The Perfect Storm

Once upon a time in the twentieth century, we had Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, and Tojo. It was not a great quintet for world peace.

Now, upon our time in the twenty-first century, we have al-Assad, Erdogan, Putin, Ayatollah Khomenei, and Jinping. This bad boy band of dictatorial supreme leaders could be the perfect storm for world chaos once again. Fuel for this fire comes with the rise of far right-wing extremism from France’s Marine Le Pen to the Netherlands Geert Wilders and all across Europe as the golden mean collapses. Fortunately, both Wilders and Le Pen lost the war.

Meanwhile, we have the two megalomaniac, narcissistic man-boys, Donald and Kim, taunting each other with nuclear annihilation. “Oh, yeah! My mother of all bombs is bigger than your mother of all bombs!” This mature level of diplomatic conversation, tweeted in the early morning hours across the Pacific, can only be fanning the winds of the perfect storm.

To add to this chaos theory of world political physics, stir in every extremist alt-right group in the U.S.A. broadcasting their terrorist propaganda from websites like 4chan, 8chan, Alternative Right, and Breitbart and you have the Sailer Strategy for dumbing down the American public and winning elections for the Freedom Caucus fanatics.

The solution?

First, in democracies, stop electing far right-wing governments and ignorant twits as leaders, and change the U.S. second amendment to read “the right to bare arms” ….

Secondly, turn off the black mirrors, remember the breaking news is usually not, stop reading reports from sloppy journalists, get a comfort pet, take long walks in wild places, and hang out with wise people.

Thirdly, learn how to grow food, care for animals, fish and hunt. As hockey legend Eddie Shack used to say, “You never know when they’re going to do it to you.”

Fourthly, love your family, love your partner, love yourself, love Earth and Fire and Wind and Water.

Fifthly, when the perfect storm is coming we had better know how to build the perfect shelter, and protect and feed the inhabitants.

And lastly, learned from the writings of my wellness mentor, legendary Samurai swordmaster, Miyamoto Musashi, (forgive my translation):

Practice your skills every day, a thousand days.

Perfect practice, until the execution of your skills is like breathing.

Then you will be at the centre. Peace, love, and crush your enemies quickly.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Why Donald Likes Andrew

Donald Trump’s view of Andrew Jackson: “He had a big heart.

Quote taken from Salena Zito’s interview with the President on Monday, May 1, 2017. The full transcript of that interview is an addendum at the end of this article.

***

Our North American native peoples, however, had a different view of the seventh President of the United States of America. From the February, 20, 2017 issue of Indian Country Today:

A brief essay on why Andrew Jackson is one of the worst ten Presidents in United States history.

by Gale Courey Toensing • February 20, 2017

Andrew Jackson: A man nicknamed “Indian killer” and “Sharp Knife” surely deserves the top spot on a list of worst U.S. Presidents. Andrew Jackson “was a forceful proponent of Indian removal,” according to PBS. Others have a less genteel way of describing the seventh president of the United States.

“Andrew Jackson was a wealthy slave owner and infamous Indian killer, gaining the nickname ‘Sharp Knife’ from the Cherokee,” writes Amargi on the website Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. “He was also the founder of the Democratic Party, demonstrating that genocide against indigenous people is a nonpartisan issue. His first effort at Indian fighting was waging a war against the Creeks. President Jefferson had appointed him to appropriate Creek and Cherokee lands. In his brutal military campaigns against Indians, Andrew Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination. The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery. His frontier warfare and subsequent ‘negotiations’ opened up much of the southeast U.S. to settler colonialism.”

Andrew Jackson was not only a genocidal maniac against the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest, he was also racist against African peoples and a scofflaw who “violated nearly every standard of justice,” according to historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown. As a major general in 1818, Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida chasing fugitive slaves who had escaped with the intent of returning them to their “owners,” and sparked the First Seminole War. During the conflict, Jackson captured two British men, Alexander George Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, who were living among the Seminoles. The Seminoles had resisted Jackson’s invasion of their land. One of the men had written about his support for the Seminoles’ land and treaty rights in letters found on a boat. Andrew Jackson used the “evidence” to accuse the men of “inciting” the Seminoles to “savage warfare” against the U.S. He convened a “special court martial” tribunal then had the men executed. “His actions were a study in flagrant disobedience, gross inequality and premeditated ruthlessness… he swept through Florida, crushed the Indians, executed Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and violated nearly every standard of justice,” Wyatt-Brown wrote.

In 1830, a year after he became president, Jackson signed a law that he had proposed – the Indian Removal Act – which legalized ethnic cleansing. Within seven years 46,000 indigenous people were removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi. Their removal gave 25 million acres of land “to white settlement and to slavery,” according to PBS. The area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations. In the Trail of Tears alone, 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.

