Smile Damnit. Smile!


by Roxanne Tellier  

To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time. 

I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.

Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.

I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.

How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?

Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.

But.

I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.

Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.

Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.

Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people. 

Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.

Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:

  1. call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
  2. should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.  

It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.

And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.    

Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.

There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?

Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.

And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?

I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.

But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.

All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

What a Difference a Year Makes


by Roxanne Tellier

On January 25th, 2020, a Toronto man returning from Wuhan, China was the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Canada. By March, with the disease raging across Canada, the World Health Organization had declared COVID a pandemic, the NBA, NHL and most other sport leagues had suspended their seasons, while the Olympics were officially postponed to 2021, the Juno Awards were cancelled, Parliament went on break, and schools began to close from coast to coast.  

We went from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks, and many, many mistakes were made as countries and organizations began to try to manage this novel, and extremely frightening, attack on our health and ways of life. 

We began a global journey through a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which had much in common with the blindfolded fumblings of Sandra Bullock in the film Bird Box;   it’s a miracle either saga finally found a respite in which to take a deep breath, and you just know there’s still a further twist to the tale, which will involve yet more monsters.    

Mistakes were made. Many, many dumb and well-meant mistakes were made, by many very smart and well-meaning people. Remember when Dr Fauci told Americans that they didn’t need to wear face masks? As it turns out, that was because there were severe shortages of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep healthcare workers on the front line of hospitals safe. Some nurses and doctors had to resort to wearing plastic bags instead of proper gear, to try and protect themselves, and many died while trying to save the sick.

Sadly, experts like Fauci and the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams knew that the same Americans emptying stores and hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer were likely to put masks on the ‘must have’ list, further endangering those health care workers. Were Fauci’s words a lie? A mistake? A true reading of the selfishness, greed, and lack of empathy they knew Americans were capable of exhibiting in a crisis?

16 months later there are anti-maskers pointing to Fauci’s words as justification for disobeying public health regulations currently in place, so I’m not sure that his impulse was his best career decision. It’s not right up there with injecting bleach into your veins, or shoving light sticks up where the sun don’t shine, but Fauci’s probably justifiably low opinion of his fellow citizens had a pretty serious rebound effect.

On March 30th, our PM Justin Trudeau announced a new wage subsidy program that would cover all businesses whose revenues had dropped by at least 30% because of COVID, and on April 14th, that aid was extended to nearly 5.4 million Canadians as CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit)  Some received as much as $2000 a month, which, along with other pandemic discounts, like a reduction of primetime Hydro costs, allowed singles and families to limp along as stores were shuttered, and restaurants and bars closed their doors – some, forever.

For a very long time I kept a tally of the rising numbers of the dead, even as I noted in my calendar the passing of friends, whose lives were never officially celebrated, because of limitations on gatherings.  

Throughout the summer of 2020, families struggled to keep themselves and their kids occupied, as teachers frantically worked to put together some sort of curriculum that they still did not know if they would be presenting in person, or by ZOOM. Most teachers had to do double duty, and prepare prospectuses for both aspects.

At the beginning of October, as America neared the critical November presidential election, it was suddenly announced that then president Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. He was whisked away for treatment, where a battery of specialists laboured to save his life. We now know that it was touch and go for him, and that he would not have survived had he been an ordinary patient without access to emergency and experimental medications. Still, insouciant and ungrateful, he was released from hospital within a few days, and triumphantly removed his face mask for the camera in a carefully posed for posterity, ridiculous, photo op. 

(And is it just me, or does that pic not scream it’s resemblance to the imagery and vibes of The Man In The High Castle?) 

Had he died, or had he finally told his followers how severe the disease was, and had he told them that simply masking themselves could help with slowing the spread, he might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But he did not, and the death toll in America soon hit a landmark figure – half a million American souls had died from this horrible disease.

Trump received 74 million votes, but there is no indication of how many of those were ‘mercy’ votes. Regardless, the tally was still lower than Biden’s, who received more than 81 million requests to take over before the ship of state went down for a third and final time.

The development of a vaccine was on the horizon. Although it normally takes about 10 to 15 years to produce a new vaccine, scientists had been working on something along the lines of COVID for a decade, since the SARS epidemic of 2009. Between that headstart, and the liberal application of government funding, at least three workable vaccines were produced in record time.   

On December 8th, the first Pfizer vaccine was injected into the arm of 91 year old Margaret Keenan, of Britain, and on December 14th, both Canada and the U.S. began administering vaccines to their citizens.  

But there’s a difference between having a vaccine available, and getting that vaccine out and into the arms of those who need it, and in this case, about 7 billion people needed two doses of it, and STAT. Many, many more mistakes were made.

While governments struggled to put schedules into place for the procuring and administering of the vaccine, the toll of the sick and the dead continued to rise around the world. Quebec and Ontario were hard hit, and curfews and stay-at-home orders took effect, restricting our movements.   

Winter dragged listlessly into spring. Time became amorphous, and most days, I didn’t know if it was a Monday or a Thursday. Nor did I care. I applauded those that took creative control of the lockdown and produced work, but refused to beat myself up for not being industrious in traumatic times.

On April 7, 2021, a much more vigorous third province wide lockdown went into effect in Ontario, and Ontarians learned a new term – ‘non-essential goods.’  We discovered that this covered children’s toys, books, underwear, shoes and sandals, hobby supplies, and non-garden centre gardening items.

Everyone had their high and low points; I’ll never forget the day I nearly burst into tears in a Dollarama because the foam mannequin head I needed for a craft project was deemed ‘non-essential.’  It wasn’t the foam head I was mourning, so much as the very idea of simply entering a store, choosing an item, and being allowed to freely purchase said item. That’s what I’ve done all of my life. Having that ‘right’ denied cut like a knife. I had had enough. I did not want to play pandemic any more. 

On the day that Ontario’s shopping lockdown was lifted, consumers headed out in droves to satisfy their itch to buy-buy-buy. There were lineups at every store, including the dollar shops and charity outlets. One morning I wanted to shop at a local charity store. About twenty minutes before the store was to open, there were 17 people in line ahead of me. When I asked some of the waiting if they had a specific purchase in mind, they told me that just being able to get into a store, to see what was available, and to freely touch the items was all they wanted.  

We are not just human-touch starved, it seems. We are also starved of the everyday, ordinary tactile experiences that we used to take for granted.

Because I have certain health issues, I made it a priority to get vaccinated as early as possible. Shawn and I had our first jab April 6th, and our second on June 7th. We’re now covered and eager to get back to some semblance of a social life in the near future.

well, not quite THIS social … 😉

But sixteen months after our COVID-19 journey began, the world has actually had more COVID deaths in 2021 to date than it did in all of 2020.  It’s NOT over. We, the lucky and the vaccinated in the West, can’t afford to rest on our jabbed laurels; the ill and the dying in less wealthy countries are producing variants that may be able to sneak past our vaccine defenses.

Where are we now? The Delta variant of the virus still poses a danger for the unvaccinated, and it’s apparently more contagious and deadlier than the previous version. The fully vaccinated are probably protected. This variant represents a phase of the pandemic that focuses on the unvaccinated.  

Even as the number of Canadian hospitalizations and deaths fall, people around the world are reimposing mask requirements and death tolls are rising. In Africa, a third wave is surging, and threatening to be it’s most devastating and worst wave yet. India has recorded over 30 million cases, and nearly 400,000 deaths. In Sydney, Australia this week, at least half a million residents have been forced into lockdown for yet another week.

