Not Another Terror Attack

A commentary on the latest terror attack in England.

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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.

Do Europeans Really do Things Better?

My wife and I recently watched Michael Moore’s latest movie called, “Where to Invade Next”. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Michael Moore as he is not afraid to question the status quo in his homeland, the United States of America. In the movie, Moore leaves North America and heads to Europe with a stop-over in North Africa, ready to claim any policies that would make the U.S.A a better country. If you’ve never seen it, I would encourage you to do so. Here is the trailer.

According to National Observer, Americans kill 51 times more people with guns than Canadians do. That is but one reason why I’m thankful to be living in Canada; a country with strict gun controls (for which I am grateful), a country that has pretty good social programs, free health care, and is a very safe country to live in. Having said that, my wife and I were still blown away by some of the European polices and attitudes. Canada, like the United States, could learn a thing or two from the Europeans.

flag_of_europe-svgHere are some of the things Europeans do that Mr. Moore claimed as ideal policies for his country.

ITALY is a country that knows how to have balance when it comes to work life. Italy has one of the highest rates of paid vacation, maternity leave, and honeymoon allowance in the world. That is not even mentioning the two-hour workday lunches.  Italians seem to know how to take the stress out of a working life. Being a bit of a cynic, I did some research. Time reports that the American Psychological Association found that average stress levels in the U.S. rose since 2014, from 4.9 to 5.1 on a 10-point stress scale. Statistics Canada reports that in 2015 Canadian workers ages 15 to 75 that 28.4% reported high work-related stress. That is not to say that there is no stress among Italian workers. Eurofound, a European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, reports (2010), 33.6% of respondents consider their work as a source of excessive stress. These figures were higher amongst respondents selling and/or promoting financial products.

FRANCE is a country that feeds its school children with amazing, almost gourmet style healthy food. In the movie, school children shun Moore’s offer of a coke and feast upon a four-course healthy lunch. Lunch hour in France is considered a course where students are taught proper etiquette.  In the French school system, adolescents also learn about the realities of sex and respectful relationships.

FINLAND is a country whose school system went from being one of the worst in the world to one of the best.  What is their philosophy? Children spend less time in school (about three hours a day), no time doing homework, write no standardized tests, and lots of time playing.  As a retired teacher, I wondered how this could be and if indeed it is true. In 2015, Finland was ranked 5th in the world. (see The Best Education Systems in The World in 2015). Canada was ranked tenth (not to shabby) and the U.S. was ranked 29 out of 76 countries.

SLOVENIA is an eastern European country where school is considered a basic human right for all. As a result, students can get a complete college education costing them nothing. Not only is it for Slovenian students, but a college education is afforded to anyone no matter what passport a student may hold. This is not unique to Solvenia as  schools and universities are free in many European countries.

In GERMANY employees are given an equal say in business matters as company boards are composed of at least 50% workers.  If workers get stressed, a doctor can authorize a stay at a government funded spa since Germany prioritizes health before productivity. It is also noteworthy that Germany does not ignore its dark past regarding Hitler and the Holocaust. This country has a policy of acknowledgment and understanding of the past to affect a positive future.

PORTUGAL’S answer to the war on drugs is to decriminalize its usage and offer free treatment and comprehensive healthcare. In the words of a Lisbon police officer, “Human dignity is the backbone of our society.”

NORWAY’s penal system is one of rehabilitation and not revenge.  Prisons in Norway offer a chance for prisoners to rehabilitate and regain self-worth. There are no guard towers, no fences and no beatings in Norway’s prisons; even in their maximum-security prisons. Instead, prisons have a fair amount of freedom with four prison guards carrying no weapons responsible for over 100 inmates. It is also amazing to learn that of those coming out of the penal system, only 20% reoffend in Norway. Compare that to the United States.   A Bureau of Justice Statistic study reported that of inmates released from state prisons, 76.6% have a five-year reconviction rate. Canada’s reconviction rate is in the range of 41% to 44%, according to Public Safety Canada.

