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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.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: consent, Trump, rape, Cosby, Ghomeshi, Kavanaugh, Andrea Constant, Christine Blasey Ford
The conference hall was packed full. Five hundred people leaned forward to watch as an elder from a First Nations community along the B.C. coast moved down the aisle towards the microphones on stage. His red-and-black blanket cloak swished as he walked; the mother-of-pearl buttons adorning it flashed back at the spotlights following him.
This happened long before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for better relationships with Canada’s indigenous peoples. But the church, my church, was making its first tentative moves towards that goal.
The old man – he may not actually have been old, but he was older than I was, and he had a deeply weathered face – climbed the stairs onto the stage. He took the microphone from its stand. He held it to his mouth.
We waited, breathlessly, for his words of wisdom.
“We are the salmon,” he said.
Then he put the microphone back, and left the stage.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: forests, Salmon, coastal tribes, circle of life, bears
This is my 1000th Sharp Edges column. At around 50 columns a year, that’s almost 20 years of writing a weekly column!
“How do you find something to write about every week?” people ask me.
That’s easy – by paying attention. To the world around me. To my own reactions. To what other people are saying.
Given the number of issues in the news each week, the problem is not finding a topic, but selecting which topic to focus on.
But there is a second step. If a local story grabs my attention, how does it connect to a larger topic? If an international story, how does it relate to life here in the Okanagan Valley. Or closer still, in little Lake Country. Or even in my own home.
There’s no point in raging about Donald the Dump – or lobbying for an endangered salamander in the Congo – if it isn’t relevant in some way to life here and now.
Macro and micro, universal and particular, belong in the same picture. I don’t care whether I zoom out or zoom in; the big picture and the small picture belong together.
Of course, we did learn specifics. The inexorable logic of Euclid’s geometry theorems, for example. How to conjugate Latin verbs. Memorizing famous monologues from Shakespeare. The difference between a rabbet and a dado joint. The periodic table of chemistry elements.
But more importantly, we learned to learn. It was not just WHAT our teachers taught, but HOW they taught it. They gave us a safe environment in which to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes. They had faith in us, as learning beings, even when we made fun of them.
Tags: school, learning, Teachers
The scammers are getting smarter.
We’ve all received those emails that tell us there is $27 million waiting for us in an unclaimed Nigerian bank account, haven’t we?
One arrived the other day, from “Miss Vivian Ibrahim Coulibaly, only child of my late father, Late Chief Sgt. Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly…” Miss Vivian needs my help, because her wicked stepmother – of course! – is trying to swindle her out of her father’s illegitimately acquired fortune.
The same day, I received a second email that assumed I had fallen for scams like Miss Vivian’s, headed FRAUD ALERT: “This letter is to notify you about your compensation as one of the scammed victims…”
Tags: scams, Nigeria, Fedex, Shoppers Drug Mart, World Bank, IMF
It’s easy to say what I don’t believe in anymore – an all-knowing grandfather God who sits on a cloud somewhere up there, out there, distant but keeping an eye on everything, delivering rewards and punishments,, and upsetting things here on earth with what we call “acts of God.” But then people ask me, “So what kind of God do you believe in?” And I find prose can’t do it; poetry at least comes closer.
Faces talk around a table
knees warm around a campfire
voices sing in a circle
hands clasp in the darkness
and in between, among, around them
hovers a shining....
Tags: God, shining, presence
On my last visit to Vancouver, I took a walk along False Creek.
Vancouver's waterfront is open to everyone, regardless of age, ethnic origins, or income.
And the Parks Board has thoughtfully placed benches along the way, where passers-by can sit, catch their breath, enjoy the view, or just meditate.
Most of the benches have small bronze plaques attached -- memorials to a family member or friend. I read them, casually, as I strolled along. Until I got to one that offended me.
It eulogized a child who had died. It described how wonderful she was. And the last line said, “Jesus always picks the finest flowers first.”
And I found myself instantly angry.
Tags: Jesus, Vancouver, False Creek, park bench, plaque, friend
The video images of flames shooting skyward out of the National Museum of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, stabbed me in the heart.
I spent close to 20 years alternating between president, secretary, and grunt volunteer with the infinitely smaller Lake Country Museum. I know from personal experience how hard it is to document the past, especially from societies that maintained no written texts.
Every artifact, every letter, every story, is like a clue in a mystery novel. Clue by laborious clue, a museum puts together a coherent picture of what life was like, back then -- whenever “then” was.
The Rio fire, in effect, ripped out almost all the pages from the novel about South America.
How can you read a novel that isn’t there any longer?
Tags: museum, Fire, lobotomy, Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, artifacts
I had my 82ndbirthday last weekend. I’m headed for 100! Wooo-hooo!
Anticipation makes me think back to how things have changed over the last century, or two. My wife Joan’s grandfather arrived from Sweden a century ago with an axe-head, a plane blade, and a handsaw. With those, he made all the rest of his carpenter’s tools.
I wonder what he would think of modern chainsaws.
A century before that, my ancestors arrived from Scotland, to farm 40 acres in southern Ontario. I wonder what they would think of tractors with air-conditioned cabs. Of hay-balers and combines and automatic milking machines.
Nothing stands still. Ever. And it shouldn’t.
Not even religion.
Tags: birthday, Evolution, change
The Roman Catholic church is taking flak from the mass media. The most recent attacks follow revelations from a grand jury in Philadelphia, described by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General as the "largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States."
According to the report, more than 300 "predator priests" in six Pennsylvania dioceses have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over 70 years -- prior to 2002, when scandals involving Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston forced the U.S. Catholicbishops to adopt new rules for reporting abuse.
The reaction has even led to demands that the Pope himself resign, for failing to act sooner.
Tags: Roman Catholic church, Pope, sexual abuse, pedophile