Sunday, December 31, 2006

For the New Year

While I’ve been away from the world of electronica in recent days, I wanted to extend my prayers for peace to you all for the coming New Year. We have experienced unspeakable horrors in the past 365 days, many of which have gone unseen and have been dismissed from memory before the period of mourning has been passed, and yet, history cannot be denied and will not be lied to in the end.

May we find in 2007 the inner strength and peace to live with our neighbours in true outward peace, setting aside our differences and remembering that there is only one small world in which we can call our home.

To everyone that regularly reads my musings, thank you for your support and comments. I am in the process of moving at the present time, so I may not be posting too frequently until the end of January, which is when I shall be fully entrenched in my new digs … Hallelujah!

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace:

... but, it can't end quite yet!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few prognostications for the upcoming year (or longer, who knows). This is the great tradition for the media, after all (even as I write this I’m listening to CBC Radio and they’re talking about that very thing), so how can I possibly pass up on the opportunity?

First of all, I must say something about the situation in Iraq … big surprise, right? If The President believes that the execution of Saddam Hussein is going to have any positive effects on the situation in Iraq he should undergo rigorous drug tests: he is either on crack or methamphetamine. The only thing that the execution accomplished, in my humble opinion, is to create a martyr for the hard-line Bathists who are currently involved in the (not a) civil war that the U.S. military forces are so incapable of ending. A dead Hussein shall serve as a marvellous rallying point for all those still desperate to restore the “old” and reject that which has been foisted upon them by the Americans.

While the concept of democracy is wonderful, there are those who may still resent the idea that a foreign nation entered their land, killed their civilians and then installed a puppet government under the auspices of “democracy”. Of course, I could be mistaken.

The U.S. Presidential race, while not reaching its consummation until November of 2008 shall also be something of great interest (for most of the world) as the field of candidates begins to filter out and the cream begins to rise to the top. I will not name specific candidates (Hillary? McCain?) but … let’s put it this way, given the current demographics in the United States, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the Democratic Party would select a woman and a black man for their ticket in the hopes that it would have the broadest appeal to the voters … of course, I could be mistaken.

As for Israel and Palestine, I am sad to say that I do not believe that things are going to improve, or, for that matter, remain the same as they are at this point in time. I do not believe that this current “cease fire” is going to last too much past the end of January, if it makes it that long. I have a very bad feeling that there shall be an act of violence in the middle-east – in Israel/Palestine – so severe that it shocks the world, though it will not be too much of a surprise to the world.

I pray that I am wrong, with all my heart and every fibre of my existence, but I feel – with those same things – that I am not.

Those are my comments …

Happy New Year … Thank you, Ben Heine, for the wonderful cartoon! Your work is an inspiration.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Comments: Freedom of Speech

It is said that change, like many other things in life, is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that I have to like those changes. Here is a case in point: this blog. Since I began writing on … or for this “thing”, whatever it is to be considered by future sociologists (aside from a phenomenal waste of time for the most part, but that’s just for some of the one’s that I’ve come across … there are many in the blogesphere who challenge the “serious” journalists with their pursuit of the truth), the blog that I began so long ago has changed several times.

Most of the times the changes have been the result of something that I wanted to introduce in order to make this a site that was more interesting to visit, and visit again and again. It takes time to write the articles that I post and I would like to think (and hope) that there are some people that actually do stop by to see what there is brewing inside this complicated distillery that doubles as my brain.

This most recent change, unfortunately, is not something that I wanted to make, but am forced to as a result of circumstances that have been taken out of my hands by people who have been visiting this site. I know that there are some visitors by virtue of the comments left for some of the articles that are posted, and I have tried to encourage an open dialogue, even with those who may disagree with my views. I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone will be persuaded by my arguments (or rants), though it is a nice thought.

There have been some individuals, however, who seem to believe that the idea behind the “freedom of speech” extends to the usurping of someone else’s rights. While those of you who may be reading from within the great Empire of the United States of America, or if you are one of the citizens of the Empire, I am sorry to inform you that the amendments to the constitution for which you are so proud are not applicable on this blog.

The writer/owner/administrator and sole creator of all original material posted upon this site is a resident and citizen of the Dominion of Canada, a sovereign nation governed by its own set of laws … and we even have a constitution. Having said this, I must now inform the readers of this blog that comments will now be moderated before being posted to the site. I am not in favour of this policy, but in lieu of the recent hate attacks that occurred on this blog and on Desert Peace’s, as well as the posting of two comments containing advertisements (by the same person under different names) just a day ago, I am left with no alternative.

The comments with the advertisements shall be deleted, and future attempts to include such spam will find a similar end. Legitimate links that would be of interest to the readers of this blog are, of course, welcomed.

I want to assure readers that this is not being done in an attempt to stifle negative comments: these shall still be posted, so long as they are not rife with profanity and personal attacks. If you want to rant and rave, start your own blog. If you feel that this policy is a violation of your “freedom of expression”, get over it: this is the Internet, not Amerika.

Write what you want as comments. The only things that will be automatically rejected are comments that contain overtly hateful or racist language, as well as anything misogynistic or depicting violence against children. If the comments are on point and present an idea that isn’t an attack, it will be posted.

If your comments don’t appear immediately it means that I am not online at the time and will review submissions as soon as I’m logged on again.

Thank you for your patience, and for reading. I will have some “micro stories” to post soon – a new genre of short stories that I discovered this weekend … a truly marvellous way to tell a tale.

Until then, take care, and enjoy the pre-Christmas shopping psychosis … and Happy Chanukah!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

In Loving Memory …

We sometimes forget how important certain people are in our lives. Time tricks us into taking for granted that we’ll always have, “another opportunity” to say the things we had meant to say the last time we spoke, or to call when we thought of calling and then put it off because something else came up. It doesn’t take long before people can completely loose touch with each other for the simple reason that we allow our lives to make the less important things become the most important.

Instead of making the time to nurture old (and new) friendships, we instead decide that something else is more important, or, we wait for the other person to call us, thinking, “they’ve got my number, they’ll call me when they want to talk.”

As true as that may be, it isn’t necessarily the best guideline to follow.

I have to tell you that this is being written out of an extreme sense of sorrow: last evening I was informed that a dear friend had lost her battle with the demons that had been tormenting her, and she succumbed to their seductive message, seeking to end her pain through permanent means. Out of respect for the family, I am not going to name her, or direct you to her obituary. For the purposes of this tribute – memorial – and, I suppose, article, I shall refer to my dear friend only as an Angel.

There are times when you meet people in your life and afterwards you feel as though nothing has changed for the experience. This was certainly not the case with this particular Angel. From the very first time I met her, while she was sitting on the front steps of her mom’s house and playing guitar I was struck by many things all at once: here was this amazingly beautiful young woman who also happened to play the guitar extremely well. When I told her how much I’d enjoyed her playing she blushed and thanked me for being so kind … but being kind to an Angel is never a chore, it was a pleasure.

We may not have spent much time together, but we ended up at the same high school for one year (my freshman year to her senior), and even though it was strictly taboo for a senior girl (especially one as stunningly beautiful as an Angel) to be seen in public talking to a lowly freshman, whenever she saw me in the cafeteria she made a point of stopping by my table and chatting for a while.

It seems like a lifetime later when we reconnected, but when we spoke for the first time it was as though we hadn’t missed a single day … though there were now three children in the picture, as well as an ex-husband, but she was the same Angel as when I was a kid.

That was my first mistake. Neither of us were the same. When we spoke the issue of my life and my struggle with bi-polar affective disorder and fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition) came up, and I learned, much to my sorrow, that these things were familiar to her as well. Depression and pain were very much a part of her life, but where I can say that the treatment I have received has been, for the most part, exceptional, something went wrong … or so it would seem … for an Angel. Instead of being allowed to soar, she plummeted, suffering both inside and out, both emotionally and physically.

