Why don't people take intent into consideration before they react? I highly doubt that small children and preschool instructors are thinking to themselves, "I really hope I offend some deaf people with the hand gestures to this song. Muahahahahahahaaaaa!"
December 19, 2011
Why don't people take intent into consideration before they react? I highly doubt that small children and preschool instructors are thinking to themselves, "I really hope I offend some deaf people with the hand gestures to this song. Muahahahahahahaaaaa!"
December 07, 2011
October 09, 2011
Drink your milk. Fill your tummy with warm, sweet milk. Drink until you're completely satisfied, totally comfortable, utterly content. Drink until you peacefully drift off to sleep in Mommy's loving arms. Once you're fast asleep, deep in dreamland, Mommy will ever so gently lay you down in your crib. That's your safe, secure space, no one else's. There you can sleep soundly through the night and well into the morn, knowing that Mommy and Daddy are always right nearby if there's anything you need, whether it's a smile, a kiss, a hug, a cuddle, some milk... Whatever you need, Mommy and Daddy will be there to give it to you.
Mommy and Daddy waited so long for you. When we found out, after about two years, that you were growing in Mommy's tummy, we were thrilled -- just delighted! -- to know that we were finally going to meet our Baby Kai. We were finally going to be able to hold you, to gaze at you, to listen to you, to make you smile and laugh. We were finally going to be able to feed you, to change you, to cradle you and comfort you. Mommy took such good care of herself while you were in her tummy so that you would be a healthy baby -- and it worked! Mommy and Daddy continue to take excellent care of you. We give you wholesome milk, nutritious food, playtime and nap time, silly time and quiet time, development time and cuddle time, bath time and story time, and lots and lots of love.
You are the best thing that ever happened to us. The best thing that ever happened to us. You are our beautiful boy, the heart of our ohana (family), our dearest keiki (child), our beloved son, our sweet little honu. We love you with all our hearts, and we will love you forever and always. Forever and always.
It's not just Mommy and Daddy who love you. [Here I recite a long list of people, both family and friends, who love Kai.] All of these people want what's best for you. They want you to be well protected, well cared for. They want you to have plenty of opportunity for fun and exploration and adventure -- but in a safe way, because no one wants anything bad to happen to Baby Kai. As much as all of these people love you -- and they love you very much -- no one could love you more than Mommy and Daddy. You mean more to us than anything else in the universe. More than anything else in the universe. We want you to be happy and healthy and safe. Happy and healthy and safe. It would also be wonderful if you could be a good person: someone compassionate and caring, considerate and kind; someone who would never hurt others and who might even defend others against harm. But because we're your mommy and daddy, above all else we want you to be happy and healthy and safe.
So drink your milk. Fill your tummy with warm, sweet milk. Drink until you're completely satisfied, totally comfortable, utterly content. Drink until you peacefully drift off to sleep in Mommy's loving arms...
Between the warm milk and the sheer boredom of listening to Mommy drone on and on, Kai usually falls asleep before I have to start the speech over again. And if he doesn't, I usually fall asleep myself. I have to say that it's a pretty nice way to drift off to dreamland.
September 14, 2011
On Friday, Kai turned one year old. I am shocked that a year has passed, amazed and relieved that we survived it. Over the weekend we celebrated with not one but two parties, one mainly for our friends and family here in the city, and another one out of town mostly for Scott's country-dwelling relatives.
In Hawaiian culture, a child's first birthday is celebrated more than his or her birth. This originates from their formerly very high infant mortality rate; making it to a year old was a big deal. In my case, reaching this milestone with Kai is a real accomplishment due to my PPD. Kai may not be Hawaiian, but his first birthday merits a celebration of Hawaiian proportions, so we decided to add a touch of tropical flavour to his first party.
Since Kai is our sweet little honu (sea turtle), Scott and I collaborated on a tiny turtle-shaped cake. (The cake itself was heart shaped; Scott then sculpted the turtle features in icing. Lots and lots of icing.) This was Kai's first taste of refined sugar. What a mess and what a blast!
