Sunday, April 4, 2021

Thoughts on a Second COVID Easter

"So we come to the end of April. even a chilly April, with birdsong around us and some of spring's color; and we feel the strengthening sun, we sense the opening buds, we know that no winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it."

The above quotation is from an April 29, 1956 editorial in The New York Times.  The editorial "April's End,"  was reprinted in a 1964 book entitled Sundial of the Seasons: A Selection of Outdoor Editorials from The New York Times by Hal Borland.  "April's End" has been attributed to Borland.

Harold Glen "Hal" Borland (1900-1978) was an American journalist, author poet and and naturalist.  He was a New York Times writer and editorialist.  He also wrote fiction and non-fiction books about the outdoors.  Borland was a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.  During World War II, he composed radio programs for the United States government and was a special magazine correspondent.  During his lifetime, he contributed a number of articles, short short stories and novellas to prominent magazines in the U.S. and abroad.

Hal Borland

Hal Borland's words about spring and winter are particularly relevant during these difficult days of a terrible pandemic.  Easter, Christianity's greatest feast, is upon us once more.  For the second year in a row, we are in the grip of a devastating pandemic.  COVID-19 has been the source of untold suffering, pain and despair.  It seems to be lasting so much longer than expected, and it has definitely taken its toll.  There are days when many of us, including myself, feel tired and defeated, ready to give in to gloom and despondency.  We can never let that happen, no matter how difficult the situation.  If we lose hope, we lose everything.  

"We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King said those words in a speech he delivered on February 6, 1968, almost two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.  

Easter is a time of triumph, a manifestation of the defeat of both death and evil.  The hope of Easer is guaranteed.  It is ours forever.  In a world of uncertainty, we can count on the victory of Easter and The Resurrection.  That is why there is something to celebrate, even in these terrible times.  Christ is risen!


- Joanne

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Conservative Party of Canada won't recognize climate change crisis

Erin O'Toole

The Conservative Party of Canada (no longer "Progressive" Conservative) is moving in a dangerous direction - further to the right.  It has the same problem as the Republican Party in the United States States.  Its rank and file are on the wrong side of history with regard to climate change.  The climate crisis is very real and can't be ignored.  It is linked to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  The two are intertwined.  

This weekend, Conservative delegates at the party's political convention voted to give thumbs down to environmentally friendly policies,.  They rejected the line to the party's policy book that would have affirmed the Conservative Party' belief that "climate change is real" and that it is willing to act."  This is extremely unfortunate and disheartening because if the Conservatives form the government they will have to deal with Canada's response to the most serious problem facing humanity.  If they assume power, they can be expected to relax environmental standards.

Yes, Conservative leader Erin O'Toole stressed that the party can't afford to be seen as hostile toward the environment.  He pledged to put forth a comprehensive plan for combatting green house gases before the next election.  (For the record, O'Toole is opposed to the carbon tax on consumers and says he will remove it if he becomes prime minister.  He supports a carbon-price to penalize big polluters for emissions.  For taking that position, he was mocked by Peter MacKay, his main opponent for the Conservative leadership).

Nevertheless, there are two major problems with O'Toole's position on climate change,  Firstly, we don't know how comprehensive O'Toole's plan would actually be in reducing carbon emissions.  O'Toole is willing to talk the talk, unlike some Tories, but is he willing to walk the walk?   Is he more worried about how the party will  appear to environmentally concerned voters than he is about decreasing green house gasses?  If  Conservatives come to power in Ottawa, could he not turn around and say that the country is too deeply in debt after COVID  to afford strong environmental measures? Secondly, even if O'Toole were to come up with an effective plan, how successful would he be in implementing it?  After all, the grass roots of the party are opposed to even the appearance of concern about climate change.  If O'Toole tried to implement any significant legislation with regard to the environment, they would pressure him to water it down.

As long as the Conservative Party's base refuses to recognize the gravity of climate change, the party is stuck in a time warp.  It cannot move forward to face the most critical challenge of the 21st century.  

- Joanne 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

COVID masks and freedom

It's very difficult for me to fathom why some people, particularly Trump followers and  Republicans in states such as Texas, feel that wearing a  mask is an infringement upon their freedom.  First of all, there  cannot be absolute freedom.  Otherwise, everyone would be able to do as he or she pleases, with impunity.  That would lead to total chaos, or as 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it, "the war of all against all." That's why civil society has laws, to prevent such havoc.

Definitions of freedom may vary.  However, one thing is certain.  In a civil society, freedom cannot be absolute.  One cannot be free to provoke violence or hatred.  One cannot be granted the freedom to cause injury, illness or death to another person except in self-defence.  One person's freedom does not include endangering the life of another or interfering with another person's constitutional or human rights.  In the United States, citizens have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  In Canada, it's "peace, order and good government."