And still there are no plans to shelve the Tokyo Olympics, which open officially in just four weeks. One option in play is a ‘no-spectator games,’ but the situation changes from day to day, and organizers need to remain flexible to changes. Since there’s already signs of a resurgence of infections (1% in the last week) athletes have to roll the dice to decide whether or not participation is a wise choice for their health and their careers. 

Last week, two members of the Ugandan team tested positive for the Delta variant upon entry to Japan. No matter how extensive the testing may be, there are 11,000 Olympian athletes and 4,400 Paralympic athletes entering Tokyo, along with the tens of thousands of additional participants amongst the coaches, judges, and federation officials. That’s a lot of testing. And a lot of room for error and mistakes.

Covid-zero nations are working diligently to eliminate the virus through isolation and mass vaccinations. Biden’s White House has said that it will provide Afghanistan with 3 million doses of the J&J vaccine, of which only one dose is needed, along with oxygen and other supplies, in an effort to help with an outbreak of the delta variant.

Overall, the United States is donating 55 million doses to the world. Canada has plans to donate 100 million doses as part of the G7 effort to provide a billion doses to low- and middle-income countries, but for now, we are donating 13 million ‘surplus’ doses, which are mainly comprised of brands which we are either having difficulty bringing into Canada, or which haven’t been authorized for Canadian distribution.

It’s been a devastating sixteen months, and it’s not over yet. We’ve seen the best in people, and we’ve certainly seen the worst come from the words and deeds of the selfish and the ignorant. Many of us seem determined not to give those who got us here their due; again, there have been mistakes made, but we’re still standing, and in Canada, we’re closing in on the finish line, with reasonable numbers to show for this unexpected and overwhelming calamity.

We’ve learned that being elected can’t turn a bad politician into a leader, and that leadership doesn’t come naturally to all contenders. And we’ve learned that we, as a nation, are strong enough to make it through a crisis that brought other countries to their knees.

And for that, at least, we can be justly proud.

Freebies and Freecycles


by Roxanne Tellier

The hardest part of starting something – is starting something.

In 2003, Deron Beal was 39 years old, and working in Tucson, Arizona for a non-profit group that combined recycling with job training. Beal couldn’t stand to see good, usable items in his neighbourhood being thrown away on garbage day, and he began rescuing things that would have otherwise only added to the mass in the ever-growing city dumps and landfills. 

But soon he’d accumulated a warehouse of furniture, computer parts, and other items that, while not recyclable, were still useable, and were often items in demand by other non-profits. He’d drive around to drop off donations, but the pile was getting higher, and the work became too much for one person.

That’s when Beal got the idea of setting up a group on the Yahoo network, dedicated to the sharing of items that might otherwise be scrapped.  He began by emailing a few of the Tucson non-profits and about 30 of his friends, and overnight, The Freecycle Network was launched. Memberships soared from 60 to 800 members within days.

The name came from the idea of ‘free recycling’ – a ‘free cycle’ of giving, with no strings attached.

The beauty of Freecycle is it empowers each of us to make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”  Deron Beal.

Beal soon set up a national website, bringing in city after city, and it wasn’t very long before the organization stretched world-wide, spreading to over 110 countries, with thousands of local groups within over 5,100 local chapters, and millions of members, to ultimately become a huge philanthropic system, almost entirely staffed by like-minded volunteers.

Membership is completely free. The only rule is that everything posted on the website must be completely free, legal, and appropriate for everyone, regardless of their age.  

Joining the global system couldn’t be easier; simply visit www.freecycle.org, find your local group, and click ‘join.’ One of the worldwide volunteers will then send you instructions on how to use the network.

On any given day, about 32,000 items are offered or requested, and there is no telling exactly what you might find on the list. Textbooks, furniture, plants, cat trees – in the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve seen everything from a broken kettle to a limousine and a house boat being offered.  

Picked up in April 2021

I’ve been an avid freecycler since March of 2006. One of the first items I received was a bar fridge, and I kept that until just a few years ago, when I passed it on to a friend whose fridge had broken.

Wandering thru my Freecycle email folder is like a trip down memory lane, as I note all the items, big and small, I’ve received or donated in the last 15 years.

When we lived in Scarborough, I usually ttc’ed to wherever I needed to be to pick up the goodies. I’ll never forget struggling home from Woodbine and Queen with an enormous, queen sized magnet mattress pad. Took me hours, by bus, subway, and GO train. Thankfully it was in November; I’d never have survived the trip in the summer.

I once ttc’ed all the way to Jane and Steeles to pick up some used medical supplies that we needed as props for a film we worked on. In 2016, Shawn and I somehow wrestled a treadmill into our van, and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since. It’s living in the shed these days.

A new treasure – just freecycled this week!

In 2018 I needed a cane after sustaining a back injury. I’d hardly typed in the request before a senior care group was organizing to bring one to my home that very evening, and asking if there were any other items I might need, or help they could give.

I’ve been gifted so many items, and I’ve donated just as many through the years. Early on, I was happy to clear out excess plants and gardening utensils, outgrown clothing, unused cosmetics and hair products, and out of date computer parts. After breaking my ankle twice, I decided it was time to dispose of my stage stilettos – it just broke my heart to see them go. Particularly when one of the people who’d requested his pick of the fancy shoes and boots arrived in a Mercedes Benz, wearing a $600 business suit, and announced he wanted something pretty for his wife. I just hoped my used footwear wasn’t earmarked for her Mother’s Day present.

More recently, I saw how hard the city has been hit by the pandemic. I offered up a couple of bags of ‘gently’ expired food items after purging my pantry, and was flooded with requests for the food. I finally wound up splitting the goodies (and adding a bunch more, freshly purchased treats) between two families who were happy to have the foodstuff.  

I’ve always had an intimate awareness of economic inequality. I came from a family that, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely poor. We were often ‘food insecure,’ but my mother made sure we were never short of love. 

I grew up hypervigilant, ever aware of how close to the bone we were, financially. It made me determinedly, even doggedly, self-sufficient. I knew, from a very young age, that some people had a lot of good things, while others had less, and that, for the unfortunate few, having food and shelter at the end of the day could revolve around having the luck of finding a chair at the table when the music stopped.

Our city, like so many others, has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has only highlighted the extreme economic inequity we’re soaking in. Our ‘essential workers’ are lucky if they make minimum wage, yet many have either had their hours drastically cut, or lost their jobs completely. The skyrocketing real estate values have exacerbated the already out of control shortage of affordable housing. And while those businesses that were allowed to stay open have raked in billions, by January 2021, more than 200,000 small businesses in Canada had closed their doors forever, and will never reopen.

In the long-term, even band aid solutions to these issues will have to come from governments, but unfortunately, we’re not exactly blessed with capital L Leaders or Leadership at the moment.

And that means that all we can do to help those who need our help is to be aware of the resources, big and small, that concerned people have provided that we can access. 

There’s Freecycle, of course, and also a bunch of similar groups that have sprung up on the internet, including Toronto-ReUseIt (GoogleGroups.com,) FreeTOReuse (yahoo,) TrashNothing.com, and many more that you can find on Google or Facebook.