As I said before, both of us were familiar with the pain and suffering associated with depression and manic depression, and it makes me feel absolutely terrible that such a wonderful individual would go through something like this without reaching out to others first … but that is, I realize, my own feelings of anger creeping in, anger that stems from feeling as though I might have been able to say or do something if only she had called ….

When I was speaking to her sister last night one of the things we discussed was the issue of guilt. Regardless of what has happened, we must not fall into the trap of blaming ourselves for something that someone else chose to do: it is, ultimately, the choice of every living being whether or not they will continue to live or take some sort of action that will hasten their deaths. You may say it is one of the lesser “qualities” of human nature, but it is truly one of the defining characteristics of humanity: possessing the ability to consciously end one’s life at a particular time and place.

In all honesty, I feel totally devastated by what has happened, but there have been a mixture of other feelings as well. This morning when I went into the kitchen I experienced a painful back spasm while reaching for a bowl. This reminded me of what the Angel’s sister had said about her, “no longer being in pain” when we spoke. We spoke about the pain that she had experienced, and here I was, doubled over in a spasm of pain that made it impossible to even lift a simple cereal bowl out of the cupboard.

Over the years since I have been receiving treatment for fibromyalgia there have been numerous occasions where the thought of “no pain” is so attractive, I can almost not believe it possible. Every day when I wake up the first thing that I do is something called a “body scan”, which is part of a relaxation technique in which you become acutely aware of how every inch of your body is feeling. Invariably, it seems, there is pain. Granted, it is much better controlled with the medication my doctor provides, but even so, there are times when it is almost crippling in its intensity.

As my back was having spasms this morning I couldn’t help but think, “she’s no longer in pain,” and I was furious. How could someone do such a thing, and yet … Yet, what right do I have to be angry with her? Yes, her pain may have ended, but it was not a decision that she could have come to very easily.

Now, however, whenever my pain breaks through and I need extra medication to regain some control, I will be thinking about my Angel, knowing that she didn’t have to leave us so soon. Every life she touched was blessed for having known her, and sense of humour, smile and laughter will be deeply missed.

Sweet Angel
your songs, so sweet
filled the summer air
accompanying the birds
your voice
reaches to the heavens
attracting the attentions
of those desiring
to hear you sing your songs
for them,
to join them
for all eternity
sweet Angel
you will be missed.

In loving memory of an Angel (1964-2006).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canada's next Prime Minister?

Several months ago I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine that I was thinking a great deal about yesterday while watching the final hours of the Liberal Leadership Convention on television. As I have never been a card-carrying member of any political party, and don’t have any plans of joining one in the foreseeable future, I look at these events as opportunities to see what these politicos act like when surrounded by their good buddies, as opposed to being hounded by “the opposition”, and other undesirables (such as their constituents).

I’m really not sure where my fascination for political conventions comes from, but it seems to go back quite a bit: as a teen, in high school I recall watching the Democratic National Convention that selected Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale’s running mate … and I remember thinking to myself that, “there’s no way America will elect a woman VP … yet.” That was the 1984 convention, which led to the second term of Ronnie Ray-Guns … or, Bush I (making Dubya, the son of Bush II, who suckled at Ray-Guns mams, Bush III … or just Bushwhacked … whichever).

Whatever the cause, I find political conventions a fascinating display of the human condition, though that condition isn’t necessarily what the humans want others to see; all the better when things like that happen, I say … all the better.

As for the recent Liberal Convention and my particular interest, it all centres around a particular message that I sent to a friend on January 24th of this year, shortly after the election of Stephen Harper and his minority government. The relevant section of the message stated,
“ Well – there it is – Martin just announced that he will serve his constituents, but he will not continue to serve as the leader of the Liberals. Nobody has been named (Belinda Stronach was been asked earlier by CTV idiots if she would "throw her hat into the ring" if the time came ... she refused to reply).

Personally, I think the best choice (yes – call it "that", if you want –) would be a very wise individual named Stéphane Dion ... brilliant individual, and he would be a powerful force in la Belle Province. The other name that leaps to mind is Pierre Pettigrew, another character that could pull the Red L out of the Blue Q PQ.”
Of course, my assessment of Dion’s popularity in “La Bell Province” may have been something that was not fully considered, though I still believe that Dion will have greater appeal in Quebec than the majority of the people Harper is able to propose as candidates. When it comes to the west of Canada, this shouldn’t be a problem: there have been several prime ministers who have been from Quebec, and they have received support from the west, though the majority of their support has come from central Canada (thanks to our unbalanced electoral system).

The election of Dion as the leader of the Liberal party signals a significant shift in the party, a shift away from the path that Paul Martin had adhered to while serving as finance minister under Prime Minister Chrétien, but had difficulty adhering to after he took the reigns of the government. Dion is dedicated to focusing on three pillars as the foundation of his leadership, and, presumably the government, if the Liberals are elected. Those three pillars are: integrating economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability.

It may seem like simplicity itself, but in a time when we are still facing vast economic disparity within our own country, and nations that are experiencing genocides, there are great things that need to be done. The virtual abandonment of our commitment to the Kyoto accord, which only goes to the year 2012, is desperately in need of re-visitation, and social justice is something that needs to be examined on a national and international level, especially in light of recent events in Lebanon.

These are three pillars from which an entire country could be run: health care and social programs can fall within the economic sustainability and social justice portions, while we could likely find a place to fit every other concern (there is always a way to make things fit). Even if it doesn’t fit, that is one of the things about leadership: at some point you must recognize that there is a time to hold steadfastly to your plan, while at other times it is necessary to change course in order to avoid being destroyed by an advancing army.

I truly hope that Stéphane Dion turns out to be the type of leader that is able to listen well to the wise voices, filter out the foolish, and take the time to assess the situation before committing his forces to a hopeless cause. If he does, his first mission, the defeat of Harper, will be successful, but that only gets him into the Big Chair … from there the real work begins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You Know

tears of sadness, and of joy
when you do not know from whence they come
is there anything that you should do?

shouts of pleasure, screams of fear
resound throughout days and nights,
mingling with the soundscapes of civilization
seamlessly becoming a part of life
forcing us apart from life

who really knows what they hear
when a cry for help is answered
with silence …
with the apathy that has been mastered
by this species

we are taught that man is superior than others
accused of being “civilized” and “enlightened”
yet we manage to live
apart from life

sequestered from reality
ensconced within impenetrable cells
protecting us from what may come …
should we be stricken by a moment of consciousness
or conscience

what will happen if that cry for help
answered with silence
is one summoned from deep within ourselves
screams for help … crying out in anguish
alone while surrounded by
countless empty souls

we can’t wait forever
we can’t wait for you to decide
that the cause is worthy – worthy of more than
a headline in your papers
littering the land of the free,
the brave,
the land of the deaf and of the people
who pray to their God
to win their wars
to destroy their enemies … and yet …
is there a prayer left for our children
their cries unheard as they are killed in the streets

murdered with your weapons
bombs you sent to the land
where you refuse to hear
the cries of children as they are torn apart
shredded by the shrapnel
their blood flowing into the sand …

but you know all that
you have been told
by countless appeals and speeches
by diplomats and derelicts
each adding their cries of outrage
to the soundscape of civilised debate
the language of diplomacy
their only weapon … words,
the cries of fear, pain and agony,
falling on deaf ears

what must be done is asked
again and again
a generation of diplomats
replaced by another
but you know
what must be done
as you wash the blood from your hands …
your inheritance and legacy

perhaps one day
you may see
just how it feels
to watch your children
dying before your eyes
counted amongst the
casualties of a “justified” war

when your streets flow with streams of
tiny coffins
will you know what to do
to stop the deaths?

when your streets run with the blood of innocents
will you know what to do
to staunch the flow?

