All posts by meanderer007

In the Age of Anger loud Voices Prevail

 

Melissa Martin is a very good writer working for the Winnipeg Free Press.  Talking about Covid-19 and the antivaxxers and anti-mandaters, she said she found “Sadness amid the Madness.”  Why was that?

Specifically, she wrote an interesting piece about a man and woman with a child at one of the innumerable Covid-19 protest rallies in Winnipeg, who held a sign that read, “It’s my choice. Live with it. I will.” These people had gone to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, thinking there was protest rally there. One had been held there a few days earlier and the protesters disrupted health services. Some health workers were afraid to go to work to help others in desperate need. Not just Covid-19 patients either.  Not really the best place for a protest rally. So, organizers, sensing a lack of public support for a rally there, changed the location at the last minute and this man and his wife and young daughter were not aware of it. They were wandering around largely by themselves. Martin said it was sad.  She also said,  “Anti-vax protests point out a tragic societal fracture that seems beyond mending.”

I think she is right because this is no longer a health issue. It has probably never been a health issue. It is a political issue. In fact, it is a theological issue.  People hold anti-vax and anti-mandate views as they hold religious views.  They are held so tightly that no evidence and no reason can change minds anymore. Just like religion.

The family seemed lost and deflated. As Martin said,

“Imagine what led you there. Imagine what vicious rhetoric you’ve consumed that would allow you to see a hospital entrance as an appropriate place to make your stand. Imagine waking up that day ready to protest outside a hospital, only to find your family arriving alone, sign dangling from your hands.”

 

Martin also saw, what I have been seeing—the same type of people appear at anti-vax rallies as showed up at pro-Trump rallies and worse,  at places like the riot on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 6, 2021.  The people at the hospital rally, or the Winkler rally or the Steinbach rally, were not rioters, but they appeared angry. After all, as Pankaj Mishra said, “this is the age of anger.”  People are angry. When they get angry they get mean and nasty. And thoughtfulness flies out the window. Lately, we have seen this in Winkler and Steinbach as I blogged about earlier.

As Martin said,

“It could have been worse. A lot worse. Since the start of the pandemic, one of the animating factors in resistance to public health orders and, now, vaccines has been rage, the same combustible rage that drove far-right protesters to storm the U.S. Capitol in January. It’s driven by many of the same players. It shares the same characteristics.

On Twitter, one woman responded to a video of an Ontarian People’s Party of Canada candidate firing a rifle, and said the candidate should “bring that bad boy to tomorrow’s raid on Toronto General Hospital,” because protesters would “get inside and show the world that COVID is fake.”

They didn’t go into the hospital. Yet while one shouldn’t put too much stock in the hot air a random person spews on Twitter, the naked aggression is alarming, and the threat has precedent. Last year, self-appointed “truth seekers” entered hospitals to “prove” the virus was a hoax; it’s entirely possible it will happen again.”

 

People are so angry that they feel it is legitimate to try to intimidate our over-worked health care workers who have not done anything to impose the mandates on them. They are just ordinary health care workers doing their heroic work to save lives during a pandemic. Anger directed at them is frankly much worse than sad. It is not surprising that some of them revolt. One frustrated hospital worker in a Calgary hospital put up a sign in a window that read, “Go intubate yourself.”

These protesters don’t believe science which they think is a hoax. Yet they believe  government officials are trying to impose health mandates to control us. again I have heard this personally. Others think doctors are hiding real cures like horse de-wormers. Yet as Martin said,

“When the numbers show that hospitals are in crisis and vaccines are both safe and effective, they are dismissed as “manipulated.” Everyone on Facebook anti-vaccine groups knows a guy who knows a guy whose cousin is a nurse and swears ICUs are empty; when ICU nurses speak about what they’ve endured, that information is disregarded.”

 

I know this too as I have been told the same thing. Martin acknowledged that there are reasonable questions about Covid-19. One of my cousins last week told me there is evidence that people who are vaccinated can spread Covid-19 as easily as those who are not vaccinated. If that is true it blows a major hole in the case against mandatory vaccinations. More on that later.  There is room for reasonable discussion. Science is not crystal clear. People are suffering from the restrictions in business and in mental health. But it is very difficult to have reasonable discussions when people harass health care workers. Or shout absurdities.

Martin summed up the problem this way:

“The problem is, none of those concerns can be given a fair hearing, when the loudest voices in opposition are tied up in threatening health-care workers, propagating conspiracy theories and potentially deadly misinformation, and thunderously insisting that the only relevant consideration is “personal choice.”

