Up With Pride!


by Roxanne Tellier

In the 50s and 60s, most of the gendered role models for kids were caricatures, physical and psychological distortions of what a ‘real man’ or a ‘real woman’ should look like, and how they should behave.  

There were manly men and voluptuous women, who conformed to rigid bodily descriptions. Then there was the supporting cast, the rebels and the roues, who could also be considered acceptable gender models.

Early television played a large part in what we came to view as acceptable romantic and sexual behavior of the very strictly defined genders. Strangely, there are still huge swaths of North Americans who retain the same parameters on how we should behave, even as fewer and fewer of us can actually live up to those physical or mental objectives.

And into that morass, we, who would become the Baby Boomers, waded, without so much as an armband floatie.

We’d like to think that we’ve changed since then, become more liberal and less rigid, but in truth, we’re still playing gender games, right from birth, when we begin to naturalize our newborn’s sexual orientation. With the right onesie, even a three-month-old can be a misogynist!

We oversexualize our kids, allowing little girls as young as four to climb on to the sexual bandwagon, caked in makeup and hairspray as they toddle down beauty pageant runways, styled like mini hookers. Their mothers cheer on the tiny sex objects from the sidelines, whispering to each other about how they despise the criminals who sex traffic minors.   

By grade school, most kids have already absorbed a definition of physical ‘perfection’ based on what they’ve seen on TV and social media. What they wish they could look like may well be unobtainable for their body types, but that perceived ideal, through societal pressure, will set some on a path that will have them trying to reach unrealistic goals for the rest of their lives.

Males and females alike develop eating disorders. Some children feel so objectified that they simply give up trying to be accepted, and self-harm to take themselves out of the ‘game.’  

Sex sells everything, from candy to cars. Good looking people who meet current standards of beauty dominate our screens, begging us to join them for a coffee, a date, or a cruise.  

We may not like it, but we take all of this for granted as being simply part of our heterosexual culture. And we almost never wonder what it might be like if we weren’t oriented that way. 

Our straight kids never have to worry about coming out to their parents or their school mates – it’s just expected that sexually compatible mates will be available when the time is right.  

Kids who don’t gender conform have to spend a great deal of their lives explaining and justifying their needs and why they feel the way they do, first to their parents, then to the world.

Straight people are not asked, over and over, if maybe they’ve just never found the right person to change their sexual orientation, or if the attraction they feel to a partner might just be a ‘phase they’re going through.’  

And when a straight person is asked about their weekend or vacation plans, they rarely have to police their speech to ensure that they don’t let slip that their spouse is their same-sex partner.

Remember The Imitation Game, the film about cryptologist and father of the modern computer, Alan Turing? Despite his work helping to win the war for Great Britain, his homosexuality lead to his being convicted of gross indecency, and being sentenced to chemical castration. (After a year of government- mandated hormonal therapy, Turing committed suicide.)             

Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries. In 13 countries of the world, including six nations that are members of the United Nations, being gay is punishable by death. In 26 other countries, the maximum penalty for being gay is prison, with terms varying from a few years to life imprisonment.

Same sex marriage is legal in 29 countries in the world, including the United States. However, individual American state laws have interfered in some celebrations when those opposing the unions have refused to make wedding cakes, or to process their marriage licences. 

You can’t lose your job for being gay in Canada. But in the United States, LGBTQ workplace protections depend a lot upon where you live. Since a Supreme Court ruling on June 15, 2020, it has been unlawful under federal law for employers to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But that didn’t stop then President trump from slapping a blanket ban on all transgender people from serving and enlisting in the United States military. (A reversal of this policy was one of the first executive orders President Biden signed in January 2021, post-inauguration.)

Straight couples can do all the public displays of affection they want. Gay couples have to fear scrutiny, ridicule, retaliation, or even death, often for just holding their loved one’s hand.

We’ve known for decades that the lack of media representation of positive aspects of people of colour has had a numbing effect on the psychological and economical progress of that group.  

Recently there has been a movement towards a more accurate media representation of North American families.  I’ve been noticing a lot more advertisements, especially during the daytime hours of television, that feature a better kaleidoscope of the colour and flavour of our nations. I’ve even already heard a few complaints from people about how there’s not a lot of straight, white couples hawking laundry soap anymore. Deal with it, sistah.

But one stain removal commercial featuring a lesbian married couple does not a societal sea change make. There is far to go before it is equally acceptable for LGBTQ people to exhibit the same sort of sexuality that heterosexuals ‘shove down our throats’ day in, year out.

