The Lyin’ King

 

Remember that most wonderful Disney movie, The Lion King? Like most people who saw it for the first time, the opening scene is embedded in our memories – spectacular animation, soul stirring music, and a noble parent child relationship. The tragic ending of that bond hooked us until the end of the movie as we waited for jungle justice and the triumph of good over evil.

Fast forward to 2017. We have a new ruler on the throne to the south of us, but he is more like Uncle Scar than Simba. He will be known in our new remake as “The Lyin’ King”, his queen will be played by beautiful Russian sleeper agent Melanija Knavs, and his fallen pride will include Sean Spicer, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruit, Betsy DeVos and Mike Flynn.

It’s a perfect cast for the American Horror Story currently unfolding on every news channel on our black mirrors. Of course, the starring role of the Lyin’ King will be voiced by The Donald. The voices of an all-star supporting cast of hyena idiots to slobber all over His Majesty will feature Steve Bannon, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Bill O’Reilly. Their hyena bitches will be played by Kellyanne Conway, Scottie Nell Hughes, Katrina Pierson, and Amarosa Manigault.

It’s a tragic comedy that all, well at least 40% of Americans can enjoy while enjoying a big bowl of extra butter popcorn and a case of Coors without having to worry about changing channels with a .38 Special.

Oh, and the role of Rafiki was going to be voiced by Bernie Sanders, but no one was listening to his wisdom.

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Skid Crease

Terrific, Tremendous, Teleprompter Trump

Someone, possibly James Vicary, advised The Donald in the skills of subliminal advertising. Someone, perhaps Lucifer, illuminated The Donald to the art of alliteration. Someone, most probably his McCarthy era lawyer, Roy Marcus Cohn, taught The Donald to lie until he won.

Consider the name Trump. We all know what a trump card does in a euchre game … it wins! Consider the sounds of the words tremendous and terrific. If you are The Donald, your ego just has to love those “t” and “r” sounds. Why was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the only other politician mentioned by name in “so-called” president Trump’s recent address to Congress?

Two reasons. First, associate yourself closely with the most popular politician in the world and maybe some of that world class veneer will rub off on you; and secondly, his name begins with “Tr”, a consonant blend that is like the music of the heavenly choir to The Donald’s ears.

In reality, however, while Trudeau is truly tremendous and terrific without a script, The Donald is terrible and tragic unless he is using a teleprompter.

It astonished me that much of the mainstream media began to praise the presidential poise of The Donald after he read a speechwriter’s script from a teleprompter. Suddenly the man who spent years groping women, denying President Obama’s birthright, denying accelerating climate change, making huge profits on the housing crisis, discriminating against racial and religious groups different from his hedonistic white male cult, and not paying his income taxes, is pronounced by the mainstream media as “PRESIDENTIAL” after one tightly scripted performance. That’s just terrible and tragic.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Ronald Reagan, elevated to the status of a saint in the Republican Party, was a grade B actor who read the lines put in front of him for eight years. Interesting to note that Reagan’s last movie role was as gangster Jack Browning in the movie “The Killers”. Trump is just beginning his role as one. Be very careful for what you wish, America. When the chickens come home to roost, it might not be so terrific or tremendous anymore.

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Skid Crease, Caledon

The Environment is Everything

Several years ago I was asked to define the term “environment” for a new geography textbook titled: Geonexus. So I kept it as simple as possible and wrote: “The environment is everything that surrounds us, everything with which we interact, everything that we are. In short, everything.”

The textbook, published by Thompson/Nelson in 2003 was intended for high school Canadian and World Issues classes. One major section of that textbook dealt with “manufacturing consent” and “the role of the media” in presenting diverse perspectives dealing with the realities of our geopolitical landscape. Another dealt with political and corporate forces controlling the media for purposes of propaganda and suppressing dissent.

If, at any time in our history, we need to go back to school and thoroughly read and discuss the many critical questions posed in that textbook, it is now.

In one of my last columns, I highlighted the concern we should all have about the appointment of Scott Pruit to the role of the U.S.A.’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while Donald was trumpeting the glory of “clean coal”.

