Rounding It Up, Heading It Out


by Roxanne Tellier

Today’s column is a round up of ideas and issues that have zipped past us in the last few days.

Have you noticed that, the speeding up of events? In the last few years we have become accustomed to barely accommodating the horrors of a day before awakening to the new atrocities of the next. It’s exhausting, and it’s been taking a huge toll on the psyches of not only Americans, but of citizens in countries all around the world.

Apparently the Orange Warthog is officially on a two week holiday, but unfortunately, his fingers and tongue have not been disabled for the duration. And that means he’s busily doing —- well, pretty much exactly as he does every day that he’s NOT officially on holiday.

Even as he re-tweets conspiracy theories about the Clintons having murdered Jeffrey Epstein (because apparently the Clintons are magic who could somehow breach a high security prison under Attorney General Bill Barr’s protection) his head minion, Kelly Anne WrongWay is hitting the Sunday morning airwaves to confirm and abet Trump’s pell-mell race to full blown dementia.

It’s a full time job, defending the indefensible.  I hope it’s well paid, because eventually, even Kelly Anne will pay the price every other trump loyalists pays in the end; total degradation, a reputation in tatters, and a book deal.

On many days I find myself really disheartened with the thinking patterns of so many people – in America, yes, but also here in Canada, and around the world. There was a time when I wouldn’t have included Canada in that scenario, but the results of the last several provincial elections, and the prospect of what is to come after our next Federal election, has me utterly discouraged.

So many seem to be shielding themselves behind a combination of an innocent belief that the checks and balances of other decades will hold, coupled with a disbelief that what is playing out before their eyes is really happening. They are determined that “It Can’t Happen Here,” even as it actually happens here.

Exhibit A.  Was any kind of sense, common or otherwise, in play when this video pic was shot?  Witness these two lumps of flesh, who seem to believe they are Klansmen of 1819, instead of  police officers living in Texas in the year 2019, walking a handcuffed black man to the police station, as they sat astride their horses. Did no one think to check how many times these goons watched Django Unchained before assigning them horseback duty? 

It seems that what I strove to digest a day or two ago bumps right up against the poison we’re asked to swallow today. After the horror of not one, but two deadly mass murders last weekend, both seemingly instigated by Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, there actually looked to be a glimmer of hope that these latest deaths might lead to some small attempt at gun reform in McConnell’s Senate. 

Exhibit B...Our prayers for no longer fearing death by Wal-Mart Back to School Shopping were dashed almost overnight, when we were told that the NRA’s head, Wayne LaPierre, had already left a message for Trump while POTUS was out pimping for the cameras in Dayton (or was it Toledo?), warning that Trump’s base, whipped up by LaPierre, would be angered by any kind of scenario involving America’s gun fetish. 

Exhibit C … Even as LaPierre was leaving his bile-filled message, ICE squads were putting together the largest raid against illegal immigrants in US history. They went after two poultry factories in Mississippi, where they arrested 680 workers, many of who were not only legal immigrants, but who had migrated there over the last few years from – oh! El Paso! which had just suffered the largest slaughter of Hispanics in US history.

Rather than alert the local schools and nurseries, who were welcoming the little children of these workers to their first day at school, the raid took no notice of the kids being left to find their way home alone, unknowing of when, if ever, they’d see their parents again.

Fisher Price – My First Prison Camp!

Exhibit DActing CPB Chief Mark Morgan, on being asked to defend the timing and manner of ICE’s cruel raids, brushed aside the video of a little girl crying for her dad, by saying that the girl’s father was ‘a criminal,’ which Morgan seemed to think made the family’s suffering irrelevant.  

Truth is, in the American Justice system, a person cannot be branded a criminal, without due process, just because they’ll work cheap, often at less than minimum wage, and do the jobs that even the poorest American born citizens would refuse. This is a stunning pronouncement from a government official, who has no legal right to call ‘criminal’ any human being in the United States, under their own laws.

Tellingly, the executives at these factories, who knowingly hired the illegal workers, and had been successfully sued for discrimination and poor working conditions, have not been charged for their part in the ‘crime.’  Well, they can’t be, really, can they? Because if they were, what would that mean for Trump’s many companies, that are known to also use illegal immigrants for their grunt work, in his hotels and golf resorts?   

As conditions worsen for people of colour in the United States, the Trump supporters claims that they don’t like the man, but they do like the economy are beginning to wear thin.

There is no moral distinction between those who are excited by Trump’s racism and those who plead indifference to it, and it’s consequences. All the money in the world can’t put a pretty face on the horrific cruelty behind the wealth they are reaping.

And here’s the real thing – while the hordes of Democratic representatives pursuing the presidency storm the boards in Ohio and other politically important states, Americans need to realize that they don’t just need to vote Trump out of power next November, they need to think about how they will vote this era of ‘trumpism’ out of power as well.