We happily cheer on straight people who, whether on screen or on the street, flirt, have awkward coming of age stories, who romance, marry, and stay together or divorce. We recognize the humanity of our straight brethren, but often attempt to minimize or deny the right of the LGBTQ community to enjoy the same pleasures.  

There’s a lot of decent straight people out there who like and support differently gendered people, but who continue to have a problem with what they view as inappropriate public displays of affection. You’ll often hear them say that they have no problem with the LGBTQ community, as long as their sexuality is not “shoved down people’s throats.”

But that’s such a strange thing to say, because of the questions it begs. Who’s doing the shoving? Do you mean you are literally being forced, against your will, to engage in sex or romance with someone of the same gender? Are you being forced to watch gay porn? Attend a gay wedding? Is someone forcing you to marry someone of your own gender?

And of course, none of that is what you mean. What you mean is that you don’t want to have to see gay couples doing the things that straight couples do – like hold hands. Like grocery shop. Like sleep in the same bed and even (gasp!) kiss. 

Can you tell me where you get to see those couples doing those things? Because it’s not on the tv channels I’m aware of. Although Netflix sure does have a lot of rom coms and dramas showing straight couples partnering up to their heart’s content.

Our culture, our society, allows heterosexual couples to indulge in all sorts of bizarre couple activity, with little more than a tsk tsk, if that. For North Americans, ‘opposite sex’ sexuality is the norm – we’re soaking in it, to the point were we hardly even notice it any more, unless the offense is so overt and grievous that we cannot ignore the sight.

There’d be a lot more truth in it if we were saying that it’s heterosexuality that is being crammed down our throats, since that is our cultural norm, our societal default, and literally inescapable.

No one is forcing anything down your throat at all. All we’re doing is beginning to treat the people of the LGBTQ community like the human beings they are, because they’re just as human as the rest of us.

Other people’s private lives are none of anyone else’s business. Happy Pride Month!

Straight Outta Facebook Jail


by Roxanne Tellier

I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated.  I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days. 

But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.

this is great – never knew there were two versions of this Canadian Classic!

Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress.  Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.

The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.

Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.

Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.

Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.

“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”

The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.

Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”

Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.

Trump’s response:  “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”

And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.

Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.

Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.

This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.

(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)

There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.

Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”  

Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.

There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.

So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.

It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.

There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.  

I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.

So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.

I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.

And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.

We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.

Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet.  But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.  

Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.

And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.

So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.

But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.

One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….

(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)

And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.

But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.

It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!

Aging and Changing


by Roxanne Tellier

Teenaged me wasn’t very smart.  “Hope I die before I get old.”Never trust anyone over 30.” I’d not yet heard of the 27 Club, but if I had, I might have aspired to joining it, thus avoiding becoming untrustworthy.   

I was an idiot, as we all are when we are young, dumb, and believe we are the first creatures to experience the banquet of life. I was certain that no one had ever understood fashion, been in love, or known the glories of sex, before my existence.

Yet, by 30 I was having the time of my life! When I think about how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve accomplished since the days of my ignorant youth, I am so very glad that I survived long enough to find out how very wrong I was about just about everything I thought I knew when I was legit dumber than a box of rocks.  

The fifties and sixties were very different times from present day. Older people got older faster – my grandmother seemed much older than her years when she was in her mid 50s, and bowed down by grief and loss. Older women were expected to be very fragile, and older men were best left to their spooky lairs. (Come to think of it, why did I live amongst all these very odd people?)

But in reality, the seniors of the 50s and 60s were often true survivors. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a bunch of smaller skirmishes, and the Great Depression. They’d seen the world change from being largely agricultural to a more technological economy, might themselves have been child labourers, had seen the onset of unions and labour laws, and had had to change how they worked right along with it. They’d paid some heavy dues, and it showed, especially in their health.

Today’s seniors, on the other hand, are very different. We’ve had a lot of advantages, and few of us were involved in any wars except peripherally. In Canada, we’ve had access to pretty good health care across the board since 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed. In the heady days when every halfway decent job came with ‘benefits,’ we could count on our teeth being cared for, and often even other small mercies were covered, like massages and rehab.   

Many of us segued from mullets to middleclass, and worked decent jobs with the possibility of retiring with a little financial cushion to enjoy in our ‘golden years.’ And many, many of us bought houses, which exploded in value over the decades, and provided us with either a roof over our heads, or a nice nest egg, post-sale.

Whether we invested wisely or not, we are still guaranteed a small pension on which we can live, if not like kings, then not like paupers either. Before 1965, that didn’t exist. The Canada Pension Plan was passed to replace the original old age pensions for those who lacked pension plans from their pre-retirement days. Older, single, women often suffered the most on those plans, since they generally were paid significantly less than men during their prime working years. While I believe there needs to be a rethinking of how the Plan is currently administered, I am aware of how many are blessed to have this financial security in their lives.