Toronto has always been a city with a big heart. There are many charitable groups that feed and clothe our homeless and vulnerable, and there are some great social media groups, including Caremongering-TO, that sidestep the usual bureaucracy to get funds and food directly into the hands of the needy.  

There’s also something called the Really Really Free Market that has been on hold during COVID, but is apparently going to be revived soon. They gather on the first Saturday of every month at Campbell Park (Dupont/Lansdowne) and usually attract a good crowd. As they say on their Facebook page:

Basically, it’s a community-space for sharing – where people bring what they have to give, take what they need, and leave the rest. It’s kind of like a potluck, but for goods and services!

How it works:

You can drop stuff off, pick something up, or stick around! This could include both items and services, such as:

-clothes, books, music, furniture, household and kitchen wares, pet supplies

-homemade goods, such as crafts, art, artisan goods, and baked goods (don’t forget to list the ingredients!)

-services, such as haircuts, yoga classes, music/dance lessons, massage, or gardening help.

All unclaimed items will be donated at the end of the day.”

Really Really Free Market, Toronto

Every little bit that we do to help others counts. I found out recently that there are a few people who are still making face (COVID) masks, and leaving them outside to be taken by anyone who needs or wants a face covering.

I just love the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in cities and towns across North America in the last few years. There’s about a dozen within crawling distance of me, and they get my full support.  (LittleFreeLibrary.org)

Many have diversified as needed, now carrying CDs, DVDs, and the odd video or audio tape for sharing. A few also allow little luxuries like perfume and hand creams to be shared.     

Some of those Little Libraries have morphed into Little Free Pantries during the pandemic. There’s at least two near me, one just above Kingston Road, on Hunt Club, and another just north of Danforth Avenue, at Woodbine. There people can share non-perishables, and get information on how to get help with their food and shelter needs. Every little bit helps.

There are eight places to leave books and other items in my immediate area, including a small box for food donations at a local church. Yesterday I headed out for my afternoon walkabout with a can of Spam, a can of corned beef, three tins of Mandarin oranges, 6 DVDs, an expensive shampoo and conditioner set I hadn’t liked, a small container of Estee Lauder’s “Pleasure’ body lotion, a couple of still sealed lipsticks, some hair clips, and of course, a half dozen books, and made the rounds of these drop off points. While on the way, I twice spotted boxes of books on the curb, and added those to my stash for distribution. Sharing these items is a great way to do a little something for others, without feeling any kind of deprivation of one’s own.

Just as with the spirit of Freecycling,  “each of us can make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”

All we have to do is the hardest part … and start. 

What Do You Miss the Most?


by Roxanne Tellier

A couple of weeks into the start of the COVID pandemic, I asked my husband if he’d have done anything differently before we entered lockdown, now that we had a little experience with this way of life. We kicked around a few thoughts, but it all being so new, he couldn’t really think of much he could have done to prepare.

We’re pretty low maintenance. We’re retired, have a very small place stuffed with the goods of a lifetime of (my) conspicuous consumption, and really don’t need much to get by. But need is not want, and want is what drives our capitalistic society, which we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not. 

The pandemic made me realize that what I missed most about my pre-COVID life was the ability to do the things I had taken for granted – the ability to move through my city freely, meet with friends and family when I wished, stop for a coffee or lunch break without having to check that the location was open, and shopping leisurely without worrying about having to line up for entry first.

Oh, and to find an open public washroom when nature called. That turned out to be one of the little amenities most of us had never had to consider in the past.

I’ve lived in Canada all of my life, and I’ve seen things come and go, as times and society changes. I remember ashtrays affixed to supermarket carts, and when you only had to look up and around to find a clock attached to a wall, or a building, ticking away the hours of our lives. But for all the changes, both good and bad, that I’ve seen, what I’ve never seen is a curtailing of the basic things that keep Canada in the top or near top of “Best Places to Live” in the world.

We take our freedoms and rights for granted, rarely acknowledging how much work has gone into making Canada the free country others envy. Our ancestors mostly chose to leave the evils of their places of birth behind, and instead, to work together to create the society we enjoy today. Decade by decade, election by election, those who came before us made the health and well-being of citizens a priority, and they did it with the politeness that Canadians have always been famous for. 

What is the difference Why is Canada considered a Cultural Mosaic and not a Melting Pot Why is this important to our country’s population

We became a nation of shopkeepers, not a company of merchants. We were the vertical mosaic of different ethnic, language, regional and religious groupings, rather than the melting pot of America, where immigrants are expected to adopt and follow the American way, however it is currently defined. We retained our cultures and beliefs, and in a crisis, Canadians pulled together.

After one year of a global pandemic, the veneer of that civility is wearing thin. Oh sure, we appreciated those who sacrificed to keep us going, in the beginning, but as the months wore on, and as the information meted out to us morphed and changed as new knowledge about the virus was obtained, a lot of us started to show our fangs.

The constraints put upon us, to stay inside, wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and get the vaccine when it is available, those strictures that once would have been the only responsible adult choice, have become just too ‘demanding’ for many of us to bear.

After a little more than a year of living under Covid, important lessons have been learned by some countries, and have been completely ignored in others.

A successful response to Covid-19 turned out to depend on more than a country’s wealth, scientific prowess and history of public health successes. The U.S. enjoys all of these advantages but mounted one of the worst responses to the pandemic: 1 in every 990 Americans has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Bad politics, quite simply, can trump good public health.

Other developed countries that did well initially, such as Canada and some European nations, have faltered during the second or third surge of infections, because their governments and people grew tired of implementing effective strategies. In many Asian countries, it has long been common for people to wear masks when feeling ill, so they adopted masks early and widely. “ 

The Wall Street Journal, January 2021  

Taiwan profited from early action, and the provision of intensive financial support to the ill, and to contact tracing, which kept Taiwan to less than 800 cases by the end of 2020.

American Samoa never saw a single case or death from the virus, due to the territory calling a complete halt to all incoming passenger flights. While the 55,000 inhabitants have been isolated from the rest of the world, they have not had to implement any sort of closures, distancing, testing, or strain on their health care.  

New Zealand crushed the curve early, first, by being an island better able to enforce travel bans, and secondly, by an aggressive pandemic influenza plan that began in February of 2020. Implementing a country wide lockdown in late March of 2020 essentially eliminated the virus entirely. By June, New Zealand was pandemic free, with only a few cases coming from international travelers, who were kept in quarantine for two weeks post-arrival. Jacinda Arden, the NZ Prime Minister, must be congratulated for her use of clear communication that worked to increase her people’s willingness to cooperate for the betterment of the nation.

Finland, South Africa, and Germany fared well by relying on clear, concise communication, that allowed people to understand their risks, and shoved aside any acceptance of the concept of ‘fake news’ that would confuse their people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for her citizens to have “patience, discipline and solidarity,” the three essentials to an effective pandemic response.  

“The European Dream” prize winning photo … Andrei Stenin

Many other countries, like Brazil, Moldova, India, Czechia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria, have suffered far worse, with thousands of deaths, all while suffering with little modern conveniences or health care to give any comfort.  

In Canada, a very large segment of Canadians, a very large and VOCAL segment, did not take much of a financial hit. Those who had a decent job, with benefits, were generally in position to simply move their office into their home, thru the miracle of the internet and ZOOM. In fact, that group is said to have accrued quite a lot of extra money they didn’t expect to have, due to the lack of restaurants to visit, vacations allowed to be taken, and a focus on shopping by mail, rather than in person.

