DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Special Cousin

Here is a picture of my lovely thoughtful cousin Jennifer on her fiftieth birthday. Every Christmas she sends me a wonderful box of goodies. From her Italian heritage cakes and sweets are included. (I love the pantelone cake) There are also a few samples of her home made Jam. One's I never thought to make. Pictures of extended family members are usually there with some note so I know who is who. This year a book of short stories was included. How I love a book.

Jennifer is actually my second cousin. Her mother is my oldest cousin. She died a few years ago. I had gotten to know her better during my years in New Haven as she lived upstate a little and we visited sharing family stories and gossip. It was always important to me to maintain contact with my American cousins.

When Jane died, Jennifer picked up the mantle and accepted my proposition that we keep in touch. She has never let me down. Often with affection and concern she has reached out to me. Her role in life seems to be sustainer of family. She fills this role not only for me but also for her sister, brother and father. Her mother, Jane, was very fond of my father and showed a real concern for him over the years particularly after my mother died. It appears Jennifer is doing this for me. I am most appreciative.

The delights Jennifer sends me at Christmas I often share with neighbours and friends, so much so they too now look for the big box of goodies. One of the delights this year will be sitting and reading from the book she sent, "Collected Stories" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and nibble on the bourgeois delights. I hope reading these stories will motive me to read Marquez best known work, "

Monday, December 19, 2005

In Defense of America

I don't know why I care what happens in the United States, but I do. It probably is because I lived there for a few years, shared fully in their society and developed good friendships, and appreciate the decency of the ordinary American people. I also have been interested in American history, politics and literature where I accepted much of the American myth of itself, as a special country (under God), where freedom and rights exist and are defended and where the stranger is taken in, embraced and given an opportunity to share in the American Dream.

None of this is reflected by the Bush Administration. They represent something I do not recognize as worthy of America. I believed that this government will pass and the damage done around the World and within the fabric of the United States will be repaired. I am becoming less sure of this. The bulwark against government abuse was always the Constitution, The situation in the United States now has gotten so bad that the Bush Administration, just ignores the Constitution with impunity.

Here I am quoting the Constitution to remind us all of its great vision,

The Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized. '

My French may be pretty shaky but my English is very good. I understand what these wonderful words are expressing. The hubris of George Bush unapologetically defending his administrations ignoring this limit on power is tragedy that leaves on awe struck. I used to given him the shadow of a doubt and just think he was a stupid man who managed to go to Yale and not get an education (his claim that he did not remember anti-Vietnam War activity at Yale back then just an indication of what a drunk frat boy he must have been. I was in NewHaven and protest was daily.) He must now be seen as evil along with the fascist cabal he has tossed his lot in with.

When I lived in the United States, I along with many others, had our telephones illegally wire tapped by an overzealous local police department in New Haven. At the time James Ahearn, the police chief was celebrated at America's top cop. His violation of people rights were found out.
Nine hundred of us (those willing to have their names made public) sued the City of New Haven and Chief Ahearn personally. We won and got a financial settlement from both.

I mention this only to say back then, we expected to win. We believed in the Constitution would protect us, even me (a foreign national, a resident alien). By todays standard, our case is a trivial historic footnote except as a lesson that one must always be vigilant in defense of ones rights and freedom. Who do you sue and hold to the test of the Constitution when the Federal government, which is sworn to defend the Constitution, and controls a military to do that? Impeachment is the last line of defense, but Bush may not even honour that.

The worlds leading rogue state and largest owner and user of weapons of mass destruction claims to be conducting a war on terror. Apparently, American citizens are included as targets of concern, damn any rights they may think they have.

In the words of the great American sage, Charlie Brown: "We have met the enemy and he is Us!"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

And Still We Wait

Over a week has passed since the deadline for the Christian Peacemakers in Iraq, has past.
The four including, a Briton, Norman Kemper; an American, Tom Fox; and two Canadians; Jim Loney and Singh Sooden, were to be killed last week if the kidnappers impossible demands were made.

There is nothing but silence. . . painful silence, . . . . .hopefull silence,. . . . .agonizing silence,. . . .life stopping silence which has more than the lives of these four men held in suspension!

The item has virtually dropped from the news. The world has moved on except, of course, for the families in agony over worry for their loved ones; and, small groups of supporters among the peacemaker community and the home towns.

Here is Northern Ontario their is a small daily news comment about the Loney family in Sault Ste. Marie, gathered together for support and prayer for their beloved son and brother Jim.

By all accounts Jim is a gentle, kind, compassionate man who unflinchingly has lived his faith since being challenged to do so rather than complain, year ago. The family is comforted by their faith and a knowledge that Jim would be compassionate toward his kidnappers until this cruelty is ended.

I hear on this morning's radio that the Peacemakers want people to contact President Bush to make a public commitment to a firm date for withdrawing troups and ending the illegal occupation. These people certainly have more faith than I do.

For me, it seems important just to remember at this time of year these four people witnessing to the power of their faith. One can only hope that they will be rewarded with an act of Grace and compassion.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In the conservative Mennonite and Amish groups,
the older siblings carry out much of the child
minding. I find it curious that I see very little friction
between the older and younger kids. These young
girls seem not to mind in the least “schlepping” their
younger sisters along to go skating. The traditional
rural approach to family is one that seems built on
common sense and real concern

As I drive through the country, I sometimes am
able to locate rural activity by stopping and just
listening. The soft babble of these girls punctuated
with sharp cries alerted me to some activity just
over the bank. In the country where there is little
traffic noise, the wind carries so much information.
These Amish girls create their fun. The colourful
clothes tell us that these young ladies are from the
horse and buggy group. Their bright skates indicate
that perhaps their rules have been relaxed to allow
such fancy gear

This Mennonite farm stands west of Wallenstein.
There can be very few Canadians that can not
identify with the children playing with their
toboggans on this farm hill. The liveliness of the kids
seems echoed by the bright colours of the red and
green barn. I find the foil of the cool pale snow just
right against the warmth of the sleds, the kids
and the farmstead

Rural Fun in Amish Country

The above paintings are by the Waterloo, Ontario artist Peter Etril Snyder who has recorded on canvas the life of rural Waterloo County the home of many Mennonite farm families. He is from a Mennonite family himself and shows great sensitivity and insight into their lives. I have included under the pictures his comments on his website. I love his painting as a spent my early University life near this community and daily saw glimpse of this traditional rural life.

I just read that at the new shopping centre in the town of Waterloo, they included a sheltered portion in their parking area for horses and buggys. The traditional Amish and Mennonite life persists alongside of our modern urban existence. Somehow I find this reassuring. The life of the Amish, with their simpler, self-reliant, family- centered lifestyle is a witness to the possibility of a simpler less commodity driven life style for ourselves.

It is good to know that children in the country are still making their own simple fun on the Winter landscape without making demands to be driven to the nearest sports complex to skate or slide.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel

Speaking More Than One Language

This morning I read in the Washington Post that a school suspended a student for speaking Spanish in school!!! Spanish At School Translates to Suspension It made me wonder at the qualification of the educators in the school. Having an education is not the same as being well educated! What a narrow view of the world to punish a student for speaking something other than American English. (In my home, we were discouraged from speaking American English when the Queen's English was so superior).

This little incident in a school in the US heartland wanted me to ask the Dr. Phil question, "What are you thinking?" Children should be encouraged to speak a second, or more, language. Are there school systems so threatened by the use of a second language that they must punish a student for speaking Spanish?

This is symtomatic of one more of the distinctions between Canada and the US, which have fascinated me through my adult life. In the US there is resistance to bilingualism and in Canada we have embraced it. The US is where like what Canada was years ago when French was prohibited as a language of instruction in the schools, except in Quebec, which was guaranteed the right to use French by the British North American Act. In those days, when Canada was a narrow colonial country which shared Empirial British arrogance, there was a government policy of cultural genocide against our First Nations people. We forbade the use of native language among children in residential schools. Under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau, Canada adopted official bilingualism and multiculturalism across the country. This has transformed Canada into a more cosmopolitan society, "a vertical mosaic", rich with the contributions of culture and languages reflecting the Global Village.

In contrast, the US, promotes American culture which is English speaking. The American "melting pot" for generations has subsumed and absorbed other cultures. Immigrant often willinging abandonned their heritage because, "they want to become American". Such has been the ideology.

There is a new reality in the US, with which they have not come to terms. There has been a massive demographic change with the large influx of Spanish speakers. It seem they are reluctant to abandon their language. It may be because of their large numbers (There are now more Hispanic Americans than Black Americans), or the fact that they see large parts of the US as an extension of Latin America. (As it once was). In short, The US is rapidly become a bilingual country. There are signs of resistence, with States passing laws making English the sole official language. And publically funded bilingual education is resisted. This issue will become very difficult for the US in the future. I don't believe the Hispanic population is going to be stripped of its language as were of the French Canadians, when the came to the US to work in the mills in New England.

The US would do well to come and study Canada's approach to language. In would be better if they embraced bilingualism rather than resist it. In fact, they should celebrate it. In our world today the ability to speak a second language is a great advantage for those who wish to travel or work internationally in our increasingly shrinking world.

I fear many Americans accept God's judgement in the story of the tower of Babel:

And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." Genesis 11: 5-9

This view need not be see as the way things should be but a challenge to overcome.

It is a great disappointment to me that I have never mastered French in spite of 8 years for formal schooling to learn French and for the last 25 years living in a part of Ontario with large numbers of French speakers. I should have taken the advice offered me. "To learn French get a French girl friend? " I am pleased my three grandchildren attend a French speaking school. They are in fact, bilingual. This is a great advantage for a Canadian and for a citizen of the World. Their lives will be

enriched by being able to more fully participate in two culture.

Americans and Canadians would do well to be studying a third language. In fact, there is a private school movement in Quebec, to have trilingual education:English, French, Spanish. It is the French Canadians who are leading this effort.

In truth, the languages Americans and Canadians should be learning are Arabic and Chinese. Chinese is now the third most spoken language in Canada. We now have a large Chinese urban population and Vancouver has become a Pacific Rim Asian city . China is becoming the most dominant economic country in the World.

While Canada is officially bilingual we have parts of the country that use more languages daily. Nunavut, our vast new territory uses four languages: English, French, Inuktituk and Inuinnaqtun. In the North West Territory they function with 8 official languages, (You can get government service in any one of them) , Chipewayan, Cree, Dogrib, English, French, Gwich'n, Inuktituk (including Inuinnqtun), and Slavey. There are ways to accomadate many languages in a Society and still be One country.

Whatever would possess a school from preventing a student from speaking a second language, I do not care to know. I, personally, would not want a child enrolled in such a school. There is something dreadfully wrong for a school to be threatened by an other language rather than see it as an opportunity to learn and share another culture in it midst.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Advent Wreath and the Holidays

This past Sunday was the beginning of Advent. It is a time of hope and expectation for Christians in preparation for the the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child. We are in the Holy Days for Christians.

The most visible witness to Christianity these days are the outrage of the religious right in the US (and to some extent in Canada) is the use of "holiday" rather than Christmas with regard to the season. What patent nonsense and is a witness to the shallowness and arrogance of what passes for this public voice of Christianity.

There is nothing wrong with embracing the notion of holidays (holy days). It certainly isn't worth getting all puffed up about and bursting into a rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers" to fight this insult and reclaim the Nation and Christmas for Christians.