As a rule, boomers have much better educations than their parents had. My parents both left school around the 8th or 9th grade, to help support their families.

Beyond the benefits of having more education, money, and security than our grandparents could have dreamt of, boomers were also a generation that could let their minds fly free in dreams of a progressive future. In the late 50s, the sci fi magazines and even the kiddie cartoons promised us a future in the stars. Flying cars! Robot maids!

Radical ideas were being approved at government levels, and marvels like underground trains, the wonders of Expo 67 and it’s manmade islands, McLuhan’s Geodesic Dome, and Ontario Place rose around us, in a brave new world.

The world, including what we could watch on our new tv sets, themselves a huge jump from the world of radio, went from black and white to colour, almost overnight.

Our world got much smaller, even as we got bigger. Our trips overseas went from being week long journeys on steamers, to eight-hour plane rides, to a zippy 2 hours, 53 minute jaunt, New York to London, via the Concorde.

Our reach got longer, as we began to embrace the foods, customs, and musics of far away places.

So much progress, of unimaginable proportions, happened between 1940 and 1980. There’s a meme going around that says, “2020 is now as far from 1980 as 1980 was from 1940″ and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I mean, the 60s made the 40’s unthinkable. Just a few decades later, the North American world we lived in was virtually unrecognizable.

(What happened from the 80s to today, I cannot explain. We seem to have entered a  cultural void reeking of political correctness that prevents forward movement. I’m hoping we’ll eventually emerge from this costly stasis.)    

While there are stories of sadness, despair and deprivation from those who lived then, as there are in nearly every other time in history, I would still love to be able to spend a few days back then, when we all seemed to be younger, fitter, healthier and sexier. Those were good times for most of us, on many levels.

Nevertheless, life can only be lived forward; looking back might occasionally be pleasant, but living in the past would impoverish my present.

If you have the luxury of aging, there is an opportunity for mental and emotional growth. Personalities don’t really change with the years, but our traits tend to become more pronounced and entrenched. If you were a miserable middle-aged person, you may not ever be happy. But assuming no drastic and/or damaging mental or physical changes come along, you’ll really be pretty much the same person you always were, only more so.   

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; studies have shown that older people tend to be more responsible overall, more empathic, and more caring of their work and the people around them. Those prone to social fears tend to become less willing to socialize, but more engaged in others when they choose to do so. Quality over quantity becomes the rule.

In some cases, getting older means getting better. Most research shows that as people get older, they are not more agreeable — they just don’t care as much what others think. We develop a higher sense of personal identity as we age, a better understanding of who we are, and what we stand for.

Our personalities are always changing, right along with the calendar, but the change is very subtle, and unlikely to be noticed in the short term. Our reactions to emotional situations tend to become calmer over the years, as we develop self-confidence, leadership abilities, and social sensitivity.

The internet and social media have had a lot of impact on those who are easily persuaded by those they admire. Especially politically, sadly. But there’s also a real positive aspect to social media, when it’s used to connect with friends and loved ones, allowing those that have less physical interaction with others to become engaged in constructive activities and self education. The Internet – it giveth and it taketh away.

Getting older is not for sissies. There’s a lot of entropy involved, for one thing, and most of us swear that we’d have taken better care of our teeth and backs, had we known we were going to have to use them for so long.

But aging is a luxury not all will enjoy. Aging gracefully means accepting your age, living your best life, and hopefully, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It means loving yourself enough to be kind to your body and mind, in hopes of having many enjoyable years to spend with family and friends.

Aging well means keeping your mind sharp, and your attitude positive. It’s time to do the things that bring you joy, and to spend time with people of like minds. Mindfulness, and living in the moment by focusing on the present has many proven health benefits that will lower stress and increase immune functions.

For myself, I hope to continue being creative, and to never stop learning. The world is full of wonders, if we are open to seeing them.

Because, as they say, getting older is inevitable. But aging poorly is optional.

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?

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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.

Hang in There, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

Argggh!!! Woke up in a ‘mood’ this morning, and the weather – grey, cold and damp – isn’t helping at all.

It’s not that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s more that I’m just tired of playing pandemic. In February, I could still see a path ahead, even though it wasn’t clear how long our preparations and quarantine would last. Still, I had hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright future. Turned out it was an oncoming train. 

