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Sunday June 13, 2021
Last Sunday evening, a young man who doesn’t deserve to have a name aimed his black pickup truck at a family taking their evening walk along a sidewalk in London, Ontario. He bounced over the curb and smashed into them.
They were Muslims. The women were wearing hijabs and traditional shalwar kameez -- loose, pleated trousers with a long shirt. “They were visible,” said a family friend.
The grandmother died on the spot. Father, mother, and daughter died in hospital. Only the boy, nine years old, survived his injuries.
What that young man did seems abundantly clear. But the motive for his actions remains (as I write this column) unclear.
Why there, at that particular time?
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: Muslims, Islamophobia, London killing
Thursday June 10,2021
Only 14 days to go. This shouldn’t be difficult. I don’t expect quarantine will be much different from daily life in these Covid-restricted times.
I live alone. Covid rules won’t let me invite people in for dinner or coffee. The only germs I have to deal with are my own. So keeping the house spotless doesn’t need to be a high priority.
I have a freezer full of frozen food. I’ve got more books than I can possibly read. The cable is working, and Google awaits.
This could be almost like a mini-vacation.
I can see the routines shaping up.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: COVID-19, quarantine
Sunday June 6, 2021
Something snapped inside me when I heard about 215 bodies, buried in mass graves, on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School. The news ripped apart any veils of excuses or equivocations, revealing the residential school system as an atrocity.
I have to admit that in the past, although I considered the residential schools genocidal in intent, I have nevertheless not condemned them utterly and totally.
That’s because I have known many who served in those schools. Generally, they were dedicated, caring, self-sacrificing individuals. My church celebrated the commitment of its doctors, nurses, teachers, matrons.
Granted, some of them held colonial attitudes towards their indigenous charges. But in the 1950s, who didn’t?
I failed to recognize that good people might work within a diabolical system.
Tags: Residential schools, Kamloops, burials, 215
I have worn mismatched socks for most of 2021. Deliberately.
The idea came from a reader in England, a retired Methodist minister named Ken Nicholls who admits to “being a little eccentric at times.”
I decided some time ago to make a statement with my socks. I NEVER wear what is usually considered a pair. Socks are bought often from large stores selling them in packs of seven pairs. Often, seven different colours.
“So I may wear one green sock and one yellow. Or one blue, one purple. People I meet tell me that I have odd socks on. My reply is that they are wrong. This IS a pair. The socks have the same size, the same material, the same shape, the same manufacturer, and the same thermal value.
“They only differ in colour. And colour is irrelevant to the way they are loved and valued. Why are you judging them by colour?”
I liked his idea enough to try it. But as a symbolic act, my mismatched socks were an utter failure.
Tags: Prejudice, socks
Sunday May 30, 2021
The big picture only hits home when it becomes the small picture. That’s why movie makers show you the big picture--of thousands of foot soldiers surging up a hill, for example--and then zoom in to show the tension visible on a single face.
After 14 months of daily pandemic statistics, the big picture of daily COVID-19 statistics goes over my head like distant thunder.
Until Wednesday of this week.
When my daughter tested positive.
Suddenly, COVID-19 has stopped being a big picture and has become intensely personal.
Tags: daughter, COVID-19, personal
Thursday May 20, 2021
When the west wind blows across the lake, it has to rise when it hits the cliffs along the eastern shore.
The other day, I watched a cabal of crows dancing in that upwards rush of air.
Traditionally, a collection of crows is called a “murder”. I don’t like that term. I suspect it was coined by someone who disliked crows, who shot them whenever he could.
“Cabal,” to my mind, better fits crows’ mischievous nature. It’s also alliterative.
This particular cabal put on quite a performance.
I found myself envying their mastery of the invisible element they lived in.
Tags: Crows, dancing
Sunday May 23, 2021
I wonder if any country on earth has seen more consistent violence than Palestine/Israel. Or is it just that we know more about the endless conflicts there, thanks to the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings in the Bible?
Wars against the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Moabites … In one appalling passage, God commands genocide against the Amalekites – men, women, children, livestock, even pets.
Also wars between the sons of Jacob. One act of revenge so totally exterminated the tribe of Benjamin that the other tribes had to volunteer some of their own members to recreate Benjamin for posterity.
In Jesus’ time, the region was an irritating pimple on Rome’s backside. Other conquered nations accepted the inevitable, got on with business, and profited from the Pax Romana. But Rome had to constantly crush Hebrew rebellions. Protestant Bibles conveniently leave out the grisly saga of the Maccabees, but tourists line up to visit the final defeat at Masada.
Tags: Bible, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
A few columns ago, I wrote that I had great optimism about individuals, but pessimism about humanity as a whole.
But a reader told me that my concept contained an inherent contradiction. Humanity as a whole is made up of individuals. Logically, therefore, I cannot be optimistic about individuals without also being optimistic about the whole. And vice versa.
I can’t agree. There are discontinuities in everything. Transitions, where one reality morphs into another.
And you never know exactly where, or how, those discontinuities occur.
Tags: Transitions, discontinuities
Sunday May 16, 2021
The problem, it seems to me, is that we humans don’t know how to value anything unless it can be taxed.
Undeveloped lands have no intrinsic value.
Old growth forests, magnificent as they are, have no value in themselves.
Just as unpolluted streams have no value in themselves.
Yellow flowers growing wild on hillsides have no value.
Parks and wild lands are not treated as assets in municipal accounting, because they don’t produce tax revenue. Even though they certainly add value to other real estate. Imagine Vancouver without Stanley Park. Or New York without Central Park.
Tags: taxes, wild lands, Gibsons
Thursday May 13, 2021
The hummingbirds are back. Probably two pair of them, although I’m not quick enough to identify individual features.
They seem to play, like otters, for the sheer joy of living. They perform aerobatics overhead that would make a stunt pilot green with envy. They soar vertically, flip over, dive at dizzying speeds, zoom past at low altitude, do barrel rolls, meet in mid-air, come to an instant stop…
I also notice they have different feeding habits. One visitor perches on the feeder while sipping nectar. Another hovers constantly while dipping his (or her) beak into the plastic blossom. For each bird, always the same blossom, always the same perch.
And I wonder which bird is headed down an evolutionary dead end.
Tags: vulnerable, Evolution, hummingbirds