Blackberries and Entitlement


There is a very nice house on the corner of my street. The back yard is surrounded by a tall fence, but as you walk by, you can peep through, and see that there is a lovely garden inside, with a deck, and a nice patio seating area. It’s all very well kept and tidy.

Plants peek out through the fence, as plants will. There are some flowers, and a few weeds, and some of those long, brambly, blackberry stalks, the sort that seem to go from manageable to ‘ow! that long branch just scratched my arm!” in a matter of seconds.

blackberry bushA few months ago, the blackberries appeared. Blackberries start out red and inedible. It’s not until they turn black that they become tasty. There is usually about one week in the summer when the berries all hit peak perfection simultaneously. At my old house, I had a wall of blackberry bushes. When they were ready to pick, I would go into hyper drive, trying to get as many of the berries harvested as I possibly could, so that I could make a summer jam. I’d also offer my neighbours some of the bounty. And, inevitably, the birds, squirrels and raccoons would have a messy feast as well.

The first sighting of the blackberry plants escaping the fence on the corner house gave me a little frisson of emotion, a combination of happiness at seeing the familiar fruit, and a twinge of sadness at no longer having my little Scarborough fruit and veg garden. Planting in containers just isn’t the same.

Halfway through July, the magic moment arrived, and suddenly the branches bent low with beautiful, glossy black berries.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only passer-by that helped herself to a berry or two when I walked by the house. The branches were, after all, bordering the sidewalk, and just a tiny portion of the plants that lined the inside of the fence.

The day after the appearance of the berries, a small sign, written in crayon, and in a child’s handwriting, appeared on the fence. It said, “Please don’t pick the berries. Thank you.”

depressed personNow, perhaps my chagrin at seeing that sign stemmed from a desire to be inside the fence, gobbling down handfuls of the berries before harvesting a bushel or so for jam making.

But the first thought that crossed my mind was that someone had missed a wonderful opportunity to teach a child about sharing and responsibility. Since the home owner had allowed their plants to cross over into common ground, the berries were, ostensibly, now to be had by anyone who passed by the branches on their way down the street.

And if someone picked a berry and enjoyed it, that was a way of spreading the wealth, so to speak, without having to make any real effort. A way to allow others to enjoy a little treat, without that gift costing our benefactors any loss or stress. You  might not know who enjoyed that pleasure, and they might never know that it was you that let them have it, but there can be a strange, inner joy that comes from simply giving away some of the surplus of what you have.

Instead, the parents of that child taught her that she needed to keep a firm grip on what she ‘owned,’ even if that ‘property’ wasn’t actually contained within its bounds.  Best to assume that others will take things away from you, if you’re not stern and disciplined, and keep a firm grasp on your ‘stuff.’ And if you don’t tell them to back off, they’ll take and take and …oh!

i've got mineThat’s a weird and ugly paradigm that many live by now; the world of “I’ve got mine, and I’ll fight anyone that tries to get some for themselves!”

That’s the mindset of those who are threatened by anyone else enjoying even a sip of life’s cup, since it is a sip they feel to be taken from their own mouths. It’s what people earning a comfortable living feel like when they hear the minimum wage might be raised so that others with more menial jobs can actually afford to live. And it’s the way that many Canadians feel when they hear that there is a cost to ignoring the civil rights of other Canadians, and in the resentment they feel when the courts actually have to shell out millions to pay those costs to the victim.

It’s in the self-righteousness of the outwardly religious who piously mouth the Lord’s Prayer, but deny Christ’s preaching to love everyone as he loved them, and to treat others as they wish to be treated.  It’s in those who would put the possible cost of healthcare for transgendered people in the military over a respect for those peoples’ basic rights, as they spend their lives in the defence of their country.  It’s even in the behaviour of the driver who feels the need to be in constant touch by telephone entitles him or her to break the law and answer their cell phone while zipping down the highway at 140km an hour.

It’s a selfishness and entitlement that can be seen daily, on the streets, and in the houses of corporate and political power. The real trickle down that we’ve seen over the last few decades hasn’t been the money that the rich and powerful never did let fall on the lowly, but the examples that they’ve shown us, of how disrespect, lying, and a lack of accountability can enrich those who simply don’t care about anyone other than themselves.

