Dear America

I must admit you both mystify me and frighten me. The current administration is especially worrisome. Before I go any further, I must state I am writing the from outside your borders, so I have not extensively studied your history.

As I understand it, the United States was settled by immigrants fleeing tyranny and religious persecution in various parts of Europe. If this is as accurate as I’ve been led to believe, can you explain something please? Why is it you, in the form of your government are trying to prevent people fleeing a similar situation from entering your country? What ever happened to “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”? Or does that not have an asterisk after it? Something like *”Provided those masses are white Christians”?

Since January 2017 I’ve noticed something of a paradox in your country. There appears to have been an increase in xenophobia, which is commonly defined as “a fear of foreigners”. This of course could lead to the situation described in the previous paragraph. Yet at the same time your leader seems to have no problem interfering or attempting to interfere in the affairs of other nations through threats of tariffs or other means. America has long considered itself a shining beacon in the world, worthy of being emulated. Unfortunately, in the past almost two years, the current administration has dimmed that beacon and turned that perception into one of bully and laughingstock.

On the level of the individual, I admit I am completely baffled by the way you approach politics. From what I’ve seen, both online and through personal contact, if your parents vote for one particular party, that’s the way you vote. Is this because “what’s good enough for m parents is good enough for me” or did you examine the parties and candidates and make your own decision? My sons were raised to think for themselves and to question things. One result of that is that the politics of my oldest son are nothing like mine. But he’s taken the time to look at candidates and issues and reached his own conclusions. I also cannot fathom the way many of you register as supporters of a particular party.

Another thing I and many of my friends fail to grasp is the chauvinism displayed by many Americans. Yes, we too are proud patriots, but we don’t feel the need to proclaim that by flying our national flag from our homes. National pride is a good thing, but by constantly telling everyone what a great country your have, you actually come across as insecure about that greatness.

Finally, I’ll just come out and admit it: Your President scares the crap out of me. How many times since he was sworn in on that day in January 2017 has ne pushed the world to the brink of war? People, a war with another nuclear nation won’t just affect the two warring parties. Radiation won’t magically stop at he borders of the nations involved. It will affect all of us. An analogy might be the Icelandic volcano that erupted. The cloud from that grounded all air traffic in Europe for weeks stranding thousands. Radiation from a war would spread over a much wider area. I can only hope that last night’s election results can put a leash on some of his more outlandish pronouncements and actions.

I am also deeply disturbed by presidential actions and directives aimed at the LGBT communities. Whether he wants to admit it or not, many people who stand under this umbrella are making valuable contributions to American society, such as serving in the military. Yet he wants to legislate them out of existence,

I haven’t studied political science or international relations. I’m just someone who observes then thinks about what I’ve seen. What I’ve written here is based upon that, one more observation before I close: it will take the United States of America at least a decade after the current administration leaves office to recover from and repair the internal and international damage.

Cat,

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History in our hands

Recently I set up my computer so that rather than a static desktop background, it shuffles through the photos in my scenery album. I should mention that I’ve got photos going back to 2007 on my hard drive – and yes, I’ve got them backed up – when I got my first digital camera, which was a Polaroid PDC 2030. I’ve upgraded since then and now use a Canon DSLR, or my phone if I don’t have the Canon.

Earlier tonight, I was staring at the screen while the microwave warmed my coffee and I realized something I hadn’t thought of before. As I said, I’ve got it set on shuffle so the photos are in random order, or as random as a computer can make them, and some images came up and I said to my cat (who wasn’t listening as usual) “Well, I’ll never be able to take that shot again because that location doesn’t exist.”

If, like me, you enjoy taking photos of scenery, either in your own area or on trips, you too may have images of sites that are no longer there in the same condition they were when you captured their likeness. The current header photo is a good example of that. Two months after I took this shot, a pedestrian bridge was erected across the creek and effectively cut the photo in two, destroying the peaceful scene. And I have other examples as well of places that have been significantly altered by “progress” since I took my shot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious photographer or just a casual shutterbug, you could have photos of historic significance on your hard drive, or in a box somewhere.

