sometimes it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to dredge up the spirit of the holidays that we all need, and have always needed, to face a cold world and a new year.

But we must have hope, and we must inspire our children to have hope, and to have faith that we are stronger together, united, than we are apart. The sharing of a meal with loved ones has never had to be about the biggest turkey or the fanciest desserts; it’s always been about communing with those we love and care about, sharing our energy, and giving each other strength

and that’s what the Grinch (and Christmas) is all about, Charlie Brown…

Beggaring ourselves to buy expensive presents that are rarely received in quite the spirit we hoped, is not how we show our love to others. The true gifts we give to each other are those of support, of listening to what the other is saying, and to responding thoughtfully without concern for more than what is best for the other. And these gifts of love must be all about understanding that not a single one of us is perfect, or without traits that will annoy someone else at some point.

Yes, there are distractions. Yes, the world is a very scary place right now. Yes, those of us sensitive to world issues fear for the lives and souls of the vulnerable.

But we also owe it to ourselves, and to those we love, to find the time to gather together, and to share what we have with each other, in a spirit of generosity and community. It’s how human beings have coped with the vagaries of our times since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze, and regardless of what deity we worshipped at the time.

My wish for all is that you have time with loved ones, and that, if for some reason you do not have that opportunity this year, that you reach out and accept an invitation to join others who find themselves alone in the holidays. There is strength in community and we all need that shared strength to get us through whatever awaits us in the new year.

…………………………………………….

Wishing everyone a warm and peaceful holiday season! See you next year!

Tradition? Tradition!


by Roxanne Tellier

Can we really be nearing the end of 2019? It seems like only yesterday that I was making excuses for not wanting to go out on New Year’s Eve! (I got a million of ’em… )

November and December have always been crazy busy months in my life; Halloween kicks off a slick slide thru November’s family birthdays, all the way to my own birthday on December 4, and then the multiple get togethers and dinners that lace the three weeks until Christmas itself.

Oh, I’m not complaining – it’s great to get together with family and friends in the spirit of the season. Still, it’s very different from my past, and the holidays I enjoyed as a child, when we could gather all of the aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and meet at my Gram’s on Christmas Day.

That was then. These are the days of multiple marriages, and tiers of second, step, and adopted parents and siblings. 

I haven’t spent a Christmas Day with both of my kids and all of my grandkids – ever.  Yes, this is the modern world, and these are first world problems that we suffer in non-silence. Nonetheless, it does feel odd, and harder every year, to get into the spirit a good two weeks in advance of the big day, just because that’s the only time we can carve out for family that doesn’t conflict with commitments to work or friends.

Once it would have been a turkey, ham or tourtiere feast; today, with so many exclusionary diets, it is harder than ever to plan a meal that meets (or meats)  everyone’s special nutritional needs.

It’s also about the physical distance between us. Many of us have scattered with the wind in our pursuit of love or better opportunities, and it was ever thus. But distance and the costs of sending gifts across the miles means that I’ve stopped my old habit of seeking out ‘the perfect present,‘ and joined the ranks of those who send off my holiday greetings and gifts via special Amazon delivery, Groupon coupons and email. 

Instead of ‘dashing through the snow’ in search of cards and yet another body wash gift set from Shoppers Drug Mart, I’m letting my fingers – and my computer – do the walking.

That’s not all bad, you know. Oh, sure, there are reasons why we should be shopping locally, rather than online, but seriously – Americans spent $7.4 BILLION on online shopping on Black Friday alone this year. The war is over, like it or not.

I’ve always loved getting those thoughtful annual Christmas cards, especially if they come with a long letter updating family on what my relatives have accomplished or survived in the previous year, but seriously… you know that these missives, no matter how beautifully presented or well- intentioned, are headed for the recycling bin in a matter of weeks.

I do have one exception to that recycling rule; my daughter has been sending me a calendar adorned with seasonal photos of my grandkids since 2005, and I treasure and carefully store these since she began the tradition. And I can tell you.. hell hath no fury like a grandmother denied her calendar because Cara forgot to pick up a little something for the postman…. 

Traditions are good .. doing things over and over again just because that’s the way they’ve always been done is not my style. So many of the old holiday traditions no longer make any sense to me, never mind to people fifty years younger.

