On geese, and horrible people, and fear for the future

9 08 2017

B3aAGO4CIAABRHL.jpg-largeI’m not ordinarily an anxious person. Life flows by and stuff happens and it bothers me, but I don’t usually have the sense of creeping dread that envelops me now.

It seems like human beings are losing their compass if indeed we ever had one.  Of course, there is the madness south of our Canadian border. The opening of a Pandora’s box of latent racism and sexism and general horribleness that is likely to get us into a war sooner than later. (question: is it okay to leave most of the government seats empty and run it like a dictatorship? Why hasn’t anyone stopped this?)

And, with the example of a badly out of control, ignorant and nasty president, suddenly the rest of the planet thinks they can let their ghouls out. It’s horrifying to see all the gains by women and people of colour and GLBTQ+ folks being eroded day by day.  And although there is resistance, it doesn’t seem to matter!

sullivans-pond-geeseHere where I live, the gangs are back. There are regular knifings and random attacks. That’s bad enough, but some jerk used his car to deliberately squash the geese who live peaceably in our local pond. Everyone loves the geese. We all pause and let them cross the road. It’s a big event when they come out of their winter home and waddle to the pond.

How does one explain to a kid about this jerk’s actions? Or the president’s actions? Or the needless shunning of one group of people by another?

How can we explain it to ourselves? How can we be rendered so powerless so quickly? Or was it an illusion of power all along?

I’m kind of a Pollyanna type. I like to see the good in everyone. It’s becoming harder and harder to spot it amongst the daily insults that I see being visited on people every day.

I could cry about the driver and the geese. What made him/her do that? (though I am sure it was a man, somehow). And yet, that’s a small thing compared to the risk of war that will kill many more living things. Or the current wars that are already laying countries waste. Or the horrific treatment of refugees who have fled from starvation. Or the incredible death and destruction we are causing in our oceans and on land through selfishness and greed.

Honestly, I am not an end times gal. But what is going on now makes me almost wish it were the end times. It’s getting too heartbreaking to watch.

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Hot Milky Tea

21 02 2017

cup-milk-tea-20969682I’ve been feeling so unsettled lately. The horror of DT’s first month reminds me of those other DTs – not that I’ve had them, mind you, but I’ve seen people in the throes of delirium tremens and it isn’t pretty.

I’m kind hoping that some of the people who voted the way they did are feeling a bit of that now – having over drunk the wine of hatred, they are swiftly and agonizingly detoxing as they see what’s going on.

Though I rather suspect not.

1418268334632And the world writhes. Like my stomach.
Used to be that people would recommend hot sweet tea for shock. It solved everything from post-amputation pain to a sliver in your thumb. I’ve taken to drinking it in the morning now. Coffee is too much for my agitated stomach.
I don’t drink it sweet – but milky is almost as good for shock, I hear, and oh so soothing to my tum.

In the back of my mind, I hear, homeostasis, homeostasis. All of life tends toward balance. It also tends toward entropy, which is where I feel we are now – the population finally realizing that democracy is a participatory sport, trying to fit decades of “just lying back and thinking of England” in with brains now realizing they don’t like what is happening, that they prefer to be part of the choice to be fucked over.

images-12It’s both exciting and terrifying, a race to some end. Having lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and been told how to cower under my desk in event of an atomic attack, having lived in Germany during the Cold War and been given the pamphlet telling us how to survive in case of war – painting our windows white to repel the flash, storing 6 months of food and water, seeking out bomb shelters (which were marked everywhere in Germany and in Boston where I grew up), having sat through the test of the emergency broadcast system frequently on TV, I have a bit of remembered feelings of nuclear fear. They are here again, a niggling thought in the back of my mind. And in others’, too. Sales of bomb shelters are on the rise.

images-10Or maybe my fears are foolish and all this will result in a safer and more involved world, one that has looked into darkness and rebelled. Maybe this is the final impotent spurt of pale white men with big guts and empty souls, those worshippers of credit cards and such (read American Gods by Neil Gaiman).