you will know …
you already do

by the CrazyComposer (aka Peter Amsel),
©2006 by Peter Amsel (SOCAN)

Benediction and Indictment:

This poem is dedicated to all the children and innocent victims of wars, especially in the recent conflicts between the Israel, the IDF and Lebanon, with Hezbollah in which the IDF and Israel are fully backed by the United States of America. There is no “right side” in this conflict – there is no winner. Innocents are being slaughtered and nobody with the clout to effect real change has demonstrated the intestinal fortitude to do so. The administration of the U.S. government is jointly culpable for every innocent life taken in this conflict so long as they refuse to condemn the actions of state sponsored terrorism … without even touching on the issue of Iraq (or any other nation that has been “blessed” by the influences of the liberating forces of America).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Reality Check for Canadian Prime Minister

The Right Honourable
Stephen Harper

As it has been in the past, and shall no doubt be again in the future, there is once again an instance where a major political figure (if Canada’s prime minister can be considered that … ok, stop laughing) is in need of a serious reality check. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised … well, to tell the truth, I may have exaggerated, just a tiny bit. Actually, in all honesty I’m not. Quite frankly, it’s taking every bit of self-control for me to not spit-up my coffee all over my keyboard … but it’s good coffee, and I don’t really want to buy a new keyboard at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong though, my exaggeration has absolutely nothing to do with the latest acts of our glorious PM and his seeming ability to walk around in a world of his own (this wouldn’t be too much of a problem save for the fact that his world bears striking little resemblance to the real world which is, alas, the one that everyone else, including his constituents, live). The problem has reared its head through an article published today in a Canadian Press article about the prime ministers trip to Hanoi for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The headline of the article is actually what caught my attention at first: “Harper declares his government has a gutsier style on the world stage”, but the story itself is well worth reading.

The first thing that jumped out was something that I had heard on the radio while still in bed this morning. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Radio, and television for that matter, for those non-Canadian’s out there … the equivalent to the U.S. NPR, or the U.K. BBC) news broadcast that I was listening to when I had finally shaken the sleep from my head was covering the APEC summit in great detail (well, our PM is there … it IS news!).

One of the things that I remember having heard was that Prime Minister Harper had met with the Chinese President, but was only able to raise the issue of the case of an imprisoned Chinese-Canadian in Beijing to have the issue dropped without further discussion. The reason? The Chinese government do not acknowledge that this individual, named Huseyin Celil, has a Canadian citizenship, and is therefore protected under any treaties or consular protections offered to other individuals. Since Celil is a naturalized Canadian when he returned to China he was arrested and detained there under Chinese law (which doesn’t recognize “dual citizenship) with the Chinese government ignoring all requests for access from the Canadian consul.

Huseyin Celil
So, the CBC reported that the issue was a dead rock. Not touched. Not broached. What was Harper’s view of things? Not quite the same … not quite at all:
“Harper pointed to a brief, informal meeting he had with Chinese President Hu Jintao at a reception the night before as evidence of his forcefulness. The two leaders were among 21 gathered in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

He said he raised the case of a Chinese-Canadian, Huseyin Celil, imprisoned by Beijing without access to consular assistance. A few days earlier, he had pressed the Vietnamese prime minister on human rights, including press and religious freedoms.

“We've had very frank discussions with a wide range of leaders, including although it was not a very long discussion, a very frank discussion with President Hu of China - a distinct impression, if I may say that, that the Chinese aren't used to that from a Canadian government, but I can't speak for them,” Harper said at the end of the APEC gathering.”
This idea of a Canadian government being more “frank” in their discussions with others is what fed the delusion that Prime Minister Harper’s version of government was “gutsier” than the previous versions. It is this idea that I find not only amusing but, in all honesty, quite frankly, disturbing. It is amusing simply because this “gutsier” government of Prime Minister Harper is a minority government and the PM is well aware of the fact (a fact, mind you, not a theory, not a conjecture; not an hypothesis nor a suggestion, an actual bona fide fact) that there is absolutely nothing that can be accomplished by his “government” without the cooperation of at least one of their political opponents in the House of Parliament.

Prime Minister Harper is also quite cognizant of the fact that the only reason the Liberals haven’t forced a vote of non-confidence in the House is simply because they haven’t had their Leadership Convention, which will take place at the beginning of December, in Montreal. The “grace period” that the Conservatives have been enjoying had been a gift as a result of the resignation of Paul Martin as leader of the party, otherwise it is not likely that this government would have lasted more than ninety days (though the voter backlash for having another election so soon would likely have resulted in a Conservative majority, but that’s another story).

One of the other things, according the prime minister that qualifies as being “gutsier” has to do with his position on other world events:
“The prime minister also alluded to his public statements at previous international gatherings. At the Francophonie Summit in September, Harper insisted that the other leaders acknowledge the plight of not just Lebanese citizens embroiled in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, but also of Israeli victims.”
Harper insisted that other leaders acknowledge the plight of the Israeli victims. Now, as you know, I am Jewish, and my father lives in Jerusalem, so I have a vested interest in there being a “peace in the land”. At the same time, I cannot ignore simple facts: one cannot have a victim without having an aggressor. When you answer a stone with a bullet, a bullet with a bomb, an unguided ‘model rocket’ missile with precision munitions and airs strikes that kill 11 members of a family that had nothing to do with anything, you are NOT on the same level with those whom you are fighting.

Israel’s “war against terror” is entirely lopsided. The only way it could be more in favour of the IDF would be if they used tactical nuclear weapons against the Hezbollah rocket sites. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that the United States hasn’t surreptitiously dropped a few MK-33’s into a “care” package addressed to the IDF c/o Olmert and said, “here, guys, be done with it already”. Considering that the U.S. is pathologically incapable of demonstrating the intestinal fortitude necessary to say that Israel’s actions are not acceptable, I don’t understand why giving them a few nukes should be a problem. Where is the ethical dilemma for the nation that started a war against the country that had absolutely nothing to do with the largest terrorist attack to have taken place on their nation’s soil?

By the way, as an historical aside (and since it gives me a chance to talk about nukes – which I NEVER get to do), here is a small bit about TNA shells. Tactical nuclear artillery shells were designed by the United States as early as 1953, for deployment in against the “Western Front”, the likely incursion point in Europe where the “Red Menace” would make its move against the free peoples of the western democracies on “this side” of the iron curtain. Several models were developed over the decades, though thankfully they were never been (in one dark historical blemish Richard Nixon considered their use against the North Vietnamese in 1969, but someone had the presence of mind to convince him that this wasn’t the best way to make a name for himself in the history books … I guess he wanted to be the second American president to commit mass murder … oh well, he had his chance … so, in order to make a name for himself he turned to larceny).

The fact that these used to be in the hands of second level field commanders during the Cold War is a chilling fact indeed, especially when you consider the potential yield of these weapons. The very first model produced, which bore the moniker “W-9” began its production in 1953 and had a yield of 15 Kilo tonnes of TNT, which happens to be the same yield as the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Hiroshima, after "Little Boy"
Now, think about this for a moment: in 1945 it took the USAF’s most powerful aircraft, the B-29 Superfortress, to deliver the first atomic “devices” to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These first bombs were so heavy that they had to strip all of the “extras” out of the B-29’s … things like the extra defensive guns and such, nothing too important. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima, “Little Boy”, weighed in at a mere 8,900 pounds while the bomb that was delivered to the residents of Nagasaki, “Fat Man” was a plutonium device and weighed in at an impressive 10,300 pounds.

The W-9 only weighs about 800 pounds and could deliver the same punch as the bomb weighing 8,900 pounds, and yet this is dwarfed by the latest in American advancements in the art of mass destruction.

