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

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9

Aug

2020

Horror over mass atrocities

Author: Jim Taylor

Carlton Street in Toronto starts at Yonge Street’s frenzy of retailing. Carlton then moves west, crossing Church Street’s gay bars and the former upper-crust mansions along Jarvis Street. Past the tropical greenhouses of Allan Gardens, the stone fortress of St. Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne Street, and Bleeker Street where, in the early 1990s, prostitutes flashed breasts and crotches at passing drivers.

            It is, like Canada, a mosaic of cultures. 

           But one building stood out.

           The original brick had been painted white. It had massive iron bars on all its windows. A heavy wrought-iron fence. High powered lights. A security camera over the front door.


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2

Aug

2020

Making statistics more real

Author: Jim Taylor

Dying is never fun. I think I can safely say that, although I suppose there may be people who gather together for some kind of final bacchanalia as they expire. 

            As Peggy Lee sang, long ago, “If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze, and have a ball…”

            But such a party would, I imagine, be only a way of suppressing their fear of dying.

            Those who have been close to a dying person know what it’s like. Pain, even with constant medication. Helplessness. Loss of independence. Loss of control. Loss of memory. Bewilderment. Confusion. Sometimes calm resignation, sometimes anger and bitterness. 


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27

Jul

2020

Party-goers yield to ancient impulses

Author: Jim Taylor

           Until early July, B.C. had been a model for North America. This province was the first to be hit by the pandemic; it was the first to “flatten the curve” and bring infections under control. B.C.’s interior had no new cases in weeks.

            And then around Canada Day, a bunch of younger people gathered at private parties in two Kelowna resort hotels. Some of those people later visited two other sites where infected individuals were present. 

            As a result, around 300 new cases have been identified. And around 1000 people are now in  self-isolation because of the possibility of having been infected. 

            And those figures, admits Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, are “absolutely going to go higher.”


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21

Jul

2020

White privilege is not about guilt

Author: Jim Taylor

A new term has crept into the lexicon of race relations – “white privilege.”

            Don’t confuse white privilege with white supremacy. White supremacy means that you actively assert the superiority of people with white skins over anyone who has skin of a different colour --  using politics, religion, legislation, or violence.

            White privilege, on the other hand, refers to aspects of life that we -- I speak for myself, but I assume others are like me -- have never previously considered, but have simply taken for granted.


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12

Jul

2020

Be careful not to burst bubbles

Author: Jim Taylor

Children love blowing bubbles. They blow bubbles in the bath. They run around the yard leaving trails of bubbles behind them. They try to catch those shimmering, shining bubbles without bursting them.

            Bubbles are fascinating. Real, but not real. Some bubbles pop when they touch other bubbles; some merge into bigger bubbles.

            I remember community picnics where some bubbles looked like oversized bologna, bigger than the kids who blew them. They drifted overhead. Until they popped and showered droplets of glycerine and detergent on the adults below. 

            In today’s COVID-19 world, though, “bubble” takes on new meaning. We’re not thinking of bubbles from the outside anymore; we’re thinking of the bubbles we’re inside. 

 

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5

Jul

2020

Plague of locusts makes bad into worse

Author: Jim Taylor

News reports have called it “a plague of biblical proportions.” But they’re not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

            The Bible actually has very little to say about pandemics. About death from starvation or drought, yes. About death in war, oh my goodness yes. But very little about mass deaths from diseases – if I exclude the book of Revelation, which smacks its lips at the prospect of wiping out one-third of the world’s population in a single trumpet blast. 

            Rather, the “biblical plague” refers to locusts. Billions upon billions of flying grasshoppers that descend from the sky in clouds and eat the leaves off everything. 

            Rght now great plagues of locusts are demolishing agricultural crops across east Africa, Somalia, Yemen, parts of Iran, Pakistan, and India. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Moses, Locusts, plagues

28

Jun

2020

Don’t waste my wife’s last sacrifice

Author: Jim Taylor

Starting next week, there will be more cars out on our roads. That means more accidents. And if Canadian Blood Services were to run out of gas, figuratively, people would die. Because you can’t get a refill of blood if the main tank is empty.

            Earlier this year, there was a risk their tank could run empty. Because of Covid-19, fearful donors were staying away. Fortunately, after an appeal, giving went up 20%.

            In fact, a friend who volunteers at donor clinics assured me, the agency takes so many precautions that you’re more likely to catch Covid-19 at home!

            Canadian Blood Services maintains an online National Inventory of Blood Supply Products (https://www.blood.ca/en/blood). Earlier this week, the supply of some blood types was down to just three days. Only two common blood types had more than five days’ supply, across the whole country.


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22

Jun

2020

Empty pedestals await new icons

Author: Jim Taylor

The name “Winston Smith” probably doesn’t immediately bring someone to mind. Good -- that’s what author George Orwell wanted.  He deliberately made Smith, the central character in Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984, an unassuming, ordinary, fade-into-the-wallpaper civil servant.

            Winston Smith did a very ordinary, unassuming, kind of job.

            He rewrote history.

            Every day, the Ministry of Truth had him amend news reports that had appeared in the pages of London’s most prestigious newspaper, The Times, to make them match to the government’s latest policies. If Winston Smith were alive today, he wouldn’t be working in a musty back room. He’d be out on the streets toppling statues.


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18

Jun

2020

Relationships make us human

Author: Jim Taylor

As a song says, what a difference a day makes!

            On the last Sunday in May, my daughter called after church, to say that she might have found me a dog. She worries about me living alone since my wife died. Especially when Covid-19 isolation restricts me from visiting others, or having them visit me.

            By 3:00 that afternoon, I had a dog named Pippin.

            After three months of isolation, I feel like a February groundhog emerging into the brightness of a new day.

            I am no longer alone.

            I have someone who needs me.

            What a difference a dog makes.


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7

Jun

2020

Why police forces can’t help being racist

Author: Jim Taylor

Following the death of George Floyd, killed by  cop Derek Chauvin, which provoked days of protests and nights of rioting and looting, governor Tim Walz has launched an inquiry into whether the Minneapolis police force has “systemic racism that is generations deep.” 

            Of course it does. 

            Stop! Before you fire off flaming letters telling me that I’ve maligned the good people who maintain law and order in our communities, read on.

            This is not about individuals. 

            Individuals may disavow racism. But the system they belong to can’t help being racist, because it defends the rights and privileges of a class that is fundamentally racist. 


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