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Archive for the tag “Trump”

Behaviour Fatigue

As we hurl our hats in the air, desirous of a beer on a patio, gatherings of more than 10 and the end of a shaggy mane, we are thrown into the illusion of all is well, all is normal. Even before the opening of Phase Two, one began to see fewer masks, fewer people moving away at our approach.

As I realize the restrictions could not continue until a vaccine arrived, the reopening suggests , or our minds want to believe “ business as usual”, all clear. But it ain’t so. And being lazy humans, we will drift to what was/ is comfortable, attempting to accept the dragon has been slayed and we can resume the summer life we cherish . And if we turn off the television and stuff our ears, we won’t hear that just south of us, the pandemic is out of control.

Looking South to the States, we see the laxity has caused outrageous, in cautious numbers to soar.The US along with Brazil records the highest ever cases yesterday since Coronavirus was announced. Statistics now list 37 year olds as a rising cadre of victims. Dr. Michael Osterholm infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Minnesota decried that the virus has not reached a second wave, and rather like a forest fire – will destroy everything in its way.

A deadly forecast.

And reading Rosie Di Manno’s editorial last week last Monday provided a glimpse of post- Covid life, some victims bereft of smell, acuity, motor and even digestive ills, once ravaged bodies that finally shook off the virus in hospital. So yes, some lucky souls may be asymptomatic but others succumbing in variable ways that may discover may their active lives forever.

Once quarantined at home, with select family members and taking the precautions seriously, save that blowout weekend at Trinity Bellwood’s, people here appeared to move with thoughtfulness for themselves, their neighbours. Yet all ready in too many places, we note the opposite arising. And once again, as much as we disparage the US president, shaking our heads at his narcissism, his stupidity, he throws the entire world under the wheels as he poo- poos testing, jeeringly, and certainly has no compunction for putting thousands at risk with his silly rallies.

And as much as we might dismiss it all as folly, he stands as a role model to too many, peculiarly I muse, even as six more of his advance staffers for the Oklahoma debacle, and later two more of his staff tested positive for the virus. No wonder he wants to do away with testing and bury the results. Ignoring and trying to gag John Bolton’s book, able to go unpunished for everything from unwanted female groping and worse ,not reporting taxes to extolling personal favours and cozying up to dictators, he is the Teflon man, untouched by law or virus, and by his person demonstrates infallibility as he slinks and slides through the world. Smirking and smirking as he tilts his head so superciliously, unable to even pretend empathy.

Strangely, we will all return to our prior lives, circulate freely in the streets and make ourselves think it’s business as usual as we sit on patios and enjoy our haircuts.Here we have been vigilant and observed numbers plummet, but with the removal of restrictions, people being who they are, we will return to previously selfish behaviours, putting others at risk. So I fear.

A front page article entitled,Why Canada must stand on guard for possible second wave “ in Friday’s Star also analyzed ,”… researchers found that when fatigue sets in and people start relaxing physical distancing and workplace and school closures, there is a resurgence of infections, resulting in a second or even a third wave of the virus.”

They continued,”. ..Some populations will not have them but many will because of this so-called behavioural fatigue.” And in truth, we are all fatigued, emotionally exhausted by the restrictions we may resent, but know we must follow.

We will have to be reminded : to wear the masks, discarded on the desk at home, wash our hands frequently, and also those masks, and not stand too close on the bus ride. Inspite of devices to alert us to too close proximity and Purell at the entrances of stores, we will lapse into former ways, forgetting the warnings that have helped ensure safety for almost five months.

And what of a return to school? So far a slapdash attempt at three different possibilities. Is now the time to put energies towards a new math curriculum so that kids can deal with financial literacy? Too long the removal of jumpy anxious kids from classes, protocol, teachers and friends, but really, shouldn’t their safety and security, both emotional and physical, be the priority rather than introducing additional stress- causing situation to both kids and teachers.

So even in the minds of those who have walked us cautiously through these difficult months, diversions from the real issue are branching away as that illusion of normalcy arises, banishing and hiding the underlying issue- that has not been eradicated, only waiting to erupt again. Like Cassandra whose prophecies were ignored, we may be doomed by the once again lack of preparedness. Jeremy Konyndky from Centre of Global Development asserts, “ If you give this virus oxygen , it will burn you down.”

And echoed by the brilliant Susan Rice, 24th U.S. National Security Advisor to President Obama and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Real Time with BillMaher, explained she, along with so many others had warnings, hers an explicit thirty-eight page document. Not knowing when, but that this looming unstoppable virus would come, nothing was done.

Some businesses already en route to working at home will proceed that way, others may segue into partial restrictions based on numbers, but slowly and surely the façades will return, an extra person or two pleading entrance or at the last minute added to an elevator, a forgotten face shield ignored, for that is the way things are. Humans want what humans want when they want it, and if a big stick or mighty fine is not decreed , too many in society will not put the needs of others first. We see it on beaches, as Doug Ford noted at Cherry Beach recently-and that was before Stage Two formally arrived.

Each person will have to be their own social conscience and endeavour to remain in pandemic mode. No matter self- interest or laxity.

Will fatigue, carelessness or ignorance lead us back to a worse second wave?

Cantinflas and Hockey Sticks

Life as we knew it has been put on hold and we have now returned to hundreds of years ago, days of plague and confinement. Life hardly seems real as numbers of the dead increase and we wonder how is it possible, and social distancing is still not taken seriously. A recent study here in Ontario stressed that 16% of people don’t take it seriously, with 14% quarantined, the rest complying with the law. That saucy, stupid insouciance will allow for a $750 on -the- spot fines for contravening more than a 2 metre boundary breach.

Yesterday, our two week quarantine after visiting San Diego concluded. We decided our first destination would be the Bathurst Street Bakery Hermes and we would check to see if people were following procedures. The previous week my sister had dropped off, among other things, two delicious chocolate bupkas and as anyone who knows me will attest, I and my genetic line are suckers for anything chocolate. So Hermes, the purveyors of that treat was our destination.

Many years back in China, I was devastated to observe that fruit, not Sara Lee, was the appropriate conclusion of most meals. Left without a guide, we wandered the streets, finally arriving at a kiosk that sold Snickers. Aw! For a sweet bite of chocolate.