As the weeks, and now months, have dragged by, we’re all starting to realize that there’s not gonna be a special day, like an armistice, when we can all, globally, agree that this is all over and we can now crack open the champagne. There will never be our old ‘normal’ again. From now on, we will redefine our interactions with the world by how we all behaved BC – Before COVID and AC – After COVID.

And I’m not being a whining Negative Nelly when I say that. It’s just the truth. COVID 19 will go on as long as it has to, and then gradually taper off over months or even years. We’ll develop a vaccine, and many will opt out of being vaccinated, which will mean the virus will stay dormant, bubbling underneath, for a good long while. But eventually the most vulnerable will die, the majority will be vaccinated or immune, and life will go on … until the next time. 

I’m not sure if this wonderfully mild winter has helped or hindered any kind of seasonal distress. Usually I write at least one column over this time period, talking about cabin fever and ‘hygge’ but somehow, that kind of distress never really crossed my mind, what with … well, worrying about dying and all.  As we come out of the winter months and edge into Spring, my thoughts are on what sort of plants I might bring home, for décor or culinary purposes, or whether I should consider germinating the seedlings I want to be ready by the end of May.

One thing I suddenly realized this morning was how little I’ve done that I thought I might do, in this time of lockdown. I really thought I had it made, with my hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books stacked around me, and dozens of DVDs I’ve stockpiled for that day when I actually find myself with time on my hands and nothing to do. Didn’t happen.

Instead, like so many, I’ve been more active than ever on social media. Both Shawn and I are on Facebook far more than I’d usually consider healthy in normal times. But of course, these times definitely fall under the ‘abnormal’ umbrella.

And even though, as a couple of retirees, our social calendars are not positively bursting with exciting events, we’ve always had places to go, people to see, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and yes, the odd musical jam to look forward to, not to mention doctor and dentist appointments to keep. Not any more. Now every day on the calendar remains resolutely blank.

Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted one may be, we generally can count on getting out of our little shells now and again, if only for a trip up to the mall or the grocers. To have absolutely no where to go is daunting, even if you are lucky enough to never actually need to buy something for yourself or someone else.

Beyond that, we are living in a time when we are bombarded with negative messaging. Every day, multiple times a day, and always around dinner, we have bombastic, self-obsessed, needy trump horning in on what should be a simple ten- or fifteen-minute briefing on the virus’ progress. Instead, for hours, he mumbles through a teleprompter reading, horns in on what the specialists have to say, lies and spews misinformation (the Spanish flu began in January 1918, I want to scream at the television. STOP saying it started in 1917!) and then harangues and verbally attacks the few reporters still allowed to attend these putative press briefings which are really nothing more than a sop to his ego since he can no long hold his Nuremburg styled rallies for his party faithful. 

You know how we used to joke about all the happy happy schlock load of ‘affirmations’ epitomized by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley? It was out there, but it worked -it energizes, it keeps us moving forward.

Negative messaging is really hard on our psyches. Negative messaging leaves us tired, worried, and feeling like we’re struggling under burdens far too heavy to carry. It makes us crave some sort of relief, and when we are locked down and unable to find comfort, it can actually damage our health.

The more you think and speak positively, the more positive you feel about yourself and your surroundings. Conversely, the more negative messaging you receive during the day, the worse you’ll feel about yourself and the world.

When I spend my day on social media, with CNN or MSNBC or a Canadian news source, that is constantly updating the numbers of the sick, dying and dead, while hysterically describing the precautions necessary for a simple trip to the grocers, well – I’m not gonna be a very happy camper. Instead, I’ll constantly feel anxious and scared.

In health terms, that nonstop deluge of fearmongering provokes a flight or fight instinct, which ratchets up the adrenaline produced, and eventually leaves one exhausted. It also can lead to serious mental health problems and cardio vascular disease.

That’s the reason why we’re all feeling so tired and out of energy, and why that small walk you took just to get out of the house leaves you feeling like you just ran a 10K.. We really do underestimate how much energy it takes to get through our days and our lives until we are tested this severely.

These hard times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. As if we weren’t all feeling stressed and out of sorts, there are factions of people who’ve decided that their own needs and whims outweigh the health and safety of others. 

”So, what are you guys gonna do during the pandemic?

“Well, a bunch of us are gonna go protest the lock down, try and disrupt the sitting government while they try to figure out how to use what few medical supplies they have. Maybe barricade the ambulance lane so that the vehicles can’t get in.”

“Are you going to wear protective gear?” 

“Yeah. But only ironically.” 