And really, celebrating Christmas on December 25th  wasn’t even a thing until around AD 350, when Pope Julius 1 decreed it as Santa‘s – I mean, Jesus’ – Big Day. 

We’ve only been giving gifts to the kiddies and each other at Christmas since the late 1800s. Before that, people rarely gave each other anything more than something small, handmade, or edible, and those gifts were exchanged at New Year’s. In fact, early North Americans settlers, like the Puritans, actually outlawed Christmas celebrations between 1659 and 1681.

Capitalism, big corporations like Coca Cola, and really effective advertising campaigns were the impetus for goading people to get with the gift giving, in the early 1900s.

In William B. Waitts book, The Modern Christmas in America; A Cultural History of Gift Giving, he writes that “The prescient among the nation’s businessmen saw that they could use the emerging custom of Christmas gift-giving to increase their sales. Ever since, they have moved purposefully to expand gift giving in America and have enjoyed the rewards of their effort.” 

This also focused attention on manufactured items, like bicycles, dolls, and vacuum cleaners, since these were items that could not be made at home.

Legend has it that the original candy cane came into existence around 1670,  when a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, in Cologne, Germany was trying to keep the kiddy choir quiet and docile during the long Christmas service.

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe came from the ancient Druids in the UK. They believed that mistletoe was sacred, lucky, and could make people more fertile. No worries here on that front.   

The Druids are also responsible for the original idea of having a holiday tree indoors. They would bring evergreen boughs into their temples as a symbol of everlasting life. It wasn’t until the 11th century that Christians began to include symbols of evergreen trees as a sign of peace and renewal.

So you see, traditions are mutable. What we thought was ‘just the way it has to be’ has changed and evolved over the years, just like every other part of our lives.

So it’s goodbye to the relatively old, and hello to the 21st century and a higher tech meant to make our lives easier. Fighting to retain what no longer makes sense just seems pointless.  

Some things continue to be relevant. My pioneer ancestors would have prepared themselves for winter by stockpiling food to keep them fed during bad weather, and I continue to do a certain amount of that as well. I know that inclement weather will keep me a little cloistered and housebound for the next four or five months, but I’ve got a hoard of goodies stashed away to soothe my impatience.

But all the rest, all the geegaws and frippery that was once thought to be integral to the season, I can do without. I can enjoy tales and movies of Christmases past, but I’m not gonna cry any tears over a lack of candles on a tree – especially considering that so many of the trees I’ll see in the next few weeks will be of the plastic variety.

Times change, people change. The joy of the holidays comes from our connection to each other, not from a devotion to the past.  

Enjoy those who choose to share their love and joy with you at the holidays. Family and good friends are precious, and irreplaceable.

Happy Holidays!

Parsing What Comes Between the Thanks and the Giving


by Roxanne Tellier

Americans celebrated their Thanksgiving this past week. Many families endured long journeys, traveling across the country, to spend time with the people they love. The lucky ones gathered around tables that groaned with heaps of delicious, fresh, and sometimes even healthy, food.

Norman Rockwell; Freedom from Want

Following in the tradition of the giving of thanks, families and friends joined hands and expressed their gratitude for those they love, for all that they have, and for all they hoped to amass during the capitalistic human centipede orgy known as Black Friday shopping.

Amen.

For the fortunate, it was a warm, loving, pre-holiday feast. Some families went to bed feeling loved, with full bellies, and visions of the sugar plums they’d enjoy next month.

Other families – not so much. Beyond worrying about how to pay for that groaning board, they had to deal with the ‘difficult’ relative – the aunt, or uncle, or son or daughter or in-law who, instead of bringing a sweet potato and marshmallow pie, brought their anger, fear, and their disdain for the political party that the rest of the gathering espoused.

All In the Family; Archie, Edith, Michael and Gloria

And that could be to either party. While I have my own bias, I’m well aware that a family that has an altar to trump is gonna have trouble with the family member who is a ‘never trumper’ – and vice versa. Think Archie Bunker, wrangling with son in law Michael Stivic, while Edith and Gloria tried to calm the troubled waters. Oh yes, it was ever thus. As then, so today, but oh my living lights and liver! It’s so much worse now.