TUNISIA is a majority Muslim country, yet it provides government funded abortions and free women’s health clinics to ensure women are in control of their reproduction and in turn their basic rights.

ICELAND is a country that during the 2008 economic crisis had three of its major privately owned commercial banks default, all of which were run by men. The only bank that did not fail had female executives. It is also a country that had the first female president. Iceland empowers its women. The Economist named Iceland the world’s best place for working women in 2016. In comparison, Canada was ranked 11th and the U.S. was ranked 20th.

One thing that struck me was that in every country visited by Mr. Moore, the interviewees always stressed the importance of human dignity. What is human dignity? Oxford dictionary defines dignity as the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines dignity as the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. All humans deserve to be treated respectfully. Really, it boils down to the Golden Rule which the Christian scriptures state as, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12).

So, do Europeans really do things better? According to the article, 16 Ways Europeans Are Just Better At Life, Switzerland came in second to Japan for the world’s longest life expectancy, according to a 2015 World Health Organization study. In fact, eight European nations have a life expectancy of 82 years. Canada is also at 82 years. In fact, 24 European nations rank ahead of the U.S. on the list, which comes in at number 33, just one spot ahead of Cuba at 79.3 years.

As the new Trump administration repeals Obamacare, Europe offers a number of examples of far more efficient health care systems. According to a Bloomberg study, America is number 50 out of 55 countries that were assessed for their health care systems. All European countries ranked higher than the U.S. Canada ranked 16th which is pretty good but still five European countries ranked ahead of Canada.

Who are the top nations in the world, in terms of time off? According to USA Today, all are European. Austrians get 35 paid days off per year. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the sole developed nation that requires no paid vacation time or holidays by law. As for Canada, the law is employees must receive at least 2 weeks of vacation per year for the first four years of employment, and a minimum of 3 weeks of vacation after the fifth consecutive year.

It seems to me that Europeans do know how to live life better. We Canadians do a pretty good job, but we could still learn a thing or two from the Europeans. According to Business Insider, every European nation has a higher standard of living than the United States which is ranked number 19. I’m proud to say, Canada is ranked second. Michael Moore is on the right track looking at the Europeans.

Now I’ve heard Americans refer to Canada and the European nations as socialist countries. Peerform, an American financial institution, lists Canada (along with 7 European countries) as socialist countries. One definition of socialism from yourdictionary.com is a system based “on principles of community decision making, social equality and the avoidance of economic and social exclusion, with economic policy should giving first preference to community goals over individual ones”. The way I see it is, I would rather live in a socialist country where we take care of each other as opposed to a strictly capitalist country where individualism is the focus, where individuals fend for themselves, and the sole goal is to get wealthy. It seems obvious to me that countries who adopt “socialist” ideals do better. The statistics speak for themselves.

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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Nature’s Wonders

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Lake Louise

It astonishes me the number of beautiful places this planet has to offer for us humans to appreciate. I consider myself blessed because my wife and I have seen a handful of them. When I look at websites advocating must see places to visit in the world, I am surprised at how many I have seen. These sites often mention places such as Santorini in Greece, Venice in Italy, Paris in France, Rome in Italy, Stonehenge at Amesbury, England, Glacier National Park in Montana, USA all of which I have visited. With the exception of Glacier Park, these places all involve flights over oceans but we don’t have to travel across oceans to see beautiful places. There are so many places right here in our own country. The Internet has many lists of must see places on it and many of these lists include places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains; places like Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, and Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.

The Reader’s Digest’s article, 10 Places In Canada Every Canadian Needs To Visit includes Banff National Park and Lake Louise on its list. CNN’s article, 20 of the most beautiful places in Canada includes Jasper National Park and Lake Louise on it. When you search the Internet for must see places in Canada, the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park or Lake Louise will almost inevitably show up on the list.