Some of my earliest days as a mother seemed interminable. In a stark contrast to that period of time, the past six months have flown past. As my baby becomes a toddler, I wanted to make note of some of the things I have learned and experienced since his birth.
I love it when I place my sleeping baby in his crib and he immediately rolls onto his front, puts his hands beneath his tummy, tucks in his knees and sticks his bottom up in the air, still fast asleep.
When I stop rushing through my day and take a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to have Kai, I feel a surge of love for him that is stronger than words can adequately express.
Above all else, I want Kai to be happy, healthy and safe. Secondly, I would love it if he were compassionate, caring and kind. Thirdly, I just really hope that he's not obnoxious.
When I make a decision as a parent and it works out, I feel strong and proud and wise. When I make a decision that doesn't work out so well, I wonder if I will ever stop second-guessing myself.
I learned that babies do not always smell nice. I won't post a photo to illustrate this.
If Kai is not with me, I miss him with a tangible tug in my belly when I think of him -- even if he's just sleeping upstairs in his crib.
This year certainly took its toll on me, but I can say this without a doubt: Kai is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
We've come a long way, Baby Kai, and we've got a long, exciting way to go.
August 27, 2011
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011
July 27, 2011
My post-baby body is not as upsetting to me as the fact that I am about to stop lactating. Kai weaned himself several weeks ago. I dealt with it. I was still able to provide him with a bit of breast milk through daily pumping. That is no longer the case. I have been trying unsuccessfully to pinpoint precisely what it is about this that makes me sad.
I have a feeling that this is only the first of many small maternal heartbreaks. Earlier today Kai pulled himself to his feet without assistance for the first time. One of these days he will take his first steps. As any parent knows, it is bittersweet watching one's child moving toward independence. The drying up of my milk, however, is all bitter and no sweet.
July 02, 2011
Happy Pride, everyone. We should ALL be proud of who we are (except for self-righteous douchebags who believe in different rights for different people -- you should be ashamed of yourselves).
June 30, 2011
Joe was thorough, he gave me pointers and he gave me confidence. He advised me to book my road test at a particular examination centre rather than the one that I had been planning to use, which had a tricky test route and ruthless examiners. Joe also gave me an outline of the two possible test routes. I took his advice and scheduled my test at the centre he recommended.
With Scott having the car for 12 hours a day and me being busy with Kai's dinner and bedtime routine every evening, I did not have much opportunity to drive. Two days prior to my exam I decided to practice driving on one of the test routes. I ended up getting lost. I nervously swerved around the highway for a while, undoubtedly frightening the drivers around me, until I gave up and found my way home, dejected. The following evening, the night before my road test, I did a fairly decent drive along the route. My confidence was returning.
On my way home I noticed a police cruiser up ahead with someone pulled over. For a law-abiding citizen, I have an odd reaction when I see a police officer: I feel guilty and I panic. This is inconvenient when I'm driving. I tightened my grip on the wheel and forced myself to look past the cruiser. Waaaay past. As I drove southbound through an intersection, studiously averting my eyes from the police car, I wondered what all of the northbound traffic was waiting for. By the time I realized that I was running a red light it was too late. I drove on, breaking out in a sweat and waiting to hear sirens, wondering how I could safely cut across three lanes of traffic to the right when the cops pulled me over. To my surprise, there were no sirens, no cruiser lights. Nary a honk, in fact. I'm sure that there were some astonished drivers shaking their heads at my apparent audacity or oblivion, whichever they believed it to be. Somehow I avoided both a collision and getting caught. That being said, I drove home with my hands shaking and my eyes nervously checking the rearview mirror every few seconds. I pulled into the driveway front-first (no time to fuss around with backing in) and ran into the house, telling Scott that he'd best get the car into the garage before the fuzz spotted it.
