Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

March 23, 2017

An Open Letter to the Next Generation,

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I can’t begin to tell you just how much this means to me. You see, for the last few years I’ve been wondering how we were going to cope? The bills keep getting bigger, our savings keep getting smaller, Roberta and I keep getting older; you get the picture. Then on top of all that the added tax burden from every level of government; the future was starting to look more than just a little bleak; and by future, I mean next month!

But then you came along with your incredibly generous offer.

I could hardly believe it when Premier Wynne said our hydro bill was going down by 25% and you guys were going to pay it for us! I mean, really? With all you have going on; struggling with a fledgling career, trying to sort out your gender issues, wondering if 45 down in the States is going to get us all blown up; I wouldn’t blame you at all if you didn’t have a moment’s thought for anyone but yourself. I know I didn’t at your age.

But not you, nope! With all that’s going on in your own lives you’re going to take on the added burden of paying down 25% of my hydro bill. And you’re going to do it at a time in your life when your own struggles are likely to be even worse than they are now. Yeah, by the time this bill comes due you will be facing the disillusionment of you own middle age wondering what the hell happened to all the hopes and dreams you had in 2017. I just hope you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew.

At a time when all the pundits are slagging the younger generations (sorry Millennials) you are shattering the stereotypes by committing your future to making a better today for the people who screwed up yesterday by electing the bunch who came up with this crazy idea to begin with.

You guys ROCK!

Dennis Gray, Guelph, ON

open letter pic

Really?

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Current Events, Politics, Society

I’ve been avoiding posting about the US election. In fact, avoiding such is why I haven’t posted since July. I have friends on both sides of the equation and I really wanted to avoid getting into it with any of them. My conservative friends say I’m too liberal, my lefty friends say I’m too right-wing, which is why I general consider myself a centrist libertarian (please note the small ‘L’). Personally I want a gov’t that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and not one bureaucrat larger than it has to be to get the job done effectively, which in today’s political climate likely qualifies me for membership in the Fantasy Island Party.

Now, I would truly prefer to keep all my friends, even the ones I totally disagree with, because life and conversation is decidedly more interesting with them than without them; so, I have been hoping against hope that there is more to what I have been seeing than meets the eye. I was betting that all the insanity on TV and the Internet was simply smoke and mirrors, setting up the “big reveal”. You see, when you work in theatre, even just community theatre, you soon understand what you are looking at is a thin wall of plywood and paint that hides the real work going on backstage, and a big part of me was sure the American election fell into something of that same category.

I was clinging to that hope because I really didn’t want to believe that what I was seeing was actually real. I still don’t want to believe it; but it’s beginning to look like I don’t have a choice. So here I am, blogging once again.

When I got to work this morning the conversation quickly turned to the “alternative facts” comment and one of my coworkers (who doesn’t blog or even comment on their Facebook account very often so I won’t use their name here) made a very good point; it went something like this.

“I get it, you don’t like the numbers, but it would have been very easy to spin this. You go out there and you say, ‘Yes, the numbers were disappointing. We would have liked to be able to say it was the biggest Inauguration audience ever,but it wasn’t and here’s why. Most of our supporters live in the interior and lower states. They don’t make a lot of money because far too many of them are unemployed. They can’t afford to just skip off for a few days and take a bus to Washington. That’s why we’re here. That’s why they elected us. We’re going to fix that!’ But instead of doing that they do THIS? That I don’t get.”

In less than five minutes they came up with a far better official response than Trump and all his advisers could. Or worse yet, his advisers did come up with it and Trump shot it down and they all said, “Okay fine.”

The one my coworker is really confused by is Sean Spicer, Trump’s new spokesman. They pointed out, and I have to agree, that the conversation in the Oval Office should have gone something like this, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I can’t say this. Bending the truth a little is one thing. Spinning the facts to work in our favour is another, but this is stupid! There’s video coverage, photos all over Facebook and Instagram, we can’t sell this!”

