Thursday, April 14, 2011

What You Wish For

I got a splendid birthday card last month. My friends Annie, Jamocha and Maggi picked it for me, and Annie, who handles all of their correspondence, enclosed some pleasant surprises. The card had confetti inside, and the confetti were cookie fortunes. Now, I love cookie fortunes almost as much as I like cookies, and these were as wise, thoughtful and relevant as any I've ever read. My favourite reminded me: Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it.

Since I began publishing Limited Vision last year, I've been inviting comments on my posts and on the blog itself. Occasionally, I've bemoaned the lack of response from my readers, and I've wished aloud that more of you would tell me what you think. Yesterday, some of you did just that.

My post was pretty much a second wind for my Great Canadian Debate piece. Like most second winds, it didn't last long, and added very little to my original effort. The post included a photo of a medical thermometer being put to its proper and intended use. Did I mention that it was not an oral thermometer?

When I've completed a new post, I put a link to it on my FaceBook wall so all of my friends can have a look at what I've accomplished that day. Remember, please, that this is not private correspondence; it is a public document, and I have chosen that it should be so. I am aware of the possible consequences, and, I thought, I was prepared for any potential repercussions.

Very shortly after I posted the link, I had replies from three friends who told me that they found the image that I included offensive. Now, these people are not stodgy, conservative cranks with underdeveloped senses of humour. They are neighbours, friends, colleagues and confidants, whose good opinion has mattered to me for quite a long time. They have been reading the material in this space for awhile, and their comments have always been honest and supportive. If they felt the insult enough to remark upon it, then there are others who feel the same way, but had said nothing.

Of course, I tried to skirt around the issue - it was not my intention to offend; my motives were pure and my aims were noble. Couldn't they just cut me a little bit of slack...just this one time? Again, of course, my aims, motives and intentions did not change the fact that the offense was given, and the criticism was fair.

I've tried changing the photo that accompanied the post, but I didn't find anything that I liked as well. Anyway, I'm probably sulking. Because I couldn't fix the post to my own satisfaction, I've unpublished it. This morning, FaceBook removed my link, because they they felt it had violated their content codes - unfortunately, they also removed my friends' comments.

Thank you, Norma, Darlene and Julianne, for what you contributed - if you can recall what you said to me, can you please repost it here? Thanks to the rest of you as well. I can't promise to behave well all of the time, but I trust you to let me know when I slip over the boundary.

Sometimes, wishes really do come true - be well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

But What I Meant Was...

Once Upon a Time, there were things called news reports, during which somebody who looked like your dad's older brother would sit behind a microphone and read out the events of the day to you. He wore a shabby suitcoat with cigarette ash on the right lapel, a nice, quiet bow-tie and his best, or only, toupee. He spoke in a soft, rich, reassuring voice, without urgency, haste or criticism, and you trusted him. Even your dad, who sometimes thought that his older brother was a bit of a buffoon, trusted him. Besides, the rabbit ears on top of the old Zenith only picked up two channels. The information, which came to you through the sponsorship of DuMaurier cigarettes and Carling Black Label, was a coin toss. The choice to watch was yours.

Now, we have media. We've come to the realization that news is part of a bigger picture, and the picture is entertainment. No one wants to hear about political corruption, bureaucratic ineptitude, third world conflicts or Japanese earthquakes - not for very long anyway. We want to know about Kate and William, American Idol and Charlie Sheen. We are informed by the soundbite, the photo op and the panel of experts. Of course having more than two political parties involved in an election debate confuses us - maybe more than one would!

The Media (note the upper case "M", please) understand our real issues. They are the mirror to our lips, the finger on our pulses and the thermometer up our rectums. They realize how simple we are, and they have learned - God bless 'em - that when you're playin' to the cheap seats, y' hafta dumb it down.

We don't want bread and circuses, we want Mini Blizzards and orchestrated reality on a big screen LCD. Government is too complicated for most of us - best leave it to those who understand how it works - politicians, business and the media.

Let's leave it all up to them, and good things will trickle down to us in time. Don't we feel like we've been blessed by that bounty from a great height already?

(Please don't forget where you're going to vote on May 2nd)

Be well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Canadian Debate

I've come to the conclusion that it's time to start eating our politicians. My friend Tammy, while falling short of endorsing my position, has informed me that she understands that the secret is in the sauce.

Perhaps it's unfair of me to blame Steve, Mick (or Mike), Jack and Gilles for my (visceral?) reaction to tonight's English language leaders' debate. They presented their positions fairly and articulately in the two hours, neatly dodging the slings and arrows of their opponents without stumbling too badly over their own precariously positioned party lines. Each offered his considered, or scripted, argument for his party being best able to lead Canada into a brighter 2012, and actually managed to provide a little bit of light along with the heat.

I was a little disappointed that Elizabeth May was not offered her own little lectern along with the rest o' th' boys, but I suspect that she wasn't any more surprised than I was. Given the right play, it might even gain the Green Party more votes than her participation in the debate would have done. We Canadians have wonderfully thin, sensitive skins when we perceive an injustice to someone whom we consider small and harmless.

After the debate had ended, and the lads had answered the usual probing questions from the media, it was time for the National to chime in. Peter Mansbridge and company devoted the majority of their hour to dissecting the stiffening corpse of the debate. First, they consulted their most reliable oracles, who pronounced a consensus of apathy in the minds of the eligible voters. There had been no knockout punch, nor any blood drawn - nobody even had the lead on points. Next, they interviewed said eligible voters, whom they discovered loitering about an upscale, downtown Toronto watering-hole - as usual. 'Nuff said.

