Is There a Cure for Racism? You Bet There is.

A commentary on racism

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Obviously, I must be naiver than I thought because I truly thought that my generation was less racist than my parents and grandparent’s generations. I believed that racism was disappearing more and more with each generation. It seems I was wrong. The racism, at least in Canada, was hidden; below the surface so to speak.  Racism in Canada was intangible until all the rhetoric from south of the border starting filtering into Canada’s news media.

From cbc.ca

CBC recently published a news article called, Ottawa church fi
ghts racism. A Baptist church in Westboro, an area in the west end of Ottawa, Canada, is trying to use lawn signs to build community, and combat the negativity and racism being directed towards refugees in both Canada and the United States.  The First United Church printed 200 signs that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbour,” in the languages of English, French and Arabic. The idea for the signs was inspired from similar campaigns in the United States and southern Ontario.

It was felt that the signs were a way to make a public statement without being political. One church volunteer said, “Make it clear that we’re happy, that diversity is a positive thing, that having neighbours from all over the world and from diverse places is great and that we’re happy to get to know our neighbours and welcome everyone to the community.”

There seems to be a perception in Canada, and seemingly more so in the United States, that diversity is a bad thing; that immigration needs to be slowed or even stopped. Well the truth is, diversity makes for a better society and scientific studies prove that.

In the Scientific American article, How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, studies show that being around people who are different from us makes us humans more creative, more diligent and harder-working. One study involving “more than 350 students from three universities participated in the study. Group members were asked to discuss a prevailing social issue (either child labor practices or the death penalty) for 15 minutes. The researchers wrote dissenting opinions and had both black and white members deliver them to their groups. When a black person presented a dissenting perspective to a group of whites, the perspective was perceived as more novel and led to broader thinking and consideration of alternatives than when a white person introduced that same dissenting perspective. The lesson: when we hear dissent from someone who is different from us, it provokes more thought than when it comes from someone who looks like us”.

This is just one of the numerous studies stated in the article. The fact of the matter is, the article clearly shows how diversity improves creativity, increases innovation, and increases open-mindedness. In other words, society is healthier with diverse environments.

A debate has gone on for some time over whether people are inherently racist; whether infants are born racist. Personally, I think it is a ridiculous argument. If you’ve ever held a child under six months old, you would clearly see that babies love everyone. They just want to be loved by everyone.

A US News’ article, Babies Not Racist, reports on a University of Massachusetts—Amherst study. The study found white 9-month-old babies were worse than white 5-month-old babies at telling apart African-American adults. The news media had a “field day” suggesting that the study is evidence for inherited racism. Time reported the study with the headline, Your Baby Is a Racist, and the Telegraph with the headline, Babies show racial bias. As the US News article points out, all the babies in the study had “little to no previous experience with African-American or other black individuals.” In fact, at that age, babies can’t tell apart something they’re not used to seeing. At least four previous studies suggested that infants who aren’t familiar with other races have difficulty identifying differences in facial structures.

There is convincing proof that racism is learned. In Jane Elliot’s infamous “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise, she clearly demonstrates how racism is learned. Ms. Elliot was a third-grade schoolteacher in the 1960s and 1970s. She decided to base the exercise on eye colour rather than skin colour in order to show the children what racial segregation would be like. If you are not familiar with the exercise, here is part of a documentary explaining her exercise.

The results from the exercise are startling. As a result of the exercise,  Jane Elliot declared,

 “You are not born racist. You are born into a racist society. And like anything else, if you can learn it, you can unlearn it. But some people choose not to unlearn it, because they’re afraid they’ll lose power if they share with other people. We are afraid of sharing power. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Atlantic’s article, New Evidence That Racism Isn’t ‘Natural’, reports on a 2013 paper in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of four researchers who performed amygdala studies, previously done on adults but now was being done on children. The amygdala is mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere involved with the experiencing of emotions. The researchers found that the racial sensitivity of the amygdala doesn’t kick in until around age 14 and once it kicks in, it doesn’t kick in equally for everybody. The more racially diverse the peer group, the less strong the amygdala effect. At really high levels of diversity, the effect disappeared entirely. The authors of the study write that ”these findings suggest that neural biases to race are not innate and that race is a social construction, learned over time.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader in the 1960s said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” This is what I believe as well. Pierre Berton, a noted Canadian author of non-fiction, once said, “Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out.” There is no doubt in my mind that racism is learned and evolves from fear and ignorance.

I’ll finish with another one of Jane Elliot’s quotes.

“White people’s number one freedom, in the United States of America, is the freedom to be totally ignorant of those who are other than white. We don’t have to learn about those who are other than white. And our number two freedom is the freedom to deny that we’re ignorant.”

The same holds true for Canadians. We too have the freedom to be totally ignorant of those who are other than white and we too have the freedom to deny that we’re ignorant. “Ignorance is bliss” they say. It is time to speak up against the stupidity of racism!

What happened to the Golden Rule?

the-golden-rule.gifGrowing up I was always reminded of the Golden Rule, both at school and by my parents. Being raised in a Christian community this rule was always emphasized. It wasn’t always stated as “treat others the way you wish to be treated” but often in other ways such as, “show respect to your elders” and “always respect your teachers.” I have always believed that if all people could bring themselves to live by this ethic, humankind would be in a much better place.

The Ethic of Reciprocity, or what is better known as the Golden Rule, simply states that we are to treat other people the same way we would wish to be treated. It can be worded in various forms. Wikipedia describes this rule in three forms:

  1. Positive or directive form: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  2. Negative or prohibitive form: One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
  3. Empathic or responsive form: What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself.

No matter how the rule is stated, it boils down to the word respect. Merriam Webster dictionary defines respect as “a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc” or 
as “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.” So when a person shows respect for another then they treat that person the way they would wish to be treated.

What always astounded me about the Golden Rule is that all organized religions have this ethic.

  • In Christianity it is found in Matthew 7:12 (NRSV) of the Christian bible where it is written, ‘in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
  • In the Buddhist tradition it is found in a collection of verses known as the Udanavarga. In chapter 5, verse 18 of the Udanavarga it says, Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
  • In Hinduism, it is found in their sacred scriptures Mahabharata 5:1517 where it is written, this is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
  • Judaism has it in two places, the Talmud and Book of Tobit. The first book of the Talmud is about Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. In Shabbat 31a. It states, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” In the Jewish scriptures, specifically the book of Tobit, it says, “And what you hate, do not do to any one.” (4:15)
  • In Islam, it can be found in a compilation of forty hadiths by Imam al-Nawawi, an influential Sunni hadith scholar. A hadith is one of various reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, it says, “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

The Golden Rule is such a simple thing and makes a lot of sense. It begs the question, why is it so important to live by the Golden Rule. The answer to that question has to do with the idiom, “What goes around comes around” or stated another way, “as you sow, so shall you reap”. These are simply reminding us that when people do bad things to other people, bad things will happen to them. This is what the expression, “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” refers to as well. An individual must accept the unpleasant results of something they have done. Really all of these expressions could be understood as karma, the law of cause and effect. Karma is a Sanskrit term that literally means “action” or “doing”. In the Buddhist tradition, karma refers to action driven by intention, which leads to future consequences. Good intent contributes to good karma and happiness in the future, while bad intent contribute to bad karma and suffering in the future.

The Huffington Post article on Karma puts it this way:

“Everything we say and do determines what’s going to happen to us in the future. Whether we act honestly, dishonestly, help or hurt others, it all gets recorded and manifests as a karmic reaction either in this life or a future life…There is no exact formula that is provided for how and when karmic reactions will appear in our lives, but one can be sure they will appear in some form or other. One may be able to get away with a crime they committed, or avoid paying taxes, but according to karma, no one gets away with anything for long.”

What I find even more thought provoking is that science supports this idea of “cause and effect”.  Science, specifically Quantum Physics, is providing evidence that the mind can affect matter. There is a theory known as quantum entanglement. According to Space.com, the theory states when changing one particle it changes the other even if they are on opposite sides of the galaxy, 100,000 light-years apart. In other words, they behave like one object even though they are physically apart. Einstein called this idea “spooky action at a distance”.

Quantum Entanglement: What It Is And Why It’s Relevant says,

“Quantum entanglement means that every action, thought, feeling and emotion is connected and can affect the whole in one manner or another. We are all made up of atoms, photons and electrons. We are all in a constant state of vibration. Our emotions, feelings, hearts and minds have the ability to affect what frequency our molecular structure vibrates at. Quantum entanglement is observed at a physical level, meaning what we do to one particle at one location, happens for another particle at the a different location.”

So even science reinforces the idea that every single thing that a person does, thinks, etc. has an affect. Now I know from experience that when I said something hurtful to a student or to a family member there was an effect. The impact was typically in the form of parental wrath or an angry family member.

9-11We’ve all felt the impact of the actions of an individual or group of people. There are many examples of this in history, such as the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. The affect of this event has made many people fearful and afraid to travel. We still feel the effects of the 9/11 attack in New York City as flight travel is much more cumbersome with all the extra security. Terrorism initiated by ISIL or ISIS caused much of world community to participate in a bombing campaign, bombing areas where the terrorists were located. What goes around comes around.

It’s fair to say that one person can impact the world. We just need to look at the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior to see this. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

So remember every action you take, every word you say to someone, or even every action you don’t take has an impact on your community, on your planet or maybe even the universe. It seems to me that in this time of Islamophobia, fear of terrorists, and anti-immigration, the Golden Rule is very much needed. Perhaps people (no names mentioned) who spout anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, and racist rhetoric ought to remember, “What goes around comes around”.

Ignorance, Fear, Hate. What about Love?

A commentary on the effects of fear on society.

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From Fox News

CNN.com reports in their article, ‘Make America White Again’: Hate speech and crimes post-election, that there has been a stark increase in hate crimes against minorities. The article says, while Trump has been accused of fostering xenophobia (fear of people from other countries) and Islamophobia (fear of Muslims), some people have used his words as justification to carry out hateful crimes. Since Trump’s election there have been incidents of racist or anti-Semitic, pro-Trump graffiti along with threats or attacks against Muslims. Graffiti such as, ‘Trump,’ ‘Whites only,’ and ‘White America’ have shown up in high schools. Graffiti written on a wall in Durham, North Carolina said, “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes.” In the state of NY ‘Make America White Again’ was written in a softball dugout. This is just a sampling of the post-election happenings. CTV News reports a story that occurred at Royal Oak Middle School the day after Trump won the election where students chanted “build the wall”  in the school cafeteria, a reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s not even mentioning the numerous anti-Trump protests that have occurred since election day.

rtx1gzco (1)What has Trump unleashed in America? One could argue that what Trump has unleashed is hatred. Hatred of non-whites. Hatred of immigrants. Hatred of Hispanics. Hatred towards African-Americans. The list goes on. Dictionary.com defines hate as “to dislike intensely or passionately; to feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; to detest. Graffiti such as, “Make America White Again” seems to suggest there is a hatred of non-whites.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American lecturer, poet, and essayist says, “Fear always springs from ignorance.”  Cyril Connolly, a literary critic and writer says, “Hate is the consequence of fear; we fear something before we hate it; a child who fears noises becomes a man who hates noise”. So, one could surmise that ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds hate. Hate perpetrates harassment and violence. This is likely what is happening in the United States. Donald Trump has tapped into the fears of Americans (fear of Muslims, fear of immigrants, fear of terrorism) and used that fear to propel himself to the office of the presidency.  Now America is witnessing the consequences of that in the form of hate crimes. One might ask, where does the fear come from? The answer to that question, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson is ignorance. Are Americans really that ignorant?

Steffani Cameron is a journalist who was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Feeling trapped by the monotony of life, Ms. Cameron sold her belongings for the chance to work remotely while travelling the world for five years. In the first 13 months, she flew 50,000 kilometres and explored 10 countries. After the Trump victory, she wrote an article titled, Why we need to travel more than ever. In her article she says,

In America, today, fewer than 40% of the populace has a passport, and even fewer put it to use. Beyond that, education is crumbling. Secondary education is for the wealthy…Talk to anyone who has traveled the world at length and they’ll often tell you the biggest lesson they learn is how much we have in common rather than what we don’t. But in places like America, where so few people travel outside the borders, they’re more likely to believe what they’re told about “us” and “them”. When they are told who’s a bad guy, that it’s anyone with a different culture, different colour skin, then they’ll latch onto that story, because they’re unexposed to diversity and it’s an alien enemy they can process…When media talks about “Muslim extremism,” it’s easy to convince an under-educated, under-traveled public that it means all Muslims are extreme. They may not know any, so how can they decide differently?

I would encourage you to read her article. I think what Ms. Cameron says is ‘bang on”. I personally can attest to what she says as I have travelled a far bit. I’ve been to Europe three times visiting numerous European countries. I’ve been to the Balkans, Cuba, and Mexico. I’ve also visited various American states. One thing I’ve discovered during my travels is that there are wonderful people everywhere. In my post, Where are all the Good People? and Let the Adventures Begin, I wrote about some of the wonderful people I encountered while travelling.

Here are some experiences I had on our most recent trip to Europe just over a year ago. My wife and I were driving in France from Bayeux to Lievin and on the way, we stopped in the French village of Aumale. While walking around we discovered a market.  Meandering about the market we came across a table with croissants on it so my wife, salivating for one, asked if she could have one.  The lady at the table spoke no English but still understood what my wife had asked, so she responded with “Oui”.  Then the lady points to the coffee urn and says something in French looking at me.  Realizing that she was offering me coffee I excitedly said, “Oui” as I cherish my coffee. This pleasant, welcoming French lady then proceeds to pour my wife a juice.  The people of Aumale were most gracious and hospitable to us, the strangers in town. These wonderful villagers welcomed us with open arms.

ct-photos-eiffel-tower-in-the-french-flag-s-co-006Just before arriving in the wonderful village of Aumale, we were stopped at an intersection. Drivers around us were pointing at our vehicle so we immediately panicked presuming that we had done something illegal or that something was wrong with our vehicle.  Then one man gets out of his car, comes running up to our vehicle and says something in French while pointing down at the car door.  My wife who was driving at the time rolls down the window and to her horror discovers that her coat was hanging out the car door. This kind man had made the effort to alert us to our carelessness.  There are wonderful, caring people everywhere.

Sadly, this fear is spilling over into Canada. Mohsin Zaman of Edmonton, Alberta wrote a post on Facebook where he describes an incident that he personally experienced. He explains that a white male shouted at him, “You’re done, you brown hippie! Trump is going to send your ass home! Don’t matter if you’re in Canada. You just wait!”  I thought that this fear and hate would remain south of the border but I guess that was too much to hope for. It seems that ignorance is prevalent in Canada as well.

Global News reports that residents in the Toronto’s east-end found “ultra right wing” posters that urged white people “tired of political correctness” and “questioning when immigration will stop” to join an online movement. The signs had a headline that reads “Hey, WHITE PERSON” and asked, “wondering why only white countries have to become ‘multicultural’?” Sadly, Canada is not immune to Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

The late John Lennon once said,

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

bryant-mcgill-fear-love-choiceHis wife, Yoko Ono, once said, “The opposite of love is fear, not hate”. The Christian scriptures in 1 John 4:18  it says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Perhaps America needs to learn to love itself with all its diversity of people and its diversity of views.  It seems Canada may need to do the same. We Canadians need to remember the words of former Prime Minister (PM) of Canada and father of our present PM, the late Pierre Trudeau who said.

We must now establish the basic principles, the basic values and beliefs which hold us together as Canadians so that beyond our regional loyalties there is a way of life and a system of values which make us proud of the country that has given us such freedom and such immeasurable joy.

Pierre Trudeau’s vision was one of embracing our diversity. When a country (or person) fully accepts, embraces and loves who they are then people like Donald Trump have no power. What the United States needs is to learn is to love, not fear! Love casts out fear. Love is inclusive. It celebrates diversity. PLEASE don’t get “sucked into” Donald Trump’s toxic xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric. There is way more goodness and love in the world than what our American cousins, and apparently some Canadians think. Just check out some of the news on Good News Network and Good News website if you don’t believe me.

Dance Could Change the World Too

A commentary on the value of dancing.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, Music can change the world suggesting that music is a way to unite the world. I personally believe this to be true. A few days ago a link to the following video landed in my inbox.

Dance has always been a part of my world. I grew up in a small town where there were dances, often wedding dances, many weekends of the year. It was at those small town dances that I learned to dance. When I was in college and university I joined the dance club where we learned to do such dances as the Rumba, Samba, the Foxtrot, old-time waltz, swing and even square dance. My wife tells me that one of the things that attracted her to me was the fact that I could dance. She also tells me that now I don’t dance with her enough. Our daughters danced for years with the local dance association doing Hip Hop, Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Lyrical dance. My wife and I also volunteered when our club held their dance festivals. So when I watched this video I was immediately enlivened and inspired. What a great video! Watching it put a smile on my face. The video raises one’s spirits. Dance, even just watching it, has the ability to put us in a better mood.

I wanted to learn more about what kind of person would make such a video and why they would make it, so, like I typically do, I did some research.   Can dancing unite the world? is an article I found on the Pocket Cultures site, a website which aims to increase connections, awareness and understanding between different cultures.  According the article, the video was created by Matt Harding who became an Internet celebrity by creating a series of videos of himself doing silly dances in numerous countries around the world. The video above is his latest and was made in 2012. If you go to Mr. Harding’s website, where the heck is Matt, you will find other videos he has created. Matt says he started dancing with locals because he thought it looked like fun but some people have argued that he is actually improving world relations by connecting people around the world. clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdI applaud Mr. Harding for his diplomatic projects and for showing us that everyone in this world just wants to dance and enjoy life.

Dancing is a great way to connect people around the world, just as music is. Really, when you think about it, the two are connected. You can’t have dance without music and probably visa versa. It’s difficult to dance without music and I suspect music is what inspired dancing to arise in the first place. So I wondered, are there organizations or movements that share this vision of connecting through dance to unite the world? Using Google, this is what I discovered. United Dance is an organization with the purpose to unite and train dancers all over the world. They desire to show the heart of God in unity through creative expressions of worship and dance to the world. Another is Movement Exchange, a community of dance diplomats, who aim to unite the world through dance and service. This movement believes that sharing movement creates more joy in our world. That is so true! If you watch the above video carefully, you will notice that no matter what country Matt is in, the people dancing with him are smiling and joyful. I’m sure there are other movements as well.

Even the United Nations acknowledges dance music as a positive global force. According to this article, United Nations Secretary General Bam Ki-Moon praised Belgium’s Tomorrowland music festival, one of the most noteworthy global music festivals; a festival that began in 2005.

The Secretary General commented on the true power of global dance music, and its positioning within a wider cultural dialogue; one meant for a world of togetherness and universal acceptance. Now even though the festival isn’t specifically a dance festival, you can bet that the “dance music” had people dancing. In my view, dance and music go hand in hand.

Not only does music and dance unite people of different races and cultures, but dance is good for you.  According to the Better Health Channel’s article, Dance-Health Benefits, the health benefits of dancing are:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological well being
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

Time’s article, The Hidden Health Benefits of Dance, says:

“People who took dance class improved their fitness three times more than non-dancers”.

The Toronto Star reports in the article, Toronto researchers test benefits of dance for dementia patients, that a few studies suggest dancing programs in care homes appear to decrease problematic behaviour and increase social interaction and enjoyment.

Psychology Today’s article, Why Should We Dance?  says,

Studies have shown that dance, in particular, can decrease anxiety and boost mood more than other physical outlets

So the bottom line is dance has value in this world. We live in a world that needs unity. All one has to do is watch the news to come to that conclusion. So the more ways there are to unite the world, the better this world will be. I think dance, like music, is another way to do this. So, I encourage you to celebrate the different forms of dance in the world. I especially enjoy watching people from Africa dance. The African people know how to move and express themselves.

dancingSo let loose and dance. To quote Satchel Paige, an African-American Major League Baseball pitcher,

“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

It’s a good way to get fit. It makes you feel better. It unites the world because every country has their own unique dance forms. What more can I say?

So now I’m curious. Tell me what you think?

Littering! Really?

A commentary on the disrespectful act of littering.

For the past three summers, my wife and I have camped for several weeks at a campsite near where we live. This campsite is beside a river and has a golf course where I golf at least once a day. The campsite is located in a beautifully treed area where you can truly feel connected with nature. I don’t need to write about the health benefits of being in nature as I did that in my post Nature’s Wonders in May. Spending time golfing and having campfires is what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks so in case you’ve been wondering, that is why I haven’t published anything lately.

My wife loves to walk and so I go for walks as often as I can with her. It’s good quality time together and we often have some of our best talks doing this. We either walk around the campsite visiting the occasional camper that we know or we walk down a rural road near the campground. It’s about a six kilometre (3.7 mile) walk to the location we go to and back. The road is a gravel road so sometimes we get bombarded with dust when a vehicle goes by but for the most part the road is a beautiful walk in the river valley.

litter
From Litter Heros website

The last time I walked this route, I was alone which gave me more time to observe my surroundings. What struck me was the amount of litter I saw. I counted eight (8) soft drink or coffee cups. They were from such fast food restaurants as Dairy Queen (DQ), Tim Horton’s, and MacDonald’s.  I also saw fast food napkins, a hamburger Styrofoam box, a beer bottle and a beer can. There were also candy wrappers and a level which must have fallen off a work truck. That was what I could see just from the road. I’m sure there was much more litter as the grass was long in the ditches. What disturbs me about finding beer containers is the people who tossed them likely were drinking and driving. That to me is alarming!

Years ago our son was in 4H and every year the 4H clubs participated in the Alberta Highway cleanup where 4H members gather to clean up a section of a highway. I participated with him and what I remember most about that event was the number of cigarette packages there were. Smokers seem to be some of the worst litterers. The second most common piece of litter we picked up were fast food cups. Of course there were numerous bottles and cans and other miscellaneous items including dirty diapers. During a town cleanup last year we picked up mainly fast food cups, cigarette packages, along with other miscellaneous items and yes even dirty disposable diapers.

I’ve tried to understand why people litter and the only thing I can conclude is that people are just too lazy to find a garbage can and that people really don’t care about our environment. This inspired me to learn more about the topic.

Here are some facts from a website created by a Litter Reduction Task Force to address the litter issues within the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. This site is called, The only cure for litter is you.

  • The average distance someone will carry garbage before littering is 12 paces.
  • Most litter occurs within 5 meters of a garbage receptacle.
  • Single use food and beverage litter made up 45 per cent of litter cleaned up in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in Ontario, Canada.
  • There are 8,000 tonnes of cigarette butts dropped by Canadians each year, the majority within 10 feet of an ashtray. It takes 10 years for the filter to biodegrade.

What people need to understand is that much of this litter remains in the environment for a long time. According to this same website, it takes an aluminum can 80 to 200 years to break down naturally but if recycled, it can be reused within six weeks.  Here is some information about how long it takes other items to break down naturally.

  • Banana peel: 3 to 4 weeks
  • Paper bag: 1 month
  • Cardboard: 2 months
  • Wool sock: 1 year
  • Tin steel can: 50 years
  • Disposable diapers: 550 years
  • Plastic bags: 20 to 1000 years
  • Plastic jug: 1 million years
  • Glass: 1 to 2 million years
  • Styrofoam: 1+ million years
6_pack_duck_270x224
From humanesociety.org

It seems obvious to me that people just don’t care what they are doing to Mother Earth. So that begs the question, Why should we care about the problem of littering? According to the same website,

  • Litter is damaging to plant life. Litter can stunt plant growth.
  • Every year, millions of birds, fish and animals die from ingesting litter.
  • Litter on the ground and in our water is dangerous to humans.
  • Litter destroys the beauty of the community. Litter begets litter. One piece of litter on the ground signals others to litter.
  • Litter is a safety hazard. It is a breeding ground for rodents and bacteria.

According to the website, Conserve Energy Future (CCF),

  • Littering is expensive. Every year millions upon millions of dollars are spent cleaning up litter. This money should be going to more productive things, but instead, people don’t realize that something as small as littering done on a mass scale does indeed affect them. Taxpayers’ dollars are being spent on littering…
  • A very large majority of Americans have admitted to littering in their lifetimes. I’ll admit it. I have littered. The average American only walks a few steps before dumping their trash on the ground without even searching for a garbage can.
  • Billions of tons of litter are dumped into the ocean each year…This leads to the repeated killing of fish on a daily basis and the gradual depletion of marine life. Believe it or not, the litter we produce is causing more underwater species to become endangered.
  • Cigarette butts make up over half of our littered objects, and they take a grand total of ten years to decompose because of a cellulose acetate, contrary to the popular perception that cigarette butts decompose very quickly in only a matter of days. In reality, cigarette butts are a serious threat to the environment.

According to the article, Littering a crime of inconvenience for Canadians by Marc and Craig Kielburger, WWF Canada says Canadians are frustrated with environmental groups telling them that making small changes will have a big impact on our planet.

But Canadians are doing their part to clean up the mess we humans have created. According to the Kielburger brothers, The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is one of the largest public action conservation programs in the country. Last year, more than 58,000 volunteers picked up litter along 3,000 km of shoreline and inventoried every piece. Having said that, we need to do more.

do-not-see-clipart-1It’s time we humans stop this disrespectful action of littering and start getting involved in public actions such as the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Alberta Highway Clean Up (if you live in Alberta) or in your local community spring clean-ups (see Communities celebrate spring with clean ups). It’s time to be stewards and to protect, respect and take care of our precious planet. No longer should we take our environment for granted. So do the right thing!

Orlando: Hate or Terrorism?

A commentary regarding the massacre that occurred in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12.

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USA Today headlines June 13, 2016

I was horrified to learn that on Sunday, June 12, 2016, a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. This sickening event is being called the deadliest mass shooting in the history of United States.

President Obama, once again commenting on a mass shooting, said it was “an act of terror and an act of hate.” So that begs the question: Was the Orlando massacre an act of terrorism or was it a hate crime? Dictionary.com defines a hate crime as a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward an individual’s national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Vocabulary.com defines an act of terrorism as the calculated use of violence against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature. Now if we consider the two definitions, the answer to the question would be it is both an act of terror and a hate crime. Violence in the form of gun shooting was carried out against civilians, specifically the LGBT community, and was motivated or at least inspired by the terrorist group known as ISIS so it is an act of terror. Even more, it was a hate crime. It was a hate crime clearly directed towards the LGBT community. Omar Mateen, a man previously investigated by the FBI, was allegedly motivated when he witnessed two men kissing. Seeing the two men together apparently angered him enough to commit this horrendous act.

To me, this is much more a hate crime as opposed to an act of terrorism. There is no evidence that ISIS or any other terrorist organization directed Mateen to act. I was moved by the words of Tom Walters from Canada’s CTV news station. On the night of the shooting, Tom Walters closed the newscast with these words. I wish I could say these are my words because Mr. Walters captures the essence of the problem so brilliantly.

“In simple terms, the motive for the Orlando massacre is not mystery, it was hate. And finding out what kind will explain little because every reason to hate a stranger is just as senseless. Colour, religion, sexual orientation, these are mere fragments of a human being, not the summation of who a person is or the basis to judge what a person is worth. Consigning people to categories denies them their individuality and robs them of their humanity. This is what makes hate possible…only a handful [of individuals] could do this. Now in the aftermath, some would still put individuals into categories and ask us to fear and reject whole groups. Society will never be perfectly safe from the deranged few, but when they are fed the rhetoric of hate and have access to the tools of murder, common sense would say we are less safe. Now facing the monstrous evil of terrorism, a future with less hate may seem distant…and if hate itself is the poison, that future is out of reach until people everywhere reject the ideas that diminish the individual and enable hate. That could include any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not…but in a world of individuals we can each make a choice to reject those ideas that would add another drop of poison to the common cup.”

As Tom Walters says, “consigning people to categories denies them their individuality…and makes hate possible”. The Orlando mass shooting is clearly an act of hate directed towards the LGBT community; a community who just want to be treated as equals and live their lives happily.

The mass shooting in Orlando is but a familiar story in the United States. It was the third mass shooting in 2016 that left at least three victims dead, following shootings in Hesston, Kansas. and Kalamazoo, Michigan in February. Six months earlier 14 people were killed in a rage in San Bernardino, California. Time magazine has complied a list of mass shooting since 1984. (see 34 years of mass shootings). Wikipedia lists the United States’ firearm-related death rate as 10.44 per 100,000 people per year. Canada’s firearm-related death rate is 1.97 per 100,000 people per year. That is a significant difference. The article Gun violence by the numbers by Global News lists the USA as having 90 firearms per 100 people whereas Canada’s rate is 30 firearms per 100 people. The American Medical Association called gun violence a “public health crisis” on June 14th and urged Congress to fund research into the problem.The association pleaded that a long-standing ban on federal government research into gun violence must be lifted to better understand and tackle the problem. It astounds me that researching the gun problem is forbidden. Does that make sense?

Now this information raises a second question: Why haven’t Americans realized that there is a connection between mass shootings and the amount of guns. Canada has always had tighter controls on guns. I am convinced that is why Canada’s firearm-related death rate is much lower than USA’s. The Global News article sited earlier says you’re more likely to be shot to death in the United States than you are to die in a car accident in Canada. It seems obvious to me that the more guns a society has the more gun related deaths there will be. Americans always cite the second amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791, as a defence to owning guns. This amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  An amendment is a change or addition to a legal or statutory document so if Americans wanted to change their relationship with guns they could change (amend) their Constitution.

Donald Trump, GOP presidential nominee tweeted on the night of the shooting, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” He later tweeted, “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.” In other words, his view is that radical Islamic terrorists are to blame and so his answer is to ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Now that leads to a third question: Should we fear all Muslims because they might be terrorists? My answer to that is a resounding NO. To use the words of Tom Walters, what Mr. Trump is doing is putting “individuals into categories and ask[ing] us to fear and reject” Muslims.

Slate, an online magazine, has an article called, The Truth About Islam. The article says Muslim societies are among the least violent in the world. It goes on to say,

The reality is that Islam—like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and other major world religions—is neither inherently violent nor inherently peaceful. Like every other great religion, the history of Islam is darkened by periods of violent bloodletting. And the holy texts of all religions can be mined for quotes to legitimize terrorism—or indeed principled nonviolence.

The Christian and Jewish religions have had their share of “darkened periods of violent bloodletting”. In 1095 the Christian crusades began. This was when armies responded to Pope Urban II’s plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the Holy Land. The inquisition was the Catholic churches attempt to remove heresy. Both were filled with bloodletting. Judaism has a history of radical Zionism, a movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation. Zionism promoted aggressive war justified with biblical texts.

To categorize all Muslims as terrorists is stereotyping and that makes it wrong. There are many peaceful Muslims just as there are Christians and Jews. The Islamic Society of Wichita condemned the attack, as did many Islamic leaders. The group issued the following statement Sunday.

“Along with our fellow Americans, the Islamic Society of Wichita condemns the hateful act of violence in Orlando, Florida. In this holy month of Ramadan, we will be offering special prayers for the victims and their families. As people of faith, we stand unified against acts of terrorism and violence and will continue our work to defend all people against hatred and brutality. We urge local Muslims…to donate blood for the victims of this heinous act.” 

I would like to reiterate Tom Walters’ words to reject “any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not.” Mr. Trump is saying that Muslims do not belong in America because they are potential terrorists. Trump is stereotyping. That is why he is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. “Consigning people to categories” such as all Muslims are potential terrorists, “is what makes hate possible”. It is time to stop the labelling of groups because it “makes hate possible”. Not all Muslims are radical Islamic terrorists! The lifestyle of the LGBT community is not sinful!  Is a heterosexual’s love for another more valid than homosexual’s love? Who are we to judge? Guns kill when they fall into the hands of people who stereotype and hate. America, it’s time to decrease gun availability so they don’t fall into the hands of those who hate. After all, authorities tell us that the Orlando killer purchased guns a few days before he went on his rampage. So long as a person doesn’t have a criminal record or has no history of mental illness they can purchase a gun. Guns were created for one purpose only and that is to kill. Guns are just too plentiful and much too easy to obtain in the USA.