But he didn’t. Instead he walked out there and told what amounts to the biggest bold-faced lie in American politics since “I did not have sex with that woman”, possibly bigger, and in doing so has effectively neutered every press release from the White House going forward. Because if they will tell this lie, how can we ever trust another word.

As so it seems that reality television has become the new reality for American politics. Can’t wait to see what the writers have scripted for tomorrow’s episode.

Je Suis Charlie

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Current Events, Personal, Society
Tags: ,

Yes, I am Charlie! We all are.

The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo (translation: Charlie Weekly; named for Charles Shultz’s iconic everyman) is not just about freedom of the press; it’s about the right of every person to live free and say what’s on their minds without fear!

It’s also about art; specifically, the art of satire. Since the earliest days of human civilization the number one sign of a tyrannical government, administration, monarchy or any other form of leadership is the suppression of criticism. Even Emperor Nero, for all his many faults would pardon the satirists in advance of their performance so they could present their art without fear of not living long enough to get to their next gig.  In fact, the Muslim author, Al-Jahiz, introduced satire into Islamic texts “based on the premise that, however serious the subject under review, it could be made more interesting and thus achieve greater effect, if only one leavened the lump of solemnity by the insertion of a few amusing anecdotes or by the throwing out of some witty or paradoxical observations. ” [1]

So it affects us all; even more so in our new digital, media-enhanced society because so many of us have become publishers of our opinions. For example; I have this blog. I do not have a huge following (according to the stats my largest audience for any given post was 76— not even enough circulation to get Google Ads interested), but as cathartic and/or narcissistic an exercise it may be, in a free society I have the right to express myself here, in this way, without fear of violence to my person.

So do you when you post to your Facebook page, or throw that inappropriate selfie up on Instagram, or even share you Grandmother’s recipe for pork roll ups on Yummly. We are all publishers in one way or another and it is freedom of speech that allows us to do so.

However, freedom of speech does sometimes bite us in the ass. The same freedom that lets us share what is important to us allows others to share what we would consider offensive. The problem is, if we pass laws that prevent the offensive, idiotic, bigots from having their say then that same law can one day be turned around and used to shut us up as well. It’s why I oppose hate speech legislation. As Evelyn B. Hall expressed on behalf of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” [2]

Je-suis-CharlieSo for the next few days I’ve changed my profile pic and cover photo on Facebook to reflect my grief at the slaughter of four cartoonists and their co-workers in France. I’m no satirist, or even really an author, but I have an opinion and I value the right my society gives me to express it.

Je suis Charlie.


 

[1] Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976), The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-04392-6.

[2] Right now many of you are fuming, “That was Voltaire!” But actually it was one of his biographers Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote the line as an example of Voltaire’s beliefs. It’s been miss-attributed to him ever since.

“They shot the children in each chair. I couldn’t watch it. When I grow up, I will destroy their world, I will destroy their children — I won’t let them be.” An unidentified child survivor of the massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Italics mine.)

It chilled me to the bone when I read these words in this article in the Huffington Post. I can wrap my head around a father talking this way, as much as I recoil at the thought of such an act; but when I realize that these words are coming out of the mouth of a child the impact of the horror is so much greater. It staggers my mind and tears at my heart.

This is where hate is born; and it is why blood feuds, jihad, and crusades continue generation after generation. No one would deny the need for the men who did this to be punished, least of all me. These men must be found and brought to justice; swiftly and publicly. But these words are not about justice, they are about revenge.

I will destroy their children“—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The lure of revenge is strong, seductive even, and not without a certain level of justification. It seems only natural that the way to end the pain is to visit it upon the ones who caused it. I dare say that if I was in their shoes I would feel the same way myself. But it seldom works that way.