The W-79 (the "neutron bomb)
The W-79, which is stockpiled today (there are 550 in storage … somewhere) has two variants, one of which is called the “pure fission” mode, or “enhanced radiation”, otherwise known as the “neutron bomb” – something that Israel would be particularly interested in as it would only kill the people without harming the structures (for a change). This is also a perfect weapon for Israel as it has variable yields. It can be “dialled back” to 100 tonnes of TNT to as much as 1.1 kilo tonnes. A blast the size of Hiroshima in Israel would probably not go over too well, but this shell could solve all of their problems, real quick.

You see, it is this kind of delusional thinking that gets people into trouble. The very idea that the use of tactical nuclear weapons is something should be even remotely considered is tantamount to having committed mass murder yourself; it doesn’t really matter if you have personally murdered anyone, just having conceived an idea as heinous as that is tantamount to committing the act. There is no way in the world that we can solve problems with the use of these weapons and the fact that the United States is still maintaining a stockpile of them indicates that they aren’t really as interested in creating an atmosphere of “world peace” as they are of maintaining an attitude of intimidation by acting like the school-yard bully, walking around with a .44 Magnum in their back pocket.

The fact that Canada’s prime minister doesn’t have the guts to stand up and say that Israel has been killing innocent civilians is indicative of the fact that the headline to the Canadian Press article was a journalistic play on words: this government is gutless. They are afraid of doing anything that may, God forbid, cause a controversy, or lose them some of their precious donations. Harper knows that if he is critical of Israel he will lose the support of the “pro-Israel” groups in Canada. What he doesn’t realize is that he would gain the support of all the “anti-Israel” groups (who likely outnumber the former by quite a few).

Quite frankly, I hope he doesn’t figure this out for himself; I’d rather not see him get elected – again. As the rest of the Canadian Press article continued to unfold there were more and more examples of how this man exists in a world that seems to have no relationship with the realities that the rest of us experience (is this a prerequisite for political life?).

What the Canadian Press story continued to report regarding the interactions between Prime Minister Harper and the Chinese President Hu Jintao is quite telling on its own, and is enough to prove it all: Harper had previously said that he hoped for a bilateral meeting with the Chinese president, but while travelling to Hanoi he said that the Chinese had withdrawn the offer to meet.

As CP reports it there is a slightly different “spin”, as they say:
“[But] Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters earlier Sunday that they had never planned such a meeting. Hu met with at least six other leaders in the 30-to-60 minute one-on-ones. A Hong-Kong based reporter tried to ask Harper a question about being snubbed by China, but he walked away.”
So, one man’s perception of an event is that there was to be a meeting – one in which I’m sure tremendous things would have occurred, and yet, according to several others, no such meeting was planned. How can this be true? Is it some grand conspiracy to make an intelligent, wise international diplomat appear the fool? Well, one would first have to be a wise, international diplomat … and a fool hath not to be made what he already is, though practice doth make perfect ones craft.

“There is something rotten in Denmark,” the Bard would have said, though in this case it is in Hanoi.

If our prime minister can attend a conference with other world leaders and not know whom he has spoke with, and what the topics of discussion were covered, how on earth can he be trusted with the running of the government, something that takes the full faculties of an individual (ok, a questionable statement, but one hopes).

The best came at the end of the article, where our prime minister once again demonstrated his disdain for the Fifth estate … that damn media and the rights of the citizenry to know what their elected officials are up to whilst traipsing about the world:
Harper's staff also blocked Canadian journalists from attending all but the first of Harper's public activities, even while foreign media were present or invited.

“I think if you're going to have frank discussions with other leaders, then you know, except obviously for the broad objectives you're trying to pursue, I think the details of those discussions have to be private,” Harper said. “If you run out of private discussions every 10 minutes and give a play-by-play of everything that was said, nobody will have a frank discussion with you.””
Well, that says it all, doesn’t it: if your government, and its practices have to be transparent, there is no way it will be able to function … and others won’t want to work with you either. It is a statement about our prime minister, but also of those “others” and the nations that they represent.

God bless democracy and the freedom it has granted us all.

Thank you for reading

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Duty of a Citizen

Contemporary society has developed into one in which expectations run high: we expect a great deal from a vast number of things, especially when it comes to things relating to our governments and what they are supposed to do for us, but what about what we are supposed to do - what are the duties, if any, of a citizen? What of the famous words uttered by John F. Kennedy, when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you– ask what you can do for your country.” These words were spoken on January 21, 1961 during his inaugural address, as he became the 35th president of the United States. They are words that still resonate after nearly forty-five years, but are actually listening to what was said?

If we are to believe that the words spoken after what is described as the bloodiest period in American history, the Civil War, by president Abraham Lincoln hold any meaning and have passed down a lesson to the present generations it is also to say that those who died, the dead that Lincoln is invoking in his text, are still being honored by the fact that a lesson learned means there is something gained. At the dedication to the cemetery at Gettysburg Lincoln closed his short comments with the following lines: “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”

The words have, obviously, made an impression on western society in general, which is why we hear such terms as "civic duty" tossed around. Ultimately, however, we must look at our status as citizens – individually – and understand exactly where we stand in the grand scheme of things.

On the rare occasion that the government deigns us worthy to interact with us, such as having open hearings or some other such event, the people that end up attending are usually the press and a selection of special interest groups who are in attendance to ensure that none of their pet-projects (client's projects) are being risked. How many ordinary people would go to Senate Committee Hearings ... on any issue? I confess that while living in the capital city of Canada and having the government right at my fingertips I have not availed myself of the opportunity to explore the inner machinations of what the “suits” do while the rest of the world earns a living. Part of the reason is simple procrastination; I keep meaning to go, and put it off for another day.

The one time that the "average Joe" is given an active voice, however, is when an election is called and we suddenly become something that the politicians need; citizens of the nation are called upon by a suddenly sociable group of politicians that are solely interested in where we place the mark on our ballots on Election Day. With ballot in hand, a citizen wields the most powerful tool of democracy: the vote. This is the position I found myself in on Monday, November 13 as I voted in our Municipal Elections.

While this election didn't have the same energy attached to as the recent Midterm Elections south of the border, it was a necessary function of democracy, and it resulted in my thinking a great deal about the issue of what it meant to be a citizen.

When I arrived at my polling station (Bay Ward, Poll 7, in case you care) I was absolutely thrilled to see a rainbow of humanity represented. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I live in a neighborhood that is richly diverse ethnically: well, it is great to know that there doesn't seem to be a racial barrier to voting.

All of these people from all over the world who had one thing in common: they had made Canada their adopted country, and were now participating in the democratic process of their new homeland. It reminded me of the scripture in the New Testament, from one of the letters that Paul wrote in his epistle to the Galatians, “These is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28,KJV) The message is beyond simple: we are all the same.

Seeing all those people voting made me think about my own citizenship here in Canada. By virtue of my birth, having been born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I am a Canadian citizen, and this can never be taken away from me. I love Canada and being Canadian, and on the occasions that I have traveled, upon returning home that is the overwhelming feeling that I experienced: I was home. I have also been told that, because my parents were both born and raised in the United States and have never gone through the act of officially denouncing their citizenships, if I desire, I can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Save for a rather strong yearning to vote in the 2008 Presidential race, I have no other desire to seek dual citizenship, but this raises a third issue relating to citizenship and my life; the "right of return". By virtue of my background, having Jewish ancestors on both sides of my family for as far back as we know, I know that I can get onto an airplane and go to Israel and become a citizen as soon as I arrive as a result of the "Right of Return".

Why wouldn't I want to do this, you may ask? The answer is simplicity itself: I could never accept citizenship in a nation where my blood brother cannot. The son of my father, whose mother is not the same as mine, is not considered to be a Jew, so he has been told that he does not have the "Right of Return".

How can this be? One brother a Jew, welcomed to return to their “homeland”, yet the other is, for all intents and purposes, a pariah, even though our father is the same man – a man who is the father of all Jews, the patriarch of all Israel.

