Fighting Words Archive

This is the archive page for “Fighting Words”, in which area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stanley Bridge Centre.


Want to really hurt the NRA? Start a rival gun rights organization
By Jim Brown Originally posted July 27, 2018.

Open letter to David Hogg, activist, survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting:

So how’s it going David? Has the media kept on the drum beat for responsible gun laws? Or has it moved on to the latest bright shiny object?
You know the answer to that as well as anyone.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 teenagers were mowed down by a deranged shooter, no longer commands the airwaves or social media platforms. There have been so many mass shootings since that people have become fatigued with the tragedy and moved on – as they always have. And to be honest, who wants to dwell on that memory, it is so disturbing and disheartening.

Remember Columbine? And more recently Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Las Vegas?

All ancient history – or at least what counts for ancient history in this digital age.

I personally think you and the students who fought to prevent another school massacre did as good a job as you could keeping this unspeakable tragedy in the public eye. There isn’t one lever that was left unpulled.

But I fear it’s not enough.

All the massacre stories have blended together and become part of an indescribably sad mosaic. It has become all too overwhelming. Just as many pundits had feared, a sense of hopelessness has begun to replace resolve.

And a GOP Congress has done what many cynics expected it would do – nothing.

Just a few days ago we had a gun massacre in Toronto. Three died, including the shooter and two young girls, one only 10-years-old, in a senseless act of violence. Many others, left alive, are struggling to contain their grief and horror. It, too will be pushed to the back of our minds as time passes, replaced by other fresher, horrors.

David, you probably received advice from many quarters now. Everyone has an opinion on how to bring GOP lawmakers to heel, to make them abandon insane policies that allow ever more devastating gun tragedies to happen. But it’s impossible to make progress when the depraved NRA leadership has nearly every GOP politician in its hip pocket, right down to the municipal level.

So why not break the NRA at its roots?

Since you can’t eradicate America’s powerful gun culture, why not work to change it at the membership level?

Why not start a rival organization to challenge the NRA? Sounds just as insane as embracing the NRA doesn’t it? But really, it isn’t. How about starting an organization whose raison de etre would be to advocate for responsible gun laws while defending gun owners Second Amendment rights at the same time? How about having high school students from across the country sitting on its board of directors?

Many decent, responsible people are counted among the NRA’s five million strong membership. Not just the crazies that walk into corner stores with AR-15’s slung over their shoulders to buy cartons of smokes and beer.

If you’re a single mom looking for a handgun to protect your home from intruders there probably is no better support system for her than the NRA, which offers training and safety programs. Want to buy a second hand firearm that meets all the necessary, admittedly lax, legal requirements and won’t blow up in your hands? Then you approach a trusted NRA member, who could be a school principal, a family physician, the guy that fixes your car, the neighborhood dog walker, the realtor who sold you your modest bungalow or the grocer down the street.

It’s hard not to imagine millions of law-abiding NRA members recoiling in disgust and horror whenever they see an NRA-sponsored video featuring Dana Loesch smearing ordinary Americans who are demanding sensible gun laws as participants in a dark conspiracy or that crazed VP and CEO Wayne Lapierre who, after every school shooting always demands we arm more “good people” with guns, such as teachers.

But what if you got some wealthy progressives together and shook them down for seed money to build a new gun rights organization that spoke for victims of gun violence as well as gun owners? I bet you in no time at all, once it has a coherent structure and foundation, thousands of NRA members would quietly sign up. And they would be followed by Fortune 500 companies who would be only too happy to launch loyalty programs Mr and Mrs America would eagerly buy into.

Who doesn’t want universal background checks and an end to gaping gun show sales loopholes, not to mention bump stocks that vastly increase a firearm’s killing power? Or the prohibition of military assault weapons such as the AR-15, that should never be in a civilian’s hands? What reasonable person could object to raising the age for legal gun ownership from 18 to 21, or to longer wait periods to get a gun? Doesn’t it make sense not to allow anyone access to a firearm who is on a terrorist no-fly list or has been convicted of domestic abuse?

These are all sensible gun control measures that an overwhelming majority of American gunowners would support.

Of course it won’t happen overnight. You are starting from zero when you turn the key on the ignition.

It could take years or maybe a decade or longer, just like it did to make drunk driving socially unacceptable and to throw impaired motorists behind bars.

It may not happen until you enter graduate school, or seek election to Congress. But the needle will finally be moving in the right direction. And I’m thinking that when Americans see progress, however halting and gradual, they will want to be part of it.

I believe the NRA, bleeding members and corporate support to a rival organization, will see its relevance in politics and in American life steadily decline.

After all, the vast majority of Americans, including many NRA members, continue to believe they need the NRA like they need a bullet to the head.

 
NRA ads, especially this one, are alarming many of the organization’s members.
www.facebook.com/NRA/videos/1605896562755373/?t=0″
 
 
 
 


Keeping Anne alive for tourists
By Mike Duffy – originally posted July 22, 2018

LM Montgomery was years ahead of her time. A force for social change, whose worldwide impact is only now being fully appreciated. How well we tell her story will help determine future tourism development in “Anne’s Land.”

Senator Mike Duffy

Last week residents of the Resort Municipality were invited to discuss a proposal to “redevelop the Cavendish Heritage Park.”

The meeting notice read: “The Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico has engaged Coles Associates (in association with BDA Landscape Architecture, Results Marketing PEI Inc. and MRSB Consulting Services) to redevelop the Cavendish Heritage Park and to develop a connected well adjudicated Lucy Maud Montgomery literary tour.”

The Municipality is looking for ways to make our area, often referred to as “Anne’s Land” more interesting and appealing to tourists.

If we don’t find new – perhaps interactive – ways to capture the attention of tourists; to find compelling ways to tell the Anne story; and explore the other fascinating aspects of LM Montgomery’s work, we risk falling off the tourism radar.

For decades LM Montgomery was seen a writer of “cute” children’s stories. But because of the times in which she worked, and the world-wide distribution of her work, historians today see her in a new, and much more important light.

A lot of the credit for that new appreciation belongs to Dr. Betsy Epperly the former President of UPEI, who made the study of LM Montgomery her life’s work, and who founded The L.M. Montgomery Institute at UPEI.

A further appreciation of Montgomery’s important literary and cultural impact on countries around the world, can be found in “Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables.”

Edited by Irene Gammel, and Benjamin Lefebvre, the book is published by the University of Toronto Press.

They track the ways in which the international editions of “Anne” impacted the countries in which the translated works were published.

Most people know the Japanese fascination with Anne came about because “Anne of Green Gables” became required reading in the Japanese school system after the war.

General Douglas MacArthur, who led the Army of Occupation wanted to bring Western values of equality and democracy to Japanese society. He saw Anne as a perfect role model for Japanese girls.

Today Japan is a vibrant democracy. Their culture, and the role of women there is much different than it was 75 years ago. And part of the credit belongs to LM Montgomery.

A “connected well-adjudicated LM Montgomery Literary Tour” which is what the Resort Municipality is seeking – should not only show tourists the Island places referred to in the “Anne” books; it should also explain how Anne Shirley’s story fueled social change in countries around the world.

LM Montgomery’s vision extended far beyond her Island home, and our tribute to her at LM Montgomery Heritage Park and the associated literary tour should reflect that internationally important legacy.

To provide your input on considerations for the park and tour design, written comments will be accepted until July 23, 2018 by e-mail or fax. Fax: 902-963-2932 Email: resortmunicipal@eastlink.ca

Website: resortmunicipalitypei.com

Cavendish resident Mike Duffy writes on topics of local interest. He represents PEI in The Senate of Canada.


Simplifying your life is apparently weird
By Michelle M Arsenault – originally posted July 13, 2018

Michelle M. Arsenault is a prolific author from Cape Wolfe, PEI, whose tenth book is expected to hit store shelves shortly.

Earlier this year I was planning to move to another province. Although I have since put off this decision so I could focus on my writing rather than adjusting to a new life in a new city, at the time it was pretty stressful. Weighing the pros and cons of every decision is especially difficult if you’re an over-thinker who tends to fixate on one point after another until it’s just one big jumbled mess in your brain.

That aside, I discovered, very quickly, that my somewhat gypsy lifestyle is thought to be weird. Not having a long-term, settled address makes people suspicious. Switching jobs, not having a lot of possessions (especially a car) seems to disturb people. In fact, many look at me sadly as if I worked my whole life for…what? Nothing? I don’t have a house, a car or family to ‘show’ for my life. I mean, sure, I wrote a few books in a short period but it’s not the kind of tangible stuff that most would consider normal.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, up until 2010 I actually had a car, possessions like furniture and a job that I had worked at for many years; think double-digits. However, when I decided to move to Vancouver, many of these things that I needed became a huge weight tying me down. I wasn’t about to bring everything with me so I had to purge, sell and for the most part, practically give away many of the possessions that I had worked so hard to get in the first place. I was left thinking that it was incredibly ridiculous. Why do we work so hard for this stuff that really just anchors us and makes it difficult to have freedom?

When I left BC a few years later and returned to the east coast I was content to leave my furnished apartment aside, only having to purge a few items since I kept my possessions limited over the years, allowing me to never get tied down in the same way again.

So back to earlier this year. I’m attempting to move to a furnished apartment, however, it’s quickly proven a difficult process because, as it turns out, there aren’t many furnished apartments. Many that are out there are quite frankly dumps with ‘furniture’ resembling the crap you pull off the sidewalk when moving to your first apartment in college. Other places were nice but expensive. It was difficult to find anything in between and for some reason, trying to simplify my life actually became very difficult. Many furnished apartments weren’t all included and if they were, sometimes landlords weren’t getting back to me with images etc. It was frustrating.

I actually had one particularly difficult experience with a landlord while looking in Halifax who apparently thought that part of the interview process involved asking me why I moved so much. Well, why the hell not? Why do I have to justify my lifestyle choice? Why does anyone? Clearly, I was a weirdo because this particular guy grew suspicious and said he would only maybe rent to me if I was willing to drive the 3-4 hours to meet him in person and even then he couldn’t guarantee anything. Essentially he was a judgemental dick. However, he wasn’t alone.

Other things that potential landlords found weird included wanting everything included in the rent; heat, lights, along with furniture. Why? Well, here’s an interesting fact. It’s nice to know exactly what your expenses are each month with no crazy surprises in January. Why is that strange? Landlords also thought that it was strange I didn’t have work lined up in the potential cities I was looking to move. Have you ever tried to get a job in a city that you don’t already live in? They pretty much toss your résumé aside because it just seems like a big hassle. There are too many concerns that you might not actually move or find a place in time to start the job. I had money in the bank but that seemed kind of irrelevant. The fact that I have a long resume of jobs, skills, and experience moving somewhere new and finding work right away also seemed irrelevant.

The point is that we are encouraged to simplify our lives but try it; people will think you are a freak too. Get rid of all your possessions other than the things you really need and the world shakes their head. A minimalist? What the hell is that? Why do you want to pretend you’re poor? They don’t understand how you can be happy in life without a lot of stuff. Also, as I expressed, the world doesn’t exactly support this kind of lifestyle. Try finding a furnished apartment. Try to explain why you don’t have or want a car. Try to justify giving away stuff you feel weighs you down. People will treat you as if you have a psychological disorder. I promise.

It’s not fair. Why must I justify how I choose to live? Why am I required to toe the line and do what everyone else does? Why must I explain my decision to live differently?

It almost seems as if society has ideas about how we all must live and feels the need to put tremendous pressure and shame on those who don’t fit into their beliefs.

There’s a very unconventional guy that I see around and when I do, we chat. He has two homes. One doesn’t have electricity. He’s eccentric, an artist who very much marches to the beat of his own drum. He talks about how these two environments spark his creativity for various reasons. I find that fascinating. I know that some people think he’s strange and when I stand in the middle of a coffee shop talking to him, I can sense people looking at us strangely but it’s because I like him. He doesn’t feel the need to be like everyone else. He is living on his own terms. He doesn’t care what others think. To me, that takes courage.

I actually feel like when I do set out to move again and start looking for a new apartment, I might have to lie. Apparently being someone who just likes to move a lot is suspicious and weird so I will have to say something socially acceptable. Maybe I’m the side girlfriend of a rich politician who is paying my way and wants me closer by or maybe I’m an abused wife starting over. Oddly enough, these reasons seem like they would pass clearance faster than the truth. Sad, isn’t it?


Some final thoughts from the Cavendish Beach Music Festival
Story and photos by Jim Brown – originally posted July 11, 2018

Well, it’s finally over – four days of sun-splashed fun, except for a torrential rainstorm at the start to make everyone wonder if the Cavendish Beach Music Festival might actually be washed away. Here are some scattered, hopefully lucid thoughts from covering the festival over those four days.

Don’t leave the sunscreen in the car!

One thing I learned right off the start: If you bring a tube of sunscreen and lather on enough of the stuff to float away a lobster boat and then throw the container in the car for a couple of hours, it won’t keep you from burning. Take it from me, I learned the hard way. Keep it with you.

Best job in the world?

One day I was at the grounds toward early evening snapping photos of festival goers, surrounded by tens of thousands of revelers and feeling vaguely claustrophic, when a young lady looked at me, likely seeing my “Media” lanyard and badge, and with a wistful note in her voice, said: “You must have the best job in the world.”