It has been said that every human weakness is a human virtue gone out of control. It starts as seeking justice for the victims, a good, proper and righteous act. But it seldom stops there. The quest for justice is wrapped in righteous indignation and morphs into vengeance. Vengeance unrequited quickly devolves into revenge, which is fuelled only by hate. This is because revenge cares not who pays the price as long as somebody does, and even then it is rarely enough. The hate continues long after the perpetrators are dead. The cycle continues.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

This is hard—really hard. In fact, some would say it’s next to impossible; especially in this context. But there’s simply no other way to break out of the cycle of hate. For generation upon generation human beings have sought revenge to no good result. In these words Jesus shows us the way out. Now understand, he is by no means saying the guilty go unpunished. That is never the intention if this passage. But it must never go beyond seeking justice. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord and for good reason, we aren’t equipped to resist the lure of revenge. But to the one who burns with indignation Jesus words answer the question, “But what am I supposed to do?”

We must never return evil for evil, hate for hate, cursing for curses. It has never worked in all of human history and it never will. The solution is clear; battle evil with good, counter hate with love, return blessings for curses.

It is not easy, never has been. Not for me, or for you; nor will it be for the child who speaks of killing other children. My prayer for him/her and for all of us is that one day, when the physical wounds are healed, they and we will find the strength to turn aside from the way of hate and walk a better path.

Shalom.

Seen and not heard
Seen and not heard
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.
Too much Talk
Not enough walk
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.

(Petra, 1990)

It truly makes me wonder when people make knee-jerk statements about current events that are more about their own personal agendas than they are about solving the actual problem; especially when they do it in the name of God.

I am a Christian, a fairly devote one at the risk of sounding arrogant, but I really wish those who claim to speak for God would think a little before they spout off to the media or on the Internet. Would I like to see prayer allowed in the schools? Yes. Do I think it should be part of the daily curriculum? Not really; no one should be forced to endure the rubrics of any faith not their own, however prevalent said faith may be among the general populous. Freedom of religion should mean if a child or teacher or group within a school wants to pray they should be allowed to in a manner or at a time that is not disruptive. Mandating it for everyone is beyond reasonable.

That said, however I might lament the removal of the freedom to pray from schools across the continent I most certainly do not think that removing prayer from the schools is why 61 different school shootings have taken place in North America over the last 30 years. It is just too superficial a response.

The secular drum beaters are no better.

Does America need better gun control? Certainly it does, but allowing people to own a handgun is not the issue.  Many Canadians own handguns, but they do not kill 10,000+ people a year. Many more Canadians own rifles, but again they don’t go around killing people as a form of anger management. But the alleged gunman Adam Lanza didn’t use handguns; he used fully automatic, military grade rifles that fire 100+ rounds a minute. I have no issue with properly vetted civilians with clean criminal records having a rifle or a handgun, but I can’t make a case for any civilian having that kind of military grade fire power.

But even America’s lax gun laws aren’t the most important issue. Even if he had no guns whatsoever, in all likelihood Adam Lanza would have killed his mother and others by some means; just not nearly as many. And that’s the issue – Why did Adam Lanza feel he needed to kill?

The real question that needs an answer is not why can’t we pray in schools, or why do we need guns. The real question that must be addressed is why do so many young people come to the conclusion that the only way out of the life situation they find themselves in is to kill themselves and others?

The din of the noise being made by the religious right and the various pro and anti gun lobbies is so great the cry of the primary victim is rarely heard. And when someone does bring it up the cacophony of the lobbyists just gets louder and more vicious. It’s hard to think of the 28 children and teachers as corollary damage in these situations, but in some respects that’s what they are. And saying that doesn’t mean the loss of life is meaningless; it isn’t.

But before the shooting starts there is another victim. The primary victim is the shooter. This person was so messed up by something, somewhere, somehow, that they felt killing was the only solution. But no, it’s far easier to dismiss the killer as a crazy and focus simply on reducing the body count.

But the body count is only a symptom; the disease that lies at the heart of the issue infects the one holding the gun. They are the ones who need healing.

What kind of society is it that so disenfranchises their youth, that suicide is seen by far too many as the only way out? What kind of society creates such despair in a young person’s heart and mind that killing children and teachers is seen as the only solution? Until the gun lobbyist and the prayer lobbyists shut up for a minute and let the real issue come to the forefront, nothing will ever get solved.