It was with these recent experiences under my belt that I drove to the exam centre the following morning. Scott had taken the day off work so that I could have the car, since there's no suitable public transit to the town where he works. As he is seldom a calming or encouraging presence when I drive, I chose to leave him at home. I won't go into the details of my 30-minute road test except to note that the examiner pointed out my mistakes in painstaking detail as I drove. When we returned to the exam centre he hastily instructed me to pull front-first into the nearest parking spot. I had been anticipating being asked to reverse into a spot and wasn't at all in the proper position to drive into one. He seemed eager to get it over with, however, so I did as I was told, ending up pretty much like this:
The examiner tallied my errors and put a check mark in the box next to "Fail." Then he muttered, "Oops, what am I doing," and scratched out the check mark, placing a big fat X in the box next to "Pass." He told me he was concerned about my habit of braking whenever I changed lanes. I told him that yes, it was a problem, but that it beat the heck out of my old habit of braking hard and trying to change lanes at a right angle. He did not seem comforted. Nevertheless, my friends, I passed! It took me bloody long enough, but I finally got my driver's license. I drove home from the exam centre, giddy with delight, and I haven't driven since. I may be licensed, and I may in fact be a more conscientious driver than many people (red-light running notwithstanding), but I'm not convinced that I have any business operating a motor vehicle. That's fine by me and fine by a large number of drivers and pedestrians out there, I'm sure.
June 13, 2011
Sadly, early one morning last week I found the male cat dead on the sidewalk, possibly having been hit by a car. The city's animal services department had not yet opened for the day, so I donned rubber gloves and carried the box from my new microwave, an old towel and a couple of plastic bags over to the scene of the cat's demise. Normally I don't touch roadkill, I swear, but I didn't want any of the neighbourhood kids to have to see (or step over) the cat on their way to the school up the street. I crouched down and steeled myself to pick up the body, thinking that I would slide my gloved, bagged hands beneath it and gently scoop it into the towel-lined box. The thought of accidentally cradling the corpse against my torso made me change my mind. With a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, I picked the cat up by the tail and dropped it into the box without looking at it too closely.
[Here I would insert that popular photo of a large sign reading "Free cat" indicating a dead cat on the road, but some might find it distasteful so I am merely including this link to the picture.]
I carried the box back to my yard. There I stood, wearing rubber gloves and holding a box of dead cat, wondering what to do next. It was early in the morning but already the sun was beating down and the humidity was creeping up. I tried to stuff the box under the little bench in my front yard but it would not fit. There was nothing to do but to leave it in the sunshine, which is normally where cats like to lie anyway.
I called the animal services department as soon as it opened at eight o'clock. A woman assured me that a crew would pick up the cat-in-the-box whenever they next happened to be in the area. I spent the rest of the day periodically peeking out my front window at the box. By ten o'clock I was wondering how it smelled out there. By noon I was growing impatient. I felt bad for my letter carrier and hoped that curiosity wouldn't get the better of him. By mid-afternoon I was pretty sure that I could see cartoon stink waves rising from the box. I decided that I wasn't going to open the front door for any reason less urgent than the house catching fire. I busied myself doing everything I could to avoid setting the house on fire while continually checking to see if the damn box was still there. It was. It was. It was. And then, finally, at five o'clock, it wasn't. Hallelujah. Either the folks from animal services had come by or there was a thief out there who was going to be mighty disappointed when he got home and discovered that what he had stolen from my yard was not, in fact, a microwave oven.
That reminds me of another cat-and-cardboard-box-related story. My brother once dumped his cats' dirty litter into the box from his new BBQ. As cat owners know, used litter is quite heavy. Wouldn't you know it, some misguided loser stole the weighty box from in front of my brother's house. This happened years ago but thinking about it still makes me smile.
June 08, 2011
While there is a great deal of stigma about depression, as there is with any mental illness, I have never had much difficulty telling people that I suffer from it. My rationale is that the stigma will fade as more people who come across as "normal" reveal that they are sufferers. Admittedly, I may be doing other depressed people a disservice, since I most likely grossly overestimate how normal I appear. My eccentricities are just part of who I am and not a manifestation of mental illness, but try telling that to the man in the food court to whom I turned and proudly sang, "Tadaaaaaaa!" with a flourish after successfully emptying the contents of my tray into the trash. I thought it was my friend standing next to me, you see, but she had wandered off. Anyway, where was I? Right, depression. I am able to divulge that I suffer from it, but describing it is a completely different matter.