And this too, we must live with. The sad truth is that we are all living in survival mode, on high alert, and scared. This is not an easy time to be a human. We’re drawing on reserves of energy deeper than we knew we had, and the fuel we need to top up those reserves – hitting Starbucks to share a cappuccino with a friend, or getting out to a bar for a brewski and some fresh tuneage – isn’t gonna happen. The best we can hope for is to reach out by phone, text, or messaging, while constantly feeling that we might be missing out on those important moments we hoped to share with our loved ones and community.

It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. And it can make you feel a little bit crazy. But it is what it is, and it’s okay to feel like things are just too hard and that you wish this was all a dream and that you’ll wake up to the world you used to know.

That’s not gonna happen. But eventually, this too shall pass. And then we’ll deal with what’s next. Just like we’ve always done, and our parents did, and our grandparents and ancestors did. 

Because we are humans. We are resilient, right up until the day we’re not. But that’s not today.

Hang in there, babe.

……………………………

Life in BizarroWorld …..

How Much for Your Soul?


by Roxanne Tellier

On the day after 4 million students from all around the world marched to protest their respective governments’ lack of decisive action on climate change, Bob Lefsetz noted that the photos and the chatter had already been pushed off the pages of both terrestrial and online press sites. 

Just a few of those crazy 4 million kids who marched for climate change

Today I noticed several cynics on social media, who found the very idea of kids marching for climate change laughable. Rather than admire the strength and courage shown by Greta Thunberg and her supporters, they wallowed in the belief that there is no point in fighting those in power.

It’s like all the marches, the sit ins and bed ins and hunger strikes of the sixties never even happened. As though the broken heads and bodies of civil rights activists were a myth. As if the peaceful protests of leaders like Ghandi just didn’t matter. 

Listen. If protests didn’t work, governments wouldn’t be always trying to stop people from protesting.

When the people finally stand up and find their voices, the people can change the world. We boomers did; we stopped a war. Maybe these kids can save the planet. Maybe we can help them.

If we don’t then we’ve proved that this is how the world works now. We gear up towards an event, take our selfies, and then we’re on to the next crisis. Even if we really, really care about that event – a political debate, our children marching to try and save the planet – there’s always another spike, another shock, another jolt, coming at us before we’ve caught our breath from the last. Which means we never actually get anything done.

It’s exhausting. And it’s getting us nowhere.

All week long I’ve been trying to put my finger on the overwhelming atmosphere of our political environment. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing. It’s like we’ve had our adrenal glands hooked up to a milking machine. Our supply of fight or flight hormones are running so low now that many people would barely blink at a sharknado.   

While we can certainly point to the Mango Mussolini as the main culprit who has conditioned us to expect multiple adrenaline jolts per day, the media also bears a lot of responsibility for having married our emotions to this stressful world of social media and nonstop ‘breaking news!’

When I was growing up, the news occupied a sacred place in society. At fairly regular intervals, the citizenry would be asked to pause in what they were doing, and pay attention to the news of their country, and the world. Some read newspapers, some watched their televised updates at 6pm and before bed, but overall, most people had at least a vague sense of how governments ran. Sometimes we were told that things were good, and it was time to celebrate. Other times, we’d be informed of battles and wars that needed our attention, and sometimes, that required the service and sacrifice of our fittest young people. But overall … news was for grown ups, and it was important.

However, it was also something from which you could take a vacation, and return to, without missing much.

Those were the days when channels still ‘signed off’ for the night .. often with beautiful, patriotic, or regional slideshows. Remember CITY TVs paean to the city of Toronto?

That’s Toronto … People City ….

Good times.

But then, somewhere along the line, some edgy television exec decided that every broadcast moment had to turn a profit. Overnight, the sanctity of a news hour was discarded for the glitz and glamour of the tackiest of game show stages. Every decade, another of the venerable newscasters whom we’d come to trust and revere, was either rehabilitated into a botoxed, liposuctioned fashion plate, or unceremoniously shown the door for a younger, prettier, sexier, news reader.

On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour cable news station. Headline News followed in 1982, .and MSNBC and FOX News were right behind them. News had effectively been monetized, and the world would never again be the same.  

I have to keep reminding myself that political junkies are only about 11% of the population. How are we supporting all of those stations?

It just seems like there must be even more of us. But that’s because social media – and a disturbingly populist wave –  has narrowed our visions. Everyone’s got an opinion on social media. But that doesn’t mean that everyone understands what they’re being force fed.

Right now, we in North America are awash in the hopes and dreams of political candidates, all of whom wish to steer their ships of state or nations.

But it seems that quite a lot of politicians – primarily those with a bend to the right – are more comfortable playing ‘gotcha!‘ with their opponents. Apparently that’s way easier than presenting a progressive, doable policy their party can follow, and their electorate can agree upon.

