Christmas Controversies 2.0

A commentary on Christmas controversies.

Advertisements
image
Christmas 2015 Starbucks controversy

During the 2015 Christmas season, I wrote a post titled Christmas Controversies. One of the quarrels I talked about in that post involved the Starbucks company, a disputation known as the Red Cup Controversy. Previous to 2015, Starbucks had red holiday cups decorated with snowflakes, Christmas ornaments or reindeer but in 2015 the company came out with red cups with just its green logo on it. Starbuck’s reason for the change was to embrace “simplicity and quietness.” As with any controversy, the Christian traditionalists saw this as an attempt to diminish the importance of Christmas.

starbucks
2016 Starbucks controversy from Huffington Post

It seems Starbucks is once again surrounded with Christmas controversy in 2016. The Huffington Post has an article called, People Are Raging Mad That Starbucks’ Newest Cups Aren’t Red, that reports Starbucks introduced a new green cup featuring a “mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke,” which the company says represents community and unity in a time of political divisiveness. Like last year many people are reacting with anger claiming this year that the holiday cup is threatened. Personally, I like the message that Starbucks is attempting to deliver. If you think about it, the message of “community and unity in a time of political divisiveness” is an appropriate message during Christmas. Thomas S. Monson, an American religious leader, says, “the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things”.

Now I agree with Mr. Monson. If this is what Christmas is about then Starbuck’s message of unity is very much a Christmas message. It’s important to understand that the kind of love that Mr. Monson is talking about is what the Greeks call agape love. This is the highest form of love. It’s the kind of love that the Christian bible speaks of. It’s the kind of love that Jesus spoke of and modelled. It is selfless love. Agape love is unconditional love; a love that transcends and operates regardless of circumstances. It should not be confused with what the Greeks called philia, which means brotherly love.   Divisiveness can only be overcome with unconditional love so Starbuck’s message of “community and unity” is most certainly a Christmas message.

636167067021768560-copy-of-103a6339
Scene from “Hipster Nativity” set

Crux, an independent Catholic news site, has an article called, Retail ‘Hipster Nativity’ scene stirs controversy. This controversy is most interesting. This Nativity set, called the “Hipster Nativity” set features Joseph sporting a lumberjack beard as well as a man bun while using his iPhone to selfie the moment as the Segway-riding wise men present baby Jesus with amazon.com boxes. Now I can understand this controversy and why traditionalists might be angered by it. Upon first reading about this controversy, my reaction was, “this makes fun of the manger scene, a sacred Christmas symbol”. But then I thought about it. Maybe we North Americans are just too uptight. Maybe we just need to relax and look at things differently. So, that is what I did. Firstly, if you think about it, this nativity scene is a true commentary about our society. We are a technological and materialistic society. Maybe there is a message for our Western civilization. Maybe the “Hipster Nativity” set is a metaphor reminding us that consumerism is the cause of our divisiveness.  Secondly, if God is a loving God (that is what Christians believe, isn’t it?) would God care about such dissension? The Christian scriptures tell us in 1 John 4:8, “whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love”. Think about that. God’s very essence is love. Now we’re not referring to romantic love here. The kind of love that the biblical passage is referring to is agape love which means unconditional love, the kind of love that God has for humanity. The bottom line is, if God is an unconditionally loving God, then God would not be offended by the “Hipster Nativity” set. In fact, God is likely having a good laugh. Maybe we should too.

game
Santa VS Jesus card game from Amazon

Another interesting controversy is reported by Yahoo News called, This Season’s Most Controversial Holiday Card Game: Santa verses Jesus.  This is a “tongue-in-cheek” card game based on the question; who actually rules Christmas? Is it Santa or is it Jesus?  The creators of Santa VS Jesus Card Game, one of the top-selling card games on Amazon.com in the United Kingdom, splits players into two teams which go head-to-head in an attempt to win the most believers. This determines who will rule Christmas. The two sides, Team Santa and Team Jesus undergo Christmas themed challenges (puzzles, riddles, brainteasers) to win over believers. IBT’s article, Is ‘Santa VS Jesus’ Board Game Blasphemous? discusses the controversy. The article quotes Danny Webster, a spokesperson for the Evangelical Alliance UK, who says the game “trivializes Christian belief and equates them both as fictional characters.”  So once again I ask; Are we North Americans just too uptight?  Let’s look at this controversy differently. Maybe this game is really a blessing in disguise. Maybe it forces people to take a good look at Christmas and what the holiday is all about. Is it a holiday about gift giving, which is what Santa is all about, or is it about Jesus, a holiday where Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus? Whether you believe Jesus is the son of God, as Christians do, or that Jesus is one of many ascended masters (spiritually enlightened beings) or just a man who had a message worth paying attention to, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is Christmas is about the “Spirit of Christmas” which is about love; agape love actually. It is a season to remind us that we humans need to be inclusive, joyful and most importantly unconditionally loving.  In other words, the very message Jesus delivered.