Thirty plus years in print journalism, thousands and thousands of assignments for close to a dozen publications and I’m thinking, yep, for much of those four days it was “the best job in the world.”

But really, me? I was the editor of a non-profit website and I not being paid for my work. But then again, you can’t put a price on satisfaction. I knew, since I was the editor, every one of the photos I thought were the best I had taken those four days would be displayed by a talented artist, web designer/developer I worked with in the most attractive way possible. The Stanley Bridge Centre is a website, so photos would not have to be cropped down to postage stamp size, run at the bottom corner of a page, not run at all, or worse, run in black and white (And full disclosure, when I was the editor of a community newspaper I did all of those very things to frustrated, disheartened reporters, some of whom I assume are still sworn enemies). Yep, it was the best job any photographer could hope for over those four days.

Don’t ignore the lesser acts


You talk to the average person in the street about the Cavendish Beach Music Festival and you ask them what it’s all about and most would likely mention the names Shawn Mendes or Luke Bryan. Or maybe Brett Eldredge or Lauv. But many other talented performers toil in their shadow, and I found the music of several of those acts very compelling, especially EmiSunshine, a sensational young lady from East Tennessee who is just 14 and the Broods, a dynamic sister-brother duo from New Zealand. That’s the fun of large festivals such as the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. You go for the name acts and stay for lesser lights. And I really do believe they work a little harder on the stage for their fans.

 

Empty paid parking lots

I have to admit at the best of times I don’t carry around a lot of cash, which can be a big mistake at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. Perhaps it’s not that shocking to everyone else but it gave me a jolt when I saw signs offering concert parking for $20 and up.

I don’t mind hoofing it a bit if I can avoid paying $20, so I ended up parking my car at least half an hour’s walk from the festival grounds. I have three parking lot owners I owe a big debt of gratitude to and I won’t reveal their names, to spare them the embarrassment of being asked by others for the same favor at a future festival. One curious thing I noticed was that most of the parking lots of businesses charging the festival fee were only one quarter to one half full. Some were even empty! But maybe they had a different idea when they posted the fees. Perhaps they were worried revelers returning to their cars well into the morning hours would be intoxicated and cause extensive property damage and they were actually happy to see deserted lots.

The deluge

I never saw it coming. Never read or listened to weather reports, so when I arrived at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival grounds on the first day, July 6, shortly before noon I could feel the sun burning the back of the neck and thinking, I’m going to be broiled even with the heavy layer of sunscreen I troweled onto every inch of exposed skin. Then the heavens opened up and a fierce rainstorm struck. I was soaked to the bone in no time at all and tents rippled with the wind and the rain. Fortunately, a compassionate volunteer found some plastic raingear for me.

I looked at the long lineup of festival goers at the entrance, and nearly every one of them was dressed in raingear. They were all in good spirits, smiling and laughing.

Of course only a few hours later all traces of the sudden summer storm had left, the sun came out and the festival resumed.

No flashes, ever

A stern warning was issued to professional photographers allowed into a pit, a narrow chasm between the stage and a fence holding back thousands of straining fans that was the sweet spot for taking photos. No flashes, or you would lose your media privileges. I had my camera set on auto – no worries, it was early afternoon, the sun was shining brightly. All the available light you could ask for. And then I started clicking away when the performance began. And my flash went off…

So where are the political slogans?

You get thousands of young people and a healthy number of graybeards who have been around since Nixon and the Vietnam war and have stretched their backsides on the baddest of Harleys and you would think there would be quite a few protest T-shirts, upside down flags or unflattering images of America’s current president. Why nothing on climate change or the environment, or society’s cruelty to poor, defenseless wildlife? Heck, I can’t even recall anyone wearing anything espousing the virtues of veganism. Was this a music festival or a corporate retreat for a Fortune 500 company?

But, then again, this was for the most part a family friendly event, so I don’t think the protest statements were missed.


It’s not someone else’s role to complete us
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M. Arsenault is a prolific Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island based author, whose 10th book will hit store shelves shortly

I recently had a very humorous conversation with an older gentleman. Actually, I was probably the only one laughing when he expressed his concern I was still single. I mean, still single – he said it in the same tone as he probably would’ve used when saying such words as antichrist and death.

I mean, you know, they are all kind of the same thing, right?

As it turns out he had a great deal of concern for my singleness and expressed uneasiness over the fact that I had never married. He was completely perplexed and studied my face for a long time, almost as if he was attempting to find the defect that kept me single.

Slightly insulted, I mostly found the entire conversation fucking hilarious.

At one time, however, I wouldn’t have been laughing. From the day I stepped out of high school, I’ve felt immense pressure to have a boyfriend, ‘find a man’, or ‘settle down’ because apparently that was what I was supposed to do. I was always very confused by this fact because I never really got the impression any of my guy friends got multiple lectures, hints, and suggestions there was something ‘wrong with them’ when they were single.

When I hit my mid-twenties the pressure only increased. Each time I would return home for a visit relatives would ask about my love life and meddling questions quickly turned into gentle pressure with comments on how it was ‘time’ to settle down. I never handled the pressure very well and had a tendency to rebel against anyone who attempted to push their ideas on me. Truth be told, I would hide any relationships I had to avoid being pelted with questions about babies and wedding dates.

Marriage? Kids? At that time I considered it a trap. All around me I saw people who I considered way too young to either get married or have kids running out to buy wedding dresses and maternity clothes. I didn’t understand the rush. I questioned whether they wanted marriage or feared to be alone. I wondered if the marriages would work out – many of them didn’t.

In my twenties I partied as often as my body, schedule and finances would allow me to and honestly, the idea of not hitting the town on a Friday or Saturday night seemed like a complete waste of a weekend. In retrospect, it was all an escape. Entering a surreal world where everyone dressed, acted and were different people from in their real lives seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, the interesting thing about escapes is that they eventually don’t work and real life kicks your ass.

My life has taken a lot of twists and turns since that time, and luckily, I never found myself married in my twenties because the results would’ve been disastrous. The guys I chose back then were often terrible people. Misogynistic, condescending, insecure, self-involved and controlling are just a few words that spring to mind when I visualize the lineup of losers that I picked in those days. Granted, the only reason why I was attracted to or attracting such a herd of defective men is that I was pretty defective myself and had a long way to go with my own personal evolution.

To a degree, there is a sense of isolation when you’re single. A few of my ‘suddenly single’ buddies have been shocked to discover that sometimes their couple friends will no longer extend social invitations when their status changes. I’ve had similar experiences as well but didn’t really think it was a common issue until a few of my other friends started to make similar complaints. These people have even suggested that sometimes it feels as if the world is ‘punishing’ them for no longer being part of that mainstream couple world. This wasn’t such a surprise to me.

I think that everyone’s life is unique. We all have different timelines for different reasons. My life has been about personal growth and learning some tough lessons, all of which is something I feel is essential before tying the knot.

Popular movies and television often leave us with the misconception that until we find out ‘soul mate’ we are incomplete as a person. This is absolute bullshit. Not only is it not someone else’s role to ‘complete’ us, we are also not ‘lacking’ because we are not part of a couple. Love is a beautiful thing but only when it’s real; not when it’s a life raft for those who were already drowning.


The beast is upon the land
By Richard Deaton – originally posted June 30, 2018
Richard Deaton is a Stanley Bridge resident who is sounding a loud alarm for progressive Americans. If you can, get out and seek a safe haven in Canada. He writes: “Exile in Canada is not a bad alternative. Leave for Canada now.”

The wolf is at the door. And inertia is the enemy of survival.

The announcement that US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire at the end of July means that Trump will appoint a new member to the Court, resulting in his control over two branches of the federal government. This power will no doubt be wielded in an arbitrary and absolute manner by Trump. There will be no countervailing political force to his absolutism. This is the rise of American-styled fascism.

Sinclair Lewis in his classic novel, It Can’t Happen Here, portrayed an elected fascist dictatorship in the US., wrapped in the flag of patriotism and religious fundamentalism. We have now arrived at this historical juncture and it is, indeed, happening here. This will have profound ramifications for Canada and the rest of the world. But this is the reality.

People seem to have forgotten that Hitler was elected. This is portrayed in novels by Phyllis Bottome, The Mortal Storm (1938), and Anna Seghers’s The Seventh Cross (1942). The genie is out of the bottle. Civil liberties as we have known them will become extinct, as will the employment rights of workers; unions will become a thing of the past.

The world as we have known it will no longer exist and we ignore those political changes at our own peril. We cannot live in a bubble or stick our heads in the sand (pick your metaphor).

It is no accident that the very first act that Trump undertook on Inauguration Day was to remove the black military commander of the DC national guard. The praetorian guard must be loyal to Caesar. Nor is it an accident that Trump has recently launched an attack on due process. Without due process there is no functioning legal system at any level, only arbitrary power.

During the Cold War the US Congress passed The McCarran Act (1950), aka the Emergency Detention Act, 1950. This legislation provided for the financing and construction of internment camps for radicals and subversives in times of war or internal emergency. Richard Nixon during the turbulent Vietnam War era seriously considered rounding up radicals, militant blacks, subversives, and feminists, and having them put into interment camps.

At the risk of being accused of being an alarmist I do not believe that the impending political crisis in the U.S. will be resolved through elections, but only through the politics of the street. Indeed, one can foresee a number of possible scenarios whereby the 2020 presidential elections will be cancelled. Trump will have his Reichstag moment, or claim massive electoral irregularities to justify halting those elections. And the general public will opt for law, order, and stability.

What is to be done? There is an adage to the effect that, “He who runs away lives again to fight another day.” Now is such a time. There is no shame in mounting an organized or fighting retreat in the face of a superior force. Right-wing paramilitary groups have been active in the U.S. since the mid-1960s. The right fights with fists, liberals with words. Bluntly, sometimes it is better to run away and seek a safe haven.

Within this context I unashamedly say to my friends, colleagues, family, and comrades think very, very seriously about leaving the states NOW for your sake and the sake of your families. Think of coming to Canada, rather staying in the US, to avoid the coming cataclysm. Many peace groups in Canada during the Vietnam war were able to help resisters and deserters in various ways. Canada however, may not be the last, or permanent safe haven.

We no longer have the luxury of sticking our heads in the sand and hoping the coming crisis will just go away, or blow over. Survival necessitates planning. This is no longer business as usual, and the old rules don’t hold any longer. Progressives and the left do not have the luxury of acting like stunned deer.

Inertia will result in terminal paralysis, or worse. Exile in Canada is not a bad alternative. Leave for Canada now.


Steak and Tacos: Food for Thought
By Eleanor Hora.
Eleanor Hora is a Stanley Bridge resident and an aficionado of fine dining establishments, who has some timely advice for White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen.

My ex-husband was an officer in the Canadian military. In 1968, shortly after we were married, he was offered a plum posting – four years on a Canadian base in Germany. We were thrilled!

Since the Canadian dollar was worth four Deutschmarks at the time, some couples saw their posting there as an opportunity to live cheaply and save for a down payment on a house when they returned to Canada. For the younger, childless ones like us, the goal was different; we wanted to travel. A home base in Germany would give us the best and the cheapest opportunity we would ever have to see Europe, and we planned to take advantage of it.

So off to Germany we went, armed with our Michelin maps of Europe and our brand new copy of “Europe on $5 a Day”. (Yes, $5 dollars a day…and sometimes we actually managed to limit ourselves to that amount!).

Our first trip was a long weekend in Amsterdam. According to the guidebook, the city was beautiful, the food was great, and the people were friendly. Perfect! We didn’t speak Dutch, but we’d both studied high school German, and Holland was right next door to Germany so we figured we’d be able to communicate just fine.

It didn’t take us long to learn that guidebooks aren’t always correct. Yes, the city was fantastic and the food was incredible, but the people? The problem wasn’t a lack of communication; they seemed to understand our German, but they were the coldest, most uncooperative people we’d ever met! Still, two out of three wasn’t bad, so we focused on the sights and the food and had a wonderful time.

On our last night, we decided to treat ourselves to what the guidebook told us was the best steak dinner in Amsterdam. The restaurant was in a beautiful old building in a lovely part of the city, but the staff were downright rude. The sullen host showed us to our table, where we were met by an equally sullen waiter who slapped down warm rolls and butter, splashed water into our glasses, glared as we ordered in our basic German, and poured our wine without a word. By the time he had returned with our steaks and slammed them on the table in front of us, I was feeling so uncomfortable that I start babbling…in English… “Oh, look at the size of the steaks! And they look so good…”

The waiter stared at me for a moment and then snatched up our plates.

“You’re not German,” he said in perfect English. “Where are you from?” We told him. At last he smiled. “You’re from Canada, but when you come to Holland, you speak German? Why? What in the world were you thinking? Don’t you know history? Now I have to take these steaks back and bring new ones. Everyone in the kitchen spat on these.”

Imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t started babbling at just the right time. And I don’t even want to think about what was done to the meals we ate in the other restaurants we visited that weekend. I’m lucky I’m still alive to tell the story!

Why am I telling you this right now? Well, last week, there were two separate news stories out of Washington about women connected to Donald Trump’s White House being forced to leave restaurants before they could enjoy their meals.