And many, many, many people are very easily lead. Once seeds of doubt and mistrust have been planted, social media is happy to keep watering those misdeeds with liberal tears.

A friend messaged me the other day, with this anecdote.

Who knew I never needed a head? or a brain?

“I was getting my hair cut, and they were all talking about Trudeau in blackface. I listened for about twenty minutes. None of them had seen the photo, but they were horrified. One had a friend that called her, crying.  When I explained that it was a picture of him at a party, dressed as Aladdin, and that he had darkened his face and hands, they all said, “ahhhh.. well that’s not so bad.” Then I quoted him as saying, “I am really pissed at myself.” They were all lovey dovey again until one of them started reading from her phone on why any colouring of the skin is racist and they were all up in arms again.”

It sure doesn’t seem like denigrating and mudslinging a political leader makes people very happy. In fact, it seems to only add to the miasma of uncertainty that so many have in recent elections.

Voters are already conflicted. Too many choose to vote against party leaders, rather than FOR a logical, progressive plan forward. Keep on tearing down those the voters want to look up to, and you’ll soon have an electorate that just can’t be bothered to vote at all.

That works out great for those parties that can’t win fairly. Those who choose to use dirty tricks, gossip and innuendo to attempt to sway swing voters towards their own party need to realize that these ruses serve to make voters even more distrustful and cynical of whomever is currently in charge of their country.  

Today’s smearing of Trudeau is tomorrow’s smearing of Scheer. And while both parties wallow in the mud, and try to defend themselves against attacks, neither party is actually working to make the voter’s life any better.

Most people are happiest when their country is chugging along, doing well economically, and not hurting those who are already hurting. Most people rarely think about hurting other people, just because they can.

But there are some people who will put financial gain above all else.

Today, the news is full of stories about American troops being sent to Saudi Arabia, to be used as paid mercenaries – soldiers of fortune against Iran. Trump says that America must put their own military on the line to die for ‘the kingdom’ because “Saudi Arabia pays cash.” 

The Saudis also paid cash to the murderers who perpetrated the attack on the United States on 9/11. And surely, their own dollars paid for the brutal murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Can you buy a nation’s soul with cash? Apparently you can, in the United States. The Saudis ‘pay cash’ … so they’ve bought trump .. and America’s might and military.

Canadians will soon be asked to either reinstate Justin Trudeau as prime minister, or to choose another leader to fill that position. That next leader will have to work with the United States, both economically, and politically.

The question we need to ask ourselves is .. will  our next leader also believe that everything we hold dear can be bought? Our planet, our bodies, our morals – are they all for sale? How much for our country ?

The question we need to ask ourselves is which leader we believe we can trust to behave morally and ethically when they are asked to make decisions about our relationship with America and the other countries of the world.

How much for your soul?

Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.

 

Politically Incorrect


In the mid nineties, my husband and I decided to do a West Coast trip. We were looking forward to reconnecting with a special family, and enjoying the beauty of California.

But there was one special stopover I was determined to make, one that I had pre-planned and booked as soon as we had decided on the holiday.

I wanted to watch a taping of an episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect.

 

 

In Los Angeles, people beg you to come and be a ‘live audience‘ for the shows being taped. But I’ve been on a ton of game shows, a reality show, and some comedy shows, so none of that appealed. Bill Maher, on the other hand …

I’d never missed an episode. Every week I waited anxiously for Friday night to come around, and was sure to be planted in front of the telly the moment it began.

yikes political correctnessThat series, Politically Incorrect, ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central, and then on ABC. Ironically, the show was cancelled due to … political incorrectness.

Is that not the most delicious irony?

“In the aftermath of the (9/11) attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush said that the terrorists responsible were cowards. In the September 17, 2001, episode, Maher’s guest Dinesh D’Souza disputed Bush’s label, saying the terrorists were warriors. Maher agreed, and replied: “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, [it’s] not cowardly.”

Despite similar comments having been made in other media, advertisers withdrew their support and some ABC affiliates stopped airing the show temporarily. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer denounced Maher, warning that “people have to watch what they say and watch what they do.” Maher apologized, and explained that he had been criticizing U.S. military policy, not American soldiers.” (wikipedia)

Maher bounced back, with a new hour-long program on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher, which premiered on February 21, 2003. Bill recently celebrated his 25th anniversary of on air political correctness, with a gaggle of celebrity friends. And I still watch the show religiously, every week that it’s on, and even when I disagree with Bill and/or his guests – which is quite often.

