TO MASK OR NOT TO MASK?

That shouldn’t even be a question. Earlier this month, in response to the rapid spread of a deadly global pandemic, the Region of Peel made a decision based on medical and scientific advice. The wearing of non-medical masks in indoor enclosed spaces and outdoor spaces where social distancing was not possible became mandatory on July 10, 2020.

This emergency by-law was passed by the Councils of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga for as long as our medical Officers of Health deem necessary. This temporary mandatory masks by-law is much like the permanent seat belt, no hands-held phone texting or talking, no smoking/vaping in shared enclosed spaces by laws. They are intended to protect ourselves and others from injury, illness and possible death. This is not like the “No Shirt, No Shoes No Service” signs that pop up in store windows during the long hot Ontario summers.

If, for example, our Premier happened to walk into the local corner store with no shirt and no shoes, that would be offensive and not aesthetically pleasing to the general public, and very disturbing for young children. But if our Premier walked into that same store maskless during a coronavirus pandemic, he could potentially be infecting the staff and other customers.

Here’s another example. Consider that not following the mandatory mask by-law in the Region of Peel, or anywhere else where the virus is active, is like driving drunk without a seat belt while texting on your hand-held cellphone as you speed through a red light. Someone could die.

Testing for COVID-19 lets you know if you are positive or negative with the virus. The tests are NOT 100% accurate and persons with the virus may be asymptomatic, not showing any outward signs of carrying the disease. Wearing a mask and social distancing is the easiest way to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. We have the by-law so all we need now are educated and respectful citizens to follow it.

However, as expected in any democratic society, while there are no differences in the facts, there are differences of opinion. South of the border, they have coined the term “Donnie and the Boogaloos” for groups of people resistant to medical and scientific health measures. Here in Caledon I have named them “Ronnie and the BooBoos” being any group of people who brag about never buying or ever wearing a mask. We can find them lined up at hardware stores and coffee shops all around the Town.

Unfortunately, given that we have so few by-law officers, there is little enforcement of this by-law and store owners are left with the responsibility of educating their customers. As one community minded business man told me recently, “Skid, we’ve posted the signage at our entrance. These resistors are belligerent. I can’t afford a confrontation with a customer who refuses to comply.” And I can’t put my family at risk by entering a premises where there is not full compliance.

One of our local Councillors told me recently that he had received many more calls complaining about the mandatory mask by-law than the few he got about the traffic calming (excellent work by the way) at the four corners intersection in Bolton. Another Councillor wrote to me: “There are many residents who are in support of this issue but there are others who are not.”

This is not an “issue” and in my humble opinion, based on medical and scientific reports, there are not “fine people on both sides” of this mandatory by-law. To mask or not to mask shouldn’t even be a question our citizens our asking. Comply with the By-Law. Don’t be one of the “BooBoos” – wear a mask!

***

RETWEET ON TWITTER #WearAMask #COVIDIOTS

Systemic Racism 101

This is a story about a childhood friend and an adult colleague.

I am a white male, grew up in a predominantly white culture, went to a white Catholic church, and was educated in a white colonial industrial revolution curriculum. I think I know a little about the unconscious baggage of white privilege. And I am learning more every year.

Fortunately, to lighten the unbearable heaviness of all that white baggage, I was raised by two intelligent and respectful parents who believed in and practiced social justice. My Dad’s motto: “Walk a mile in another person’s shoes.” My Mom’s: “People are what they say and do, not how they glitter.”

I had one other advantage: my Dad loved to play the piano and our neighbour across the street was none other than musician Cy McLean. We couldn’t afford a piano, but Cy had one and other instruments and he and Dad would get together and jam. I found out years later that Mr. Mclean was a world renowned jazz musician with his own band, so Dad was in good company. The McLeans had a son a little older than me and Keith and I used to sit in on the musical jam sessions, explore the ravine south of our house on Cameron Avenue in North York, overnight “camp out” in the backyard, and “swim” in our tiny wading pool.

My Dad also coached the North York Firefighters baseball team, and Keith was our pitcher. I was too young for the team, but got to see all the games as their bat boy. Keith and I went to school a few years apart together at Cameron Avenue P.S. but when the middle grades came, he was off to the public junior high school.

A few years later my path took me to the local Catholic school and then high school. Mine was in downtown Toronto at “Del” (De La Salle and St. Michaels were the only two Catholic high schools in Toronto in the early 60s – Catholics paid pack then), and I took the TTC every day from Cameron to St. Clair and back. It was a one mile walk from Yonge Street to my home.

One day on the bus ride home, I spotted Mr. McLean sitting at the back of an almost empty bus. I barely noticed the group of rowdy young men standing around him in the aisle. I went back and sat down next to him and we chatted all the way home. The crowd moved away.

On the long walk back he was strangely quiet, but when we passed his house to say goodbye, he took my shoulder gently, smiled and said, “Thank you, Skid.” It was only years later that I realized what he meant.