Since November of 2016, everything we thought we knew about politics in the US and the world has been changed forever. As populist leaders lie their way into positions of power, flush with dirty money and the support of the wealthiest people in human history, their selfishness, and desire to overturn democratic norms, have badly damaged the pillars of society we need to move civilization forward.

The irresponsibility of overturning everything previous regimes have put into place is, sadly, not coupled with an understanding or ability of how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. 

The next POTUS will have to have a spine of steel to face down the crippling changes put into place during these four years of Trump’s incompetence. The GOP are going to fight tooth and nail to try and keep the legal and financial gains they made by executive fiat, and there are bound to be not only legal impediments brought by 45’s appointed judges, and his stooges in the Supreme Court, but from all of the other departments, offices, and agencies that vowed loyalty to Trump.

And while fighting that good fight, the 46th president is also going to have to face 45s millions of supporters, who pledged themselves to him because they thought he’d fix their lives, share his largesse, heal their addicted family members of opiate addictions, kick out all the ‘bad’ people, and maybe even cure their cancer.

Even though he accomplished none of those things, and indeed, has left the country battered and bruised at the core, these supporters are still just as filled with anger, frustration, fear,  and anxiety as they were three years ago. But they’ll be even madder that the next president couldn’t have given Trump just a little more time.. say four .. or six .. or eight .. or twelve more years to finally get them what they believe they are due.  

The inequality that faced them in 2016, still faces them now, in fact, for many, it’s worse. For the farmers, they lost $10 billion in agricultural sales in 2018, and another $20 billion in 2019. Now that China has found other places to buy wheat and soybeans, those billions are never coming back. What do you tell the farmers?

Those 50,000 coal miners who were told that ‘coal’s coming back!‘ and who therefore decided not to accept retraining in a more current field, have had to roll with the punches, as the country’s third largest mine filed for bankruptcy protection in May.  What do you tell those miners?

While those who watch media other than Trump sanctioned FOX News have been following the collapse of these industries, and holding our collective breaths as the GOP administration threatens to remove America’s social safety net, his loyalists continue to believe that it’s just a matter of time until they are all living in a land of milk and honey.  

Which is all to say that defeating Trump at the ballot box in 2020 will be just the first step towards pulling America back to the centre, and away from the far right where it now uncomfortably dwells. That fight will involve angry Republicans tossed from fat cat, lifetime terms in office, as well as a fight against every day Americans who can’t give up the Kool-Aid.

That may seem a daunting task, but another four years under Trump would be far more horrific and devastating to the planet.

Canada is inching up to it’s own appointment in Samara this fall, and I no longer feel I can say with any confidence that Canadians will do the right thing when they saddle up to vote federally in October. I can only hope that saner heads prevail than those that voted lately in Ontario and Alberta.

And now, I’m off to enjoy what remains of summer. See you in September!

 

 

Building Tiny Bomb Shelters for Fun and Profit


by Roxanne Tellier

wrong week to stop huffing glueEver have the feeling that you picked the wrong decade to try to get and stay healthy, focused, connected and relatively substance free? 

I’m telling you – I wish they’d narrow down the date of the Apocalypse, because I am totally prepared to return to smoking and drinking if it’s in the relatively near future. Heck, I’d probably be up for heroin or crack, if I knew I wouldn’t be around to pay the physical price for indulging.

grumpy cat RIP

Even Grumpy Cat couldn’t take this world any more. Oh, sure, they said the poor kitty had complications from an infection, but I’m gonna bet the tiny feline just couldn’t take another day of Trump.

And who could blame him?  Constant distractions, disruptions, lying, and a continual, unending chaos at the highest levels of government are what we wake up to every morning. Settled law has become unsettled. The relatively established ground of how our nearest and dearest will react to the next political landmine has turned to quicksand.

Just when you thought politics had hit rock bottom, you read that the sales of shovels and pick-axes continue to rise. And is that the sound of digging you hear?

These times are just too … interesting.

We read the gloomy predictions of climate catastrophe, follow the bouncing stock market ball, and wonder if there’s still time to build a tiny bomb shelter (because .. property rates are INSANE!) before a nuclear war erupts in a country near us.

When the rules by which you’ve been playing the game of Life are suddenly changed, for whatever reason, it can feel like a chasm has opened beneath your feet, exposing a yawning maw of emotional lava. And it can really mess you up. It’s exhausting, pretending to be a functioning adult.

types of depression

When I recently posted on Face book that I was too depressed to spend as much time on social media as I had in the past, I was surprised at how many people responded to the post, saying that they were feeling the same way.  Social media, which started as a nice way to pass the time with friends, has, in some cases, become a hive of pandemonium, where even the simplest statement can escalate in a heartbeat into a challenge to pistols at dawn.

some men just want to watch the world burnWe are angry and disillusioned with our fellow humans. We wonder how people whom we have known for decades could find it in themselves to vote for the Trumps and Fords of the world.