The question that makes me agitated is, which will it be?

Thus the need for soothing tea. I’m not sure who to be more frightened of – DT, or the people behind him who are working double fast to remove all controls on business, or the appeaser countries, fearful of losing trade, so tossing self-respect in the wind and crawling cravenly to make peace
with a bully.

In any case, there’s little I can do about it, other than write to various representatives, protest where I can, make art, and drink my tea. And enjoy the chirping spring birds, the warmth of the sun, the icy snow, the taste of wine and cheese, the faces of my friends. We are living in blessed times in so many ways here in North America. They may be the last we have, whether through ecological change or rapid disaster.

Mind you, we’ve thought that before. Every age seems to think it is teetering on the edge of the abyss. Maybe this outing of our baser instincts, this example of how far our neglect has let us come, will cause the revolution we truly need to have happen.

Or maybe we’ll simply sink back into our couches, tired from all the protesting, and sip our milky sweet tea.

Let’s hope not. Cozy  and tummy-soothing though it is.

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Remembrance Day

11 11 2016

14947404_1399040276803357_200309664430578209_nI’m always conflicted on this day. I feel the sorrow of the families who lost fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, in the various wars. My dad never talked about the war, though his service eventually killed him, too – radiated while working on radar towers, he died of lymphoma. The blame was clear enough for him to receive a small pension for it. Many of my uncles on my mother’s side survived the initial war only to die of illnesses caused by their participation in it. Others suffered capture and lived with the trauma of that for the rest of their lives.

Of course, many didn’t come home, and that was terrible. Poor young lads. Poor smooth-faced babies, forced to kill or be killed, some not even knowing what it was really about. Ordered into hell by older men, far from the front.

But my conflict comes from the “Lest We Forget” statement. Because it seems hypocritical, wrong, as we bomb Syria into dust, as holocausts blow through Africa and 1224a9362bcc40fea71bb6290f12c89f_18South America and Afghanistan and the middle east and we are all okay with that. We continue to send young people to fight old people’s wars, we kill them, we neglect to look after their lives after they are injured, and that’s only the official combatants. Those with the real boots on the ground, the people who live in the countries we fight our proxy wars and wars over oil and more – those we don’t care about at all. We’re lucky if we even think about them, let alone remember them.

We support governments who fight the battles of the oligarchy, who kill to support business, who support systemic violence that rapes the developing world and damages its people.

And then we vote in governments who continually refuse to support the veterans in real time. Broken veterans have to scramble for resources; their families are collaterally damaged.

elephant-dog-kindnessWe talk about how the battle at Vimy is where we grew together as a country. No, I argue. When we voted in universal health care and the social safety net is when we became us, Canada. When we showed caring can win over selfishness, when good will won over violence and self-interest.

And yet, every November 11th we wear a poppy and make mealy mouthed statements about remembering our veterans. I cry every time I hear the last post. We stand for two minutes, feeling all sad and respectful, and then quickly switch on our phones and leap back into a life that guarantees more deaths.

We do forget. We do break faith with those who died. McRae wrote his poem at the beginning of the war, when all was filled with optimism, before the millions of deaths caused us to reconsider. For a moment. Until the next war.

We need to redefine what the torch John McRae describes could be – not the torch of war, but the torch of love. We need to stop the endless killing.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.” John McRae

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Gnawing my fingertips

8 11 2016

images-10My nails are long since gone…..

I’ve been dreading this election Tuesday for months. I live in Canada and thus can only watch, horrified, as a rude, lying, idiotic man bullies his way through towards President, making all of his policies (if any) sound like “I know I am and so are you” schoolyard yells. Or whenever he is told of his past behaviour, he just bully-cartoon-2015-1denies it, like we don’t have a film record. It’s bizarre.

But some people do think he’d make a good president, I hear. Migods. Surely the American people can’t think that someone who makes money off of ripping others off is a success story? Or an accused rapist and admitted assaulter is good to send out into the world as their spokesperson?