Meanwhile, I was blending in quite homogenously to my surroundings at De La Salle Collegiate, while Keith was having the opposite experience. In 1963 at Northview Heights Collegiate in North York he was the only black student in a school that had a population of about 1200. Keith and I only saw each other occasionally after that – rumours were that he was being scouted for professional baseball.

The next news I heard was tragic. In May 1974, just after being hired as a manager by IBM, Keith was killed in a car accident near Hamilton. Cy passed away in 1986.

My other friend was a professional colleague, Mr. Courtney Brown. In1997, I was the Chair of Health and Physical Education at Elia MS in North York and while I was the Chair, my teaching partner, Courtney, was the star. He had been heading for Olympic track gold until his coach tried to get him on the steroids circuit with the threat: “Take the drugs or move your starting blocks back a metre.” Courtney quit track and brought his ethics to the classroom. He was a fine teacher and a great coach.

One day after he and I finished a school practice, Courtney said to me, “Skid, have you ever been randomly stopped by the police on the way home?” I was shocked – “No, why?” was my response. Courtney then began to tell me about being stopped at least twice a week, either walking or driving his car, getting asked for ID and questioned about what he was doing and why he was driving such a nice car, having his girlfriend’s morality questionned. It didn’t matter if he was in a suit or wearing his gym sweats, he got grilled by the police. What did matter was that he was black.

That was when I remembered Mr. McLean’s words. That was when, at 50 years of age I truly understood that “white privilege” and “systemic racism” are alive and well in Canada.

***

For further enrichment, Google: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. A conversation with Emmanuel Acho about race that many white people have never been able to have.

And read: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo,  and

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

 

 

Battle of the Invasives

European Colonial Honeybees vs Asian Giant Hornets

originally written for Just Sayin’ Caledon

***

Once upon a time there was a continent …. Yes, a supercontinent called Pangea. About 175 million years ago it split apart. Fast forward 174 million years and a bipedal creature moves out of Africa to invade Asia and Europe. From that point move forward to 15,000 years ago when Siberian mammoth hunters, Japanese sea otter fishermen, and Polynesian refugees arrive on the west coast of North America to become the First Peoples. The First Peoples hunt to extinction many of the native species.

Now move forward to the last 1000 years or so as the first European invasive immigrants meet the now indigenous peoples of North and South America. And history, as they say, repeats itself. These European colonists bring with them many new invasives like the smallpox virus, the dandelion, the robin, and the honeybee. The honeybee hives are popular with the colonists, and so common in settlements that the First Peoples refer to them as “white man’s flies.” The honeybee (Apis mellifera) settles down and becomes so much a part of white colonial agriculture that we begin to think of them as a native species. They are not.

There are over 4000 species of bees in North America, including over 50 species of the humble aerodynamically challenged bumble bee. It is one of our best pollinators of native species. The invasive western honeybee, on the other hand, is not. It is, however, a very successful pollinator of cultivated crops. Which is why corporate agribusiness rang the alarm bells when another invasive species arrived.

In 2011 a massive tsunami devastated Japan, and Pacific Ocean currents began to carry the debris toward the west coast of North America. By 2012 and for years since, that debris and the floating rafts of biota that came with it have been washing up on the shores of Vancouver Island. A few years later, the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is discovered in Nanaimo, B.C.. In early 2020, Washington State, U.S.A. sounded the alarm over the arrival of the “Murder Hornets” crossing the border from British Columbia, Canada.

The Asian Giant Hornet, also known as the Japanese Giant Hornet is native to South East Asia, Japan, and Eastern Russia. They prefer to nest in hollow logs or at the base of large trees which makes Vancouver Island ideal habitat. Besides the rather potent venom from its 6mm (¼ inch) stinger, it loves to decapitate honeybees. Its mandibles are bigger, armour stronger, venom more powerful, and they fly at 40 km/h, so a few Asian Hornet predators can devastate a European honeybee colony very quickly. Sort of like an insect reversal of history.

It reminds us that change is the only constant, and that anytime a species with a predatory advantage invades, the pecking order changes. And while the newly invasive vespid may prove problematic to the previously invasive honeybee population, it is a boon to the script writers of sensational news. The Fox Frenzy and Sun Sensational teams have already dubbed it the “Murder Hornet” much like the “Killer Bees” from Africa via South America and Mexico a few years ago. However, the hornets do not kill “over 50 people a year” as erroneously reported in the NY Times.

There was a highly publicized incident in 2013 in Shaanxi, China when stings by Asian Giant Hornets killed 41 people and injured more than 1,600. But while envenomation from the sting can cause cardiac arrest, anaphylactic shock, and kidney failure, humans are not their preferred prey. Honeybees on the other hand, are not so lucky. These new immigrants and enemies of the state of inertia will no doubt cause a shift in the balance of our “natural” systems.