Scotiabank polled over 1,500 Canadians to learn more about their saving and spending habits since the pandemic began and found that one in four Canadians (25%) have been able to save more because of reduced spending in other areas of their lives. Canadians who are saving more say they are spending less on: eating out (75%), entertainment (81%), clothing and apparel (58%), and commuting costs (41%).  Also, more than a third (37%) who are putting more money aside have made saving a priority since COVID-19.” 

(Scotiabank Newsletter, November 2020)

For the first time in 50 years, I stopped spending about $50 every four weeks to get my hair coloured, and discovered that my ‘real’ hair colour made me look like a cross between a Shih Tzu and Blanche from Golden Girls.  

Lots of other people – those whom we call ‘essential’ but pay as if they aren’t – were the human tinder we threw on COVID’s fire. In March of 2020, people all over the world were urged to ‘make some noise’ to honour healthcare workers, by going onto our porches or balconies, or throwing open our windows to cheer, applaud, and bang pots. That lasted a few months, but as time wore on, I guess we just decided we didn’t really care how many of those in the healthcare field were exhausted or dying from having to care for hundreds, then thousands, and eventually, millions, of sick people.

Hazard pay” for those low on the totem pole, but highly likely to become infected, was discontinued by the fall. We stopped being grateful for those minimum wage earners who staffed the groceries, pharmacies, and Big Box stores, and started demanding that they serve us as though we were management, and they were grovelling for a raise in salary.

We cared about the seniors and sick who were dying by the hundreds, until it meant that the day when we had planned to get a haircut was pushed forward, again and again, until many of us just took the clippers to our manes and had at it, because, really, who would see it when you hadn’t anywhere you were allowed to go?

The herd immunity that initially shocked people by it’s callous cruelty, started to sound good to those who didn’t care how many had to die to get there, as long as it wasn’t themselves, and it meant that they could get out to see a band or a sports match. 

For a very short time, some businesses cared about those who were chafing under the pressure, those who made their living doing jobs that barely covered their needs during normal times, now having their hours drastically cut, while still being ineligible for supplements like CERB.

Ontario Hydro lowered their rates, but decided, in the fall, that they’d done enough to help, and that profits over people were more important.

““Last fall, our government introduced customer choice for all Ontario customers; we encourage customers who continue to work from home who are still paying time-of-use electricity rates to consider switching to the tiered rate option, offering a flat rate at all hours of the day,” the spokesperson from the Ministry of Health told Daily Hive. 

They added that customers who are unable to pay their electricity bills due to COVID-19 can apply to the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) through their local utility. We have recently expanded eligibility for the CEAP program and residential customers can now receive up to $750 in direct electricity-bill relief.” 

The Daily Hive

Rents and mortgage rates, controlled provincially, have been entangled in regulations that have left many wondering if that roof over their head would be there in the near future, and at what cost. Banks upped their rates, eagerly collecting all those one-dollar-a-transaction fees from those being asked to make their purchases with bank debit cards rather than cash.

As the new year dawned, many companies, large and small, raised their prices and rates to reflect that they’d suffered financial losses in 2020, while ignoring the corollary, that their users and buyers had suffered just as much, if not more, in a turbulent economy.

This week, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford added even more severe restrictions on Ontarians, some of which make little sense, from the standpoint of those in the medical field already coping with a flood of sick patients. Social scientists and medical professionals have called his latest declarations “an abandonment of science and common sense,” and warn that we will see “a completely foreseeable and preventable tragedy play out in this province.” 

Like a bad parent, unable to control a wayward child, Ford’s reliance on the ‘grounding’ of citizens is backfiring. Continually backing people into a corner only works for so long, before even the meekest amongst us will come out fighting.

Tippy toeing around the necessity for masking, and waiving fines for the scofflaws not only not masking, but organizing large super spreader events, has made even the most compliant of good citizens show their teeth.

And here’s the problem – we don’t have any answers, any other options. All the things we shoulda coulda done from the onset, including school, business, and airport closings, were off the table from the start in an attempt to appease Big Business, and keep the economy chugging along. 13 months in, the virus has dug deep into the soft under belly of its victims, and thrown off new, even more contagious and dangerous variants. Now, all we can do is hold on tight til the end of the ride.

At this point, there’s little we can do to stop this third wave beyond shutting down non-essential businesses and services, enforcing the necessary health mandates of masking and distancing, and getting ourselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

But I’m growing concerned that our leaders are oblivious to the roiling anger simmering underneath our lip service to containment that prioritized business over people, and the lack of policing of those who openly and publicly advocate and display civil disobedience that may prevent our country from ever completely eradicating this plague.

That, along with the pandemic fatigue that has left so many in pursuit of unrequited self-determination, and the sister pandemic of selfishness, may well be the death of many more of us.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that what COVID stole from me, what I miss more than anything else, is the belief that, in a crisis, Canadians would always pull together for the good of their country, and of their fellow Canadians. That’s something that I never thought I’d have to question. But it seems it only took a year of belt-tightening and restrictions to bring out the worst in too many of us.

Cogito, ergo sum I think


by Roxanne Tellier

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over. A new one just begun.”  (John Lennon/Yoko Ono)  

In 18 days, this year – this miserable, disappointing, painful, ugly, disquieting, frustrating and lonely year – will finally end. Good riddance to it; it’s broken far too many of us.

It was a year when being an introvert might have saved your psyche, if it weren’t for the people you were locking down with. Really, the pandemic opened our eyes to how socially distant we already were, in our own minds. For many, not having to be around other people was wonderful. The world, as a rule, is built for extroverts, who enjoy and thrive on the energy generated by gatherings, their brain’s ‘reward’ centre activated. But if you’re an introvert, dealing with others is overstimulating, akin to being drained by a vampire; it takes a while to recover from the contact, no matter how pleasurable. 

This year, we learned to fear others, since there is no way to know if that kid on his scooter, the crazy lady in the supermarket, or that guy walking on your side of the street, is carrying the virus. We are less quick to remember the niceties of civilization, like holding open the door for others, or asking a confused looking person if they’re all right. In our misperception, we are more likely to push the automatic door opening button rather than touch the door’s handle, without realizing how many others, potentially infected, did the same thing.

But it’s also the year in which we came together, within our ‘bubble,’ and, perhaps naively, assumed that people we knew, or those who looked the most like us, could not possibly be the carriers of the plague. It was a little like the bad old days of herpes and HIV/AIDS, when many threw the sexual dice based on how ‘clean’ the potential partner appeared. I wonder how many people, grateful to interact, joyfully greeted the instrument of their demise with hugs and handshakes.  

2020 was when we learned who the real ‘essential workers’ are, and it’s not the 1%, or the CEOs; it’s the guy or gal on the front line, making your coffee, wiping down tables with antiseptic cleanser, or processing your order. It’s the drivers of the delivery trucks that deliver an unending stream of necessities and baubles to keep our brains and hands occupied. It’s the hospital staff who keep working during the worse time of their careers. It’s the construction worker who is fixing the sidewalk, or the plumber that comes to your house to fix that leak. Now we need to learn that these people who keep the world turning deserve to be paid accordingly.

