Month: August 2021

Compromise For Peace and Safety

How long would it take for chaos to descend on Canada if we were suddenly relieved of all the burdensome laws and regulations that deny us contented lives? Or, put another way: How long would Democracy survive without consistent faith in our ability to compromise when great problems face us?

It may seem sometimes that every day our cherished democratic freedoms have been chipped away at ever-increasing speed, since Sir Robert Borden’s Conservative government rattled through Parliament a new tax on business profits and personal income tax. It was, Sir Robert assured Canadians in September 1917, just a “temporary measure” to help meet the massive expenses of the First World War.

September 20th is the anniversary date if you’re toying with the idea of dropping “Infernal Revenue” a line to suggest “temporary” is well past its best before date.

Not that many of us even think of protesting our unhappy annual income tax battle. The few who do are either caught, fined, or jailed – or are rich enough to hire a battery of accountants to hide their wealth.

Most of us grew up long ago and understand that our democracy constitutes a pretty decent way of living compared with life under a dictatorship or, heaven forbid, an Afghanistan-style regime. We grumble about the cost, pay up reluctantly – and by and large enjoy lives with a balance of liberty and equality.

Not a perfect balance, but one we have learned to live with and appreciate because as we look around the world, we know we have a lifestyle to be envied with the right to complain without fear of retribution – and the ability to reason together and compromise.

A few days ago, British Columbia Premier John Horgan made public his government’s “proof of vaccination” card, without which citizens of BC will be banned from attending large audience events, from sports venues to dining out. Visitors to the province will also be required to provide proof of vaccination before they can enjoy all BC has to offer.

The bold move by Premier Horgan has been welcomed by 75 per cent of Canadians polled by Angus Reid’s company but was rejected by a small but noisy hornet’s nest of anti-vaxxers who see the move as a grave intrusion on their rights and freedoms.

And, of course, it is. Even as it is with seatbelt buckle-up laws, no smoking bans, laws prohibiting driving a motor vehicle or operating a water vessel while impaired or without a licence, laws regulating fishing in the oceans, lakes and rivers, and hunting of deer or big game with guns or crossbows.

My list is only partial, but each of these government mandates is an infringement of my personal rights – like my right to get drunk on alcohol or drugs and drive a car or boat or carry a high-powered rifle and go hunting. But if I do get drunk and kill someone, they’ll put me in jail and thus deprive me for a prescribed period of most of my rights – and make the roads just a little safer.

Over the years, national and provincial governments have decided that “the people” are not quick when it comes to voluntarily abandoning “rights” they have become accustomed to abusing. At such times statutory rules and regulations may be required to convince citizens that boundaries of acceptable behaviour where public safety is concerned are clearly needed and declared.

Premier Horgan’s NDP government decided that it was time for some new rules to fight COVID-9 and its variants. He was acting on the advice of our chief public health officer. The distinction is important: Dr. Bonnie Henry is “our public health” protector; protector of “we the people,” not the government.

Dr. Henry, who remains the calm presence in the centre of a great pandemic, tells us that 93 per cent of British Columbians hospitalized by COVID-19 were not vaccinated. She adds the warning that those who continue to reject the vaccination lifeline run a risk of infection 10-times higher than those who welcome two shots of vaccine to block its advance.

Those who reject vaccination represent fertile stock upon which the COVID-19 invader can prey unchecked. Accepting vaccination is as easy as accepting seatbelts. Honest citizens will remember how strongly the seatbelt law was fought until it finally sank in – fastened seatbelts save lives. So will vaccination. We should remember that every time we buckle-up willing join the fight against a fearsome but defeatable foe.

And remembering that compromise is not a weakness in a true democracy.

“It All Depends On Whose Ox Is Being Gored”

A mild knuckle-rap from Ivan Crossett questioning my reference to 19 young “warriors” in the air raid that 20 years ago on Sept. 9th destroyed the twin World Trade Centre towers and part of the Pentagon and killed close to 3,000. Wrote Ivan in his usual polite, brief but clear opinion: “Good blog, but don’t like the term ‘warriors’ – they were terrorists.” 

For sure, “terrorists” is the word preferred by “The Press” under which umbrella I include the never-ending hammer of television and radio. And equally sure is that at day’s end, it was “terrorists” firmly lodged in the minds of free-thinking, free-speaking people.

I was discussing this issue with my firstborn son Stephen (he’s in his 70s if age is important), a retired editor, feature writer, columnist, national award winner, author of half a dozen books, and teacher of writing when COVID-19 allows. He’s the son who, years ago, when an interviewer suggested “conversations around your dinner table must have been fascinating,” answered: “Conversations? I don’t think so. We had a hell of a lot of arguments, though ….”

I mention that because nothing much has changed over the decades. It came as no surprise when the once-young fellow also weighed in on my use of “warriors” in my last week’s blog about a former “hero’s” (Rudy Giuliani) fall from grace.