The one advantage that honeybees have over the earlier example of colonial invasive species domination is that honeybees have become such important pollinators of cultivated crops that they have an economic value. Native Maple syrup is worth $500 million to the Canadian economy. By comparison, honey related jobs and products add $900 million to the American economy, and invasive honeybee pollination is valued at over $20 billion to American agribusiness.

 Follow the money in this battle of the invasives. The Asian Giant Hornets may have better natural equipment, but the European honeybee has some sweet investors. In the meantime, just to be safe, don’t kick open any big old hollow logs or stumps. No “murder hornets” in Ontario yet, but you may be disturbing the nests of our native bumblebees. And our native species need all the help they can get.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

*images from Shutterstock, Nanaimo News Now, and Pinterest

Earth Day 2020, from a window

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “This is the way Earth recovers, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

When Eliot wrote The Wasteland in 1922, he probably didn’t have a future global coronavirus pandemic in mind. More like the wasteland created by the horrors of World War One and the “Spanish Flu” as it was called then. This virulent H1N1 swine flu virus actually spread from Austria and France to Spain in 1918 and then was carried home by returning WW1 soldiers. By 1922 it had indeed produced a wasteland, infecting over one third of the world’s human population and resulting in at least 50 million deaths.

Today, the world’s pre-pandemic human population sits at over 8 billion very consumptive, fossil fuel based creatures. COVID-19 has put the brakes on that consumption. It is very fitting therefore, that Earth Day 2020 be celebrated quietly, with no human crowds gathering in the streets or parks or schoolyards for the usual symbolic one-day reprieve of our relentless assault on Earth’s systems.

Since 1970, throngs of well-wishing people have gathered around the globe for one day of green Kumbaya singsongs and tree plantings, and the very next day go right back to consuming as if we had six planet Earths in reserve. Not this year. This year, Earth gets a reprieve. An Earth day with no humans trampling down the delicate spring rebirth. This year a real Earth Day.

For us watching from the windows, there is quiet. Fewer cars in the streets, fewer trucks on the roads, less polluted air to breathe. Far away in Italy, overcome with pandemic deaths on the one hand, the canals of Venice are running clean for the first time in decades. As millions of birds begin their spring migration back to honeymoon haven in the north, fewer Fatal Light Attraction deaths are being reported as office towers sit black at night. (It’s NOT the windmills Mr. Ford.)

This Earth Day is different. We sit inside and have family meals, play board games, tell tall tales. If we venture quietly outside it may be to marvel at the new spring flowers slowly appearing. or to listen to the birdsong, to plant a few seeds in our backyard planter box, to say thank you to the trees in the local park for refreshing our air and climate. Perhaps we walk with family members, or a few friends (five or less, all six feet apart) and wave at neighbours watching from their windows.

Here in Caledon it is cold and sunny on this Earth Day, and quiet. It gives us a chance to listen to Earth song, perhaps like the great Eastern seaboard blackout of 2003 gave us a chance to star gaze in awe as the Milky Way swept across the sky. Now in 2020, with the fossil fuel motors of industry and transportation reduced to a whimper, perhaps now we can listen again.

Perhaps here in the beauty of King and Caledon it is easier for us to listen. It is much more difficult in crowded cities around the world and in rural areas steeped in famine and poverty. Even in developed cities in North America, the clarion call of individual rights trumpeted by evangelical conservative republicans threatens the silence. A healthy quiet on this Earth Day can only prosper in an environment of respect that honours community responsibilities over individual rights.

When the pandemic has passed we can gather in noisy mobs debating the finer points of Ayn Rand’s philosophy versus the community conscience of a just society, but for now let’s just stay home, stay healthy, and watch from the window.

A wise and wonderful human named Father Thomas Berry once wrote, “For centuries we have been autistic to the voices of the Earth. It is time we once again joined in the grand liturgy of the Universe.”

On this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it’s a good time to listen. The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

I’m Gettin’ Impeached for Christmas

Let’s all sing-a-long … to the tune of “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas” …

original by Sid Tepper and Roy C . Bennett; new lyrics by Skid Crease

CHORUS:

I’m getting impeached for Christmas!

Nancy and Adam are mad.

I’m getting impeached for Christmas.

‘Cause I ain’t been nothing but bad!

 

Cast a spell on Rob’s Report.

Somebody snitched on me!

Booked G7 at my Resort

Somebody snitched on me!

I swept my bribes under the rug,

Squished Yovanovitch like a bug.

Acted like a mobster thug,

Somebody snitched on me!

repeat CHORUS

I rigged the 2020 race.

Somebody snitched on me!

Went to a party in Orangeface.

Somebody snitched on me!

I did a dance on Michelle’s plants,

Went on crazy Twitter rants.

White House filled with sycophants.

Somebody snitched on me!

repeat CHORUS

You’d better be good, whatever you do

Cause if you don’t, I’m telling you

You’ll get impeached for Christmas!

But I don’t care! I asked for nothing,

NOTHING!