The term political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” (also wiki)

political correctnessIn the wild, as a concept … political correctness is a wonderful idea. It is an effort to put the spotlight on those unconscious biases that many of us grew up with, and sometimes find ourselves blurting out at awkward moments. It is an exercise in trying to dig out those prejudices at the root, and kill them forever. Many of the things we say without thinking betray unconscious biases, because we are the products of not only our society, but of the thoughts and opinions of our parents and grandparents, who lived in a much less permissive time, and who imprinted their preconceived judgments on our little psyches when we were at our most impressionable.

And the truth is, we allow those people whom we like or generally respect, to say all sorts of terrible stuff, not normally said in ‘polite society‘ … our ‘tribe’ gets a pass. Especially if our ‘tribe’ is a beloved parent or grandparent. We may shush them in public, but we know where their prejudice comes from, whether it is warranted or unwarranted.

how woke it isBut here’s the thing – some very well-meaning people have taken that lovely, Christian, politically correct, desire to make everything and every one equal, and run it into the ditch. And while those very well-meaning people may consider themselves pretty ‘woke’ … they are actually in a clear minority.

In fact, it’s getting to the point where they’re no fun anymore (to paraphrase Crosby, Stills & Nash.)

According to recent studies, “25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”

Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24.

On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.

Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.

If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.

According to the report, On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.”  (The Atlantic, October 2018)

 

 

 

It seems that 79 percent of white Americans, 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, and 88 percent of American Indians believe that political correctness is a real problem in America.

If you happen to be a huge proponent of PC culture, that’s gotta come as a shock. But again… irony! … not everyone thinks the same way you do! Even those people whom you believe your well-intentioned political correctness is protecting – might be just as happy if you’d back the hell off, pardner.

I don’t think a lot of people can see just how extreme they’ve become in the pursuit of ‘social justice.’ It’s getting harder and harder to justify the micro-aggression of someone who attacks another person on social media over their lack of political correctness, without seeing that the criticism itself is a lack of political correctness.

Their virtue signalling becomes very like the thinking of the critters of George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, who started with the pledge of “Four Legs Good; Two Legs Bad, ” but soon find that motto a meaningless sound bleated by the sheep (“two legs baa-d”), and meant only to drown out any dissenters. “By the end of the novel, as the propagandistic needs of the leadership change, the pigs, who have learned to walk on their back legs, alter the chant to the similar-sounding but completely antithetical “Four legs good, two legs better.” (SparkNotes)

The propaganda of what is politically correct, or incorrect, is massaged into place to suit those to whom we’ve handed the power of cultural judgment.

(Don’t believe me? Google Scott Kelly/Winston Churchill.)

There is a danger in this deification of virtue signalling, the scouring and nitpicking of the words of allies, issuing ‘trigger warnings,’ and the compulsive polishing of a turd of correctness while ignoring giant piles of far more real and horrific shit going on everywhere else. All of that desire to be perfectly and pristinely correct places too much emphasis on protecting special interests, rather than the larger issues now effectively, and often literally, hobbled. (“I’d like to protest those babies in the Kiddie Koncentration Kamps, but someone on Facebook just called someone else fat!”)

This need to be more morally righteous than the rest of the world will be the death of the liberal movement. It’s not only the opponents of a PC agenda that find the mining of politically correct navel lint both contemptible and jejeune .. it is those possible allies being driven away by non-stop micro-aggressions targeting their every non-policed, casual word.

Last word goes.. as it should .. to Mr Bill Maher, and his thoughts on Halloween.

 

 

 

 

When Babies and Bath Water Fly


And once again, we’re having to dodge the flying babies and bathwater. Oh my, dear readers, when will we learn to take a collective deep breath before opining on the veracity and morality of what we read on social media?

The cause célèbre of the last several weeks has been the rash of sexual harassment/attack accusations being launched at some very powerful people. This is not a new thing, but it is a good thing, in how it is being conducted. For too long, pretty much every accusation put forward by a woman against a powerful man has simply been met with denial.

Anita Hill Clarence Thomas TIMEEven in the cases that were adjudicated in the courts, the female accuser would most often be slandered and humiliated, and the powerful male would walk away, legally unimpeded.

Not true, you say? Well golly gosh gee, why don’t you ask Anita Hill how she thinks the 1991 Clarence Thomas trial turned out? Pretty sure he wound up on the Supreme Court, and she wound up being condemned as a liar, despite there being four other female witnesses ready to testify, but never called.

jian ghomeshiOr cast your mind back to the 2016 Jian Ghomeshi trial. Like Miramax‘s Harvey Weinstein, Ghomeshi’s penchant for sexual harassment was legendary, an ‘open secret’ to most women in the Toronto media biz. Still, Ghomeshi walked, although his reputation was badly smeared.