First it was Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, responsible for all those imprisoned children who crossed the Mexican/US border, who was trying to enjoy a meal in a Mexican restaurant. (What was SHE thinking?). A couple of days later, another Washington area restaurant invited White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to leave before she could even order her meal. Both women were upset that they couldn’t enjoy a nice evening out without being harassed, and while I don’t really blame them for being frustrated, I wish I could tell them my story.

Take it from one who knows: they should thank their lucky stars that they weren’t able to hang around those restaurants long enough to eat a meal! If the entire kitchen staff in a Dutch restaurant felt angry enough to spit on my steak because I spoke a few German words more than twenty years after WW2 had ended, what in the world do they think any sensible Washington restaurant worker would do to their food today?

That night in Amsterdam, all I had to do to get a decent restaurant meal was switch from German to English. For Kirstjen and Sarah, it won’t be quite that simple.

I’d advise them both to learn how to cook and resign themselves to eating at home for a while. I don’t think any restaurant is safe for them, at least until after Donald Trump is gone for good.


Are we pissing off potential boycott allies?
By Jim Brown – originally posted June 26, 2018

When it comes to striking back at Donald Trump the Canadian government is much smarter than the average Joe and Jill Canuck.

Yes, Ottawa is SMARTER than us!

It’s not just because the Trudeau government will hit America with retaliatory tariffs worth $16.6 billion on July 1, which is exactly how much America’s unfair and unwarranted tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel will cost those domestic industries.

No, the genius is in the details. Ottawa is micro-targeting products produced in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Texas and other so-called red states which are home to Republican lawmakers who, if their constituents suffer enough from lost jobs, could cause Trump some considerable discomfort. Imagine if those targeted tariffs could actually cause the GOP to lose the House and Senate in November. It probably wouldn’t be long after that before impeachment proceedings begin.

The EU, China and Mexico, which has already applied billions in tariffs to pork, Harley Davidson motorcycles, soybeans and a wide range of other exports, have also targeted red states and this is causing heads to snap to attention in Congress.

That’s a good start, but we should remember America has an inexhaustible supply of ammunition. The can run up the tab for tens of billions of dollars to compensate the producers of agricultural and industrial goods and they can increase tariffs by hundreds of billions.

It’s nice to have the EU and Mexico and China on our side, but will it be enough?

Not if Trump and his enabling GOP lawmakers dig in their heels. They will argue, and it’s a compelling argument to millions of Trump supporters, that all of this pain and suffering will be worth it in the end when the entire world capitulates and American goods freely flow across every border.

It’s a war we can’t win unless we find even more powerful allies.

How about Americans themselves in blue states that are just as outraged at Trump’s policies as we are? Why not join forces and co-ordinate our efforts?

Let’s take deep blue California, for instance, with a population nudging 40 million people. That’s more than the entire population of Canada. California is also one of the world’s six largest economies on its own. It is the strongest, most resilient and innovative state in the America.

Why are we lumping them in with the Trump-adoring red states of Wisconsin, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas and Iowa?

I am convinced a consumer boycott of everything American won’t work. We have to take a more targeted approach that won’t offend powerful potential allies.

And there’s also a question of how committed Canadians are to the cause. Last year, for instance, when Trump was banging his anti-free trade drum and making ominous noises about our protective trade practices, and after he slapped tariffs on our softwood lumber, visits to the US actually INCREASED!

Is it reasonable to expect Canadians freezing in the depths of another dark, miserable winter will forego their trips to sunbelt states?
But maybe, just maybe, they might be encouraged to visit California or Hawaii, rather than Florida, Arizona, or New Mexico.

And don’t forget Californians have a legitimate beef against Canada. Ontario just elected our version of Donald Trump, who has promised to send us all back into the Stone Age by withdrawing Canada’s most populous province from a cap and trade agreement that would restrain green house gas emissions. Ontario’s withdrawal will cost the province billions and hurt the progress of California’s efforts to bring about a brighter, more sustainable future.

So there’s a lot of resentment building towards the Golden State’s Canadian cousin already, even though Ontario alone was the culprit. Does it make any more sense to blame them, or Hawaii or New York State or Oregon or Washington State, among others, for what has been wrought by backward, insular red states who voted for Trump?

Let’s all work together and make an extra effort not to buy anything from designated red states such as Kentucky, which does produce some mighty fine bourbon.

We don’t have to deny ourselves the fruits and produce we crave, just to strike back at Trump.

Buy them instead from California and other warm-weather states who voted against Trump. And California does bottle some really fine wines.

Red states, many of them with struggling economies, cannot compete against such a formidable army, especially if they are fighting other American states.

Lets not cut off our noses to spite our face.


Let’s try to make this messed up world we live in a little easier for each other
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February and another one will be hitting bookshelves shortly. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire. Michelle also has a widely followed blog at https://truthdarkside.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-card.html.

She went to her doctor because she was concerned about a lump and he wrote it off as nothing; probably busy, maybe he didn’t care but regardless, the doctor brushed off her concerns as irrelevant. He didn’t bother to take the necessary test to assure her the lump was harmless but, instead, assured the woman she was fine.
It was cancer. Unfortunately, she didn’t know this fact until a year later when it was too late.

However, this isn’t a story to rip apart the healthcare system or the doctor who made this error in judgment but it’s actually a story about how we treat each other. For example, had the doctor looked into the eyes of a scared woman in the office on the original visit, maybe things could’ve potentially turned out much, much differently. He didn’t.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just an overworked doctor who makes this kind of mistake; granted, in this specific case it was a matter of life and death, but in general many of us, every day, overlook people. We forget that these people may not always be here to overlook. That’s just an unfortunate reality that we all must face.

Months before this woman’s illness was revealed we exchanged Christmas cards. She had a habit of bringing cards to many of her co-workers each year, although that particular year she revealed to me that she had cut down on her Christmas card list. She confided after seeing some of her cards tossed in the trash previously she decided that her gesture wasn’t appreciated by some.

Although I was pretty young and naive at the time, I still recognized what an incredibly rude and hurtful action this was and immediately agreed those people were simply not worthy of her kindness. After all, it takes time to fill out that many cards but I guess they thought she had all the time left in the world.

This is a story that I would recall after her death when a stream of coworkers met and entered the funeral home together. I wondered to myself which of those people thoughtlessly tossed her Christmas cards away the previous years.

And let’s be honest. None of us want that kind of person at our funeral. I think almost everyone would agree that if you weren’t there for them in life, don’t bother showing up for the funeral either. And if you do, don’t cry and make a huge production cause you haven’t earned it.

The point is that we need to start treating each other better and we have to do so now. The news proves that we, as human beings, are failing. We attack each other online, we judge, we hate and yet, rather than to change these behaviors, we choose instead to justify them. We don’t have to look much further than world leaders to see this every day. The rule of the jungle is if someone is a dick to you, you’ve got the right to lash out.

I’m not suggesting that we should save the world. I’m not even suggesting that you talk to your ex or start saying nice things about repulsive world leaders, what I mean is to just be kind to one another. Smile. Open doors. Listen, really listen, when people talk and hear them. You may not have the solutions to the world’s problems but you have two ears, don’t you? Let’s try to take this fucked up mess of a world we live in and make it just a little easier for each other, shall we?

And if someone gives you a card, even if you don’t want it, smile, be gracious and just say, ‘Thank you’.


I’m challenging PEI’s pastry chefs to send something delicious to Trump’s handlers
Story and photos by Jim Brown – originally published June 11, 2018
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

For weeks I’ve been in a deep funk about the future of humanity and believe it or not it was all inspired by Donald J. Trump.

But all of a sudden the dark passenger has taken flight and you know why?

It’s because the escalating trade war engineered by a deranged president of the United States suddenly jumped the shark at the June 9-10 G7 summit in Quebec.

The ‘jump the shark’ moment happened went Trump’s economic and trade advisors Peter Navarro and Larry Kudlow went on the attack against Trudeau for “stabbing them in the back”. Navarro went a step farther by warning: “There’s a special place in hell for Trudeau.”

I just kept laughing and laughing.

How the hell can anyone be taken seriously who accuses Canada’s prime minister of sinister intentions?

Really? A “special place in hell” for Justin Trudeau?

Peter Navarro

You know what? I’m probably going to send those senior White House staffers a box of maple crullers, BeaverTails or some other sugar-saturated treat.

It’s obvious they feel they aren’t appreciated by their pals in Canada and overseas. Let’s show them we care! Imagine how they would react if they were “assaulted with kindness” or maybe “bombarded with bon bons.”

What are they going to do. Carpet bomb us?

Larry Kudlow

Perhaps Trump, Kudlow and Navarro are in a foul mood because they’ve been so busy screwing up the world order they haven’t had a chance to load up on carbs. And there’s no better way for elevating a person’s mood and improving their disposition than chowing down on a sweet treat.

So I’m issuing a challenge to all bakers and pastry chefs on PEI to send their best culinary creations to the White House. Let’s send Larry, and Peter and Donald and maybe Sarah as well a flood of Canadian love! Love, and maybe a BeaverTail, can truly change the world.

Let’s show them we care! We really do!

You never know, one thing could lead to another. Give them one of those euphoric sugar rushes and they might forget all about supply management.

Isn’t it worth a try?


Some thoughts on the proposed expansion of Kensington’s grain elevator
Story and photos by Jim Brown – originally published May 09, 2018
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

What could be easier to sell than the expansion of an older grain elevator in the middle of agricultural country – in this case Kensington?

Kensington’s grain elevator, built in 1969, is in sore need of refurbishment.

Why not double its capacity, so growers can have an easier time getting their grains/oilseed crops to market at a cheaper cost? Production of grains and oilseeds has been steadily rising over the years with demand and there just isn’t enough storage space on the Island.

That has meant hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs for producers, shipping their product to Nova Scotia for storage.

Under the proposal, capacity would go from about 13,000 metric tonnes of grain to 26,000 metric tonnes.

Close to nine acres of land would be purchased with the expansion. The project’s total cost is pegged to be anywhere from $8 million to $18 million, depending on how extensive the work is.

Who could possibly object to something that would not be that much different than what is already in place, except larger?

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea and there aren’t economic benefits for the community, but there are already issues with yellow dust settling on decks and cars and other property nearby.

And, at an April 25 public meeting on the proposal, at least one area resident made reference to the dust and noise levels that were annoying at times.

Here is part of my writeup: “The worst thing about it we find is the dust…and the noise” during the current operation, said Bill Bryanton at the meeting, which is part of the environmental assessment process.

“We have a deck in front of our house that goes all the way around and it’s always covered with some kind of yellowish-colored dust from when they clean the drain…
Bryanton said a visitor in a black car, who had been at the house for no more than 25 minutes, noticed afterwards his entire car was coated with yellow dust.”
Intrigued by what I heard from this gentleman, I did a quick Internet search and came upon a story written in 2008, about a plan to vastly expand a grain elevator in Blair, Wisconsin. According to the April 24, 2008 story the plan was put on hold after complaints surfaced about dust.

“In October, frustrated neighbors temporarily blockaded access to the corn elevator to protest the dust and ‘bees wings’ from shelled corn covered vehicles and created a health hazard to the elderly, young children and people with breathing problems,” according to the La Crosse Tribune.

Now there are some glaring differences between the Blair proposal and the Kensington expansion proposal. For one, the project was much bigger. There was already a 1.6 million-bushel corn storage facility at the city’s west end. This proposal would add a second facility of almost the same capacity, raising the spectre of a big increase in already worrisome corn dust.

But, in at least one area, the similarities were eerie. I was a little taken aback when I read Blair, Wisconsin had a population of roughly 1,300, about the size of Kensington.

I did another search and it didn’t take long to find a story about a grain elevator explosion in which one employee was killed and as many as a dozen or so others injured – also in Wisconsin.

That story was published by the Associated Press little more than a year ago, on June 1, 2017.

There were more than 200 people employed at the plant in the tiny community of Cambria Village, pop. 770, compared to just a handful in Kensington.

Here’s part of what was written in the AP story: “There was no immediate word on what may caused the blast at the plant, which was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards, according to reports from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

Funny how that word “dust” surfaces again. It is the connecting thread in the two stories from Wisconsin and in a complaint brought forward by a resident at the information meeting on the Kensington elevator expansion.

Coincidence? Probably, and perhaps I’m making too much of this. Plus, we are assured the entire proposal will go through a thorough review process.

What do readers think? I’ll be curious to hear their thoughts.


PEI needs trout guides
Story and photos by Jim Brown – originally published May 09, 2018
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

They have them nearly everywhere else. But here, in PEI, nobody seems to have thought about doing the obvious – launching a guide business to draw in hard-core anglers from the mainland.


We’re content to let a precious resource, our recreational trout fishery, languish.

And make no mistake, it is. All you have to do is check the sales of trout licenses, which have been on a steady downward slide for years.

I bet you if a university researcher did an exhaustive study on the concentration of productive inland trout waters PEI would rank near the top for angling opportunities in all of North America.

Really.

As any Islander knows you don’t have to drive very far if you live outside Charlottetown or Summerside to find a stream, river or pond with a thriving trout population.

Not many jurisdictions can say that.

I’m willing to bet with a little luck and perhaps an ad in a fishing magazine or online publication a shrewd entrepreneur could lure enough Canadian and American anglers to PEI to fill a minibus for a couple of weeks worth of fishing.

That’s how popular sports-fishing is. Think of it, the average motorist could travel from one end of the province to the other in just three hours. Now bring anglers into the mix and there’s no reason why they couldn’t fish half a dozen hotspots a day for a week or two weeks at a time.

