Just a Little Respect


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Dan Levy so eloquently said,

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

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

It’s Time To Take Back Our Canada


To those of us who are .. let’s say, pushing sixty or older. It’s a bitch. Every day, another wheel falls off, we need another new ‘script, and our everything hurts. So why are we still here, eh?

older canadians2It’s because we are needed. We have education, information, insight, perspective. We’ve seen history. We have assimilated what’s gone before, and we aren’t easily fooled.

We have the opportunity to change the direction that our current government has pursued. Canadians are a proud people, and we should be; the list of accomplishments in our history is lengthy and laudable. And yet we’ve remained modest and true to our values.

But, as Ralph Nader, a man who has seen Canada from both the inside and the outside, recently noted,

“When you’re modest, as a culture, you begin taking it for granted, and when the counter-attack comes, when the corporatists come in, and the militarists come in, you’re not ready. And I think that’s what’s happened to Canada in the last decade or so.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7ZvVEm5XU

Canada needs us now, not to be cynical or to brush aside the value and power of our voice or vote. It’s OUR time to rally the troops, to cast a jaundiced eye on the last decade, and to say, “Enough’s enough. This is not the Canada I love. This is not the Canada I want to leave to my heirs.

I’ve felt for some time that this is the most important election of my lifetime. Canada is at a crossroads. It could go either way. We’ve jumped into a war with the Middle East that’s done little but bring us to the attention of extremists, putting our country in jeopardy for the sake of an egotist’s photo ops.

tarsands before afterOur beautiful land has been raped and pillaged, sold to the highest bidder, and left ravaged. Our First Nations people, from whom we essentially rent the land, have been threatened and silenced as they have striven to honour the Earth, and keep the land and water safe for all of us.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, which the Harper Government has been so eager to sign, “effectively subverts and substitutes commerce over democracy, in all the signatory countries. It’s not about tariffs or quotas; It is a trans national autocratic system of government, a subordination of environment, labour and consumer rights to the supremacy of commercial trade. And they call consumer protection, and environmental protection, non-tariff trade barriers, that can be reversed by secret tribunals – not Canadian courts, not U.S. courts, special secret tribunals, whose judges are really corporate lawyers. “

It’s time – right now – to call a halt to corporate interests taking precedent over the rights of citizens and tax payers. We’ve enjoyed the best this country could give us. It’s time to show our politicians what made the Baby Boomers a force to reckon with. It’s time to take back our country.

We weren’t afraid when we stuck those flowers in the muzzles of soldier’s guns. We weren’t afraid when we grew our hair long, smoked pot, went to booze cans, and stood up to the cops. We can’t be afraid now, either.

young_vote_infographicWe need to inspire our kids and our grandkids, and show them that fear, prejudice, racism, xenophobia, austerity, and inaction are NOT what we stand for. We stand for a Canada –

strong and free, and unafraid.

We, who were privileged to shared in all the benefits past prime ministers have secured for us; the social safety nets for the vulnerable, the freedom to unionize without corporate interference , a respect for the land and each other, a health system once the envy of the world, now threatened by proposed cuts … we took all of that for granted. We can’t do that anymore. We need to stand up for our country and the values that made Canada the peacekeepers, the forward thinkers, and the envy of the world.

Let’s show the kids that their world doesn’t have to look like the Hunger Games, Canadian pitted against Canadian  ..  it can look like a Canada that values every citizen, and that looks to the future, without shrinking from what’s to come.

oh canada song

Canadians Mustn’t Die to Protect Harper’s Ego


Whenever I watch anything about war, be it fiction or non-fiction, featuring North Americans, or any other soldiers on the planet, I am struck by one horrible, indefensible truth.

I am long past romanticizing war. The young men … the young and the foolish and brave men, barely past their teens or just into their twenties … believe with all of their hearts that they are acting in the best interests of their tribes. quote-young-men-go-to-war-sometimes-because-they-are-have-to-sometimes-because-they-want-to-always-mitch-albom-206250

Young men, whose hearts are in the right place, but who have yet to achieve total mental maturity, take up arms against others, others that they have been told either have something their country needs, or others who have a predetermined antipathy against their country.

cheneyOld men, men that could not be drafted into service, send these babes out in to the world, armed with little knowledge, but strong prejudices, drilled into them through military exercises, and constant reminders that the most honourable thing they can do is to die for their country.

Those who survive the horror of war, at least since Vietnam, come home not to respect and a grateful nation, but to a country set on denying them timely help in recovering from physical or emotional trauma. Canada and the United States are unable to cope with the wounded from the last several skirmishes. There are veterans of foreign wars living on the streets in North America, while others battle endless bureaucracy to simply get the care they were promised would be available at the end of their military tours. Some of these veterans will kill themselves in despair, willingly or through drug usage meant to dull the pain, before they finally get to the top of the treatment line.

political hypocrisyAnd yet, come Remembrance Day, every politician will be piously doffing their metaphorical hats in respect, a respect in lip service only.

