Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Feminists Are Guys

If you had been there, last Friday, what would you have retorted?

At my Friday morning Free Fall writing group, Judy told us a woman at her swimming pool fitness class objected to the instructor saying, “…you guys…”

I retorted, “Take her aside, and tell her the history of feminism.” That’s all I felt I had time to say. Otherwise, I could have added, “If she twists the word “guys” to mean males only, then she is twisting apart the good work of feminists. She’s grabbing the wheel of progress, and pulling it backwards.”

I wish I could tell you that when we strain at the ropes and pulleys of progress, there is a ratchet clicking in, making sure that “equal rights” do not go backwards. But I can’t, for that’s not the case. There are forces opposed, people opposed, pulling us back.

Case in point: I can remember, back during the same years as the women’s liberation movement, when words like “homosexual” and “lesbian” were dirty, fearful things to say. A gay woman asked me to say, instead, “gay,” as being a nicer word without stigma. We were then entering a world of gay rights and phrases like “in the closet.” But there were opposing forces, and today the bigots, when they don’t say homosexual, will snarl “gay” with a degree of hatred once reserved for “homosexual.” Idealists had hoped the 21st century would mean equality and tolerance. Instead, teenagers have taken to saying, “gay” the way we used to say “gimp” or “that’s lame,” by saying “that’s so gay.” The pulley has no ratchet.

These adolescents, on the brink of full adulthood, using “gay” as a term of disparagement are perhaps, possibly, the same ones who say “I don’t believe in equal rights” and “I am not a feminist” and “don’t say “you guys.”” Back in 1977, mercifully, idealists could not foresee that such an un-liberated, unequal, unimproved world would still be with us in 2017. To know this wimpy dark future, back then, would have punctured our hearts and deflated us. …just when we needed all the energy we could summon for our uphill climb.

I was born in the un-liberated 1950’s. It’s still my favorite decade, but I wouldn’t want to live there. New labor saving appliances were appearing in our homes… and in response? We just labored more. Every housewife was to be her own Martha Stewart. This was normal to us, the only culture we knew. How could any well-adjusted sensible person possibly say our surrounding culture was wrong? Maybe artists knew better, maybe, but not the rest of us. We were happy to be normal.

When the 1960’s came along, when there was new affluence and all sorts of new action groups for change… that was a time when the young longhaired males were the leaders, and the young women fetched the coffee—always. In the 1970s, though, things slowly changed, as some groups of women began meeting in circles, without a leader, involved in something new under the sun: Consciousness Raising. And that’s a phrase that young people of today don’t know.

What is “consciousness” you ask? Put it this way: Take your space-and-time machine to the U.S. south east, to the year 1965. If you are white like me, step out of your machine and ask around. All the self-described “Negroes” are conscious that something is very wrong. But many of the white Americans are saying, “Our Negroes are happy, the only problem is these dam “outside agitators” coming in and stirring them up.” An entire society of white liars? Not exactly. Rather, it’s as if the whites live in a separate society, one with a lower consciousness. Maybe not the artists, not comedians like Lenny Bruce or George Carlin, but the others? Sure. Even white church leaders thought this way.

It remained for Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., writing in 1963 to some clergymen while he was imprisoned in Birmingham jail, to explain that no one in the United States could be called an “outsider” any more: When the bell tolls, it tolls for us all. King challenged them to take action, saying, “…human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability”.

Can any church or community leader believe in equal rights if he is male, white and filthy rich? Yes he can. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made half of his cabinet female; he responded to a question about this action by saying, “Because it’s 2016.” He said this because forces were still opposed.

There are consequences to having your consciousness raised or lowered. Case in point: It will be a long time before U.S. citizens forget the court case of Roe versus Wade, making abortion legal. This case allowed a change of actions, allowing a change of views, and causing, of course, a change of consciousness.

Important to feminism is the case of Brown versus Board of Education. Brown was a young idealistic parent who said his Negro children should be allowed an education equal to whites: In other words, be allowed the freedom to sit in white classrooms, so as to get an equal education. At the time, some whites presumably said it was good for Blacks to have their own separate schools, because those all-Black elementary and secondary schools offered an equally good education. Needless to say, this view was false. The Black schools, in the words of the whites, were “separate but equal.”

A phrase that might, depending on the consciousness level, be well-intentioned or sinister. My view? Sinister. How so? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May, 1954 that the schools had to racially integrate, to change, but NOT change “as fast as humanly possible.” Instead, change “with all deliberate speed.” Regardless of the ideal, in practice this meant change that was slow, glacially slow. Meaning: A child born the year the court ruled could grow, start grade one, go one to finish her final year of high school, if she got that far, and still not attend a half decent school with whites. The forces of opposition were with us then, and are with us today.

If you wish women to be separate but equal, then don’t use gender inclusive words like “guys.”

Maybe the first women’s libbers were wiser than they knew. Instead of separate names for the genders but with theoretically equal rights, that is to say, a firewoman beside a fireman, a policewomen beside a policeman, a flight stewardess beside a flight steward… the feminists called for the language of true and beautiful integration: firefighters, police constables and flight attendants. Today, and for the past few years, in the newspapers I have read of an ongoing effort, well before President Donald Trump got into office, to overturn Roe versus Wade. The feminists were entirely correct to get in their gender inclusive language, before any counter reaction could set in, as I’m sure all you guys could agree.

If I have mentioned women, gays, Blacks and rich straight males all in the same essay, then it’s partly because we can all learn from each other. Our learning is our strength.

My Friday morning writing group includes our fearless leader, Judy. She is a “flight attendant.” Forget separate. Our group represents all the standard socio-economic classes. Forget classism. Come to think of it, “sexism” is another word young people of today don’t know.

I’m an artist, but specifically I’m a writer, for my medium is language. I can point to George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-four to show how, in words woven far better than I ever could, as E.L. Doctorow points out: There can be a diminishment of thought through constriction of language. Call it a deletion of thought, a deletion of thought-cells in the brain, as constricted blood vessels have led to cells dying. To me, deleting a one-syllable nice gender-inclusive word like “guys” is a diminishment. Every word’s death diminishes me.

I’m still not sure what I could have said Friday morning, or what Judy could have said to that woman in the pool.  

But I do know another good word to delete if you wish the fairer sex to be “separate but equal”: Would you prefer women—but not men—separated out into married and unmarried? If so, you will be cheerful to know I overheard two alert high school girls asking each other what “Ms.” means. They didn’t know. That’s a fact. Call it another act of diminishment, as the bell tolls, for all you guys.

Sean Crawford

Two Pieces of Classic Writing:
Today we look out the window to ask, “Where is the ambulance stopping?” Our ancestors, when the bell tolled, would ask, “Who died?”
Here’s an old poem in the public domain, one I’ve half memorized, by John Donne (Dunn) entitled For Whom the Bell Tolls
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

This poem is referenced in what I regard as being one of the greatest documents of my lifetime, a beautiful piece of rhetoric, written on scraps of paper, Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Junior. 1963. Here’s the link.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gay History Snapshots

Hello reader,
Got memories, merry and gay?

Being an older guy with grey-and-white hair, I now enjoy a pastime of writing, while I still like social studies.

“How to write rainbow characters” was the title of a workshop I attended on Sunday March 12 —writers of “literature” have to know such things, of course. At the event, darling teens with funny colored hair were conspicuous by their absence. Only folks around my own age were there, and they taught me something: They know more about the present than I do; while, to my big surprise, I know more bruised and bloody history than they do. They threw around the term LGBTQ plus. I don’t know what the plus means; it must be new. Wondering what I could contribute, history-wise, here on my blog, I went home afterwards to look through some favorite old “photographs.”

Snapshot, the late 1980s:
A young gay woman at university waving her hand in negation, telling me, “Oh, don’t say that word.” She wanted me to say gay, not “lesbian,” which had an awful stigma. In our childhood, just as in our parent’s time, a time of binary thinking before woman’s liberation and unisex clothing stores, the dark words society used were homosexual and lesbian. They were words that felt icky, about “a love that dare not say its name.”

Snapshot, the mid 1970’s:
A grinning young man, fresh out of a big high school where he was the student council president, telling us how he and his vice president went around wearing strange pins. When asked, they claimed it was for a club for homosexuals. Smirking, he told us that all sorts of students you wouldn’t suspect were quietly coming up to us and saying they were secretly homosexual, too. To him, a big joke. To them, a terrifying secret.

I can imagine today, in the year of our Lord 2017, some young religious young man saying that society is going to hell in a hand basket, and therefore more and more teens are choosing to be gay. Really? Choosing? Do you also believe Mars and the moon are (Biblically) only 6,000 years old? Learn to use your library card, you moron.

In my day, “the love that dare not say its name” was not something anyone chose.

Snapshot: A group of medical students being led by a doctor.
The group arrives at to a man in a nice pressed business shirt, with a silk tie and polished shoes. Tears are starting to glint in his eyes. The doctor begins, “This patient is well oriented in time and space…” His only diagnose? Homosexual. And the patient feels helpless about it… In a few years, among psychiatrists, there would be great clamor and resistance to removing “homosexuality” as a psychiatric disorder from the American diagnosis manual. For the controversy I blame the religious psychiatrists, as well as blaming society in general.

Film clip, from a feature set in the 1950’s:
A young man just outside the Brooklyn Naval yards, in a German-made film, from the book, Last Exit to Brooklyn. The man is a whimpering, pathetic wimp. Perhaps he is acting so from trying to be a good man, trying to be just like how society said he should be. Society said? He was supposed to have low self esteem, as befits a pansy. Like how society told a high school football player, also in the 1950’s, that he was supposed to be stupider than a non-football player. In Stephen King’s novel about a time travelling schoolteacher, the teacher has no patience for such misplaced sincerity, telling the varsity athlete he is trying to fit his social mores, but his society is wrong.

Documentary clip:
In a dim bar, in a dingy part of town, an old lady sits at a bar table by a revolving red light. She stops it. She explains the light would silently be triggered to warn of police outside, so folks could flee out the back. In those days, the police force would raid bars and take the people down to the precinct for jail and fingerprinting and publish their names in the newspaper. This at a time when people could legally be fired from their job, and expelled from their apartment, merely for being suspected of being gay: no proof needed, no human rights protection. Their sacred lives, their social life—ruined.

Summer of 1969, violence is the answer:
People are peacefully drinking at the Stonewall Inn. (tavern) Police raid. The patrons riot; they barricade the police inside the bar. The police lose the fight. From that day on, people in land of the free gained their freedom: Freedom of assembly, and Freedom of association. Police no longer published their names. I can only speculate that by meeting each other in broad daylight, they soon learned that society “doesn’t know its elbow from a hole in the ground.”

They saw for themselves people could be emotionally healthy, successful and homosexual too. I remember there was a gay rodeo association, which of course included women. One year, one of the rodeos on the circuit was here in Calgary, for the first time, at the Simmons Valley ranch. I remember a journalist, unable to deny that cowboys have courage, and strong wrists too, resorting to drawing a big editorial-page disparaging cartoon of two horses kissing.

Of course, the theory that gay is a choice still lingers, along with Creationism Museums.

Barney Miller, a TV detective comedy show, mid-1970’s:
An old civilian guest star in the police station is a white haired survivor, proud to be a member of the gay community. He points out, in effect: If being gay (a new word) is not a choice … then maybe your high school home room, and your church, included gay men and women, folks now “in the closet (a new phrase) to you,” and maybe “still in the closet to themselves.” A short, totally ordinary cop is writing on the blackboard. He turns, suddenly blurts out, “I’m gay.” The guest star tells him, “That took guts.”

In theory, as more and more ordinary people “came out,” ordinary society would get more and more “clued in,” and would respond less and less horribly. Except, of course, for the benighted part of society. Note: Not all churches are in dark shadow.

Early 1990’s:
My best friend takes her pre-school children to an evening Gay church, and everyone is smiling to see her children, telling her it’s OK to bring her them again.

2016, overheard on my car radio:
“There’s only one gay bar left in town, because now we don’t need our own bars to meet each other.”

2017, on the CBC radio:
A protestant congregation has voted to be inclusive. (I forget if they said LGBTQplus)

2017, walking in the halls of the student union building:
Feeling as if I might be mistaken for an old pervert, I walk into the clubroom for the LGBTQ students. Someone is breastfeeding. I ask the students about the big new improved both-sexes washroom down the hall: “Is it OK if an old nonstudent…” And the darling young people, still young enough (as I am!) to expect to like people they meet, and to be liked in return, eagerly tell me that I would be OK if I went inside there, and explaining to me how safe it is for everybody.

They are very friendly. I have yet to become as liberated as they are.

Sean Crawford

I wrote the above this morning before starting work at the home of my two clients in power wheelchairs. They are the same married couple I told you about last month, when I showed them inside the half-finished building for my Alexandra Centre Writing Society. (In Calgary’s new creative space, cSpace, at the former King Edward School)

When I wrote this morning, I forgot something.

This afternoon, at a mall food court, I accompanied the wife into the big women’s washroom to assist her, using a wheelchair stall. I do so all the time, feeling hardly shy at all. Therefore what in the world… makes me think I’d feel horribly awkward in a university transgender washroom? I have to laugh.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Political Potatoes and Engaged Volunteers

Couch Potatoes


No sir, when it comes to North American folks, these days, I’m not very proud of my fellow citizens.

Strange. Only a few weeks ago I was seeing the silver lining in the cloud of the dark new U.S. presidency, soon after the election results were in.

I thought: Wow, Americans could now be like real citizens: they could be engaged. And yes, suddenly folks were sending money to the American Civil Liberties Association, and protesting with each other, and deliberating with each other.

I thought: Now they could be like those folks in the Norman Rockwell paintings on the covers of the old Saturday Evening Post, rather than be year-round couch potatoes, only stirring off their couches briefly, to cast their votes a few years in the future. Well sir, you can forget that idea: My thin hope has drained away.

Now I can see the self-satisfied elite dismissing potato farmers and factory workers—that is to say, would-be factory workers—as “bigots” for voting for Trump. Can’t a worker be a bigot and also feel a great crushing despair from seeing how “left wing” Bernie Sanders can’t succeed, while a “right wing” Hilary Clinton can win the party nomination? This while despairing that Hilary would come into power like the rock song, Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss, we won’t get fooled again? As I see it, it’s perfectly OK to vote for Hilary as being your best choice, at the end of the day, but can’t you also get out of your bubble and ask what is making your fellow Americans despair so deeply? Or is asking, and humbly listening, just too much engagement?

After the election I was happy to see people were reading again. Certain books are back to selling again, certain old documentaries are being rebroadcast, with people relating them to the Trump presidency. It’s as if Americans, normally so isolationist in both space and time, were at last taking an interest in history. Engaging their ability to compare and contrast.

Just the other day, in Larry King’s memoirs, I read of a Jewish photographer who wanted to snap a picture of Hitler, back before the war. But the photographer flinched, lost the shot, because Hitler looked right at him with such frightening hatred… And now a few people are fancying “the Donald” to be another Hitler. Queerly, this reminds me of the time of the Gulf War in Kuwait, when a few mothers told me their children were afraid of WWIII starting up. This while it had already been many years since any new schools were built with an air raid tower like mine had. No doubt the kids got their fanciful ideas off of their parents. Sometimes I think, “All is fanciful vanity.”

I can remember reading a thick book, soon into the Iraq affair, back when American still didn’t have the guts—as Iraqis would warn each other, before going for job interviews with the Americans—to honestly call what they were doing an “occupation.” I read how the “cost saving” measure of using armed male contractors, specifically the Blackwater company, was singlehandedly undoing all the efforts of other Americans to “win the hearts and minds” of Iraqis, efforts to get Iraqis to believe in democracy over traditional Arab dictatorship. But Blackwater got away with it: I guess because regular Americans don’t read books. Or aren’t engaged. As I recall, it was several years before the daily newspapers began to expose the harm Blackwater was doing. And by then the Americans were pulling out.

I read an excellent thin book, soon after the pull out, exposing American jaw-dropping levels of incompetency, as bad as anything you’d see in the third world. This by a writer who moved unarmed among the Iraqis, simply observing and asking questions. Too bad I can’t find any congressional reports on Iraq. Why didn’t Americans know about their own failures back then? Partly because visiting congressmen repeated the history of Vietnam. In Nam, being a puffed up Ugly American meant meeting Saigon elite, the officials and generals, but not caring enough to get to know ordinary people out in the rice paddies. (Here’s a link to a news article, the Ugly American parts are lower down) I think at the very least the State Department should have been on the ground in Iraq, if only in a valued consultant capacity, if not bloody well put in charge! ... Folks at State know social studies.

In theory, State understands the challenge of building nations and democracy more than folks with guns or the diplomats. After all, relying on the army and embassy hadn’t worked in Saigon. There the efforts to “win the hearts and minds” were sadly ineffective. How sadly? The communists could sneak ample troops and munitions into Saigon in advance of their Tet Offensive—a shocking Pearl Harbor—without anyone informing the elite … although common bar girls did warn working class American G.I.s.  

Here’s where I despair: Citizens of the U.S. can be heard being fanciful back during the Gulf War, before Iraq, and then being fanciful after the Trump election, but in between, when it was truly important to apply practical “cold equations” for building a nation… Nothing. I would hear more from a seashell.

Today my glass is half empty as I lay depressed in bed. My conclusion? As long as it doesn’t require them becoming informed, U.S. citizens eagerly crave a “sense of security” from standing up close to shoot fish in a barrel. That’s the time they’ll be fanciful, kidding themselves, pretending to be engaged—but they’ll never engage for anything that requires any real bravery for making any real long term effort.

Such a dreadful pity.


At least I can still feel respect for any Yankee who votes, even if he votes “wrong.”

As for election day, one of my little joys in life is going to vote at a school or a hall, and, once there, enjoy seeing all my plain fellow-citizens with enough “get up and go” to get off the couch and vote. Too bad some computer nerds, the potatoes who like couches for video gaming, are proposing to wire every home so you can vote from your couch. I’m moving to a cabin in Alaska if that ever happens… Which brings me to my Free Fall post:

Free Fall Prompt- we self-chosen few

Ah, we band of brothers, we few, we who shall count ourselves blessed… or something like that, was what Shakespeare said, just before the Battle of Agincourt.
And I must admit, one of my joys in life has been to be among small bands of volunteers.
As an older teenager, when most were twiddling their thumbs at game arcades, warm and dry and small, my few were in the military reserves digging trenches in the rain and charging across no man’s land. If you’ve ever played soccer in the rain, then you know the joy. You know.

My first “blessed few” were in junior-high (middle) school. The rules had been abruptly changed; suddenly nobody needed a second language to go to university anymore. “Hurray!” said all the smart academic kids, and they dropped French like a hot potato, like a chore, like a sandbag they had just carried for years across a long field.
Then we self-chosen twelve, six of us in each of only two classes, carried on.

We went to a French restaurant together. We were treated as kindred learners by our teachers, as respected soldiers to be led from in front of us, not as a chain gang to be pushed from behind. Not as sullen kids with a teenage pout. Is it mere coincidence that most of us (including me) were also on the school track and field team?

Now I am with those who tackle the dread of public speaking, once a week. Now I am with those who tackle the chore and burden of writing, without any editor to set a deadline, without a piano teacher telling us to practice every day. We meet weekly to venture into unknown territory, with no assurance of any destination. Call it free fall. Like free climb, only without the security of a peak to serve as a compass.

How can I not give and share respect and affection, for we few? Easier to watch DVDs and play video games and tread with oblivious headphones. Easier, but not the same.
In adult life, there will always be a place on the team, a spot in the squad, space for an easel on the riverbank. You can look at art, or you can make it. Play computer games, or program them, be a leader, or a led. I’m not a leader, not me, but I know whom I want to be among as I follow.

I want to be with volunteers, for they have strength for their burdens. A joy of life. A joi de vivre.

Sean Crawford
During a March Calgary snowfall
In the middle of history

~I've noted before that if a U.S. school is not directly allowed to teach Vietnam, and lessons of that war (to apply to, say, the war on drugs) then they can do an end run by teaching the book The Ugly American. Lesson plans are available.

~My French class also went to a French radio station, where we said merci at getting a free record. I guess I could link to a good French song, like an Edith Piaf piece, but no: Here’s a link to a nice music video about Shakespeare’s Battle of Agincourt, over in France, sung by Amy to the tune of ‘As tears go by’ by Marianne Faithful.

~It was the Tet Offensive, with enemy bodies at the very walls of the U.S. embassy, that caused highly respected Americans, such as TV journalist Walter Cronkite, to suspect the Pentagon-Embassy view that we were “winning the war” as being a dirty falsehood.

~From Larry King: “The photographer saw Hitler in the street and focused the camera just as Hitler turned to look straight at him. The look in Hitler’s eyes made the photographer flinch and he was unable to snap the photo. A second later he recovered and he took the picture as Hitler turned away. The photographer never forgot the feeling.” Truth Be Told, page 157-58, 2012 edition.

~Thick book: Fiasco: the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to … by even-handed military reporter Thomas E. Ricks, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

~Thin book: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

~ Even at the height of their Iraq War Effort the average U.S. citizen could offer merely a sound bite to describe democracy. What sort of arrogance made the American people believe they could be so uninformed about democracy, during War Time, and yet be able to teach it to another country?  A War Effort is not rocket science. Back during my dad’s war, even less literate citizens could go see a documentary on Why We Fight. (Made largely with actual Nazi film footage)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Silly Members of Parliament and then Free Fall

Hello reader,
Got clarity?

Here’s my short vent:
Our members of parliament, MPs, gave themselves obscene salaries because, they claimed, they didn’t want MPs to be enticed into business world as CEOs. If that’s true, then how do they explain the latest bill before parliament? Even a junior manager, with "only" a degree and not a masters of business administration, knows that objectives and standards must be measurable so that objective people can agree when the standard is met.  Even people with a bare law degree, without ever articling as working lawyers, know that every law must be clear.

Are there no decent businesspeople or adequate lawyers in in the House of Commons?

I cannot justify the latest bill before parliament, containing the word “Islamaphobia” Now subjective people in the street are shouting at each other, and bitterly accusing each other, so utterly bizarrely, as if they were reading two separate bills, simply because the bill, as it stands, might just as well be about apples as about oranges. I should explain to my U.S. readers that in Canada “truth is no longer a defense,” hasn’t been for some years now. so that if an unclear bill is passed, and you say that ISIL chops off heads, then even if that’s true, some one could force you to spend money on lawyers to prove—or fail to prove—(seriously) it’s not Islamaphobia to say so.

For Canadian legislators, wouldn’t it be simpler and more cost effective to define phobia? Or have a bill against phobia in general? Or see if any laws already cover phobia? During World War II General Patton would often patiently deflect earnest calls for a new military law by taking the eager officer over to the military law book and gently checking if there was already something on the books.

Who am I kidding? If our MPs were adequate enough to do such research, then they would already be smart enough to know about the joy of clarity. Come to think of it, they did pass a “clarity bill” to say future referendums about the province of Quebec separating must be clear…

OK, that’s all my venting for today.

Meanwhile, since I recently (February) posted some Free Fall poetry, I won’t define Free Fall again, but I will post some Free Fall prose. If you want to, you could look to see if it symbolizes some up-to-the-minute U.S. citizen engagement. Symbols are everywhere, if you want to see them.

Prompt: Perspective
So there’s the Mediterranean. From satellite imagery you can define the vegetation for many miles around the coast: Mediterranean scrub. It doesn’t exist around any other sea on the planet. Why? The "hunting and gathering" age was fine. But as the Bronze Age moved into the Iron Age and beyond… Today you couldn’t build a trireme or bireme, those majestic oared ships that plowed the waves of the middle sea; you couldn’t find towering cedars of Lebanon outside of a park—for we have been here, and we’ve left our mark.

No, I won’t say “they” slashed and burned it all, desperate to warm their huts and cook their meals. No, because from where I stand, self-righteousness, however good it feels, is an unworthy emotion. As is outrage, and scorn, and hatred. Have you ever seen a tenderfoot try to chop down a tree? In place of steady chops, and regular v-shaped chips coming regularly to the ground, the tenderfoot anxiously strikes in a frantic hurry, with no result but lots of little meaningless chips. There is no meaning to the base emotions, even if directed at a leader. Better to have the steady long term emotions that empower steady long term actions… but then it doesn’t feel as childish and good.

The Greeks in their cities of Greece and Lebanon were just as human as we, just as petty, but also they set us an example in nobility. I don’t see scrub, I see the burnt launching pad of a rocket to bring us all up to the heights of democracy, citizenship and thoughtful involvement in running the country and reaching out to the world. It’s all a question of perspective. Despair or hope? Frantic opposition for the sake of—of whatever—or a steady belief in democratic involvement?

Thanks to the Greeks, science has illuminated the darkness, driving back superstition. Today satellites zoom overhead. Some of the strange machines belong to the autocracies, but others belong to the democracies. The communists believe the common people can’t lead themselves, but the Greeks knew better.

Prompt- Out on a limb
My sister used to sit out on a limb in the backyard. Have you seen those old pictures? Of bungalows sandwiched between high rises? We were a different ecology back then. My older brother was into parkour, which meant using concrete railings and sloping roofs as limbs, to leap out and on with a momentum channeled for a running step into the next leap. He didn’t know physics but he knew how to leap. Better to be doing parkour than the physics of balls on green velvet.

And me, I was in between. My exercise was the soccer team. Sometimes at home I would dribble a ball in the grass as my sister looked down, sometimes with a book on her knee, but not always. I was the sort to run and kick, brother would run and leap, and neither one of us ever thought to wonder about our sister. ‘Girls are passive’ we might have said, or ‘Sister is dreamy.’ We never gave it any more thought than that. Such is childhood. And all during this time, my sister, from behind her big glasses, was watching us.

She knew people. When she had her anxious study groups and project groups over, for school and campus, she was the glue. They argued and worried, but she was there, watching and intervening. In later adulthood, when her apartment was too small, she would have groups over to build a better park or oppose a stupid road. When people’s voices rose in hatred of ‘the man,’ or in despair at our poor power, she would be there with a gentle touch and calm word.

I wonder where she got her calmness. Not from our mother, oh no. From being out on a tree limb, long ago.

Prompt- (I am reading Paul Hannam’s take on the movie Groundhog Day)
If I like the world, then what’s it to you?
You make a virtue out of your ambition, and you, you, you
And you have no room for others
If I give a care, what’s it to you?
It’s my caring that builds a market, builds a life, builds up knowledge of others
You, you, you will gain a world but never find your soul
In the end, a room of jewels and gold dust is nothing but dust.
If I know the gleam of person’s eye, shining like a jewel, then I have a life.
And I won’t go back to rich and empty tunnel vision

Sean Crawford

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Clippings Roundup

Clippings Roundup

Hello reader,
Got forum?

Having “perfectly good” newspaper clippings around the house—reminders of my time in a paper forum—reminds me of that perfectly good advice-Question: What do you do, while paying off your student millstone, and living cramped with other people, to store your “perfectly good” student term papers? And class notes? And everything else, school-wise, that is still perfectly good? OK, maybe not so up-to-date, as the years advance, but still, full of “sentimental value.”

Easy: You take it all home to your parents! Store it with them! Call it a “chrono tax” on them, for they lived in a chrono-space when it took a smaller fraction of your earnings to get a bigger home with a bigger basement—and they didn’t have to share with other adults.

Come to think of it, they had full time jobs, too, with benefits, rather than enduring the way employers will act today, employers having social permission to economize on the backs of the workers: Contract work, part time work, and so forth. I would mop my brow and say, “Thank God I’m not a millennial, “ but only if I could first face the reality that this is “the new normal.” For me, despite what that federal minister crudely said to millennials about part-time jobs being normal, this reality is still sinking in.

OK millennials, I know you guys are told to start your own one-person business, be your own boss, be a young energetic business consultant, whatever—and escape the claws of the modern economy. After all, your young energy for consulting can offset my advantage of real-world business experience. “Cough.” Call me skeptical, but I think all this modern advice is as silly as the cheerful advice, back in my youth, towards those being put out of work by big computers: “You can all get jobs as computer repairmen.” Or the advice given to everyone in a community where the town factory closes or becomes automated: “You men can make money by repairing radios, you wives can sew dresses.” Every family sewed one dress, and repaired one radio: their own. Their neighbors, of course, were all doing the same thing. Eventually, they were all reduced to sitting slumped on their porches, breathing shallow and blue.

As we might say in Alberta, “If the oil ain’t pumping, no one is jumping.”

Obviously we tired workers don’t want to pass any tax on to our children, no pollution tax or deficit tax. But what do we poor chickens know about taxes and economics? I can remember when everybody, including my school headmaster, honestly didn’t know that inflation was being caused by the federal government, ON PURPOSE. If the economists secretly knew, well, they weren’t talking. We thought inflation was some strange mixture of wages and prices, remember? We know now—but what else don’t we know, now? We know one thing: The elite won’t help us. They may be educated in fancy schools to know all about deficits and international trade and voodoo economics: But they aren’t sharing their voodoo secrets with us, any more than they will share their secret tax loopholes.

I’m old enough to have white hair. I never thought in my lifetime folks would look at a presidential candidate who was female, a serving president who was black, and a previous president who was from the totally opposite party, and see those three as all being more alike than they are different: Three peas in the same pod, all members of the elite.

Maybe we need to do like the Romans, after the Patricians failed miserably, and create the post of tribune to look after the interests of the common people, the Plebeians. I suppose President Trump was voted into office partly to be a tribune, but I don’t know—can he can “hack it?” At this point, I wouldn’t put him in charge of my smallest factory for making paper bags. I’m sure some folks voted for him against the elite, in the spirit of the Palestinians against the Israelis: “We will willingly hurt ourselves a big bit, if only we can hurt you a little bit.” Or as editor David Wong, from a rural area put it, in effect, “(We) voted for Trump like throwing a brick through the elite’s window.”

Well. Thinking of tribunes, Romans and Greeks, I guess all I can do is try to be like them, going regularly to the forum to converse and get help in trying to be informed. Or to the “virtual forum,” that is to say, meaning: I can take a grown up interest in the newspapers. And acquire perfectly good clippings. As for computer guys, I know they are supposed to be extra smart, but do you know what some ordinary person said about their social media stuff? “Tweets and podcasts are just like opinions: Everybody’s got one.” Nuff said.

So I read and I clip and I wonder if maybe someday I could do a long and thoughtful blog-essay about something I have clipped. “Should” I keep a clipping file? “Yes, but—” for most people, I dare say, “moving pictures” on the “idiot screen” are more fun than print—so who wants to read a blog anymore? Why should I even write, let alone bother to file? Because I “should?”

Today I have some “perfectly good” clippings, unfiled, on top of my refrigerator. What to do with them? No, I won’t inflict them on my parents, “who art in heaven” by the way. I know: I’ll just inflict them on my blog readers! Because you and I really should be good citizens, right?

Here are three clippings from the same page of the daily Calgary Sun, all from an opinion page from September 18, 2015.

From Michael Taube, the Headline: Take advantage of surprise surplus. Article begins, “Surprise, Mr. Prime Minister! You have a federal surplus!”

I think, “What the—? Oh. This was in 2015.” It will be a hot day in global warming before we ever have a federal surplus again. (This year Vancouver has dug out from a record snowfall, while over in Europe Italy has avalanches on the 6 o’clock news)

Next, I see a piece by Andrew Lawton, who has a radio show in London, Canada.
Headline: My encounter with David Suzuki. Article begins,
QUOTE It’s said that the world is run by those who show up. That can be a rather exclusive group, I learned, last weekend, as the only member of the media to attend an anti-Harper press conference by David Suzuki.

Being the believer in second chances that I am, I offered him a mulligan on the question that caused him international humiliation on Australia’s ABC in 2013 when he offered platitudes in response to a question based on number that event the IPCC has accepted

“(In 1998) global warming actually plateaued, so we haven’t seen any in the last 17 years—,” I started.
“Oh God, you’re doing the cherry picking thing,” he said, before saying heat has been absorbed by the oceans.

He was shouting…

The last question was asked by Suzuki himself. Just outside the room, he barked it to his host.
“Did you know about him?” UNQUOTE

The Calgary Sun has been described as a right-wing tabloid. Down the right of the page, for an article by Raheel Raza, she is described at the foot with, “ Raza is president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, author of Their Jihad … Not my Jihad and an international activist for women’s rights.” What? Women’s rights in the Calgary Sun? I thought out west here in Calgary, only commie-pinko-leftists cared about feminism. For example, Calgary’s police service, just now, is being dragged kicking and screaming into a culture where female cops don’t get bullied and harassed—and nobody can say yet, as big strong cops dig their fingernails into the floor, whether or not the dragging will succeed.  

Lastly there is the headline, created by editors during page layout according to how many column inches wide the story is: Ban niqab, burka in all public places.
Article begins,
QUOTE As a Muslim mother who never saw a niqab when I was growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, I am astonished to see Canada’s judiciary caving in to Islamists who have nothing but contempt for Canada’s values of gender equality.

I write as a Muslim Canadian who does not have any specific political leanings.

But in the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent that is passed off to naïve and guilt-ridden white, mainstream Canadians as an essential Islamic practice.

The niqab and burka have nothing to do with Islam. UNQUOTE

She goes on to quote an expert who says facemasks are not part of the religion, and that masks have certain messages in countries where Muslims and non-Muslims share the community. Well. Since 2015 a lot of us have forgotten those messages, so goody, maybe we have moved on; and hey, I don’t recall seeing any mothers from Syria wearing tents or masks, and I’ve seen more than a few refugee families in the newspapers lately. It seems to me that education by community peers works better than any legislation. At least in Syria, that is. Like with smoking.

The nice thing about living in conservative Alberta, based on agriculture and primary industry, is that even in a big room full of my liberal, liberated “new age” friends, none of us would describe ourselves as “guilty whites.” I guess being guilty for just existing must be a “big city back east” thing.

Well dear reader, I have presented three articles for you, and maybe that’s enough for today.
Wait, what about one last clip?

This one was not set down with typeface, since it’s a Bizzaro cartoon that graced my fridge door. Imagine: In the background, two Apollo astronauts are walking around in front of the lander. In the foreground, two moon rocks are talking: “Try to look inconspicuous. Uncle Bertie was picked up by one of those things, and was never heard from again.”

Sean Crawford

~For the formerly rural guy, editor David Wong of Cracked, throwing a brick through the elite’s window, here’s a link.

~Michael Moore is someone I've essayed about before. Call me a liberal, but as regards the Trump election, I think Moore said it best: "Everyone must stop saying they are 'stunned' and 'shocked.' What you mean to say is you were in a bubble and weren't paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair."

~It was a few years after my headmaster said the experts were baffled by inflation, that I checked carefully over my community college “basic economics” textbook, without being able to find anything about the cause of inflation. My essay about that ended up being translated by folks in Mexico.

And since I don’t believe in linking to my own stuff, because of course you are not a type-A busy business executive frantically reading this at work, right? ... You may, at your peaceful leisure, enjoy a few gracious seconds to find my essay in my archives of November 2013 for my essay Conspiracies and Inflation.