This should be a season of humility and quiet personal preparation for the hope of the coming of the Messiah. Rather than squabbling over the use of words by public officials, the World calls out for hope and witness to better times for humanity. Let us hear from all Christians hope and prayers for the Christian Peacekeepers held captive in Iraq and their powerful witness of a faith more powerful that most of us care to respond.

There are countess less dramatic opportunities to witness to the hope and promise of Christianity. Look around! for Christ sake. Our World is suffering. Our Communities are suffering. Our neighbourhoods are suffering. There are members of our families who are hurting. Our very souls mays be pained. There is much to do on many levels to revive hope and prepare for the promise that Christianity holds out for mankind.

Certainly, those who claim to be public spokesmen for Christianity and those who flaunt their faith to justify all kinds of evils should spend some time in prayer and fasting to examine the state of their own being in this season of Advent.

At the time of posting this, we still wait for an act of Grace. The deadline has past for the threatened death of the four Christian Peacekeepers in Iraq. No word, . . . .but hope they are still alive and will be released.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Company From the South

With Christmas coming and expecting company from the South (No that is not Southern Ontario, it is the real south, Florida) I am refreshing my knowledge of southern cooking. It seems, for some the cold and snow and woodsmoke of the North Wood holds some romantic images. They may looked at too many Christmas cards. After feeding my guest some moose meat, poutine and beaver tails, they may want some down home cooking. Oops! wrong beaver tails

In a search for 1001 ways to prepare grits and cornmeal I found these intersting Ten Commandments.


The Ten Commandments of Grits

1. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
2. Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon
3. Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits for this is blasphemy
4. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors
5. Thou shalt only use Salt, Butter and Cheese as toppings for thy Grits
6. Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits!
7. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy
8. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
9. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
10. Thou shalt not put sugar on thy Grits either .

I can hardly wait for fried ham and grits with red gravy for breakfast. My memory of grits is they are even worst than poutine. Maybe the red gravy makes all the difference. . . . .old coffee on the grits. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It is not Pretty but it is Justice

The post release restrictions placed on Karla Homolka have been lifted by the Quebec court . The Globe and Mail: Judge strikes down restraints imposed on Homolka's liberty On October 27, I wrote a blog entry on these restrictions on Homolka's release from prison after serving her full sentence for multiple murders. She is no doubt Canada's most notorious killer who along with her husband Paul Bernardo killed three girls including her own sister after repeatingly sexually abusing them. It was a crime almost too depraved to read about.

Karla was psychologically and physically abused by her husband. By some she has been protrayed as a victim, by others a willing participant in unspeakable crimes. No doubt this will be an endless debate.

Those who believe her to be dangerous, or at least had bowed to public pressure, tried to have restrictions placed on her after completing her sentence. There is plenty of evidence that she is not a threat to society and has done a great deal to rehabilitate herself. On the basis of this; and, the fact that a case against her was not made, the judge removed all restriction.

People may not like this but it is justice . Justice is not always pretty. She finished her complete sentence without the usual benefit of time off for good behaviour. In effect she served the time of a much longer sentence. Karla has been released as a free citizen having met her obligations to the court and all of us.

A free society cannot tolerate laws that have people continually punished after they have completed their sentence. We also cannot tolerate a legal system that can punish people for what they MIGHT do rather than for what they DO DO. All our freedom is at risk under such a system.

We have seen this system used before in some different circumstance: the Internment of Japanese Candian, the forced sterilization of the mentally handicapped, the LSD CIA experiment on mental patient and the forcing of native children into residential school. All of this for the betterment, security etc of the Society. It invariably resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Currently, there are five inmates held under security certificates, indefinitely and without charges being laid. This mirroring of the American imprisoning of 'enemy combatants' is outrageous and unacceptable. If such preemptive imprisonment is allowed all of us are at risk of having our freedom denied. This is a far greater risk that any particular indivuduals release into the community.

Karla is free to live among us all. We must do all we can to not set her up to fail and wish her well to someday be worthy of the our trust by making a responsible contribution to society. Those who want to continue to punish her need to accept the justice as metted out and move.