Tell me,  how’d we ever get this way.

Not everyone experiences these unpleasant interactions. Maybe you are blessed with a Hallmark card family that never disagrees. And many people use social media sparingly, as a place to connect with loved ones, and to enjoy funny gifs and Youtube videos. That’s a perfectly valid – probably the most sensible! – way to enjoy the internet. What I’m talking about here is those of us who compulsively follow the news, with a fetish for politics. That’s a whole other experience. For us ….

” These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slo-mo. The way we look to us all, oh yeah”

Paul Simon – The Boy in the Bubble

Maybe we can blame it on social media, on our ability to reach out and touch every other person on the planet who enthusiastically agrees with our theories and preferences, but the truth is, a huge segment of society has somehow devolved into something primal and tribal. It’s no longer a disagreement or a difference in opinion; it’s outright war against anyone who doesn’t toe exactly the same political lines we hold dear.

And no matter how ridiculous. 

The level of insanity exhibited by the Mad King installed in the White House is only matched by his sycophantic court, who gladly traipse along behind him, carrying his water, and informing the people that his most insane pronouncements are only misunderstood by his subjects because the hoi polloi can never dream of attaining the level of ‘genius’ trump was born with. Sigh.

You know – the way North Koreans are taught from birth that their holy family in the Kim Dynasty are beyond human understanding, and must be worshipped as gods. Like that. 

The sad truth is that the rules of modern civilized engagement have been fundamentally changed, and many people have decided that they prefer these new rules. Why tell the truth, when the president, all of his administration, and apparently almost all those of wealth and power, no longer feel the need to do so? What kind of sucker tells the truth and takes accountability for their misdeeds, when there’s dirty money to be made, and a seemingly infinite number of lawyers prepared to argue that your fake truth is just as valid as someone else’s declaration?

The people in charge are making it up as they go. Reality is now whatever the 1% say it is, and the rest of you better ‘get over it.’

75% of Americans don’t trust their government and politicians, while 64% don’t even trust each other. And the response from their governmental spokesperson?

“This is the way it works. Get over it.”

Nick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff, October 17, 2019

And why bother being civil to each other, when accusations, personal sniping, and the flinging of links to sites that trumpet your truth, is the new way to communicate? The loudest voice seems to rule the day, as those with softer voices and gentle demeanours fall by the wayside.  Even many of those that we may think of as friends and colleagues seem unable to stop themselves from snapping at our heels, unmoored from a frontal cortex that might stop their lips from voicing what might, in better times, have never been uttered, like so many stroke victims who have lost their verbal filters. 

The atmosphere seems to favour the conceit that we are the most important and most knowledgeable person in the room, while simultaneously being the biggest, and most ignored victim, in history. Schrödinger’s Narcissist, demanding to be heard, no matter how inane and mundane our input may be. The shining lead in a reality show in which it truly is all about us, and the ‘little people’ are on their own.   

The trouble is, when everyone’s the boss, when everyone is too important to be of help, things get really dicey when you actually need help yourself. And we’re all so short of time. When we want something, we want it now, and the not getting of something we want the minute we want it leads to tantrums and tears over stuff that we might have brushed away as no big deal, just a few years ago.

Maybe our narcissism and self-focus is a by-product of the things we cannot control or change. Spending our time on self-soothing leaves little time for thinking about how the rest of the world lives. While we complain about how hard it is to get rid of stuff so that we can buy more stuff, there are millions of Canadians and Americans who are homeless. In truth, the average person is just two or three pay cheques away from being in the same boat. Maybe even just one.

” Millions of middle-class Americans are just one missed paycheck away from poverty, with 4 of 10 considered “liquid-asset poor,” or without enough money socked away to cope with even a sudden disruption in income. “

Despite the lowest unemployment rate in decades and solid economic growth, many Americans are on thin financial ice, Prosperity Now found. Minority households are particularly lagging on key measures such as income and wealth, the study found. Across the board, more than 1 in 10 American households fell behind in their bills in the last year, a signal that many are struggling with rising costs and stagnant incomes.  “ cbsnews.com

While blowhards rant about how ‘welfare queens’ pump out more mouths for taxpayers to feed, and claim with no evidence that the poor use their food stamps for steak and booze, the sad truth is that America can be a harsh and unforgiving place for those born to anything less than middle class. Many resent giving the poor and vulnerable ‘hand outs,’ but have no solutions as to how we should go about helping those less fortunate than themselves.  