A few years ago, I had a showing at the local library. This show, titled “Listen to the Preacher Man”, consisted of photographs of various churches in southern Durham Region. At the end of the week long show, I asked the head of the historical department of the library if she wanted any of those photos for her files. Of the twelve I’d had on display, she took nine that showed places of worship in Pickering and a part of Ajax called Pickering Village (the original “Pickering”). Suggestion: if you have photos of buildings or areas in the municipality in which you live that no longer exist or have been altered, consider asking the historical department of your local library if they’d like copies. If they accept, while you might not get paid for them, you may be able to negotiate a price for a tax receipt. And, it also means you won’t have to store them any longer.

In the meantime, keep taking those photos and remember to hug an artist, no matter what medium they choose for they need love too. And also – smile for the camera.

Cat.

America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.

What will he try next?

Ever since he won the Republican nomination people have been comparing Donald Trump’s various pronouncements to those of Adolph Hitler during the 1930’s. This past weekend the apprentice president (my term for him) made comment on the fact the government of the People’s Republic of China is debating a motion to allow President Xi Jinping to remain president for life. The apprentice president’s comment was to the effect maybe the US should try that someday.

That set off alarms in my mind for last year I mentioned to a friend that we’d seen the last free election in the States. In my gloomy mind, I could see a crisis manufactured that would require the 2020 elections to be suspended “in the interests of national security” for the foreseeable future, which would leave the apprentice president in charge. Think it couldn’t happen?

Don’t forget the apprentice president seems to admire Hitler’s methods and some of his ideas and don’t forget Hitler used the Reichstag fire to postpone free elections in Germany until 1946. What will be the donald’s version of the Reichstag fire?

For those unsure of the reference to the Reichstag fire, a brief primer. One night, there was a fire at the Riechstag (think “Congress”). A Dutch immigrant, who was a Communist sympathizer, was arrested, tried and found guilty of the crime. Many people now believe he was framed and it was actually an inside job, the purpose of which was to bring in further restrictions on the populace and give an excuse to suspend elections

Some historians have pointed out the donald has already followed some of the things Hitler did, such as demonizing the press (“fake news”); done his best to incite animosity toward immigrants; incite mistrust in the courts and law enforcement and marginalise certain religions. I might add, that even if he himself isn’t capable of engineering such an outcome himself, there are others inside and outside his administration who would gladly take such steps for him.

I really hope I’m wrong in my assessment, but I have a nagging feeling I’m right.

Cat.

Are they at it again?

Some of you may remember the films produced during WWII and how they all seemed to portray the Americans (often led by John Wayne) taking on and defeating the evil Axis powers. They were meant to instill a sense of patriotism in the viewers.

Again, you may remember the (usually not very good) invaders from space movies that were popular during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. In these the aliens were meant to be seen as analogous to the “Red menace” and, as with the movies of the ‘40’s, once again the Americans were always victorious.

These movies, in addition to entertainment, were intended to instill a sense of patriotism and a belief in the invincibility of the American armed forces. Hollywood has often been used as a propaganda tool, as it was during the Second World War and the cold war.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the studios and other independent producers of television programming are at it again. By “it” I mean pumping up the patriotism and faith in the invincibility of American forces,. Times have changed greatly and too much has happened for people to believe in the infallibility of US forces but they are still a formidable opponent. Three new shows this year, “Seal Team”’ “The Brave” and “Valor”, appear to be designed to put a positive face on the military. I find it more than coincidental that we have three new shows glorifying the armed forces.

Given the Apprentice President’s words and actions, especially regarding North Korea and Kim Jong Un, and Kim’s responses, it appears war grows closer every day ( or hour – I have seen any new tweets today.) Shows such as these could have the effect of, as I said, increasing feelings of patriotism in viewers as well as prepare them mentally for the possibility of war. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and it really is just coincidental these shows all appeared in the same season, for I know that living north of the US/Canada border won’t protect me if everything does fall apart.

All we can do in the meantime is let ourselves be entertained and pray that calmer heads in both Pyongyang and Washington prevail.

Cat.

 

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.

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.