And now, this Easter weekend, Prime unseat harperMinister Stephen Harper, so terrified of losing his seat in Parliament that he will inflate one drug addled, mentally ill man’s assault on the Parliament into terrorist activity, has decided to plunge Canada into what is essentially an illegal war, unsanctioned by the United Nations, and unasked of by the Canadian citizens who will be paying the bill for yet another foreign war, and sending their sons and daughters to be slaughtered to his monumental hubris, and need for power at any cost – even that of the Canadians he was elected to serve.

“”Our last war, in Afghanistan, lasted 12 years. The kill count was 158 Canadian service men and women, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors. There are some 2,100 Afghanistan veterans trying to recover from combat and other non-battle injuries. In terms of treasure, the total bill to the country is $12 billion. This includes $8.4 billion for the mission itself and $447-million to take care of our veterans.”  http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/why-is-canada-at-war-the-politics-of-fear-listener-mail-school-of-gospel-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-1.3018334/why-is-canada-at-war-michael-s-essay-1.3018363

He has no right, and no mandate, to take Canada into a war slipped through on the eve of Easter and Passover weekend. His cadre of supporters, more cowed supplicants than devoted fellow party members, voted 142 to 129 to pass this war resolution. It is a shameful, vile moment in Canada’s long history of peace keeping.

“War is the ultimate acknowledgement of collective failure. War means that we don’t know how to confront evil by any means other than killing and dying.” Michael Enright.

In generations to come, Stephen Harper’s legacy will include this decision to side with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose family has been slaughtering Syrians for decades and continues to do so. His reputation in the rest of the civilized world may never recover. But it is we, the Canadians, who will have to live with the shame and our shattered world image.

war is failure

So – Where Are You From?


everything-affects-everythingI live in Canada, and I am Canadian. However, I am also a citizen of the world. When it comes to activities all over the globe, there are no more borders – all countries are affected by the actions of those in all other countries. You’ve only to look at the recent terrorist attacks, the Ebola outbreak, or the long tail rising from weather or chemical spills at home or half-way around the world to see that we can no longer ignore or be silent about events in other countries.

global citizenshipThe world has become a global village. Understanding that we are world citizens should be creating a new level of understanding amongst countries. We have the ability to stop thinking that it’s “us against them,” to end foolish militaristic posturing, and to work together to solve problems as one, rather than reinventing the world with every new advancement.

Instead, some countries seem to be curling in on themselves, becoming xenophobic, fearful of anything even slightly foreign to their lives. We stereotype each other, with the more fervid extremists creating myths that certain people and races are not only different to us, but evil and subhuman. Some feel it’s not enough to enjoy their own religion; they insist that everyone must adhere to the same beliefs, at pain of death.

nigeria_boko_haramEvery human life is worthy and valuable. The lives of the thousands of Nigerians being slaughtered by Boko Haram are as worthy of being honoured as those of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in France. The world’s leaders marched in solidarity with France, but are strangely silent over everyday atrocities in Africa and the Middle East.

Racism, tribalism, regionalism, religious bias, segregation – these are the beliefs and banners of those who would divide to conquer. In that division, there is money to be made, regardless of how much blood must be spilled. Wars hell-bent on maintaining those divisions kill the young and naive, who sacrifice themselves on these altars of delusion.

bomberman Luis QuilesIn the free world, we raise barriers around ourselves, building ‘safe’ communities where those who are not like ourselves are not granted admission. We wrap our own children in protective cocoons, while children in war torn countries deal with the madness of adults who consider the maiming or death of innocent civilians nothing but collateral damage.

wealthy foodIndustrial complexes rape the land, destroying century old forest growth and rain forests, and pushing the creatures that once lived there further and further away from their natural habitats. Those too wealthy and jaded to have a sense of their place on the planet elect to spend their family vacation picking off animals near extinction for ‘sport,’ while illegal poachers slaughter the last remaining wild elephants for their tusks and temporary riches. Impoverished villagers rise early to secretly haul away the sand from their beaches, which they sell to industrialists for use in manufacturing computer chips – for computers they’ll never have access to in their lifetimes.

Poverty has an effect on us all. 70% of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s.

wealthy never have enoughThe middle class is disappearing, and a new stratum of untold wealth shelters the richest 85 people across the globe who share a combined wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

In a global economy, where we are all citizens of the world, wealth inequality is becoming the most important division of all, threatening political stability and driving up social tensions. The wealthy elites, not content with merely controlling vast fortunes, are now concentrating their efforts on controlling the political process of many free world countries, in an attempt to rig the rules in their own favour.

Oxfam executive director, Winnie Byanyima cautioned that people around the world believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.

WealthDisparity“In developed and developing countries alike we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

trickle_down_xlargeWe global citizens fear an oligarchy, and for good reason. The wealthy wield more and more political influence, allowing them to shape government policies in their favour. Faulty economic principles like the ‘trickle down theory’ have given the lowest tax rates to the rich in 29 out of 30 countries while personal taxes for the poor and middle classes have increased.

world citizenWe can no longer be silent when we see inequality or injustice, no matter where they are happening. “Where are you from?” is no longer applicable in a global village. The only question can be, “What are you doing to help change what is wrong with our society?”   

On a lighter note – here’s a link to my Sunday music column, at Bob Segarini’s “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog.

https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/roxanne-tellier-popping-the-top-off-covers/