We can get so caught up in the mentality that Christmas is being attacked instead of paying attention to what is important. What is important you ask? I think the Baha’i faith has it figured out. This is a faith that emphasizes the unity of humanity transcending all divisions of race, nation, gender, caste, and social class, while celebrating its diversity. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote, “The earth is but one country, and [hu]mankind its citizens.” Abdu’l-Baha’s, his eldest son, enhanced the message with the “unification of [hu]mankind” has now become “the paramount issue and question in the religious and political conditions of the world.” If we look at what has been occurring in our world recently we can clearly see that divisiveness is alive and well. The American presidential election was one of the most divisive in history. Brexit is another example of European divisiveness rather than unity.  I believe the Baha’i faith has the true Christmas message. We are all part of the human family and therefore we are called to unite through agape love. That is what Christmas is about!

2/3 Wildlife to Disappear by 2020. That’s Disturbing!

A commentary on climate change and endangered species.

A few weeks ago, an article on CBC.ca caused me some distress. The article is called; Two-thirds of wildlife will disappear by 2020, WWF. The news report says that according to the WWF conservation group, “worldwide populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have plunged by almost 60% since 1970.” It then goes on to say, “the decline is yet another sign that people have become the driving force for change on Earth”. Specifically, according to the article, this change is due to “the rising human population…threatening wildlife by clearing land for farms and cities”. It also lists other causes as “pollution, invasive species, hunting and climate change”. Think about that for a second. The year 2020 is only three years from now and according to the WWF 2/3 or 67%; more than half of the worlds wildlife will be extinct. I grew up seeing many of these animals in the wild or in zoos. To think my grandchildren will only be able to see pictures or videos of these animals is upsetting.

I went on to research this topic further. Another CBC report; A third of birds in North America threatened with extinction, states that “the first State of North America’s Birds report finds that of 1,154 bird species that live in and migrate among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, 432 are of ‘high concern’ due to low or declining populations, shrinking ranges and threats such as human-caused habitat loss, invasive predators and climate change”. Still another CBC report, Hundreds of animals, plants locally extinct due to climate change, reveals that a “new study found local extinctions (this is when a species can no longer be found at a location where it once lived) related to global warming have occurred in half of species studied”. But the article that alarmed me the most was CBC’s, Giraffes threatened by extinction, put on watch list. Giraffes! Really! The article blamed shrinking living space as the main cause. It says the giraffe situation is worsened by poaching and disease. There seems to be a common theme here, that is, that we humans are the problem. Another common theme is climate change.

Now I understand that climate change is not the sole cause for the loss of wildlife but I’ve read enough articles to come to the conclusion that it is definitely a big part of the problem. We’ve all heard the stories about polar bears. The chief threat to the polar bear is the loss of its sea ice habitat due to global warming. The National Wildlife Federation’s article; Effects on Wildlife and Habitat,  goes into detail of how climate change is affecting wildlife.

There are still people who have “their head in the sand”. There is still debate about the cause of climate change. Is it due to human activities or is it a natural phenomenon? There is no doubt that climate change is happening as the CBC news article, ‘It’s a little scary’: On Lennox Island, no one debates whether climate change is real, says. If you are at all skeptical watch the documentary Chasing Ice. It’s a 2012 documentary film about the efforts of nature photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey to inform the public to the effects of climate change. My wife and I, on recommendation of my sister, recently watched it on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I would strongly encourage you to. In case you haven’t, here it is.

According to Wikipedia, a 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters (a scientific journal) reviewed 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers matching “global warming” or “global climate change”. They found 4,014 which discussed the cause of recent global warming, and of these 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. To me that says that the vast majority of environmental scientists agree that climate change is due to human influence.

global_warming_0It concerns me when the president-elect in the United States tweeted in November of 2012 “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” and who promised during his campaign to roll back President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. According to CNBC, a business news site, “president-elect Donald Trump’s Energy Department transition team sent the agency a memo this week asking for the names of people who have worked on climate change…alarming employees and advisors”. The fear is that Trump is preparing a political enemies list. At least I can proudly say that the Canadian government is working on implementing a national climate change plan (see Manitoba will not sign).