I’m glad to attest that outside of Hermes, a sign was posted that only five persons were allowed in at a time although no one was policing it. I waited outside , but Howard explained that there were only three people actually in the store although one hatted individual pushed by him. Shades of Haredi in Israel, perhaps ,who flaunt religion over social distancing. Gloves and proper procedures for handling food and money were in place at the bakery. As we walked backroads in our neighborhood, we noted in an hour perhaps ten individuals, all except workmen in construction, who moved or crossed the road as we did at the approach .

Pausing on the sidewalk and patiently waiting for a woman to unload a car, she affably suggested, “We all must be a hockey stick apart.” How Canadian!” Howard responded. It is a new mindset to create an awareness of how one is actually located in space and instead of marching forward, deep in one’s own thoughts, to be on the lookout for potential plague carriers aka ordinary people like yourself who must be avoided at all costs. They might be wearing an outer marker emblazoned on their chests, a scarlet V that screams keep away in fear of death. This thinking is mindfulness with a sour twist. Wherein mindfulness usually promotes moment to moment living in the present, a self awareness to deepen calm and obtain a kind of spaciousness in the mind so as not to get wrapped up and smothered in anxiety, this new mindfulness promotes the opposite as we observe carefully who is too close for comfort in our 6 foot space. Step by step, road by road, we must seek isolation not communion. Yet empathy, a smile or nod across the space softens the proclamation of distancing.

Watching LateNight with Stephen Colbert is a kind of a saddening experience. He parodies in all seriousness the way to receive a delivered or purchased product. Leave it outside for two days if it’s not perishable, Purell and disinfect your hands, wash them, do likewise to your purchase, aware/ mindful of hands that may have touched what you have brought into your home: because the virus can continue to persist on say, stainless steel for days. Yup, days.

Colbert uses zoom to interact. Although he and John Oliver are a riotous duo, without the presence of an audience, their probing silliness appears somewhat hollow. Suited but barefooted, Colbert is still doing his “Meanwhile” routine and lampooning Trump for boasting his ratings are higher than The Bachelor -and still make us guffaw but are so lacking without an audience. He tells a humorous tale of doing stand up in a raucous bar of drinkers in Ireland wherein he announces his shtick will be about Irish culture. He receives cheers and applause until he begins to recite the opening of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He is escorted out as brawls ensue. Not what the crowd had anticipated at all. A funny tale, one can imagine, but no quickbreaks to observe a laughing reacting audience.

In an  interview with Daniel Radcliffe, the feeling and technique cast us back to primitive home movies wherein the audio does not function and the former Harry Potter star mouths or pantomimes much of his exchange that culminates in his display of his Jurassic Park lego construction that has taken three days to build.  Simpler days. At least we have cell phones. Lego forever.

In yesterday’s show, Colbert interviewed a wane Nancy Pelosi in Washington who cited a proposal of something akin to The Truman Committee(1940’s) that ensured widespread profiteering, kickbacks and misappropriations would not benefit from public handouts during these difficult days: a censure Trump would not support. I couple this with his announcement of no 3M masks for Canada, and am not surprised, his behaviour consistent from the getgo.

From the global scene to the local one here. And how ironic that a bargaining chip in high school negotiations concerned online learning, when homebound students and even a Master’s defence, I read, will be conducted on line. The tools we need to survive are in deed part of a world that Boomers never imagined. Yet the internet has been commandeered as a sop to an emergency, not perfected, as yet, as a pedagogical tool in all its promise. Technology resented as confounding and invasive at our dinner tables in the format of IPads and the ousting of personal information, but now the sole means for most during these days, of connecting us to others, information and world. And in that process, preventing the solitude and madness, both kinds, of alienation.

 My  father, the audio engineer, perpetually fascinated by all gadgets, gizmos, currents, technology could sit for hours engrossed in perfecting sound, mesmerized by new advances which he would further streamline. Introduced to an early lumpy computer the size of a desk, he marvelled.  

I recall his delight years earlier in taking us to see the newly realized technically advanced movie Around the World in Eighty Days ( 1956) and his excitement at the breakthrough technique.

“Because Todd-AO ran at 30 frames per second, which was incompatible with the 35mm standard of 24 fps, Around the World in 80 Days was filmed twice, like the first feature in Todd-AO, Oklahoma!. Unlike Oklahoma!, however, which was filmed additionally in 35mm CinemaScope, Around the World in 80 Days was filmed simultaneously in Todd-AO at 24 frames per second so that from this negative, 35mm reduction prints could be produced for general release.”

From those days I remember the names of the stars of the feat, Cantinflas and David Niven, and my father’s deep fascination with the making of the epic. No doubt should I revisit the film, stereotypes, colonial thinking and silly humour might embarrass. But at the time, the movie that garnered numerous awards was the talk of the town.

How simple in retrospect and would the young ‘uns today even believe that computers were once as big as rooms. And Hal, fictional artificial intelligence from 2001 Space Odyssey , an avatar as annoying as Alexa and Siri today. How can we not continually mutter, “ Brave new world”.

Now, I delve into and am captivated by the backward time traveling sassenach Claire in Outlanders who tries to recreate penicillin from mouldy bread to stop infection in the years sparking the American Revolution. The more things change, the more they stay the same: as we at present search for the cure for this horrendous pandemic.

This thinking prompts a child’s song and the folklore associated with Ring around the Rosie.Yet Iona and Peter Opie(1985 ) in The Singing Game suggest,

“The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions … dates back to the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege( sic), was a symptom of the plague, and posies of herbs were carried as protection and to ward off the smell of the disease. Sneezing or coughing was a final fatal symptom, and ‘all fall down’ was exactly what happened.”

However, only from the time of World War II has the child’s song been associated with the Great Plague which happened in England in 1665, or with earlier outbreaks of the Black Death.

So it goes , the strangeness of these days, isolation dating back, frantic searches for cures, overloaded facilities, the disruption of markets, both food and economic, as we are plunged backward. Yet , because we are human, we hope for an end, a revelation, antidotes for better days and silver linings.

As always, it is the wistful poets and artists whose insights stand away from the frey and dispassionately comment. Ai Weiwei, activist and artist opines in the Globe today in his piece, The virus in the body politic:we’ve lost the ability to cherish one another.

He writes,

“The most fundamental humanist understanding is that life and death co-exist, and the attitudes necessary to reach such an understanding are tolerance, empathy, recognition of suffering and willingness to help others. This is so because other people are a part of oneself; protection of oneself calls for protection of human society. To see this point is to identify with the value of common existence, which is the reliable basis for all of our pleasures and happiness. Otherwise we live with nothing but empty illusions that a whiff of breeze can blow away.”

And the price of this is a mere 2 metres.

Pandemics and Polio

What is to be said these days? Reading the newspaper is filled with a landfill of anxiety. From Trump’s narcissistic behaviour to the closing of small businesses to the need for more doctors, it all rattles the soul and raises anxiety. I keep thinking of Dickens line from A Tale of Two Cities( 1859) ,” It was the best of times… the worst of times.”, although the worst part seems to outbalance the best.

My father had polio and so as a baby I was quarantined with my mother. Fears rose higher for I had discovered a lozenge discarded by my polio- infected father and sucked on it. I can imagine my mother’s anguish as she searched for the tiny candy discarded by her sick husband. By the time he had taken sick, we had our own little house. According to my sister, born years later after my dad’s polio, my mother and I were quarantined. Our meals arrived through our breadbox.

I never asked my mother about this period of my first years, but now I wonder, “ How long did the quarantine last? Who dropped off food? How did she endure? Was Miss Scott, our downstairs boarder, also quarantined or did she move in later to help alleviate financial drain with my father hospitalization at Riverdale Hospital? Likely, she came after my dad disappeared for nine months. Interestingly when I goggle “ polio quarantine” there are no references , only descriptions of symptoms and the eventual cure. There’s more print on the bubonic and Spanish plagues.

Yet I find this from The Elwood City Ledger in Pennsylvania that had posted in 2016,

Epidemics were common. In 1916, there were more than 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths from polio in the United States with more than 2,000 deaths in New York City alone. The names and addresses of those with polio were printed in newspapers daily. Every summer, there was a polio epidemic that created a lot of fear. Meetings would be canceled, children were warned not to drink from water fountains and to stay away from swimming pools, beaches and places where people gathered. In the United States, the most serious epidemics occurred in the 1940s and ’50s. In 1949, there were 2,720 deaths from polio.

Perhaps to lighten the situation of this present pandemic, I read Barry Hertz’s review in The Globe of the latest in the series of Curb Your Enthusiasm and the recognition of the Larry David in all of us, for example his placing Purell , “ liquid gold” on the tables of his “ spite store.” Yet, Hertz ruins the ending of the series by describing the final outcome in the last episode. Thanks a lot. For me, wanting to forget it all, I transport and fantasize my dark thoughts in my head by viewing Outlanders, Brockmire, My Brilliant Friend.

We’ve discovered that tuning into the news before bed should be avoided if we crave a decent sleep. Morning newspapers, Global at 5:30 and Lester Holt with his “ breaking news” a bit later provide an overview. Yet each morning I wake, grab my IPad in hopes of news that the virus is waning, the line flattened and signs of some hope reappearing. “ Hope springs eternal”. Silly Alexander Pope.

Another story by Lawrence Martin uses a certain Dr. David Katz to perhaps explain Trump’s desire to reopen the country and remove sanctions to “shelter at home.” Katz suggests, according to Lawrence, that since most effected are over 60 years of age anyway, the government should focus on this small demographic, thus allowing the rest of the economy to return to normal.

Unwise thinking for so many reasons: the community spread, the numbers in the lower than 60 age bracket, the immoral retrograde Darwinian attitude that only the strong need survive, asserting money/ business is so much more valuable than human life. That is not to say, trade, commerce, money are not essential, but it must come second to the endurance, preservation and maintenance of healthy bodies that can eventually contribute to the wellbeing of not just themselves, but the community, the world. My friend Joe sends me an article by Nick Bryant, from the bbc news, that analyzes the Trump behaviour precisely. It’s definitely worth a read.

One can see and feel the anguish of Governor Cuomo in New York, and the hard straight talk of even our own Justin Trudeau who like the school teacher addressing an unruly class sternly admonishing, rightly so, “ Enough is enough”. And more restrictive measures need be put in place for a public who either do not listen or refuse to.

Yet we hear of truly stupid people listening to the President who holds out predictions that a certain drug hydroxycholoroquine may be a panacea, and people actually purchasing it! or what they mistakenly believe, and dying from their own actions. The pandemic expert immunologist at his side, Dr. Anthony Fauci gently correcting predictions of Easter recovery as “ aspirational”. One wonders if the good doctor will remain standing side by side with the delusional Trump and windup doll Pence if he continues to correct the President.

It also makes one wonder about the citizens with whom we share this world. Those who would act so precipitously, following the American Pied Piper down the lane of destruction. I hear with utmost incredulity Trump’s rating has not suffered and surmise the followers who would put themselves at risk are the same mislead group who support him unequivocally. As one writer stated, it’s the same Trump that was elected, but made worse by the horrific times.

The latest Gallup polling reveals the split in the United States, sadly mirroring the divisions that are fracturing the country: 94% of Republicans approve of his handling of the crisis, compared with 27% of Democrats. But overall, six out of ten Americans approve, pushing Trump’s approval rating up again to 49%, matching the highest score of his presidency. And I add a guffaw when I hear that he had intended to send guards to the Canadian- American border. Pray tell, what sane person would rush towards New York for infection and contagion?

Marsha Barber in The Star runs with the idea of ageism in terms of who will get the ventilators in this crisis. In Italy, they’ve had to decide. And with more cases, and even procedures to split the machines, she interviews Dr. Michael Kenyon, an ICU doctor in British Columbia. He is quoted as saying, “…and eventually 50-year-olds off the ventilator, and I’m going to give them to 30year-olds with three kids.”

According to Aish, an Orthodox Jewish organization, it’s all about who is most likely to have the best chance of survival. And in established Jewish law, when medical resources are limited, the resources go to those most likely to benefit from a particular therapy. However without any doubt that oldsters are undervalued, I believe that “ those older folk” would always and gladly cede their place in line to their grandchildren or any child, for that matter. But to add to this attitude of bias towards those over 60, an additional term “ Okay Boomer ” has deepened the darkness of resentment with “Boomer Remover .”

So if you are wondering about the best of times, reread  the following paragraph, and know life has been irrevocably changed and will be different in the time after, but as always,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had ( have) everything before us…

The sound of one hand clapping

Most people of my generation will remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot or enemy planes tore into the Trade Centre in New York. For the first, I was an adolescent, exiting a high school exam in Grade 11, maybe French ; for the second, I was called to the lounge at the Ontario College of Teachers where I worked with a group of other employees. We stood fixated on an overhead television as yet a second plane crashed into the buildings. So clearly I remember my reaction, thinking this is not real, it’s film so let’s just rewind the tape and reverse the horror of this moment.

But of course it was real.

And for days, weeks, months, the media exposed the repercussions of the event. Yet looking back, the attack felt more like numerous isolated episodes although CNN posted continual coverage of people throwing themselves off burning buildings, long walls of remembrance, stories of bravery and tragedy and so much emotional more. And in my head, that small voice murmuring, just rewind the tape…please….

The coronavirus poses yet a third indelible marker in my life. It feels unlike the others: a continuous swamp of enveloping, progressing not isolated but overwhelming lurking sludge. As we watch Lester Holt’s Nightly News at 5:30 and previously chortled at his recurrent intro, “ Breaking News”, we now anxiously and nervously await to hear another unfolding recitation of what, where and how the crisis is creeping throughout the world, a panther of peril and paranoia.

Although California has been listed as others as an state of emergency, to date San Diego has a mere 8 cases as I write this, ( my husband’s partner retorts that’s due to non-testing…whatever) ,March 14. And like all else in most places I read about, there are school, university closings, community centres, attractions such as Disney and Sea World have all tightly fastened their doors shut, sports and arts events postponed, even tennis in Palm Springs, March Madness.

Watching Late Night with Stephen Colbert was most strange as without an audience to respond to his jokes, it was in deed one hand clapping. And through his devilish humour, one could perceive Colbert’s sadness, almost depression as if he were swimming in a thick miasma of sorrow. You truly felt it, the fusion of the masks of comedy and tragedy, turning the facial lines of laughter upside down. Only when Dr. Sanjay Gupta arrived on the scene did Colbert revert to his former host’s cool professional persona, riveted by the straight forward and knowledgeable answers to the questions on the virus. Gupta spoke honestly about his own fears regarding his older parents in Florida, this looming situation wherein we must think about, act and care for one another, not just ourselves if we are to protect our communities, our world.

Lest this attitude be the approach when coronavirus has passed and the business of focusing on climate change remains!

Unlike Trump whose disregard comes through so clearly as he reads, mangles his words without feeling to the nation, denying responsibility, blaming other countries, denigrating their policies , calling Yamiche Alcindor’s question yesterday “ nasty” and cutting her off for even raising his culpability. Providing no wisdom, calm or even empathy, Trump does not lead, but merely, narrates- badly, at that -instilling more panic and fear in the wake of his announcements. I suppose the man cannot help it. It’s who he is. We yearn for FDR’s fireside chats , his tone and demeanor communicating self-assurance during times of terror and uncertainty.

Much of Trump’s stance is reflected in the populace, for if you have visited a grocery store in the last few days you will note and react to scenes re-enacted from disaster movies. For a reason I cannot discern, people are emptying the shelves of toilet paper. Maybe the stress of the situation is causing diarrhea or increased visits to the bathroom. My sister-in-law in Toronto reports eggs, flour and sugar have also disappeared from grocery shelves so I must surmise people are baking their own bread and cakes to avoid the sweaty hands of bakers polluting the goods they would make. Seriously???? What are they thinking?

At Bristol Farms here in San Diego where we shop, we noticed containers of chlorox and hygienic wipes still available with regular prices; however, we observed at one of the other major chains, Ralphs , there was a feeling of such intense frenzy as long lines of overfilled carts patiently waited for the checkout cashier to send them on their way, most surprisingly not wearing masks. My daughter shared a story of a gunman at Loblaws in our hometown. Leaky bowels will do that to you – or the thought of persistent constipation.

Our son reminded us of a game he once bought us called Pandemic by Matt Leacock wherein the players must balance the needs of researcher, contingencies, medics, scientists, quarantine, dispatcher and operations. There are infections, outbreaks, and epidemic cards to draw. Players must share knowledge, discover cures, build research stations, treat disease while considering travel parameters of both folk and disease via air flights, sea ferries, human droplets, as it moves from city to city. The game ends as soon as cures to diseases are found from Istanbul to the North Pole.

Sadly, this is no longer a child’s game.

Now another marker in my life will recall for me, it was once the worst of times and the best of times… with or without toilet paper…

Zaydas in Politics

Where have they gone? The young candidates?

Hearing Beto O’Rourke endorse Joe Biden exemplified the difference between vital and young- and old. I cannot help but wonder at America’s contenders who are 77 and 78. That’s like the bubbah and the zayda or rather two zaydas.

You know, the ones whose children and most of society usually ignore : their life experiences, whose stories seem irrelevant, who have lived their lives about 50 years ago. Seriously, what would you say if your own grandpa decided to campaign everyday, hopping on and off buses, making speeches, and hugging babies? Instead of hitting the golf course, traveling the world or constantly being checked for diabetes, colonoscopies, hearing aids or worse, and they were going toe to toe with other altes?

Inconceivable that those Okay Boomers are supported and endorsed by the youth culture that continually mocks their tech literacy, their sartorial sense, and meandering stories of “I remember when, “ or, “In my day, we…

And yet.

And yet Bernie Sanders is the darling of college kids.

And sleepy Joe has been resurrected .

I don’t get it.

Obama was young, vital, inspirational. Clinton was handsome, charismatic and JFK was the king of Camelot making us believe in possibilities because he himself was young, cool, photographed in white sweaters chasing footballs in a happy gaggle of a preppy family on Martha’s Vineyard.

Bernie slightly bent over, white haired, recent of a heart attack and Biden liverspotted also balding are the dueling choices for the democratic president elect. And I have to ask why? Where are the young hopefuls enamoured with, driven to making the world better, reinventing the peace corps., removing guns ,battling air, water and the earth , improving education not just for their own grandchildren but for their grand and great grand children?

Is it a spirit of selfishness or a selfish egoism or even a cynical attitude of the only” me generation” or WTF that has prevented anyone below the age of 70 in coming forward. I thought Pete Buttigieg was impressive. He spoke intelligently actually answered questions directly, and represented a generation where diversity is the norm. And yet we figured, rightly so, he really might not go the distance.

Toronto Star’s editorial on Thursday cited Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler book “Prius or Pickup?” who said the most fundamental trait in determining support concerns how dangerous the world is . “ Fear is perhaps our most primal instinct,” and “ the level of fearfulness informs their outlook on life.” According to the authors, Sanders is the riskier of the two candidates so that losing something we have, or of failing to get something we want, such as healthcare, motivates a voting stance. Perhaps because younger voters who have supported Sanders have been seen to have less than their parents. ( job security, benefits, pensions or purchasing power for homes) so maybe their idealism towards what he offers exists in a kind of realm of possibilities, a pie in the sky.

However, the more experienced, less extreme Biden is a more comfortable alternative, calming the waters of erratic behaviour and soothing our souls, that yes, everything will be fine. Yet if statistics are correct, and 76 is the age most men live to these days, Biden at 77 hardly exemplifies a show of reasonable security.

And isn’t it shocking that in the final analysis no women are still standing? And were soundly trounced by men in their late 70s, and beaten in the early primaries by a 38 year old kid mayor of a mid-sized town or a tech candidate flashing money.

Even though these women were viable for example, Kamala Harris, a senator, former attorney-general of California, articulate, or Elizabeth Warren, also a senator, a Harvard prof with policy depth whose commitment was based on real life experience and an ability to reason, reflect, think, review and change course. And Amy Klobuchar, a senator, as well, with experience in difficult justice situations, but even Vogue magazine questioning her on being mean and tough on her office staff. And Kristen Gillibrand? Tsk, tsk. Because women should always be kind and understanding whereas men… we accept their outrages and tough talk. Did Nancy Pelosi at 79 not demonstrate that women can be tough and handle difficult situations without flinching?

Yet, perhaps Elizabeth Warren was her own worst enemy with her folksy backstories, always-in-overdrive and Harris couldn’t decide whether she was in the party’s moderate or progressive camp. But then Cory Booker, Tom Steyer, Julio Castro and others could also be scrutinized for their particular approach, speaking style, etc. Yet no woman was left standing.

Sarah Kendzior  in The Globe and Mail states, “There is a fundamental instability in a gerontocracy, which is ironic since voters embrace elderly white men – in particular, Mr. Biden – because they see them as safe. They are seen as safe because they are familiar. White men benefit from the self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘electability’ that knocked out all the black, Latino, Asian and female Democratic candidates”. With the wild card, narcissist, unstable Trump, one should not be surprised that a return to safety calls to the populace.

Returning to the so- called safety of the paternal Joe Biden is in deed bizarre. Yes, he’s white haired, soothing, smiling and grandfatherly, but what does this desirable image reveal about 21st Century America? That father still knows best and the desire to return to old mores is stronger than venturing forward towards new and different ways. That’s not to say the women on the platform provided a panacea, but at least their ages indicated longer staying power, tried and true life experiences, smarts, professionalism and truly, not a bad selection of candidates, and none with baggage of an impeached hubby.

I’m a person who advocates for the best person for the job, male or female, and maybe in the final analysis, the best were left, yet it is difficult to assume a woman , one of these women, did not get a chance to stay the course. Some say that Hilary scared us from supporting a woman in the final challenge. I think that’s patronizing, a sop , a pat on the head to naughty little girls whose reaches might exceed their grasps, dear.

It’s just very hard to accept one of the zaydas will prevail when they might be rocking in their chairs, not governing the nation wherein every decision will be scrutinized, evaluated and critiqued if it does not appeal or work out as “out of date”, or befuddled, or wrong for the times.

It’s not to say that a 70some year old cannot speak for the present and react appropriately. FDR was 63 and Churchill was 77, the second time around… And although even Elizabeth Warren seemed worn out by the time she withdrew, Biden and Bernie appear to be going strong ,having caught the fast locomotive, energy, vitality, physicality and mental prowess not slackening and yet, lest I be accused of ageism, Biden is known to ramble, and Bernie’s comments on Castro’s bringing literacy to Cuba were not well chosen. But then, don’t we all, even young’ uns speak foolishness sometimes?

Perplexing times and a zayda to quieten your fears ain’t so bad. I guess.

Language for All Seasons

We watch Stephen Colbert and sometimes I feel as if his jibes against Trump are much the myth of Sisyphus in that over and over again he strives, with humour and sarcasm using Trump’s own nonsensical words to attack the man. And yet, there is a certain futility for in spite of Colbert’s ongoing observations , Trump still continues to triumph in his abuse of power, riding scotfree over his critics, continuing to damn and damage what is good in America. So I am glued to Colbert, chortled over Don and the Giant Impeach, but viewed it as intelligent entertainment, reinforcing my despair and sense of futility.

With the number of Republicans in the house I feared, once again, no accountability, but I hoped- naïvely that more of them would stand and support impeachment. I really didn’t expect the equivocating Susan Collins who postures, or even Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, to stand and be counted, but in my heart of heart, I did hope that some other women, perhaps, might go beyond self interest to support values the country presumably was built on.

The lone voice was Mitt Romney who struggled at first, but denounced Trump’s unacceptable and truly worthy of impeachment behaviour.

Colbert described Romney’s censure as a bit of hope, then went on to quote a line from A Man for All Seasons,

“When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.”

In Grade 13 in Ontario a million years ago, we wrote provincial exams- in the 60’s. Besides Macbeth and Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles( if memory serves me), A Man for All Seasons was on the prescribed curriculum. The story is based on Sir Thomas More, a scholar and statesman who objects to 16th Century King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce and remarry in order to father a male heir. More, a devout Catholic ponders how he can accept two masters, deciding his oath to G-d stands in opposition to his fealty to the King. The theme focuses on a set of values that guides his behaviour.

In the 21st century, allegiance to Religion has dwindled, albeit in favour of self serving profit and elevation of self, forsaking values once believed emanating from spiritual or higher concepts than man’s selfishness and self- indulgence, and even without G-d, the rules a person should live by and which a life should be guided have obviously absented themselves . Or more precisely, I will employ the active -not passive voice, and say people, both men and women have chosen to support false idols, knowing full well they are imposters, measuring themselves externally rather than evaluating themselves internally. (AND please, I ‘m not suggesting religion as a panacea, for we have only to recall the Inquisition, etc. in times passed that lauded religion as the raisond’etre for war and murder…)

We have passed the Age of Existentialism of “to do or not do”, as Yoda would preach, but not doing is tantamount to acting as well. Lamar Alexander, a Republican Senator from Tennessee since 2003, condemned Trump’s actions on Meet the Press but demurred that although guilty of the accusations, Trump will have learned from the experience and impeachment would be bad for the country. You could almost see his spineless con freres shaking their heads in agreement, unwilling to stand against the big guy .

