The video went viral – as so many videos do nowadays, especially when we wish they wouldn’t. Over a million people watched Kelly Pocha of Cranbrook, B.C.lean over the back of a booth in a Denny’s Restaurant in Lethbridge, AB, and yell at the inhabitants of the next booth, who appeared to be of Arab origin.
Her comments were clearly racist. She told them to go back to their own country. She said they didn’t belong here. She threatened physical violence.
To her credit, she later went back to the restaurant, and apologized to the manager for causing a scene. And on the media, she apologized to the subjects of her harangue. “If I could rewind and take it back I would, but I can’t,” she said. “That's just not who I am."
Pocha learned a hard lesson – you can’t do that anymore.
Pocha herself lost her job as controller at a Cranbrook auto dealership. Firing her was a legitimate act for her employer, explained Micheal Annett, an assistant professor of human resource management at MacEwan University in Edmonton: “Employers generally have the right to terminate at will for non-job performance that is seen as harmful to the company.”
Once, what you did on your own time was considered entirely separate from your on-the-job performance.
No longer. Remember the young man who seized a female reporter’s microphone after a ball game and shouted obscene suggestions into it? Just high spirits, he claimed later. He lost his job at Ontario’s Hydro One, even though his misbehaviour had nothing at all to do with his technical competence.
Because you just can’t do that anymore.
“There was a time…”
“There was a time in this fair land,” as Gordon Lightfoot wrote in his Railroad Trilogy, when white men ran it. White Protestant men. Who believed that everyone should become like them. The infamous Indian Residential Schools were an institutional embodiment of that belief. But indigenous peoples were not the only victims.
Black men had just one sure job on Lightfoot’s railway – porter on the Pullman cars. Jazz pianist Oscar Pederson’s father was one of them.
B.C. passed laws restricting Chinese immigration. Even as it exploited Chinese labour to build the Fraser Canyon Highway to the goldfields inland and used Chinese miners as expendable powder-monkeys underground.
B.C. also herded all Japanese, regardless of birth or citizenship, inland to concentration camps after Japan invaded Pearl Harbour in World War II.
A former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Bruce McLeod, remembers growing up in WASP Toronto where signs in the parks said “No Dogs or Jews Allowed”.
You can’t do those things anymore.
There was a time in this fair land when business leaders believed they had a God-given duty to stamp out unions. As late as the 1980s, I attended a meeting where the chair declared, “We’ve got to do something about these damn socialists. Look what happened when we let them get into power in Germany.”
You can’t go union-busting now. At least, not openly. Except, perhaps, in some American states.
There was a time when men assumed they had a right to ogle, flirt with, and grope any attractive woman. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, you can’t do that anymore.
Even those of us who never crossed the line now wonder where the line is.
Evolution of societies
The problem, it seems to me, is that society has changed. Everyone recognizes that. But not everyone changes at the same pace.
Same-sex unions are now legal throughout Europe and North America. But a 70-year-old lesbian woman, who had spent 30 years in a committed relationship with her now-deceased partner, was driven out of a seniors’ home by harassment from other residents. One told her, “Homosexuals will burn in hell.” Another deliberately rammed her with an electric scooter.
The residents didn’t realize that you can’t do that anymore.
Last Thursday, a three-year-old boy died after being left inside a locked car in the parking lot at Crossroads Christian Communications in Burlington, Ontario.
You can’t do that anymore either.
Social evolution happens as a series of small changes. None of those changes are earthshaking in themselves. But the accumulation adds up.
We tend to recognize those changes only when, like Kelly Pocha, we get tripped up doing something that might, at one time, have been considered acceptable. And we discover, perhaps painfully, that you can’t do that anymore.
Society never goes into “Park.” Life is always a work in progress.
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Back when I worked for the United Church Observer, I learned that almost anything written about Israel would generate heated responses. Even Joan said, of last week’s column about the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, “You’re asking for it again!” I don’t know whether times have changed, or the Jewish associations in Canada have decided I deserve ignoring. Your responses were thoughtful, and pertinent. Even if you didn’t agree.
Steve Roney, for example, didn’t agree: “I’m not sure all this information about the religious significance of Jerusalem is relevant. Surely the issue is far simpler. Jerusalem has been chosen by the state of Israel as its capital. It is an accepted matter of international law that every nation has the right to decide for itself what its capital city will be. What was and continues to be extraordinary, and needs explanation, is the international refusal to recognize this right in the sole case of Israel.
“And no, this has nothing to do with disputed territory. Jerusalem was the declared capital of Israel before the Six Day War, and the Western part of the city had been in Israeli possession, since that state’s founding.
