Tag Archives: democracy

On depression, the risk of hope, the covid vaccine, and the blessed sweetness of chickadees


So, the electoral college seems to have spoken, but Mr. Sore Loser is still sulking in the White House and spewing hatred, firing anyone who dares to not be visibly supportive. People call him ‘unprecedented’ but I think we have seen this sort of behaviour elsewhere in other autocratic dictatorships. Sulkiness in North Korea, for example, or Russia…At least he hasn’t (yet) taken to poisoning the opposition – but he could be accused of inspiring attacks.

So it STILL seems like we are trapped in suspended animation, until after the Georgia elections, until after the inauguration…until the orange terror is contained and his whole family are in jail. I still can’t sleep and I don’t even live in the US!

Meanwhile, here in Canada, we watch Covid still streaming live across all formats, people getting restless after months of seclusion and having to hang out with (or without) their families, and the vaccine is waved like a flag of triumph though distribution will likely take more months. You can feel the breeze of hope, though – a slight freshness in the stale at home air, a crispness in the nostrils that hasn’t been there for such a long time.

Unfortunately, the doubters will use this as an excuse to go wander freely everywhere, coughing and spitting and doing all the things disgusting humans do…(Is anyone else grateful for the months of spit-free sidewalks? And why do men DO that? Do they ooze secretions? But I digress.) So despite that fluttering flag, there’s a whole lot more dying to go through still. Hard to be optimistic, with the combo of distribution inequalities and challenges and disgruntled humans. Sometimes I wonder why we were given ‘free will’ (a nebulous concept if you ever have a good look at it). Perhaps the gods like a good laugh.

I just participated in a survey about depression and Covid and after answering the many questions about sleep and initiative and joy (all in short supply), the interviewer asked if there was anything I could add about the situation. I had to add Trump. I suspect the entire world is still chewing through their fingernails about him. Covid seems small in comparison with the degradation of democracy, despite the huge and growing human cost.

even the dogs are stressed…

In amongst all the sturm und drang (bless you, Wikipedia, and I did donate and remind everyone else to send them a wee penny), it’s hard to maintain that feeling of hope, that thing with feathers.

Until you can watch the real things with feathers. There’s something miraculous about tiny fluffy birds surviving the winters here. I had a chickadee sit on my hand the other day (while investigating the seeds I was holding) and it let me touch its wee skinny cold leg. I wanted to cup it in my hand and warm it, as the boy did in the story by Helen Humphreys (The Frozen Thames – a glorious book and so worth reading). Of course, I’d end up giving it a heart attack from fear, so instead I just willed my hand to radiate heat upward and poured more seeds into it.

If only I could offer a warm perch to all creatures, human or not. At least until the chill that was 2020 dissipates…

And so…or waiting waiting waiting


We seem to be stuck in a holding pattern- stuck in a growing pandemic, stuck with the defeated US president clinging to power, even stuck in autumn- we’ve had warm weather here in Ontario and, though lovely, I can’t help but feel like winter is waiting on the edge, ready to spring.

It all reminds me of a time we were in the Everglades watching a nature scene take place before us. A frog was catching insects. A snake was watching the frog, ready to spring. An egret was watching the snake, preparing an attack, and behind the egret we could see the watchful eyes of an alligator, looking for dinner.

In one instant, the frog leapt for a big, the snake leapt for the frog, the egret pounced on the snake, and slurp, the food chain played out. Fortunately for the egret, the alligator was just that bit too slow, and missed taking his place at the top.

So here I am feeling a bit like that egret. Or is it the frog? Waiting for winter to leap and release the Covid virus again, all while knowing there’s a democratic confrontation awaiting in the wings to gobble the whole disaster up.

It’s unsettling.

Will the alligator be able to take the whole mass down? Or will we have a narrow escape as the egret did and fly away with a full tummy and the will to fight another day?

Or will everything leap forward and manage to continue unabated- winter, Covid, democracy-undoing…

In trying to remain optimistic, but I can feel the tension like the sound of a violin A string, scraping along the bow.

Fighting cynicism


I’m a bit of a Pollyanna. I like to see the good in the world, be cheery, believe that people are generally not evil as a first choice.