But then I remember the American dream. The one that was sung to me when I lived there. The off-key tune that: everyone makes their own success; losers deserve it; and if you win, God’s on your side. It is a horrible, selfish dream, the kind of one you suck on like a thumb when you are curled up in the da51uphka8al-_sx319_bo1204203200_rk, chewing over some hurt. It is a gray-green dream, the colour of jealousy and pride, two of those deadly sins we hear about now and then. And it’s a white person’s dream, a white man’s dream. Everyone else knows that, sometimes, no matter how hard you pull on those bootstraps, you may not “make it”. You may not be rich or famous, which appears to be the only goal worth having. Well, that and heaven.

If you choose to avoid wealth, you are obviously sick. Good people are those that make millions and then dole it out in dribs and drabs. They are applauded, while those that suffered at minimum wage and long hours and poverty gaze up in adoration, forgetting the whip…

58660647And what of those very religious? I have a family member who believes that if God loves you, He (it is a male God, of course) will make you rich. My family member isn’t rich. How horrifying that must be, to think that therefore God must not like you. How damning. How angry it must make you at those you see as less deserving who are wealthier than you. Surely they cheated somehow, or were given the job because of special interests. It can’t be that YOU are not competent or prepared or the right fit. No never, because God loves you and so you are perfect.

It breaks my heart.

I’m also watching the races for the Senate. I have an irrational desire for a Democratic sweep – irrational because of the millions spent to prevent such a thing. I hear the GOP saying they will block everything if they get in and Ms. C wins. Childish and horrible. A waste of the taxpayer’s money they seek to protect. Or so they say.

It amazes me that President Obama was able to accomplish what he did, despite the racist rants and rebellion of the right. It sorrows me that he wasn’t able to accomplish a lot more. It enrages me that the block is by conservative men who want to control women’s bodies by preventing liberal appointees to the Supreme Court. Suspend Roe v. Wade, they cry, because life is precious. Until, that is, it is born, and then we can starve it, shoot it, beat it into submission…

But pgodzilla_zpsag7wurjbrimarily, I’m gnawing my fingertips because of the violence validated by the media and one candidate in this race. I worry for friends and relatives and everyone else too, if the situation flares out of control. Everyone seems to be packing a gun south of the border, and tempers are frayed. I’m hoping that people won’t go rioting or marshall up the militias because, somehow, having an uncivilized monster run for President has made it even more okay to attack those weaker than you. Or different from you. Or those who “took your job.”

But if they do, the media will be there, licking its hungry lips, making media darlings out of the worst of the worst. They should be ashamed.

The US has been fighting the “war on terror” for years, yet hasn’t trimmed the roots of terrorism within its own borders. I pray that poisonous tree will not blossom tonight.

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First entry, #NYCMidnightflashchallenge, a.k.a. “The Grand Derangement”

2 08 2015

It had to be historical fiction, in a secret bunker, and involve a bag of coins. So here goes:

Picard - 4The Grand Derangement

Synopsis: In 1758, the British expelled thousands of French Acadiens from their farmlands in Nova Scotia to places all over the eastern coastline, separating families and allowing many to die. Anastasie, her daughter Marie-Madeleine, and her cousin Marie-Josée are sent to freezing George’s Island with two hundred other women and children and must use their wits to survive.

Marie-Madeleine shivered and tugged her scarf more tightly around her thin shoulders. “Maman? Why won’t the soldiers let us inside? It’s freezing!”

Anastasie Bourq pulled her daughter in closer. “They say they don’t have space in the barracks, Marie-Madeleine. I only hope they will send your father back soon so he can speak to them in their English.”

It was November 30, 1760, and the Bourqs and two hundred other Acadien women and children shivered on the slopes of Île a la Raquette, what the English called George’s Island, after their king. The only man with them, the Abbé Francois le Guerre, had managed a warm berth in one of the warehouses – not comfortable for sure, but better than out here on the wind-swept ground.