Having dismissed the uninformed and the unwashed (you and me, that is), Peter then sought the advice of those whose opinions really matter. Allan, Andrew and Chantal satisfied everybody's expectations by being their habitual smirking, superior, smarmy selves. They told us what th' boys had said, what they really meant to say, and why the solutions suggested by each just wouldn't wash. This election was costing us too much, they said. No one in the country had even wanted it, they reminded us, so we were all free to ignore it and go back to the important business of the hockey playoffs. After all, it wasn't like the election mattered - the only change was going to be a Conservative majority this time...

Lastly, Peter interviewed the Insiders, one Conservative and one Liberal spin doctor. And no, I couldn't tell which one was which either.

ONE MORE TIME...on Monday, the second of May, in the Year Two Thousand and Eleven, you will have the opportunity to VOTE in a FEDERAL ELECTION!

Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe aren't running in my riding. My friend Libby Davies is. I admire her and like the way she's represented my vote in her past few terms. She has it yet again.  I can't speak for the Tall Lady - I wouldn't dare to try. The Flying Fellini Sisters will take whatever comes.

One of my more cynical friends once told me that if you are forced to choose between a thief and a liar, choose the thief - you know what to expect from him.

All of you know the issues. You know your candidates and you know their platforms. You know the kind of country in which you want to live. You are grownups, and you know that your choice is not limited to a thief or a liar. We can do better this time, we should do better this time. Your vote does count! It always has, and it always will.

You are the experts - make them listen to you. Make your mark - BIG!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven

In Ridley Scott's movie, The Kingdom of Heaven, Baldwin IV, Frankish King of Jerusalem, is dying of exhaustion and leprosy. Concerned about his succession and the welfare of his domain, Baldwin makes an offer to one of his subjects, Balian of Ibelin. If Balian will agree to marry Baldwin's sister, Sybilla, he will inherit the kingdom through his wife. The simple complication that Sybilla is already married would be resolved by the execution of her present husband, Guy de Lusignan, who has been something of an impediment to Baldwin's policy of religious tolerance and the brittle peace between Baldwin's people and Salah-ed-Din's more numerous muslim subjects.

Balian renews his pledge of loyalty to Baldwin, but rejects his proposal on the grounds that Jerusalem is a kingdom of conscience, or it is nothing.

Frequently, we tend to perceive the world in terms of absolutes - because we know that we're right, anyone who disagrees with us must necessarily be wrong. Their ideas are dangerous, their actions are immoral and their words are blasphemous. We believe that we have clothed ourselves in  the Armour of God, and we are prepared to withstand and repel the heretic and the infidel with fire and sword.

We rally behind the strongest person who agrees with our viewpoints or who promises to uphold our values. Our cherished financial institutions safeguard his country's wealth - for the people, of course, but in his name. If thugs and brigands threaten his legitimate rule, we can supply him with better weapons and military advisors. If worse comes to worst, we can send children from our own poor neighbourhoods to uphold his rule.

But do we really have the belt of truth buckled around our waist when we support the rule of tyrants? Are we wearing the breastplate of righteousness when we ignore poverty and need? When we make war on children, are our feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace? Surely, that would mean that our shield of faith, our helmet of salvation and our sword of the Spirit offer us less defense than we might have expected.

I believe that it is possible for the Kingdom of Heaven to exist on earth, and that the ones who will live there will be people of peace and of principle like Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Zealots and opportunists will find nothing in it to their liking or advantage.

It could be a place of justice, equality, peace and tolerance. It could be here today, because those live within each of us.

It is a kingdom of conscience, or it is nothing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Another Push on the Pendulum

As some of you may have noticed, my politics tend to creep into this space occasionally. Be warned - it's creeping time again.

My friend, nephew and FaceBook buddy Dave recently shared a post suggesting that conservatives in the US and Canada should unite to achieve their common ground. For once, his views and mine agree exactly. I think that we should get all of the conservatives together, and we should pay to transport them to that common ground. I hear that Antarctica is nice this time of year...

 For a little while when I was younger, Canada was a community. We cared about our neighbours and we were proud of our identity. We were a mosaic, not a melting pot. We were a gentle, supportive people with our roots here and in the earth of every other land in the world. We elected our leaders from the same stock. We thought of ourselves as fair, honest, polite and dependable, and we never allowed our family arguments to drown out the voices of the minority.

The pendulum has swung back, as pendula are wont to do. Community has become commodity. If you can afford it, you can have it; if you can't afford it, then obviously you didn't want it badly enough. Everything is for sale - food, clothing, shelter, medicine, justice, relationships, family.

We've come to the conclusion that people are deprived because of some flaw in their character. They are hungry because they've wasted their money, they're homeless because they choose to be, they're ill because they haven't taken responsibility for their own health, and they're alone because that's the way they like it!

We don't like the idea of Big Government interfering in the natural order of our daily lives. Level playing fields are only for games, and we're not fooling around here! There's only so much, and we're willing to pay whatever the market demands to make sure that we get ours first. If there's anything left over, then we should sell it to someone who really appreciates it.

We still believe that we're the good guys - that we are fair, honest, polite and dependable. We're doing our best with what we've got, and if others were willing to work as hard as we do, they'd have it too.

Some of us feel that there's just not enough space in the lifeboat for everyone. Others think that our potential is limited only by our compassion, energy and imagination. Too many believe that their opinions and actions make no difference.

On Monday, May second, there's a federal election in Canada. That means all of us have a chance to get out and give the tired, old pendulum another shove. Perhaps our energy will influence its momentum and its direction. You probably already know how I'll be pushing on that day.

My politics were formed a long time ago, and my opinions haven't changed this year. I think the needs have remained the same, it's just the spin on the story that's altered.

Your vote, however you choose to cast it, does matter. You know the issues as well as Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton or me. Make your mind up, make your choice, make your mark.

Be well.