Not Another Terror Attack

A commentary on the latest terror attack in England.

from Huffington Post

Yet again, the world has witnessed a horrific terror attack by a radicalized 22-year-old individual linked to ISIS. On Monday, May 22 where twenty two mostly young people were killed. In fact, 12 children under the age of 16 were injured or killed, one as young as an eight-year-old. At least 59 people were injured by the suicide bomber attack in total.  This terrible event occurred at a concert of singer Ariana Grande in Manchester, England. (see CBC’s Taken too soon).

Reflecting on this latest act of terrorism, I began to wonder: Are we presently living in more turbulent and unstable times compared to other times in history? Is there more terrorism today then before? If you listen to and believe the rhetoric coming from the American president, you would likely answer yes. I did some research to find out.

I focused on the historical time period in which I was alive. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, so I’ll look at each decade starting with the 1960s. Here is but a small sampling of terrorism and turmoil starting with the 1960s.

1960s

  • In Canada, Quebec separatists set off bombs and robbed armories in a bid to establish a separate French-speaking country. The Front de libération du Québec, or FLQ, (in English “Quebec Liberation Front”) was a separatist and Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group in Canada’s province of Quebec. The FLQ promised to destroy “all colonial symbols and institutions, in particular the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the armed forces.
  • On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night. It was a physical division between West Berlin and East Germany in order to keep East Germans from fleeing to the West.
  • The disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion occurred. This was when a CIA financed and trained group of Cuban refugees to invade Cuba attempting to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure.
  • The frightening Cuban Missile Crisis befell with the confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union over the American deployment of missals in Italy and Turkey causing the Soviets to deploy missiles in Cuba. The confrontation is often considered the closest to a full-scale nuclear war the world has ever come.
  • On November 22, 1963, President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald while he and Mrs. Kennedy were riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
  • On April 4, 1968, American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on a motel balcony.
  • On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, presidential candidate and brother of John F Kennedy, was assassinated at a campaign victory celebration in a Los Angeles hotel after primary victories.

Regarding terrorism in 1960s

  • It was in the 1960s when “The Troubles” occurred in Northern Ireland eventually ending with the Good Friday “Belfast” Agreement of 1998.This was a conflict between nationalists (self-identified as Roman Catholic) and unionists (self-identified as British or Protestant). Although the Troubles mainly took place in Northern Ireland, violent acts of terror (bombings, etc.), spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe.

1970s

  • In Canada, the FLQ or October Crisis of 1970 happened. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s federal government reacted toughly to the kidnapping of two high-ranking men and murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte. A state of war was declared in Quebec when the War Measures Act was instituted. Hundreds of intellectuals, political activists and trade-union leaders were imprisoned.
  • The Munich massacre takes place at the 1972 Summer Olympics Munich, Germany, where Palestinian Arab terrorists of the Black September terrorist organization kidnap and murdered eleven Israeli athletes.
  • United States President Richard Nixon resigned as President on August 9, 1974, while facing charges for impeachment for the Watergate scandal.

Regarding terrorism in 1970s

  • The use of terrorism by militant organizations across the world such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, Action Directe in France and the Red Brigades in Italy escalated in 1970s.
  • On September 6, 1970, the world witnessed the beginnings of a series of plane hijackings. It started on what is today called Skyjack Sunday. Palestinian terrorists hijacked four airliners and took over 300 people on board as hostage. The hostages were later released, but the planes were blown up.

1980s

  • The 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India took place. This was when Hindu militants rioted against Sikhs in response to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by a Sikh militant.
  • In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests occurred in the People’s Republic of China, in which pro-democracy protesters demanded political reform. The protests were crushed by the People’s Liberation Army.
  • Canada saw political unrest in the province of Quebec, due to the differences between the dominant francophone (French) population and the Anglophone (English) minority,  which caused the provincial government to call a public referendum on partial separation from the rest of Canada in 1980. The referendum ended with the “no” side winning majority (59.56% no, 40.44% yes).

Regarding terrorism in 1980s

  • Air India Flight 182 was destroyed on June 23, 1985, by Sikh-Canadian militants. It was the biggest mass murder involving Canadians in Canada’s history.
  • On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland, while on route from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s JFK. The bombing killed 270 people who were citizens of 21 nationalities. The bombing was and remains the worst terrorist attack in United Kingdom.
  • The Rome and Vienna airport attacks took place on December 27, 1985, against an Israeli airline. The attack was done by militants loyal to a militant Palestinian splinter group backed by the government of Libya.