I was first diagnosed over ten years over ago. I suspect that I have actually been experiencing periods of depression since my teens. What is different now is how it has affected more than just my mood. Depression robs me of the ability to concentrate. Whereas I once was über organized, nowadays I rarely leave the house without forgetting something important. I used to read voraciously, but it has been ages since I have found myself truly absorbed in a book. I can't focus on my to-do list sufficiently to get anything to-done. That is a far cry from the girl who kept colour-coded task lists and loved vigorously crossing items out as they were completed. There are papers and photos and flyers strewn about on every flat surface in my home, which is quite a departure for someone who was known for neatly arranging the few items on her desk parallel or perpendicular to each other; the old me wouldn't tolerate any zany 45 degree angles, no way. (Heck, maybe my depression cured an undiagnosed case of OCD.)
Again, where was I? Oh, right, I was talking about depression ruining my ability to focus. Case in point: I began writing this post a couple of weeks ago. You might be thinking, "It's understandable. You're busy looking after your baby," but that's the pathetic part: I'm not. Kai is in someone else's care during the day and I have many hours to myself. I waste those hours. From the moment I say good-bye to Kai in the morning to the time I leave to pick him up, I am at loose ends. Other moms might speculate that I am just exhibiting the typical absent-mindedness of new mothers, but my uncharacteristic flightiness and forgetfulness predates my pregnancy.
What was new about my most recent bout with depression was its intensity and pervasiveness. It was not your garden-variety depression. It was post-partum depression (PPD), and it is by far the most painful experience I have ever endured. Yes, including labour. Between the sleep deprivation and the depression, I was unable to cope. Several months ago I found someone in the area to babysit for four hours every morning to give me a chance to catch up on sleep. When that person, a mom herself, realized that she had to return to her full-time job, she and I decided to pool our funds for childcare. Her one-year-old daughter and Kai now share an attentive, loving nanny, something Scott and I would never have been able to afford on our own. I feel tremendously guilty that I am not spending more of my maternity leave being, well, maternal, but for the sake of my sanity I needed to arrange childcare. Scott works out of town and he is often gone for 11 or 12 hours a day, sometimes longer. That was far too long for me to cope with Kai on my own back when he was prone to lengthy crying jags. Frankly, I was terrified of being left alone with him, not because I thought I would hurt him but because I simply didn't know how to manage. PPD does not infuse one with confidence.
I can handle things better now. I have gained confidence as a mother and I have finally tapped into my maternal instinct. Kai is no longer colicky, he sleeps fairly well at night and he is able to amuse himself for short periods of time. That all being said, I feel as though going through PPD has left me with another dreadful acronym: PTSD. I am realizing as I type this why I am having such a difficult time putting the PPD experience into words: I am afraid that delving into the details rather than speaking in generalities will cause me to relive it. I can't risk that, not when it is still nipping at my heels, not when the cry of a young infant still triggers panic. I will sum it up thusly: It was total hell.
The contrast between the lowest lows and the overwhelming love I was developing for Kai made me feel as though I were being drawn and quartered. I felt trapped. I thought my life was over. I wanted my life to be over. It sounds so silly and melodramatic, but there was nothing silly about it; at times I truly wanted to die to escape the pain.
I had a tremendous amount of help, as I've written about previously, but I still required a long time to begin to recover. I attended a group for PPD sufferers, my doctor increased my dosage of antidepressants, family and friends provided both practical and emotional support. I can't express how thankful I am, as I don't believe I could have survived otherwise.
