No.

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Hey strangers. Been a long time. Crazy doings hereabouts as I get sorted to move house and rethink my career path, all while taking some token stabs at working on a number of neglected writing projects that need attention.

Even with all these distractions, I’ve been bearing witness to some of the insanity that continues the world over. It’s been hard to miss. Especially south of our border.

What is going on down there? Seriously. The inexplicability of it all has had me holding my tongue, somewhat, per advice like that found in that meme up there ^^^^

But I got up this morning with a head full of steam, heightened by a couple of factors: Trevor Noah on the Daily Show last night (I didn’t think I was over Jon Stewart’s departure, but last night I really began to acknowledge that this kid is something else. He could charm the bees from the trees – and is consistently showing some substantial comedy and commentary chops. Consider me won over in toto), and a ‘discussion’ on a group thread on one of the Facebook pages I visit upon occasion.

All prepared to write a rant of epic proportions, I realized that a lot of what was running through my head seemed eerily familiar. So, before putting figurative pen to figurative paper, I checked the drafts folder. And there it was. Three months old and languishing. A post on the topic that is overwhelming my thoughts and every news channel in clicking distance.

That this even needs addressing, still, boggles my mind. Like a whole lot of other people, a big part of me assumed that this insanity was going to max out at some point. I mean really.

So. I have a question:

How is it remotely acceptable that a person who is running for the highest office in a pretty big place (geographically and in a global political sense) can spew hate and fear and still be considered as a contender for that office?

I’m beyond sickened.Especially by the complicity of (much of) the media in the sickening quagmire that reflects the bigotry and xenophobia and dangerous ‘othering’ of specific populations of the world.

I have to say ‘much of’ the media, because I ran across this (in a friend’s fb feed). I didn’t know who Shaun King was (I do now- Google is helpful, sometimes. Seems like he’s made sense in the past, as well), since I don’t regularly read the New York Daily News (though they seem to be leading the charge in speaking out against things that other news groups seem to be addressing only speculative or in the abstract).

And Mr. King’s Op-Ed makes a whole lot of sense. So does this one. And this one.

Othering isn’t only an American phenomenon. Unfortunately. We dealt with more than our share of it under the previous federal government, to be fair.

But, in October, we stood up, as a country, and voted that sort of thinking out of office, heralding a new day that sets us back on the world stage as a country that is proud of its diversity. That choice for change is bearing fruit already. Our new PM is leading with a positive example that makes me proud, once again, to be Canadian. I admit that I had my hesitations about him, and there’s a long road ahead to bring us back to where we should be, but he’s taking us in the right direction, after a too-long period of regression, fueled by fear and the silencing of dissenting voices.

Those neighbours of ours down there… “A man that most Americans saw as a punchline and reality television star soon surged to the top of the polls and has remained there for nearly half a year. Soon he declared that he would “round up” over 400,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants per month for 24 months and drop them off at an undisclosed location in Mexico. With stadiums and crowds coming out to hear Trump all across America, he seemed to find his sweet spot in a new form of white supremacy that degraded Mexicans, stereotyped African Americans and banned Muslims.

And it’s gotten worse in the last three months. Way worse.

In the US, institutionalized racism is being allowed to flourish, while, here in Toronto, we continue to fight about things like taxi cabs. And remain ridiculously concerned about the PM’s childcare.

Priorities are all out of whack. Everywhere.

Today we woke to the news of another horrific attack on a European city at the hands of radical adherents of an ideological system that is medieval (at best) in its thinking and application. I can’t say anything new about the events in Belgium. I can’t do anything but weep for the lives lost in the name of fairy tales and power games and othering.

So, again, I avoided the ‘news’ as best I could and, instead, caught up on some stuff I’ve had bookmarked for later perusal for months.

I was dismayed and heartened, both, to hear a discussion about the borderline-propagandist media coverage of that pernicious racist down south on The Current.

I also saw a story in The Globe that echoed a thought I’ve had many times – that the US sitch is essentially Rob Ford idiocy writ larger- and more dangerously.

“… please, don’t imagine that Mr. Trump will just dry up and blow away. Even if, as seems likely, he fails to win his party’s nomination, he can do great damage. He already has. His remarks about Mexicans and now Muslims have stirred the muddy sediment at the bottom of the pond where hate lies.

It was the same way with Mr. Ford, who encouraged a certain kind of bottom dweller to come out in the open. If he could say it, why couldn’t they? When he boycotted the city’s gay pride parade, homophobes suddenly felt they had licence to say or post all those things they had been feeling. After all, they thought, Rob is on our side.