“It also seems an unfair slag against Christianity to say that it is anti-Semitic because it imagines the Jews will all convert at the Second Coming. After all, the Jews believe equally that all the Christians will convert to Judaism when the Messiah comes. And the Muslims believe everyone will become Muslim.”
David Gilchrist, however, challenged the founding of Israel in 1948: “At the end of my teens, land was confiscated from the Palestinians to carve out a new territory for the Jews, on the premise that they ‘deserved’ a country of their own as ‘God’s Chosen People.’ Even as a very young man, I remember thinking it rather strange: yes, many who survived the holocaust would not want to settle again in Germany. But they had chosen to leave their ‘homeland’ for the same reasons that most our Canadian ancestors left their roots and came here. I remember wondering if things went badly for my family here, whether that would justify the removal of those who had taken over our ancestral land in England or Scotland.
“I came soon to believe that the [founding of the nation of Israel] was in itself an anti-Semitic act to prevent further Jewish influence in Canada and the USA -- disguised as Christian charity. I felt very ashamed that my country had shared in a movement that used the West’s power and influence to rob people of land that had been in their families for generations. This feeling was certainly strengthened when ‘the West’ didn’t just seek a new home for the Holocaust survivors, but actively encouraged other Jews, who had come here as our own families had, to return to the land of their forbears. Nothing could be further from what I would expect from Jesus to do. Trump’s behaviour seems to me to be far more anti-Semitic than pro-Israel.”
Sandy Warren also had some harsh words for Trump: “There is irony that he can muster support for a number of egregious policies by alluding to the Bible, a book for which he appears to have no regard and little if any knowledge.”
Frank Martens called last week’s Sharp Edges, “one of your most interesting columns. Certainly along my interests, and definitely in line with what the general public should be interested in given the times in our present history.
“I should add that theologians of any kind need to get away from their personal view of the Bible and stop taking it so literally.” That is, Frank went on to explain, to give up basing their theologies entirely on it – it has much to teach, he agrees, but it is not the final answer on anything.
Tom Watson thought that “Benjamin Netanyahu has been the principal architect of Trump's foreign policy. Back in February a BBC News article claimed, ‘A police statement by the Israeli police said there was enough evidence to indict Mr. Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two separate cases.’ Bibi and Donald, two nefarious birds of a feather, an ocean apart and yet guiding world affairs.”
Ralph Milton told me, “A middle-aged man came up to me after church this morning clutching a copy of your editorial clipped from the paper. ‘You should read this,’ he said. ‘This guy really gets it right.’ Then he rushed off claiming to have an appointment somewhere.”
Bob Rollwagen concurred: “The Twit you refer to has no idea what the Bible is. I have not seen or heard a single reference to any church in his life since he has become a public figure. Anything he has done so far is to reverse gains of prior administrations or increase his self-worth at the expense of the American people. The recent move in Israel has answered his election promise and I doubt he really cares who gets killed there.
“That dispute has been going on for thousands of years… It appears to have caused tremendous unrest and killing for no reason. Similarly, in his own country, kids are now killing each other in schools and the Twit does not see guns as the problem. The Gun Lobby supports his election campaign, so killing must just be the price for a Twit to be elected. He wants teachers to be armed. What will the US look like after four years.
“I’m sure the bible is one book he has not cracked open, as it does not fit into a tweet.”
James West offered what seemed, at first, a kind of backhanded compliment: “I cannot say that I agree with everything that you wrote, for if I did one of us would be unnecessary.”
Randy Hall: "You succinctly expressed many of the random thoughts I've had about the history of Jerusalem and the prejudicial ideas that justified the moving of the embassy. I have visited Jerusalem three times, always moved, saddened, touched, and confused by the history that has taken place there.
“I hadthought of Jerusalem being considered an "I’nternational City’ or a ‘City of the World’ with a status of neutrality in which the three faiths that hold it precious might show the world how religion, at its best, can stand for peace, cooperation, and a common mission of making the world better rather than bitter. Twenty years ago I even wrote of this to the Office of the Secretary of State. Of course, I received no reply.”
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My webpage is running again -- thanks to Wayne Irwin and ChurchWeb Canada. You can now access current columns and five years of archives at http://quixotic.ca
I write a second column each Wednesday, called Soft Edges, which deals somewhat more gently with issues of life and faith. To sign up for Soft Edges, write to me directly at the address above, or send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Ralph Milton ’s latest project is called “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca
Ralph’s HymnSight webpage is still up, http://wwwDOThymnsightDOTca, with a vast gallery of photos you can use to enhance the appearance of the visual images you project for liturgical use (prayers, responses, hymn verses, etc.)
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom
Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet