A Picture is Worth …

There is a beauty to political cartoons that captures the essence of a moment in one visual that a thousand words could not explain. A few days ago, I asked a young friend, artist and blacksmith-in-training Chris Dywanski, to see if he could come up with images that could capture the ludicrous nature of a megalomanic dictator using a Finnish leaf rake to stop the California wildfires, or a magic wand that could bring back GM factories.

This is the true magic of creativity. Fellow organisms on Planet Earth, I introduce to you political cartoonist, Chris Dywanski.

  • Images are copyright protected.

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This “Resistance” is Futile!

Political commentary by Skid Crease originally written for the King Weekly Sentinel

***

Whether it be scripted in an X-Men comic, spoken by the Borg collective in a Star Trek movie, or spewed in an Ann Coulter rant, villains love to intone the phrase, “Resistance is futile.” In reality, resistance is rarely futile, it just sometimes takes generations to correct the damage.

Trumpeting the title; “The resistance” Maclean’s magazine published their December 2018 issue featuring a cover photo with most of the political fossil fools in Canada: Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer, Jason Kenney, Scott Moe, and Brian Pallister. A collection of provincial and federal climate change deniers and skeptics who are sabotaging any hope Canada had for a national Climate Change strategy.

If there is any “resistance” here it is to the truth. It is resistance to scientific literacy and science based policy decisions. It is a sacrifice of the environment to the economy, to the corporate power and profit of the oil, gas, and coal lobbies.

This comes at the same time that the US Climate Assessment Report – compiled with help from numerous US government agencies and departments – contradicts the White House Trumpian view of climate change as a hoax perpetrated by environmentalists with a political agenda. This report warns of dire consequences to the U.S. economy, human health, and national security if policies to mitigate accelerating climate change are not enacted immediately.

This comes at a time when Brazil elects the far-right Bolsonaro as its populist president who wants to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement on climate change goals. And in Mexico we have the newly elected left-leaning President Obrador walking a double-edged sword between environmental security and the economic benefits of oil. There is not a single industrialized country in the world that is meeting its commitments to the Paris Agreement. Canada is nowhere close to reaching its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

True, some European and African countries and individual districts and states and provinces have made valiant efforts in reduction. But the world collective is heading towards a 5ºC temperature increase by the end of this century. That will be catastrophic for both the ecology and the economy of this planet. This is a nothing less than a war between the needs of the global commons and the special interests of a wealthy few.

“When war comes the first casualty is truth.” This is seen clearly in the denial by many of our political leaders in the truths of  scientific research and indigenous wisdoms . It is also seen in the erosion of social justice and economic policies designed to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

it is seen most chillingly in the death of Jamal Khashoggi and the lack of unanimous political leadership to bring to justice and hold to account his murderers. Bear witness. This was the world leadership saying, “It’s too bad that a Saudi Prince ordered the murder of a New York Times journalist speaking out for human rights, but we have to consider the economic benefits of doing business with an oil rich country.” The President of the United States refuses to listen to the recordings of the murder, refuses to accept international and his own intelligence agencies assessments that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the murder, and basically condones the political assassination of dissident journalists.

This is the same president who calls journalists “the enemies of the people.” This is the same president who gives birthday cake smiles to President Putin of Russia, while failing to honour his own fallen soldiers. This is the same president who denies accelerating climate change impacts in a fire-ravaged California, proclaiming, “Let them rake leaves!” No courage, No integrity, no empathy, no reality, no leadership.

The federal cycle in Canada is coming up soon; by 2022, our next election cycle in Ontario, I will be in my mid-seventies. My youngest grandchild will be just turning seven. As the end of the century approaches, at the point when these climate catastrophes will be peaking, he will be my age. He may by then have children and grandchildren of his own.

Hopefully by then, the sins of myopic madmen will be only the subject of nightime “never again” cautionary tales. Hopefully by then, the real resistance, the wisdom of seven generation elders and the actions of caring and intelligent people will have restored some balance of love and empathy and stewardship for our Home Planet.

That kind of resistance is not futile.

The way I see it.

***

*Image copyright of Macleans 

Skid Crease is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, an internationally renowned speaker, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

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Lexie’s Mission

Dear Readers,

This is a special call out from my friend and editor, Mark Pavilons, on behalf of his young daughter.

Whenever possible, she makes a trip to places in the world where chronic food shortage and famine and conflict are the norm. While most of us may wish we could go to these places to help, few of us have the initiative or the time or the passion to complete that journey.

Instead of fighting the Black Friday crowds, this may be a good seasonal alternative for gift giving. You can view Lexie’s Mission at this website.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-local-volunteer-help-others-in-rwanda

 

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Lest We Forget

Once a month I meet my friend Bob Parkins at the Naked Café for an elder’s chat about the local news and views. Our last meeting was a melding of minds over the results of the 2018 municipal election, the joys of backyard hens, and our upcoming Remembrance Day.

Bob began to reminisce about growing up in England during the bombings of the Second World War, about raising chickens and growing their own food for basic rations. Besides food shortages, rural Wirral Cheshire, where he lived, was also not immune from the bombs that plagued London during the blitz, as the bombers would drop their loads anywhere to save fuel for the trip back to Germany.