But Mitt Romney did.

And Nancy Pelosi who has behaved reasonably, not rushing into impeachment.Nancy Pelosi, who helped pass The Affordable Care Act with President Obama and prevented George W. Bush from privatizing Social Security, quietly but adamantly tore up Trump’s State of the Union speech, following his acquittal.

What gives me hope,too, is language, language, misused, trammelled upon, twisted and thrown around, embarrassingly in tweets, that returns us to a state where words mattered: as in Colbert’s persistent harangue and Robert Bolt in A Man for All Seasons, and the heartfelt words uttered by Mitt Romney – who will stand in history as the righteous man willing to shout “The Emperor wears no clothes”. He will likely, along with brave Pelosi, be the footnotes, the true story of a reign that negated human rights, encouraged partisan divisions, promoted racism and misogyny, kept the weak and homeless from the borders, ignored climactic disasters, ridiculed , taunted, displayed ignorance, stomping on the values we had hoped to inculcate in the young.

Colbert in his nightly attacks uses his words to reinforce the ignorance and arrogance amidst us. He does not sit in silence, acquiescing what he knows in his soul should not be and yet persists in bubbling up.

Perhaps some Republicans are correct in their self defence and assuagement that it is the people who must, ultimately decide if the country continues along on the current path.

I know this is old news but until there is a change, words must guide action.

The Room where it won’t happen

One cannot escape the lengthy goings-on regarding Trump’s impeachment and truly, why would we? It was interesting to watch the measured thoughtful responses of Adam Schiff on Meet the Press last Sunday. And throughout the week, his skills as an advocate, calm, measured and intelligent, as he sought to prove his case for the inclusion of witnesses at the trial.

In contrast, an arrogant Trump behaves as if nothing of importance has occurred, continuing his slander and abrogation, language of humans debased in his tweets. Besides his revolting demeanour, his treatment, outright lies and narcissism, it is his retorts, his language that I find over the top so offensive. And by the end of the week, the spineless Republicans ensured Trump will not be made accountable. Yet again.

But if I try and restrain my remarks and examine his manner of loquation, many equivocate, as Lady MacBeth once instructed her hubby,” False face must hide what false face doth know.” No worry for that, for Trump has no finesse, no pretence to EVEN pretend. He lies with no remorse, no recrimination as if lying were the truth. And the despicable Alan Dershowitz upholds the odious actions of the power mad, as if the president is held accountable only to

“The divine right of kings, a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy that asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God”.

For Trump, God is the self same name as his own.

Years ago, someone told me that if you say a thing long enough, repeating it to yourself and others, you rearrange your synapses and even untruths are cemented into truths. Perhaps this is apocryphal, for we know people who do believe in their own lies, forgetting, omitting, rearranging to their heart’s content, doggedly yelling in your face, up close, this is the way it is. THE TRUTH! To a crowd of encouragers, Trump has audiences who cheer on his willful madness.

And although people of a certain age can stand back, look askance, measure, cogitate, consult their wisdom, research the facts( are there any facts anymore? ), kids go to the Internet and Wikipedia, believing that technology is giving them the goods. My own grandkids consult Google to do their French translation, not dictionaries, aghast, disbelieving it could be wrong. Words, phrases, definitions, transcribed, copied from where? By whom? Those perhaps with selected interests to mould, model, persuade a certain line of thinking? Am I revealing my cynicism? But then, have we begun to accept goggle as gospel,too?

And with Trump as a role model shouting his ignorance, one despairs for the youth of today, especially when parents too are consulting their cellphones for info, too busy to read newspapers, discuss the day’s events, or propose there is more than one way to interpret or look at an issue. After all, the Fake News is after all fake? So wherein can we discover the real, the true, the unbiased and fresh face of the news? Do parents even remember when meals were the opportunity to gather, converse, exchange and mull over the day?Most demure, they are too busy, too tired. Is there anything more annoying than dinner at a restaurant where each patron has their eyes glued on their cell, the only voices mumbling or reacting located deep in the technology securely cupped in their hands?

Chris Cuomo on Late Night with Stephen Colbert in a curious exchange lauded Kellyanne Conway for doing her job as a spokesperson for Trump, spinning his words and standing up to his critics. Yet the underside, I thought, was his suggestion that what she was saying in her appearances might actually not be “her ” truth, but like Lady Macbeth,

“Look[ing] like the innocent flower but be[ing] the serpent under it”( OK, very wilted, plastic flower in a Gucci jacket)

Eventually consumed by power, Macbeth utters,

I am settled, and bend up

Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.

Away, and mock the time with fairest show:

False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

Shakespearean protagonists in their evil travails demonstrate the awareness of a conflict between reality and appearance. For Trump, there is no insight, no division, the only truth his own. In this, he is perhaps incapable of reflecting on other possibilities.Not even “ Svenjolly “as Elaine on an early Seinfeld once quipped. So Sadly the senators who could bring him to justice have demonstrated such weak moral fibre and self interest that one despairs he will receive his due. Practically signed, sealed delivered, Trump can continue in his rampage, John Bolton’s book title, The Room Where It Happened silencing even the memory of AlexanderHamilton’s Federalist Papers that promoted the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Could there be a more perfect denouement to this :

It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Macbeth again

Growing up, I was constantly upbraided by my mother, “ Think before you speak, Pat”. Maybe that provided me an interest in understatement, irony, hyperbole: a way to express my thoughts after contemplating if my meagre words were worthy of uttering them and sharing them out loud. In deed, were they proper, too personal, too revealing, appropriate to the company, damaging or hurtful? Trump has proven he has no inner voice that whispers to him not to be cruel or fabricate.

For our grandchildren, a dearth of role models with back bones to do what is moral and right, not to mention, instill still values of personal integrity, honesty, responsibility. Above, a jumble of thoughts : on language, on Shakespeare, on Hamilton – beneath which I am seething with anger.

Shakespeare said it best,

It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Mothers’ Day Rant

It makes me chortle to think that I sound like my mother more and more.

I never thought I’ld say that. But as time goes on, I wonder what she would have thought about the things I grumble about. Actually I kinda know – as she always hated Trump, but we have our own mini Trump as a premier in Ontario, a politico who has taken aim at the exact motherhood issues so close to a parent’s heart- safety, daycare and education of our children.