If waterfowl guides can bring in American hunters by the boatload to hunt ducks and even Canada geese, which can be found in just about any empty field across North America, why can’t the same be done for trout?

Islanders tend to think trout habitat on PEI has been severely degraded, largely due to chemical and soil runoff from agricultural operations. But though nobody should underestimate these problems our challenges are nowhere near as bad as what is happening to much of the rest of Canada and the US.

Many anglers would think they died and went to heaven just fishing one of the streams an average Islander would consider hardly worth flicking a line at.

I also think the provincial government should get on board. Why not offer special licenses for wealthy tourist-anglers who don’t mind paying top dollar for the right to put more fish in their creel?

To be fair there really is only about a month, at best, of quality trout fishing on PEI before many rivers and ponds are choked with slimy green sea lettuce. Several popular hotspots are basically devoid of fish by early summer after the weather heats up. Anoxia is a constant threat and that happens when fast-growing aquatic vegetation decays, consuming oxygen over large stretches of water – essentially creating vast “dead zones.”


But from April 15 until mid to late May, before water levels fall with rising temperatures, conditions are ideal for angling.

And, coincidentally, that is the time of the year when tourists are still scarce, so a robust trout guiding industry could bring in much needed revenues for the struggling hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, bed and breakfast operations, hotels and motels.

Too often Island anglers take this valuable resource for granted. We know where all the best trout holes are and we fish them year after year, decade after decade. Our only contribution to the provincial economy is the expenditure of a few bucks for gas per trip (none if we walk or ride a bicycle there), the purchase of a fishing license and perhaps a dozen worms at the season’s start when the ground is still covered in snow or too frozen to put a shovel into.

Imagine if trout guides could charge their customers a flat fee per week. I would think many clients wouldn’t blink at paying as much as $1,000 or even more a week for the chance to catch trout in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

And they would also pay for their accommodations and dine in oyster bars and other local establishments. And, of course, they would investigate PEI’s entertainment offerings – including playhouses, taverns, ceilidhs, museums, and so on.

One single trout can generate hundreds of dollars worth of economic activity, versus the nickels and dimes Islanders spend.

And there’s one other thing to consider. Catch and release is the fastest growing segment of angling and many anglers would rather use artificial flies than bait, greatly reducing fish mortality.

It’s time we recognized what a valuable resource we have on the Island, at least in the early to mid spring, and market it to the rest of the world.

Who knows, revenues from a burgeoning trout guiding industry could even be used to improve trout habitat.


Why not sell shares in lobster boats?
Story and photos by Jim Brown – first published May 09, 2018
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

Ever since I was a kid growing up in Charlottetown and going on family deepsea fishing trips with the world-famous Court brothers of North Rustico, I have nurtured a fierce love affair with lobster boats.

I had this dream in my childhood of actually becoming a lobster fishermen one day.

Of course times change and so do priorities and over the decades lobster fishing got to be a very expensive proposition. No longer was it possible to just buy a boat and a license and a few traps and go fishing. Suddenly you needed an accountant and you had to be adept at reading spreadsheets and world markets.

To start up a lobster enterprise you probably need at least a million dollars worth of financing just to buy the boat and the license. And then there’s fuel and bait and regular maintenance and repairs and upgrades.

It wasn’t just a boat any longer, it was a commercial enterprise and lobster fishermen who were serious about hoisting and setting traps over a period of decades, unless they were independently wealthy or won the lottery, were often into the bank up to their eyeballs.

Not exactly a business that allowed you to sleep easy at night.

What if there were a way for dreamers like myself, who just want the right to call themselves dry-land lobster fishermen, and cash-strapped lobster fleet captains to each get what they wanted?

How about being able to buy shares on a lobster boat for a small sum of a few hundred or a thousand dollars each? If thousands of shares were sold the money could go into a large pool which would be used to cover all anticipated expenses including the lobster captain’s salary and benefits, as well as those of various deck hands.

The captain wouldn’t own the vessel, the so-called corporation would. Banks and other lenders would deal with the corporation, not the captain.

Of course it wouldn’t be a profit monster and it wouldn’t be promoted as such. Maybe during the season anyone holding an investor card could qualify for free lobster at the wharf, or maybe a couple of deepsea fishing trips at the end of the season when the traps are placed ashore and the boat is filled with rods and reels instead.

Maybe the little guy or gal investor could follow the boat on their social media platforms during the season, get video clips emailed to them and maybe Skype with the captain once in a while.

It would be a dream come true for landlubber lobster captain wannabes like myself and maybe for tourists from around the world who have fallen in love with the idea of actually participating in a working fishery, even if it is only to buy shares.

And don’t write off the possibility that buying shares in a commercial lobster boat wouldn’t bring in truckloads of cash sometime in the future.

Lobster prices have improved dramatically over the past several years and overseas markets are growing too. Canada’s recently inked trade deal with the European Union will make it much easier to penetrate a market larger than the US, at an estimated 500 million people.

Remember all those stories over the past several years about the exploding value of taxi medallions, which are required in most large urban centres, such as Toronto and New York, before a driver can legally go after fares?

Over a period of decades as the number of taxis increased, so did the value of a limited number of medallions, some reaching a million dollars each. Eventually only well-heeled investors could afford them, and taxi drivers had to pay exorbitant fees to use them.

Not so long ago a UN fisheries report predicted commercial fish species in Asia would virtually disappear by 2048, due to massive overfishing and habitat destruction. Imagine how valuable species such as East Coast lobster, harvested in a sustainable, well managed fishery, would suddenly become?

Actually, I’m surprised this idea hasn’t already taken off.


We laughed when Trump supporters walked by wearing “Kick the Doofus” signs
Story and photos by Jim Brown – originally published April 27, 2018

I’m sure nearly everyone can recall an incident from their high school years similar to what I am about to describe.

Someone had pranked me in Grade 9 by sticking a “Kick the Doofus” sign on the back of my shirt and when I found I out, of course I felt a sharp flash of anger. But it wasn’t directed so much at the person responsible but at everyone else who sniggered and put their hands to their mouths and doubled up in laughter when I passed them. I was broiling mad – at the people who knew about the sign, who saw it, but refused to tell me for the longest half hour of my life.

That’s what I fear will happen to Trump supporters when they finally learn they’ve been the butt of a cruel joke lasting years. The first questions they will ask are: “Why didn’t anyone say anything? Why did they let me go on making a fool of myself, buying the MAGA hats and merchandise, threatening to commit harm to media outlets and that other presidential nominee named Hillary? Why did they let me become a troll for Trump?”

God help us all then. I for one do not want to be put in a position where I will have an angry, foam-flecked Trump supporter screaming at me. Or worse yet, face a Trump supporter’s wracking sobs of embarrassment and shame. Did I do all I could to help them? Could I have put another meme or post on Facebook? Could No. 8,349 actually have been the one to turn the tide for at least one Trump supporter?

Instead of deleting supporters from my Facebook feed could I have messaged them instead, warned them in more stark, direct language about Trump? Instead of telling one Trump supporter 514 times he was headed down a dark alley, why didn’t I organize an intervention with social media friends?

There is so much more we could have done. And the mainstream newspapers could have gone the extra mile, too. Could they not have doubled the size of their text, added more cartoons of Trump committing his misdeeds to help literacy-challenged supporters (much of his base) get a clearer grasp of what was going on? And let’s not get into CNN and MSNBC and those other Fake News outlets that completely dropped the ball.

The reckoning is coming for tens of millions of Trump/GOP supporters who have yet to see the light. They continue to cling stubbornly to the desperate hope that Donald Trump is actually doing his best to help them.

They continue to believe in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary that Donald Trump is not lying to them. That he did not cheat on his wife. That he didn’t grope several women. That he isn’t playing footsie with Russia, That he isn’t a racist, and that he actually knows something about how an economy works.

They actually swallow his denials that he didn’t stiff many of his contractors and they believe him when he brags he is a shrewd businessperson, despite declaring bankruptcy several times.

They don’t believe fact-checkers who can prove he lied more than 2,000 times since coming to office and they also don’t believe his business affairs are entangled with shady Russian oligarchs and shady financial institutions and maybe even Vladimir Putin.

They believe all of his magical conspiracy theories and they also share his conviction everyone in the Mueller investigation is a Democrat sympathizer, out to “get” him and members of his family.

His supporters continue to stand by him even in the wake of the Stormy Daniels tsunami.

They believe him when he says he can’t release his taxes, because he facing an “audit”, which must be one of the longest in history.

A fledgling cult leader must weep when he thinks of Trump and his millions of enablers. It’s probably true – he could actually walk up Fifth Avenue, shoot someone and not lose any of his supporters, just as he bragged he could do during the election.

But it all must come to crashing end. The laws of physics cannot be denied forever.

I just hope his base shows mercy to the tens of millions of other Americans and Canadians who were not Trump supporters.

After all, didn’t we turn our backs and snigger when they walked past us wearing “Kick the Doofus” signs?


How Rude!
By Michelle M Arsenault


 
Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

It’s nothing new to talk about how rudeness is a problem today; whether it’s the person who ignores everyone at the dinner table to play on their phone or the jerk who can’t thank you for holding the door open for him, this is something we hear about all the time. Ms. Manners, whoever she is, would cry mournfully if she saw how most of us tend to behave. However, there’s one place that I find this to be especially frustrating and that’s in emails.

Ok, so let’s be honest. The way people communicate these days is often terrible to begin with. So why am I focusing on emails? Is it because the writer in me is perhaps a tad sensitive to things like tone or grammar? Are my expectations too high? Do I want to be entertained and dazzled by emails? The quick and easy answer to these questions is no. In fact, I know the difference between a hurried email from a BFF complaining about her migraine and an email that should be much more professional in tone. If you haven’t guessed it already, my beef is with the latter.

Not to suggest that every professional email I receive is terrible. In fact, I’ve found a few in my inbox that impressed me because of the overall tone; one of friendliness, yet answering my questions in a respectful way. They weren’t necessarily long replies, perhaps limited in details, but I finished the email with a positive impression of the specific companies, feeling that they appreciate my business.

The unfortunate other side is that I often received sharp, curt and sometimes even slightly hostile replies to my questions or concerns. I’ve had a few that have caused me to return to the original email to make sure that I didn’t, in fact, come across as rude or obnoxious, first. I hadn’t. This is without even talking about the emails I have sent to various businesses that weren’t even answered at all; that’s another topic for another day.

Now getting back to what I was saying earlier, I don’t expect to be dazzled or entertained and I’m far from Miss Manners myself. However, I do think that it’s nice to set a tone that is helpful and sends the message that whoever you work for (including yourself) is approachable, friendly and wants to help.

Its even crossed my mind that perhaps people aren’t even aware they’re being rude, abrupt or unprofessional in their emails. Perhaps, in a hurried state, they’ve typed up something fast without taking a moment to check the content before hitting send. I know I’ve had to pause on more than one occasion, especially when I’m frustrated with the recipient to take a breath and review my wording. In my experience, sending a rude email to someone only gives you temporary satisfaction, quickly followed by regret.

I did a quick search online to see what other people thought of this topic and quickly learned that I wasn’t alone. Rude, stiff and snarky emails were listed as some of the most off-putting responses and I have to say I’ve been on the receiving end of such messages and it didn’t exactly turn my crank.

As an example, I recently contacted a lady in real estate about an apartment I was potentially interested in renting. After some thought and research, I kindly told her the location might not be a ‘good fit’ for me. She replied to my email by curtly telling me why I was wrong, made a couple of snarky references to finding an apartment that was a ‘good fit’ (for the record, she actually used the quotation marks too) and then went on to tell me good luck and seemed uninterested in helping me find another apartment. It was weird.

Having said all this, what makes for a nice, acceptable email? Personally, I think it’s about tone. Friendly, warm and yet giving direct answers to any questions. If you’re not sure of what the person on the other end is trying to ask or tell you, reaffirm their message (ie. “So by ‘good fit’ what exactly did you mean? Maybe we can work together to find it” or “Have you considered why this specific apartment might actually be a better fit for you? Here are my thoughts.)

Not to suggest that your professional emails have to be warm and snuggly like a Christmas card from grandma – however, you might want to communicate with the other person in a similar fashion as you would if they were standing in front of you. I could be wrong, but chances are if I spoke to this real estate lady face to face I probably wouldn’t have seen her as abrupt and rude. Then again, if I were speaking to her face to face, she probably would’ve been a little more careful about her wording as well. At least I hope so.

Perhaps we are lowering our standards and getting a little too casual in emails. Professional or personal, isn’t it time to be kind to one another again?


If we can’t support each other, what’s the point of it all?
By Michelle M Arsenault – originally published April 17, 2018


I love people who take chances; who are ambitious and do things that scare them for the betterment of their own lives, those who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines. It’s not easy to take a chance and go after something you really want because the chance of disappointment is always lurking nearby; but it’s the people who try anyway, refusing to allow fear to take over, that I respect the most. They inspire me.

It’s for this reason that I support anyone who does something positive to move their lives forward. I love hearing stories of people who were unhealthy changing their diet and lifestyle. I smile when someone talks about going back to school or learning a new skill. I’m impressed when people make an effort in their own lives even though it would be easier to sleep in on the weekend or watch Netflix all day; they choose instead to find the time to go after what they really want. Not to suggest goals have to be lofty; you may not want to win an Academy Award or climb the highest mountain, but taking a chance may be as simple as changing the way you view the world or dropping that friend who always lets you down.