Historically, the European immigrants came to North America with their Eurocentric world view; a view that tended to interpret the world in terms of European values and experiences; a view that saw European values as better than Aboriginal values.  In reality, the aboriginal people had the right values as they had the far superior values. Before European influence, many First Nation communities believed everything was connected. The spirit world was connected to the earthly world; the sea was connected to the land and that the sky was connected to the land. Consequently, humans co-existed with animals and plants, with equal rights to life. In this belief lies commitment to respect all living things. George Blondin, a highly respected Dene Elder who was born in the Northwest Territories, put it this way.

“We are people of the land; we see ourselves as no different than the trees, the caribou, and the raven, except we are more complicated.”

First Nations people were very religious and respectful of the Great Spirit, and other spirits that they believe inhabited the land and animals all around them. These people were taught from a very young age to respect and give thanks to the animals, birds, plants, land and water which gave them everything they needed to stay alive.

Maybe it is time to take a serious look at aboriginal spirituality. These people once had a sacred relationship with Mother Earth and had a reverent respect for the plants and animals.  The reality is if we don’t, we may end up living on a planet with 2/3 less plant and animal species or worse. That would be shameful and a complete lack of respect for our future ancestors. But then again, maybe, just maybe, science can come to the rescue. CBC has a news article called, Reviving extinct species within reach, which quotes Hendrik Poinar, a scientist at McMaster University’s Ancient DNA Centre, who says, “The revival of an extinct species is in reach.” He is referring to a new field of science called ‘de-extinction’.

Clairvoyants. Are they for Real?

A commentary on the power of thoughts.

If you watch America’s Got Talent then you’ve likely heard of the Clairvoyants consisting of a mentalist duo, Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass. To watch them in action is “mind blowing” and captivating to say the least. It makes you ask, is this for real? Can this person really read minds? If you’ve never seen the Clairvoyants, then have a look at this video.

Now one thing I’ve discovered is no matter what you read, especially on the Internet, there are people out there who feel it is their sole purpose in life to debunk things. That is why conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination and the moon landing exist. The Clairvoyants are no different. There are lots of sites on the Internet putting forth explanations on how these two individuals do what they do. One of the common theories is that someone is communicating with the performers feeding them information. They suggest gadgets like a $200 device from a magic supplier called a thumper, are being used. This technology transmits Morse code via vibrations. (see Clairvoyants revealed). In my mind it would take a great deal of concentration while performing on stage to decipher the Morse code. Furthermore, if you watch the video above you will notice that neither Thommy Ten nor Amelie van Tass see the dice toss. So what message was sent? A guess perhaps?

So is this for real? A Clairvoyant is defined as having or exhibiting an ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact. So is beyond normal sensory contact possible? The Telegraph article, Why mind-reading is a science, not a magic trick, certainly suggests we humans have such an ability. It says “electrical activity within the brain means that our thoughts can be read and understood”. Another site, Live Science, is a site which delivers news about the natural and technological world. It’s article, Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds, says,

“Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science…Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We’re all essentially mind readers.”

So I say maybe Amelie van Tass can read minds. Just because we may have been taught that it is not possible doesn’t mean that that is the truth. “Yeah, right” you might say. “There is no way the mind is that powerful”. Check out these videos.

Japanese Dr. Masaru Emoto was one of the first to do experiments like these. Now if our thoughts can do this to water just imagine what our thoughts are doing to our bodies, which are made up of 50 – 65% water. The mind and body are not separate. Our thoughts have remarkable control over our bodies. I can personally attest to that. Many times I have told myself that I couldn’t do something and guess what? I couldn’t do it. Now I find myself wondering what would have happened had I repeatedly told myself that I could do it.

The Huffington Post published an article called; Can Our Brain Waves Affect Our Physical Reality? The article explains things this way.

Not only your brain, but your entire body has an electric field. Anywhere there’s a nerve cell, there’s electricity. It’s just concentrated the greatest around your head because that’s where the bulk of your nerve cells are.