We want to celebrate those who have stood on the shoulders of giants, but instead we are too often and too loudly confronted by those with feet of clay, who prefer to stand on the throats of the weak.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

baby crying over statue removalNowhere was the inevitable down slide of perverted entitlement seen more clearly than in this weekend’s parades, protests, and riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. Far-right activists descended upon the city for a Unite the Right rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate leader, Robert E. Lee.

In April, the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the bronze statue that stands in downtown Charlottesville. The city council also unanimously voted to rename Lee Park. However, two members of the five-member city council still voted against removing the statue. In May, a judge halted that removal for six months.

For those playing along at home, Lee was the general who lead the charge of the Confederate Army, in defence of slavery, against the prevailing American forces of the time. The Confederacy lost. The statue was commissioned in 1917, 52 years after the war ended, and was finally erected in 1924, 59 years after the war ended.

The march of the alt-right was composed primarily of young, white, decently dressed young men, who seemed to feel that their lack of melanin outweighed their concurrent lack of anything remotely special about themselves. Just having been born white and American has lead them to believe that they should have everything they feel they deserve in life – even if it means taking from others less fortunate.

Some are equating this all-white/alt-right protest to the Black Lives Matter protests. I would unequivocally disagree. One is a group seeking to elevate themselves socially by denying the rights of others, while the other is a traditionally oppressed group seeking their civil rights. Violent protests are wrong no matter who participates, but the messages are in no way equivalent.

“[…] I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

A state’s leader that would qualify his objection to ‘hatred, bigotry and violence‘ by adding “on many sides” is no leader at all, but rather a fool who dog whistles to his bigoted and racist followers, egging them on to further violence, in a game of false equivalency.

“… there was strong reaction to Trump’s refusal to denounce far-right extremists who had marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and setting upon their opponents.

The clashes started after white nationalists planned a rally around a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee that is slated to be removed, and culminated in a car being deliberately driven into a group of people peacefully protesting the far right rally, killing one person and injuring at least 19.”

Even those within his own party disapproved of Trump’s lukewarm response.

The Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted: “Mr President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” This was echoed by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who lost a brother in the second world war. “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” ”  (The Guardian)

Despite the public disavowal of those who committed these offences, there were still many on social media who defended their racism by claiming that their protests are a reaction to what they see (the removal of a statue of a Confederate general) as a ‘direct assault against white people.”

Essentially, they are saying they’ll go to civil war to protect the past in an effort to avoid moving forward. The lives of those they harm are of no consequence; their actions say that their traditions and history are more important than the lives of other human beings.

charlottesville carThe Rebel staffer, Faith Goldy, was complaining about left-wing protesters not being inclusive, when she was interrupted by the killing of one of them, preserved on video as it happened.

The truth that must be said, that must be shouted and proclaimed, by not only the President of the United States but by all of his followers and sycophants, is that there is no equivalency between those who marched for their white rights, and those who had finally had enough of those who believe they can only be ‘equal’ if they are allowed to be superior to others through oppression. This was domestic terrorism, as deadly and frightening as any other sort of terrorism. The difference here is that this terrorism is being nurtured by other Americans.

White Americans, and especially young, white, male Americans, aren’t oppressed in the least. No one is trying to take their guns or Christmas away from them. Their churches are not being burned, and there are no burning crosses on the lawns of ‘whitey.’ No one is trying to take away their right to marry the person of their choice. They are under no worse of a travel ban than the need to remove their shoes before being allowed entry onto an airplane. No one feels so threatened by their very presence and colour that even the murder of a child walking home from school can be justified because someone ‘feared for their life.’ And there are no political groups so threatened by ‘the white demographic’ that they have to jury rig districts to ensure the right/white candidate is elected.

They don’t have grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through slavery and systemic racism that took from them even the hope of the prosperity of the average white American. Their parents weren’t imprisoned for marrying someone of a different colour, or for merely being mistaken for an actual criminal because ‘they all look alike to me.’

Racism and bigotry – that’s America’s real history and legacy. Great strides toward a more equal and civilized society have been made in the last several decades, but the actions of those who would ‘make America great again’ by ‘making America white again’ threaten to halt that progress, and tear the nation apart. It is only by accepting the ugly past, and learning from it, that a better future can be attained.