1990s

  • The shameful Rwandan Genocide occurred between April 6, 1994 until mid-July 1994 involving mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu political moderates. Over the course of approximately 100 days, at least 500,000 people were killed. It resulted in serious criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop the genocide.
  • Oka Crisis

    In 1990, Canada had the Oka Crisis involving an armed standoff between people of the Mohawk nation (indigenous peoples in Canada), and the Canadian military over a dispute involving land held via treaty to the Mohawk people.

  • The 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty was held in the province of Quebec in Canada. If accepted Quebec would become an independent country with an economic association with Canada. The proposal is narrowly rejected by Quebec’s voters by 50.4% no, and 49.6% yes. 

Regarding terrorism in 1990s

  • The 1993 World Trade Centre bombing occurred when a truck bomb detonated in New York City intending to send the North Tower crashing into the South Tower potentially killing tens of thousands of people. Thankfully, it failed to do so but killed six people and injured over a thousand.
  • In 1995 was the Oklahoma City bombing when a bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma killed 168.
  • After the bombings of United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al-Qaeda militants, the United States naval forces launch cruise missile attacks against Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in 1998.
  • Ironically, on 15 June 1996, the IRA set off a bomb in Manchester, England targeting the city’s infrastructure causing widespread damage in which 212 people were injured.

2000s

  • In 2001, the war on Terror was launched largely against Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas from posing a threat to the U.S. and its allies.
  • 2003–2011 was the Iraq War when the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia and Poland invaded and occupied Iraq.
  • 2001–2014 was the war in Afghanistan when the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia invaded Afghanistan seeking to oust the Taliban and find al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Regarding terrorism in 2000s

  • We all remember 9/11 when on September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
  • On the 7th of July 2005, London experienced bombings in which a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bomb attacks targeting civilians in London’s underground public transport system during the rush hour was carried out.

Sadly, there has not been a decade in my life time where there has not been turbulence and terrorism happening on our planet. It seems we humans just can’t seem to get along with one another. Why can’t humans just be loving and get along? My answer is ego. Vocabulary.com defines the ego as an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority of others. It is ego that causes us to push our beliefs and values onto others. The Rig Veda the oldest of the Vedas, the Hindu sacred scriptures, says “Ego is the biggest enemy of humans.” I would have to agree. Dorothee Solle, a German theologian once said, “With the disappearance of God, the Ego moves forward to become the sole divinity.” Until humanity learns to control the ego, nothing will change.

Should the World be Worried About Trump?

A commentary on the actions of Trump’s first week in office.

8409107_origJanuary 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This is a day in which the victims of the Holocaust are to be remembered. The Holocaust was a genocide (the methodical killing of a large group of people) that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime during the 1930s and 1940s. As a social studies teacher, I taught my students about this event and emphasized the importance of remembering such events so that such atrocities would never happen again. Now I have to wonder if history is about to repeat itself.

My New Year’s resolution this year was to watch less news which I’ve been successfully doing for the most part, but on January 27th, everyone that I met or connected with on social media was talking about Trump’s travel ban.  Mr. Trump signed an executive order implementing a travel ban of people from seven majority Muslim countries for 90-days. The seven countries are Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. This order also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days with “case-by-case” exceptions and suspends entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely. This caused confusion as permanent residents and green card holders didn’t know if they could enter the country due to conflicting advice sent to airlines by the White House. It also sparked outrage in the form of protests across the United States (see Protests Held). The President claims he is “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States”.

According to the Huffington Post, from 1975 to 2015, foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen killed exactly zero Americans on U.S. soil. The article sites an analysis of terror attacks by the Cato Institute.  In 2016 alone, 188 people were killed on U.S. soil in mass shootings not involving Muslim American extremists, the report says. Meanwhile, there have been 230,000 murders in the U.S. since 9/11. These are Americans shooting Americans.

The White House stated “Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001,” when it issued the order. What is interesting to note is on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 militants hijacked four commercial airlines to carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed 2,996 people and wounded more than 6,000 others. The 19 men were associated with al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. None of these countries are on the ban list. People from those three countries are still welcome to apply for U.S. visas and travel permits. This made no sense in my mind. The question is why? According to the Daily News,  Trump’s business empire holds multi-million dollar licensing and development deals in all of those countries raising alarming questions over what actually went into the decision process behind the executive order.