Your thoughts are formed in this electric field. The measurable perturbations and disturbances in the brain’s overall electric field are your actual thoughts racing through your mind. As you read this article, the thoughts you are thinking of, the words your mind is processing, are all electrical impulses that can be measured if you had a few wires hooked up between your head and a machine. So thoughts are energy, the same as everything else.

The article goes on to explain how those thoughts (pieces of energy) influence the quantum field around us. In quantum physics they would say we are entangled with our environment so we can affect that environment and influence the randomness of it, just as it can influence us. Simply put, our thoughts can influence the environment around us, which is an environment consisting of energy. Albert Eienstein said,

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

So if thoughts are merely pieces of energy, then wouldn’t it be possible for another person to pick up that energy and “read” it. It seems possible to me. To once again quote Albert Einstein , “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” So I say, it is time we open up our minds, release some of the old beliefs systems and start to broaden our minds. I’m coming to believe that possibilities are limitless. Who living in the 1980s would have thought that computers could do what they do today? Jamie Paolinetti says, “Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” I’m beginning to realize he is right. If only I had learned this years ago. The only limits are those we place on ourselves. We believe it is not possible for one person to read another person’s thoughts, so we rationalize that it is a trick. What is a belief anyway? The late Wayne Dyer says, “a belief system is nothing more than a thought you’ve thought over and over again.” If only I had told myself over and over in my youth that I had a brilliant mind, then maybe I could read people’s minds. But then again, would I want to?

Ignorance, Fear, Hate. What about Love?

A commentary on the effects of fear on society.

maxresdefault
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.

Sexism is Alive and Well :(

A commentary about the prevalence of sexism at least in the political arena.

When Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, was interviewed by the Globe and Mail in March of 2016 she said,

Politics has always been a man’s club. When Judy LaMarsh was elected as a parliamentarian, she could not find a women’s washroom anywhere near the House of Commons. That women are now half the federal cabinet is a wonderful step forward. I never thought I would see the day.

In case you didn’t know, of the thirty cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, 15 (50%) are women. In outgoing US President Barack Obama’s cabinet only 25% of them are women. In the province where I reside, there are 10 women, including the Premier, in a cabinet of 19 ministers. That means over 50% of the cabinet is comprised of women.

Witnessing these kinds of historic events led me to believe that sexism was decreasing and that sexism was well on its way to becoming extinct. Boy was I wrong. But first, what do I mean by sexism? Dictionary.com defines sexism as “attitudes or behaviour based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles” or as “discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women”.  It seems when referring to equal gender rights, the idiom, “One step forward, two steps back” is true.

09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xSo what has taken us backward. From my point of view, it is people like Donald Trump, now president elect Donald Trump, who is taking us backward. I’ve already written about Trump being a sexist  in posts such as, Trump This and Seriously, I don’t Get it.

photoThe Atlantic published an article titled, Fear of a Female President, which shocked me when I read it. The author of the article, Peter Beinart, reported that at the Republican National Convention the hostility toward Hillary Clinton was everywhere. These are his words.

Inside the hall, delegates repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up.” Outside the hall, vendors sold campaign paraphernalia. As I walked around, I recorded the merchandise on display. Here’s a sampling: Black pin reading don’t be a pussy, vote for Trump in 2016. Black-and-red pin reading Trump 2016: finally, someone with balls. White T-shirt reading Trump that bitch. White T‑shirt reading Hillary sucks but not like Monica. Red pin reading life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one. White pin depicting a boy urinating on the word Hillary. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a biker and Clinton falling off the motorcycle’s back alongside the words if you can read this, the bitch fell off. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a boxer having just knocked Clinton to the floor of the ring, where she lies face up in a clingy tank top. White pin advertising kfc hillary special. 2 fat thighs. 2 small breasts … left wing.

I was stunned when I read this. I like everyone else thought Mrs. Clinton would make history and that she would be the first female US president. Yes, I understand she had made mistakes and that controversy surrounded her but that was also true for Donald Trump.  I believed Americans would see him as the bigot, sexist, misogynist and liar that he is. I was sure that Americans would vote for Hillary, the best, most qualified candidate of the two choices. Boy was I ever wrong. So I reflected upon this. I asked questions. Why would Americans vote against her? Why were the polls so wrong? Was there really a silent majority of people who wouldn’t admit that they supported Trump? Was there something deeper going on? I began to wonder if sexism is more prevalent in society than we like to admit? It seems Peter Beinart agrees.  He wrote in The Atlantic article, Fear of a Female President,

Standard commentary about Clinton’s candidacy—which focuses on her email server, the Benghazi attack, her oratorical deficiencies, her struggles with “authenticity”—doesn’t explain the intensity of this opposition. But the academic literature about how men respond to women who assume traditionally male roles does. 

Now we Canadians like to think we’re different than Americans. We like to think that there are no sexist or racist people wanting to lead our country. WRONG. Kelly Leitch is wanting to lead the Federal Conservative Party of Canada. Upon hearing of a Trump victory, Leitch told her supporters “Tonight, our American cousins threw out the elites and elected Donald Trump…It’s an exciting message that needs to be delivered in Canada as well. It’s the message I’m bringing to my campaign to be the next Prime Minister of Canada”. Like Trump, Kellie Leitch has proposed screening immigrants for Canadian values and refers to her competing candidates as out-of-touch elites.

On the day after the Trump victory, I discovered that Alberta politics has its fair share of sexism.

500px-alberta_in_canada-svgThe National Post reports that the only two women candidates in the Alberta Progressive Conservative (PC) Party leadership race have dropped out because of harassment and intimidation. It is interesting that it is only the female candidates that are being harassed. After much research I could not find any news reports of male candidates getting harassed.

Sandra Jansen, one of the two female PC leadership candidates, reports in the National Post article that at the PC convention: “My social media has been filled with filth, my domain name purchased to direct people to smear pieces on me and finally, this past weekend in Red Deer, the final straw. Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women’s reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.” She did not identify any wrongdoers by name, but she did point a finger of blame at former federal Conservative Party Member of Parliament and Alberta provincial leadership candidate Jason Kenny who flooded the convention with youth delegates.

The Calgary Herald reports, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has and still is being harassed. Now I have to wonder if it is because she is a woman. The Premier’s press secretary has said: “This kind of social media or correspondence activity is not unusual in any way,” and labelled the threats as “totally normal.” These things come by letter, phone and, as in the case of the most recent ones, via social media. Premier Notley has had threats made against her which appeared on two Facebook pages where some Albertans opposed to the New Democratic Party (NDP) go to rant. They included a warning to Notley to be careful, or “you’ll be the first assassination,” while another read: “I’m not advocating for violence against you — yet — but keep talking like that and someone will take matters in their own hands.” I personally find this deeply disturbing to the point where I wrote my provincial representative encouraging him to speak out against this nonsense. I never did hear back from him and in fact he has since become one of the Alberta PC leadership candidates.

CBC News reported last year that Alberta female politicians were targeted by hateful, sexist online attacks. The news article makes reference to gender consultant Cristina Stasia who described the comments as shocking and sexually violent, taking specific aim at the premier’s gender. Stasia said, “There’s a fury that lurks underneath this … that we have a woman running our province” The consultant also said the remarks seek to degrade but say little about policy and show Alberta, which is “saturated with misogyny and high rates of violence,” still has a long way to go. Is it normal for premiers to be threatened? I tried to find news reports of male premiers being threatened but found none. This is occurring in the province I live in. This is not the kind of province I desire to have. I find this deeply troubling.

We males need to look inward. We need to accept that times are changing (I hope) and that the patriarchal world of the past is disappearing or at least needs to. Men and women are equals. Women need to be treated and respected as equals. Yes, I am a man and I sexismsincerely believe this. Gloria Steinem, an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist says, “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” I agree. I’ll give the last words to Hillary Clinton who almost became the first female US president and if you go by popular vote should be. Mrs. Clinton says, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” Thanks for trying Hillary!

All that Waste. Shame! Shame!

Another rant on the shameful waste of food ensuing our planet.

The other day I saw a disturbing headline on the CBC website. The headline was, Walmart insider says ‘heartbreaking’ amount of food dumped in trash. The article reports that a former worker at almost a dozen Walmart stores in the Vancouver area claims he saw loads of what appeared to be perfectly good food dumped in the trash, even though Walmart says it only discards inedible food.  The article also states that CBC Marketplace investigated this issue with the episode airing Friday, October 28, in which their investigation exposed that in the Toronto area, investigators repeatedly found outdoor garbage bins piled high with everything from produce to baked goods, frozen foods, meat and dairy products.

just-eat-it-a-documentary-about-food-waste
From Just Eat It documentary

Now this is an issue that I’ve twice before written posts about. Those posts were Don’t throw that away and Vive La France. I just can’t wrap my head around why this occurs. Is it that corporations, like Walmart, just can’t be bothered? Do they not care? According to the article, the large retailer is committed to reducing food waste. The Walmart spokesperson says the company has teamed up with many organizations such as food banks to donate unsold food. The company also claims food is only discarded when it’s deemed unsafe to eat. If that is true, why did Marketplace discover all the food waste? The spokesperson could not address all the reports from Walmart insiders who told CBC they were instructed to throw away food if it looked imperfect or was close to an expired best-before date, or if shelf space was needed.