The willfully ignorant, those who are armed and dangerous to anyone who disagrees with their bigoted beliefs, who create their own echo chamber filled with half-truths and lies, are the cancer that will bring America to it’s knees.

America’s president has been very bold in denouncing global terrorism. It is apparently only domestic terrorism that keeps him silent.

Bad Week for Sore Losers


When those charged with guiding and arbitrating the people become inured to the peoples’ actual needs and opinions, it’s time for them to go. When entitlement and arrogance override justice for ALL, not just the chosen few, it’s time to reassess the entire system.

Fair play,” the belief that all battles should be fought with an eye to respect, ethics and consideration, has been summarily dismissed of late, to be replaced by public figures that do not take defeat well, and who use failure as a platform for endless carping, whining, condescension, and threats of revenge. boehner pouting

This lack of character, as shown by those we’re told deserve respect, affects every aspect of our lives, taints how we feel about our culture, and disrespects what ‘the rule of law’ means to our society.

As a vocal majority of Americans cheered the lowering of the Confederate flag, and the raising of the Rainbow, the squealing of sore losers filled the media. Sour grapes do not a good wine make, even if they may give sore losers an opportunity to have a good whine.

Removing the Confederate flag is, in itself, a sort of ‘false flag,’ in that the flag represents a very tiny part of a larger problem of systemic racism in America. Despite being shown absolute proof that the flag had been used by proponents of slavery and the KKK, some in the South continue to insist that flying it is a matter of heritage.white house rainbow

In fact, just yesterday, Brittany “Bree” Newsome climbed the 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol where the battle flag still flew, to remove the banner. She was immediately arrested, and the flag raised again, just in time for a pro-flag rally to take place at the monument.

In the two weeks since the slaying in South Carolina, mourners and citizens have had to walk and drive past a flag flown at full mast, a flag idolized by a 21 year old man so driven by ideology that he felt the need to shoot and kill, in cold blood, nine black worshipers in an historic church.pro confederate flag

And yet, there remain some who want the flag to stay. Or, as Gawker put it, “Racist Idiots Hold Pro-Confederate Flag Rallies Across the South.” 

Bad week for sore losers. Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, was finally entrenched as the law of the land by the Supreme Court‘s ruling, leaving no room for a theoretical future Republican president to undo major pillars of the law. Obama after Court ruling

Republicans, having made 50 – fifty! – previous attempts at dismantling the Act were furious, but defiant. The battle wasn’t over, fumed it’s opponents, and FOX News talking heads, who have never been very good at keeping up with change to their conservative ideology.

rubio panicsFlorida Sen. Marco Rubio aimed his anger at the Supreme Court. “As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

Marco … put down that water and tell me … Why would that be? Are we living in 1776 or 2015? The forefathers are long gone, and the Constitution is a living thing, subject to conversation and amendments, not the iron grip of a dictator installing ‘yes men’ to do his will.

Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court had a bad week too. On Thursday, Thomas came down against the Supreme Court saving the Fair Housing Act of 1986 (to protect against housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and origin,) saying that “racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.”  He was referring to black pro sports teams. i can't breathe

Because, you know. .. those NBA players are mostly black, and they do very well for themselves.

He then joined Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia in dissenting to uphold Obamacare subsidies, though it was passed 6-3.

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And to cap off his week of blind ignorance and entitlement, he and three other Justices voted against removing state bans on same-sex marriages. This time, he took exception with the concepts of “liberty” and “dignity.”

“The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”

clarence-thomas-wife-tea-party-16x9You’ve come a long way, baby, and I mean that disrespectfully. Are you sure you’d have the dignity and respect you receive as a Supreme Court judge had you been born in the days when you would have been enslaved at/by birth? Your own interracial marriage to a white woman named Virginia, (irony alert!) would have seen you arrested and prosecuted prior to the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which required every state to recognize interracial marriage. You and your life represent two clear instances where the government did indeed bestow dignity. Why would you deny that to others?

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee had to add his own strange thoughts to the ruling. “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Arrogance. Entitlement. “Do as I say, not as I do.” One law for the masses, another for those who make the laws. If the laws don’t fit your own views, keep hammering away at them until they do. The will of the people be damned.