Anastasie remembered well when the English soldiers had pulled them from their churches, how they had taken her husband, Joseph, and the men, and sent the women and children to this island. Already twenty were dead from exposure.

Anastasie’s cousin, Marie-Josée, spoke some English and went to the Barracks, seeking warmth. She had been gone for days when Anastasie heard her shouting at them across the field.

“I thought that was you.” Marie-Josée hugged her cousin. She looked demented, her clothing torn and dirty, her eyes and hair wild.“You know, you can get warm anytime you want, Anna, you just have to be nice to the right fellow.” She grinned, wobbled.

“ Marie-Josée – you’re married! What of your Jean? And the Abbé! What does he think?”

Marie-Josée waved her hand. “The Abbé is drunk – hasn’t been awake for more than an hour for days and awake he is worse about grabbing my ass than the soldiers. And didn’t you hear? Our men were already expelled, on some ship headed somewhere. We’ll never see them again.” She coughed, wiped her nose. She brightened. “But I can help you. I brought food – the men bring it to pay. It may hold you until they bring the ships for us. Unless you want to come in? There’s lots of work …”

Anastasie shuddered. “Non, merci. But the food would be welcome.”

Marie-Josée nodded and put down a bundle tied in a ragged cloth. “I can get more, cousine. This is all I could take with them watching. And, Anastasie, I hear the soldiers talking. There are bunkers all over the island. If you find one, maybe you will be warmer, heh? But lookout for pirates. They shelter there, too.” She turned away. “Bonne chance, Anastasie. See you when the boats come.”

Anastasie spoke to the other frozen women and children on the field. A few came to search with Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine.

“Let’s go, bébé. Perhaps we can find a warm place to hide from the wind.”

They walked around the front of the island, the side facing the ocean, away from Halifax harbour. The wind burned their faces, but there were no soldiers.

Marie-Madeleine called out. “Look, maman! There’s a hole in the hill!”

There was – a dark cave that pointed right out to sea. Anastasie poked her head in, to discover it was a long, curving bunker which seemed to run right around the island. Little holes dug through the wall allowed some light, and she could see several doors, but there were no other people inside. She called the others and they flooded in. As the wind lessened, families spread out along the bunker. Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine sat alone; their only kin were the men, gone now, and Marie-Josée, up with the soldiers. They found a dark corner and ate Marie-Josée’s cheese and bread and dried meat. Afterward, Marie-Madeleine fell asleep against the wall, wrapped in her scarf and finally warm. Anastasie explored the bunker, stepping carefully in the gloom. At the farthest end in the darkest place, as she ran her hands along the wall, she felt a spot of loose crumbly dirt. Curious, she dug at it. In the back of the hollowed out space she touched a cloth bag. When she pulled, out tipped out heavy circles. Coins.

Anastasie sat down against the wall with a thud. Saved!

She opened the seam of her dress hem here and there, pushing the coins in, working in the dark. She had to keep them secret. They had their families; she was alone. When she had them all hidden, she woke her daughter.

“Come, bébé. We must tell more about this place.”

They walked back to the encampment and called to the others, leading them to the bunker. Warmed, the families started to talk to each other about their expulsion and the loss of their land. They wept and raged, prayed and sang. They shared food and clothing as they had before. Once the Abbé visited, but not for long.

Anastasie kept her coins hidden. There was nothing to purchase, anyway, except with her body. Finally the soldiers came and shoved them back to the field.

“Look, Marie-Madeleine! The boats are here!”

“Will we see Papa?”

“Merci Dieu, I hope so.” Anastasie’s heart soared.

The women cheered at the sign of the boats, crossed themselves.

“At last we will be free from this frozen land. I hope we go south,” a woman said. Her fingers were so frostbitten her daughter had to dress her.