We also discovered what an enormous role, emotionally and financially, the arts play in our lives. When the world of entertainment shut down, a big part of our leisure lives went with it. The entertainment industry were already calculating at least a $160 billion hit, over the next few years, just a couple of months into the pandemic. The many industries that exist to support theatres, concert halls, and other places that offer music, theatre, and dance are also struggling to survive.

With so many people unable to use the pressure-relieving valve of gathering, be it at work or play, a lot of things we took for granted as being ‘just the way it is,’ were revealed to be illusory. The important things – food on the table, a roof over you head – shone a light on how foolish we had been in equating the skyrocketing stock market with the economy. In actual fact, inequality has never been as sharp. We are a nation of haves and have nots, with one end of society able to ply their trade from home, while the other may be losing their homes and contemplating life in a tent in a city park.

In the United States, more than eleven million people remain unemployed, while 614 American billionaires grew their wealth by nearly a trillion dollars. And in Canada ….

“A report released on June 17 by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) reveals staggering levels of social inequality in Canada. Often portrayed in the corporate media and official politics as a “kinder,” more “progressive” society than the United States, Canadian capitalism is exposed in the study as an oligarchic social order.

According to the PBO, the share of wealth held by the top one percent of Canadians is 25.6 percent. This is almost double the estimate of 13.7 percent given by Statistics Canada.  

According to the new PBO estimates, the top one percent in Canada owns about as much as the poorest 80 percent. The upper middle class and petty bourgeoisie, the 9 per cent immediately following the top one per cent, own 30.8 per cent of the wealth.

The millionaires and billionaires in the richest 10 per cent of the population own a staggering $5.829 trillion. “

There’s an ever-widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor, in Canada, as in the rest of the world. The richest one percent of the globe’s population possesses twice as much wealth as the poorest 6.9 billion. And that has had devastating consequences on those struggling to survive. The poor are more likely to have less access to higher education, to suffer from health problems, and to die many years earlier than the wealthy.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our personal and financial circumstances, even before you take into account the emotional toll it’s had on us. As humans experiencing the trauma of the pandemic, many are experiencing depression, anxiety, panic attacks, grief at what has been lost, and suicidal ideations. Worse, whole communities are being impacted, so that the pandemic is about to leave a societal scar. Beyond the struggle each of us are dealing with, we are experiencing a collective or communal trauma. Psychologists say this can impact the psyche and culture of our communities, sometimes spanning generations.

2020 has been a horrible year for so many reasons. But it’s also had a few bright spots. There’s been a number of scientific breakthroughs that may help curb the effects of climate change. A drop in pollution caused by commuting has brightened our skies, and even made the Himalayas visible for the first time in thirty years.

In Europe, an app developed in Denmark called “Too Good To Go” has kept over 30 million meals out of the trash by connecting businesses with excess food to consumers who can buy that food at reduced prices.

A Brazilian and U.S. non-profit initiative is paying farmers and ranchers to keep the Amazon forest standing.  The pandemic also shone a light on the ‘wet markets’ where poorly handled animals being consumed contribute to about 75% of recently emerged infectious diseases affecting humans, with cities finally willing to work towards shuttering these places.

The wave of kindness and community that blossomed at the beginning of the pandemic is waning, but in its place are new and often renewed charitable agencies helping people to get through these tough times. Volunteerism is up.  Animal adoptions are at an all time high, as people connect with a furry friend and companion.  

In the States, Joe Biden is the president elect, and Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first African American, and the first South Asian American to be elected to the vice presidency. In just over a month, the reign of error that was trump will hopefully be in our rear-view mirrors.

Not one, but several vaccines have been created at breathtaking speed, and are being distributed around the world, leading to hope that within about a year, we can look forward to returning to some kind of normal. And the pandemic itself has taught us some important lessons about responsible health care that is already having an impact on the rate of colds and flus that regularly take us down when our bodies are stressed. Turns out, washing your hands, wearing a mask, and staying home when we’re sick has a positive outcome on lots of more common illnesses.  

So it’s been a year that closer resembled a Chinese curse than a gift, but it’s almost over, and many of us survived. We’re all a little older, wiser, and greyer. Some of us have less money than before this trial, while others learned that money really can’t buy happiness, but a CERB cheque can buy a lot of cool junk on Amazon. And they deliver.

What a ride, eh?

Wishing that your holidays be merry, and your new year a blessing. Love to you all.

No Law Just Disorder


by Roxanne Tellier

Generally, writing about the continuing political clown show in America is more exciting than writing about what are often picayune matters in Canadian politics.

Canada has practically sailed thru the pandemic, in comparison to other countries. We’ve been lucky, overall, and much of that success is because the majority of us are happy to comply with regulations that will help stop the spread of the virus. Things could most definitely have gone much worse.

Yes, I think we’ve handled the pandemic fairly well. Certainly, better than I have handled realizing exactly how selfish, self-centred, and horrible so many have become in the last nine months. No one is enjoying living through this crisis, but some are not only behaving like obnoxious, spoiled brats, they’re forcing others to carry them through their ‘trauma.’

This week, our activist citizens thrust themselves into global prominence with the arrest of Adam Skelly, a young man from a wealthy Leaside family, who claimed to be acting in the name of ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ when he defied the province’s 28- day ban on indoor dining at Toronto’s bars and restaurants.

Skelly owns a couple of restaurants in the city, including one in the suburbs of Etobicoke. When the ban was imposed, Skelly simply ignored the law, declaring on social media Monday night that he would open for business, including for in-person dining. On Tuesday, the city’s public health chief explicitly ordered him to close his doors, but on Wednesday, he continued to serve customers, resulting in non-criminal charges for Skelly, and the corporation that owns the restaurant.

The location became a gathering spot for anti-maskers, who congregated around the diner, protesting vocally and with placards, warning about political ‘communism.’  

The police and the city dithered for a few days, a mistake which allowed the protestors to gather in strength. However, on Thursday, the police finally acted, and led Mr. Skelly away in handcuffs.  

“Look Ma! No Mask!”

“On Thursday, police changed the locks on the restaurant, but allowed Skelly into a portion of the building they believed was not covered by the closure order from Toronto Public Health.

However, according to police, his supporters smashed through drywall to access the restaurant area to try and reopen it.

Skelly was led away in handcuffs and now faces a number of charges, including attempting to obstruct police, mischief under, failing to comply with a continued order under the Reopening Ontario Act, and failing to leave when directed under the Trespass to Property Act.

He appeared in court via video link on Friday, and was released after his wife posted $50,000 bail.“  (CTV News)

That bail likely came from a GoFundMe organized by his supporters immediately after his arrest. To date, that fund stands at $271,166. So – it’s been rather lucrative for the scofflaw.

Skelly and his customers were blatantly disrespecting not just the law, but their fellow citizens, whose lives they were risking for their own needs. And – here’s the thing; I’ll bet if you asked any of those protestors how they feel about ‘Defund the Police’ they’d be on the side of the Boys in Blue. Just not when those Boys are ‘interfering’ with what they consider to be their own privileged rights.

It’s true! Even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

Here’s Doug Ford proving the adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

“Speaking with CP24, criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said Skelly could face some serious further charges if he continues to defy the law.

“He could be charged with serious crimes that are called ‘fail to comply,’ Goldkind said. “And when you get charged with fail to comply, you’re taking your jeopardy of these mischief and obstruct charges and you’re increasing it greatly.”