If we are truly the environment, then everything that we breathe, eat, and drink, produced from that environment that surrounds us and with which we interact, becomes us. When we breathe in polluted air, when we eat foods with little nutritional value, when we drink contaminated groundwater, it becomes us. And we become sick.

However, beyond the natural environment in which we live, there is the social environment which we create. If we live with passion and compassion, if we care for others, if we share our vast resources, if we respect our home planet, then we live in a place of balance. If we recognize that all of our economy is based on our ecology, then we become wise stewards. The environment in which we live becomes a peaceful and loving place.

On the other hand, if we allow bigotry and prejudice to permeate our perceptions of anything that is different from us, we open up a door to hate and create an environment that is toxic.  If we rape and pillage our planet, and rape and pillage our peoples, the social environment becomes a terror-filled and sorrowful place.

So, as much as I am deeply concerned about the impacts of accelerating climate change and the lack of political and corporate will to do anything significant about it, I am just as concerned at this point in history about the health of the social environment. The connection? When you have the “so-called” president of the United States of America refer to clean coal, you need to know that he is a liar.

There is no such thing as “clean coal” and never has been. We have hard coal and soft coal and coal in between, none of which is clean. What is scientific fact, something which seems to escape our Republican politicians to the south. It is true that hard coal burns with less effluent than soft coal that contains more Sulphur. We have technology that allows hard coal to be burned in power generation plants that are equipped with sophisticated scrubbers that remove the sulphuric acid … which then goes … where?

The whole reason that China is so on board with climate change protocols right now is that they are dealing with the health issues of having burned soft high sulphur coal in their power plants for years. When I worked with Dr. William Fyfe, then Dean of Science at Western University, and Chair of the international Geosphere/Biosphere program, he told me about a trip he had recently made to China.

“Skid,” he said, “at every doorway in my hotel corridor, there was a spittoon. Everyone had to spit up all the time because every time we took a breath, we were breathing in sulphuric acid.”

My older son recently worked as a teacher in Taiwan, and he said there were days that he couldn’t go outside, when his students were confined indoors, when you wanted a can of clean bottled air to breathe because the air pollution blowing in from China was so thick you could taste it. This is life on Earth now.

The connections are very clear. If we have politicians who are environmentally illiterate, who ignore mainstream science, and who base their decisions on corporate power and profits, we can expect our natural environment to continue to deteriorate to a point of overshoot. It is a simple biological principal.

When the consumers consume and degrade more than the natural systems of the planet can replenish, we overshoot our limits and suffer a catastrophic population collapse.  Understand that the reason why the war in Syria was accelerating climate change. Shifting rainfall and temperature patterns altered the growing seasons and resulted in drought and crop failures. Starving peoples moved from the rural areas into the cities on mass. When you put enough disenfranchised, hungry people into an overcrowded social environment, chaos and rebellion ensue.

It happened in the Fertile Crescent when Mesopotamia’s irrigated fields turned to salt and the crops failed. It happened in France during the French Revolution. It happened in Egypt during the Arab Spring.  And it is going to happen again. If you put enough hungry, angry, disenfranchised people together in a crowded space, you are going to have a revolution and it won’t be pretty.

The only way a society can prevent this is to ensure that their population is treated with equity and justice. If you work hard, you get to keep a bigger piece of the pie. But everyone gets a place at the table, everyone gets adequate shelter, everyone gets a chance at a good education, and everyone gets appropriate medical care.

If we treat the natural environment with care and work towards a respectful social environment, we may just pass on a healthy home planet for generations to come. If not … well, as we sow, so shall we reap.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

Trump and the Rise of Hate

You know, there are just some times when I hate being right.

Several months ago I predicted that the far right wing of the North American population would rise triumphantly in the wake of the extremist rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

This would not rouse the wisest and most humane of our elders to lead their communities. Rather it would inspire the bigoted and ill-informed to scurry from the ditches and strut their ignorance loudly in public. These are the followers of populist demagogues whose uneducated opinions are largely formed by the bogus untruth websites and big boys locker room talk that provided the fodder for a narcissistic megalomaniac to become President in the U.S.A.

So, when I dropped by a local family restaurant to pick up my youngest son’s weekend breakfast treat and saw a group of men, who always sit at the same table pontificating their views on the world, I couldn’t resist joining in on their conversation.