If being a citizen means the betrayal of my brother, my own blood, it is a price that I cannot bear to pay, and will not pay.

Having considered this issue I was reminded by the way citizenship was dealt with in a novel by the late sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein. The novel, which was published in 1959, was made into a movie in 1997 which was probably seen by more people than had read the book (I confess, I have not read the book – yet – though I was, at least, aware that Heinlein had written it when the movie came out). In the movie “Starship Troopers” we learn that it is through “voluntary Federal Service” that someone earns their full rights as a citizen, those rights including the ability to vote and hold public office. Of course, “voluntary Federal Service” involved going to war against vicious, man-eating bugs that were intent on the eradication of every human being in the universe, but that seemed to be a minor point to the hundreds of thousands who were volunteering to be the next ones to become members of the Mobile Infantry.

Is this the price of citizenship? What brought Heinlein’s concept to mind was what would happen if I did decide to seek Israeli citizenship, and the moments afterward. While I can’t actually imagine that anyone with any semblance of sense would hand me any sort of weapon that was loaded, the idea that citizenship in Israel comes with automatic membership in the IDF or the reserves (depending on physical ability and age, of course) only adds to the reasons to reject the offer.

Israel has, without trying, turned Robert A. Heinlein into something of a prophet. Without meaning to, Israel has managed to become the “federation” battling a war that seems to have no end while constantly saying, “we want peace”, even as they perfect new ways to kill their enemy.

You cannot have peace with your neighbour when you are excluding your own blood from returning to the homes from which you have driven them. We, as citizens of whatever country we happen to be in, are blessed by the fact that there are laws in place to protect our rights. What of the rights of all people, oh Israel? What of my brother? When will he and his family be allowed to return to the land of his father; the land of our forefathers?

To deny the children of Abraham their inheritance is nothing short of an abomination before the Lord, and you, oh Israel, shall pay the price, for you have crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed. You have murdered the innocent in the name of national security; in the name of self-defense you have wiped out entire families and then had the audacity to say, “it was an accident”. Allowing Zionist fascists to have any control of a government is an accident; slaughtering innocent civilians is murder.

By birth I am a Canadian and a Jew. Being a Jew is something that transcends the issue of race; it is a cultural identity that can never be removed from who I am even if I have never attended a service in a Synagogue (save for one I once led). By choice I am a Christian, and as we all are, I am a human. Under the surface there is no difference, neither between Jews nor Greeks, nor any other races. What we are distinguished by, as citizens, is our actions. When we have an opportunity to exercise our right to vote – a right that has been paid for with the blood of some of our finest, and youngest, citizens through the wars that sought to strip us of those rights – when we exercise those rights we are committing an act that celebrates all that is good in the democratic system.

Whether the candidate that I voted for wins or not is really not the important issue, the issue is that the true freedom here, in a country where it doesn’t matter what your background is in order for you to become a citizen, is the exercising of the right to vote. To exercise your vote is to make your voice be heard and effect change, without the need for violence and any innocent lives being eradicated in the process.

When the Zionist fascists in Israel wake up to the fact that the people they are denying the “right of return” to are the blood of their blood, perhaps they will have a change of heart … of course, that would be contingent upon their having hearts in the first place, and that’s another issue for another time. Until them, I remain as ever, proudly Canadian.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Zionist fascists vs. Gay Pride

An article on DesertPeace’s blog has inspired me to write something beyond a reply. What started as a short comment, well, as you can see, an article was born and it all began with a Gay march scheduled to be taking place in Jerusalem this day. This will be the third year in a row for the parade in the Jerusalem, and, as in the history of the parade in many cities around the world, there has been a tremendous amount of acrimony from the community. Public demonstrations have been numerous and nearly convinced the local government to cancel the parade, but it seems to have survived the religious fanatics best attempts at thwarting their efforts to kill it.

DesertPeace posted an article by Efrat Weiss discussing the actions being taken by followers of the late Meir Kahane (referred to by some as a Rabbi). You may read the Weiss article, and DesertPeace’s full post (a post well worth perusing) here. Weiss wrote another article that pointed out the true insanity of the hatred being spread by some people in the name of God: they have gone so far as to say that the police who will be guarding the parade are being sinful.

After the Kahaneites celebrating the actions of Yishai Schlissel, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail after stabbing a man at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem last year, of course they don’t want the police at the parade, it will stop them from being able to attack anyone else with impunity.

Once again, this is the bastardisation of religion; the attempt at the usurpation of power through intimidation and what should be considered a reckless misinterpretation of scripture. To read without comprehending is a mirror of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” (Isaiah, 6:9b, NKJV)

The followers of Kahane (I will not defile the honorific “Rabbi” by attaching it to a man who stood for hatred and everything contrary to the beauty of the teaching of YHWH) have demonstrated why Israel has been experiencing the issues that they have been since the nation was reborn (unjustly) in 1947: disobedience breeds contempt. Contempt for the law, both of man and of God has shaped every aspect of the society that has been built in that land. You cannot reconcile your nation to the “laws of God” through the violence that was proscribed centuries ago – millennia ago. Those instructions were, as the Word says, for a time, or, more precisely, a season. That season has passed.

The opportunity to cleanse the Promised Land of all the inhabitants that were considered undesirable came and went when the Israelites decided to disobey the command of YHWH to do so before taking possession of the land that they had been lead to after their time in the desert. That decision may be seen as some as a decision that should be lauded as merciful: the Israelites showed mercy on the inhabitants of the land that were there before them and decided to live amongst them instead of committing an act of genocide.

Now it is too late to go back and change their minds. Genocide is no longer an option. Cleansing the land of the “unwanted”, the “unclean”, or the “undesirables” is no longer something that any true Rabbi would ever support. An enlightened student of the teachings of YHWH should recognize that there was a time, and is now a time, and the two are far from being the same.

Zionist fascism has become the oppression mirroring the experience that was visited upon the Jews barely a few generations ago. I have met survivors of the holocaust, have seen the tattoos on arms that have been wrinkled with old age and have heard stories from those who managed – above all odds – to escape with their lives (and nothing else) from such places as Dachau, Treblinka and, once, even Auschwitz.

Not one of these survivors, I believe, would have been able to stomach the violence that is being perpetrated against another innocent civilian population. Before you cry about “self defence” and the “terrorists” firing their rockets I will concede that there is a problem with terrorists, but not ALL Palestinians are terrorists harbouring portable missile sites in their dwellings (as seen when the rubble is dug out and, as in Iraq, no weapons – or WMD’s – are found … big surprise).

There is one sure fire way to guarantee that there will be more Palestinian terrorists in a few years: if Israel keeps on their present course of attacking and killing innocents, the resentment that this foments amongst the young people who are seeing their family and friends being slaughtered around them will make them far more vulnerable to the seductive call of terrorists recruiting new members. Remember, when these terrorists recruit the young and indoctrinate them into their organization it is the kids who are used (by kids I mean younger members of the organization) for the suicide missions.

As usual, the young are expendable.

Kahane was neither a Rabbi, nor was he a Jew. If being born of a Jewish mother is what makes one Jewish is what qualifies you, sure, he was Jewish, but what of the heart? What of the compassion for one’s neighbour and community that the Torah teaches we are supposed to show?
“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus, 19:18, NKJV)
Of course, that must have caused much confusion as it came immediately after, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.” (Leviticus, 19:17, NKJV)

To understand where the Kahaneites have taken their warped theology from it is critical to understand where they make their error. The first thing that they do is they only read the first of the two verses that I have presented (the second one quoted, verse seventeen). The second thing they do is haul out the two scriptures relating to homosexuality in the entire Torah. It is written: “you shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Lev. 18:22, NKJV) This is repeated, slightly elaborated, in verse 13 of the twentieth chapter of Leviticus, the book in which the law was given. I find it fascinating that the most significant portion of the Law, that part “written in stone” does not include this most grievous abomination, yet it does include adultery (comes in at #7, right after murder), bearing false witness – otherwise known as perjury – and, of all things, coveting your neighbours wife, or their property (neighbours again … I’m sensing a pattern here …).