I’m not saying prayer in the schools and stiffer guns laws will do no good. Changing policy regarding spiritual and moral instruction in our schools and changing the gun culture will have definite benefits. But simply decreasing the body count is not enough. The heart of the issue, the real solution lies in finding and helping the Adam Lanzas of this world before the despair they feel drives them to such extremes.

Then America and indeed the entire world will truly start to see a difference.

 

In Flanders Fields memorial at John McCrae birthplace, Guelph Ontario

Memorial, with the complete poem “In Flander’s Fields” at the John McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario Canada. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

It comes as no surprise to me that many Christians, and especially pastors, struggle with Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day as it is called in the United States, Armistice Day in other parts of the world. The struggle is born out of the fact that war is generally considered to be a bad thing, and not all wars are created equal. Some it is easy to see the necessity of the conflict and so can be regarded with some degree of honour; others, unfortunately, are much harder to justify and are the source of the philosophical struggle. How does one honour the fallen in an unjust war without giving credence to the conflict we opposed so strongly?

The most common response to this is, “We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the soldiers.” But for many this is a difficult concept to buy into because in their minds if the soldiers refused to fight there wouldn’t have been a war. As is often the case this idealistic approach can rarely play out in the real world.

In the real world diplomacy often fails. In the real world governments feel pressure to ‘send a message’ and ‘issue a measured response.’ In the real world some countries are governed by genocidal regimes that simply must be stopped. The average soldier in combat boots and fatigues with a rifle and a fifty pound pack isn’t in a position to make a judgment call on the bigger picture. They can object to specific acts, such as burning a village full of women and children, but the beyond that; well, they rarely get to see beyond the next hill.

So, keeping this in mind I would like to suggest a slightly different wording for the statement above.

We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the sacrifice!

Being a soldier is by and large an act of faith. In good faith soldiers lay their lives on the line believing that their leaders would not ask them to engage in an unjust war. In good faith they answer the call of duty believing that the best interests of their nation are at stake. In good faith they sacrifice some measure of their own freedom and all too often their own lives in the belief that doing so will bring some measure of freedom to others and allow them to live better lives.

It is that faith which puts them in a position to go to war. It is that faith which leads them to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is that sacrifice of faith that we pay tribute to on Remembrance Day.

Another aspect of the real world, regretfully, is that faith is often betrayed. However; and this is the most important thing I wish to convey to you, the betrayal of that faith by the government of the day does not in any way diminish the value of the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform.

You see Remembrance Day is not about government policy; it’s not about international politics; it’s not even about whether war is just or unjust, right or wrong, of necessity or of opportunism. Remembrance Day is about the men and women in the tanks, trucks and trenches, the fighter planes and bombers, and the ships at sea and under the sea who, in good faith, answered the call of duty and ultimately sacrificed their lives by doing so.

And that is all it is about.

That sacrifice, made in good faith, must never be taken lightly. It must never be dismissed because we disagree with the politics of the day. It must never be demonized because of our own pacifist beliefs. If that faith was betrayed, if that faith was misplaced, it in no way diminishes the value of the sacrifice; and the fact that sacrifice was made must never be forgotten.

This is why I think it highly appropriate that the U.S. elections are held in the shadow of Remembrance Day. I wish that federal elections in Canada were held at this time as well. Holding elections so close to Remembrance Day reminds us that in a democracy the leaders who send the men and women of our armed forces into battle are selected by the people, by you and me, when we cast our votes. If our leaders have engaged in an unjust war it is because we gave them the power to do so. Few leaders in the Western world can declare war on their own; they require the support of their governments. Those governments were put in place by the people. Which is why the sacrifice of those men and women must also be important to you and me; to all of us.

So on November 11th, regardless of your political leanings, regardless of your philosophic or theological approach to war, please, take a moment to remember the sacrifice made in good faith by men and women who fought to oppose evil and promote freedom on our behalf.

I was going to comment on this case as well, but I can’t say it any better than the good Doctor here. Check it out.

Honor Your Mother | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament.