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Archive for the tag “Hamilton”

Big things, little men( and women)

Yesterday I asked my grandson what his homework was and he replied, “ democracy.”

With everything going on in the world, I wondered if civics class is part of the grade 5 curriculum or was his teacher following the papers, and like the rest of us, jaw dropped at the bullies in the world who use the word democracy but truly mean their own brand of personal democracy.

With Premier Ford overturning Justice Balobaba’s ruling that attempted to stop the reduction of 47 municipalities to 25, people like angry children screamed,” You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. It’s not fair.” And so our Premier asserted, “Oh yes I can”, and he did, ignoring and trampling on our legal system by calling out the “ not withstanding clause “ from our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Much like the Republicans in the States who give lip service to their president, our government demonstrates no backbone, knowing that unless they support the direction of their leader, they will suffer personal loss of their positions. In deed, some pundits say Ford’s decision to decrease 47 to 25 is a move based on petty grievances and previous lack of support at council.How incredibly disillusioning: that rather than stand up and assert what is right, greedy souls pander to their party leader: for personal gain . A panoply of articles from Marcus Gee and Martin Regg Cohn to private citizens on editorial pages in our national papers and even The New York Times are discussing our constitutional crisis. Writes Stephen Marche in nytimes.com,

And from Italy to the Philippines to Canada, this cannibalizing populism is swallowing traditional Conservatism whole. Mr. Ford snuck through to the leadership on a voting system that ranked ballots. He won neither the popular vote nor the greatest number of constituencies. But the Progressive Conservative machine is behind him already. It operates on inherited loyalties, antipathy against scandal-plagued opponents, time-for-a-change sentiments and basic self-interest.

Others rightfully are attacking Caroline Mulroney, Ford’s attorney general, for her gutless consent, even her father acknowledging the travesty of Ford’s actions that undermines our Charter. Can anyone who believes in rights and freedoms, the breadth and wisdom of our Charter, honestly believe that a premier’s petulant wishes should commandeer the Illustrious notions that underpin a free democracy. Instrumental in the development of the Charter’s “ not withstanding clause”, former Prime Minister of all of Canada Jean Chrétien, Premier Roy Romano’s, 12 th Premier of Saskatchewan and jurist Roy McMurtry declared that Ford is violating the spirit of our Charter in using the clause because its intent resides in exceptional situations, “ only as a last resort and careful consideration.” These contributors assert, “ We condemn his( Ford’s) actions and call on those in his cabinet and caucus to stand up to him.” Sadly, they will not. I think of Mickey Mouse swatting flies with a hammer. And I think how history will judge these spineless ones, their silence, their tacit approval of wrong, for self- serving benefits.

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Ford says he embodies democracy in spite of an election ballot of only 58% of the population. And some suggest, the people in the burbs who elected him really don’t care about these big issues , happy that big daddy is loud, boisterous and returns us to the era of Father Knows Best. But in these worst of times, especially as we shriek at Trump’s behaviour in overriding justice to our south, we should be holding our democracy closer, ensuring our little men don’t personally rewrite through their own perspective what pertains to our overarching, hard won freedoms. After Ford’s decision to override Balobaba’s ruling, people symbolized their opposition; papers reported “protests rock house” detailing a 70 year old woman, daughter of holocaust survivors, taken away in handcuffs. Bill Davis, former 18 th Premier of Ontario , a key architect of the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution was infuriated, adding his name to the mounting list of people opposed to Ford’s manoeuvres to get his own way. Amnesty International and hundreds of other Ontarians were/ are enraged. Yet the Colossus strides, upturning buildings, destroying order, simply because he can.

Canadians who pride themselves on being more civil, perhaps more intelligent and thoughtful than those in the States are in the same boat with having elected a leader with no scruples, values or awareness of the true meaning of democracy. Where money and business stand in for culture, caring and cooperation, these men did not hide their hearts’ desire of smashing all that they cannot understand or value. The lack of empathy, compassion and awareness of diversity in society does not mean anything to their personal drive for success, and rename their boastful slogans “ democracy.” How do you explain this to a fifth grader? In deed, why would you?

In trying to approach the notion to my grandson, I enumerated the multiple levels of society, federal, provincial, local, explaining each had a person who responds to the voices of the peoples they represent. I gave examples, contrasting “ our democracy” with autocracies, oligarchies and monarchies. My husband said it best and most simply, that the word comes from the Greek that means “ people”.

I thought of the Shakespearian line from Measure for Measure,

…So you must be the first that gives this sentence…. O! it is excellent To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous/ To use it like a giant.

And too, the music and lyrics of Hamilton pounding in my head: the story of man with such strong values and belief in government that he supported Thomas Jefferson against Aaron Burr because Hamilton demurred,” The former had principles; the latter none.”Hamilton in his Federalist Papers, Hamilton’s deep reflection, Hamilton’s belief in government, Hamilton a giant, Ford a fly.

To the innocents of our days, with their first study of democracy, I refuse to profer examples of our present day abrogation of what small men do in the political arena, rather returning to Hamilton, Kennedy, RBG, Hannah Arendt whose stood for more than just themselves. Marche from The New York Times,

Conservatism is no longer a political ideology in the recognized sense, but a repository of loathing and despair. It’s where people thrust their hatred of modernity — of globalism and multiculturalism and technocratic expertise, but also of the democracy that fostered those systems in the first place. By giving high office to buffoons, by choosing thugs as their representatives and by revelling in nastiness for its own sake, the Conservative brand now is principally a marker of contempt for political order itself.

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Stories of ordinary people

There is the factory girl, the immigrant, the son of the truck driver and the lonely lady who owns the bar. These are just ordinary people, people who come and go, grapple with life’s manipulations and tribulations. They are not self serving types. They do not blame their circumstances on others, rather they are merely dreamers searching for a way to improve or change the conditions of their days and weeks and years.

The factory girl is spunky, outspoken, denying but entranced by the fellow who works at the park. She keeps returning ,magnetized by his charisma, fascinated and like the moth to light drawn to danger.

The immigrant born in the Carribean knows he’s an outsider. Constantly his upbringing is the hand that smacks him and taunts him, causing him to talk too much but somehow his sense of self pushes him forward to excel beyond his caste in society.

The son of the truck driver also feels locked up by the closeness of his upbringing on a street where his cousins have inhabited forever. He spies a guitar, takes his mom’s pay check for lessons, but cannot commit to lessons. So he quits, bumbling around, disquieted by his circumscribed life.

And the woman who was once married is bored but resigned to her café in a hot and dreary place where nothing ever changes,she reminiscing about the romance of movie stars.

These human stories, these snippets of nondescript people we know personally, whom we pass on the street were the windows through which I peered last week, gleaning their tales, their thoughts in New York. The stuff of stories on Broadway, the quiet, unassuming, penetrating experiences of those quiet introspective types trying to figure out where home is and why they must stay or seek out alternatives to their present states yesterday, today or tomorrow.

The factory girl is Julie Jordan in Carousel, a mill worker who falls in love with the wrong guy. Standing toe to toe, able to meet him eye to eye but uninterested in committing to him, she does fall and falls hard for the man who is more interested in unlawful deeds than committing to a traditional life of responsibility.Complicated types both she and her guy Bill are torn up by emotions they cannot control, she rationalizing and standing by her man, acknowledging but unable to leave his abuse. In this retro piece, Julie at first is admirably strong but cannot move away from his flame.

Strangely for a modern day audience, we are shown Bill’s fate in which the playwrite produces on stage a surrealistic landscape of an in-between heaven populated by angels in ragged flounced gauze. Bill is allowed to return to earth for a final chance at redemption, but his strong “ man’s” inability to confess his weakness underlines his hubris.The strong man shown weak, the weak woman made strong by the difficulties of life, their voices made eloquent in songs that have persisted although the dramatization renders an anachronism, sweet but perhaps silly. The strains of “You’ll never walk” alone divorced from Jerry Lewis’s telethon now an ardent plea for the desire for help when the everyday storms threaten to topple you.

The Caribbean is Alexander Hamilton , Lin -Manuel Miranda’s brilliant creation of the driven outsider whose brain, wit and insight propel him upward in society to sit beside and guide George Washington. His writing , his thinking, his intelligence and charisma are the catalysts to upper class society, marriage and the builders of the emergent America of 1776. Still his jealous arch rivals, especially Aaron Burr, riddle his life with intrigue, opposition, betrayal and eventually death. There has been,as well, love by the upper class Schuyler girls, but instead of the tickle of fame, it is the power of a sexual liaison that undoes Hamilton’s rise in government. Hamilton cannot be praised enough, music, acting, words, the trajectory of events reaching out to grab, shake and mesmerize those present , privileged to share the hopes of the boy who comes to America and suffers by the hands of his jealous rivals who lack values that transcend petty personal gains.

It is Springsteen who is in a sense the American Dream as he stands before us, reciting poetry others have gleaned in his music. Not a fan, I am drawn in by the words that create indelible images of his mother’s high heels that clack along the floor that turn into slow dancing steps as she declines into Alzheimer’s; and the tension at the bar when as a boy he is sent to wrestle his father from his stool, a man with haunches like a rhinoceros: these words that hold fast in my mind .So much and so deep a Catholic he marvels how well his education has seated that religion in his soul. Yet desperate to leave the shelter of his small town, he flees as fast as he can in an open back truck under the canopy of night stars. His language of a young man’s pain piercing his own present day successful acceptance.

And the other lady, Dena, a typical Israeli in Betatikvah not Petatikvah who plays host to The Band’s Visit entertains an Egyptian musician from Alexandria for one night , he along with his fellow band members , witnessing the life of those out of work, aimless, who roller skate, cry out their fears, meet at cafes, listen to the baby’s cries, the belligerent racist, who go on existing, their own silent music also producing a rhythm.

As in the best books, we lose ourselves in the narratives of those who resemble, maybe a lot or a little, ourselves, reminding us of our own struggles, our boredoms, our helplessness or lack of control, of the bullies, the places and spaces that lock us in, but how passages can be opened even slightly by the temptation of love and human desires. We entrap ourselves in these stories, transfixed, forgetting our own personal anguishes, embracing those who say or sing it more loudly and more eloquently than in the silent thoughts that bang around in our own heads. These people speak and give voice for us, and like augers transform our thoughts into pictures that allow us to stand outside ourselves, creating potent catalysts to release us from ourselves. It is a release, a wonder to truly observe ourselves and as TS Eliot would suggest- knowing the place for the first time and although we view with awe and horror, we watch others involved , knowing the circumstance, the community but freed from the pain of the experiences. Schaudenfraude.

Broadway where every step is in pattern, where every note is perfectly on key, where life is larger than life and we sit in the audience, both watcher and participant, acknowledging , knowing in our heart of hearts that a writer has communicated what our fumbled words are unable to express, what our failed looks have failed to connect, what our pinched hearts are feeling. And it is magic. It is what Aristotle imagined in his unities- the pity and the terror of the stage that can trigger a catharsis. Or a moment’s epiphany.

What’s Age Got to Do with It?

By the time you reach 70, you probably are aware of your various predilections. For example in California I do yoga and Pilates. My dear neighbour goes to a gym where she does a half hour of elliptical training. Which made my hips even more uneven and messes with my back. She also does a half hour of rowing. This seems to make sense to me and I imagine her in a jaunty striped sailor suit on the little rivers all over Holland where she is from. Another friend likes the jump, twist, moves of NIA where the exercisers dance away to the selection of tunes chosen by the instructor, most recently Hamilton. And often too, I observe at the community centre the hardcore circuit masters as they become part steely machine, their arms attached to pulleys , their feet pumping madly. I think of myself as the little girl in Grade 3 walking the sidewalk curbs, attempting to precariously balance like a circus performer but inevitably tripping and arriving home to my mother with knees gashed and bleeding for my efforts.

In my classes, we attempt, at least I do, to manage tree poses , standing on one leg, toes tucked into knees to form a triangle in yoga; or in Pilates, posed to keep one extended leg in opposition to one arm while precariously mounted on a box on a reformer. We’re advised in yoga to keep the four points or the tripod of the foot in contact with the floor but it’s not easy although many I can attest do perform these feats neatly and smoothly, their limbs not trembling like my jellylike parts to locate where the right and left will coalesce in peace. Makes me think of the Ralph Waldo Emerson line from eons ago of finding the middle path. But I was always more an excess person .

At a certain age after years of experimenting, we come to a point that we believe what works or is good for us. I try not to scoff at the young salespeople in Sephora who preaches the products that will make me wrinklefree in just two days. Others seriously maintain that a full month or longer is necessary to see results. There’s no use imploring them that is not the case, or wearing vitamin C in the sun will attract age spots. Usually it’s the smell, texture, familiarity of a product that keeps me coming back, or the illusion that I will return to a thirtysomething appearance. Silly me. So I’ve found ’tis better to listen to a diatribe( based on their studies???), than to vent my own experience. At worst they proselytize, at best they nod, no doubt thinking, “ whatever you say, old lady. “ So it is with how you like to present yourself to the world. In spite of its quirkiness, one fellow I knew only wore bow ties, even sending to Italy for the choosiest of silk fabrics. Did he imagine himself at a dinner party dining with royalty or the ironic clown commentator ?

And yet in my head I don’t feel like an old lady, even if I joke about my age as if it means something. In deed today I will try a “Silver Pilates for 50 Plus”, hoping it will work with my regime at home, constructed for me and my parts that have been worn away through years of living, in my particular group of misaligned body quadrants. Later I will survey the faces and bodies in this particular group, measuring myself against their agility, sags and smiles, eventually relaxing into a fabric where I, like they are the strands that curl and stretch to our instructor’s commands. But honestly 50?Does anyone today believe that 55 marks one as a senior, ready to laze on a couch and drift into the sunset?

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For my birthday celebration party,I spied a white cotton lace dress by Chloe at Holts. Showing a picture of it to daughter number two, she queried why I would want something that looked like paper doilies? But worse yet loomed my mother’s voice in my head as I imagined her responding to the frills at the sides,” Pat, act your age”: a comment thrown at me once before when I had chosen a white lacy thing and yes, with modified batwing frills. As if lace and frills belonged only to the young! And yet too I am scrupulous of clothes that will hug the tummy indicating that time has softened its folds and bulges, or patterns so bright that they seem more appropriate to the schoolyard than a romantic dining spot.

In my mother’s mind, there was a certain age requirement for presently oneself to the outside world in good taste: when one should emerge from their boudoir appropriately, elegantly, nixing the extravagances of clothing the body, no doubt using Queen Elizabeth’s knee length sensible skirts as a guide. No point in pretending the tummy wasn’t as flat as it once was or the carriage as upright. I’d heard stories from her of the appearance of Easter bonnets in the Beaches in Toronto and when white gloves might appear- and disappear. I like to recall the Grace and Frankie episodes where the stunning Grace, Jane Fonda refuses to allow her young lover see her in bed before she primps. And I now know why Blanche only received her gentleman caller at night when the light was kinder to the landscape of her face.

So each time I tried on that birthday dress, I queried the salesperson to be honest, demanding an objective opinion, “Was it too young for me?” The answers were consistent: it’s fashion, not age, I was told. And in the end when the price was sufficiently reduced and I banished my mother’s voice, I bought it, no longer hearing her wise words in my head regarding the foolishlessness of my choice. And truthfully, I enjoyed wearing it, even forgetting the dress, and focusing on the surge of joy at my dinner party.

We arrive at a certain point and we are our own art product: of ourselves in terms of how we have crafted or recreated ourselves, bow ties, ruffles aside. Back in university psychology, the debate between heredity and environment had the newbies arrogantly aligning with environment as if every choice and context could inspire a new you, not dependent on granny’s genes. The bud only needed good food fresh water, vitamins and sunlight to not just bloom but shine. Only through the realization of all the self help books, the wisest of gurus, and the attempts to realign your body parts in the most positive of climes , but ignoring your own children’s similarities to their relatives, did we finally acknowledge that heredity undermines and holds one fast in its grip, as one is part of a clan, holding sorry secrets or wonderful surprises in the body. With resignation but acceptance, we comprehend that middle ground that marries the interplay of context, and understand that luck too can turn the sourest situation of family genetics sweet. I had to laugh at my sister who recently told me that those DNA tests advertised on television are able to reveal from which Biblical matriarch you are descended. Perhaps that is why some of us continue to enjoy watering camels. I responded with, quite incredulous, “Don’t you believe in evolution?” “ Of course, “she a student of science, responded.

Just yesterday, I read of a movie , Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool , in which an aging Annette Bening assumes the role of an aging actress who wants to play Juliet -to the smirks of the producer which might consider her for Juliet’s mature( read OLD) nurse. In our heads, we are still Juliets, and maybe we should be, dismissing the mirror for the voice of the soul.

Stupid People

As I get older, I seem to get more crochetty. But perhaps there are more things that cause my blood to boil and more media distribution to relate tales of stupidity.

My daughter lives in a picturesque town outside of Philadelphia. Besides bird sanctuaries, downy paths to traverse and solid old stone houses, there is a caring community that will jump with home cooked meals should there be a birth or death. However, some of these kind folk hold religious beliefs that are in conflict with modern medical knowledge.

My two grandkids. ages 3 and 20 months came home ill from daycare – which everyone knows is the worst place to catch germs. However, with breathing issues and explosive coughing that lead to vomiting, the 20 month old wound up at the doctor’s. Shortly after, her little brother began to scream about his ears.which wound up being the site of infection. In the posts on FaceTime both adorable munchkins appeared lethargic and very sad, their pathetic little heads propped together on one pillow. Almost well, they were about to return to school when the doctor called: to inform. my daughter that both had pertussis or whooping cough. And so the children were quarantined for another week.

How ironic that unvaccinated children are allowed to wander the community, infecting while the victims of this stupidity are locked in. Now, I have no problem that kids who have been ill must refrain from spreading the germs, but to allow the perpetrators of the sickness to move freely in a society like so many Vika mosquitoes is unconscionable. And it makes me furious at the parents who refuse to vaccinate, ignorantly calling on some outmoded reason to validate their dopey contentions. Worse yet is a government that permits these violations to occur.

Not surprisingly I saw many Trump signs along the forested roads and charming alleys in Pennsylvania. And now with the election of this man, I again cannot but wonder at the stupidity of people who have voted for the man who now threatens the security of our children. Not just in the US, but in Canada and world wide.

Watching Meet the Press last Sunday, I heard Vice President- elect Pence, compared by John Oliver to a Salem witch hunter, downplay the telephone call Trump took from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, referring to it as one of fifty calls of courtesy that week.. Beyond that rationale , perhaps worse yet was the dialogue with Chuck Todd , an apparent jeering, an outright patronizing and indignant quality to Pence’s words whose born again Catholic views prevail in his outmoded attitude towards women’s rights, especially abortion. On the same show Kellyanne Conway as well presented with that smug arrogance of the victor, unable to concede gracefully. Although Todd reminded her of the split in the nation, Conway ignored an opportunity to show humility but continued to berate the Press who did not take Trump’s pursuit of the country!s highest office seriously, she scolded. When Todd asked about putting the country first, suggesting Trump divest himself of his businesses while in office, Conway took the opportunity to again lecture and absurdly crow,” You know Chuck, he put the country ahead of everything else [by] running…”!! Taking a shot at the media, Conway was nicely told by Todd that” …that every knee- jerk push back is going to blame the media”!In deed pundits are suggesting that Trump used the media, rather than the other way around. John Doyle in the Star writes that Trump’s “ bombast and off- the – cuff blustering and rudeness is what gave CNN and other outlets staggering high ratings..” To the shame of the profession, focusing on this outrageous man was great for business and ratings so they overloaded the network, gave him airtime so his “tell it as it is” mantra instead of attacking his bigotry and lack of knowledge that just became de rigeur and was accepted in the homes of too many brainwashed Americans. So says Doyle in Monday’s Star,”He played the TV news outlets like fools.”

So not so stupid there.

But read Sara Kendzior in the Globe today ( Monday, December 5) about the fears of a Uzbekistan refugee whose only crime in his country was to teach about environmental problems. ( of course, we now know according to Trump that are none) or Dov Marmur on the rise of Anti- Semitic outbreaks across America. Marmur underlines that these attacks are” the consequences of xenophobia, misogyny and racism”( Toronto Star).

There is that old poem by Martin Niemollera prominent Protestant pastor eventually incarcerated by Hitler’s goons , that proclaims,

“ First they came for Socialists..Trade unionists…Jews…

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Although Trump’s vitriolic words have been downplayed as not meaning what he has said, we do in fact follow the words we choose to put out in the public arena , transforming them into action. Consider how years ago the language of inclusion was put in place, for example, firemen was broadened to include “firefighters” so both men and women might participate in the profession. . As we speak so we behave.

These stupid people who believed Trump was a panacea to “ make America great” should have realized the only thing Trump wants to make great is himself. Where a big mouth is the main quality for election, one can only despair. What do Trump’s voters think, if in deed they think at all, of Trump’s rumination to put a Goldman Sachs banker in his cabinet. And with Trump’s boast to bring back refineries and restore the use of coal, do they worry their children may again return to working in the mines: images of Charles Dickens come to mind.

These are troubling times when a person of Trump’s demeanour, but more importantly values are not only permitted but encouraged.

I realize protests do little good and the horse has all ready left the barn. Perhaps what we can do is to continue to talk and debate in multiple forums so the old ideas of diversity, equality, opportunity, and kindness will not die within the next four years. Although we live in a free society , with Trump’s lambast at the Hamilton cast ignored and the ongoing( thank you Lorne Michaels) critique on SNL and the memory of Barack Obama’s election , that civility and clear thinking can eventually be restored, people must persist in finding positive role models for their children, ignoring the elephant in the room.

So last night Saturday Night Live does what Saturday Night Live often does best, to  poke fun at the political and the powerful with satire: here suggesting the President-elect has a penchant for firing off tweets with the impulse control of a toddler. And President-elect Trump, in turn, does what President-elect Trump does, almost immediately, tweeting out an attack on Saturday Night Live: “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live – unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad”

Sad indeed. No sense of irony. Wash, rinse, repeat.

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