Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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1

Dec

2019

The day there were no heroes

Author: Jim Taylor

This coming Friday, December 6, marks the 30th anniversary of the deadliest mass murder in Canadian history. That is, if you don’t count attacks on indigenous peoples. They were, after all, just Indians.

            Marc Lepine would probably say the same about his rampage at L´Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. They were, after all, just women. Feminists, studying engineering so that they could steal men’s jobs.

            Fourteen women died. Fourteen more victims -- ten women and four men -- were injured by his bullets. The 15thdeath was Lepine, when he shot himself.

            And there’s no question about his intentions. He left a three-page suicide note, plus letters to two friends, explaining his hostility towards women in general, towards women who wanted to be engineers in particular.

            I won’t attempt to analyze his motives. I do want to trace his actions, and some people’s responses.


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17

Nov

2019

Crossing a line one time too many

Author: Jim Taylor

So Don Cherry got fired. About time. The man has been his own fireworks factory for 38 years. Then he lit one incendiary match too many.

            He failed to realize that once you become public property, you lose the privileges of individuality. You can no longer claim the liberty to speak for yourself.

            Like everyone else, Don Cherry is entitled to express his own opinions -- within his own circle. But Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada is probably the most public pulpit in the country.

            Cherry has been a fixture on Hockey Night in Canada for 38 years. Initially, having been fired as coach of the Boston Bruins, he limited his commentary to hockey tactics.

            But he soon used Coach’s Corner as a soapbox to sound off about social issues.


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10

Nov

2019

Time to quit the denial game

Author: Jim Taylor

You’re in your car, let’s say. You pull up to the intersection. You stop. You look both ways. The road seems clear. You pull ahead and --

            Ka-wham! An enormous force smashes into you. You’re spun around, tossed like a rag doll in a Rottweiler’s jaws. You look up at the radiator of the logging truck that’s crushing your car, and you, into a cube of crumpled metal. Just before a black wave of pain and shock washes over your senses, you ask yourself: “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

            A car crash serves as a metaphor for other shocks.

            The firm where you’ve worked loyally for 35 years tells you to clear out your desk. Your spouse hands you a package of divorce papers. Your doctor looks at the test results, sucks her teeth, and says, “It’s cancer. Stage IV already…”

            At times like these, your first reaction is often, “Why didn’t I see it coming?” How could I miss the warning signs? How did I kid myself that even if I saw the signs, they wouldn’t affect me?

             Thirty years from now, I imagine a lot of people will look back at the early decades of this millennium and ask themselves those same questions.


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3

Nov

2019

Treat mental illness like any other illness

Author: Jim Taylor

The days have gone, thank God, when we simply couldn’t talk about mental illness. When families had a dotty aunt whom they hid in a suite in the back of the ancestral home. When the errant son who got into trouble was written off, banished, never mentioned again. 

            It wasn’t that long ago, though, when anybody with a disability was shipped off to a separate school for the blind or the deaf. When mental illness wasn’t even considered a disability -- it was a disgrace that reflected badly upon the family. 

            It’s not that way anymore. But yes it still is. 

            When someone breaks a bone, gets an infected tooth, or has surgery to remove an appendix, we don’t think any less of that person for their “illness.” But a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or autism instantly diminishes that person’s value. 


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27

Oct

2019

Impeachment and schadenfreude

Author: Jim Taylor

Today’s word, for those of you who view life as an episode of Sesame Street, is “schadenfreude.” Pronounced “shah-den-froy-duh.” It means “taking delight in Donald Trump’s impeachment.”

            Oops, there’s another  big word. “Impeachment” -- pronounced im-peach-ment -- means “humiliating the president.”

            And that’s about all it means.

             Canadians don’t have impeachment. We have no procedures for impeaching prime ministers, regardless of their lack of popularity. Instead, parliament can pass a vote of “no confidence,” which means, basically, that the members of parliament want another election, whether or not Canadians as a whole have lost confidence in the ability of the government to govern.

             The big difference is that when a Canadian parliament votes “no confidence,” the government falls.

            When the American House of Representatives votes for impeachment, it does little more than splat the president with a banana-cream pie.

