Meandering through my memories

I’ll be 76 this year and while I’m still fascinated by what the future may hold in store for me, every so often, I reflect on some of the things I’ve seen over the span of my life.

When I was born, Canada consisted of nine provinces and two territories. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador ceased being a British territory and joined Confederation as Canada’s tenth province. So that means the last Father of Confederation, Joey Smallwood, was alive during my lifetime. Fun fact: The call letters of every radio and television station in Canada start with the letter “C” except one. St. John’s Newfoundland station VOCM was in existence before Confederation and they kept their call letters. Today, Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories, the Northwest Territories having been split and the eastern portion is now called Nunavut. I remember the great debate over choosing Canada’s now familiar maple leaf flag. I also remember I was opposed to it at first for I had served in the military under the red ensign, but I now embrace it fully. I remember Expo ‘67, the world’s fair held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year and the excitement throughout the country at the time. I remember the dark days of the October Crisis, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) invoked the War Measures Act to put an end to the bombings and kidnappings. British diplomat James Cross and Quebec’s Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte were kidnapped. Mr Cross was later released, but M Laporte was murdered. Eventually most of the FLQ members involved were arrested and served time. I remember when Canada had a female Prime Minister – Kim Campbell. Her government didn’t last long, being brought down on a non-confidence motion.

Internationally, I remember hearing and watching much from news reports. The conquest of Everest (I’ve always had one question about that: if Hillary and Tensing were the first people to climb to the summit, how did the Sherpa guides know the safest path up unless they’d done it before?; the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second. One memory I have of that is the nuns telling us we couldn’t sing “God Save the King” any longer and spending a good hour getting us to properly sing “God Save the Queen”. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on leave from the army when that got serious and expected to be recalled every time the telephone rang. I remember the Kennedy Assassination and where I was (sitting at my desk at work in Toronto). The rise and later fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet-style Communism. Man landing on the moon. I remember that when Armstrong took that small step for man, I was sitting in my car in an A&W in Scarborough Ontario.

This is but a small glimpse into my memories. I have more obviously, but won’t go into them. And, as I said back at the beginning, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We do live in interesting times.

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.

Je suis Charlie

The horrific terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris today was an attack on free speech everywhere. Why so? Can you honestly believe the vicious nature of this attack won’t make journalists everywhere consider what they write, or in the case of editorial cartoonists draw, before submitting it for publication?

Those of us who write blogs here on WordPress or other sites are usually anonymous unless we choose to reveal our identities. Some of us use that anonymity to take shots at various institutions that others may consider sacrostant. We rely on our avatars and screen names to keep us safe from retribution and use filters to prevent adverse or threatening comments from appearing following our offerings.

The journalists and artists at Charlie Hebdo didn’t have that privilege. When you publish a newspaper, of any type, your name appears on your copy. I understand from news reports that Charlie Hebdo made a habit of aggravating the Muslim community to the extent the office was firebombed in 2011. Today’s massacre seems to have been the culmination of that aggravation, especially considering the murderers were heard yelling (in French) “we have avenged the Prophet Mohammed” and, in Arabic, “Allahu akbar”.

Like it or not, or accept it or not, we bloggers are journalists reporting on the vagaries of life around us. Sometimes we talk about major events – in my case I had great fun ripping into the former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford and I have received much praise for my on-going series “Bring him to justice” – and sometimes it’s just the little things that irk us personally. But in any case, we are reporting on news for the benefit of others.

There have been many vigils around the world tonight in honour of the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Many people are holding up pens and signs reading “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). Take a few moments after you read this to honour the memory of these people, our fellow journalists, who paid the ultimate price for freedom of speech.

Cat.