On Facebook, a video went viral of an Irish Senator, Aodhán Riordáin, reacting to the victory of Donald Trump. I encourage you to have a look. (see Trump is a Fascist). What struck me is that the senator referred to Trump as a fascist. During the U. S. Primaries last year my son sent a text me and referred to candidate Trump as a “modern day Hitler”. I’m now beginning to wonder if there might be some truth in his assessment of the man. There are several definitions of fascism but I like the definition on businessdictionary.com. It defines fascism as a

“Political ideology that imposes strict social and economic measures as a method of empowering the government and stripping citizens of rights. This authoritative system of government is usually headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence and strict laws that govern the people. The most noted form of fascism was implemented under Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who both stripped citizens of their rights and maintained strict regimes that resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans. Some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: (1) racism, (2) militarism, (3) dictatorship, and (4) destructive nationalistic policies”.

rtx1gzco (1)Now if we look at the entire definition, we cannot say with conviction that the Trump administration is a fascist government. The key part of the definition that would dispute this is “headed by an absolute dictator who keeps citizens suppressed via acts of violence.” Mr. Trump was elected democratically, has not carried out acts of violence to my knowledge and is not an absolute (as in his word is final) dictator although signing executive orders is sort of dictatorial since it hasn’t been approved by the Senate or House of Representatives.

Are citizens being stripped of their rights?  The January 21 Women’s March was held because woman, believed women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights were all threatened under a Trump presidency.  The Independent reports that Donald Trump’s travel ban has been denounced by the UN as “mean-spirited” and illegal under international human rights law. Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law. Essentially, this ban is removing human rights on the basis of nationality and religion. There is little doubt that citizen’s rights are being infringed upon. That smacks of fascism to me.

The above definition says, “some of the defining characteristics of fascism are: (1) racism, (2) militarism, (3) dictatorship, and (4) destructive nationalistic policies”. Are these characteristics of the Trump administration?

Racism:  According to dictionary.com, a definition of racism is “intolerance of another race”.  The travel ban targets Muslim majority nations, and one could argue the Muslim religion, since no terrorist acts on US soil have been carried out by people from these seven countries. How does this protect Americans? Sounds like intolerance to me. The only logical explanation is racism. So is the Trump administration racist? Looks that way to me.

Militarism: Is Trump militaristic? He just signed an executive order to rebuild the military. You be the judge.

Dictatorship: Is Trump a dictator? He has signed several executive orders. These orders were not investigated by legal, policy, or political staff to ensure acceptability. An executive order is an official statement from the president about how the federal agencies he oversees are to use their resources. The president’s executive orders are recorded in the Federal Register and are considered binding, but they are subject to legal review. What this means is Trump is governing by decree; as if he had been elected dictator. One definition of a dictator is undemocratic rule. Close enough for me.

Destructive Nationalistic Policies: Is Trump putting into place destructive nationalistic policies? The travel ban sounds destructive to me or at the very least divisive, and is certainly a nationalistic policy since it is a policy based in fear. Nationalism is the policy of asserting the interests of one’s own nation separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations. According to that definition, all of Trump’s actions are nationalistic. Sounds eerily like fascism to me.

donaldtrumpadolfhitler
from .breakingnews.ie

I think it is fair to say that some of the things Trump is doing draws parallels to the Nazis. Hitler was able to tap into the Germans’ frustration by blaming the Jews. He claimed the Jews were taking over the country by stealing high-paying jobs. He was able to animate the uneducated by saying that Jews were destroying Germany. Now compare that to what is happening now. The Trump “movement” claims that the Mexicans are stealing jobs and are responsible for much of their crime. He is also perpetrating the idea that Muslims are terrorists. Most of his support appears to come from the uneducated. The Vox article, Election Results 2016, reports, Trump won “on the basis of overwhelming support in rural areas, particularly among non-college-educated whites” 

Now there are two ways to look at this mess. We could all be fearful and think the worst convincing ourselves that the beginnings of WWIII are happening. I refuse to believe that. It excites me that the actions of Trump appear to be “waking” the American people up. Perhaps this will force the United States to decide what type of a society they truly desire. Do they want a society based in fear, isolationism, individualism, and nationalism; a society that seems to have lost the of values “human dignity and respect.”  Or, do they want a society that cares about its citizens or even better all citizens; a society that values human dignity and a society that loves, cares and respects all people and not just their own. I like to think that Americans desire the latter and are waking up to the reality that Trump is creating the opposite of what American’s desire; a society built on fear, intolerance and perhaps even hate. The Huffington Post has an article called, The Inevitability of Impeachment, which states “Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office”. I sincerely hope they are right!

What a difference eight years can make!

A commentary comparing the inauguration of President Trump to that of former President Obama.

FILE - In this July 5, 2016 photo, President Barack Obama waves as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, as he returns from Charlotte, N.C. where he participated in a campaign event with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Obama is interrupting his summer vacation to do some campaigning for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee. Obama is slated to headline a Democratic Party reception Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, on Martha's Vineyard, the tony Massachusetts island where he's been vacationing with his family. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

I remember inauguration day eight years ago when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. It truly felt like history was made. “A New Birth of Freedom” served as the inaugural theme and there was a larger than usual celebrity attendance. In his inaugural speech President Obama talked about renewal, continuity and national unity. There was so much optimism and hope that day. The world rejoiced as the first African American president took office.

Now compare that to the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. There were only five notable celebrities who attended the Trump inauguration. Instead, many of the same celebrities who criticized Trump during his campaign attacked him on social media during his inauguration  The Atlantic described the inaugural address as “unusually dark and political, delivered in a forum where new presidents have tended to reach for a language of unity, positivity, and non-partisanship”. There lacked enthusiasm and a feeling of hope. Instead, many people appeared to have a cautious wait and see attitude. I personally felt some trepidation for the future when the 45th president was sworn in.

Let’s compare the two men; the one coming into office and the one leaving. Earlier this month, veteran news anchor, Tom Brokaw, said this about former President Barack Obama. (see Tom Brokaw praises Obama)

“He’s been scandal-free, frankly, in the White House. We haven’t had that what for a while. There have been some issues around his campaign, but they’ve not settled on him.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brokaw. Obama’s presidency has been relatively scandal free. There were no wars fought during the eight years of the Obama administration. There were no marital affairs or scandalous words said by Mr. Obama. He tried to make life better for ordinary Americans with his Obamacare. There certainly were no personal scandals like those of Nixon or Clinton. When you Google scandals involving President Obama, all you find is controversies surrounding decisions made by his administration. These were controversies such as Benghazi, a terror attack in Benghazi, Libya which resulted in four Americans dying. The criticism is that help could have been sent, but wasn’t. It is argued that requests for security prior to the attack were repeatedly denied.  Then there was “Operation Fast and Furious” in which the Obama administration is accused of arming drug cartels south of the border as a means to undermine the Second Amendment. It doesn’t matter which president in history you look at you will find these kinds of scandals.

09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xNow let’s compare the now President Donald Trump, who has only been president for a few days. The Atlantic provides a list of numerous scandals surrounding Donald Trump. There are numerous sexual-assault allegations with the most famous being the 2005 video, exposed during the campaign, in which the now president boasted about sexually assaulting women. On the infamous tape Trump brags about groping at women’s genitals. He says to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood, “And when you’re a star they let you do it.” There are scandals involving beauty pageants, racial discrimination allegations, the Trump University fiasco and even allegations of Mafia ties. The list of scandals goes on and on. It is unfair to put these two men into the same category.

Pew Research Center studies trends in U.S. politics and policy, global attitudes, and numerous other trends. In June 2016, the Center published, As Obama Years Draw to Close…, in which they reported that across the ten EU nations polled, an average of 77% have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs.  When asked about Trump, just 9% of Europeans trust he’ll do the right thing in world affairs. That is a stark difference.

Pew Research Center reports the majorities in nine of 10 European countries surveyed express confidence in Obama’s ability to handle international issues whereas, overwhelming majorities in most of the countries surveyed have little or no confidence in Trump’s ability to handle international affairs. Again, that is a shocking difference. In 2008, the Pew Global Attitudes Project reported that the majorities in 19 of the 24 countries had little or no confidence in then President George W Bush. I think it is fair to say that Obama is the only president to have the confidence of much of the world community in recent years.

What about the world’s opinion of the United States? Research conducted by the  Pew Research Center in 2016 shows 13 out of 15 countries surveyed have positive views of the United States. In many of these countries, notably France, Poland, Spain, the UK and Japan, favourable views of the U.S. have endured since 2009, when President Barack Obama first took office. The Los Angeles Times reports that in early 2007, when George W Bush was president, a mere 29% of those polled in 18 countries viewed the U.S. mainly as a force for good in the world. It seems former President Barack Obama did more for the reputation of the United States than his predecessor and based on world opinions of his successor, Donald Trump, it’s unlikely that that positive international reputation will remain.

Now let’s go back to the January 20, 2017 inauguration day. According to the article, Trump’s Inauguration.., about 250,000 people came out for Donald Trump inauguration. By comparison, 1.8 million people came out for Obama in 2009. There were no protests during Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Contrast that to the numerous protests which occurred in Washington DC, as well as other American cities, during Trump’s inauguration. Some of these protests turned violent causing police to use tear gas, water cannons, and pepper spray. Protests not only occurred in the United States, but around the world. According to The Guardian, protests occurred in London, Tokyo, Berlin, in the West Bank, the Philippians, Rome and even Russia. The Canadian Press reported protests in Montreal and Toronto. When I learn of these kinds world events, it does not give me confidence in this new president. I fear turbulent times may be ahead for our southern neighbours and perhaps the world.

The article, A nation of dissent, reports that demonstrations were held during George W Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Four years later, for Bush’s second inauguration, more than 1,000 protested the Iraq war. A difference is, these protests did not involve violence. There haven’t been violent protests during an inauguration since Richard Nixon. Burning miniature flags and stones were hurled at police during the inauguration of Richard Nixon in 1969 to protest the Vietnam War. We all know what happened to Nixon. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended Articles of Impeachment to the House of Representatives, but Nixon resigned before the House voted on the Articles. Could this be an omen for President Donald Trump?

We Shall Never Forget!

John 15:13 of the Christian Scriptures says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Always remember that this is what those who died fighting for our freedoms did.

Sommer Season all year

As I’ve mentioned in my first Remembrance Day post, November 11th is an important day to observe as it marks the anniversary of the official ending of World War I. That war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month thus explaining why Remembrance day is November 11th.  When in France recently, my wife and I visited the Normandy D-Day beaches. In case you don’t know the significance of those beaches, here is a history lesson.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, “Operation Overlord”, the allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe started at 06:30. The target was an 80 kilometre (50-mile) stretch of the Normandy coast, which was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. The Utah and Omaha sectors would be assaulted by the American Army, Gold and Sword beaches by the British troops and Juno beach by the Canadians. We visited the British, Canadian and American beaches. The success…

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We Shall Remember!

This post was first published on November 6th of last year upon returning from Europe. My wife and I spent time exploring the Normandy Beaches in France and the Vimy Ridge memorial. This was a profound experience for us and has made Remembrance Day that much more important. Never forget this ultimate sacrifice our soldiers made.

Sommer Season all year

November 11th is an important day to observe as it marks the anniversary of the official ending of World War I. That war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month thus explaining why Remembrance day is November 11th. In Canada Remembrance Day is a national holiday and all Commonwealth Nations observe this day as a day to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. For those that don’t know, the Commonwealth is an organization of 53 member states that were mostly territories of the former British Empire, which includes the United Kingdom. The United States has a day of remembrance called Veterans Day, which is an official federal holiday that is observed annually on November 11. Its purpose is to honor people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, that is, its veterans. Armistice Day remains the name of…

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Thanksgiving, More Than a Holiday.

A commentary on the meaning of Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-clip-art-thanksgiving-turkey-clipart-4-jpg-jcnrel-clipartOn Monday, October 10, 2016 our family, like most Canadians, celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in most of Canada, with the exceptions being the Atlantic provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, where it is an optional holiday. In its beginnings Thanksgiving was celebration for a successful harvest but the tradition has changed over the years. Now the focus is to get together with family to eat a large turkey dinner, including stuffing and pumpkin pie for dessert.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canada’s Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872. It was to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, from a serious illness. It was made official on January 31, 1957, when the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed, to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. During and after the American Revolution, Americans who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from United States to Canada. They brought with them the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

Thanksgiving in the United States is a public holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by all 50 states. Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, due to President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation declaring it as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

An interesting difference between Canada and the US is that in America, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is one of their biggest shopping days.  Black Friday has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season with stores offering many items on sale. That is not the case in Canada although we are starting to see retail outlets offer Black Friday sales in Canada. For Canadians, the holiday Monday means it’s a long weekend and shopping isn’t an essential part of it. Canada’s biggest shopping day of the year is December 26, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

Every thanksgiving, barring the occasional exception, we gather as a family to eat our turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots harvested from my garden, and turnips. The meal always finishes with pumpkin pie. Before we eat our delicious meal each family member takes turns sharing with one another at least five things we are thankful for. We have done this since our three children were little. Sometimes they would complain becoming impatient since they were hungry. My wife and I had a policy that if we heard complaining, our children would have to share more than the required number of “thankfuls”. One year when our eldest daughter was in her early teens she starting complaining about the number of “thankfuls” she was required to share. Each time she complained my wife and I added more. She finally stopped complaining after she reached about 12. She reluctantly came up with 12 things she was thankful for. We still laugh about that.

I always take time to express the things I’m grateful for at thanksgiving. I will always be grateful for my loving and supportive wife. She puts up with all my crazy ideas and ventures. I will always be grateful for my three wonderful children. We are fortunate enough to have two daughters and a son. All three of them have made us proud with the hard work they did to achieve their university degrees and how they practice their careers with commitment, purpose and integrity. I am also grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones. I am grateful to be living in a country that is inclusive, safe and respected. I could go on and on.

attitude-whatsapp-profile-pictures-attitude-dp-coolstatus-co-yvaufa-clipartThinking about this post, I realized that Thanksgiving is really about our attitude. Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday. It’s also a reminder to us to have an “attitude of gratitude”. It should be an attitude that we have every day of our lives. Why, you may ask? Psychology Today says there are seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. They are

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • Gratitude improves physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude increases mental strength.

The blog, Happier Human, has a post titled, The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life, which obviously claims there are 31 benefits of Gratitude. One that caught my attention is gratitude lets you live longer. The Huffington Post’s article, 10 Reasons Why Gratitude Is Healthy, says it has benefits to the heart,  immune system and boosts general well-being.

The article titled, Why Gratitude Is Good, summarizes the benefits of gratitude this way:

Physical
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

Social
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.

happy-thanksgiving-clipart-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-ksmaop-clipartEven though there may not be agreement on the number of benefits to having an “attitude of gratitude”, one can safely conclude that there are benefits to having this attitude. So don’t just have this “attitude of gratitude” at Thanksgiving, have it every single day of your life. Maybe start a gratitude journal. I have done this from time to time. (Now that I think about it, I haven’t done a journal in a while. I need to do something about that). It forces us to think of things that we are thankful for. If you’re not sure what a gratitude journal is or how to do one, see the article, Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal. So I encourage you to develop that “attitude of gratitude.” The bottom line is, it’s good for you.

The World Should be Weeping

Aleppo, a selfish human tragedy!

In late September I saw this video in a news report.

Now I had seen many news reports about Aleppo before but this video really got to me.  This video touched me on a deep level. The Canadian band, Nickelback, has a song called, “When We Stand Together”.  The beginning lyrics are,

One more depending on a prayer
And we all look away
People pretending everywhere
It’s just another day
There’s bullets flying through the air
And they still carry on
We watch it happen over there
And then just turn it off

The song portrays exactly what I have typically done and likely most people in the world do. We see what is happening in Aleppo, and other conflicts on the news and at the end of the news broadcast, we “just turn it [the TV] off”. Our mindset is, “it doesn’t really affect me. It’s happening far away from me.” But this time was different. This video got to me. It showed the human toll of this tragic conflict. The video showed how innocent people are being harmed by a senseless civil war and the emotional cost to its first responders.  We’re told that 250 000 innocent civilians are trapped in this city that is without clean water, functioning hospitals, and no aid. BBC News reports at least 18 people were killed earlier this month when trucks unloading at a Syrian Arab Red Crescent near Aleppo was attacked by fighter jets. The aid convoy was the result of a long process of obtaining permission and making preparations to assist isolated civilians after a ceasefire was negotiated. The attack occurred when the ceasefire failed.

I wondered what I could do. Donating for aid seemed to be pointless since aid was not reaching Aleppo, so I thought educating people. As a retired teacher that made sense. Maybe if there is enough of an outcry from the world’s people, the international community would do more. Maybe if enough of the world community said to the Syrian and Russian governments, “stop the bombing or else” things might change. I know it’s not as simple as this but peer pressure works.

So you, like I was, might be wondering what this conflict in Syria is all about. Here is some history based on information from Wikipedia.

_78981659_18dbb1cb-9fd6-4299-b0b8-5ba4fd8194c1The war in Syria stems from the 2011 Arab Spring, a revolutionary upsurge of demonstrations and protests in the Arab world. The revolution started in December 2010 in Tunisia and spread. Major insurgencies occurred in Syria, Libya and Yemen.   Civil rebellions occurred in Egypt and Bahrain. Large street demonstrations happened in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman, and some minor protests in Saudi Arabia. In Syria , the revolution escalated to an armed conflict after the government of President Bashar al-Assad violently suppressed protests that were screaming for Assad’s removal. The war is now being fought among several factions which include the Syrian Government, a loose alliance of Syrian Arab rebel groups, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Salafi jihadist groups, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Many of these factions receive substantial support from foreign governments.

The Battle of Aleppo began in July of 2012.  Aleppo is the largest city in Syria with the Old City of Aleppo being a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ongoing war is between the Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front and other Sunni militants and  the armies of the Syrian Government who are also supported by Hezbollah and  Shiite  militants as well as Russia. The government forces and their allies are also attacking the Kurdish People’s Defence Units. The Kurdish people are an ethnic group located in northern Syria as well as in other Middle Eastern counties.  Kurdish nationalists are pursuing greater autonomy and cultural rights.

The battle for Aleppo has been marked by the Syrian army’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from helicopters, killing thousands of people, and intentionally targeting the civilian population. This includes hospitals and schools. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate. On October 6th, 2016 President Assad offered amnesty to militants in the city, offering to evacuate them and their families to safe areas but the militants refused this proposal.

The battle has caused catastrophic destruction to the Old City of Aleppo, which I mentioned is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here are some pictures taken by a drone showing the destruction of Aleppo.

In September 2012, Amnesty International, USA requested that the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to investigate human rights-related reports stemming from the escalating conflict in Aleppo.  Their conclusions on the Conflict in Aleppo was,

Space-based monitoring of the conflict in Aleppo has revealed a steady and continuous trend of degradation to the city’s buildings and infrastructure, including residential, religious, commercial, and industrial facilities. Roadblocks and other makeshift fortifications have continued to proliferate, with over a thousand visible in the latest imagery. Other signs of military activity, such as shell craters, armoured vehicle tracks, and evidence of aircraft deployments are likewise visible, and are consistent with reports of ongoing combat involving heavy weaponry in civilian areas. Damage resulting from fighting has resulted in severe losses to the city’s cultural heritage, both in the city as a whole as well as the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It saddens me to see a UNESCO World Heritage site destroyed. In case you didn’t know, a World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of exceptional cultural or physical significance to humanity.

It saddens me even more to hear of the human suffering. The New York Times in its report, Why so many Children are Killed in Aleppo, tell us that roughly 250,000 people trapped in this Syrian city and about 100,000 are children. Children are the most vulnerable victims of the intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies.

2821b1e600000578-3068063-image-m-17_1430817900726The Times article goes on to report that children in Aleppo face dire food and medicine shortages. Surgery and blood transfusions required for treating bomb wounds are practically impossible now. Medical workers have left children to die on hospital floors due to lack of supplies. Aid groups estimate that there are only 35 doctors remaining in East Aleppo, that is one for every 7,143 people, assuming a population of 250,000 people.

The reality is no one knows for sure how many people are trapped in Aleppo and how many are being killed. One person suffering, especially a child, is one too many. It all seems so senseless to see a world heritage site destroyed and learn of innocent people killed all because one man, Bashar al-Assad, a selfish leader who won’t give up his control of power. If the international community banded together to put serious pressure on the Assad government, maybe this nonsense would stop.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently called for Syria and Russia to be investigated for war crimes since they keep hitting hospitals, medical facilities, children, and women (see The Guardian). I agree with Mr. Kerry as it appears to me that war crimes are occurring. War crimes are actions carried out during the conduct of a war that violates accepted international rules of war. There are 11 crimes which constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and applicable only to international armed conflict. These include willful killing and inhumane treatment, both of which have been violated. This would mean, in my view, Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are guilty of such crimes. It is time for the world to wake up and stop this senseless suffering, especially of innocent children.