That one will be able to purchase booze at 9am and drive faster on the highways builds into the mentality of adolescent boys, drunk with the idea that they are embracing freedom. There is all ready so much rage on the roads, frustration, delays and pent up emotion, all feeding into these stupid reversals that I cannot fathom even the idea of pressing forward with these initiatives . Driving drunk is no joke and I think of the mother’s who organized MADD, based on he heartbreak of losing a child in a stupid stupid accident. And fairly recently an entire family,three children and a grandfather were destroyed by a soon to be groom returning from his bachelor party in Las Vegas. Can you even imagine such a tragedy for a mother ? Truly, for what purpose should liquor be made available to wash down your toast and marmalade?

And the assault on libraries also breaks a mother’s heart. For me, escape, relaxation development of imagination along with precious time spent bouncing along side my own once youthful mother to and fro to the library were joys I will never forget. I see in my mind’s eye those Saturday mornings curled on a Library couch, devouring a book while my sister and mother chatted and browsed- and on the way home, happiness of happiness- a detour for a thick creamy straw- stopping milkshake. Treasures I will not forget.

And now that libraries have been transformed into community aid, activity centres and outposts of computers, they serve a greater need, especially for children in rural areas. They are sanctuaries, escapes, and unlike malls where the object is to purchase something or just hang out, the library provides a quiet ( or not) space to think your thoughts, research , or discover an author you never knew existed. The kindness of librarians sharing their personal excitement like sticky raspberry jam rubbed off on me.

Elizabeth Renzetti in her Saturday Globe article It blows to be a kid in On­tario now, but they’re still our best hope for the future states,

“I’m not sure where to even begin detailing the provincial government’s betrayal of the province’s children[ and by extension, mothers] , so vast and senseless has the chaos been. Should we start with the families whose children live with autism…That was a big betrayal, but the small ones hurt, too, such as the government’s decision in December to cut funds for after-school programs and in­class tutoring. Let’s get them out on the street instead, where they’ll learn to make small change buying weed in parking lots. It’s the new math, so favoured by this government…”

It is brutal to cut these supportive services for kids, particularly those families at risk along with the employees drawn to their profession because of their passion for reading, learning, kids and the desire for creating better futures for those who need them most. Even in this fast, crazy technologically influenced world, my own grandsons with all their gizmos, adore the library and the opportunity to just meander about there. And after school daycare at their school is a festival of intelligent activities that stimulates minds by people who truly care.

All this has to do with educating the mind and the soul, finding sources upon which to grow. Without a strong public investment and interest , necessary support will fade and one of the last bastions of a thoughtful society will disappear. The Nazis, of course, burnt books. Libraries in Cairo, Alexandria, Baghdad, the University of Mosul destroyed by Isis were all put to ruin because of a dictator’s belief in their damaging potential to spark a person to think and offer fresh or alternative perspectives, dangerous to the ruling powers. Knowledge lost. Democracy abandoned , a forbidden concept.

People once more controlled- and maintained ignorant like messy teenage boys in their desire for drink and fast cars. But isn’t that what is wanted? Politics that cannot brook any opposition because the tyrant believes himself omnipotent, his or her way, the one way.

How shattering when mothers aspire for a better, kinder, more compassionate world wherein everyone’s pursuit is not solely for self- serving, selfish means. On the one hand, present day initiatives apparently celebrated for cooperative collaborative learning, team building; on the other, disbelief in climate change and zealots who refuse to vaccinate , thereby endangering their communities and returning us to epidemics of crippling diseases. In a world turned so public by Facebook and social media, lack of care for legal aid should be a priority , a rallying cry for those in society who must draw on those services.

In deed, it is a strange world that has stretched out in my 70 or so years, those post war, baby boomer years of working towards equal rights for women, minorities, introducing diversity throughout society from books to equal opportunities for all. I recall the early beginnings of my postcolonial classes before a multicultural focus was even on the horizon and parents of the gifted class worrying that teaching Achebe from Africa and Marquez from South America were poor substitutes for Shakespeare, damaging their offsprings’ success at university. I recall when people smoked freely in restaurants, the others wrinkling their noses at the smoke and the smell.I remember the wonder of computers as big as desks and telephone so awkward they could double as dumbells. I even remember the emergence of Chargex the forerunner of Visa and plastic credit cards.

Ah, to sound like one’s mother, fretting, complaining at change. And yet change that does not improve life does not serve a societal purpose. So often my mother would raise one eyebrow and smile her secretive smile. I guess she knew. And now, maybe I do too.

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,

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.


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.

The Sex Ed Debate

Ontario’s Education Minister, Lisa Thompson, now presently unavailable, announced that the province will revert to a previous version of its sex education curriculum when students return to school in the fall. The older curriculum will remain in effect until the government completes parental consultations for feedback. The decision follows promises made by Premier Doug Ford during his leadership campaign earlier this year.However, consultation for the one under discussion resulted from in progress discussions that lasted years, and included 4,000 parents( one from each elementary school in Ontario), 2400 educators , 700 students from grades7-12, and170 key organizations , according to Nancy Veals in today’s letters in the Toronto Star. Having written teacher guidelines myself, I decided to look at the Health and Physical Education Guideline, revised for the Ontario Curriculum, grades 1-8. Thoughtful, constructive information , attention to context, the multi- faceted development of students are all addressed in the document.

I came to understand this methodology when I worked as a Program Officer at OCT, developing both the standards and numerous Additional Qualifications courses for Ontario high school teachers. The process is very serious, the researcher combing through multiple documents – from requested to unsolicited briefs and papers, interviewing and holding interactive consulting sessions, actively listening to concerns, then working through oral and written reports and transcripts, comparing and contrasting with similar curricula, consulting more , reviewing more with colleagues, testing and requesting, omitting and adding information in order to attempt to get it right and reflect the needs and aspirations of our communities. The result is somewhat formulaic but not one taken in haste, nor without deep thoughtful considerations, sensitivity and allowance for teacher pedagogy and implementation that meets the needs of students.

With the arrival of Doug Ford’s government, his promise to do away with the sex ed has been fulfilled. And every newspaper reflects the weighing in of diverse view points. Even an article by professor Debora Soh from York university stressed the role parents play in communicating trends, values, issues of a sexual nature. On July 17 she wrote in The Globe,” sex education has been shown to be effective, leading young people to delay becoming sexually active and increasing the likelihood that they will engage in safer sex practices when they do.”