It might surprise you that what I dislike isn’t the opposite; I don’t necessarily have an issue with people who aren’t so inclined – whether it be due to laziness or lack of confidence, they may still get there when it’s their time. Actually, the people who really frustrate me are those who don’t support other people’s goals. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who tries to knock down other people’s dreams simply because they can’t envision them or have none of their own and therefore assume they aren’t possible. However, having said that, it’s understandable. If you can’t envision an amazing life for yourself then it’s easy to see how you may not be capable of envisioning success for others.

For that reason, I think the most frustrating people are the obvious attention seekers of the world; we’re talking about the people on your Facebook list who let everyone about all their successes but never support others in the same way they expect to be supported. We’re talking the people who practically want a parade every time they have a successful bowel movement or go to the gym but remain blissfully unaware or uninterested in what others are doing. Nor do they care.

Some people may call them narcissists. Others may call them assholes. Personally, I call them energy vampires; and we’re not talking about the kind of vampires I’ve been known to write about – sexy, savvy or smart – we’re talking about the self-absorbed yet, quite often, terribly insecure jerks who only are aware of your presence when you’re around to pat their back. If put on the spot, they will pretend to care about your life but as with everything, actions speak much louder than words.

Personally, I’m happy when people are excited about my accomplishments but at the same time, I’m also very excited when other people succeed. I don’t even have to know the person to be happy that they’ve reached a goal, overcome a struggle or took a chance to better their lives. That’s not the point. The point is that you get more out of life if you support others than if you look for support.

The more I do in life and the more I accomplish, the more I see the people in my life changing. Sometimes it can be a bit of an eye opener, but for every person that I’ve left (or will leave) behind, I find a new, positive, awesome person who I wholeheartedly support and who does the same for me. If we can’t do that for each other, then what’s the point?


It’s time to start treating people with respect again
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

I’m currently looking for an apartment. For some reason, I assumed I’d have my pick of the litter since I’m mature, responsible, quiet and have great references. I’ve always believed that whether I’m contacting a landlord, a potential employer or someone in customer service, it made more sense to talk to them in a respectful, friendly and direct manner. Makes sense, right?

As it turns out I was wrong. In fact, my honesty almost appeared to turn them off. It didn’t matter if I told them I was mature (ie. not partying every weekend and therefore not likely to vomit in their front yard every Sunday morning), responsible (I can pay the rent!), quiet (I won’t have music or the television blaring at midnight) or what I was looking for as a tenant (a central location where I could walk to most amenities) because what I was met with was quite unexpected.

Many were abrupt, rude, ignoring most of my message and questions and tossing a ‘so when are you gonna come see the place?’ at me. Others simply disregarded my message or coldly responded that the place was ‘already taken’ even though it continues to be advertised online. My favourite was a lady that literally wasted an entire week with a series of hoops that I had to jump through; all of which I did, providing her with terrific references, proof that I could afford her place and yet, with each response, she seemed to stretch out the amount of time before replying until, yes, an entire week passed and I was still no further ahead.

But that’s fine; it’s not as if I have a life to figure out or anything.

The point is that this experience is becoming quite dehumanizing. However, this shouldn’t surprise me since this has become the theme in our society over the last few years. Try calling for customer support anywhere and you will probably get a robot-like voice on the other end of the phone and I don’t say that to put down the people working at call centres; I’m saying that because many businesses want their personnel to be like machines. I once, briefly, worked at a call centre where I was expected to read from a script and we were chastised if we didn’t follow it. I remember asking a customer one day ‘What can I do for you today?’ rather than ‘How can I help you?’ and being raked over the coals. I didn’t sound professional enough and perhaps I sounded like a real human being. This was apparently a problem.

And then there’s social media and the comment section of…well, anything online. People rip each other apart. It could be the journalist writing the story, the topic of the story or another person’s comment on the story. It doesn’t matter. People feel justified to do so and yet, if they were standing in front of that other person, I almost guarantee they would scurry away like frightened mice.

I’ve actually had a couple of situations in my life where men I dated took the liberty of attacking me in emails. I found it interesting in both cases because when challenged to say the same words to my face, they declined. It’s not cause I’m a large, massive woman with mixed martial arts training or that I carry a weapon in my purse, it’s because most people can’t look each other in the eye and say what they are willing to say online.

We’ve become a society of people taught that human life doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is because violence and death are so regularly highlighted on the news that we forget that there are actual human beings behind that bombing in Syria or the murder in Toronto. Then again, maybe some can’t think about that because if we started to see each other as humans and not faceless people on the Internet, a ’moron’ on the other side of the phone or ‘just another dead body’ on the news, we might have to feel something that isn’t terribly convenient, which is compassion.

Perhaps life is easier when you’re disconnected. Maybe discrediting someone is the ideal way to not feel guilty or accountable. Anyone who’s ever had a ‘close friend’ ignore them during a bad time knows exactly how that feels and, of course, they do it because it’s easier to not extend themselves.

The good news is that sometimes it simply takes a little boldness to get these people back down to earth. Sometimes the solution is to let people know that they are, in fact, dealing with an actual person in these circumstances.

Many years ago I had to speak to someone in IT about my hacked website. Back then, I had a terrible host that essentially put me in the position of talking to an uninterested employee at a call centre. He was giving me attitude, talking to me like I was a moron and generally making me feel more frustrated, even though I was sincerely attempting to understand all the tech talk. Finally, I grew angry and said, “You know what? You can speak to me as if I’m a real person. Not everyone has been trained in this area like you and I’m sorry that I’m not a tech expert but you don’t have to talk down to me.”

I’m not exaggerating to make a point, I really did say that to him. He immediately changed his tone and became helpful. I’m thinking that we all should be doing that exact same thing a little more often. Maybe its necessary to give those disconnected people an abrupt and direct reality check and bring them out of their apathetic, disconnected world and back down to earth.


The Passover Day Massacre: From Zionist Dream to Nightmare?
Avrim ben Ezra, aka Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge, PEI – originally published April 6, 2018

We in the Jewish community recently celebrated Passover, the secular holiday commemorating our escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. As well, it celebrates freedom as an important political value for all people. But it is necessary for us to take stock of what is now occurring in Israel and at what cost to Jewish values.

The Passover Day Massacre which was recently carried out by the Israeli army (IDF) against unarmed civilians in Gaza who were demonstrating for their right of return to Israel was premeditated murder. Palestinians in the Gaza exercised their freedom of association, and no demonstrator came close to breaching the Israeli border. Yet 17 people were shot, two in the back, and more than a thousand others were wounded.

When the former white South African government committed the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 the world was outraged. Israel has now had its Passover Day Massacre. History will remember it. It marks a turning point. But the international community does nothing. We in the Jewish community have forgotten our history and have forgotten how to empathize with the oppressed, despite our Passover seder platitudes. Israel has gone from being the oppressed to being an oppressor.

Today Israel is engaging in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Any internal political or cultural dissent or criticism of its racist and expansionist policies against the Palestinians is being crushed. Israel is increasingly becoming a theocratic police state. And many of its policies against the Palestinians are similar to those of the former white South African government. It is no accident that Trump and Netanyahnu support one another.

Good Jews must speak out. Zionism is not Judaism. For too long Jews who have been critical of Israel’s repressive policies against the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be cowed by the Jewish establishment by being called “anti-Semites”, “self-hating Jews”, or worse. However, Mordecai Richler, Canada’s leading Jewish author, was an outspoken critic of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories in his book, This Year in Jerusalem (Vintage, 1995). The Canadian Jewish establishment hated Richler. One of the main characters who moved to Israel put it bluntly: “Something has gone wrong here.” And what has “gone wrong” with the Zionist experiment are Israel’s repressive, vicious, and racist policies towards the Palestinians that undermine and corrode Jewish values, and fuel a perpetual cycle of violence.

Israeli PM Netanyahu has adamantly refused to endorse a two-state solution (Times of Israel, Feb. 16, 2017). However the World Jewish Congress (WJC), representing over a hundred countries, is a strong advocate of such a policy. WJC president Ron Lauder, as early as 2015, endorsed new peace negotiations based on a two-state solution (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2015). More recently, Lauder warned Israel’s PM the lack of a two-state solution and a lack of religious pluralism within Israel would endanger its very existence (Haaretz, March 19, 2018).

The Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers (2012, dvd), interviews the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, all of whom bluntly state the occupation has been a disaster for Israel. Significantly, they relate that Israel over the years has systematically undermined and sabotaged any peace negotiations

In order for Israel to expand territorially it must remove the Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. This has much in common with the US strategic hamlet program in Vietnam and the white South African government’s Zulustan strategy. The situation has significantly deteriorated since President Donald Trump unilaterally reversed long standing American policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, not withstanding worldwide condemnation. Consequently, in March 2018 Israel passed legislation allowing them to unilaterally revoke the residency of any Palestinian living in Jerusalem, contrary to international law. Those residency revocations have begun.

Israel is now trying to forcibly “transfer” Palestinians from three areas in the West Bank (Area C) to build housing for Israeli settlers (B’Tselem, March 22, 2018). As well, the Israelis are demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran and expelling its residents to provide liebestraum for Israeli settlers (IMEU, March 22, 2018). The white South African government passed the 1950 Group Areas Act specifing where blacks could live; Israeli policies will have the same effect for Palestinians.

Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is driven by an increasingly overt racism. For example, the Jewish village of Kfar Vradim recently passed a bylaw withdrawing plots of land for sale since they were being purchased by Arabs and Palestinians. The mayor said this was done, “to preserve the community life and [Jewish] character” of the town (Adalaah, March 18, 2018). The US Supreme Court struck down racially-based restrictive covenants in 1948. In some towns Palestinians have been banned from muncipal swimming pools. As well, gangs of Israeli thugs go around beating up Palestinian men who date Jewish women (Haaretz). Recently, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called blacks “monkeys” ( Haaretz and Times of Israel, March 20, 2018). Recently Israel’s PM said that, “[black] Migrants are a bigger threat than terrorism” (Haaretz, March 20, 2018), Israeli settlers beat up Palestinian farmers with impunity. There is a reason why some say that Zionism is racism.

Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories violate the spirit of Passover and formal international law. For many Jews Israel is rapidly becoming the God that failed. The draconian Israeli measures against the Palestinians are negatively affecting the attitudes of many American and Canadian Jews towards Israel, especially young Jews. The schism between Israel and North American Jews will inevitably widen, both politically and religiously. Israel will soon have to make a decision as to whether it wants to be Jewish or democratic.


If you were a man, would you even be asking this?
By Michelle M. Arsenault – originally published April 2, 2018

A friend recently commented that she felt the need to hold back announcing her amazing accomplishment on Facebook. She feared it would seem like bragging and it would turn people off. I asked her one simple question;

If you were a man, would you even be asking this?

Certainly not to suggest men are the ideal that women should be modeling themselves after, but the idea behind the question is to change your perspective. For example, you might ask someone what the 5-year-old version of themselves would think in the same situation or if this issue would matter if they were currently on their deathbed. The angle for which we view things can sometimes change everything.

During this particular conversation we decided the male version of her wouldn’t hesitate to announce these accomplishments; in fact, he would probably relish doing so and have little concern if it ruffled anyone’s feathers.

I think one of the biggest mistakes women make is worrying about what others think. It’s almost like there is a set of unwritten rules for females that are cryptic and assumed to be common sense, and you’re judged when you don’t comply. I certainly have felt the pressure over the years and where it once weighed me down, it no longer does.

At any rate, I’ve used this change in perspective experiment to work through a recent issue that was lurking in the back of my mind.

I had a concern regarding some people in my life who regularly lie. It’s obvious and I’ve caught them on it more than once. So I used this different perspective experiment and here’s what I discovered;

– The male version of me just shrugged it off with ‘that’s just how they are’ mentality and didn’t let it bother his day.

– – The 5-year-old version of me didn’t understand, assumed these were bad people and went on to play with a Barbie doll, quickly forgetting the issue.

– – The person on their deathbed felt pity for those not strong enough to face their own truth or to be honest.

When you look at things that way, it really gives you food for thought. I believe that, as a woman, I often over think and over analyze both people and situations that are often not worth the time and energy that I end up wasting, not to mention the mental frustration.

So next time you’re in a troubling situation, ask yourself; What would you think if you were the opposite sex? What would the 5-year-old version of you think?
What would you think on your deathbed?

See what you discover.


An Open Passover Letter to My Rebellious Daughters
Avrim ben Ezra (aka Richard Deaton), Ph.D., LL.B., Stanley Bridge, PEI – Originally published March 23, 2018

Mes Chouettes,

For PEI’s small Jewish community the Passover holiday this year starts at sunset on Friday, March 30th. Passover is an important political and family holiday. And since Passover is very much a family celebration, it’s time for you to know and understand your own family background. Your (late) mother and I tried to instill you with secular Jewish values: a sense of right and wrong, a love of social justice, and to champion and fight for the underdog.

As young professional women in the helping vocations, now with your own families, I have faith that you will be in the vanguard of a new, progressive generation. We did not bring you up to be spoiled, entitled, suburbanite princesses! We always expected, no, demanded, that you make a serious contribution to the greater social good.