They loaded eagerly onto the boats, except for Marie-Josée, who begged to stay behind. Perhaps she’d overheard the soldiers. After two days of heaving waves and sickness, they landed further north instead, in snow-covered Cape Breton. The men were not there.

Anastasie’s coins let her rent a tiny room in Sydney, keeping she and Marie-Madeleine alive until the boats came again to take them to New Orleans. There they found that their men had been recaptured, to repair their dykes and farms. None of the English knew how, and they needed food.

Anastasie counted her coins. Perhaps she had enough for their passage back. Back to Acadie, and Joseph.





Remembering…but wishing we didn’t keep adding to those needing remembering…

11 11 2012

It’s Remembrance Day and I am filled with muddled emotions. I feel for all who served and died, all their families, all those who were harmed by war, on both sides. I don’t want to take anything away from their sacrifices. But I detest the glorification of war.

Maybe it’s cos I just came from Skyfall, where M asks the inquiry panel, “How safe do you feel?” just before the entire room is exploded by gunfire. The reality is I don’t feel very safe, given all the wars rumbling all over the world, the continual cruelty to each other. I’m listening to a song that talks about how much courage it takes to fight a war. I can’t help but think it takes more courage NOT to fight a war. To hold people accountable without violence, to peace keep, in all its forms. To be willing to share with the less fortunate, the old “Bread not bombs” theory.

I’m not taking away from the terrible suffering so many went through in the “great” wars. POWs and those maimed, those suffering from mental disabilities, or those, like my dad, who were radiated and died of cancer years later. He may not have suffered right at the time of the war, but he sure did later.

It’s just that as the frenzy around Remembrance Day grows, year after year, I worry about the effect this has on those who would wage war. Those who feel violence is the way to deal with disagreements or those pesky world leaders who espouse nationalization of industries that we want.  The people who send people into war are never on the front line, and their motives are rarely pure. The beating of the war drums works as they commit us to more and more situations where the goal is protected wealth. Killing for profits is ugly, but if we think it’s for a good cause, we’ll bite. In the US during the last few wars, it was deemed positively anti-American to question the war. It’s becoming like that here.

My dad enlisted when he was under 18. How many others did? Most of my extended family. Lots and lots and lots, because this was THE way to prove your manliness, to prove you had pride in yourself and your country. It’s twisted when you look at it a bit. Why wouldn’t the ability to not fight be considered more strength? You need only look at the faces of the soldiers doing peacekeeping during the OKA crisis, or those on the lines in Afghanistan before mission creep, or the soldiers stuck in Rwanda during the terrible carnage there. The strength needed to not fight was incredible. It broke some of them. As did killing.

I don’t have my dad’s full service story. He died before I took the opportunity to learn it from him. I wish I knew more. He never spoke of it except to mention he came back with TB and that the nurses cried when they saw the X-ray. He spent time on his return in the TB H-huts in Kingston, and taught himself to paint. He lived. And he’d tell one other story, which I think tells about his nature as well:

He was fixing a radar tower in the Bahamas where he was serving with the Navy (Oh for one photo of him in his whites!), and he dropped a wrench when he was way up in the tower. It fell from side to side, hitting various components, breaking them and sending out showers of sparks and minor explosions as it crashed back and forth, back and forth and he watched in horror. When it finally stopped, he shouted “DARN IT!” The Sergeant who was at the bottom of the tower checking on the noise gave him hell for not using the proper swear word. As for Dad, he felt completely emasculated. He told me it was the worst because here he’d had a perfectly good excuse to let loose a string of blue profanities and all he could muster at the time was a darn.

Such a gentleman. Makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Thinking of all those who were lost in all the wars great, small and in-between, and those who continue to lose their lives in state-sanctioned violence. Unlike many, I wish we could forget war. Unfortunately we have fresh reminders every day. Even if we do wear the poppies.

How about we work on ending the need to wear them?

(PS: the poppies here are fundraisers for the veterans – one of the good things we could do is look after vets properly, hey? So they don’t have to go begging for coins.)

 








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