 

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20

Oct

2019

Evidence grows against e-cigarettes

Author: Jim Taylor

I’m not sure exactly when I first encountered vaping. I was leading an editing workshop. I explained the house rules, which included “No Smoking.” One participant pulled out an e-cigarette. “Is this okay?” he asked.

            He said he was trying to quit smoking.

            After some discussion, the group let him vape. We were wrong.

            It took 500 years for western civilization to recognize the risks of tobacco smoking. The hazards of vaping have  become all too evident in one decade.

            I can accept that the Spanish explorers who brought tobacco from America to Europe had no idea of its harmful effects. They had no ill intentions. Smoking was simply a novelty.

            I cannot accept that their successors, the tobacco companies who aggressively marketed cigarettes through the 20thcentury, did not know that their product caused harm. The medical evidence was overwhelming. Smoking made almost every ailment worse, from cancer to heart disease.


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13

Oct

2019

Old political labels don’t stick anymore

Author: Jim Taylor

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday. It’s also just nine days away from a federal election. One of the things I’m thankful for is that Canada is not mired in the political lunacy in the U.S.

            So far, about the only thing the various Canadian parties and candidates have been able to agree about is that the other side has more flaws than they do.

            I suspect that if our ballots had a “None of the above” box, we’d elect a non-government with a huge majority, made up of members who didn’t get elected.

            In today’s elections, traditional labels don’t work. A conservative is not necessarily a Conservative, let alone a Progressive Conservative. And a Liberal is not necessarily liberal, especially out here in B.C.


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6

Oct

2019

No Sharp Edges column today

Author: Jim Taylor

No, I don’t need a holiday. No, I don’t particularly deserve a day off. But on Thursday, the managing editor of the newspaper that gets the first lick at my Sharp Edges columns sent an email: “Take this weekend off. I need your space for election coverage.”

            I had a column partly complete. Mostly complete. But I wasn’t happy with it. It was about the federal election, of course. More specifically, about the candidates in my local riding. About which, I daresay, no one outside this riding cares a whit. 

            (A “whit” -- in case you’re wondering, is a literary or archaic term meaning “the least possible amount.”)

            So I accepted my weekend off. 

            All I can give you, this weekend, is your own letters about last week’s column, in which I excoriated (there’s another word worth looking up) a leadership conference here in Kelowna that involved two former prime ministers. 


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29

Sep

2019

Leadership conference lacks leadership

Author: Jim Taylor

It was billed as the biggest, most important, leadership conference ever held in this area -- the Level Up Executive Leadership Conference -- 10 hours with eight great leaders -- yesterday.

            If you bought tickets ranging in price up to $1600, plus tax, you got to hear about leadership from two former prime ministers of Canada: Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper.

            The term “former” applies to several other speakers too.

            Darren Hardy is the former publisher /editor of Success Magazine.

            Walter Bond is a former star in the National Basketball Association.

            Omar Johnson is the former CEO of Beats by Dre, the premium headphone company.

            Lane Merrifield is the former owner of Penguin Club, sold to Disney for $350 million.

           I tried to think back to Jean Chretien’s years as prime minister. Only two things spring to mind -- his attempt to strangle a man who objected his policies, and his long-standing feud with Paul Martin that split the Liberal Party and led to its humiliation in the 2011 federal election.

            If that’s leadership, count me out.

            I remember much more about Stephen Harper’s leadership.


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22

Sep

2019

On the wrong side of a watershed

Author: Jim Taylor

My granddaughter is black. She’s in Grade 10, in a comfortable, friendly little city with a population of around 40,000 -- almost entirely white.

            My granddaughter is discovering racism. She’s the only black person in her class. Some of her classmates -- one boy in particular -- call her “nigger.” They make fun of her. She feels excluded. 

            She says she desperately wants to move to Vancouver. Or Los Angeles. Or even Atlanta. Where she won’t stand out, be different, where there are more black people and she can blend in.

            She doesn’t realize that blending in -- especially in Los Angeles or Atlanta -- might be more hazardous than standing out in Canada. Blending in might mean getting pulled over, interrogated, searched and manhandled, for the crime of being black while driving. She might be denied educational opportunities, or shut out of job opportunities. At worst, she might be a target for a white-supremacist’s bullets. 


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