I also had to do a lot of work myself. Like my other muscles, my brain does not get much exercise, I'm afraid, so I had to put in a great deal of effort to change my perspective. One day I was sitting on the edge of my bed, holding Kai to keep him from fussing, feeling crushed by the weight of overwhelming responsibility. Suddenly it dawned on me that Kai would someday be wriggling out of my grasp rather than wailing for me to pick him up. I realized that I would miss this someday. That was a turning point for me. That was when I began to understand that the saying "This too shall pass" was very true, and that I was missing out on enjoying what might later feel like an all-too-brief period in Kai's life. I began to remind myself of this whenever I felt the pull of the downward spiral again.
Remaining positive has not been an easy task, and I have faltered on many occasions. I know that fresh air and exercise would lift my spirits. As someone whose nature tends toward the hermitical, however, going to pick up Kai is usually the only time I venture outside. One route home from the sitter's house includes a walk through the local cemetery. During the winter this was often the only road that was cleared of snow, and since my neighbourhood is hilly it was the safest path on which to take Kai in his stroller. As beautiful and serene as the cemetery is, I struggled to avoid being further depressed by the headstones. The epitaphs of married couples depressed me, as did my contemplation of the presumably lonely years between one spouse and the other dying. Freshly dug graves depressed me. So did gravestones that had sunk into the ground so that only a corner was visible. Perhaps worst of all was the small section of the cemetery just by the entrance closest to my house: the children's section. Of course I had always found it sad, but now that I was a mom the sight of those tiny plots was almost unbearably heartbreaking.
Finally, as spring approached, I found a reason to look up. The cemetery is home to dozens of species of trees. Gazing at the newly budding branches was far more uplifting than reading headstones and staring at newly turned earth. Outside the cemetery it was the same: looking up lifted my spirits, while looking down discouraged me. With the winter snow gone the ground was littered with old dog crap and trash, but if I looked up I would see clouds and birds instead.
Now I regularly remind myself to look up, not down, even though I'm prone to tripping if I don't watch my step. I hope to encourage others to do the same thing. You can't pull yourself out of depression with positive thinking alone, but you can't recover from it at all without thinking positively. You also can't recover all on your own. Depression is an illness, not a state of mind. Asking for help or sharing your story should not involve a sense of shame.
May 05, 2011
Oh don't worry. I'm not going there, although I am definitely venturing into TMI territory.
Scott told me after only two weeks of dating that he wanted kids. Call me overly cautious, but I like to know a guy for a little while before producing offspring with him. Thankfully Scott didn't mean that he wanted children within the next nine months. Although I was already 30, I needed to take some time to think about it. I took half a decade.
Never having particularly enjoyed the company of children, it was with a sense of reckless abandon that I parted ways with birth control a few years ago. My relationship with Scott was sound enough by this time. My ovaries, apparently, were not so sound. One year passed. Another year passed. Scott and I were giving it the ol' college try. I took my temperature regularly, I kept charts faithfully, I peed on sticks hopefully. Nothing.
I began to accept the notion that we were not going to conceive. My family doctor suggested fertility exploration so nonchalantly that the idea entered my mind as something everyday and ordinary rather than as a huge, life-altering decision. Scott and I thought it was worth a try. Our first appointment led us to ask ourselves if we could trust a specialist -- a supposed fertility expert -- who said "sperms" and "tummy" when discussing pregnancy. We decided to give him a chance.
Scott filled a plastic container with swimmers and took it to a lab. He had little to say about the experience other than to complain about the cost of parking for a two-minute drop-off. I remember very little about my first solo appointment at the fertility clinic aside from the fact that the doctor went on and on about how much better she felt now that she had coffee, as I lay on the examination table with the requisite litre of water in my bladder awaiting a very uncomfortable ultrasound. Several minutes later I considered bitch-slapping her when she poked my chubby belly and remarked that "in cases like this" it was often better if the patient did not drink so much water before the procedure. The experience wasn't all bad. I do recall stifling a chuckle when the evidently new-to-English ultrasound technician pronounced "vagina" the way Borat would. Offensive sound bite:
Scott's lab test revealed that he had "supersperm" (his words, not the lab's). Evidently the problem was with me. Another appointment, another unpleasant and invasive test, and finally it was determined that I had polycystic ovaries. (My ova tended to form very small cysts in the ovary rather than maturing and being released like good little eggs should do.) I agreed to try a medication, although I wasn't thrilled about the possible side-effects. When it began affecting my vision, I stopped taking it. The specialist then prescribed a different medication, one normally used to treat diabetes but also accepted as a treatment for polycystic ovaries. It may or may not have helped. I credit my friend Libby for enlightening me about the true signs of ovulation; she lent me a book that drastically changed the look of my bedside charts. She also gave me a tube of, well, never mind. I won't go into further detail. You're welcome.
