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My granddaughter is black. She’s in Grade 10, in a comfortable, friendly little city with a population of around 40,000 -- almost entirely white.
My granddaughter is discovering racism. She’s the only black person in her class. Some of her classmates -- one boy in particular -- call her “nigger.” They make fun of her. She feels excluded.
She says she desperately wants to move to Vancouver. Or Los Angeles. Or even Atlanta. Where she won’t stand out, be different, where there are more black people and she can blend in.
She doesn’t realize that blending in -- especially in Los Angeles or Atlanta -- might be more hazardous than standing out in Canada. Blending in might mean getting pulled over, interrogated, searched and manhandled, for the crime of being black while driving. She might be denied educational opportunities, or shut out of job opportunities. At worst, she might be a target for a white-supremacist’s bullets.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: watersheds, racism, schools
I stepped out the front door of the theatre last Saturday night just as the first drops of rain fell. The drops felt as big as marbles.
I ran for my car.
Then the rain came pounding down. Too much, too fast, for windshield wipers to keep up.
Driving home, I counted the gaps between flashes of lightning. Three to five seconds. Once, I got to ten seconds before the next flash.
Water coursed down the gutters. Tree branches, bent under the weight of water running off their leaves, thrashed in gusts of wind.
And I was not in the Bahamas. Where Hurricane Dorian had wreaked utter havoc earlier that week.
Tags: water, Hurricanes, oceans
Today is the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2001.
My wife and I were wakened early that morning by a frantic call from our daughter, who lived one time zone east. She sobbed, “Turn on your TV! You have to see this!”
Through the rest of the day, we watched, transfixed by the tragedy. Over and over, we watched the two planes bank, smash into the towers, with a gout of exploding fuel erupting through the far wall of the tower.
We watched as the buildings collapsed like a house of cards.
Of course, there were two other hijacked flights. One crashed into the Pentagon. And another, possibly intended for the White House or Congress, where the passengers refused to sit passively and let it happen. They overwhelmed the hijackers.
I wonder what would have happened if the passengers on the two flights piloted into the World Trade Center had shown similar initiative.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: history, 9/11, World Trade Centre, hijacking, sacrifice
There have been more mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year than days in the year. CBS News predicts the U.S. will end 2019 having averaged at least one mass shooting every single day.
It makes reporting fairly easy. Reporters can simply fill in the blanks: “Today in (name of city) a gunman opened fire in (name of church, store, mosque, or synagogue) with a (make or model of gun) killing (number dead), and injuring (number hospitalized) before being shot and killed by police.”
In the wake of the latest mass shooting -- Which one? Does it matter? -- the TV program Fox and Friends called in a pastor to explain what was going wrong with the nation.
Former police officer Tony Perkins, a Southern Baptist minister who heads an organization called the Family Research Council, blamed the rash of mass murders on the teaching of science -- particularly evolution -- in American schools.
He said, “We've taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we're surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt."
Tags: fundamentalism, Evolution, science, mass killings
Our hummingbirds have flown south.
We hung out three hummingbird feeders all summer. Hummingbirds are scrappy little critters, even more so than finches. They fiercely defend their own territory, which includes what they think of as their own private Walmart of sweet nectar.
Even so, we’ve sometimes had three or four birds zipping around at a time, grabbing a sip here, a sip there.
The last hummingbird dropped in for a drink about two weeks ago. I think she was a female calliope hummingbird, although she didn’t stay still long enough for an unskilled bird watcher like me to check her anatomical details.
She fluttered up, slurped, and was gone.
And didn’t come back for a second martini.
That last little hummingbird prompted me to read up about bird migration.
Tags: autumn, hummingbirds, migration
“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” So said the inscription at the entry to hell, in Dante’s Inferno.
Dante was an optimist. He saw hell as some other place, from which he could return safely to his everyday world.
I’m afraid that our world — this world, the one we live in, the one our grandchildren will live in — is becoming its own hell.
I am optimistic about individual relationships. I have yet to meet anyone who would refuse to help another individual in need. Race, education, and wealth don’t seem to matter IF – and it’s a big “if” -- there’s genuine contact, person to person, soul to soul.
At the same time, I am profoundly pessimistic about humanity as a whole. Collectively, we humans persist in seeking short-term solutions. Our corporate mindset is incorrigibly greedy, seeking our own benefit even if it harms others. Yes, even if it will harm us, farther down the line.
Tags: methane, corporations, opioid, Amazon, fracking
I’ve spent my life working with words. I love words. Reluctantly I’m recognizing that words can also form prisons for our minds.
I’m not convinced that we need words to think. Dogs don’t need words to figure out how to get around an obstacle.
Certainly we use words to reason things out. But I don’t think many of us realize how much the words we use may also restrict our ability to reason.
You can’t use “nigger,” for example, without imagining that person as a lesser human. I have never heard “nigger” used as praise.
You can’t address someone as “Captain” or “Doctor” without a sense of deferring to authority.
In the same way, “King” and “Lord” have acquired a patina of sacredness in the religious world. But the words are largely meaningless in today’s world.
Tags: religion, words, Trinity
Hong Kong is a thriving hub of international business. Kashmir is a backwater, even by Indian standards.
Hong Kong has world-class communications. Kashmir has frequent power failures. Internet communication, iffy at any time, has been shut down completely by Indian forces. So have telephones. And the post office -- you can’t even send out a scenic postcard!
In Hong Kong, almost everyone speaks English, the result of 156 years of British rule. In Kashmir, only the educated class speaks English.
And Hong Kong is home to about 300,000 Canadians -- many sent as children to Canadian high schools in the 1980s to provide an escape plan for their parents in case the handover to China went badly. According to Global Affairs Canada, Kashmir has just 12 Canadian residents.
Therefore it’s natural, even inevitable, that our media would concentrate on Hong Kong and ignore Kashmir.
Tags: Nuclear weapons, Kashmir, Hong Kong
Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but as summer scrolls towards a closing, I miss community picnics.
I seem to recall when every organization had a company picnic, a Sunday School picnic, a team picnic.
At times, I’ve been put in charge of these events. I have fond memories of planning games and activities that would build a feeling of family. Softball games, where it was okay to strike the boss out. A tug-of-war. Foot races. Egg and spoon races. Three-legged races. Sack races. Water balloon tosses…
At one church picnic, I set up a potato-peeling challenge: the winner had the longest unbroken potato peel.
And at a company picnic, I remember teaching people how to make s’mores around a campfire. The most common s’more consists of chocolate and partly melted marshmallow sandwiched between two graham wafers. But even better is chocolate and marshmallow, sealed into a cavity sliced out of a partially peeled banana, wrapped in aluminum foil and roasted in the embers of a bonfire until the whole thing is a drippy gooey mess.
Tags: picnics, volunteering, CentrePiece
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.
Tags: conversion therapy, Manson, Koresh, Jones