I admit I committed the sin of stereotyping when I first checked them out: good old boys club, maybe high school education; they read the Sun newspaper mainly to ogle the Sunshine Girl, vote Conservative, watch Fox news, listen to right wing radio talk shows, and think Donald Trump is the Second Coming. I wanted to be wrong.

But then one of the men began a long sermon on the glory that was Donald Trump and the horror that was Barack Obama. I had no idea, until I listened to his holy words, that Obama was responsible for every disaster from hurricanes to floods to the financial crisis that pre-dated his presidency. Nor had I realized the extent of the horrible scandals that Barack and Michelle hid away during their eight years in the White House.

The youngest man tried to explain that the U.S. economy was on the upswing, like employment figures and growth expectations, but he just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The older man was in that zone where, as my mother used to say, “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up!”

Now, this elder couldn’t name any legitimate sources for his opinions, but that didn’t stop him from believing in nonsense and passing it on. The earth is flat, the sun revolves around us, and the planet is only 6000 years old. And Donald Trump sits next to the right hand of God.

On later visits to the same restaurant I heard other members of the group, on three separate occasions, threaten that they would love to get any Liberal leader from the Premier to the Prime Minister in their “crosshairs” and take them out. When I called those threats in to the local OPP. I was told the men had freedom of speech, and if I hadn’t seen a weapon, there was nothing the police could do. I was incredulous. If a child at a school even verbally threatens another child, the police come to the school. But apparently you can threaten to shoot the Prime Minister of Canada without consequence.

So, I took down all of their license plates and submitted a full written report asking the police to check gun ownership records. Then I decided to write a column, The Ignorance of the Elders, in one of our local papers. .

Well, I must have touched a nerve, because weeks later, when I walked into that same restaurant, one of the group accosted me, shouting out my name. There he was, waving a copy of the paper in which my Ignorance of the Elders article had just been published. In front of a line-up of parents and children. he unleashed a string of defamatory epithets and curse words that had no place in a family restaurant. After threatening me with “This isn’t over yet!” he stormed out of the restaurant. I called that slanderous incident in to the police as well.

After that incident, and reflecting on the horror of the Quebec City mosque massacre, the perpetrator of which was reportedly inspired by Donald Trump’s Islamophobia, and then the subsequent vandalism of a mosque in Montreal, I decided to write this column.

As children we are taught to respect our elders. Their years on Earth have supposedly given them insights into life. They made all the mistakes that the passion of youth demands, learned from those mistakes, and grew in wisdom and vision. At least, that is what the best of our elders bring to their communities. Unfortunately, we have unleashed the exact opposite.

The rise of hate and extreme far right political ideology that has been encouraged in recent months by the rise of Trumpism in the U.S.A had come home to roost our own community. It is here now, alive and well and loud.

Imagine members of your religious community murdered while praying in their Church, their place of worship smashed and defiled. Imagine for just a moment that we had to comfort our children every Sunday before we went to Church not to be afraid of being shot or bombed. Imagine that we had to assure them that they wouldn’t be bullied or beaten up at school because of the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation. Imagine that we didn’t have to protect our loved ones from being taunted or told to leave the country because of the clothing they wear.

I think we need to all remember that scene in the movie “A Time to Kill” when the defense lawyer describes in graphic detail the brutal beating and rape and attempted murder of a little black girl. Then he looks at the jury and says, “Now, imagine that she is white.”

The jury responds with Hollywood shock and the avenging father is acquitted. In real life we should also be responding to this rise in hate incidents with shock and horror. Our community should be standing up for the inclusion, social justice, and diversity that has taken our young nation one hundred and  fifty years to embrace.

Meanwhile, south of the border, The New York City Police Department reported in January that there has been a 115% rise in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump. It is as if his ascendency has given permission for the far right to take it from venting in the coffee shops and bars and Tweets, to taking it to the streets. It’s like they’ve been given permission to hate openly. And the only defense against that is to call it out, stand tall against it, and never accept this extremism as a new normal.

I feel like I’m back in the sixties again, marching for civil rights, and environmental security, and nuclear disarmament. The greatest danger facing humanity is not social injustice or accelerating climate change or a nuclear winter. It is the ignorance of the elders who may lead us there.