So what are these “best before dates” about?  Another CBC report titled, Best before dates and expiry dates: 5 things you may not know, explains it this way.

The best before date has nothing to do with the safety of the food. It has to do with the taste of the food. Best before dates guarantee freshness. Now expiration dates are different.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency dictates that only five types of products need to be labelled with an expiration date. These include, baby formula and other human milk substitutes, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets, and formulated liquid diets. So the reality is you don’t have to discard a food item when the best before date is reached. Generally, if the food changes colour, or develops a bad smell, it is no longer safe to eat. Dented, leaking or bulging cans should be discarded. When in doubt throw it out is a good rule of thumb to follow.

apple-v2
From USA Today

Thankfully, there is some good news. Some corporations are truly trying to reduce waste. The CBC article, Selling unwanted food at a discount, says the Loblaws grocery chain recently expanded its Naturally Imperfect line. Loblaws is a supermarket chain with over 2000 stores in Canada. Those are stores such as Loblaws, No Frills, Value-mart, Superstore, Real Canadian Superstore, and numerous others. Its Naturally Imperfect line is where it offers up to a 30 per cent discount for blemished and deformed produce. The program began in Ontario and has now spread to select Loblaws grocery stores across the country.

IGA in Quebec is now selling imperfect produce. (see ugly produce). IGA is part of Sobeys which is the second largest food retailer in Canada. My question is why aren’t they selling imperfect produce in all provinces? Furthermore, why aren’t all grocery chains selling imperfect produce? It’s time we consumers start demanding all stores stock imperfect produce. It decreases food waste and saves us money.

Save-On Foods, a chain of supermarkets across western Canada, announced in September  that they were placing “Misfit” produce in all their stores (see Misfit produce). Thumbs upI give a thumbs up to Loblaws, IGA and Save-On Foods for taking positive steps towards reducing waste.

Furthermore, we need to pressure grocery chains to donate to food charities and pressure governments to enforce it like France and Italy have done. I recently read in a local daily newspaper that the city of Calgary, located in Alberta, Canada, saves nearly a tonne of food a week from the landfill. Using volunteers, Lourdes Juan, founder of non-profit LeftOvers Calgary, picks up leftover food destined for the landfill and delivers it to hungry Calgarians.  (see Calgary Herald article for more). The Globe and Mail did a story called, Charity makes the most out of other people’s leftovers, where the paper reports on organizations who are helping people in need and reducing waste. Kudos to those organizations!

I’ve always been told that the reason grocery chains and food establishments don’t donate their leftover food or the food deemed unsellable is because of liability issues. In other words, if they donated food and someone acquires food poisoning as a result, they could be sued. After I wrote my post, Don’t throw that away, I contacted the provincial government to ask why companies are not protected when they donate food. It turns out they are. Alberta has a law called, The Charitable Donation of Food Act, which protects companies who donate food. According to the website, Imagine Canada, most other provinces do as well. So liability is not the issue. I suspect it is a matter of convenience. When volunteer organizations come to collect the “unsellable food” companies willingly donate it. It seems companies such as Walmart just can’t be bothered to take the “unsellable food” to the charitable organizations. At least that’s my take.

The reality is food waste is an astronomical problem. The CBC article, Selling unwanted food at a discount, that I referred to earlier says that roughly 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. It also reports that Canadians waste more that $31 billion, yes billion, in food each year. Another statistic reported in the article is that 45% of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted. That is almost half! Much of this produce was wasted because it was deemed imperfect. This is emphatically wrong! This much food wasted is simply ethically and morally wrong when there are so many starving people on this planet. It’s time we are part of the solution rather than part of the problem, even if that is purchasing “imperfect produce” creating a demand for the product and thereby reducing waste. To quote Eldridge Cleaver, an American writer and political activist, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” Please, do your part to reduce the corrupt waste of food. Be part of the solution!

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.