***

Addendum: Salena Zito’s interview with President Donald Trump was aired Monday, May 1, 2017 on Sirius XM radio:

TRUMP: They said my campaign is most like, my campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson with his campaign. And I said, “When was Andrew Jackson?” It was 1828. That’s a long time ago. That’s Andrew Jackson. And he had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and the nastiest. And unfortunately it continues.

ZITO: His wife died.

TRUMP: His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. And, you know, he was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, you know, he visited her grave every day. I visited her grave actually, because I was in Tennessee.

ZITO: Oh, that’s right, you were in Tennessee.

TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. Well, they love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.

ZITO: Yeah, he’s a fascinating —

TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why?

ZITO: Yeah —

TRUMP: People don’t ask that question. But why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

***

Hmmm … Why?

I wonder. As I also wonder about these revisionist historical observations from Mr. Trump at the outset of his remarks at a campaign stop in Buffalo on April 18, 2016:

“I wrote this out, and it’s very close to my heart because I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 711, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen in action.”

Hold the presses! He may have watched the police and firemen on 911, not to be confused with the 711 convenience store, but if so he watched it unfold on television. He was neither “down there” … he was ensconced in Trump Tower, nor did he bother to correct his 7ll gaff.

At a later Columbus, Ohio rally in November 2016, Trump said he watched the towers fall from his New York City apartment. “Many people jumped and I witnessed it, I watched that. I have a view — a view in my apartment that was specifically aimed at the World Trade Center,” Trump said. “And I watched those people jump and I watched the second plane hit … I saw the second plane hit the building and I said, ‘Wow that’s unbelievable.'”

If indeed Mr. Trump saw this event unfolding from his lofty perch in Trump Tower, he must truly have the eyes of the Eagle-in-Chief he imagines himself to be. Trump Tower is fully four miles away from the site of the former World Trade Centre.

He could, however, have watched it unfolding in real time from one of his black mirrors, confusing something he is watching on television with actually being present at the event. It could explain his continuing confusion with thinking that viewing something on his really big screen is the same as experiencing it in reality.

True, he did seem to understand that Jackson came from an earlier era, but couldn’t seem to reconcile the fact that Old Hickory. who was “really angry about what was happening in regard to the Civil War”, had in the ground for sixteen years before the Civil War began. Hard to be angry when you’re decomposing.

Hard to be President when you’re not all there.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Life With the Raven Haired Angel

 

It has been a rejuvenation over the past several months, to have met some of the most wonderful people I will have ever known right here in my own community.  I didn’t have to travel to Tibet for Xanadu meditations. I didn’t have to visit Rome for spiritual enrichment. I didn’t have to climb to Machu Pichu for to understand the brilliance of past civilizations. No, everything I needed to make me laugh, share in community, to make my heart soar like an eagle, to make me feel young again was right here in my own backyard.

Sometimes, just sitting with friends, sharing stories, breaking bread together around a table surrounded by adults and children and dogs and yes, once in a while, even the goat, is all you really need.

This past weekend, in a totally unplanned twist, while I was visiting an old friend’s new property in Caledon, he got an invitation to the home of “The Raven Haired Angel” … “Bring Skid,” she said. The next thing I knew, I was walking past their chickens and cows and horses, and goat, nuzzled by two beautiful dogs, surrounded by a pack of children running, laughing and having fun. The property was a new purchase and a work in progress. It was heaven.

A little background for those readers who think this does not sound like their idea of heaven. My father sold our farm in Northumberland County in the late 70’s. I used to help clear our fields of groundhogs so that Everett Cole could pasture his cattle on our acreage. Dogs and cows and horses and old beaters to repair and barn roofs to cover with a fresh coat of aluminum paint and space to explore. I started teaching in North York in the late sixties, a pretty tough inner city school, and our farm was my escape on the weekends.

As soon as I’d get there on a Friday night, I’d head to the back forty, with our dogs at my side, to a beautiful woodlot, a small pond, and a high point outlook;  the worries of the world would wash away. I ended up taking all of my classes from my that school camping there on the weekends, but that’s another story…

Needless to say, it was special. My parents both passed away in the early nineties and that was the last time I visited the farm. So, it brought back a flood of memories to walk this new landscape with my friend, the Raven Haired Angel. The wooded acreage behind the fields was filled with trilliums and trout lilies just beginning to bloom. Back in heaven.

***

Raven Family Wisdoms:

On watching a whirlwind of children play around her home, the farm fields, the forest trails, unfettered by constant adult leashing:

“I raise free-range children.”

On having a tough day on the job, arriving home exhausted, and discovering the goat standing in your newly finished kitchen:

“It’s a “goat-in-the-kitchen” kind of day.”

On how to judge people, as her French Mastiff licked my ear then put his head between my legs for a good jowls rub:

“Looks like he’s accepted you. Usually he bites people.”