I told him the story of my Dad, an RCAF Hurricane fighter pilot who got shot down over France in 1941 and spent the next three and a half years in prison camps. The first night of captivity, however was spent in a Chateau in Lilliers, France being honoured in the company of young Luftwaffe pilots who wanted to know all about Canada, and hockey, and canoe trips in the wilderness. He often told me this story, reflecting that if they had met under other circumstances, they would have just been friends.

Then Bob shared this story with me, and I will leave it in his own words. It is the story of Alfred Utsch, a German POW being held in England during the Christmas of 1946…

***

“Alfred Utsch served in the Luftwaffe as a ground crew technician. He was Initially captured by the Americans and interned in a POW camp in Mississippi. He was transferred to the UK after the war ended to await repatriation back to Germany.  In 1946 he was one of a large group of POWs based in an old Royal Air Force training camp about 5 miles from where my family was living in Wirral Cheshire (north west England, west of Liverpool)

The prisoners in the camp were trusted and reliable and were allowed to leave the camp during daylight hours but had to be back by nightfall as there was a curfew in effect.  It was about this time of year when the authorities at the camp contacted the local churches to ask if any families would be willing to invite one of the prisoners into their home for Christmas Day.  My mother after some thought, volunteered to act as a host.

Our relatives thought she was crazy but my Dad thought it was a nice thing to do and I was 11 years old at the time and couldn’t wait to meet whoever it might be. Alfred was dropped off by car at around 11 am Christmas morning and we were told he would be picked up by 5 pm.

Right from the start we all liked Alfred.  I thought he was in his 40s but on reflection now I think he was probably in his early 30s.  he spoke very good English and told us that back home he was a plumber (He pronounced it plumBer).  Before long it was as if he a was a friend who had just turned up after a long absence.  He played our piano and could sing very well.

The high point was his rendition of Silent Night in German and English.   Having Christmas Dinner with our family was very emotional for him and he looked forward to being back home the following year with his wife and young son.  They lived near Cologne and fortunately had survived the war.

After Alfred went back to the camp that afternoon, we all agreed what a wonderful experience it had been and although he was a German and had been the “Enemy” he was really just like us.  Just wanting to get on with his life.

In the months following in 1947 up to the time he was repatriated, Alfred visited us many times.  He did some plumbing work for my Dad but he was also handy with a paint brush and helping in the garden.  My Dad even loaned him a bicycle so he could get back and forth from the Camp to our home. My uncle had a car and we would include Alfred on trips into North Wales for a picnic.  We really missed him when the time came for him to go home.

Later, after he had arrived home, his wife sent us a beautiful letter thanking us for the kindness we had shown Alfred.”

***

Peace on Earth to beings of good will. The way I see it.

Skid Crease, Storyteller

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Ordinary Miracle

The year was 1969, my second year of teaching with the North York Board of Education, I had been promoted from a portable to an actual classroom inside the school. On the day the miracle took place, I was reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web to my Grade Five class. A story about a young girl’s love and a pig and a spider and a  rat and life on a farm. And when I finished the story, I burst into tears.

The whole class gathered around me, crying too. “It’s OK Mr. Crease. It’s OK.” And what they were really saying was, it’s OK for a teacher to be real to care to show genuine love to cry to smile to get ticked off to be human. It’s OK Mr. Crease.

Charlotte’s Web is really a story about friendship and life. We live and grow and die and maybe along the way we get to have a friend. Now, keep in mind that I was not a big fan of spiders or rats at the time I started reading this story to my class. By the time I burst into tears I was converted. Spoiler alert: as all pregnant spiders do, Charlotte the spider lays her egg sack and dies after having saved her humble friend Wilbur the spring pig with her eloquent web spinning.

When I cried in front of my students that day, it confirmed both the power of story and the power of friendship. As E.B. White wrote at the conclusion of the story, “It’s not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

My salary that year was just under $5000, so I was living in an affordable little basement apartment near the school. Later that fall, a spider laid an egg sack on the side door of the house where I was staying. I protected it. One warm morning in the spring as I was leaving for school, I checked on the egg sack and noticed it was vibrating and little spiders were starting to crawl out. I ran back into the house and called Mrs. Besso in the school office. “Please have someone cover my first class, I’m having babies!” I ran back outside and watched.

I watched for over an hour as hundreds of tiny spiders sent their silks into the air and floated away just like in the story. It was all true. They were little aerialists like Charlotte and her children. I remember calling out, “No, don’t leave!” But soon they had all gone and I had to go to work. My Principal forgave me. He thought it was “the teachable moment” and the class ran with it for the rest of the day – Charlotte and Wilbur and even Templeton the rat became their heroes – be a good friend and a good writer.

A few weeks later as I was checking out the garden at the back of the house, I noticed several little spider webs. Just like in the story, a few had stayed at home to keep me company.

At the end of a movie based on the book, Sarah McLachlan sings a beautiful song that captures the wonder of it all as only her voice could bring to life:

It’s just another ordinary miracle today.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, storyteller

 

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