That’s the thing about a pandemic. It puts light on the error in the main ideological streak underpinning these most aggressive protests: the idea that anyone lives as an island, our choices not affecting others. A pandemic is a virus infecting society as one body; it requires the co-ordinated response of the whole body to fix it.

It’s my choice,” the man’s sign said. “Live with it.” That’s exactly the problem: we already are. What’s sad is, he cannot see it.”

 

As I have been saying, Goya is right, “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” And we have to fight them.

Loathe Thy Neighbour

 

Recently Malak Abas wrote an article reporting that in Winkler, another community like Steinbach, civility is in short supply as shown by residents and businesses being harassed and abused at their places of work for following and enforcing provincial health orders. The headline for the article was a slight poke at the reported Christians in town: “Loathe Thy Neighbour.” It seem like the good citizens of Winkler think that is what the Good Book tells them to do.

 

The Free Press reporters visited Winkler and found that at a dozen businesses none of  implemented provincial wide public health orders that mandated actions to curb an expected fourth wave of Covid-19. The authorities want to avoid what is happening around the world in many places. Manitoban seem to think we can avoid the disasters elsewhere. Maybe because they think we have a direct line to the Big Guy.

What is really disconcerting is that Winkler has the second lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba.  The lowest of course, are in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Stanley. Steinbach and its surrounding Municipality, Hanover, are not far behind.  So far faith in God is not helping much, because Southern Health in which these communities are all located also has the highest rate of Covid-19. As the Free Press reported,  recently, “The province reported 88 new COVID-19 cases Friday; 30 of them — the highest number of any of the five regions — were in Southern Health, where Winkler is located.”

There seems to be a direct link between religious communities and high rates of Covid-19 and low rates of vaccination uptake. I have been exploring in this blog why that might be the case.

According to the Free Press, the vast majority of patrons in the restaurant the reporters visited were unmasked and were not asked to show proof of immunization as Manitoba’s health orders require. It seems, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, no one notices the sick when God is on their side.

Not only that but people in Winkler are getting nasty about their intransigence. As the Free Press reported,

Winkler is taking a break from being in Friendly Manitoba, it seems. “Not all, but some of them are just angry, they take it out on staff members at the store,” police Chief Ryan Hunt said. “We’re just seeing a lot of frustration.”

The Free Press also reported that a woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared a backlash toward her business or her family said,

“she hadn’t asked the Free Press reporter to wear a mask in the store out of a sense of defeat. People who aren’t following the rules in stores often get loud. And even violent. “They’re very negative,” she said. “They yell, they swear, they spit, they refuse to stand behind the plastic shields.”

Things were so bad that one business owner posted this sign on its door: “Kindness is mandatory. Proof of kindness required at front entrance.”

One would have thought Christians did not need such a reminder. One would have thought wrong.

 

Folly on Stilts

The English Philosopher talked about “folly on stilts.”  I have forgotten what he was talking about when he used that expression, but he might have been talking about our current  Member of Parliament.

The Member of Parliament for the federal riding in which I live is Ted Falk. Recently, He got into trouble during an interview with our local newspaper the Carillon News when he claimed that according to a Public Health England Study of 130,000 people that, “you were 13 times more likely to die from the Delta variant if you were double vaccinated, then if you were unvaccinated.” Later he said that he came up with this statement when he was doing “his own research” into Covid-19. Doing their own research is of course what the anti-vaxxers keep saying we should all be doing. That sounds good, but it is actually tricky if you have no background in science. In fact, Falk showed exactly why it is a problem. It’s difficult. It is really beyond most mediocre minds, like mine,  without great effort.

It seems to me that Mr. Falk ought to have been alerted to a problem with his research when he encountered such a far-fetched position. 13 times more likely to die? What could be more dubious than that?

In times of emergencies what we all need, particularly from our leaders, is critical intelligence. Thinking. Clear thinking. Not credulity. Our leader proved himself incapable to that.

Tom Denton, an opinion writer for the Winnipeg Free Press said we need common sense. That is not quite right. John Prine warned us that common sense isn’t any sense at all. What we need is the capacity to think critically about the issues of the day. As Denton said,

“It means considering all the available evidence before making decisions—and it means making decisions, not avoiding them. It means seeing the world as it is, not as we pretend or wish it. It means leaving behind ideology on the trash heap of history where it belongs, and making practical plans for the future instead of being held hostage by the mistakes of a troubled past.”

This is especially important for our leaders. In times of crisis we need the best leaders. Sadly, this is not what we have. Not only that, but too many people are discarding their critical thinking and believing what they want to believe. That is why Ted Falk jumped to believe something absurd, because it fit in so well with his ideology, his preconceptions, and what he wanted so much to be true.