To the queries, lacuna, confusion regarding the scrum, I suggest they all cast their minds back to their own foggy years of pre adolescence and those wonderful teenage years: when teenagers either ignore, distrust or adamantly do the exact opposite of what their parents wish them to. And if we are really honest here, how many parents or guardians are even having “ the talk”, but when they do, projecting their own righteous values on their kids. “ We take the approach that the best teachers are the parents, not the special interest group,” remarked Ford.

Parents are busier. Or so they think, and so self consumed with matters of importance these days barely even joining their offspring for a meal, or rarely sitting quietly without a tablet at a meal in a restaurant, so where and when does the Premier imagine these conversations will actually take place?

These important interchanges regarding sexting, abuse, sexuality are exactly necessary when you want an educated and sensitive adult to diffuse the embarrassment, shame and diversities of becoming, particularly if the parent finds the topics awkward to approach.That is not to remove the onus on parents to have these discussions, but the reality is that they may not be occurring or maybe even happening too late. To say parents are always the best teachers is disingenuous, for parents most often communicate bias. “ Soh underlines, ‘It brings us to the question of who gets to dictate how a child is raised – should it be the responsibility of the parent or the state? Sexual education cannot be blindly outsourced to the education system. As uncomfortable as it may be, parents must be savvy about the issues their kids are contending with in 2018’.”

I absolutely concur, and admit that I decided to stay home in my children’s early years because I did not want a nanny or “ other” to ground them in values that might be inconsistent with my own. I wanted those kidlets shaped by my ideas, ideals and rules. But that is not to say I did not anticipate that eventually they would become aware of multiple perspectives, learn to weigh, judge and think for themselves too, becoming their own personal critics, arbiters, holding viewpoints arrived at after consideration.But yes, I hoped and strove to underpin this with universal standards of care, responsibility, commitment, cooperation, kindness, compassion and caring. But even by kindergarten and the early years, kids have imbibed with their mother’s milk the lay of their parents, the accepted behaviour, the boundaries set or to be breached in their homes, on the street or at the playground of the daycare.

And yet to the issue of bias, a friend retold the situation wherein a kindergarten teacher, her colleague and a student teacher were in involved in an instructional session regarding the presentation of the curriculum guideline material. Following a frank and helpful session, the student teacher firmly stated, “ That’s not what I was taught in co-op”, her instruction all ready immovable and set, her mind unwilling to be open. So it rests with teachers, to be willing to listen and find the appropriate ways to sensitively instruct their students, as in remembering Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: that we all learn differently and concrete, theoretical, visual, oral and aesthetic understanding, particularly of personal lessons such as sexuality must be taught in a manner that makes sense to the student and the context. Sex Ed is a huge topic as it now extends way beyond sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and developing bodies. In all situations, knowledge, reflection and wise instruction are the tools that have to be given to prepare our children for our brave, new world.

Even back almost 60 years I can remember being sent to the drugstore to buy a box of Kotex for my mother and innocently querying to the pharmacist, “Whatever that is?”I also recall a booklet handed out by Disney entitled “Personally Yours” with diagrams of our inner organs, certainly a mystery to my grade 3 or 4 self. We were certainly privy to tales of bad girls, not “going all the way,” and fear of pregnancy back then- days before the pill. To locate a paperback edition of Peyton Place or glimpse a copy of Playboy incited shivers of excitement. Sex Ed from that era of official documents was likely a paragraph, a few lines, and of course, did not even envision a world of cyberbullying, sexting, suicide, pedophilia, consent, and more, but today the rise of social media requires savvy regarding the plethora of issues that are at the toddlers’ fingertips who nonchalantly encounter tablets along with their plush toys: all ready fodder as customers, at the disposal of sellers, mindbenders and manipulators.

At the AGO, my 6 year old grandson on entering the washroom, noted a transgender sign. Without judgment or reaction, he merely observed it.I could see the symbol had been normalized, no big deal, to him. Whether his parents had presented the topic or school instruction had prompted his knowledge, it was obviously not an issue, only noted, and I marvelled and was assured by his reaction, hoping most kindergarteners were like him.

Yet in discussion with a friend this week, several thoughts shared by her friends who teach primary became clear. The elementary school teachers had been teaching values , actually the standards of care, which must always be present in whatever transpires in and out of the schoolyard, for example, during recess: that no one touches your body unless they request permission first- as in respect , responsibility. An essential baseline upon which to move outwards towards more prickly concerns.

On Friday, again I read, that new teachers are not being prepared for these topics- because the curriculum is in limbo. The Star writes,” Typically, when there is a new curriculum, there are some new resources…for school boards to support our teachers…the curriculum we were using in 2014 was the 1998 curriculum…[ which] wasn’t changed until 2015”.

Not controversial to my mind, I read the 2015 Sex Ed booklet which states, according to grade,

Grade 3: Identify the characteristics of healthy relationships, including those with friends, siblings and parents. Describe how visible differences, such as skin colour, and invisible differences, including gender identity and sexual orientation, make each person unique. Identify ways of showing respect for differences in others….

Grade 4: Describe the physical changes that occur at puberty, as well as the emotional and social impacts. Demonstrate an understanding of personal hygienic practices associated with the onset of puberty. Identify risks associated with communications technology and describe how to use them safely. Describe various types of bullying and abuse and identify appropriate ways of responding.

Do we roar against the learning of fractions or writing a coherent paragraph? By allowing our children access to public schools, we deign that we give over to the community appropriate access to the development of what it means to be a healthy, contributing member of society, and we do give away some control.

Yet there is always room for parent dissent and I certainly recall Gloria’s parents in Grade 13 arguing against Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage and so she was given another book for study, and another student’s sensitivity to animals that permitted her to forgo the watching of Out of Africa ( although at present I do not recall the harming of any animals in that film). The point is that making soup for thousands cannot meet the appetites of all, and we make provisions for those who wish to omit the peppery parts. Yet to toss it out would be a waste because the cooks have laboured hard and long to achieve the best results possible, knowing that not every single person will herald its new arrival on the menu.

My concerns leap towards a Trump world wherein women’s rights, access to abortion, new social realities and even the “ fake press” are objects for derisive scorn. We prepare for the onslaught against our selves and our babes through education, through expanding our knowledge, only returning to the past to examine and understand the mistakes of the past history, not ready to repeat them, refusing to glean information and improvement from them.

I believe this is called wisdom in learning.


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