On dealing with the acrid scent of manure drifting across the farm field:

“I have no sense of smell. But we’re still not getting pigs.”

On how to deal with the stress of the job and coming home to children’s enthusiasm and the “work in progress” property:

“Well aged Italian grape juice.”

From the Raven’s spouse on comparing his fabulous beef sausages to venison pepperettes:

“My sausages are better; the venison pepperettes are delicious but they give you those real bad explosive farts the next day.”     Note to self: only go for the venison if you are taking a long hike the next day, and stay at the back.

 ***

Postscript: A Raven Family discussion about pigs:

Spouse: “We are getting those pigs,”  Raven: “We are NOT getting pigs.”   Spouse: “Oh yes we are, we ARE getting those pigs.”

Stay tuned , dear readers; I’m betting that I won’t be seeing pigs there anytime soon. Raven Haired Angels have their ways.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

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A Tale of Two Papers

 

Note: a modification of this article first appeared in

JustSayinCaledon.com

***

Like the classic Dickens’ novel begins:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.…”

Charles Dickens was talking about 1780’s Paris and London, but he could just as easily have included my little home town of Caledon. The best of times are when I meet some of the most intelligent, empathetic, talented people in the country right here in my own community. The worst of times are when I encounter the misogynist, racist, ignorant “good old boys” club ranting in a family restaurant (see my blog stories).

Recently, it was the best of times when the Town’s Integrity Commissioner handed down his ruling on the behaviour and actions of a certain Councillor. It was accepted by Council along with the necessary consequences. That should have been the end of the story. But then we were reminded about the worst of times, when a local newspaper pulled the scab off a wound that was just starting to heal.

We should be looking to an intelligent press to bring us valid community news, educate us ethically on critical issues of importance, and keep us informed of opportunities for public input into community matters that concern us. I would ask our citizens to judge the level of commitment to these goals as seen clearly this past week in the two local newspapers that serve our community.

To be fair, both community newspapers regularly give us advance notice of public meetings, by-law changes, and all notices distributed by the Town. Beyond that, they are as different as night and day. Take the April 20, 2017 issues for example.

One paper’s front page features a group of children taking part in an Easter egg hunt, with the cover story about a school closing; the other paper headlines: “Councillor docked pay in breach of Code complaints”, with that as the front page story. The difference in our two community papers couldn’t be clearer – one is “share and ahhh”; the other is “shock and awe.” As a Star reporter once told me when I challenged why there weren’t more good news stories on the front page, he answered, “It’s not our job to report every safe landing at Pearson.”

Our Easter Egg newspaper, let’s call it Paper One, seems to highlight good news, albeit still publishing a far right wing column by Claire Hoy, once dubbed “Bill O’Reilly north.”  The other paper, we’ll call it Paper Two, seems to have taken a more sensational approach to the news, and a more confrontational stand against the Town and our public servants.

For example, after the last public Town Council meeting, when the Integrity Commissioner handed down his ruling on the misbehaviour of a Town Councillor, prescribing pecuniary costs and a requirement for retraining, Paper Two asked the totally irrelevant and way past its due date for freshness question: “Do you think Coun. Shaughnessy is guilty of violating the Code of Conduct?” and for its readers to respond at editorial@caledonenterprise.com

WTF! Hold the Presses! The Report of the Integrity Commissioner is final. The Council has received the report. This is not up for discussion or a public commentary! Whether the generally uninformed public thinks the good Councillor is guilty or not is irrelevant. She has been judged and found wanting. Period. Move on.

Normally, asking the public to participate in any information gathering of the community pulse is a fine idea. But what happens when the question asked is both irrelevant and past its due date?

For example, “Do you think that the Archangel Lucifer was guilty of rebelling against God?” or “Do you think that Prometheus was guilty of stealing fire from the Olympian Gods?” or “Do you think that Donald Smith got drunk after he hammered the last spike to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway?”

Seriously, none of us were there and it was all a long time ago. Some days we’re in heaven, other days are hell, we have fire, and a railway runs coast to coast. Irrelevant and past due date. Move on.

What possible community good could be served by asking such a question of the Paper Two’s readership?  OK, if you have read the complete Report by the Integrity Commissioner, and if you fully understand the role of the Integrity Commissioner and the Ontario Ombudsman,  and if you have read every public document related to this case, and if you are aware that on April 30, 2015 the same Councillor was disciplined by Peel Region for similar misbehaviour and publically apologized (all on record with the Peel Region clerk), and if you were in attendance on the day the Report was handed down and received by Council, then maybe you can cast a legitimate YES or NO … but still irrelevant.

The Councillor has been found in violation of the Code of Conduct, and has been given the appropriate sanctions; she now has the choice to change behaviour or face more onerous repercussions.