Legalized Discrimination

I’ve always held the belief that at least in the developed world human rights were considered sacred. I wanted to believe that because we live in the 21st century we had moved beyond discriminatory practices and racism. I thought the human race was evolving for the better. It seems I’m naive and that my assumptions were wrong.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document listing universal rights entitled to all human beings. A human right is a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person. Article 6 of UDHR states, everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Article 7 of that document states, all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

So why am I bringing up the UDHR? Well it appears that even in this modern era where we have an international declaration enshrining our human rights, that there are still people hell-bent on denying certain groups of people their rights.

On March 30 of this year, the State of Mississippi in the United States passed an Anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) Bill. Some of the law in Mississippi states, so long as individuals are motivated by “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” any of the following behaviours would be considered legal by the government:

  • Religious organizations can decline to honour any same-sex marriage or provide any services related to recognizing that marriage.
  • Religious organizations can refuse to hire, fire, and discipline employees for violating the organization’s religious beliefs, basically protecting those who carry out above mentioned actions towards the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations can choose not to sell, rent, or otherwise provide shelter to namely the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations that provide foster or adoptive services can decline service without risking their state subsidies.
  • Any person can choose not to provide treatment, counselling, or surgery related to gender transition or same-sex parenting.

On March 23, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act that states, All public schools, government agencies and public college campuses to require that multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities, such as locker rooms, be designated for use only by people based on their “biological sex” stated on their birth certificate.

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from nohatespeechmovement.org

Clearly the laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi are in violation of UDHR, namely article 6 and 7. In essence these states have legalized discrimination.  Now this is not without consequences. The Guardian says President Barack Obama has called for North Carolina and Mississippi to overturn state laws that affect gay and transgender residents. The United Kingdom Foreign Office issued to its citizens a statement warning LGBT tourists of the dangers of visiting North Carolina and Mississippi after both introduced “anti-LGBT” laws.

According to BuzzFeedNews entertainers such as Pearl Jam, Cirque du Soleil, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams have cancelled plans to perform in those states. The Corporation PayPal cancelled its plans to open a new global operations centre in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The German Deutsche Bank announced that it was freezing plans to create 250 new jobs in North Carolina due to the state’s anti-LGBT law. At least 13 conventions in Charlotte were cancelled over concerns over the bill. Actress Sharon Stone, scheduled to film a movie in Mississippi, decided to change the location after the passage of the controversial law.

NewNowNext reported the corporation holding the rights of the musicals West Side Story and Footloose have withdrawn permission for their musicals to be done in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi, because of the anti-LGBT laws. The Blue Man Group tour was also withdrawn.

These anti-LGBT laws were passed despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court of the land, ruled that same-sex marriages  were legal throughout the entire country.

Now the justification for these laws is based on religious beliefs; the beliefs of Christianity. Yes you can find passages in the Christian scriptures supporting the belief that homosexuality is sinful. Having said that you can also find numerous passages in scripture justifying slavery as well. Does that mean that we should also pass laws legalizing slavery? I think there would be a huge public outcry if we did. Slavery was a socially acceptable practice in biblical times but now it isn’t. Perhaps the beliefs about homosexuality shown in scripture are also reflecting the social norms of day. From what I’ve learned about LGBT, it is not a choice. Their sexual orientation is a part of their genetic and/or spiritual makeup. They can’t help who they are.

First Nations or aboriginal people use the umbrella term “two-spirited” to describe same-sex attraction and gender variance. The term refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit. I first heard of this term many years ago when I was teaching a scripture course to a group of aboriginal people. From what I was told, the LGBT community is much more accepted by the First Nations people.

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from joshuanhook.com

Moreover, if Christianity is going to be used as justification for these laws, then all of scripture must be considered. Christians are called to follow and emulate Jesus. In John 8:1-11 is a story about Jesus who sat down in the temple to address a group of scribes and Pharisees who confronted Jesus. They brought up the issue of an adulteress woman, and invited Jesus to pass judgment upon her when they asked the question, should she be stoned, which is what the Law of Moses instructed. Jesus responded by stating that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. The religious leaders then departed, leaving Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus then asked the woman if anyone had condemned her. When she answers no, Jesus said that he did not condemn her either, and told her to go and sin no more. This story clearly shows that Jesus did not judge or condemn others for their lifestyles. NOR SHOULD WE.

No one should be denied their human rights no matter what their sexual orientation is or what the colour of their skin is or for any other reason for that matter. If the makers of these laws truly proclaim their actions are rooted in Christian belief, then they should take heed to Luke 6:35 (NRSV) where it says, But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting in any way that the LGBT community is wicked. I am only trying to get across the point that God treats everyone with kindness, even the wicked. As far as I’m concerned, LGBT individuals are like you and me. They are merely trying to happily live their lives like everyone else. No matter what our beliefs are, we must still learn to be tolerant and understanding of all people.