Goldkind said the conditions of Skelly’s bail are “significant,” including the stipulation that he not use social media. That charge likely stems from his use of Instagram to announce that he would defy the lockdown orders and invite people to come eat at his restaurant, and his subsequent use of the platform to call for locksmiths and other help to re-open the restaurant after it was shut down by police and public health officials.” (CTVNews)

Whether or not Skellly’s protest works out financially for him (and I’m gonna bet it will,) we do have to look at the growing swell of Canadians who are totally fed up with what seems like arbitrary rules that ignore science, in deference to Big Business. Where is the justification in the closing of restaurants and shops that have bent over backwards to comply, while keeping their customers safe?

It all starts to look a lot like how the province behaved when the drive to stop smoking in public began. Businesses kept trying to comply, while the province kept making it harder for the businesses to do so. Yeah, I’m glad we’re not allowed to smoke in restaurants any more. I’m just very much against how they went about achieving that objective.

Small businesses all over the city are suffering under Ontario’s rules for surviving the pandemic. This time of year is when most count on making the bulk of the year’s profits. Ford played the Grinch when he decided to shut them down, while allowing Big Box stores to remain open.

By the spring, we’re going to see a flood of personal and business bankruptcies, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the Dirty Thirties.

Schools remain open, even as cases rise, and our hospitals worry they’ll once again have to cancel surgeries. Skelly playing scofflaw as others play by the rules only ups the ante for those who’re unable to pay their rents or staff.

With few exceptions, political leaders have bent over backwards to accommodate Big Business, many of which are also Big Donors to their campaigns. There’s been a real tippy toeing around the need to completely shut things down for the 4 to 6 weeks it would take to break the virus’ stranglehold on our economy. But had we done so back in the spring, we’d be looking forward to celebrating a much merrier Christmas by now.

Our leaders promised to “do whatever it takes” to stop COVID-19; and then, they didn’t.

Instead, the city and the province are allowing scofflaws and rabble to warp the narrative to their own agendas. Until those breaking these laws are fined heavily, and possibly arrested for multiple offenses, we can look forward to their anti-masking, anti-lockdown protests to scale up as tempers ramp up.

Every weekend, a group of anti-maskers gather at Dundas Square to share disinformation about “science” they’ve gleaned from the nonsense Russian bots convey on YouTube, and whatever flavour of nutso Parler has up that day. And every weekend, those crowds grow larger and louder. Why are the protestors – at the very least the instigators – not being fined for flaunting laws put into place for the safety at all?

I’ve heard from people who live in the area that these protestors will often spread out to other areas of the city after the rally, shouting at pedestrians and trying to rip the masks off other people’s faces. This is assault, even were there no public health laws in place for the safety of us all.

This has been a really rough year for everyone. It would be great if we could just try to get to the end of it in one piece, with our city intact.

Arresting Skelly is a first step. Now it’s time for our local, provincial, and federal officials to stop pandering to those who are too spoiled and selfish to care who they infect. It’s not about ‘freedom’ – it’s about a public health crisis, and the need to care for ALL Canadians.

Lockdown Letdown


by Roxanne Tellier

I don’t want to play Pandemicanymore. I really don’t. I’ve had enough of not seeing my friends and family, of scarcities and lineups that make me feel like I’m in post-Communist Russia, and of people being cranky. I’m sick of worrying about if there’s enough of this or that and if not, how to figure out when and where to get more, and I’ve had it with not being able to just go out to restaurants and socialize like normal people… I’ve had enough.

At this point, when I and most of the planet have it up to our teeth, and as the holidays loom, mere weeks away, and mainly due to the efforts of organized anti-maskers and scofflaws who endanger us all with their YouTube engendered f*ckery, we’re going back into another ‘lockdown.’

With just a few days notice, people are panic-shopping, the stores are jammed, there’s lineups around every block, and – maybe I’m going a little nutso with the panic buying. I mean, who really needs five boxes of Harvest Crunch? Apparently, I do.   

But what’s worse is that this lockdown is likely not even going to help much, but it may well ruin more small businesses, most of which have been barely hanging on by a toenail.  What’s the point of keeping restaurants closed when the schools are still open, and the anti maskers are out loud and proud every weekend with megaphones and free hugs, ensuring that we may never successfully emerge from this pandemic? And why aren’t the cops charging and fining every one of those scofflaws each time they’re caught maskless? Why are the rest of us having to suffer while these attention seekers get off scot-free?

I’m so done with these anti maskers, the selfish, self-centred covidiots. They are like the kid that murders his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court, because he’s an orphan. It’s not down to them to decide that their YouTube research trumps actual scientific fact. Masks help to reduce transmission. There’s your fact. Denying it is the hoax.

This is a public health crisis, not 11th grade. I am SO done with these dangerous saps. Fine them into bankruptcy, and if that doesn’t stop them – well, even Typhoid Mary eventually got quarantined on North Brother Island for the last 23 years of her life. We have precedent for dealing with super-spreaders

Global daily deaths to Nov 11, 2020

We’ve now suffered eight months of this pandemic, and lost far too many good people before their time. It’s not just those old people housed in long term facilities, who didn’t deserve such ignominious and lonely passings; health care professionals have been decimated by the virus as well. The virus doesn’t ask to see your driver’s license, citizenship papers, or electoral choice – it kills indiscriminately.

The numbers are insane – in Canada alone, we’ve lost roughly 11,500 people. The US has now topped 256,000 dead, and there’s 1.34 MILLION dead around the world, with another 55.6 million infected. Don’t tell me that this is a ‘hoax.’ It’s one thing to believe that places might be faking the numbers of the dead, but it’s another thing entirely to believe that anyone is faking cremations. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

To the south, Americans are just plain screwed. Severe lockdowns loom amid skyrocketing hospitalizations, with no financial relief in sight. And yet, apparently that’s not enough to stop many from jamming the airports and crisscrossing the country for Thanksgiving.

While Trump tries to hang on to a job he doesn’t really want anymore, he still won’t let Biden’s transition crew get in there and help the country. Trump’s painted himself into a corner, where he’s still enjoying presidential perks, but the rest of America is looking at ending the year sick, hungry and homeless.

Middle-class homeless in California

They desperately need another coronavirus relief bill, as the economy lurches into deeper economic depression. By the end of the year, about 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. Those who’ve been struggling just to keep afloat will find themselves on the streets – homeless and impoverished. 

At that point you can quit worrying about whether or not COVID is real, because 12 million hungry Americans forced to fend for themselves without any hope are not going to be ‘good neighbours.’

Trump’s biggest enablers, his buddies in the admin and his FOXy Friends, have begun to whisper that it’s time ‘someone’ did something, but their faithful followers aren’t likely to pay any attention. Fox viewers have been thoroughly indoctrinated into believing that Biden stole the election, and that the virus is a hoax, no worse than a flu. Biden beginning the transition into the presidency confounds what they’ve been lead to believe.

Biden being barred from normal transitioning means that medical and economic help will be delayed a further two months, and the situation will worsen. Plans for the vaccine? Back-burnered. A relief bill? No need; trump’s got this. Somehow. Right after this back nine…

There can’t BE a transition, you see, because trump says (without evidence) that’s there’s been widespread voter fraud, and he’s using that as leverage to suck the last few dollars out of his followers’ wallets, to pay for a team of double-talking, but ultimately useless, lawyers. Trump’s followers are fully invested in the hope that somehow, they’re going to overturn the Biden win.

