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

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20

Aug

2019

The slippery slope of mind-meddling

Author: Jim Taylor

            The case against conversion therapy is based, mostly, on it being aimed at the LGBTQ2 community. Mainly by the most conservative Christian churches, who consider homosexuality a sin, prohibited by the Bible and against God’s divine intention.

            It’s directed mostly at gay men. The Bible has one verse denouncing sex between women, but I haven’t heard of conversion therapy being applied to them.

            Conversion therapy attempts to show these “sinners” the error of their ways, and restore them to the heterosexuals God meant them to be.

I remember when mainstream society openly endorsed conversion therapy. In the 1970s, it was called “de-programming.”

            It was advocated for returning prisoners of war, “brainwashed” in Vietnamese or Russian prisons.

            Also, with good reason, for  cult members mesmerized by charismatic leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. Manson convinced his Family to murder nine Hollywood celebrities and their hangers-on. Jones took his colony to Guyana, where 900 followers committed mass suicide. Koresh and 80 followers perished in the infamous Waco standoff.

 


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11

Aug

2019

“Turn him off! Turn him off!”

Author: Jim Taylor

Three million years ago, a distant ancestor of mine lived in Ethiopia. Since then, we humans have grown taller, stronger, more intelligent and, I would hope, more compassionate.

            After three million years of evolution, is Donald Trump the best we can achieve?

            Trump is the world’s number-one human, the colossus who sits bestride the world (to borrow a line from historian Robert Payne). President of the world’s most powerful nation. Chief executive officer of the world’s richest economy, who can make stock markets around the world crash with a single Tweet. Commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military force, with the biggest nuclear arsenal.

            A while ago, I resolved that I would not waste any more columns on Trump. It’s difficult to keep that resolution, when he declares himself “the least racist person in the world.” Or condemns the entire city of Baltimore as a “rat and rodent infested mess.”

           But I cannot continue to avoid writing about him.


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4

Aug

2019

Rocky Mountain glaciers “endangered species”

Author: Jim Taylor

According to legend, Paul Revere rode through Massachusetts at midnight shouting his warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

            I would like to ride out of the Rocky Mountains, shouting my own warning: “The glaciers are dying! The glaciers are dying!”

            You can see this for yourself, if you drive the Icefields Parkway that runs from Banff to Jasper up the spine of Canada’s national parks. I’ve just returned from doing it.

            The Crowfoot glacier no longer looks like a crow’s foot. The Angel Glacier does not look like an angel. And the Snowbird Glacier looks as if a coyote got to the bird first and ripped it apart.

            Only by looking at old photos can you appreciate the names given to these glaciers.


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31

Jul

2019

Five things I’m sort of sure of

Author: Jim Taylor

Shortly before her 61st birthday, author Anne Lamott decided to write down a dozen things she had learned from life and writing that she could be absolutely sure about.

            I’m considerably older than Lamott. But I thought her exercise would be worth trying myself. So here are some things that I’m sort of sure of. They all seem to be rejections of things I once accepted uncritically.

            First, I am absolutely sure that I can’t be absolutely sure of anything anymore. Life evolves. Knowledge changes. Sooner or later, everything I’m sure of will require reconsideration.

            This is, at least in part, a spin-off from quantum physics, where particles can be waves, or vice versa, and both are only probabilities. Werner Heisenberg defined his Uncertainty Principle in 1927. Ironically, he then developed a mathematical proof for his hypothesis – thus making uncertainty a certainty!


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28

Jul

2019

Restorative justice -- a better way

Author: Jim Taylor

This is a tale of two men -- one of them attempting to be an axe-murderer, the other attempting not to be his victim.

            I can give the name of the intended victim; Doug Martindale, a United Church minister who spent 21 years as a member of the Manitoba Legislature. I can’t name the perpetrator, because I don’t have his permission. Besides, he’s dead.

            The way the story goes, Doug agreed to paint the cottage of an elderly acquaintance, who owned a 10-acre woodlot. Doug would get some wood; the older man would get his cottage painted.

            But when Doug went up for a weekend’s work, no one told him that another man would also be there -- a second-generation-distant nephew. For simplicity, I’ll just call him “the nephew.”

            The nephew was drunk. 

            Still, the two worked reasonably well together, painting the eaves. Until they got to a bird’s nest with eggs in it. The cottage’s owner would want to preserve the wildlife, Doug thought. 

            The nephew didn’t like being told what to do. Doug tried to calm him, but the hostility escalated. Anger turned into threats. The nephew picked up a double-bitted axe and raised it over his head to strike Doug.

            Doug admits he was more scared than he had ever been in his life.

 


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20

Jul

2019

Moon race changed our view of earth

Author: Jim Taylor

Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong did something that no human being had ever done before. He stood on the moon. 

            And this coming Friday, James Lovelock will celebrate his 100thbirthday. 

            There’s a connection between the two events. 

            I remember watching the  moon landing, July 20, 1969. Official records say it happened at 10:56 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. I know our family clustered around a TV set, peering at a snowstorm of grainy black-and-white images. So we must have let our children stay up late to watch history being made.

 

           James Lovelock turned 50, six days after the moon landing. 

            NASA did not plan that coincidence, although Lovelock was working for NASA in those days, developing chemical tests that NASA would later use for detecting the possibility of life on Mars. 

            As an outcome of that work, Lovelock and biologist Lynn Margulis proposed that this earth is itself a living thing. Or, to quote Wikipedia, “that the living and non-living parts of the Earth form a complex interacting system that can be thought of as a single organism.” 

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13

Jul

2019

Unconditional love on four legs

Author: Jim Taylor

I lost my closest friend a week ago. Although we don’t normally describe a dog as a friend. 

            But over the last 12 years, I probably spent more time with her than with any human being. She was always happy to take part in whatever I might be doing. Always ready for a walk or a hike, a swim or a car ride. To anywhere. She listened to my 


musings without contradicting me or correcting me. She seemed to prefer my company to anyone else on earth. 

            “Friend” almost seems too weak a word for her. 

            Her name was Phoebe. A Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She adopted my wife and me when she was two. And from then on gave us total devotion. 

            But age caught up with her. Joints that once could run and swim all day developed painful arthritis. By the end of her life, she couldn’t put any weight on her left front paw. Her right hind leg tended to collapse without warning, leaving her sprawled awkwardly on the road, or tumbling down the stairs on her back. 

            We knew her time had run out. We made an appointment with the vet. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: dog, death, Phoebe

7

Jul

2019

When we run out of ‘away’…

Author: Jim Taylor

Canada just got 1,500 tonnes of garbage back. From the Philippines, a nation that – judging by news photos of emaciated children in Manila scrabbling through mountains of trash looking for things they can salvage and sell – seems quite capable of generating its own garbage. 

            The garbage arrived in 69 containers, part of a shipment of 103 containers sent to the Philippines six years ago. The company that shipped it falsely labelled it as plastics for recycling. It did contain plastics. Also household trash. Electronics. Dirty diapers. Rotting food. 

            That company that sent it has gone out of business. Like Harry Belafonte’s Matilda, it took its money and ran. 

            The transaction raises questions about corporate ethics and bankruptcy loopholes. 

            But the question we should be asking is, why are we shipping our garbage anywhere? 


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23

Jun

2019

Killing at a safe distance

Author: Jim Taylor

It had to happen, I suppose. Around two million fans of the Toronto Raptors basketball team packed the city’s downtown streets for a victory celebration.

            Then someone took a gun into the crowd. And started shooting. 

            Four people sustained wounds. Three people were arrested; two firearms seized. 

            As I write this column, three suspects have been identified; a fourth is being hunted. So far, no one has offered a motive for the shooting. 

            You’re expecting another rant about guns and gun control. Not this time – because I think there’s a bigger issue involved.

            In case there’s any doubt, I do oppose guns. I did have a BB gun as a teenager. I haven’t owned a gun since; we didn’t let our children play with guns.

            But the real problem is not guns. It’s our ever-growing desire to distance ourselves from the effects of our actions. 


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16

Jun

2019

Canada’s hands are not clean

Author: Jim Taylor

For years, I have railed against the policies of white supremacists – principally in the U.S., because of the daily deluge of news that spills north across the border, but also in New Zealand/Aotearoa, France, Germany, wherever….

            But I am now forced to recognize that Canada has been, and to some extent still is, a white supremacist nation. More specifically, a male white supremacist nation.

            The catalyst is the 1200-page report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – sanitized by abbreviating it to MMIWG – released Monday May 27.

            I have long known that my province imposed discriminatory taxes and restrictions on Chinese immigrants in past years. And that Canada turned away a ship full of Jewish refugees, and forcibly relocated Japanese residents during World War II.

            But the most consistent victims of Canada’s white supremacist policies have been our Indigenous peoples.


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