Passover is a secular and political holiday that celebrates the Jews’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Seder dinner is characterized by its historical ritual and symbolic foods, such as the matzah (unleavened bread) and the assortment on the Seder tray. The Haggadah or Passover story, is often customized by each family.

Passover, however, is probably best known for its requirement of asking the Four Questions. The youngest child is expected to answer them, showing off their intellectual acumen and dexterity. The most important question is the first one which asks: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Because, we are told, “Tonight we celebrate our exodus from Egypt to escape slavery.”

The Haggadah also contains the important Story of the Four Sons. The Story of the Four Sons (not withstanding its dated title) is central to the spirit of Passover and Judaism. The four sons represent different traits and are called Wise, Simple, Ignorant, and Rebellious. We always encouraged you both to question things so you were allowed to interrupt the Seder dinner with questions about Jewish history, politics, or culture, which you did with gusto, especially after you were old enough to do your own reading and thinking. You always enjoy the cut and thrust of a good pilpul (argument).

Both of you were rebellious children who had the intellect and chutzpah (nerve) to challenge conventional thinking, authority (including mine at times), and the religious and political status quo. Most importantly, you have learned to do your own thinking.

It is “right to rebel” is the real meaning of the story of the fourth child – son or daughter.

Your great-grand parents and grandparents were poor Jews. They immigrated to North America at the beginning of the 20th century from Hungary and Galicia. Your paternal great-grandmother was very interesting. She ran a Jewish home with five children, while her professional gambler husband was out making a living. After he died during the Depression she went to the synagogue for the High Holy Day services. But she was refused admittance because she couldn’t afford the tickets.

She refused to accept this situation. She renounced her religion, read Das Kapital, and became an organizer for the Steelworkers Organizing Committee (SWOC-CIO), while selling the Daily Worker outside of steel mills in Pittsburgh. She believed that we are all one human family and that the money changers should be driven from the temple.

Your grandmother, (step-) grandfather, and father, were all active trade unionists, while your great uncle was a criminal defense lawyer with high profile clients during the McCarthy period. You inherited your radicalism honestly. Wear the badge proudly.

Jewish history over the ages has had many rebels and revolutionaries, men and woman, such as Joshua (Jesus Christ), Baruch Spinoza, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Hannah Arendt, Joe Slovo, Isaac Deutscher, Phil Ochs, Salvador Allende, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, and Bernie Sanders, to name a few. Being a “Jewish atheist”, a “non-Jewish Jew”, a Jewish radical or trade unionist (like many family members), is integral to the Jewish tradition.

In keeping with Jewish custom, against my better judgment, you were bat mitzvahed when you turned aged thirteen, but were never accepted by the Jewish community because your mother was a very lapsed French-Vietnamese Catholic, who spent two years in a Japanese concentration camp as a child. She became a sociologist and union organizer who was influenced by the French worker priest movement and liberation theology. The fact that you speak fluent French made you ethnically suspect to some within the Jewish community. And you learned that the Jewish community can be as intolerant, ignorant, and bigoted as anyone else.

Passover is about freedom – personal and political – and our responsibility to speak out against social injustice. The Talmud says that, “Those who do not speak out against injustice condone it.” You understood this when you organized a protest at your Hebrew Sunday school against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. You learned that Zionism is not Judaism, and that it often violates many Jewish values. And you understand that it is repugnant for any group to claim special victimhood status to rationalize their repression of others.

This past year has been particularly difficult for progressives and progressive politics. The ascendency of far right, nativistic politics in the U.S. by Donald Trump has brought racism and chauvanism to a new ugly level. Trump’s support of Israel’s creeping expansionist policies in the West Bank, and the increasing violence directed at the Palestinians by Israeli settlers, culminating in the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem, contrary to all previous U.S. policy, has all but destroyed any hope of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

A one state solution is all that is left for the Palestinians. Israel makes a mockery of Jewish values and willl have to decide whether it wants to be Jewish or democratic.

So we shall again celebrate Passover as a family by recalling the struggle of people everywhere to live in peace and freedom. I am delighted that you took my young grandchildren to their first political demo awhile back to express solidarity with our Muslim and Arabic brethren.

Remember: the family that protests together, stays together. Protest is a family tradition. Progress only comes through struggle.

I look forward to seeing you all for Passover. Save me some matzah.

Shalom and salaam, Dad.


Trump’s followers are lining up at the Kool-Aid punchbowl
By Michelle M Arsenault – Originally published March 14, 2018

Michelle M Arsenault, known as MIMA to her many loyal readers, is a prolific novelist based in Cape Wolfe, Prince Edward Island. Her ninth and most recent book, A Devil Named Hernandez, was published in February. Learn more at www.mimaonfire.com. She can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at mimaonfire.

I’m a big believer in the theory that people show you who they really are in actions rather than words.

To me this is common sense. It’s easy to say something but actually going through with those words often proves difficult. However, I’m starting to think I’m in the minority and this reality hit home after the US presidential election in November, 2016.

It didn’t seem to matter what Trump did in the past; whether it was his terrible business decisions, mimicking a disabled man or cheating on his ex-wives. Everything appeared to be acceptable to those who voted him in.

Not that anything he said was much better; quite the contrary. It almost felt like every time he opened his mouth, the entire human race slid down a few notches in morality and intellect.

It’s as if we were all participating in a drunken frat party that never ended. That’s when it became clear to me Donald Trump wasn’t just a cartoon version of himself, he was also participating in the most pathetic and insane reality show of his life – and the rest of us were forced to watch.

Although some may argue that we aren’t obliged to watch this insanity as it unfolds, it’s nearly impossible to avoid a man who dominates the news, Twitter and any other medium he feels he should be showcased on.

Any attention, whether good or bad, appears to be terrific in his eyes. He’s kind of like a neglected five-year-old who throws his own excrement on the wall when he doesn’t get what he wants. And, really, is there much difference? In the end the world is forced to look at what Trump excretes every day, knowing someone else will be left to clean it.

Meanwhile, we are bombarded with intense negativity and a sense of hopelessness every time we turn on the news. It’s become a poison streaming through our society, regardless of whether we are American or not. It was a sadness that started the morning after the election and has persisted on some level ever since. Even on days when things are good there’s always that underlying fear that someone with more mouth than intellect will start World War Three; an unsettling prospect that’s difficult to ignore.

Of course, fear and hopelessness create a society that is easier to control. We’ve all seen it on a smaller scale; the company that lays people off periodically just to remind the others they could be next on the chopping block, is an obvious example. When people feel they are powerless they are much more compliant. Don’t believe me? Think of cults. A powerful, controlling leader that makes the others believe that the best thing they can do is to drink the Kool-Aid he gives them. And if we’ve learned anything since the 2016 election, it is how fast people are lining up at the punch bowl.

Michelle M. Arsenault


Time to cut Trump and his supporters loose
By Jim Brown

Lately I find myself thinking of a provocative book on entrepreneurship that turned the whole mantra of “the customer is always right” onto its head – The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.

He argues the customer is often not right and by doing everything possible to keep cranky, difficult customers satisfied business operators are planting the seeds for their own demise. Customers who constantly fly off the handle and make irrational demands will never be happy and by trying to cater to their impossible needs great damage can be done to a corporation or a small business. Too much time, resources and money are spent on a futile chase for difficult customers at the expense of other customers who will actually buy products and services without throwing hissy fits.

Now let’s substitute the GOP for the business owner. The Grand Old Party, also known as the Republican Party, has twisted itself into knots trying to justify the continued support of millions of its members for someone who doesn’t even share the party’s ideology or many of its core values.

Really, can the GOP survive as a legitimate political party if a large share of its supporters are drawn from the ranks of angry, older white men and women (but especially men), who are poorly educated, hold racist views, are firearms fetishists and conspiracy whackjobs and who display an appalling lack of curiosity about the wider world around them. The GOP establishment courts these supporters at their peril and risks pissing off people of color, the educated, younger voters, independents, moderates of all kinds and even entrepreneurs and businesspeople who don’t see the benefits of erecting walls and trade barriers which isolate America from the rest of the world.

The GOP, by not cutting loose (impeaching) a president who attracts racists and ‘dumb as posts’ Tea Party fanatics, risks losing the kinds of supporters every party wants to court – ordinary, decent folks who can actually add something of value to America’s social fabric, rather than greet everyone who doesn’t look and behave like them with suspicion and outright hostility. They also collapse the so-called “big tent” to the approximate size of a pup tent.

It’s possible Trump might max out the angry, poorly-educated, racist white man (and woman) vote in the next election if turnout is depressed in other key demographics.
He did it before, but I don’t see how it’s possible he can bottle lightening twice.

For one thing he won’t face a Democratic nominee as universally reviled as Hillary Clinton.

The GOP is losing valued “customers” every day by sticking with the kind of people who would dip themselves in a sewage lagoon if their leader asked them to. There just aren’t that many suckers in America.


Angry, racist white men who have less than Grade 12 education are getting fewer every day. Republican lawmakers can’t rejig enough district boundaries to exclude enough minority voters to keep the GOP in power. They can’t make up for growing numbers of voters who want nothing to do with what they perceive as a party friendly to white supremacists and the rich. Sooner or later will come a reckoning, probably after Trump destroys the American economy and all the values most Americans hold dear.
When the reckoning comes the Republican Party could suffer a fatal blow.

Unfortunately, it may already be too late to cut loose Trump and his motley base.


 
A RAW NERVE IN TIGNISH: A REPLY TO TIGNISH RACISTS
Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge – Originally published March 4, 2018

A long time ago I learned that you can tell the mettle of a person by the enemies they make. So let me be blunt: I make absolutely no apology for condemning and calling out those racists who were involved in the disgraceful incident at the Canadian Legion hall in Tignish a few weeks ago. Nor do I have any patience with those apologists who defend them, regardless of their rank or position, either in their missives to the Guardian or in their tirades and threats left on The Guardian’s FB page comments board. Racists should be confronted for their intolerance and ignorance, rather than being “built up” as suggested by some.

The Guardian’s editorial on the issue, “A thin veneer” (Jan. 24, 2018) got it right: we have a bigotry problem here on the Island. Time to face it. Fortunately, I am not alone in my reaction to the deplorable racist behaviour exhibited in Tignish; however, I am probably more upset by the behaviour of the majority in the Legion hall that night who stood by without intervening. I expect such behaviour from British football louts, but not here on PEI. I was wrong. These were just good old boys having fun, right?

So let’s take the gloves off. First, and most important, is the fact virtually none of the angry commentators in The Guardian or comments left on its FB page addressed the main issue raised (there were at least 143 hits on FB), namely that there was a racist incident at the Tignish Canadian Legion hall (Note letters and op-ed, Feb. 9, 2018). But no one wants to acknowledge or deal with this issue – that is, that a number of residents of Tignish engaged in overtly racist behaviour directed at two Sikh men, including hurling insults at them, and no one had the decency to intervene to defuse the situation. Indeed many, judging from the video, thought this situation was amusing. Take a look at yourselves in the mirror folks, it ain’t pretty. This was more than an “unfortunate incident.” It was rude, boorish, and racist. Just the image people want of friendly, rural Tignish, right?

In short, the people who are angry with me and venting on The Guardian’s FB page for making an issue of this are in a state of denial that any such a racist incident ever took place in their fair town. Indeed, their ravings hardly mentioned what happened. Why?

A second impressionistic observation is that probably 60-70 percent of those who left comments on The Guardian FB comment board were women. Most were critical of me and postured about how “proud they were to be born in Tignish.” But what does that have to do with this racist incident and the intolerance it reflects? Other people opined that I don’t have any familiarity with small town life here on the Island. Wrong, again. For the past five years I’ve lived in a small, rural town of 266 sturdy folks on the North Shore of PEI. And during my life I have become all too familiar with those narrow-minded, bigoted people in small towns who turn gossip into an art form. As well, I have a new appreciation of how hard rural people work and what one social critic called “rural idiocy.” My community had the generosity to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. What about Tignish?

But there are some brave women (and a few men) on The Guardian FB page who understood what the key issue was: racist behavior and abuse. And these folks give me hope because right up front they said I “had it right.” That took guts given the social pressure in a small, rural town. But what is most troubling is that most people want to give the issue the mushroom treatment and want “to move on.” Does racism exist in PEI, or is Tignish just an “unfortunate incident”? The Guardian in its editorial (Jan. 24, 2018) cited the results of a survey, albeit with its flaws, which found that 54 percent of all people found nothing wrong in what happened in Tignish, while 31 percent were shocked, and 15 percent were not surprised. This information suggests Tignish is just the tip of the iceberg here on the Island.

Leaving aside decency, courtesy, and common sense, the Canadian Legion policy regarding religious head coverings has existed since 1986, yes, 1986. The Canadian Forces (CF), the RCMP and a number of large urban police forces in Canada allow religious head coverings for both men and women. What happened at the Tignish Canadian Legion hall unfortunately reflects an organizational malaise that tolerates racist behaviour by its customers (note the video), in the same way that CF and RCMP organizational culture has tolerated systemic sexual harassment over the years. Why no politician or clergyman has commented on the Tignish situation and the need for tolerance is beyond my comprehension.