Stephen: “As for the uselessness of labelling people “terrorists” or “heroes” for that matter, consider:

“Nelson Mandela was a “terrorist” until he became the heroic president of South Africa who ended apartheid.

“Jomo Kenyatta was a “terrorist” to the British until he became president of Kenya after ending colonial rule..

“Menachem Begin was a “terrorist” to the British in Palestine until he became the prime minister of Israel.”

“Louis Riel was a “terrorist” and was hanged for it, but now he’s now a hero of indigenous rights in Canada.”

Stephen also reminded me of the farmworkers in Dorset, England, who tried to prevent draconian wage cuts and were labelled “terrorists” by parliament and exiled to Australian penal colonies. Now the Tolpuddle Martyrs are among the heroes of the human rights movement in the U.K.

Mohandas Gandhi was deemed a “terrorist” by the British authorities in India, who responded to his independence movement with massacres in which the British Army shot down unarmed crowds. Gandhi won the first Nobel Peace Prize.

Michael Collins was thought a “terrorist” in Ireland and was jailed by the British for participating in the Easter Rising in 1916 until he became a leader of the Irish Free State and a national hero. He was assassinated by extremist Republican “terrorists.”

Simon Bolivar was a radical revolutionary “terrorist” to the Spanish, but the South Americans named a country after him. 

And Emmeline Pankhurst was a “terrorist” who the Brits jailed for her revolutionary tactics in the women’s suffrage movement. Now there’s a statue in her honour.

His long list of “terrorists” reminded me of one of Dave Barrett’s favourite rejoinders when similar situations arose during his leadership of the NDP. Anyone with memories of Dave in full rhetorical force will remember his: “IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHOSE OX IS BEING GORED!”

It is worth remembering today as we watch the frightening debacle of the mighty USA and less mighty Canada scrambling to get out of Afghanistan and while wondering whether to renew contact with the Taliban, the “terrorists” they helped remove from governing 20 years ago.

Or have we let memory wipe out the tracking of Osama bin Laden, leader and commander of the militant Al-Qaeda. It was a squad of 19 Al-Qaeda soldiers who had been a “sleeper” cell in the USA for at least 12 months, calmly taking flying lessons before being trained well enough to hijack four commercial passenger jets loaded with aviation fuel and crash three of the four into pre-selected targets. 

The search for Osama bin Laden, under U.S. President George W. Bush, tracked bin Laden through Afghanistan to Pakistan and eventually to his family compound in Abbottabad. It was there that a squad of marines found bin Laden with several of his wives and children, shot him with two bullets to the head and a third to confirm death while then-President Barak Obama and members of his cabinet watched on television.

There’s a wealth of detail available on the Internet. None of it is pleasant or comforting but may be summed up by two radio messages from Abbottabad minutes after 1 a.m. stating: “For God and country – Geronimo-Geronimo-Geronimo.” Seconds later, the battle report entry: “Geronimo – confirm EKIA” – code for enemy killed in action.

A final thought for today: Geronimo was an Apache Nation warrior who went from “blood-thirsty savage” in the 1800s, launching devastating “terrorist” attacks against invaders of his homeland, to inspirational saint. He once had about a quarter of the entire U.S. Army hunting him and his 34-warrior “scourge of the west.” He was never conquered but was arrested when he agreed to peace talk meeting. For several years he was used as a side show exhibit. By WW2 and D-Day, he had become a heroic USA figure, his name proudly worn as a shoulder patch by a U.S. airborne regiment. Decades later, Geronimo was the inspirational code name given a small group of U.S. warriors for the raid that killed bin Laden. Geronimo was still officialy a prisoner of war when he died on Feb.17,1909,in Fort Sill Oklahoma.

Remembering 9-11 and a sadly fallen hero

In a few days, TV viewers will be reminded of American’s great disaster, a day remembered best by two numbers, 9 and 11 – the 11th day of the 9th month – when 19 young jihadi warriors joined in rebellious suicidal cause hijacked four large commercial aircraft and ended the lives of 2,996 people in one cataclysmic New York air raid. They believed, as do most people fighting a war, their cause was just.

It was an event recorded on live television and viewed with hypnotic fascination by multi-millions as three huge jetliners held steady courses to their targets. One struck the heart of the USA military – the Pentagon – leaving 125 dead in the wreckage. The other two were locked firmly on course – one for the South Tower of the World Trade Centre, the other for the North Tower in the business heart of the city. 

A fourth hijacked airliner, believed to be headed for the White House or the Presidential Retreat known as Camp David, crashed with the loss of seven crew and 33 passengers in a meadow near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A group of passengers had fought the hijackers until final impact. The crash site is now a state memorial park – a place set aside for peaceful meditation.

All four aircraft had been carefully selected as routine transcontinental flights loaded with high octane aviation fuel … in effect, huge flying bombs. Both towers were ablaze as they collapsed. Among the close to 3,000 dead were 343 firemen and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 NY Port Authority police and rescue workers.