*****

Skid Crease, Caledon

The Ignorance of the Elders, Part 1

You know, there are just some times when I hate being right.

It happened last week at a popular fast food and coffee spot in Bolton. Now keep in mind, that as a storyteller and author, I love to observe people, join in on their conversations, and get to know their stories. Every once in a while you meet an elder, the kind we are taught to respect and honour. I have found them in some of the scientists, artists and authors, spiritual mentors, systems thinking engineers, and educators with whom I have had the privilege of knowing. I have equally found them in farmers, hunters and trappers who, contrary to popular belief, deeply love the land from which they gather our food, and they pass on those wisdoms quietly and firmly with few words.

I also meet the synapically challenged, whose uneducated opinions are largely formed by the bogus untruth websites and big boys locker room talk that provided the fodder for a narcissistic megalomaniac to become President-Elect in the U.S.A.

Ideally we all try to see the best in others, accept other people on their individual merits, and avoid stereotyping. But every once in a while we fall into the trap.

So, when I saw a group of three older men, who are always sitting at the same table, having coffee, pontificating their views on the world, and hoarding a stack of free newspapers, I couldn’t resist. My first reaction in observing them (and picking up on snippets of conversation) was: white old boys club, maybe high school education, read the Sun newspaper mainly to ogle the Sunshine Girl, vote Conservative, watch Fox news, listen to right wing radio talk shows, and think Donald Trump is the Second Coming. I wanted to be wrong.

I walked right over, sat down at their table and said, “Gentlemen, I’d like to join your table. I’m a storyteller and a writer. What’s the latest news?” A chill spread through the group. I had violated their sanctum sanctorum, but I just sat right down and introduced myself. There was a younger man with them that day, the only one among us who wasn’t retired.

They ducked out for a quick smoke break, and when they returned the fun began. The older man, who had retired from something when he was only forty-five, began a long rant on the glory that was Donald Trump and the horror that was Barack Obama. I had no idea, until I listened to his holy words, that Obama was responsible for every disaster from hurricanes to floods to the financial crisis that pre-dated his presidency. Nor had I realized the extent of the horrible scandals that Barack and Michelle hid away during their eight years in the White House.

The younger man tried to explain that the U.S. economy was on the upswing, like employment figures and growth expectations, but he just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The older man was in that zone where, as my mother used to say, “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up!”

Now, our elder couldn’t name any legitimate sources for his research, but that didn’t stop him from believing in nonsense and passing it on. The earth is flat, and the sun revolves around us, and the planet is only 6000 years old. And I thought all the dinosaurs were extinct. My worst fears were confirmed. I came, I stereotyped, I was right.

As children we are taught to respect our elders. Their years on Earth have supposedly given them insights into life. They made all the mistakes that the passion of youth demands, learned from those mistakes, and grew in wisdom and vision. At least, that is what the best of our elders bring to their communities.

I have had the privilege ever the years, through my work in Outdoor Education, to work with some of those elders from the First Nations from Manitoulin Island,, Brantford Six Nations, Inuit hunters from Nunavut, and the Mississaugas of New Credit. During those times I developed an even deeper respect for their wisdoms and their stories. They have survived the lies of broken treaties, forced relocations, the residential schools – what doesn’t destroy your culture makes you stronger. However, their wisdoms were attained through Vision Quests in their youth and a life deeply in touch with natural systems. Not so in our society.

When I encounter elders like the ones I sat with briefly at the restaurant last week, it makes me fear for our future. The greatest danger facing humanity is not accelerating climate change, or a nuclear winter. It is the ignorance of the elders who may lead us there.

A long time ago I saw a poster of a very overweight man, sitting at an elegant table that was covered with crystal glasses and fine china. He was dressed in a fancy dinner jacket, sitting with hands holding a fork and knife raised over his plate.    But then I saw that on the plate in front of him was a steaming pile of manure. The caption underneath read: “Eat excrement. 10 million flies can’t be wrong.”  Choose your elders wisely.

Like young Anthony who, in busy line-up at a gas bar later that same morning, calmed down an impatient older man with the words: “Life is short – don’t rush it. We’re all going to get to the end sooner or later.” Now that is wisdom.

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Skid Crease, Caledon