The Canadian Rockies are an assemblage of mountains that extend to  parts of British Columbia and Alberta. They were formed about 55 to 80 million years ago in what is called the Cretaceous era. These mountains are made up of layered sedimentary rocks and when you take the time to look you can see the layers. Their peaks are sharp and pointy because of glaciers on it.

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Bighorn sheep

There are five national parks that are part of the Canadian Rockies; these are Yoho, Jasper, Kootenay, Banff and Waterton. Banff National Park was the first to be formed. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of four Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks and has a total protected area of over 20,000 square kilometres. If you are lucky enough you might see animals such as grizzly or black bears, deer, elk, moose, cougars and bighorn sheep. My wife and I caught a glimpse of a black bear and numerous bighorn sheep. We also saw some moose. The Canadian Rockies have been likened to the 2016-05-15 15.33.08African Serengeti in terms of the abundance of wildlife. When you drive in Banff National Park you’ll notice places where wildlife can cross the Trans-Canada Highway on specially built over and under passes, designed to reduce collisions with the animals.

My wife and I just recently spent a week in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We visited three of the five national parks; Banff, Jasper and Kootenay. Even though I’ve been to the Rockies many times, I still find the beauty of these majestic mountains to be breathtaking. When I’m among these gigantic, unique pieces of rock I feel a closeness to our creator God especially when we are walking on one of the numerous beautiful hiking trails. My wife and I spent three days in Jasper National Park where we went to Maligne Lake for the first time. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Maligne Lake, Jasper
Maligne Lake, Jasper

Another thing that always amazes me, or both of us really, is the number of people from all over the world you meet or the variety of languages you hear. We heard languages in French, German, Chinese, Japanese and some we didn’t recognize. We met people from France, China, United States, and Germany. It truly is a global village. All of these people were doing the same thing as we were. They were taking in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

It astounds me the number of people I know who live in the province of Alberta, Canada, that have never been to the Canadian Rockies. We live on the east side of the province of Alberta, probably one of the farthest points from the Rockies yet both my wife and I have been there too many times to count. It takes us six hours to drive to the Jasper town site. Yet, so many people who live even closer to the west side of the province where the Rockies are located have never taken the time to visit those majestic sites.

There are so many wonderful places to see in our world, many of them in our own back yard. Life is too short to procrastinate seeing them. Now I know it is human nature to make excuses for not doing it; excuses like it costs too much, not enough time or work is just too important to miss. I just think it is sad that people don’t take the time to see such wonderful formations of nature. It is so important to spend time seeing what nature has created and just being in nature. It doesn’t have to be the Rocky Mountains although if you haven’t seen them you definitely should. There are so many benefits to being in nature. According to the article, Get Outside! 7 Scientifically-Backed Health Benefits of Being in Nature, spending time in nature improves attention spans, boosts serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) levels and shows increased activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love.  Some research suggests urban environments do the same for fear and anxiety. Being in nature is good for your health. Take the time to experience a bit of heaven on earth. It is worth the effort. Or as the French author, Jules Renard says,  On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.

Fear or Love

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Banner reads ‘I am Brussels’ in French & Flemish – Reuters pic

One week ago on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, three coordinated bombings occurred in Brussels, Belgium’s capital. Two attacks occurred in the Brussels airport, and one at its metro station. During these attacks, 31 innocent victims were killed along with three suicide bombers. Even more disturbing is the 300 innocent people who were injured.

I feel great sadness when I hear of a terrorist attack especially when it occurs in Europe because just six months ago my wife and I were in Europe. In October of 2015, my wife and I visited Belgium. While Brussels was not one of the places we visited, we did visit several of the World War One sites in Flanders’ Fields. We also visited Paris, France on our trip so when the Paris attacks happened it deeply affected us both, as did the Brussels attack.

