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

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9

Jan

2021

Putting good and bad in perspective

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday January 10, 2021

 

Years ago, I started writing a summary of the good things and bad things that had happened that year.

            At first, I had little difficulty separating good from bad. My two lists – good and bad – bore little connection to each other.

            But as time passed, I discovered that different aspects of the same situations were showing up in both lists.

            This year, the overlap is almost total. Bad things occurred, certainly, but part of each parcel included good things. And vice versa. Like Frank Sinatra singing about love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other.

            Take Donald Trump. Please. (A line borrowed from stand-up comedy.)

            How can his behaviour be a ”good thing”?

            Easy -- he proved I was right about him, all along. (I never said that the good and bad had to be equal, only that they were intertwined!)


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9

Jan

2021

Two decisions that sneaked by

Author: Jim Taylor

n all the hoopla about the U.S. election last week, a couple of significant events sneaked by. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that corporations are not persons. And the U.S. media acknowledged that they have ethical responsibilities.

            First, the media. Friday night after the U.S. election, still-president Donald Trump ranted for 16 minutes of outright falsehoods and accusations without evidence, that he had won the election. At least six American networks cut him off in mid-sentence. 

            For the networks to pull the plug on a sitting president is an unprecedented act.

          In the second piece of overlooked news, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, in certain situations, corporations are not persons. 


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29

Aug

2020

A tale of two conventions

Author: Jim Taylor

Over the last ten days I have watched -- reluctantly, I admit -- parts of the Democratic and Republican national conventions in the U.S.

            Long ago, I had to write essays to “compare and contrast” Shakespeare’s sonnets with, say, Wordsworth’s. Or John Milton’s metaphors versus T.S. Eliot’s.

            It can be an illuminating exercise. But it’s easier when you can lay out two manuscripts side by side.

            I wish technology enabled me to compare the two political conventions side by side. Perhaps with 30 seconds of this audio, then 30 seconds of that one. So that I could flip back and forth, instead of relying on memory of two separate events.

            Still, the most obvious difference was visual. The Republican convention paid lip service to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its body language didn’t. During the speeches by both Melania and Donald Trump, Republican dignitaries sat cheek-to-cheek, buttwise. No physical separation. No masks that I could see. Lots of handshaking and back-patting.

            The Democratic convention didn’t have masks either. But they didn’t need them. No one else in the room – they actually practiced isolation.

 

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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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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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3

Apr

2019

Suffering from joy deprivation

Author: Jim Taylor

The news has not been good recently – unless you’re a Trump supporter. The media have been filled with incidents of hate, violence, death, and disaster. 

            The world is still reeling from the mass murders at the mosques in New Zealand. Followed by the copycat defacing of five mosques in the U.K. Where Brexit seems headed for disaster, taking Theresa May with it. And disaster aptly describes typhoon Idai’s effect on Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

            And that’s not counting an endless parade of house fires, vehicle accidents, thefts, and political conflicts.

            I admit to contributing to this flood of bad news. Ironically, journalists focus on bad news precisely because it’s an exception to the norm. It is news because it is out of the ordinary. 

            So we hear all about the accident where the bus full of young hockey players collides with a semi-trailer whose driver failed to stop at a stop sign. We never hear about the thousands of trucks, every day, that do stop. 


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28

Oct

2018

Hondurans are fleeing, not invading

Author: Jim Taylor

Last year, we saw endless lines of thousands of Rohinga refugees filing out of Myanmar into Bangladesh. This year, it’s similarly endless columns of 7,000 refugees marching ten abreast up a highway towards the U.S. 

            Trump, without so much as a shred of evidence, denounced the Honduran exodus as a “National Emergy” – apparently he can’t be bothered to spell “emergency” correctly – filled with criminals and agitators from the Middle East.

            I wonder how he would have described the biblical Exodus. Certainly there were fugitives from justice in that migration. Moses himself was considered a criminal. So was any person fleeing from slavery. And they were all – all -- Middle Eastern malcontents.

            “We’re not migrating, we are fleeing,” a man called Timothy from the city of El Progreso told a reporter.


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30

Sep

2018

Sexual predators incapable of hearing ‘No’

Author: Jim Taylor

The week opened with genial father-figure Cliff Huxtable -- better known as Bill Cosby -- named a “sexually violent predator” and sentenced to three to ten years in prison. In a Pennsylvania court, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting a Canadian woman, Andrea Constand,

            The same week, Christine Blasey Ford, professor at Palo Alto University, testified before a U.S. Senate committee that she had been the victim of attempted rape by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, 36 years earlier.

             Also, former media celebrity Gian Ghomeshi published an essay in the New York Review of Bookswhitewashing his own sexual escapades. Although Ghomeshi was acquitted, Ontario Court Justice William Horkins made clear that he was not saying that “these events never happened.”

           Three threads run through this sorry tapestry.


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17

Jun

2018

When writers don’t know what to write about

Author: Jim Taylor

           If you’ve ever wondered what writers write about when they don’t know what to write about, that incident might give you a clue. 

            We retreat into the commonplace world, the world we actually know about from personal experience, and hope to connect with larger events. 

            The problem is not having nothing to write about. The problem is having too much to write about. 

            Take this last week, for example. 

            Boatloads of refugees get sent back to sea in the Mediterranean, by nations unwilling to assume responsibility for disasters that they didn’t create, while the nations that caused the problems stay a comfortable distance away. 

            Volcanoes demonstrate that they can have different personalities. The one in Hawaii is relatively benign – dangerous, but not explosive. The one in Guatemala erupts explosively, searing its victims in hot ash and gases. The one in Washington… well, enough said. 

            The G-7 summit in Quebec, that became the G-6 summit after Russia got kicked out, became the G-5 summit when everyone was out of step except one man.

            And then the world’s two most unpredictable national leaders met in Singapore, to hatch a vague commitment to make the world safer.

 


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20

May

2018

U.S. embassy move misreads the Bible

Author: Jim Taylor

This week, the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. The move fulfilled one of President Donald Tweet’s campaign promises. The president sent his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to represent the American Empire. 

            Jerusalem epitomizes all that’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

            Kushner had no foreign policy experience at all, prior to being appointed the White House’s “Senior Advisor” with particular emphasis on Middle Eastern issue. But he is Jewish. 

           U.S. foreign policy treats the Bible as the final word on anything related to Jews. And, by extension, to anything related to the Middle East. 

           Let’s be clear – the Bible does state that the legendary King David chose Jerusalem as the capital of the new nation he had formed from the warring tribes descended from Jacob’s sons. That’s a selective reading, though. It ignores the Bible’s own testimony that David chose that site specifically because it did NOT form part of traditional Jewish territories. 


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