At long last, shortly before Christmas of 2009, peeing on a stick resulted in this:
(I didn't know about the brand of pregnancy test that shows a happy face to indicate a positive result, otherwise I would have bought it for kicks.)
I'm really hoping that my mother isn't skimming over this post, seeing the photo above and thinking that Kai is about to have a sibling. Kai is going to remain an only child. I will reserve the tale of my post-partum depression for another post, but suffice it to say that "Out of order" would be an appropriate title for that one, too.
The good news is, Kai is thriving and I'm feeling MUCH better now.
April 29, 2011
Please excuse Scott's belch and my snort. Poor Kai. Only seven months old and his parents are already proving to be humiliating.
April 08, 2011
Allow me to share the thoughts of someone far more articulate on these matters than I am.
In thinking about what I could do to try to help make a positive difference during this important election, I decided that I could at least communicate my concerns. I hope that you will bear with me in considering my observations as noted below. Feel free to share this with others if you so wish.
Unlike many Canadians (apparently), I believe that this election is very necessary, and critical to the future of our country. The Conservatives claim that they offer leadership and stability. I think it is essential to ask in what direction the leadership wishes to take us, and what principles will guide them in making important decisions on our behalf. In my view the record of the minority Conservative government speaks loudly and clearly that they operate on the basis of principles that are undemocratic and deleterious to the health of our collective society. They also claim fiscal responsibility, which I find ludicrous in the light of their record of turning large surpluses into massive deficits. I believe that five more years of this kind of “leadership” and “fiscal responsibility” would be disastrous.
With the best of intentions for the future health of our democratic country, Dave.
My problems with the Conservatives under Steven Harper
I respect folks who put themselves forward as candidates to represent us in our federal, provincial, and municipal governments. They are willing to sacrifice a great deal of their time and their personal lives to fulfill their democratic responsibilities. So when a candidate knocks on my door, I would like to be able to engage in an open and honest discussion about the needs of our country and its citizens, and about the priorities for expending our collective resources to meet those needs.
I have observed the actions of our current Conservative minority government and I am so disillusioned that I fear I will be unable to be rational when speaking to a Conservative candidate. Thus, I have recorded my difficulties with the current federal government and I plan to hand a copy of the following to our local candidate when he appears at my door. These notes are not in any particular order of priority. Some are more damaging to the concept of democracy and good government than others. Taken as a whole, the cumulative effect is chilling.
· Contempt of our democratic traditions and procedures – refusing to provide information required by our elected representatives. This has led to the vote of non-confidence, which brought down the “Harper Government”, and resulted in this very necessary election.
· Deliberately misleading Canadians whose understanding of civics is sorely lacking – e.g., calling a coalition undemocratic.
· Twisting the truth – claiming that cancellation of the long form census was endorsed by Statistics Canada (this led to the resignation of the head of Statistics Canada in protest); attempting to deflect blame for cancelling federal support for Kairos (a non-denominational charitable organization supporting good work in the Middle East and elsewhere), and then denying responsibility in testimony before a Parliamentary Committee.
· Demonstrating unbridled arrogance – calling our Government of Canada the Harper Government, and using the term on official government documents.
· Accusing the opposition of employing the very deplorable tactics that they themselves use, under the proposition that the best defence is a good offense, and if you are the first accuser people will believe you over the opposition. It’s a defensive tactic that I find very offensive.
· Engaging in character assassination rather than standing for principles - the infamous “attack ads”.
