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

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If a stranger happened by

Author: Jim Taylor

Canada will be 150 years old this Saturday. I was asked by the organizers of the Canada Day celebrations to put together a historical presentation about the churches of Lake Country. Eleven, by my count, for a community of 14,000.

            So, last Tuesday morning, I drove around to all the current churches, to take pictures. I already had pictures of the earlier churches, thanks to the Lake Country Museum’s archives.

           On Tuesday mornings, I discovered, Lake Country is a religious dead zone. Locked doors. Empty parking lots. Closed gates. Silence…

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Retaliation ignores the Golden Rule

Author: Jim Taylor

If you want to invest in a growth industry, consider hate crimes. London police report a five-fold increase in attacks on Muslims – particularly Muslim women – since the terrorist attacks on London Bridge, the Westminster parliament, and the Manchester concert.

            But the increase is not limited to Britain, where the reaction might be understandable. Here in Canada, Statistics Canada indicates that attacks on Muslims more than tripled over three years, from 45 in 2012 to 159 in 2015. During 2015 alone, according to a CBC report, hate crimes against Muslims soared by 60 per cent.

           No doubt attacks on Muslims are a form of retaliation for acts attributed to Islamic extremists. But if so, why single out women? Not one of those acts was committed by a woman.

            Or are women simply easier to identify by their head scarves?


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Rules can never create fluency

Author: Jim Taylor

For a few years, I taught writing and editing courses for businesses. Some workshops flew; others foundered on the simplest points.

            Pharmaceutical companies, in particular, often hired Asian immigrants. I’ve no doubt they were well qualified, highly trained, even brilliant. They had studied English. But they came from languages that didn’t use little things like prepositions. Or articles. Or even commas.

            “Why you need ‘the’ before noun?” someone might ask. 

            Or perhaps, “Why sometimes ‘agree with,’ sometimes ‘agree to,’ sometimes ‘agree on’?”

            I offered examples. They would ask, “Where we find book that teach us these rules?”

            There isn’t one. Or more accurately, there are hundreds. 

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The most meaningless of crimes

Author: Jim Taylor

t’s infuriating. It’s offensive. You go to a public park, a main street, and you see artwork damaged. Seats smashed. Trees chopped down. Graffiti splattered on walls. Not even hate graffiti, which at least has some motivation -- even if I reject it -- but just graffiti for the sake of defacing a virgin wall.

            Vandalism. It’s mindless. Purposeless. Meaningless.

            In the village of Telkwa, on Highway 16 through northern British Columbia, people woke up one morning to find that during the night someone – or more likely, a small group of someones -- had trashed a garden display in Eddy Park, where the Bulkley and Telkwa rivers meet.

             Sometime during the night, vandals smashed flower pots, trampled plants, scattered debris throughout the town.

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Learning lessons from evolution

Author: Jim Taylor

Let’s quit calling evolution a “theory.” When Darwin first proposed the concept, evolution was a theory. It’s not any more – it’s a reality.


Gravity was a theory too, when Newton first advanced it. But no one today would step off a cliff because he believes gravity is an unproven theory. 

            Evolution is not open for debate or denial. No more than, say, the mathematical concept that one plus one equals two. Or the value of pi. 

            Darwin did not invent evolution. He recognized what had been there all along.

            Since then, not one scientific discovery has disproven evolution. 

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Evolution, Darwin




Extremes come in opposite pairs -- both wrong

Author: Jim Taylor

You’d think that Londoners should be inured to terror. They lived through the WWII blitz. Through IRA bombings in the 1990s. Through coordinated attacks on subways and buses in 2005. And during the Brexit campaign, the murder of MP Jo Cox.

            But it took three attacks in three months – on parliament at Westminster in March, at the Manchester concert in May, and now on London Bridge in June – to provoke Prime Minister Teresa May into declaring that there was “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the United Kingdom.

            The mass media immediately construed her words as a slap at Islamic extremism. The Independenttrumpeted that all recent attacks were “bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamic extremism.”

             Elsewhere in her comments, Teresa May did identify radical Islamists. But her reference to “too much tolerance” was more general.

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Road building for dummies

Author: Jim Taylor

Road re-construction seems to me to bear distinct parallels to the way churches, political parties, and community organizations operate. 

            Most social reconstruction follows the “pave it over” model. The old road – the old beliefs, the old ways of doing things, the tried-and-true constitutions and policies of the past – continue to exist under the fresh new face. Or policy.

            In churches, the kind of organizations I know best, this means that a 2000-year-old pre-scientific-age text continues to underlie all major decisions. Creeds almost as old remain untouchable. 

            Similarly, political parties elect new leaders, lay out new platforms. But old prejudices and ideologies still lurk just below the surface.

            Occasionally, though, some groups try to start from zero, like building a new highway. But they first have to clear away any broken components of the former road. They have to dig deep to establish root principles. They have to expand that foundation with layers of interpretation.

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If I had intervened, would I be dead?

Author: Jim Taylor

What would I have done? The question haunts me.

            Last week, three men were stabbed after they intervened on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, to stop a white supremacist from harassing two young women, one of them wearing a head covering.

            It seems the women were not doing anything objectionable, other than riding a public train. But the stabber started yelling racial insults and profanities at them. The three men tried to stop him.

            Now two of them are dead, and one still recovering in hospital.

            And so I wonder, what would I do? I like to think I would do the noble thing, the honorable thing. I like to think I would have stood up for common decency.

            If so, would I be dead now?

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