Looking back, Toronto took far too long to see Mr. Ford for what he was. Perhaps for fear of giving him another chance to say the elites were ganging up on him, leaders of the city’s establishment stood by aghast but mostly silent through much of the Ford era. They couldn’t see the breadth of his appeal. They failed to recognize the very real discontents that drove his rise.

Don’t make Toronto’s mistake. Don’t underestimate Donald Trump.”

Back when we were still in the thick of that four year stretch of self-imposed in(s)anity that was Ford’s tenure as our mayor, I wrote about evil (using the term with all my usual caveats) and the face of banality that it often wears. That little bit of a something was a bit too prophetic for my comfort. Change the names in the post – from Robbie F. to Donny T. – and I could have validly reposted the thing (I actually thought about it). The difference is one of scale – and scope. As the wannabe leader of the US, Donny T. (and that ‘unlikely’ prospect – winning his party’s nomination – draws closer to certainty) has clearly demonstrated that his ignorance and intolerance is something that needs checking. Now. Before it’s too late.

Hard on the heels of such thoughts, and wanting to find out some details about the federal Budget that was presented this afternoon (you know, the small stuff that might, actually, impact my life and the lives of those around me), I happened to catch a snippet that sucked me back to the media offerings. Robbie F. died this morning. While I’m sorry to hear of the passing of any young(ish) father, felled by a horrible disease at an age not far off my own, the mainstream media ’round these parts is demonstrating distressing lack of judgement and focusing all its attention in exactly the wrong places. Again.

On a day that saw horror and death in Europe and our new government’s plan for fiscal forward momentum, the 6:00 news spent most (and I really mean almost all) of its hour-long broadcast on the ‘story’ of the passing of a figure best left unheralded (Note that I don’t say ‘unacknowledged’ – he was a public figure and devoted at least part of his time to his version of public service). ‘Toronto Mourns’, they keep on headlining.

Like HELL it does.

Yet, once again, we the people are willingly drawn to a system of infotainment that persists in presenting the stories that they deem will garner the highest market-share – rather than those of greatest import and long-term impact.

Trevor spoke about it at length on the Daily Show last night – citing the president of one of the major network’s extreme glee that their excessive and unnecessary coverage of Donny T. is netting them a whole pile of cold, hard cash.

The bald admission turned my stomach. As did the sitch on the hometown network(s) – before I turned them off.

Instead of balanced examination, and critical analysis of things like policy and long-term plans, the media (once-upon-a-time the voice of – and for – us regular folks) is leaving such things up to other voices- like George Takei, in performance on Broadway with his own story of being on the receiving end of institutionalized racism (I’d love to see Allegiance – unfortunately I’ve issued a moratorium on all travel to the US until they deal with their racists and their gun nuts. In other words, I’ll be waiting for the touring show to come to town… ). These voices are speaking out against the insidiousness of levels of racism that are, somehow, accepted as some kind of inevitable status quo by media outlets (those that aren’t locked in denial that the racism exists), and supported by political leaders and wannabe political leaders alike.

The ‘Otherers’ are re-gaining momentum. I can see it – in comments sections of social media groups I follow, for example. One such group (a mommy blog, actually. Although I am not a mommy, the originator of the group is a successful blogging friend-of-a-friend, and, I have to admit, that the ‘Merican-ness of the group keeps me morbidly intrigued. TBH, I feel like an anthropologist at times – as the posts and comments are usually so far outside of my ken that I am frequently aghast by the discussions that go on) featured a post about Donny T. and his ‘ideas’.

At first I kept paying attention due to a Schadenfreude of which I’m not entirely proud. There has been some hope that we’ve, just lately, escaped our racist, anti-intellectual, sexist overlord(s) – so it was sort of perversely entertaining to witness the discussions about it happening somewhere other than my own backyard.

Most comments on the page, it should be said, expressed disgust/dismay/anger at the guy’s proposed ‘policies’, but there were more than a few ‘everyone is entitled to their opinions’ that set the conversations down paths of hostility and into unsupported ‘arguments’ that made me want to bite something.

Entitlement is a concept we need to get over. FFS. You can have an opinion. Sure. If that opinion happens to be ignorance, fear and hatred made manifest in ugliness, then I don’t have to sit by and let you express said ‘opinion’. I do not. I will not.

There is no justification – NONE – for supporting a misogynistic, racist, fear-and-violence-mongering reality television performer for POTUS.

Support of the guy is, as Ricky Jones noted, nothing more or less than an acknowledgment that issues of race and class remain an every-day reality in the United States. And, although Trump is a reprehensible human being, to be sure, it is the voting population that supports him that needs to draw our focus.

Supporters of the ideology that drives the inflammatory rhetoric of people like Trump (and most of the other GOP contenders, for that matter) are the both the products and symptoms of a system that discourages progressive development and critical thinking.

THIS is what happens when you cut funding to education programs (especially those in the Humanities), while advertising a faulty ‘dream’ predicated on the drive to acquire meaningless stuff, while squandering individual benefits, without thought to the larger community.

THIS is what happens when history is treated as little more than a footnote in a perspective that is, increasingly, deemed ‘academic’ and, therefore, unimportant.

I’ve seen a fair number of memes and GIFs and such that equate Trump with other despotic leaders from our recent history. While I appreciate that any sort of nod is being paid to the lessons of the past, the reality of the danger in ignoring such parallels is being lost in the superficiality of the media in which they are being transmitted.

The rage that Paul Krugman referenced in his post cannot be understated or misunderstood for what it is. The rage is exemplified by one word associated with Trump’s campaign – that insidious little ‘Again’ that follows ‘Make America Great’.

That one word advocates for a return to something that those of us who know anything about history know wasn’t, in fact, the best of times – as can be determined by any accurate measure. I’ve written about the fallacy of the ‘good ol’ days’ before. That sort of idiocy is being taken to the nth degree by the nutbar seeking to lead the country.

Leaders like Trump (and Hitler) are allowed to rise to power because they legitimize ideologies that are ugly – and promotional of a group psychology that encourages complicity to ever-larger atrocity – by beginning with a mandate that the ‘simple’ can get behind. Trump’s ‘uneducated’ masses want to hear that someone is willing to return them to a mythical time when they held some level of ascendancy over some ‘other’ type of person. The ‘social identity’ of Trump’s followers has been shaken by progressive movements advocating social justice and equity.

The reality is that people like Trump are not ‘making America racist again’ – America never stopped being racist.

If this trajectory of the legitimation of hatred continues I’m concerned that there mightn’t be a wall high enough to keep the infection of such thinking south of the border (regardless of who ends up paying for said wall). We’re seeing it here, writ smaller to be sure, in the outpouring of ‘grief’ for a man who embodied racist, homophobic and misogynistic ignorance – and who impeded the progress of this city that I love for too many years.

 Canadian politesse (and the values taught to me by my parents) warns against things like speaking ill of the dead and suggests that the better course is saying nothing at all if niceties can’t be expressed.

Sorry Mum and Dad. Sitting by while the ‘news’ media spins tales of validity out of ineptitude and supposed-plain-speaking is symptomatic of dangerous complacency that supports epidemics of ignorance and wrong-doing. I’m an historian. I know what that level of complacency, and othering, and the acceptance of banality can do.

Unchecked, it can bring down civilizations.

The discontent that permits the rise of supposed-leaders like Donny T. and Robbie F. needs to be addressed, yes. We need to do so by rewriting the systemic inequities and lack of education that permits the persistence of othering. Our collective NOs – voiced in concert against the self-serving politicians, corporations, and media organizations – need to out-shout the manufacturers of fear and hatred that have become a shameful stock-in-trade of those who purport to lead.

So.

No.

Just no.

The good, the bad and the really really bad.

A very mixed-kinda-weekend just passed me by, seemingly quicker than I could blink.  We got more snow, the colder than usual temps are still upon us, I picked up a couple of new books to read, mainly stayed inside and caught up on some stuff I’d let go for too long…

But I also woke up Saturday morning to find that the lovely Ursula at An Upturned Soul has nominated me for a blog award.  Her posts run an interesting and diverse gamut, writing about things such as narcissism and personal relationships/interactions that are always both informative and illustrative of her talent for communicating the intricacies of such complex subjects in well-reasoned and -researched, yet still approachable and understandable, articles.  A recent post, Personality Disordered, was especially resonant for me, given the fact that I am also inclined to run off on tangents.  More than a little.

This morning, wonder of wonders, I discovered that Kim over at Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed has also been so kind as to nominate me for an award.  She, too, writes about narcissism and surviving its abuses, and her insights regarding identification and recovery are enlightening and valuable resources for surviving the toxicity that such relationships create.

I greatly appreciate the respect for my own writing that spurred the nominations, and I value the reciprocal relationships we have developed through our mutual followings.  I encourage my readers to visit with them and explore the many valuable things they both have to contribute to our WordPress World.

I love this World.  As I’ve mentioned before, the most wonderful and surprising thing I have discovered since starting this blog a little less than a year ago is the community that is there to support, entertain and challenge me as I gain footing and change some things up in the development of my online presence.  Rather than restrict the pass-on nominations as suggested by both awards, please have a look through my blog roll- and click on the avatars of those friends who thoughtfully leave comments- and discover for yourselves the variety and engaging intelligence that I’ve been privileged to find in this neck o’ the woods.

Unfortunately, all this loveliness has been disrupted by the increasingly business-as-usual abuses of those who hold power and influence in the wider, outside world.

I referred to this the other day.  Harper’s conservatives are doing their best to ensure that this country becomes a democracy in name only.  Since a democracy can only be as strong as its weakest link, we MUST work to strengthen those links that are inclined to let this sort of thing fester and continue without notice or comment or attempt at rectification.

This is the primary reason behind my goal for 2014- to search out a new type of classroom that is based on the dialectic and exchange of information based in facts and experience, rather than rhetorical reliance upon emotion and belief.

Since my appearance (still reeling a wee bit from the experience- radio geek that I am) on The Current a couple of weeks ago, education and our educational system has been back on my personal radar bigtime.  I’ve joined/re-joined a number of discussion forums dealing specifically with post-secondary education and teaching and this popped up in one of them on Saturday.  I had comparable experiences, upon occasion, but I am extremely distressed that they seem to be growing in frequency, and extent of damage to the learning experience.  I’m not sure that I will ever comprehend the close-mindedness that drives people to enroll in a course in an institution of higher education solely in order to maintain the supremacy of their own unexamined beliefs.  Stories like this are among the things that make me miss the university classroom less and less.

My pal Booksy over at Lost and Found Books brought this back to my attention this morning.  Again with the gradual dissolution of democracy under our very freakin noses by this government and its agenda.

And in local news: this idiocy is about to air beginning today.

I have to admit to feeling a bit nostalgic today.  As such, this tune popped into my head while thinking through all this stuff and the Voices Carry movement that I’m encouraging of late.  And Mark King’s bass playing is always something to witness…

The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The rhythm has begun …

Old men with their protocol
Lead us off to war
Sometimes we don’t even know
What we’re fighting for
Marching to the beat of their drum

Leaders we no longer trust
Told too many lies
The promises they made to us
Were never realised
Hear me now the chant has begun

Nowhere left to turn
No-one left to turn to
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have the answer
Our whole world’s in danger

Oil slicks on the ebbing tide
Progress out of hand
Blind men choke on swallowed pride
Heads down in the sand
Don’t wanna see the damage they’ve done

Trees destroyed by acid rain
Falling from the skies
When our children place the blame
Who will tell them why
Hear me now the chant has begun

Why is love so rare
All this talk of warfare
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have an answer
Pass the word along
We can wait no longer
Too much blind destruction
Follow love’s instructions
Now the chant has begun

(chant)

Make your choice there’s no escape
Add your voice, the chant has begun

This song was written and recorded in 1984.  1984.

30 years.  And we still haven’t grown the chant into the roar it needs to become.

‘To everything there is a season’

Where to begin?  A little while ago I was feeling kind of frozen with the inability to come up with stuff worth writing about.  Oh, what change a couple of weeks can bring…

I’m still frozen- since this stoopid polar vortex (those are rapidly becoming my two least favourite words) thing refuses to release us from its icy grip- but the words, they are a’ flowin’.  New problem?  I just can’t keep up with them all.

So many directions and so very many events of significance.. and yet I’ll have to just let a few of them go without more than a passing nod.

There’s this guy, though.  And he deserves FAR more than a passing anything (except maybe an awed handshake or hug as I stand speechless at the greatness he embodied).

Pete Seeger.

Strange that he’s actually gone.  I can’t remember a world without his songs.  They are such a part of the soundtrack of my life, it’s hard to separate out separate out specific tunes for mention.  I’ve spent so very many summers by lakes here in Ontario, and every single one of them was accompanied by songs that Pete brought into our lives.  Songs we could sing- vocal abilities or lack thereof notwithstanding- and songs that MEANT something.

He’s been so ubiquitous that I honestly can’t even decide which of his songs I heard first, or, really, which one I love best.  Except… He adapted and then arranged words from one of my fave books from the OT, written by one of my fave characters from the OT.  So, even if the tune itself remains most associated with some other very cool cats, I have to say that Turn, Turn, Turn is right up there in the cole-appreciates-Pete department.

Since I have so much floating around in my head and attempting to escape through my fingertips, I am not going to be able to even approach doing justice to the memory of such a pivotal character in our (popular) culture.  There have been a lot of wonderful remembrances- in the mainstream media and here in the WP World- and I happened across this one at Shaunanagins yesterday.  Yep, yep, yep and yep (seven times over).  So well said.  Most resonant with me, right now in this head space I have going on, is the whole ‘music isn’t just about entertainment’ thing.  Pete taught us that.  People like Neil Young, who I wrote about here, reminded us of that reality recently.  It’s an easy thing to forget- when the throw-away pop that seems to be everywhere these days is the ‘music’ of first exposure for a whole lot of young people.

There are too few people, when you examine their lives, about whom you can honestly say that 94 (!) years wasn’t enough time here among us.  Pete was one of those ‘voices’ I spoke about.  And his is still out there carrying in ways that leave me entranced.

About that.  The whole ‘Voices Carry’ thing.  And my assertion, stemming from outrage, that we HAVE to be looking for dialectic rather than debate.  And about the whole synchronicity element- and winds of change seemingly headed in my general direction.

It’s been quite a week.  That radio show that I mentioned?  It happened, and people are talking.

#NotYourAdjunctSidekick is generating discussion all over the place in the Twitterverse, and groups of contract/part time/adjunct academic faulty are banding together to raise their voices as one.  Some of the stories are terrible- situations far more extreme and representative of the true systemic inequities than anything I ever experienced before I gave up on the system.  There are stories popping up everywhere Even if some of them- like the last speaker on The Current’s presentation of the issue- seem to be missing the point entirely, and using the discussion as yet another forum in which to bash the Humanities and deemphasize their importance in education (I’d like to continue to vehemently dispute that perspective by offering up an article, by Tom Nichols- a professor of national security affairs in the US- about the tendency to dismiss experts in the field due to the inability to use rationale and reason to examine all sides of an issue- and at least entertain the advice of those who know stuff about stuff before reacting emotionally and erroneously to any given topic).

All this talk of universities and teaching and communicating has my mind looping through all sorts of the topics that I’ve been thinking, and writing, about lately.  I’m finding myself missing the classroom.  This is an ever-present feeling- since I LOVED being a teacher- but talking about it over the last few days, and coming up with ideas and plans about affecting change have me realizing that it’s time to get back to the classroom.  But all this talk of the university system and its institutionalized problems has also reinforced the reality that I might have to come up with my own concept of ‘classroom’.

So this is leading to more talking and more sorting things out.  Some concepts are more appealing than others- so a few proposals/projects/blueprints need to be worked out in the next while.

I do know that the ‘classroom’ for me is not Toronto City Hall.  Not at this time, anyway.  The ‘how to be a candidate’ meeting was interesting and very informative.  The City employees who organized and ran the thing did so with professionalism and respect- something that is seemingly lacking in many of the politicians with whom they are required to work.  That is part of why it isn’t the venue for me.

As I sat in Karen Stintz’s seat in the council chamber, one of the organizers commented that the room was much more decorous and composed than is usually the case.  It was a joke, but it’s also all too much the truth.  There were a lot of people present at the meeting who were there in obvious search of change- and some of them spoke with passion and eloquence and without the narcissistic posturing of the people who usually sit in those seats.  It gave me some hope that positive change may be possible.  (There was at least one extremist crack-pot there (I’m not actually talking about ‘the mayor’, this time), of course, but the rest of those gathered chose to ignore his rantings and continue on with the business of actually learning something.  Hope indeed.)

There’s a great article in this month’s Toronto Life about those who maintain some level of faith that Ford is the guy to remove the City from its current quagmire.  They’re wrong, of course, but I now sort of understand why they might think that.  The article highlighted this systemic problem we have with polarizing our opinions to the extreme.

Us vs. Them.  It’s everywhere.  And that has to change.

As I walked to the subway this morning there was just the barest hint of warmth in the brutal wind that has been screaming around the buildings in the downtown core this past while.  Time for a change of season, paradigm, perspective and approach.

A time to build up, a time to break down

Or vice versa, as the case may be.