No Ben, just no

I try to avoid commenting on American politics on general principle because I have plenty of targets here in Ontario, but every once in a while comes a WTF moment that can’t be ignored. Such was the case earlier this month with the comments of Ben Carson. Something about immigrants coming to America in the holds of slave ships, working hard for less and dreaming of starting a new life for themselves. No Ben, just no. This is the sort of thing Kellyanne Conway would no doubt call “alternative history”.

Ben, these people were in the holds of slave ships because guess what? They were slaves! They were treated as cargo, not passengers. Once they arrived in America, they were property, not immigrants; not people who chose to come to America in hopes of a better life. They were ripped from their comfortable lives in various African countries and forcibly shipped to your fair shores. As property, they could be bought and sold, just as the plantation owner could buy and sell horses or cattle. And in many cases, the livestock was better treated than the slaves.

If they were dreaming of anything Ben, it wasn’t of making a better life for themselves in America. I’m just guessing here, but if they dreamt of anything, it was escaping, making contact with the Underground Railway and finding their way to Canada, where they could truly live as free people and make a better life.

Ben, I understand revisionist history is common in the administration of which you are part, where your president denies saying things he has been recorded as saying and other members deny speaking with the Russians despite proof to the contrary, but really, calling slaves “immigrants” is too much of a stretch. Immigrants indicates to me, at least, they came willingly, whereas slave ships did not carry willing, paying passengers. History texts are not printed in a looseleaf format for a reason: the past can’t be changed and is not subject to being altered at will by you or anyone else. . And “alternative history” is properly called “fiction”.

So, no Ben, just no.

Cat.

Raandom thoughts inspired by television

1 – Winters in the west can be especially nasty. Just ask anyone who lives in Manitoba or Minnesota if you doubt me. It wasn’t a fashion statement that the Winnipeg police wore buffalo hide coats in winter, it was because they were warm. Yet this week alone about 50 people have braved sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and walked across snow-covered field in hope of finding refuge in Canada. These people are, or were, all refugees living in the US, some of whom had already been granted the right to live there. They are taking this difficult trek and risking hypothermia because they are aware that if they presented themselves at the border crossing at Emerson Manitoba they may be refused entry. In this particular area, there is no physical barrier separating our two nations, so it is easy to gain entry to either country.

When asked, many of these refugees state they are afraid of what is happening in the States right now and don’t feel safe. And given this week’s shootings in Kansas and Washington state, I don’t blame them. The election of Donald Trump appears to have triggered a wave of xenophobia among many of his followers and emboldened them to the point these followers feel they can shoot or kill anyone who looks or dressed differently with, if not impunity, expectations their actions will be feted by others with the same mind set

Had these people tried approaching the customs house at Emerson, they would have been refused as I wrote above. There exists an agreement between the US and Canada that in essence says that refugees who arrive in one of these two countries cannot use that country as a jumping off point to the other. I’ve heard on the news this may be called a doctrine of “First Safe Country”. But, these people no longer feel America is a safe county, hence a two hour walk across snowy fields in temperatures as low as twenty below F – around -35 Celsius – to seek sanctuary in Canada.

On the news this morning I heard an interview with the Canadian Immigration Minister who stated both the RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency have sufficient resources to deal with these arrivals. But rather than round these people up and ship them back to Minnesota, the Minister (and this makes me proud to be Canadian) has given the town of Emerson $30,000 to help with the costs of hosting these new arrivals. Further, the news reports that most of these refugees do qualify for Canadian residency. There may be charges after the applications are processed for entering Canada illegally, but I don’t think these people are worried about that too much. We the north – home of the free.

2 – Earlier in the week I watched a documentary on the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for those responsible. Just after this happened, I wrote a piece in which I voiced the view that we, journalists, bloggers and anybody who writes opinion pieces are also Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is a publication that relied heavily on satire and while we who also write may not resort to that particular form of writing, we sometimes venture into sarcasm or some other form, such as allegory, to make our point. As someone who is willing to put their point of view “out there” for others, we are bound to upset some of our readers. It may be said that if we’re not upsetting someone, we aren’t doing our jobs properly. In the gatherings after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo many people held signs reading “Je suis Charlie”. For people who write and post their views and opinions on various topics, and I include myself in that group, I think we could modify that sign to read “Nous somme Charlie”, for in our own way we may be just as controversial.

Cat.

Kellyanne Conway explained

INTENDED AS HUMOUR OR SARCASM AND NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

As a Canadian and not directly involved in the recent American election, I’ve refrained from commenting on the fallout from the results of that election except for the occasional snarky comment of other people’s Facebook posts. To be honest, Donald Trump scares the living hell out of me.  But Kellyanne Conway and some of her bizarre comments are just too tempting to resist.

If you read or watch science fiction, you are no doubt aware of the concept of alternate universes.  This concept goes a long way to explaining her comments, specifically the “Bowling Green Massacre.”    It should be obvious to even the most casual follower of news and/or politics that she is not from this planet.

An alternate universe would easily explain her comments.  In our universe (the “real” universe) Bowling Green is known as the location of GM’s Corvette assembly line.  But, in the universe usually inhabited by Ms Conway, it was the scene of a terrible massacre by terrorists.

The problem isn’t that she’s using alternative facts, it’s that with her ability to engage in interdimensional travel, she sometimes forgets which universe she’s occupying.  There, problem solved and her weird statements explained.  Think about it – what else makes sense.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too, no matter what universe we inhabit.

Cat.

We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.

Unimaginable

DATE: June 13

TITLE: Unimaginable

As a Canadian I find yesterday’s carnage at Pulse in Orlando impossible to comprehend. As a transwoman, I find it appalling that so many of my brothers and sisters were targeted by what appears to be a deranged young man. Apparently during the rampage inside Pulse, an LGBT friendly club, the gunman took the time to call 9 1 1 and profess his allegiance to Daesh. As a result, the authorities are calling this both a hate crime and terrorism.

Reports I’ve read on news sites state that within the past two weeks he was able to legally purchase the AR-15 assault rifle he used during his attack. This despite having been investigated by the FBI on suspicion of having terrorist sympathies. Why he was able to legally purchase the weapon isn’t my question though. My question is: Why does anyone other than the military or law enforcement need an assault weapon of any kind?

Don’t give me that line about how you need it to protect your family and property because I’m not going to buy it. You could do that with a .22. Yes, I know the AR-15 comes in .223 calibre, but your basic .22 isn’t as deadly as the AR. Hunting? Unless you get into a firefight with your prey, or you plan to turn that deer into hamburger right there in the forest, an ordinary deer rifle will do. No, the AR-15 and its cousin the Kalashnikov are designed for one thing only – killing humans.

The NRA’s oft repeated mantra about a “good guy with a gun” also doesn’t hold water. The military and FBI, for one, constantly take training and refresher courses on what to do when there is gunfire in their vicinity. The average gun owner doesn’t do that. They go out to the range and fire off a clip or two at a paper target and feel they can handle anything. Guess what? They can’t. They can’t because that paper target isn’t shooting back at them. Without constant training and reinforcement, when the bullets start flying, they’re going to freeze and their body will be found with the weapon still holstered. Should they actually manage to draw the weapon and let go a couple of rounds, chances are they’d hit innocent bystanders.

America, and there is no delicate way to put this, when it comes to your gun culture, you’re fucked in the head. For example, not that long ago in Michigan, two men got caught up in a road-rage incident. They both pulled into a parking lot and rather than settle the dispute with words or fists, they both pulled out weapons and shot each other. A woman somewhere else shot up a Walmart parking lot trying to stop a shoplifter. America, isn’t it about time you realized your love of firearms has turned your country back into the Wild West of the 1870’s. To put that in some historical perspective, the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place in 1881 and Wyatt Earp, who was in that gunfight, died in 1927 – less than 100 years ago.
So tell me America, isn’t it time to halt the sale of weapons intended solely for hunting other humans? Other than to satisfy some egotistical need, do you really need an assault weapon? When you purchase a weapon, training should consist of more than how to load the damn thing. That training should include identifying your target before you let loose.

How many times have we read or heard of some homeowner being awakened by a noise in the middle of the night, grabbing his weapon and then firing at an unidentified shadow figure only to discover he’s just killed his son or daughter?

Safe storage should also be a mandatory part of that training. I can’t count the number of stories I’ve read about a toddler finding daddy’s gun and killing or injuring that toddler’s playmate or sibling. Which brings up another question: What’s the trigger tension like when a four-year-old can fire the weapon? Second question: What the hell is daddy doing leaving his handgun lying around with the safety off and one up the spout?

America, let’s be honest, you don’t really need an assault rifle, but since you’ve got one, let me as this: what’s next on your wishlist – a Barrett .50?

Cat.

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Walls to the south of us, walls to the north

We’ve all heard Donald Trump talk about a wall between Mexico and the US. But how many of us remember long gone Republican candidate Scott Walker suggested a wall between the US and Canada.

Having spent perhaps three minutes considering his idea, it is very obvious this man is intellectually unable to fulfil his current elected position. Think about the physical problems such a wall would entail and tell me you don’t agree with my assessment. Let’s start with the simple fact such a wall would be at least 5,000 miles long – more if he wants to wall off Alaska from those pesky Canadians. And don’t expect Canada to pay for it.

Did Walker consider that the only road access to Alaska runs through – guess where – Canada! Another little problem there with the wall and land access is Port Robert Washington. It’s stuck on a peninsula on the south coast of British Columbia and once again, the only land access is through B C. If you’re driving, you need to clear Canada Customs at one of the ports of entry south of Vancouver, then go through US customs when you get to Port Robert. Unless there’s a wall in the way, in which case someone will have to institute a ferry service from mainland Washington and avoid customs all together.

Across the prairies there doesn’t seem to be any unusual pitfalls. At least not until you get to the Great Lakes. This vast inland freshwater sea is where his plan really starts to fall apart. Look at a map and you’ll see the border runs approximately down the middle of the lakes and connecting waterways. There are three possibilities – the Canadian shore, the American shore, or follow the border exactly. And there are problems with all three. I can’t see either Canada or the US being willing to cede even one foot of territory for this wall. The third choice – following the border – has the additional pitfall that Lake Superior is 900 feet deep in places. That’s a lot of bricks. The border also runs down the centre, more or less, of the St Lawrence River. Again, same problem.

Now that we’re in the eastern part of the continent, he’d start running into other problems. Straddling the Canadian/US border, as well as the Ontario/Quebec border is the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve. Can’t see the Mohawks agreeing to a wall down the middle of the St Lawrence because it would interfere with their “extra-legal imports”. When the border cuts inland on the south shore, things really reach migraine status for our unthinking politician. Many small towns and villages in Quebec and bordering states actually straddle the border, In some cases, where the house was built before the border was set, it isn’t unusual for the kitchen to be in one country and the living room to be in the other. Derby Line Vermont comes to mind as a place where this happens.

I can’t think of any major problems, other than rivers, between New Brunswick and Maine, to cause our politician grief, other than the mutual co-operation that exists between Calais Maine and the corresponding Canadian city (the name of which escapes me, but I think it might be St, Stephen NB).

So, if three minutes thought gives me this many flaws in his suggestion, do you really want to vote for him again?

Cat.

Be afraid – your future is at stake

I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this, but what the hell.  As a blogger and writer, if I’m not upsetting people and/or making them think, I’m not doing it right. And I’ve taken  flak before.  After one posting I had my intelligence compared unfairly to that of a turnip, but I know that on a good day I can outsmart that turnip two times out of three.  First off, I’m Canadian, so the results of the upcoming presidential election shouldn’t have any direct effect on me.  But, as a thinking human being, I am also aware that what happens south of the 49th parallel will affect my country as well.  As a result, I’ve paid some attention to what is happening in the primaries, especially the Republican campaign.  I’ve stayed away from commenting on the campaigns so, far, but I think it’s time I voiced my opinion.

I’ll admit Donald Trump scares me.  From what I’ve seen and heard, he is preaching a gospel of hate.  Talk of building a wall along the US/Mexican border; banning all Muslim immigrants from the country and now, in the wake of Brussels, increasing police presence in Muslim areas and around mosques doesn’t exactly sound presidential.  Throw in his attitudes towards torture and this is one scary man.  If you notice, he keeps talking about “making America great again” and “getting Isis”, yet I’ve never heard him offer one single detail of how he will accomplish this other than “nuke ‘em”.   Talking with friends, most agree that if elected, Trump would drag the world into another war.  Most put the time frame for that at somewhere between six and fifteen months.  And unlike previous wars, this time America would be in the crosshairs which means Canada would also be hit.

As much as Trump scares me, Ted Cruz absolutely terrifies me. He too favours using nuclear weapons in the middle east (“I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’ll find out”). This man is an evangelical Christian from all reports, which is a dangerous character flaw for a politician because they tend to follow their teachings rather than common sense when dealing with matters of state.  One report stated that if elected, he would establish a national church, which I understand is in direct conflict with the Constitution.  Yesterday, during an interview, one of his aides stated that Senator Joe McCarthy had the right idea with the House Un-American Activities Committee – the “Red Scare” of the 1950’s – and it should be re-instated.

Picture this: If Cruz were to win and establish this national religion; and the aide wasn’t speaking his personal opinion on HUAC, we could be looking at America becoming a theocracy.  And no doubt the reborn HUAC would be used to root out heretics (“are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Episcopalian Church?”).

Cruz also favours increased security in Muslim areas and other xenophobic measures.

Both men seem to favour isolationist policies (other than bombing the middle east) based on their comments about building walls and banning  immigrants.  My view is that  the world would take care of that for them because if either were to actually follow through on their exclusionary rhetoric, most of the world would boycott America.

Those who follow American politics and have a better understanding of how the system works have told me that in the unlikely event either man does become the next President, the system would prevent them from instituting their more radical ideas.  I certainly hope so.

But, in the event they are wrong, Ontario is a nice place to live and winters aren’t really that bad.

Cat.

Am I or aren’t I?

Here’s something for those of you who think they are knowledgeable on American citizenship law:

I’m Canadian – born in Ontario, raised in Ontario and went through the Ontario school system (which doesn’t seem to have left any permanent damage). I worked here, paid taxes here and served in the Canadian Army in the Royal Canadian Engineers. In short, a typical Canadian.

Here’s the question I pose to you: At the time of my birth, my mother was an American citizen, having been born in New York state. My maternal grandfather was also an American citizen.

My status in relation to the US seems to vary according to what I read. One article stated that America follows a doctrine of “citizenship by bloodline” (I can’t recall the proper Latin term) so under this doctrine I would be considered an American based on my mother’s birthplace.

Another source tells me I qualify for US citizenship for the same reason.

Yet another source informs me that my mother did not meet residency requirements, therefore I would have no claim on American citizenship. This source stated that she would have had to have lived in the US for at least a year for me to qualify. I know she didn’t.

I’m the oldest surviving member of my family, so I can’t find out from anyone else, but as near as I can surmise, my grandparents were on their way to visit family in the US when my grandmother went into labour shortly after crossing the line. Given this circumstance, I suspect the infant who would become my mother spent perhaps a week living in the US before being brought to the family home in southern Ontario.

So my question is, as stated in the title, am I entitled to claim US citizenship or not?

This question is academic now, but had Harper won the last federal election I’d be considering it seriously. Oh yes, blame the Ted Cruz birth controversy for starting this line of thought.

Cat.

From the campaigns

At the moment, there is a campaign for an upcoming federal election in Canada and at the same time the Republicans are trying to decide who will front their party in the next American federal election. As with any campaign, there are things being said that, taken at face value, defy all logic or in some cases, legality.

Let’s look at the Canadian campaign first. Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister (although I frequently call him “King Stephen the first of Canada) is saying that he will increase the size of the army reserve by 25% during his next mandate (should he get one). One problem with making that promise Stevie. The Canadian Army Reserve is a volunteer force. How are you going to persuade 6,000 people to join the reserves? Offer them a signing bonus like major league sports teams do? Where’s the money going to come from – money that could be used to help solve our homeless problems here at home? Sorry Stevie, you’re grasping at straws and tailoring your promises to your audience. This was made in New Brunswick, where Canadian Forces Base Gagetown is a big employer.

Now, south of the border. The Donald (who else) is once again proving you should engage your brain before putting your mouth in motion. According to an article I read, he says he would deport the American born children of illegal immigrants. I don’t claim to be an expert on American law, but as I understand it, if someone is born on American soil, they are automatically American citizens. If so, how could he deport them – they are already in their native land. And how could he revoke the citizenship of natural-born American? They don’t hold dual citizenship – they were born in the USA – so there is no place to send them.

Sounds to me as if he’s doing the same thing as Harper and tailoring his comments to his audience. That won’t work all the time because some people don’t blindly accept what they hear. So, no matter on which side of the border you’re reading this, take anything any politician says with a grain or two of salt. It may spoil the taste a bit, but think about it – how can they do what they’re promising without the co-operation of the rest of the legislative body (Congress or Parliament) or the public?

When the time comes, get out and vote – the future of your country depends upon you having your say at the polling booth.

Cat.