But why should the Canadian Legion allow its reputation to be sullied by the behaviour of a few racist yahoos? It should have a no tolerance policy regarding racist behaviour and language, in the same way in which drunken patrons are hopefully removed. Why would the Canadian Legion want to defend such behaviour or people?

Personally I am delighted that the beer money generated at the Tignish Legion hall is being used for good deeds. Let me also suggest a major contribution to liver research. That said, all public grants going to any Canadian Legion branch that doesn’t comply with federal and provincial human rights legislation should be terminated. And while the manager’s apology is certainly welcome the manager might have also made a reconciliatory gesture and asked those offended to come in for a beer and a talk.

Racism and harassment have no place in the modern world, or on PEI. But racism in some ways is like alcoholism, you first have to recognize that the problem exists before you can deal with it. Denial of the problem just puts off the day of reckoning. And as someone once said: “You are part of the problem or part of the solution.”


Why not have Trump’s military parade on PEI?
By Jim Brown – originally published February 13, 2018.
Jim Brown can be reached at peijim@hotmail.com

Donald Trump wants a military parade filled with tanks, and rocket launchers and massed soldiers in sparkling dress uniforms moving as one. Washington DC, which is his preferred host, doesn’t want it because the city’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure can’t handle the crushing weight of all those tanks and other military hardware.

So here’s a modest proposal: Why doesn’t Prince Edward Island approach POTUS and let him know we’re interested?

Say goodbye to horrible roads, like this one in Cavendish during spring breakup season, that are a cash cow for repair shops across PEI.

Don’t laugh. Or cry hysterically. There’s more than a grain of common sense in my proposal.

Anyone who has lived on the Island knows our roads and bridges are in terrible shape, and really, is it that much of a stretch to imagine they would be much worse after a military parade, even if dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and an ICBM system or two, plus thousands of soldiers were to pound them to rubble?

Now, it’s a pretty big undertaking organizing a military parade and making sure nothing catastrophic happens, like maybe an ICBM falls off one of those transports, so there would likely have to be more than a few practice parades to shake out the kinks. Just imagine the tremendous one-time boost that would provide to coffee shops, restaurants and the hotel/motel sector across the Island.

America’s troops have to eat and sleep somewhere.

Missile launchers at Province House?

We all know Donald is a narcissist who would love nothing better than to have a huge military parade pass in front of his reviewing stand. It really doesn’t matter to him if the troops and artillery pieces and missiles and tanks were to go past him on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, or Province House or the Tignish Legion parking lot.

He’s like a kid looking at a Christmas stocking filled with candies and toys. His eyes light up, the wattles in his cheeks vibrate like jello, his tiny hands clasp together in rapturous excitement.

“I’ve got my parade! I’ve got my parade! I’ve got my parade,” I can imagine him squealing in delight.

“I’m King of the United States!”

So why not indulge him on America’s dime?
Let him have the world’s biggest and baddest parade, right here on the Island. Let the F-35 Lightning IIs and B-52 and B-52 bombers scream overhead, wagging their wings for the Commander-in-Chief of the Free World. Take that North Korea, China and France!

Imagine Trump reviewing the parade at the Stanley Bridge Centre while Melania looks on.

And for good measure why not invite Trump’s bestie, Vladimir Putin? He could even send a few of his tanks and ICBM transports.

But an Abrams M-1 tank weighs close to 70 tonnes and its heavy tread will crunch our roads like they were tortilla chips! Do we want one, let alone dozens, perhaps even hundreds of these mechanical monsters on our beautiful, enchanted Island?

How about yes, and, Oh My God, YES!!!

A parade along the North Shore?

The only thing is we’ve got to get something out of Trump’s vanity project. Like maybe half a billion dollars to fix our entire infrastructure. Or why not shoot for the sky and ask for a cool billion sawbucks? Why the hell not? That’s just a rounding error in a US budget that already boasts a deficit of more than a trillion dollars with “T”. That’s after Congress passed a super-expensive spending bill just a week ago that included tens of billions extra for America’s military.

The money PEI would request to make Trump’s wet dream happen is just a fraction of what he wants to spend on his Mexican wall.

Right after the parade work could start on all the bridges and roads destroyed by Abram tanks and rocket launchers and ICBM loaded transport trucks.

Who wouldn’t love to see rocket launchers on the streets of Summerside?

With all those Trump dollars every single highway, cottage road, cycling lane and dirt path could be upgraded or replaced with the best materials available. We could get rid of all those horrible roads that have driven locals to the edge of insanity during the spring break up season and tourists to other, vastly more car and bike friendly destinations.

If Trump has his military parade on PEI we could replace the Stanley Bridge roundabout with something much larger.

We could have brand new bridges and culverts and sidewalks and widened boulevards and wonderful, state of the art roundabouts. Why our much maligned Stanley Bridge roundabout could be ripped out and replaced with one five times larger and big enough to easily accommodate a community garden!

Think of the thousands of construction jobs that would be created overnight, and if tourist operators and other business owners suffer during the infrastructure rebuilding period the PEI government could easily compensate them with surplus Trump dollars.

So a tourist season is ruined – just imagine how many more tourists will come here when we have much better roads for them to drive on, for all seasons and not just the summer.

Yep, Washington, DC doesn’t want the military parade so Trump will be casting his eye far and wide for an appropriate substitute. Why not here? This would give Trump an opportunity to right a glaring wrong since his election. He has yet to set foot on Canadian soil. It’s almost as if he’s treating Canada like a drug-resistant STD.

But I have a feeling we better act fast, since the mayors and city fathers of many other communities in America are likely thinking the same thing, especially in ruby red states.

We don’t want to lose out to Podunk, USA, do we?


Thoughts on Tignish:
All’s Well in Anne’s Land?

Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B. Stanley Bridge – 0riginally published February 5, 2018.

Further to the Guardian’s editorial (Jan. 24, 2018) and Rick MacLean’s op-ed piece ( Feb. 3, 2018) dealing with the racist incident in Tignish it is painfully clear that all is not well in Anne’s Land. It’s time Islanders had a serious discussion about racism.

The recent incident in Tignish where a Sikh patron was told to remove his religious head covering at the local Canadian Legion post was more than an embarrassment, it put all our dirty little secrets out there for the world to see. We Islanders are a complacent, smug and judgmental lot. We view ourselves as friendly and neighbourly, but in reality all too many people here are small-minded bigots who are afraid of change and are disparaging towards outsiders, especially those who aren’t native Islanders and come from away, or those who aren’t white, God-fearing Christians.

We have lived in our cloistered world far too long. Our siege mentality, and narrow world view, have become barriers to adapting to the global changes that are going on around us. Anne may have lived in a small, closed, isolated, rural world. We do not. Time to grow up.

The racist incident that transpired in Tignish was considerably more than a mere “unfortunate incident” requiring “sensitivity training” or an apology to rectify it. And many people will be tempted to give it the mushroom treatment and ignore what happened. But what happened in Tignish identifies the soft and ugly underbelly of Island values. As an old Pogo cartoon said, “We have seen the enemy and they are us.”

The Tignish incident exposes the underlying intolerance, racism, and hypocrisy that exists and subtlety permeates Island life. The veneer of welcoming openness and civility is all too thin and is a mirage. We’ll take your tourist dollar, now move on, please. What happened does not reflect well on us. But it is unlikely Tourism PEI or the PEI Real Estate Association will use that incident for their tourist advertising.

The following observations will make me few friends. First, it must be said when we scratch the surface here there is little to differentiate us from the Yahoos and crackers in the American south who are claiming racial entitlements based on white nationalism, and blame immigrants for their position in life.

The remarks on the old, now defunct, Guardian electronic comment board attest to this. Here, just below the surface, there is the same simmering anger, and the need to feel superior to someone else by putting their foot on the back of someone’s neck. Until recently the history of PEI was in many ways similar to that of Northern Ireland, with its continuous, ugly religious disputes. But now it is easier for Islanders to identify an outsider by the colour of their skin, language, or dress code. But what happened in Tignish is not about political correctness, it’s about common sense and decency.

Second, what happened in Tignish reminds me of that meme on social media where some fat, beer sucking biker-type with tats says: “Now that we got rid of them there immigrants, I’m goin’ to get me one of those hi-tech jobs they took.” In Canada and the U.S. immigrants were used as cheap labour to track the CPR (Chinese) or build the Rideau Canal (Irish). But now immigrants are uppity and have more doctorates and grad degrees, according to the recent census, than do most locals. As well, they have a higher incidence of home ownership. And immigrants do something the locals have forgotten to do: they work hard to get ahead. Immigrants value education and work hard to succeed. So it’s easy to resent them in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Third, in terms of Island culture, it is quite telling, based on the video, that other patrons at the Canadian Legion saw nothing wrong in what was happening, and were yelling obscenities at and giving the Sikhs the bird. In other words, what happened was acceptable behaviour directed at outsiders. The other message that was implicitly given off was that outsiders, especially if they are “foreigners”, have no business in the Legion hall. In brief, it’s a closed club for locals who want a cheap beer.

Fourth, and last, as the dust settles, we are entitled to ask: Where are our political, community, and religious leaders in all of this? Where is Premier MacLauchlan, where is Bishop Grecco, and where are the local MP and mayor in condemning this type of intolerant behaviour and promoting tolerance? What leadership or understanding have they provided to the public in all of this? And if all the Canadian Legion can do is provide cheap beer for big mouth, racist punks, maybe they have outlived their organizational usefulness, because it is painfully clear that they don’t understand why their members fought and died in our wars for democracy.

PEI has a lot of great folks, but what happened in Tignish embarrasses us all.


Tyranny of the Majority
by Zane Affa – Originally published January 26, 2018

I guess it’s now obvious why the Liberal government has trashed proportional representation, one of many promises Justin Trudeau has broken.

2015 Federal Election Results – Absolute Majority – No Accountability. Liberal legislation cannot be blocked by the opposition.

Proportional Representation would threaten his absolute majority.

His “majority” government has refused to continue an investigation into his ethics regarding his paid holiday by a foreign wntity. It is appalling considering his friend, the Aga Khan, (whom he had not been in touch with for over 20 years) has benefited from the “gift” given to the Trudeau family.

His foundation has since received millions of Canadian taxpayer money.

He is allowing dirty energy to be extracted from the earth again. He is playing all sides against the middle in order to stay in power. This broken promise to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint will continue to cause us hardship in this country. We are just beginning to enjoy our bizarrely warm winters mixed with stretches of subarctic type days.

We have passed the tipping point to reverse the effects of what is happening to our planet, and still our prime minister refuses to do what is right to keep us all safe.

For the past three summers we’ve had a drought on this island. The last two summers we have been plagued with ants and this trend will likely continue with them and other insects. We are also seeing animals and plants not native to the north migrating here.

Right now we are experiencing a winter that has been bitterly cold, forcing us to bundle up as though we still lived in Manitoba.

I don’t understand why Canadians are being fooled by Justin Trudeau. Sure unemployment is down, but at what cost?

The Liberal Party is no longer the party my family supported for decades. Justin Trudeau is a Stephen Harper in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be for all Canadians, when in fact, by his own actions, has shown he is only for himself and his friends who are the only real beneficiaries from his election.

What 2015 Election results would have been under Proportional Representation – Accountability. Liberal legislation could be blocked by a united front of opposition members.

The Liberals, like the Conservatives, don’t want to share power. Our majority system allows them to do whatever they want without repercussions.

One of the only ways to get honesty into politics is to vote for someone who doesn’t take money from big business or unions. Our government should be working for all Canadians, not just for the rich.


 
Zane Affa is an artist and observer of politics and lifestyles living in
North Granville, PEI. The world according to Affa can be found at
https://affasviews.ca.
 
For comparisons of different voting systems click here https://fairelectionspei.ca.


 

The winter of 2018 is driving me mad
By Jim Brown.
Jim Brown is the editor of the Stanley Bridge Centre website

With apologies to Ed Anger (defunct Weekly World News columnist), I’m pig-biting mad!

I’ve been trapped at my home on Sutherland Lane in Stanley Bridge for the better part of a week by this horrific cold snap.

I just don’t trust my car to safely get me past my driveway to a treacherous, ice-laden laneway that connects to the Rattenbury Road. It’s almost as long as the Rideau Canal and the ice seems just as thick.

I’m tempted to run outside and shake my fist at Mother Nature and yell obscenities.

I look out my door and gaze upon an icy ribbon stretching as far as the eye can see and my heart sinks. If I brought out an auger and fired it up I could probably go smelt fishing.

Sutherland Lane has been encased in ice for more than a week.

So I’m stuck. Fortunately I’ve got plenty of food laid in to keep me from starving and CNN to keep my brain from atrophying (although I am running alarmingly low on kitty litter and toilet paper).

I run my car’s engine five minutes a day, just to keep it warm. Thank God I had the good sense to gas up before last Thursday’s ‘bomb cyclone’ hit.

But it’s frustrating being stuck in a home at the end of a long driveway attached to a very long laneway.

We’ve had worse winters in PEI, and in Stanley Bridge – that’s what nearly all my Facebook friends have told me. The snow was deeper, the cold snaps sharper and longer. But honestly, I can’t remember a stretch like this. Even the record-shattering winter of 2015, which is one for the memory books, wasn’t this bad.

I do remember passing exquisitely sculpted walls of snow as I drove to Kensington and Summerside along Highway 6 and feeling at any moment they could shift and collapse onto my Corolla, but I don’t think I felt as frustrated and helpless as I do this winter.