Could this mean that the Lord God Almighty places more emphasis on us living together, in peace, without judging but rather loving our neighbours, and focusing on our own problems instead of worrying about what our neighbours are doing when we go to bed at night? In the end, if someone is going to experience the wrath of the Lord for their actions, I don’t want it to be me because I turned my heart into a piece of hardened stone as a result of my judgements of others. Is it not better to try to live in peace with others now and worry about such things as the ultimate judgement for the time when it is really relevant (that would be a few milliseconds after your last heartbeat)? If not, prepare for another generation of war, and many, many more dead … and the cycle will continue.

In Remembrance …

Just days before the observance of Remembrance Day, on November 11th, an article has appeared in the Canadian Press indicating just how out of touch with reality some veterans can be. I have the greatest respect for the veterans who have served our nation, especially in recent peacekeeping missions, but Remembrance Day is most especially about the observance of those who gave their lives in the “Great Wars”, though I bristle at calling the “First World War” anything more than an expression of everything that was wrong with the psychotic Imperialistic and royalist systems that had a stranglehold on world politics at the time.

That the assassination of on idiotic Arch-Duke should lead to the death of millions indicates a sign of a serious problem, not one that can be resolved by war, but one that must be dealt with through other means.

Morality of war notwithstanding, the accepted symbol of Remembrance Day has always been the red poppy, adopted because of the poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, John McCrae (1872-1919), who wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” while serving as a physician during WWI. The poem was written out of the experiences that McCrae witnessed, including having had to bury a friend the day before he wrote the text. In the end, he died from what ended up killing more than the bullets being fired: he succumbed to pneumonia and died in 1919 after a short illness.

So why should a Canadian Press article be of any importance? For the simple reason that it points out the fact that the Canadian Legion is objecting to the fact that a group of people in Edmonton have been selling white poppies with the word “peace” in the centre as a symbol of their love of peace. The red poppy is seen everywhere during the period leading up to November 11th, and everyone in Canada who has been conscious for more than one year knows what it represents, so why should there be a problem with a white poppy that says peace?

It seems to me that the Canadian Legion, the organization that represents those individuals who have witnessed, first hand, the horrors of war, would be willing to do anything to prevent another generation from having to become members of their organization, but instead, the group in Edmonton has encountered intense resistance from Legion officials.
Harvey Shevalier, president of the legion's Alberta-Northwest Territories Command, said the poppy is a registered symbol of the legion and can't be used without permission. "The legion cannot condone it, and we cannot accept any attempt to use this poppy without authority or approval," he said.
Now wait one second … the poppy may be a registered symbol, but that is the RED poppy … these guys didn’t use that one, did they? The Legion went on to say that using Remembrance Day as a “focus for a fundraising project of promotion of an ideal is completely inappropriate and unacceptable”. Now that, my friends, is the height of hypocrisy. For the month of October the Legion has their volunteers out in malls selling poppies to people. Selling; for money. Money, a substance used to pay for things, something that is used to keep organizations running.

The Legion says that this is the wrong time for fundraising, yet they do that for an entire month, and how is their displaying of military regalia at some of their sale sights not a promotion of a specific ideal? Having veterans dressed in their old uniforms with their medals is not what you can call a subtle hint that Remembrance Day is coming and you should buy a poppy from them, if you haven’t done so already.

Thus, what must truly be objectionable to the Legion, which is the most puzzling thing of all, is that they must be opposed to the fact that this group in Edmonton is using their poppies to spread a message of peace, a message that does not have to be delivered with the destruction of life attached.

When I first learned the lines of this immortal poem, as a child in grade school, the imagery that the poem conveyed to me was that of soldiers who had gone to the grave and were making these flowers grow by virtue of what they were contributing to the soil: the blood from their veins, the blood that had, only hours or days before been coursing through living, vital young men. My impression had always been that the poppies were red, blood red, because of the blood that had been spilled so copiously on the battlefield, a battlefield that was bleak with the stink of death that haunted every living thing that dared to enter its environs.

As a physician, a man dedicated to healing lives, not taking them would it be difficult to imagine that Lt. Colonel McCrae would have been offended by the symbolism of the white poppy? I rather think he would find it quite appropriate and more than fitting. The white poppy is not only a legitimate symbol of peace it still a symbol that represents the nearly 117,000 Canadians who died in war.

If all we do is remember those who died in war, Remembrance Day may as well be scratched off of the calendar: we must actively recall the full aspect of what war represents. It isn’t enough to talk about the sacrifices that Canadians made during the war, though this is something we must observe, and our veterans must be lauded and given everything that is due them for the service that they have provided this nation (and, in some cases, humanity). At the same time, when children learn about Remembrance day in school they must learn about the truth about wars, and about what is going on today, and about the forgotten “war” that is being forgotten and covered up by the press in the middle east while attention is focused on Iraq.

While the news services went crazy covering the midterm elections in the United States they had a perfect excuse to ignore the ongoing slaughter of innocent civilians taking place in Israel, all in the name of “self defence”. This is war, and should be observed on Remembrance Day. When I stand for my moment of silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day, this Saturday, my thoughts and prayers will be with those who have lost their families in the war being waged by the Zionist fascists in Israel.

Until every war has ended, until every citizen of the world can go to bed at night without the fear of some psychotic military officer ordering the firing of a few artillery shells at your house because it seemed like a viable target – the day before – until then, Remembrance Day is a day to remember that a lot of soldiers have died. We know that as a result of their sacrifice the Third Reich did not last nearly as long as its architects had planned, but other than that, what is different?

As for the justice offered, or the veneer of peace in which we are supposed to be enjoying, that is all it is, a veneer: while one form of oppression has been replaced by another for many people in the world, the poppies continue to grow, the ground being fed by fresh blood with the passing of each day … and governments close to home continue to profit from war, almost as though it is a national industry.

The one lesson we need to all take from the words of John McCrae is that there is not one single day for which we should be setting aside a moment to remember what it is we have as a result of the sacrifices of the veterans, and, consequently, what the horrors of war visit upon humanity.
“If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
By “breaking faith”, could that possibly mean taking for granted the liberties we enjoy? Perhaps it would be a break of that faith to say to another group that using a white poppy with the word “peace” on it was something that was unacceptable at a time when we should be also repeating the words “never again”, and meaning them. No, it is, I fear, the Legion itself that has broken the faith and dropped the torch, having forgotten what the symbolism that McCrae was searching for truly meant.

As you read the poem just try to imagine yourself after Second Battle of Ypres. During an artillery attack a friend of yours is killed, and you, in lieu of a military chaplain bury him and perform the service. Then you write this poem …

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(Here is a link to a related BBC article, bringing the issue of religion into the debate.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Too few decide for Many

With a population of 300 million people there should be a fairly large voting base in the United States to call on when it comes to deciding who will lead the government, making the decisions that will effect the lives of every member of society, as well as the rest of the world. Unfortunately, in the midterm elections that took place on November 7th there was an astounding turnout that was skimming forty percent.

Does this mean that sixty percent of Americans have given up, surrendering to the Fates? Or, as an alternative, have they decided that it is a good thing to have a small majority of the people decide how the entire country (and, again, the rest of the world through the results of their foreign policy) will live? Either way, it is a pathetic display from a land that declares itself to be – at every possible chance – the ideal model of democracy.