Whether the newspaper survey thinks she is guilty or not doesn’t matter in the slightest. We deserve intelligent questions that are relevant and current. Otherwise we get garbage in, garbage out.

We deserve better!

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Preserve, Conserve, Renew

 

The year was 1969. I was in my second year of teaching in Canada when an American environmentalist named John McConnell proposed a global holiday to celebrate peace, justice and the integrity of creation. It was named, simply, Earth Day.  In October, 1969, at the National UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, McConnell announced his intention to organize a worldwide awareness campaign to honour the diversity of life on Earth.

The organizers selected March 21, the vernal equinox, the return of the light and a renewal of life in our little corner of the Northern Hemisphere. That day, in the city of San Francisco, McConnell made the first Earth Day Proclamation about the need to preserve, conserve, and renew the threatened ecosystems upon which all life on Earth depends.

Those were heady days for the emerging environmental movement in North America. Acid rain, oil spills, topsoil erosion, groundwater depletion, contamination of the oceans, and air pollution dominated the headlines. The passion for change was thick in the air as we demanded social justice, nuclear disarmament, and environmental literacy. They truly were the days of peace, love, and groovy. I missed Woodstock, but my Grade Five class added their voices to that first Earth Day Proclamation, still celebrated today on March 21 by the United Nations.

At the same time that McConnell was organizing, a young American law student named Denis Hayes was conscripted by Senator Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day marches in the United States on April 22 to coordinate with Arbor Day.

“The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” It succeeded beyond his expectations, Millions joined in celebratory marches across the U.S.A. and Canada, my class included, to demand an end to unsustainable exponential economic growth.

It was the beginning of massive arbor day tree plantings, garbage-less lunch campaigns, recycling programs, and resource conservation projects from classrooms to business offices.

In June 1970 McConnell created the Earth Day Proclamation for worldwide use and awareness. The Earth Day Proclamation declared the principles and responsibilities the signers undertook to care for the Earth. It was signed by 36 world leaders, including UN Secretary General U Thant, Margaret Mead, John Gardner and others. The last signature by Mikhail Gorbachev was added in 2000.

Earth Day indeed had increased environmental awareness in America, and in December 2, 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of Arbor Earth Day, more than 200 million people in 141 countries participated in celebrations.

Few remember though, that it was the partnership of John F. Kennedy and Rachel Carson that tilled the soil that would become our Earth Days. When Kennedy championed Silent Spring and defended Carson against the rage of the chemical industry, it began to stir an awareness across North America that it was time to get informed, stand up and speak out for the defense of our Home Planet. In 1963, Congress passed the Clean Air Act to deal with cross-border pollution from the Ohio valley into the Great Lakes and Canada. The war on acid rain had begun in earnest, and Big Coal was not happy.

On, November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Barely six months later, on April 14, 1964, Rachel Carson died of cancer. The seeds of our modern environmental awareness had been planted and they germinated in 1970 with our two Earth Day celebrations. Perhaps these two days are as much a tribute to Kennedy and Carson as to Earth. They serve as a constant reminder that greater love hath no one than this.

These Earth Days should remind us of the sacrifices made by women and men  around the world, like the legendary Gaura Devi of India’s Chipko (tree-hugging) movement, or Wangari Maathai of Kenya sowing seeds of hope across Africa, or Lois Gibbs of Niagara Falls, New York, who exposed the toxic wastes of the Love Canal, or Jacques Cousteau and Sam Labudde and Rob Stewart who fought for the sanctity of our ocean ecosystems, or Jeton Anjain of the Marshall Islands, sick to death with cancer, fighting to expose the dangers of nuclear waste and nuclear war.

This is what our Earth Days are about. It’s a lot more than planting one little sapling that may not make it through the summer, but looks good in a political photo-op with smiling children. It’s about speaking truth to power. It’s about campaigning for the security of the EPA, The same EPA that brought us the Clean Air Act and is now threatened with castration by Donald Trump and Scott Pruit. It’s about making certain that Kevin O’Leary never becomes a candidate for political leadership in Canada. It’s about standing up to hate speech and hateful actions that bring fear and division into our lives and thoughts. It’s about supporting the building of sustainable communities, of learning how to live elegantly with less, of realizing at last that, as E.F. Schumacher tried to teach us years ago, that “Small is Beautiful” in home and national budgets.

Earth Days are a celebration of participatory democracy, honouring the responsibility of a people to protect their families, their communities, their environment. A wise mentor once told me, “You know, we have no rights without responsibilities first. I do not have the right to clean water unless I make sure I’m not putting any pollutants into the global chain. I don’t have the right to breathe clean air if I leave my SUV idling to keep my winter heat up, or my summer air conditioning on.”

Game on. Time to accept our individual and collective responsibilities and truly celebrate the miraculous beauty of our Home Planet in words and deeds and responsible political actions.

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