The bone-chilling cold has seeped into my soul, stealing all the joy out of life.

In 2015, despite the record snowfall and blizzards which arrived every other day for weeks on end, there was still some respite between the storms to get out of Stanley Bridge, to drive somewhere and get it away from it all.

I don’t think I missed more than a couple of Saturdays worth of hiking with the Trails 4 All Hiking Club, based in Charlottetown, whose members travelled to beautiful, snow-draped trails all across eastern and central PEI, topped off with a visit to a local eatery for brunch.

Not so, this year.

Funny, until just recently I had stashed a Tupperware container with a sample from one of the last retreating snow patches of 2015 in the back of a freezer. The snow was peppered with needles shed from nearby trees and whenever I opened it I could smell the fresh pine scent.

I recall travelling to Kensington and stopping at my usual haunt, Bakin’ Donuts, to read my Globe and Mail newspaper, warm up with a couple of cups of coffee and enjoy the company of fellow travelers on the road of life, all with interesting stories to tell.

One day I looked across the street from the Bakin’ Donuts parking lot to see a huge mountain of snow burying all but the roof of the Frosty Treat dairy bar and a struggling, overmatched man with a shovel wedged into a snowbank and crawling around like a beached crab. He must have been at least 10 feet off the ground.

For much of the winter it was mild enough to walk the family dog down the Rattenbury without risking severe frostbite. I actually enjoyed the crisp crunch of new-fallen snow underfoot.

But there’s nothing good about the constant, chest-tightening cold this winter. Nothing at all. In my darker moments I wonder what archeologists will dig up in about 10,000 years from now when the ice finally retreats.

Even my dog, a seven-year-old German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, who would walk to Hunter River if I didn’t turn her around, barely sticks her nose out the door now before whimpering and rushing back in. In the winter of 2015 she would spend every snowstorm pouncing into fresh drifts, all but disappearing except for a wagging tail.

The unending deep freeze and accompanying mix of snow, rain and fierce winds, has at its peak affected millions of Canadians and half of all Americans. But that brings small comfort.

I don’t care whether it’s a polar vortex driven weather phenomenon, or it’s caused by La Nina, or its an inevitable by-product of climate change. I just want it to end. Now.

And I won’t be saving any ice in a Tupperware container as a souvenir.

Scenes from Stanley Bridge and Kensington in the winter of 2015.


 

‘Tis the Gift Giving $eason: Time for Fe$tive Celebration?
Originally posted December 18, 2017

‘Tis the season to be jolly, we are told, or is it? Are those who are religiously observant culturally insensitive and politically incorrect for not acknowledging those of different faiths during this holiday season? Should we, in the interest of religious tolerance and “inclusiveness”, now extend a religiously neutral “Season’s Greetings” to others, rather than the traditional “Merry Christmas”? And should the annual Christmas school play, based on Christian theology and mythology, be a more socially inclusive pageant?

These have become volatile issues, especially when mixed with political correctness. Should we provide for “reasonable accommodation” for all religions, or should we only acknowledge the religious majority, irrespective of minority rights? Canada has generally opted for a “live and let live” approach when it comes to religion.

We are repeatedly told that Canada is a diverse and multi-cultural society. As such, there is no official religion – that is, we live in a country characterized by religious pluralism. According to census data 67 percent of all Canadians are Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant), while Muslims account for 3.2 percent of the population, and Jews one per cent percent; significantly, people with No Religion (atheists and agnostics) now represent nearly 25 percent of our population. The importance of religion in modern secular society however, has steadily declined as evidenced by dwindling church attendance.

Does one have to be Christian in order to enjoy the holiday spirit and the camaraderie associated with Christmas? In the first instance, Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, not a Christian one. And its beginnings have more to do with the winter solstice, and having an excuse for a good party, than with the origins of monotheism or Christianity. And given the weather conditions shepherds would not have been in the fields at that time of year. St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) didn’t appear until the fourth century, and didn’t arrive in North America until the late 18th century.

Second, many people in recent years have rebelled against the crass commercialism now associated with Christmas. This commercialism is viewed as being antithetical to the religious message and spirit of Christmas. Christmas started to become commercialized in Canada towards the end of the nineteenth century when Eaton’s issued its first catalogue (1884); Toronto’s first Santa Claus Parade was in 1905, while Sears Canada’s “Christmas Wish Book” (1953) excited youngsters in the post-war era. Christmas has since evolved into a massive one- trillion dollar industry in North America; the average consumer will spend nearly $1,000 on gifts, although this will vary by socio-economic group. Interestingly, Reform (liberal) Judaism in Germany around 1890 resurrected Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, which became the Reform “Jewish Christmas” in North America after WW II.

But Christmas has been permanently transformed into Xma$, with the result that there has been an important shift in values from giving to getting. But there are days when I’ve had enough of the consumer blitzkrieg, and just want to sing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” and get it over with. Today, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, and Neil Sedaka represent the Christmas spirit as much as Bing Crosby and Charles Dickens.

A few years ago I was involved in spirited exchanges with three journalists (two of whom were Jewish) at The Ottawa Citizen (Dec 24, 2011 and Dec 23, 2013) regarding the values underlying Xma$, and whether other religious groups should feel excluded or discriminated against. Andrew Cohen, a highly respected professor of International Affairs and Journalism at Carleton University, brought many insights to the subject saying that, “The truth is [we] Jews love Christmas. Many feel the loss of [traditional] Christmas. …Like so many unobservant Christians, Christmas is not religious but cultural… As a Jew, Christmas was never about exclusion for me… The annual Christmas pageant did not threaten my identity… It was hard to be a Jew at Christmas, [but] it wasn’t because of prejudice (Ottawa Citizen, Dec 23, 2013).” And Benita Siemiatycki writing in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin said, ” I love this time of year… I see it as a holiday for humanity ( Dec 2010, p.7).”

Jewish Canadian writer Fredelle Bruser Maynard’s essay, “Jewish Christmas”, in her book Raisins and Almonds (1989), captured the conflicted feelings of a young Jewish girl living in the prairies caught between two religious worlds. My own experience and outlook is quiet similar to Cohen and Maynard’s. I grew up in a decidedly secular, if not anti-religious, Jewish home, where my parents wanted their children to be part of the broader society, rather than being an outsider. We also had a Christmas tree, and we never temporized by calling it a “Hanukkah bush,” as some do today. We enjoyed Christmas cards (remember them?), carols, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and, of course, the gifts. Most importantly however, Xma$ was never a religious holiday for us, there was no Christ in Christmas, rather, its observance was intended to promote good will on earth, enjoy food, exchange gifts, and extend glad tidings to all people. Clearly, one can enjoy the Yuletide spirit and rituals without being religious, or Christian.

Personally, I’ve never been particularly impressed by those, regardless of denomination, who feel the need to publicly advertise their piety; it’s a form of exhibitionism. For me, actions are always more important than words, regardless of religion or holiday. And I am not impressed by those narrow-minded, judgmental people who celebrate Christmas, but have little charity or good will in their hearts, and disparage others for being different. For them, religion has become nothing more than a social club for gossips and yentas. It’s time for believers of all faiths to practice what they preach.

The Japanese have it right as far as I’m concerned. According to my son-in-law who has lived there over a decade, the Japanese celebrate an outrageously consumerist Christmas without any pretense of it being a Christian holiday, except in name, especially since Christianity is foreign to them. In Japan this is called, “The Gift Giving Season.” Buy, buy, buy, and give, give, give. This is linked to office politics. At upscale department stores one asks for colour-coded gifts: a Gold wrapped gift for the big boss worth $300, a Red wrapped gift valued at $200 for one’s immediate supervisor, and green gifts of lesser value for one’s workmates. The commercialism is right up front, and it isn’t confused with religion.

For myself, I plan to spend Chri$tmas day the same way I have for many years: listening to carols from the King’s College Choir, Handel’s Messiah, and Bach’s Oratorio, and maybe Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.” This is the greatest music ever produced by western civilization, and I make no apology to anyone for my listening to it, especially those suffering from terminal religious or ethnic parochialism. If the headlines of our newspapers tell us anything, it is that we need more fellowship, understanding, and peace, not more ethnic or religious dogma, minutia, and divisiveness. Let us celebrate what brings us together in our common humanity.

Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, Salaam, and Shalom,

Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B
Stanley Bridge, PEI


‘Come from Away’ label not going away
by Eleanor Hora. Originally posted November 10, 2017

“You’re not an Islander, are you?“

After five years in Stanley Bridge, you’d think I’d be used to that question by now, but it still bugs me. The truth is I’m more of an Islander than you are! I was born on Vancouver Island. When I was five we moved to the island of Newfoundland, my parents’ home province. I grew up there and still consider myself a Newfie. True, I lived in Ontario for most of my adult life, but when I retired, I moved here, to my third island.

So yes, I’m an Islander…three times more than you are! There’s just one problem, and we both know it: I’m not one of you. I’m a dreaded CFA – a Come from Away. And because of that, no matter how long I live here, I’ll never truly belong.

Being a CFA is a strange feeling for me, because as a child growing up in Newfoundland I lived on the other side of the divide. I was one of the locals who laughed at mainlanders who moved there because they loved our way of life and then, even before they were unpacked, would go about trying to “improve” things.

“I love this beach,” they’d say. “It just needs a big parking lot, some change rooms, a couple of nice restaurants, and maybe a hotel or two so people don’t have to drive so far.”

A Newfoundland beach.

To their faces we’d smile and nod, but behind their backs we’d complain that they were trying to turn us into Ontario East or USA North, and we resented them.

We had a Sunday School teacher, the wife of an American army officer posted to St. John’s, who told us all how thrilled she was she finally had a chance to “do missionary work in a backward country” and treated us, even our minister, like a bunch of ignorant hillbilly bumpkins.

We listened to her bible stories, laughed at her jokes, visited her home on the base and devoured all the American goodies we couldn‘t get in our stores, but we resented her, too, and she was never invited back to our homes.

Looking back now, I wonder: why didn’t our parents or our minister challenge her? Why didn’t they point out that we weren’t all that backward, that some of them knew more about God and religion than she would ever know? They were educated; they read; they watched television; they traveled; they kept up with the news. They knew what was happening in the world.

I think it was because of the old Maritime inferiority complex that’s still alive and kicking today, here as well as in Newfoundland. She was from away so it was all right for her to be condescending and insulting. She probably was better than we were, after all.

Some CFAs in Newfoundland truly meant well and joined local organizations or formed new groups to make what they saw as necessary improvements to their new community. They did a good job, but what right did newcomers have to take over the groups we could have run ourselves? True, we’d never have thought of a starting those groups ourselves and wouldn’t have wanted to be in charge anyhow, but we still resented them, just on principle.

Is any of this ringing a bell so far? It should be! I see it here every day.

But you know what? While you’re complaining that Island CFAs are too pushy and opinionated, they’re talking about you, too. They say you’re too judgemental and that without their pushing, you’d be far too slow to keep up in our changing world. In many ways they’re right, and I think I know why.

In Newfoundland everyone knew everyone else, and everyone minded everyone else‘s business. The first question a stranger asked was, “What’s your last name?”

That was the key to finding out everything they needed to know about you: your religion, your home town, your extended family, your family’s social class and income level and the political party they supported …and you were judged accordingly. Here, the question is “Who’s your father?” but it seems to me that the results are pretty much the same.

If I ever said or did anything wrong when I was out with friends, chances were that my parents would have heard about it before I got home, and in the lecture that followed there’d always be the question, “What would your grandmother (or your teacher, or the neighbours) think if they heard about this?”

Directly. or indirectly, I was always reminded that my actions reflected on my entire extended family. Child or adult, “Remember who you are” seemed to be the rule that we were expected to live by. That’s a lot of baggage to be carrying around all your life.

In some ways being a member of such a close-knit group can be a positive thing; it certainly keeps kids under control and keeps the crime rate down. But it can be a negative too. It hides family abuse and mental illness and addiction under a protective cloak, it creates a false pride that keeps people from asking for help when they need it, and it keeps people from speaking out to make changes they’d like to see in their lives.

It smothers individuality, too. You may believe in everything a politician stands for, but how can you campaign for them when your family supports another party?

What would your father say? How can you speak out against the fertilizers and pesticides that keep you sniffling and wheezing for weeks every summer? What would your farmer relatives and neighbours say? You may have supported a loved one who had to sneak across the bridge to end an unwanted pregnancy, but how can you speak out to demand similar services here? What would your grandmother say? What would your religious leaders say? What in the world would people think? You’d be judged for sure.

Eleanor Hora views a mural in her home.

In short, sometimes a local might just be too close to a problem; your family ties may be too tight for you to break away from what’s always been done and speak out in favour of change.

Sometimes it’s good to have an outsider without the baggage, someone with less to lose than you do. That’s when you can give us a chance! Don’t just let us take over while you watch your way of life get whittled away until you wake up one morning to discover that you’re living in Toronto by the Sea.

Don’t put up with the condescending, insulting Sunday School teachers of the world, either. Speak out! Talk back when you disagree, but let’s learn to work together as Islanders who have chosen to live in this beautiful place, no matter when or how we got here.

Stop looking at newcomers as CFAs and instead start seeing us as IBCs: Islanders by Choice.

We love it here, too.

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