· Using taxpayer money to spread propaganda about their supposed accomplishments – the ubiquitous “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” campaign.
· Punishing civil servants who exercise their responsibilities conscientiously and “speak truth to power” - e.g., the head of the Chalk River Nuclear Reactor who stood up for nuclear safety (doesn’t it seem more important in the light of what has happened in Japan?); attacking the record of Richard Colvin, a conscientious civil servant who told the truth about the Afghan prisoner abuses; firing the Ombudsman for veterans’ affairs who rightly stood up for better treatment of veterans.
· Denying facts that do not support their fixed ideologies – climate change; Afghan prisoner abuse; “tough on crime” agenda in the face of declining crime rates.
· Emphasis on military spending and weaponry, massive spending on prisons, and unnecessary tax cuts for large corporations, as opposed to investment in meeting the needs of ordinary citizens.
· Accusing the opposition of being undemocratic and opportunistic and of playing political games, all behaviours practiced more frequently and more aggressively by the Conservatives.
· Cancelling two of the greatest accomplishments of the previous government, which received the unprecedented support of all ten provinces and all three territories – the National Child Care Plan and the Kelowna Accord.
· Mismanaging the Federal balance sheet – they inherited a $13 billion surplus and turned it into a $56 billion deficit through their ill-advised tax cuts and over spending.
· Holding contempt for international agreements – the Geneva Convention; the Kyoto Accord.
· Using the infamous “ten-percenter” flyers in strategic ridings, twisting the truth to spread innuendo about their opposition, including employing the insinuation that anyone who criticises any action of the state of Israel is anti-Semitic.
· Hiding behind “national security” to suppress information that might be embarrassing to the Conservative Harper Government.
· Disregarding the rights of Canadian citizens abroad, especially of those whose offense is “traveling while Muslim”.
· Ignoring or refusing to honour rulings of the courts.
· So eroding respect for Canada abroad that we were denied a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
· Removing financial support for or interfering with non-profit organizations that take principled stands on matters with which the Conservatives disagree - Kairos, Rights and Democracy.
· Blatantly disregarding the recommendations of the Federal Poverty Reduction Plan produced by an all-party committee of the House of Commons.
· Demonstrating disregard for facts – cancelling the mandatory long form census.
David B. Clemens, April, 2011
March 29, 2011
March 18, 2011
Blogs create a funny sort of relationship. Several of my facebook friends are people I first met through blogging. Some of them have stopped updating their blogs, as I nearly did, but I still keep in touch with them regularly. I sometimes forget that I have never met these fellow bloggers in person. I am closer to them than I am to those facebook friends from high school who weren't actually my friends when we were students. Facebook, too, creates odd relationships.
From time to time I still drop by the long-neglected blogs of people who I never befriended on facebook. I don't know their surnames, their specific locations, or what happened in their lives that led them to abandon their blogs. I keep hoping for a brief post, an "All's well, just busy" or a "Here's a link to my new blog." Instead, I see the same final posts, with no finality in their tone or content. In fact, some speak of new beginnings. One blog's last post features a single wedding photo, another lists a young daughter's first words. My stale comments still follow these posts, and the authors' comments from long ago are still preserved on my blog. It may seem analogous to meeting a friend of a friend, socializing for a while, and eventually losing touch, but there can be far more intimacy in blogging. People share things in blogs that they wouldn't discuss over coffee with a casual acquaintance. Unlike internet dating, where there is pressure to promote only one's best features, bloggers can be raw and open and brave. This allows a deeper connection to grow. In an era characterized by incivility, such a connection is precious. It is for this reason that I continue to visit, every so often, these long-deserted blogs.
Do you see what I mean by "long, rambling post"? One thing I can say concisely: I have met (virtually) a number of terrific people through blogging and I count them as friends in the truest sense of the word.
February 01, 2011
Canucks, your donations are tax deductible. Yankees, your donations will warm the cockles of your hearts. (Incidentally, since I've become a mom, I've discovered that hearts really do have cockles. Kai's smile warms mine all the time. I wish that didn't sound dirty.)