There's another reason why Trump and his ilk don't like wearing masks.  They don't think it's macho.  They equate wearing a mask with weakness and fearfulness.  To them, it's better to risk getting the COVID virus than to appear what they consider to be weak.  They remind me of hockey players years ago who didn't want to wear a helmet.  They preferred to risk death or brain injury rather than tinkering with their macho image.  How many hockey players do you see today who don't wear helmets?

Let me be clear.  I am not advocating in favour of censorship or the severe curtailment of civil liberties.  However, civil rights do not include the right to endanger the lives and wellbeing of others by spreading a dangerous virus.  It's not a matter of freedom, it's a matter of public safety and respect for others.  Unfortunately, some far-right conservatives have made it a political issue, a way to lash out at government.  They think it's a case of big bad government telling them what they can and cannot do.  That is simply not the case, and if some right-wing Republicans in the United States truly believe that government can do no good. why don't they return their COVID relief cheques and do without that $1,400?  Why don't they refuse their child tax benefit?

Frankly, I don't enjoy wearing a mask.  They are onerous and it's not easy to breathe with one over your mouth.  However, the issue is not my personal discomfort or anyone else's.  Protecting the elderly and the vulnerable from COVID-19  is infinitely more important than individual comfort and convenience.  Trumpism is a very selfish philosophy.  Unless you have s medical condition that precludes you from wearing a mask, you should do so until health authorities advise otherwise.  You do not have the freedom to infect your fellow human beings.  

- Joanne

Monday, March 8, 2021

Reflections on International Women's Day

"To call woman the weaker sex is a libel.  It is man's injustice to women.  If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man.  If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior.  Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage?  Without her, man could not be.  If nonviolence is the law of out being, the future is with women Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?

- Mohandaa K. "Mahatma" Gandhi (1869-1948), From Young India, [October 4, 1930]

Today marks International Women's Day. at a time when COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the female population.  Although International Women's Day has its roots in socialism, it has become a general celebration of women and womanhood.  

The earliest Womnen's Day observance took place in New York City on February 28, 1909.  It was called "National Women's Day" and it was organized by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel 1874-1949), a Ukrainian-born American  labour activist, suffragist and educator.

Theresa Makiel

March 8th became a national holiday in Soviet Russia when women gained suffrage in 1917.  It was on March 8 (February 23 old style calendar) of that year that a women's demonstration in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) sparked the Russian Revolution and led to the overthrow of the czar.  The women went on strike that day demanding an end to World War I, food shortages and czarist rule.

Demonstration for bread and peace - Petrograd 1917

The celebration of March 8 was adopted by the feminist movement in 1967.  The United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day in 1977.

"Strident women move mountains.  Strident, like most words that mean abrasive, is rarely applied to men.  The strident woman has an opinion.  It does not matter what the strident woman's voice actually sounds like - it might be fast, deliberate, high-pitched, bellowing, or marked by vocal fry - the problem with a strident woman's voice is that she uses it.

Strident is one of many insults deployed against a woman who seems to have forgotten her role."

- Erin Matson

From Erintothemax, "In Celebration Of The Strident Woman," May 24, 2017

It is sickening to hear women's voices derided or described as "strident."  In the United States, Hillary Clinton has had to endure such criticism about her voice and personality for years, and throughout her political career.  Male leaders never have to deal with that.  The latest example of such male chauvinism comes from the leader of my own home province of Ontario, Canada..

Sexist Comment by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.  

Doug Ford

Andrea Horvath

On February 17, 2021, Premier Ford compared listening to provincial  NDP leader and Ontario Opposition Leader Andrea Horvath to "nails on a chalkboard."

There are over 190 independent sovereign nations in the world.  The wealthiest and most powerful of these countries, with the exception of Germany, are led by men.  Ask the average North American to name countries headed by women and most will only be able to name Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany. Some will be able to identify New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.  Both women have received plaudits for their achievements.  Markel has provided steady leadership to Germany for over 15 years, since 2005.  She was chosen Time magazine's "Person of the Year" in 2015 for her handling of the refugee crisis in Europe that year.  Ardern has been given high marks for her reaction to the 2019 mass shootings at a two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Her practical approach to the COVID-19 crisis has also been successful in allowing the country to reopen safely.

The small island nation of Iceland has a history of women leaders.  Its current prime minister is Katrin Jakobsdóttir.  She assumed office in 2017.gongel 


For the first time in its history, the United States has a female vice president in Kamala Harris.  Here in Canada, all ten of our provincial premiers are men.  There has only been one female prime minister of Canada - Kim Campbell.  She only held the office from June to November of 1993 and her government was soundly defeated in the election of October 25, 1993.  Canadians are currently represented by 100 women in the 338-seat House of Commons.  

- Joanne