Amid the more dramatic shots in the late afternoon was the moving image of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, covered in thick dust from the still collapsing towers. He was walking through the wreckage, calm and confident, a reassuring example for the men and women putting their lives on the line in the ever-shifting mountain of concrete and twisted steel.

World leaders viewing the scene were as impressed by Mayor Giuliani’s calm, with his head high in the face of disaster, as were his fellow countrymen. England’s Queen Elizabeth II gave him an honorary knighthood. On home soil, he was awarded the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award created by the former president and regarded by many as one the highest awards the USA can offer a private citizen. Other countries offered similar tributes.

For a while, Mayor Giuliani stayed high profile until his term as mayor ended. He regained the spotlight briefly when he dabbled with the idea of running for president but discovered that 9/11 adulation did not extend to the White House.

So, he faded from high profile until the arrival of one Donald Trump, the man who would be king. Giuliani became a member of the Trump team of conspiracy freaks and an active participant in imaginary plots and fertile fabrications.

He was happy to be back on television again but had become as vain as the man whose banner he now carried, whose lies he endorsed. And those who had once admired watched in dismay as one of greatest shames of the USA was on full display – an out-of-control mob storming the home of government with death threats and violence, and Giuliano, a slack-jawed caricature of man once praised for his calm confidence, now urging the mob to carry on. If the government wanted a fight, “let’s give them one.”

As we remember 9/11, let us also remember we sometimes anoint our heroes too soon.

First Footprints 13 Thousand Years ago

The 29 footprints are pressed into soft clay that once surrounded a fire pit or primitive hearth. There are three distinct sizes, including one child and two adults.

They were discovered several feet below a sandy beach on Calvert Island, a small island 100 km (62 miles) north of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. The footprints were found by a research team from Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria and were reported in 2018 in the journal PLOS One. It was estimated the clay-preserved prints were 13,000 years old.

(PLOS One is an inclusive journal community that published research in more than two hundred subject areas across science, engineering, medicine, and the related social sciences and humanities.)

The human footprints are the oldest so far to be found in North America. The researchers ascertained the age by carbon-dating preserved wood embedded in the tracks that the PLOS One article describes as “two side-by-side left and right foot footprints (which give) a picture of a figure standing with feet slightly apart and facing inland with his or her back to the wind.’’

It adds: “The footprints were impressed into the soil just above the paleo-shoreline, possibly by a group of people just disembarking from a watercraft and moving toward a drier central activity area.”

Lead archeologist on the UVIC-Hakai team, Duncan McLaren, had discovered a dozen single footprints on Calvert Island in 2012. The later discovery revealed three different shapes and sizes, including at least one child and two adults. They appear to be left by bare feet gathered around a focal point, possibly a fire pit or hearth where the small group had paused after leaving the canoe or raft they had been travelling on.

At the time of the discovery, McLaren wrote that it would be added “to the growing body of evidence that people who used watercraft were able to thrive on the Pacific Coast of Canada at the end of the last ice age. It also provides new information to those who subscribe to the theory that migration from Europe to North America was made via the then still ice-bound Bering Strait linking East Asia with what is now Alaska and Northern BC.”

A recent New York Times article presented the argument of a body of archeologists supporting the claim that the founding Indigenous people of North America began their occupation some 36,000 years ago.

It is a theory rejected by distinguished archeologist Dr. Paulettte Steeves, of Cree and Metis descent, who grew up in Lillooet and is an associate professor at Mount Allison University. She doesn’t disagree that some migration between Siberia and North America took place, but in a CBC TV interview, she said, “that was likely only one of many migrations. The Bering Strait theory is often presented as the only way the Americas were peopled, and that can be damaging.”

In the same TV program Nisga’a elder Willard Martin dismissed the Bering Strait theory because it challenges Nisga’a oral history told over centuries of the Raven that brought the Nisga’a from a world of darkness to where they have always lived and still live. Elder Martin says bluntly: “We don’t agree that we came from another continent.”

It is not surprising that other Indigenous leaders like Tahltan Oscar Dennis, a language conservationist who keyed his research to Tahltan oral history, had a personal DNA test to check his lineage. Parts of his bloodline led to Siberia, and he believes now in the migration of his ancestors via the Bering Strait and possibly by watercraft. He also notes the Nisga’a legend of the Raven making light is basically the story of the Nisga’a migrating as the Arctic’s six-month night ended and the Ravens returned at the start of summer.

The home page of Canada’s First Peoples informs us: “Less than 500 years ago, the only people living in Canada were the aboriginal people. ‘Aboriginal’ means the original inhabitants, the people who were here first spoke different tribal languages, held different social values, believed in different creators and held the nature of things in great reverence.

It is sad that we newcomers spent so much time and evil energy demanding our Indigenous people speak the way we speak, worship the Gods we worship or face the fires of Hell – and so little time listening to what THEY have to say.

Is it too late to start?