But now, in the final months of 2017, a flood of accusations against bad actors in the entertainment, corporate and political world has been unleashed. It would be business as usual, except that this time around, we’re not waiting for the accusers to have their day in court. Instead, we’re actually believing the women who’ve come forward.

Since the first explosive charges against Weinstein, the hits have kept coming against other powerful men … this is, without a doubt, the biggest national conversation on sexual harassment since the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas battle of the early ’90s.

Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Chris Sovino, Roy Price and then NO! not Mark Halperin! No! Not Matt Lauer! NO!!  Not Louis CK! Oh it’s just all too much!

What’s a liberal to do?

And then, the lowest blow of all … Senator Al Franken. Not Al Franken! This one had to be the worst accusation of all. Franken has been the only bright light worth watching or rooting for in the congressional vetting of Trump’s horrible string of nominees, each more disgusting, unqualified, and oblivious than the next.

Within hours of the Franken Fracas, the liberals on social media had staked out their martyr’s place, and had decided that Franken would have to take up residence on the cross, post haste.

Wisely, the Senator has expressed concern for how these events have been remembered and described, and he has demanded that a full Senate Ethics Committee investigation be launched .. upon himself.

What does the Senator know that his critics do not?

franken and tweeden USOI will not take a side on the LeeAnn Tweeden/Al Franken situation; there are simply too many reports, photos and timelines around the event to consider it anything but suspect.

I will say this, though – if it turns out that Tweeden’s accusations were more politically motivated than deeply felt, she will have done an incredible disservice to the brave women who are actually coming forward, at great emotional cost to themselves, against powerful people who have been abusing their power.

And there is absolutely no moral equivalency between Franken’s actions, and the criminal intent and pedophilia of Roy Moore. Franken’s crimes seem to have been a taste for low comedy and an over-abundance of Midwestern bonhomie. A prank, faked “boob grab” photo simply does not rise to the level of assault. Let’s not whinge on about slut-shaming and victim blaming if the reality is that the accusers are actually hard-core political operatives. The investigation will tell us which way that wind actually blows.

salem witch trialsI don’t care how ‘woke’ you are, it’s time to take it down a notch, because right now, this is all starting to look and sound a lot like the Salem Witch trials .. a whole lot of hysteria, self-flagellation, and possibly politically motivated accusations. And when it’s over .. just a lot of red, shamed faces, and the dead bodies of the innocent to show for it all.

Yes, we need to believe women. No, all offenses are not equal. You don’t get to be more offended than a victim. I get it .. we’re all giggly because wow .. finally! The bad guys are getting outed! But be careful what you wish for – the furor will die down, and Trump will still be president. That should tell you more than any other thing you read.

Here’s the thing, though …

trump grab em by the pussyThere have always been bad people accused of bad actions who simply chose to deny the claims. Trump did it last year during his run for President. Roy Moore is doing it now. Men like those are the sort that will continue to deny what they have done, even in the face of audio and video evidence.

(this just in … President Donald Trump now claims that the Access Hollywood tape on which he boasted of sexually assaulting women may not be genuine, according to a report in The New York Times. According to the Times, the president told a senator earlier this year that the tape was not genuine and repeated the claim to an adviser recently.)

The rich and powerful will always try to keep their victims powerless. Trump is in the process of attempting to rewrite history, and to rig the legal system in his, and other abusers, favour.

” The clearest example came in March. It received little coverage at the time. President Donald Trump reversed an Obama-era order that forbid federal contractors from keeping secret sexual harassment and discrimination cases.

The 2014 rule prohibited these companies, which employ about 26 million people, from forcing workers to resolve complaints through arbitration, an increasingly common method businesses use to settle disputes out of the public eye.” Huffington Post

So we’re in an interesting position, we liberal thinkers. On the one hand, we need to keep the pressure on, believing the courageous women who come forward with statements of abuse, and demanding justice; on the other hand, we have to beware of those who will subvert these times, and force us to throw our own best people under the bus.

We cannot play into the Republican playbook of deflect, deflect, deny, deflect. We have to be better than that. Right now, Roy Moore could be found with a dead 14 year old’s body in his trunk and he’d deny it. Not us liberals … we’d lead the blood hounds right to the trunk.

torches_and_pitchforksIt ain’t a level playing field. Don’t pretend that it is.

 

It’s asking a lot of us, emotionally. Perhaps this might be the time when we take a deep breath, and wait for a little more information before we take to the ‘streets’ of social media with our torches and pitchforks.