You won’t want to be around trump’s ‘believers’ when their dreams come crashing down, and they find themselves sick, hungry, and homeless.

For those in the conservative media, or the Republican party, who half-heartedly want to encourage trump to do the right thing – concede, and allow work to begin on the pandemic – such talk is tantamount to committing a trumpian double sin. Firstly, they’re whispering that trump may not actually be president when work begins on distributing the vaccine. But secondly, trump has downplayed COVID 19 to his cult for so long, that the vaccine is not even supposed to be a big deal that needs to be addressed. He’s told them the pandemic isn’t such a bad thing .. look at how quickly he got over it! … so, no worries. Que sera sera. All in good time. Manana. Hakuna Matata, baby.

On Saturday, “the G20, the “Group of Twenty,” which consists of leaders of developed or developing countries from around the world, met virtually. After speaking briefly, Trump turned his attention back to tweeting false information about the 2020 election. Then, while members of the G20 began to talk about responses to the global pandemic, Trump went golfing. This was his 298th golf trip during his presidency. Today America surpassed 12 million coronavirus infections.”   (Heather Cox Richardson, historian-author)

The world is beginning to lose patience with America’s lack of response to the pandemic. Denial and dysfunction on an epic level have revealed that America, under trump and under pressure, was simply not up to the task of protecting their people and their economy. Any sympathy towards those caught up unwittingly in the cobwebs of this massive abuse of leadership is fading, after an election that showed that clearly half the nation was still on board with trump, and will follow him, even unto death.  

While the United States juggles both a health and an economic crisis. the nation also finds itself sharply split, politically. That polarization, combined with a public distrust of government institutions that plays into trump’s refusal to take simple health precautions seriously, would be enough to bring any nation to its knees. But now, as trump supporters refuse to believe the results of their election, United State’s democracy is truly under attack.

Today’s America – a nation sick, broke and broken, and fighting against itself. A house divided.

In the face of such a complete and total failure of leadership, golfing is all that trump has left. He failed the nation, and willfully ceded everything asked of a leader.

Fore!

Surviving a Plague


Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.

Germany’s Madame Tussaud Dumps Trump

I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst.  We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.

Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.  

Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.

So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.  

Toronto’s Dundas Square, April 2020

What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?

Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.

I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.

With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett/Shutterstock (10410768a) Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918-1919 in America. TO PREVENT INFLUENZA, a Red Cross nurse is pictured with a gauze mask over her nose and mouth. Text next to the image provides tips to prevent influenza. Oct. 18, 1918. From Illustrated Current News, New Haven. Photo by Paul Thompson, NY

In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:  

Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face.  Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.

That’s it, that’s all.

America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.

The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.

And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.” (Cnn.com)

Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.   

“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.

Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.”  (Newsweek.com)

Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.

Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.

Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.

As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.” Time Magazine, October 2020

Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.

Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’  It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.

And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.

According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”

If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.

That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.

When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.

Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive. 

A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.

The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.

This is what it the following half-year looked like….

In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“

She ends her long chronicle with this,

The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.

Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”

So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”

The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.

Perspective


by Roxanne Tellier

I blame social media and reality TV.

I blame reality TV because the flood of singing, dancing, housewifing and endurancing series that became ubiquitous during the early 2000s were the catalyst for too many narcissists to believe that their big fish in a small local pond anonymity was only an audition and a bunch of ‘likes and shares’ away from stardom. And that belief, that, in the past, would have been knocked out of them by cruel reality, has gone right to our collective heads.   

I blame social media because it gave us a forum, a place where we could not only display our new found talents, but that also laid down a platform from which some of the worst ‘thinkers’ and ‘philosophers’ imaginable could find the like minded, and share their convoluted and wrong headed ‘theories.

Having seen people who seem ‘just like us!’ achieve a little traction, if not actual fame, on the television, and on social media, many seized on the idea that this gives everyone not just the right, but the obligation, to get our own talents and ideas out there.

We really want to have our say on things. We insist, in fact, on others hearing our every opinion, on every subject, regardless of our relative knowledge or ignorance of a given subject. And we not only want you to hear what we think – we insist you agree. And we’ll hound you to the ends of the earth, if that’s what it takes, to pound our truth into your skull. (Just LIKE them .. maybe then they’ll go away.)

The belief that, despite lacking education, training, or experience, any of us is capable of being anyone from a Kardashian sibling to a POTUS – couldn’t have come at a more chaotic moment in time.

We are living in an exceptional period, when external pressures – a global pandemic, that brought about an economic freefall, that then coincided with an onslaught of videotaped police overstepping and brutality, which has drawn worldwide attention to systemic racism – has rocked the planet. It’s a powder keg.

There are some huge issues being discussed. The status quo, economic and social inequality, and the sense that injustice and poor governance were simply the way things are and would never change, has been challenged.

And that’s hard to get our head’s around, on some days, because in the bigger picture, life might feel off kilter, and like we’re living in BizarroWorld, but we don’t see all that much difference in our day to day circumstances. I adjust. You adjust. We all adjust, and the changes slowly become the new normal.

On my street, there’s little difference between this June and last. It’s not like every second house has someone who is ill or has died. Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone walking up the street that wasn’t white. Most of the vehicles on my street are of current vintage, and the guy that comes around to root through the recycling bins for empties always finds a treasure trove, because people in this neighbourhood can afford to be generous with what they discard.  

No one that we’ve spoken to, in this area, has lost anyone to COVID. They might know someone who had a winter flu/cold that just wouldn’t go away, but few know of anyone affected personally.

Contrast that with the people who work in the health care industry, who have had to face the ugly reality of illness and death by this virus. Those who are living in the belly of the beast reach out to us, on the television, on the radio, on social media, warning us of the horrors possible during our 2020 plague.  

And since those two realities – one in which one is unaffected, and the other in which one is soaking in misery – are so very different, many just don’t know what to believe. How does the reality of millions infected, and that hundreds of thousands are dead, equate with the lack of concern we see in our every day lives?

This is a time when, instead of ‘sorry’ being the hardest word, actually saying ‘I don’t know’ has become anathema. And yet, it’s also a time when literally NO BODY, despite not knowing what is going to happen next, can stop talking about what they think might happen. We know that we would like our lives to go back to pre-COVID normalcy, we know that there are going to be some hard economic times ahead, and we really wish that police in Canada would stop mistreating and killing indigenous people, and that police in the US would stop torturing and murdering people of colour.

But not a single one of us – and that includes all of those people who have spent their lives studying disease, economics, politics and racial issues – knows for certain what tomorrow is going to look like.  

Which still doesn’t stop many of us from weighing in on what we believe is happening, what we would personally like to happen, rather than admitting that we just don’t know what is happening.

There’s a meme going around on social media that suggests that everyone should just do whatever they want to do, and leave everyone else alone to do what ever those other people want to do. Which is the kind of thing that kids say before they’ve spent much time out in society and learned that there are rules and laws in every civilization that are put into place to protect us from well-meaning idiots.

Despite all of that, social and mass media are afloat in the uninformed spouting their theories on how best to tackle COVID, the economic crisis, racism, and what should be done in the event that we fall into either a second wave of COVID or another global Depression.  