As I stated in my November 27, 2015  post about the Paris attacks, terrorism is something I cannot understand. I’ve tried to put myself into the shoes of a terrorist in order to comprehend how someone can cause harm and death to innocent people like the bloodshed that happened in Brussels. The news media repeatedly tells us that the people who carry out such acts of violence have been radicalized.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a radical as  “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs”. So as I understand it, radicals are people who carrying out acts of murder for political gain.  This is what I can’t wrap my head around.  In my mind killing innocent people for political gain, or any reason, is wrong!

How can someone with any kind of conscience murder innocent people? As I mentioned in the November post, the only thing I can come up with is that these people have been brainwashed. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

What disturbs me the most is when a terrorist attack  happens on our planet panic sets in. Panic is a symptom of fear. The school that I taught in is taking a group of students to Germany this month. The Brussels event set off a wave of panic among the parents. These parents were fearful because their children were off to Europe, where terrorist attacks occur. Now I’m a parent, so I understand the need to protect your children. But when we cave in to fear, the terrorists succeed.

Perhaps it’s time to look at the issue of terrorism from a different perspective. According to many spiritual writers today, all behaviours and emotions can be put into two categories – love and fear. These writers tell us fear is the opposite of love. So what is fear? Fear results in a feeling of not being protected or feeling secure. So when it comes to terrorism, fear sets in because we feel insecure and vulnerable. In fact, that is what terrorism is all about, instilling fear. Terrorists want us to be fearful. They want to cause terror. In fact, ‘terror’ is the root word of ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’.

Fear limits our minds. People who live in fear will do harmful things. They lash out at those whom they perceive to be the cause of their pain. The same could be argued for animals. When do animals attack? It is when they fear for their survival.

Now most people would argue that the opposite of love is hate but when you think about it, hate is really stemming from fear. A person might “hate” someone who has abandoned or disrespected him. Abandonment makes more sense in terms of the fear. When a person feels abandoned, their emotions are stemming from fear of being alone. Disrespect is when a person feels scorned or disregarded, so it stems from the fear a person has when they are not honoured or regarded.

In a CNN report, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is quoted as saying,

“It’s going to get worse and worse. In my opinion, this is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse because we are lax and we are foolish — we can’t allow these people, at this point we cannot allow these people to come into our country. I’m sorry…”

His remarks clearly come from fear. His and others like him lack love and compassion. Banishing others does not stem from love. It stems from fear which indicates that there is no love.

Love on the other hand doesn’t hurt. If it hurts it is fear. Love is a core emotion from which many other emotions are created. Emotions such as happiness, kindness, charity, faith, empathy, fairness and compassion all come from loving intentions. This type of love is what the Greeks called agape love. This love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the highest form of love there is. With this type of love there is no exclusiveness.

Fear is the opposite of love because fear is the base emotion from which hate, prejudice, greed, stress, paranoia, and many other negative emotions are based.

1 John 4:18 of the Christian scriptures tells us, “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.” It is also interesting that scripture scholars tell us the phrases “do not fear” and “do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Christian Bible. I don’t think that is coincidence. Perhaps a basic message in the scriptures is, do not have fear because when you are fearful, you do not possess love.

The CNN report referred to above quotes Pascale Rouhier, a 38-year-old resident of Brussels, as saying, “I’m not going to change my way of living because Brussels is my city.”

The article also reports that 2,000 people gathered in front of  the Brussels stock exchange, with Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel and other leaders who laid wreaths at Maelbeek metro station.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Our strength lies in our unity, and our free societies will prove to be stronger than terrorism.” (see article)

These are all examples of people whereby fear has not taken hold. Their reactions and comments stem from love. Love unifies while fear divides.

Perhaps former Beatle John Lennon sums it up best when he 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.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States was right when he said during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933,   “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”  If terrorists succeed in their mission to instil fear into the world then they will create a culture of fear; a culture where there is no love; a world full of hate, prejudice, greed, stress, and paranoia. But, if we don’t allow fear to take hold then we will have a culture filled with happiness, kindness, charity,  empathy, fairness and compassion; a culture where there is love. The choice is ours.