But it’s getting harder and harder to keep my upper lip stiff. It seems every time I turn on the radio or see the news, it’s more and more stories about man’s inhumanity to man. Small and large atrocities, seemingly most often committed by soft white men against, well, everyone else.

It’s enough to make me a raving frothing feminist. Not that we women are often any better when in charge. It’d just maybe make a change, like shifting political leadership – one party is much like the other – and often it’s worth changing them around just to sever the lines of corruption that form over time and gradual erosion of ideals through the everyday squashing of bureaucracy.

Maybe more women in charge would change the old patterns of white male supremacy, force a different world view. Hard to know. Maggie Thatcher didn’t seem to help things…

I have a friend who reminds me often that men are as abused as women, often more abused. True, but it’s still men who are doing the abusing, for the most part. So though men do suffer, in wars and prisons and even in marriages, the situation is still being caused by men.

Why?
Why do people in positions of power and government feel they can act without regard for those they control? Why does our current government feel that, in a democracy, they have the right to squash all debate or intelligent discussion?

And most importantly, why do we let them get away with it, these soft/hard white men? Why don’t we say no, loudly, and stop them?

Perhaps it’s the loss of hope, the soaking cynicism, that pollutes us, makes us feel too toxic to revolt. The people in power know this, and crush and belittle hope. They mock protests, refuse to answer questions, treat the rest of the world as ever so slightly mentally incompetent.

I probably wouldn’t mind so much if they did it with wit, as in Yes, Minister. Or with joy, like those dictators who surround their palaces with wild triple size photos of themselves. But they are dull, dull, dull, these grey people. Despite the power they attach to like overfull leeches.

And perhaps that is the most discouraging thing of all.

Ah, Jack, we hardly knew ye…


A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world.
John Updike

I am so sad to hear about the loss of Jack Layton, a man who DID take upon himself the woe of the people, who fought for those people, and who had a vision for Canada that included people who live with challenges of all sorts. Whether you agree with his politics or not (and, full disclosure here, I do!), you’ve got to admire Jack. He was a scrapper, but not a dirty fighter – he stayed true to his ideals, even when faced with opposition from without and even from within his party. He was honourable. As politicians go, he had heart, integrity, and courage.

We are going to miss him so.

I had the pleasure to meet Jack and Olivia when I was briefly intensely active with the NDP. He was charming, Olivia even more so, but you could not doubt his conviction. I like that in a person. He knew what he wanted to see, he worked tirelessly to get it. Along the way, he listened to people, took their advice, grew into a statesman, adapted.

Some people faulted him for that. I know those old-time socialists, who feel that even speaking to a non-member was sacrilege. I’ve met them. They are intransigent, as closed-minded as the right-wing that is in charge of the country at present. One of the things that impressed me most about Jack was that he was able to adapt, based on what people told him. He was able to clearly show a vision for the country, based on what he had learned.

We’ve had so few leaders of late. Pierre Trudeau, Ed Broadbent, maybe Frank McKenna. What we’ve been dealing with are managers. I was one of those once, and that’s not what is needed to lead a country. It involves endless miniature steps in the dark, with no idea of where you are going, justifying every inch forward with forms in triplicate while lying to those above you and below you in the chain to make yourself and your team look good. It almost killed me. It is killing Canada.

I had hope, soaring hope, when Jack was elected Leader of the Opposition. I thought, finally, someone with the ability to see the big picture, to push for it, with the strength to make it happen. Unfortunately, the battle to get there seemed to exhaust his strength, encourage the cancer to sneak in hidden pathways. I’m so glad he was able to see his triumph, but so destroyed we won’t have a chance to see him grow into it. And I am in fear of the tyranny of the Harper Conservatives, their false ways, their hatred for knowledge and science and progress and people, their love for money.

I know there are other leaders in the wings in the NDP. I’m hoping they have the courage to step forward to try to fill Jack’s place, though it will be difficult. We need a strong opposition now, more than ever.

It’s not enough to just be sad, to wish for things to be different.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
Ralph Nader

I take up Jack’s challenge, in honour of his sacrifice. It’s time to get back into the political ring, to fight for what we need for the least of us. Or even the middle of us. Or at least to CARE about where we in Canada go, with this great country of ours. What about you?

We’re sure gonna miss you, Jack.