As America confronts it’s racial injustice and systemic racism, under a president that seems to revel in his own racism and bigotry, Canada has to look to its own self to see what can be done within our own country to root out the sins and crimes that allowed our nation to grow and thrive, often at the expense of our original people.

There’s never been a time when we’ve been more in need of generous, empathic, and wise leaders. Sadly, leaders of such calibre are rare.

But there sure are a lot of ‘experts’ on social media that think that they alone have all the answers. Say – isn’t that how trump got the POTUS gig? How’s that working out for you so far, kiddies?

/////////////////////////////////////////////

Comedian Dave Chappelle released this short, heartbreaking commentary on American racism on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon it had been viewed over 13 million times. I may watch it 13 million more times.

Mourning as Minnesota Burns


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m pretty sure we’ve been living in an alternate reality since 2008, created by firing up the Large Hadron Collider. What else could explain this bizarre branch of a timeline we’re currently experiencing?   

Just when you almost get a little less uncomfortable with this new normal of a global pandemic, you get word that marauding monkeys attacked a lab worker in India, before grabbing and fleeing with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients. Now, if that is not the premise of some next level, ‘ripped from the headlines’, straight to video, Planet of the Apes sequel right there, I don’t know what is.

But apparently nothing is ever going to make sense again, at least according to the mass murderer currently occupying the White House. The guy that has spent the last four years looting America’s treasury is not fond of those who only loot as a side gig. This weekend, as protestors surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trump’s bull roars  alternated between cries of “Get off my lawn!” with “Release the hounds!”

America, desperately in need of a true leader to guide them through a unique moment in time, is instead saddled with an incompetent and increasingly paranoid madman, who is utterly incapable of handling any of the problems he brought upon himself by dismantling the nation with the zeal of a toddler eviscerating a butterfly.

America needs someone that can listen and attempt to understand the anguish of the people of colour who, along with the rest of the world, this week watched a New York City woman willfully attempt to summon triggered police to come to her ‘rescue’ from an African American male who dared to tell her to leash her dog.   

The nation needs someone who can pour enough calming oil on the current conflagration to begin to defuse the righteous anger boiling over in the streets as yet another black man is brutally murdered in broad daylight and in high definition video. Trump offers only more gasoline for the flames.

The country needs someone to begin the process of reuniting what was once the United States of America, lest they find themselves instead reliving the horrors of the first Civil War, in a second one in which a core group of the combatants routinely carry some of the deadliest weapons on the planet for a visit to their local supermarket or restaurant.

Instead of a steady hand on the tiller of state, the US has the misfortune of having elected someone who made it his mission to frighten the nation with tales of the boogie men that ‘he alone’ could save them from. Terrified and vulnerable, Americans were putty in his snake oil salesman tiny hands, and rushed to buy the hats that assured them that trump was the one who could Make America Great Again.  Like all rubes, they then discovered the bait and switch of trump’s vision for their future, which he had led them to believe was like a Norman Rockwell painting on a Life magazine cover, but that instead more closely resembled New York City’s mean and dirty streets of the nineties. Trump’s shell game substituted Shangri La with something more resembling a scene from Escape from New York. Bullies, bad guys, corruption, porn, graft, and petty-minded spite are the Special of the Day, every day, under this fast food presidency. 

In the absence of an official Consoler in Chief, Joe Biden is leaping into the breech, and starting to make an argument that Trump is literally attempting to kill the very people that elected him to the position of POTUS. From the disastrous mishandling of everything to do with controlling the pandemic, to his irresponsible and possibly fatal medical advice, to his jeering at those wearing masks to protect themselves and others, trump daily makes the case that his primary mission is not to lead his people out of the wilderness, but instead into the Valley of Death, with each member of his cult toting a Solo Cup of Lysol bleach with a hydroxychloroquine chaser.

Trump tweets his eagerness to sic vicious dogs on protestors, while he shoots a wink and a nod to the white supremacists and vigilantes answering his calls for violence in the streets. He craves the clamour of his rallies, where the spittle infused and unmasked cultists scream out his name as if his mere presence brings them to orgasm. They are his PowerPill, his magical genies in bottles, who are there to allow him to bask in their reverence. That’s how he gains his strength, and if getting tens of thousands of his minions together in one place means widespread transmission of a deadly virus, causing the supporters or members of their family to become ill or die, why, this is the price you must be willing to pay for having your savior so very close. At least, they console themselves and each other, we’re not ‘sissies’ like those lefty liberal mask wearers.

These trumpCultists have always had the sheen of weekend warriors, like Furries or LARPers, people that like to pretend to be something other than what they really are, if just for an hour or a day. Most of them are as cowardly as their leader, but revel in feeling like naughty little ‘despicables’ while they caress their AR 15s. Dying for trump would be a ‘badge of honour’ as he called it, the stigmata of a true believer.

(Try as I might, I cannot fathom why the “Right” would want to encourage the spread of a fatal disease amongst their own supporters. Oh sure, we’re starting to get a few mayors, governors, and even Shawn Hannity, who are encouraging people to keep themselves safe, but I just can’t understand how so many city and state leaders are so spineless that they’ll fail to protect their citizens in order to keep trump from howling his displeasure. It’s like they’ll never have to worry about people voting them back into office. Hmmmmm …do they know something we don’t know?)

Last week, the Lincoln Project released an anti trump advertisement entitled “Mourning in America.“ This week they’ll have enough footage of looted and burned out businesses across America to recreate “Mississippi Burning.” 

I’m tired, dear reader, I’m so very, very tired of this president, who constantly needs more attention than a new born babe, and will just not leave us alone for even a quiet hour of reflection. Instead, we must continuously suffer the drip drip drip of his venomous tweets, until he’s called on the carpet for disregarding site regulations, and immediately vows that social media will PAY for not licking his toes correctly. He can’t legally shut down Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of the other social media sites yet … but you can bet your best booties that it is one of the first things he’ll get done should he get a second term.  

And if I can’t get away from his looming influence, and I’m way over here in Canada, imagine how draining it must be to live under his depressing regime in any of the states, but particularly in any of the Red States that are slavishly subservient to trump’s every whim. It must be terrifying, made all the more terrifying if you are also a person of colour, where cries for help are met with callous indifference, and quite often, a brutal slaying by those charged with serving and protecting the masses.

In trump’s America, white, heavily armed protestors have free reign to storm the state Capital in Michigan, disrupting the legislators working inside it’s walls, because the white protestors are ‘exercising their constitutional rights.”

But in Minnesota, in the minds of these same officials, black protestors are rioters and looters, fit only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,

For a person of colour in today’s America, even the most educated, renowned and respected can never be certain if they, or their children, will survive an encounter with their local police.

“Do you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we saw in Minneapolis on Wednesday night? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.   

I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.

I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably, and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet.”   

………….. Yes, Gregory and Travis McMichael — along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s killing on cellphone video — have been arrested and charged with murder. And yes, Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers who watched him kill Floyd have been fired, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be filed against them.

But if the only result is another couple of trial-of-the-century media circuses that produce lots of drama and controversy but no justice, then nothing will change.” (Eugene Robinson, May 30,2020, Washington Post.)

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and a native of South Africa, has the luxury of not being from the United States, and is therefore known to have a little perspective on the treatment of people of colour in America.

I’ll leave you with his very compassionate musings on these days of conflict.