The United States has developed a megalomaniacal obsession with the idea that their version of democracy should be the model that every country in the world aspires to copy. It is what they want to install in Iraq, which is why, having had their own civil war in the darkest part of the Republic’s history (or, what should have been the darkest part … this may be changed soon) there is so much emphasis from the Bush administration on denying that the sectarian violence taking place in Iraq is, in fact, a civil war. Iraq, post-Saddam, is developing into an American-style democracy: there is an abundance of corruption, violence and political impotence to control the situation.

Is it any wonder the Iraqis want something just a little bit better than that? After suffering the ravages of years of war that Saddam waged with Iran and the internal conflicts, not to mention the first Gulf war, one would think that the people of Iraq deserved the best form of government available. This is where America begins to falter in their mission. While military muscle may be impressive, and it is always awe inspiring to know that you are dealing with a nation that can eradicate every living organism on the face of the earth several times over (a truly laudable ability indeed), that doesn’t automatically translate into the ability to create a democracy out of an dictatorship.

After all, we must remember that this is the same country that, in the not-so-recent past removed democratically elected political leaders and installed dictators into their positions. Democracy, for the United States, is something that ends up being quite ephemeral, serving their purpose so long as it is convenient, but never getting into the way of their actual agenda. The recent signing of the Military Commissions Act by George W. Bush is a perfect example of this fact.

With the simple act of signing this Act into Law, the president effectively eradicated the right of habeas corpus. This is a right that is enjoyed in common law countries and is a protection for the citizen from being abused by the judicial system. The Military Commissions Act makes it possible to simply suspend this right, something older than the Constitution of the United States, older than the United States and any other North American nation. Habeas corpus was first used in 1305 during the reign of King Edward I but it wasn’t until the Habeas Corpus Act was passed in 1679 that the rights that it represented were fully codified.

The framers of the Constitution thought so highly of it that they decided it should actually be mentioned, not as a special amendment, but within the body of the document itself. It is codified as a part of the United States’ laws within Article One, section nine. “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

The United States has not been invaded. There has been one attack, five YEARS ago, and then some mailings of anthrax. Nothing else. A fictitious war has killed more Americans than the one attack on American soil that has taken place since Canada crossed the border during the war of 1812 (and whipped their asses). Any suspension, at this point in time, of the “Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus” is, to borrow a term that the Republicans love, an abomination.

It is a perfect representation of the type of democracy that the United States has, and exactly why this is not the democracy that should not be held up as the model for the world. As a model of what not to do, certainly, but as a guide to run a country; only if you want to have a genocide in your nation (slaughtering the indigenous peoples of your nation, or, in lieu of them, a neighbouring nation … or the Jews, they are always a good choice), then you would have to make sure that you craft your foreign policy so that it allows genocides to take place in other nations while you only intervene when it serves your own interests (as the United States did during WWII, allowing the slaughter of the Jews until they began to realize that Hitler was more of a menace than they realized so it was expedient for them to become involved … Pearl Harbour having nothing to do with the decision).

Machinations. Democracy. Two words that should never appear within the same sentence, but, alas, could many times over when discussing the state of the American version of democracy. Whenever government is warped so that it serves those who are in office rather than the people who are supposed to be served by them, there is a problem that is greater than belief. When the vice-president has such a close relation with the company that is making – literally – a fortune from the war, well, how can that be reconciled with anything?

Even so, when all is said and done, the voters, the few that turned out, sent a clear message to the Bush administration: it is time for a change. The Democrats are now in control of the Senate and, pending the result of some races still being counted (one of which looks like a pretty sure Dem. win), they may also have control of the Congress. Many of the gubernatorial races also resulted in Democratic victories, although California decided to stick with the Terminator as their man in Sacramento. There are now 28 Democratic states and 22 Republican states: these are Governors and does not necessarily translate into electoral college votes, though it does represent over 306, which is far more than the 270 needed to become president, but it certainly is promising.

One interesting thing happened, and it probably caught everyone off guard as well: the state of Minnesota elected a Muslim to the Senate. Keith Ellison has become the first Muslim to have ever been elected to the Senate in history (and he’s black … oooh …). The House of Representatives may have to start allowing women in next … oh right … they did that already.

Perhaps, with a sign of such enlightenment – and tolerance – in two years there will be something else truly worth celebrating … so long as the Republicans keep screwing up (something that shouldn’t be too hard given the current situation and the ongoing debacle in Iraq), and if the Democrats don’t do anything too stupid … (a hard thing to ask for, but one can always be optimistic), who knows, it has happened in the past.

In the meantime, we must be relentless in our efforts to change the minds of these elected officials: even if you aren’t a citizen of the United States, you can e-mail elected officials and send them your concerns regarding world issues. I have been on the mailing list of Senator Clinton for over one year and have sent her several messages, including several regarding the United States and Israel. All you have to do is go to the home page for the Senate and find the individual you are interested in (the new House of Representatives reconvenes in January). Their email address is listed (it goes, in all likelihood, to their deputy communications secretary, or someone with a sufficiently stuffy title). While you may not get a personal answer, so long as you are able to send civil, well reasoned messages, you can be sure that it will be brought to their attention – the one thing that politicians do fear is having something come back from the past, like a message, and be told, “well, you were told about this in a message three years ago,” or, “the memo was titled ‘bin Laden intent on …’”.

If we do nothing, believing that our actions will bear no fruit, we have fulfilled our own prophesy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

When did Teenagers turn into Sociopaths?

Whatever happened to the concept of young people, in this case someone who was barely a teenager, from listening to the advice of their elders?

First of all, let's get one thing straight, now that I am 38 I have come to the sober realization that the youth of today see me as being old, and I see some of them as being quite annoying (not unlike the way I viewed my elders in my youth, without the lack of respect part though).

This morning, while taking the bus downtown, I was confronted with the latest situation in a long line of examples that could be tabled as "exhibits for the prosecution". While sitting, reading my book ("Synchronicity" by C.G. Jung), a rather slightly built youth took his place in front of me and began his ride holding onto the strap which was right in front of me instead of taking hold of the pole which was directly in front of where he was standing.

As soon as the bus turned around its first corner the expected happened: the boy bumped into my book (no acknowledgment or apology, of course), and he nearly fell over, bumping into the passenger behind him. Observing this I offered him some advice.

"Why don't you hold onto the pole instead of the strap, the pole doesn't move while the strap does." Having said this he gave me a bemused look, then proceeded to expound upon the merits of the strap, until I interrupted him. "Yes, but you have already hit my book once, as well as other passengers."

"Have I?"

As he launched into another dissertation on strap-pole qualities (while losing his balance) I returned to my reading, saying, "this isn't a conversation, I was offering an observation and an opinion."

As expected, when he and his friend exited the bus I could hear the derisive laughter of the boys, though I couldn't make out anything past "who does he ..."

Well, that is a question that can be answered, even without having heard it in its entirety. I was merely another passenger on the bus, trying to get to my destination without being accosted by another rider. As soon as this boy got on the bus he was a menace. His over-stuffed bag hit several people, including the driver (I was sitting at the very front and saw him get on), and he dropped it on my knee while putting it down, again without even acknowledging that he may have done something wrong. I'm not writing this because of my knee, however, but rather because of his absolute refusal to accept any offer of an individual's opinion from someone who may just have had a bit more experience than he does.

This is the thing that amazes me the most about these kids: they talk and act as if they know absolutely everything about everything, while, in point of fact, they often end up having "book jacket knowledge". That is the type of knowledge that you can glean from a book by reading the inside and outside covers, without having to waste your time by actually reading the work itself.

During the summer I encountered a perfectly precious example of this while in one of my favourite places to write, the coffee shop near my chiropractor's office (I'm not going to plug the store as the new owner is turning the place into a rather unpleasant place to sit in and spend some time, which is the exact opposite of the previous manager’s philosophy, so I feel no loyalty towards it anymore ... but that's another story for another time). While I was there writing there was a clutch of young people deeply involved in a rather heady discussion regarding various religions and other belief systems. They were also having a discussion, after a time, about the theological differences between the monotheistic faiths, discussing the natures of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, with some forays into some other religions as well.