I have been in this place before, this dark corridor of tears and fear. I had a terrible, deep, and long lasting depression nearly two decades ago. It was soon after the events of 9/11 in the United States, and coincided with several personal events that caused within me a perfect storm of melancholy.

I spent months hiding in the basement, lying on a folding lounge chair, drinking myself into oblivion, trying to come to terms with a world that no longer made sense to me. I finally confessed my inability to cope to my doctor, and he sent me off to a psychiatrist, who was of very little help. The prevailing attitude was that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance, and thus should be easily curable if/when the right combination of chemicals were applied to the problem. In my case, his chemicals could not fix me – ultimately, I had to fix myself, unaided.

I am strong but tired fibroWe know now that a chemical imbalance is just one small segment of any study of depression disorder and mental illness; not every problem can be cured by pills. Some sufferers will need time, some will need counselling, and some will simply wake up one morning to discover that their pain has grown a hard callus over their broken heart.

What often drives a deep depression is a reaction to our present reality, and a feeling of being helpless to control our own lives in relation to that reality. It is, some say, a sense of loss, of grieving the person you once were, because you are now dealing with a very different present, and in so doing, have become a very different person, one whom you may occasionally find unrecognizable, or even unlovable.

Some, who live relatively unexamined lives, are better equipped than others to deal with extreme changes to their personal landscapes; with minor changes to their own belief systems, they can readily adjust to the ‘new rules’ that are imposed upon them by those who make and enforce the laws of their country.

one third will watch one third killHistory is filled with stories of people who stood by and watched horrific – but legal – acts be committed by those who created and enforced the laws of the land. It wasn’t that they were born to be bad people, per se .. it was that they were capable of ‘going along to get along’ … to watch without interfering, and to keep silent so that they themselves were not the next to be persecuted.

 

It is simply a truth that for many, self-preservation will overrule empathy if there’s anything at stake. Like those who cannot understand how others can be anything but regular, old heterosexual until they realize that someone close to them follows a different sexual lifestyle, it’s easiest to name and dismiss others as ‘not our sort’ when you’ve never known what it is that ‘their sort’ believe or practice.

abortion only protects fetusThe draconian new anti abortion laws emanating from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and even Ohio, this week, ripe with a stench tinged with the sulphurs of Hell, have left many of us shaken, angry, and defiant in a way I haven’t seen in many months. These almost comically villainous, and decidedly unconstitutional, attacks on the civil rights of 51.8% of the American population were purposely designed to attract a backlash by the ACLU and other groups, in order that the Religious Right might attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark court case allowing abortions to be performed in the United States.

chastity belts for menRepublicans feel that the time is right to take this battle to the Supreme Court, now that Trump has stacked the Court with his handpicked lackeys.

And in Ontario last week, a very young and barely post-pubescent Conservative member casually shook the same red cape in support of a pro life protest on the grounds of Queen’s Park, where he made the pronouncement that he hoped to make abortion unthinkable in his lifetime.  By so doing, this home schooled and very religious young man unleashed a storm of estrogen-fueled fury unlike anything he could ever have dreamed of provoking.

What most of us, in both the U.S. and Canada, have recently learned is that the right to abortion isn’t actually settled law in the U.S. And in Canada, with 7 out of 10 provinces now ruled by Conservatives, and with a federal election looming that might turn the entire country back to the Right (and somewhere around the 1950s) our own abortion rights might be on the table sooner rather than later.abortion dont' tell me what to do

It is an irony of Alanis Morissette sized proportions that Canada, that ruled in 1967 that ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,‘ thereby decriminalizing homosexuality, would now appear to be saying, in 2019, that the state DOES have the right to assert dominance over the uteruses (uteri?) of it’s women.

I won’t lie .. I am pissed. I am really, really REALLY pissed that a battle that so many of us fought for – and won! – back in the 60s is being brought back to life like some stinking, rotting zombie, purely for the tiny percentage of North Americans who, like ISIS, believe that their religious beliefs trump those of the rest of the nation.

I take great comfort in how women and their allies are fighting back this time around. We are not about to be manipulated by guilt as we have been in the past, and we no longer believe that the burden of contraception is completely our responsibility- it takes two to tango, and a lot of not so woke men are about to learn how to dance.

 

Walking-Dead

My only hope is that this desperate attempt by the Religious Right to pull the world back into the Dark Ages only succeeds in demonstrating indelibly and for all time that religion must never, ever, be allowed to trump science and democracy. That way lies dragons.

trump separation of church and state

 

Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City


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

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

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

From Funny or Die …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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