This epidemic of poverty and homelessness is not new; society was ever thus. What is so startling about today’s wave of needy citizens is the glaring contrast between the haves and the have nots.

Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has 10 yachts, 12 private jets, 4 helicopters, a government job replete with perks and benefits, and pays no taxes.  She also has 24/7 security, at a cost to the taxpayers of $20 million to date, because she ‘fears for her life’ due to some teacher-led protests.

At 10:30 a.m., this Black Friday, I walked along Yonge Street near Bloor, picking my way through the hands held out for change, while avoiding the prone bodies in sleeping bags that hugged the curb. Across the street, the glittering shops of Yorkville were swamped with fur coated shoppers proffering their black AmEx credit cards to take advantage of sales.

Toronto‘s libraries don’t talk about it much, but they are often the only place able to provide a safe haven for those with no homes, and nowhere to go during the day. On any given day, it’s not unusual to see a bundle buggy heaped high with all of a person’s worldly possessions parked in a library foyer or washroom. And while it may be tempting to sniff that you are opposed to paying for this with your tax dollars, the question then must be what you are prepared to do to help with the situation instead. And that takes a great deal more money, courage and empathy, than kicking in a few pennies per year in your taxes.

Looking beyond our cities and nations, people all around the globe are dying by the millions, from war and neglect. In Yemen, 85,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation, along with countless adult civilians. In Syria, the Kurdish people, who just a month ago were American allies, are being slaughtered as the Turkish militia go door to door in search of ex-fighters. Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and is at war with the Ukraine.

Southwest Bangladesh

The nation of Bangladesh is frantically trying to bail out the waters that are threatening to sink this South Asian country, due to climate change. And it is not even an island nation. It’s population of over 163 million will soon need somewhere to live. Like the other countries facing imminent disaster, they will become climate refugees, searching for new homes, along with Comoros, Tonga, the Seychelles, Palau, Nauru, Kirbati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, and the Maldives.

Last week, koalas became functionally extinct, joining the more than nearly 500 species that have gone extinct in the last century due to continued human degradation and destruction of natural habitats.. Your grandchildren may never see a koala, polar bear, rhinoceros, lion or tiger other than in a picture book.

And yet .. and yet .. and yet ….

The wealthiest people on earth increased their combined personal fortunes by about $1 trillion dollars last year. The poorest person on Forbes Richest People List, at number 20, is Jack Ma, who has a personal net worth of over $41 billion dollars. Mr Ma, alone, if he wished, could end world hunger. 

I know that it is difficult to cope mentally with all of these issues, of climate change, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, wars, populist politicians, societal division, a lack of civility and decency, inequality, and the disparity of income and the ill treatment of our most vulnerable that we see around us. How do you justify these things, when so many of these problems could potentially be ameliorated by the very people who compound the issues in their quest to amass and hoard more wealth than most of us can envision?

If you allowed yourself to really feel the despair of all of those who are afraid, hungry, cold, or in pain – how would you be able to get up every morning and go to school, or work? How do you keep the wheels of the world turning, if you are grieving for people you don’t know, and are unlikely to ever encounter?

I don’t see a lot of happy people these days, on the streets, in the stores, in their vehicles or on transit. I see a lot of angry people, a lot of frustrated faces, and people rushing to be somewhere that doesn’t seem like a place they want to be. I see beggars on the streets of a wealthy city.

“How can you tell me that you’re lonely? And say for you that the sun don’t shine.”

Ralph McTell, Streets of London

Maybe we need to re-examine how we engage with each other. These days I hear so many more raised voices, and so much less laughter. Maybe it’s time to encourage and reward civility and good humour, rather than making heroes and celebrities of those who delight in disrespecting and brutalizing their fellow human beings.

And with the holiday season nearly here, and the cold of winter encroaching, maybe we can all just take a minute to be truly grateful for what we have, and to help those in need. Not a single one of us can save the earth – but all of us together could make a start.