I wasn't trying to overhear their conversation, but they were sitting right next to me, so it was quite difficult to ignore them, which was why I couldn't help but overhear the errors that they were espousing with such confidence as being factual. For some reason, perhaps because of my upbringing, I seem to be overly sensitive to the presence of misinformation and feel the need to correct the matter if I am able. In the case of the discussion regarding Christianity and Judaism, it seemed that I was able to contribute far more than any of the youths were, and my rudimentary knowledge of Islam (the result of one course in during my undergraduate degree) also dwarfed the self-confessed "expert" of the group who knew nothing of the historical background of the religion.

This group, unlike the boy on the bus this morning, was more than welcoming of my opinions when I made a small comment and ended up joining their conversation. We ended up talking for well over an hour, and in the end I was the one who had to leave due to another engagement. Where one group of teenagers does not feel threatened by listening to the opinions of someone older than they are, another does ... but why?

This morning, when I spoke to the boy on the bus, I was smiling and not yelling, there was nothing at all threatening about what I was saying. The thing that bothers me the most was that he didn't even consider the merit of the idea, while still losing his balance, while still hitting other passengers. Even as he got off the bus he was staggering around, not holding onto anything.

Is this the direction that our society is heading? Given that the adult electorate of our country has elected placed a minority neo-conservative government that is a virtual puppet of the Bush administration, I have to wonder. Then there is the progeny of the United States: a country where the voting public elected a pathological liar to a second term of office even after his lies and deceits were fully, if not wholly, revealed and exposed to the public ... who conveniently decided to ignore the truth and vote according to the fear mongering that was taking place through the Bush administration’s version of the Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment, a title borrowed from Herr Goebbels, the ultimate propaganda master. Bush has had his cronies masterfully use the threats of further terror attacks to galvanize the fear of the people into believing that they were only safe with a Republican in the White House, as well as a Republican controlled Senate and Congress.

If the youth of today are unable to listen to the opinions and ideas of their elders, how are they doing in school? Are they listening to their parents at all? What sort of citizens are they turning out to be? Considering that I have seen (also on the bus ... I take the bus, I don't drive) little children acting like maniacs on crack while their mothers (or fathers – or both) sit idly by, talking to their friends, or on their cell phones completely ignoring their children.

Why are these kids acting the way they are? For the simple reason that they are starved for the attention of their parent and, if they cannot get it in a positive manner they will act up until they get punished. I know that sounds crazy, but it is a psychologically proven fact, even negative attention is preferable to a child than none at all.

So, what sort of teenagers will these kids grow up to be? That, alas, is an easy answer to provide: in a word, hoodlums, but that is an oversimplification of what is really happening. We are in danger of losing an entire generation, if not more, of our youth through passive neglect.

I call it passive neglect for the simple reason that these kids are well fed, they have homes and everything that they need, if not more, except for the parental affection that cannot be substituted for with anything else. Passive neglect leads to many things, including the seeking out of gangs, which offer a "family" substitute. It also leads to the use of illicit drugs as kids search for the feelings they never had, but know are supposed to be there, somewhere. It leads to early sexual promiscuity as, again, kids seek substitutes for the affection that they don't know, and worse than ever, it can lead to the development of an anti-social personality which, at its worse, can lead to the most violent type of sociopathic behaviour – the ultimate menace to society.

We know this for simple reasons: the brutality of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal regime, which resulted in thousands of unwanted children being abandoned in orphanages across Romania. These forgotten children were kept in the filthiest of conditions, receiving on the barest essentials for survival. Those charged with their care were so overworked they did not have time (and perhaps the inclination) to go any further in the care of the children ... and if they did, it was too little, too late. These children spent countless hours in their cribs, lying in their filth and crying incessantly for hours without receiving the calming touch of another human at all.

When these children began being adopted by childless couples from North America in the 90's it was soon discovered that their was something very wrong; the fulfilled dreams of these couples came with an unexpected burden that all the love in the world couldn’t seem to repair. Their children were severely scarred by their early childhood experiences, scarred in a place that doesn't heal as easily as the body, scarred in their minds.Many were so severely effected by their ordeals that their adoptions were reversed, the child proved to be too much for what the family had been prepared to provide.

If the parents of today who use their televisions, computers and other forms of electronica as babysitters continue on their course in child rearing their is the very real possibility that the only difference between our children and those brought here from Romania will be that the Canadians (and Americans) will, for the most part, have been better fed and educated, but their social skills will be barely above those of children who have had no socialization at all.

We have to start making the distinction between kids going out and being "social" with each other and actually being able to interact in a social situation without acting like savages amongst other humans. That is one of the most important skills for living, and it is one that will prepare them well for the struggles they will face in the real world once they discover that the artificial world of academia is far more sheltered than they could have imagined. I cannot count the times that I’ve been on the bus in the afternoon going home when there are several teens who get on, having just gotten out of school. Now I understand that everyone is excited about the end of the school day, I remember what that was like, but is it really necessary to scream, at the top of your lungs, while the person that you are talking to is sitting right next to you? Even when I put in earplugs that are very effective, it is still loud. This is not merely a sign of poor socialization; it is an indication that these kids have no idea that there is a proper way to act in public, especially when you are in an enclosed space like a bus (not even mentioning the fact that their actions could have distracted the driver, endangering the lives of everyone on board).

Even as I write this, I can't help but think of the young voters casting their votes in the United States today, and those who have the opportunity to vote in the municipal elections here in Ottawa next Monday. When I was young I looked forward to turning 18 the way some kids looked forward to turning 16. I had no interest in driving (I still don't have a license, and don't want one ... it doesn't do me any good since my Jag died ... right) ... no, I wanted to be able to vote!

It has always been the greatest pleasure to be able to participate in "the process", if only for the reason that I feel it gives me the right to voice my opinion about government without reservation – after all, I helped in the process. It has always amazed me how some people will go crazy talking about politics, but when you ask them if they vote, they quickly say, "I don't vote". Well, what kind of idiocy is that? How can you not vote, yet you want to spend so much energy complaining about things? Hubris, that is the word.

That is when I freak people out (a personal hobby ... and it costs nothing). "If you don't vote," I say, "you abdicate your right to complain about the system." That usually leaves people with their mouths hanging open (the word abdicate causes the hang-up, so I oblige them). "Voting is your duty as a citizen and gives you the right to complain about what YOUR government is doing. If you don't vote, they aren't your government."

That does it.

"But, I pay taxes," they sputter, indignant and embarrassed.

"Yes, but why don't you vote? Were you unable to get to the polling station, because if you were, you can call one of the candidates and they will eagerly arrange a ride for you on Election Day? If the day of the election was inconvenient there are several advance polling opportunities, and there is always the proxy vote as a last resort. Voting is what makes a democracy work. If the people can’t be bothered to care enough to get off of their complacency and help decide who their government is going to be, then a small, often narrow minded minority of those eligible to vote will make the decision. The smaller the sample that votes, the less representative it is of the actual views of the electorate. That is why it is so crucial to have as high a turnout at the polls as possible.

Besides, what message does it send to the youth of today when they see such voter apathy in the adults of today? When federal voter turnout skims 70%, what does that say? What would have happened if 100% of registered voters turned out to vote? What would happen if voting was a legal obligation, as it is in the Netherlands and New Zealand, where voter turnout is in the high nineties?

Only then will we see what the term "Democracy in action" truly means. Then, when the youth of North America sees that the adults are being responsible for what is going on around them, perhaps they will be a bit more receptive to what we have to say to them (either that or we have to start beating them ... that could always be a standby option).