Ralph Klein gay rightsNot that we’re without our own Canadian sore losers and bigots. In 2004, Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said Gays won’t be getting married in Alberta, we’re not going to do it.” 

For ten years, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, Pat O’Brien, Randy White and Tom Wappell fought against every single gay rights initiative. And yet, the law was passed in 2005, and so far – no sky has fallen.

Sore losers and entitled arrogance is as alive in Canadian politics as in the U.S. Last week, convicted ex-MP Dean Del Mastro sneered his way through his sentencing, certain that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would pull his irons out of the fire at the last minute. After all, he’d been a loyal servant, whom Harper had kept by his side despite the evidence of his guilt.width="300"

Del Mastro’s never apologized for breaking the rules in his 2008 campaign, of overspending on the campaign, breaking his personal campaign contribution limit or of filing a false return with Elections Canada to conceal the overspending. Instead, his defence was to whine to the court about how difficult the prosecution and trial has been on his family, and that the incident has taken a financial, physical and emotional toll. All of these burdens came from his own bad judgment, but we’re not to speak of that.

<>When the verdict was reached, Del Mastro burst into tears, and begged the judge not to send him to prison. He was told he’d be spending a month in jail, down from the 9 to 12 months originally recommended by the Court in October. And, indeed, he spent just 16 hours in jail before being released on bail.

After all, why would Del Mastro worry about actual consequences? In October, 2014, he was found guilty of three out of four charges of election fraud. And yet, he remained defiant, saying he had no plans to step down as an MP, only to step down voluntarily in November, just before he was to be suspended from the House of Commons. He then whined about how much money he was losing by having to leave his position, a job he’d gained by fraud, and lost by getting caught.

Del Mastro walked away from his nearly nine years in federal politics with a pension worth $44,000 a year, which he becomes eligible for at the age of 55.

In a final, delicious irony, Canadians, through a fundraiser organized by his riding association that allowed them to provide tax receipts to contributors, subsidized the legal fees of Del Mastro. “Organized by his riding association” .. in a riding he might not have won had he not cheated in the election.

harper_gives_the_finger1Harper himself has not commented on Del Mastro’s sentencing, nor has he addressed the fact that his government has far more than the usual share of corruption and shameful conduct. Among the Harper government’s scandals are the illegal “robocalls” in the 2011 election, fraudulent expense claims by Tory senators, and of course, nearly ten years of placing the needs of corporate Canada above it’s citizens’ rights, leading to the tainted meat scandals that followed the gutting of Canada’s food-inspection agency, and an environmental record on pollution and climate change that defines new depths in a race to the bottom. And that’s even before Bill C-51, the greatest threat to free expression in Canada, or Bill C-59, which allows the government to retroactively alter history in the government’s favour.

Given his poor record, Harper could at least give Canadians some comfort by making it clear that he won’t defend cheaters in the future. Instead, he keeps the media at arm’s length, behind his security team that costs the nation over $20 million a year (2013 figure,) his only hope, a capitalization on the fear he’s whipped up around terrorism.

Based on a visible lack of ethics, and political appointments bestowed less on political ability and more on the incumbent’s willingness to mindlessly obey orders in the Harper Government, along with shady moves to retain power during the last three elections, and the introduction of a U.S. style “super pac” to ensure a win in the coming election, there is good reason to be nervous about Harper and his party’s conduct in the run up to the vote.

How the election and it’s outcosore loser2me proceeds will speak volumes. True class and character are shown in how one responds to losing, or even the prospect of a loss. What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts when things don’t go their way.

How each of us conducts ourselves during and after the election, regardless of it’s outcome, will say much about our own selves, and the mood of the country. Sore losers aren’t realists … they’re fantasists who can’t fathom a life that doesn’t revolve around their own needs and beliefs.

sore loserCivil discourse and disagreement requires only three things: Don’t make it personal. Avoid put-downs. And, above all, stay calm.

What this week has shown us is public servants who have abdicated responsibility to those they serve, choosing instead an endless pursuit of personal vindication. We can all do better than that.

(originally published June 28/15 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/roxanne-tellier-bad-week-for-sore-losers/)