The last few weeks in Manitoba have shown us something new—protest rallies near hospitals that have been so exuberant they interrupted access to emergency health care. It is hard to believe it has happened, but it did. As Denton said,

“As I watched the anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-science, anti-evidence protesters blocking access to hospitals, it seemed common sense was clearly on life support. If we want to avoid the QAnon-style lunacies that befuddle American politics and threaten its democracy and stability, we need to follow the evidence, not invent it.”

 

Common sense (or critical thinking as I prefer to call it) can lead us out of the wilderness of unreason in which we now find ourselves. We must use these skills with diligence and not fall into the trap into which Falk fell. Yes, we should not just believe as we are told. We should look at the evidence. But we must be careful. As Denton said,

“There is no situation you can’t research for yourself, thanks to the internet, but you need to look beyond the click-bait and self-appointed experts.”

We have to use our critical thinking skills or we will be throwing ourselves to the barbarian mobs and the monsters of unreason. And if we do that, there will be a price to be paid.

 

It Sucks to be a Conservative

 

In Canada and in the United States many people, but nowhere near a majority of the people, are objecting to actions by the government that they see as “over reaching” or imposing duties on them that are not justified in a free and democratic society. Some have gone as far as to call the health restrictions imposed by governments as “authoritarian” or “fascist.” Protesters in Manitoba, particularly in southern Manitoba, a region deeply committed to conservatism, have been making very similar remarks.

As Max Boot reported, in the Washington Post,

“Republicans explode with fury,” noted Fox “News” Channel. Republican governors threatened to file suit to stop what Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp called “this blatantly unlawful overreach.” Fox News accused Biden of being “an authoritarian” and declaring “war on millions of Americans.” Breitbart claims he went “full totalitarian” and the Federalist called it a “fascist move.”

 

Blinded by partisanship and populism, Republicans have lost all perspective. The crux of their argument — to the extent that they have one — is that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no right to tell companies with at least 100 employees that workers must either get tested weekly for COVID-19 or present proof of vaccination.

This is the same OSHA that has issued myriad regulations over the years governing such aspects of workplace safety as the placement of step bolts. (“The employer must ensure . . . step bolts are uniformly spaced at a vertical distance of not less than 12 inches (30 cm) and not more than 18 inches (46 cm) apart.”) I have no idea how many workers have been injured by misplaced step bolts — frankly, I’m not even sure what step bolts are — but I am guessing it is not many. I do know, however, how many Americans have been killed by COVID- 19: 655,000 and counting. If OSHA can protect against the menace of step bolts, I’m pretty sure it can protect against the deadliest pandemic in a century.

 

While I generally agree with these important points, I believe the last paragraph goes too far. This is not a perfect analogy. Placing bolts a certain distance apart does not impose a heavier burden on the citizen. Inserting a needle into an arm and injecting a substance that the individual believes will be harmful to him or her against his or her will, is a much more intrusive violation of the rights of the citizen and will require a higher burden of proof on the state to justify. Yet, I think it can be justified.

We know that conservatives in Canada and the US generally object to governments telling businesses what to do. At least they object when their political opponents impose their will. When their own party does it the objections are much less vociferous. For example in the United States, some governments such as the state of Florida have mandated (I use that word deliberately) that businesses are not permitted to demand vaccine passports from their customers. So far, at least 6 state governments led by Republicans, have passed laws prohibiting private businesses from doing exactly that. In Canada, and the United States, governments have in the past required students to demonstrate to school officials that they have taken a host of vaccinations for diseases such as polio, hepatitis, measles, mumps and rubella. They did that of course because those measures helped to prevent serious illnesses and these requirements were imposed without fuss or muss, because the issue of vaccinations at the time were not controversial. Nearly everyone saw the wisdom of such measures. The reason of course, is that vaccines were not political issues as they have become recently. President Trump played down the significance of the pandemic and told people it would just magically go away and they had nothing to fear. As Boot said, “His cult followers therefore felt compelled to echo his Panglossian outlook by falsely claiming that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu or promoting quack remedies such as hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as miracle cures.”

As a result of identity politics, where people refused to take the vaccine or do take the vaccine, not on the basis of science, or analysis, or data, but on the basis of which political group they identify. As a result, in the US Boot reported that

“According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 86 per cent of Democrats have gotten vaccinated but only 54 per cent of Republicans. That, in turn, translates into rising numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the red states. Over the past couple of weeks, the United States has been losing an average of 1,579 people a day to COVID-19. More than a third of those deaths (570 a day) are in just two red states: Florida and Texas.”

 

For similar reasons, Florida led by Republicans, where more than 3 times as many people per capita have been dying from Covid-19 than California which is led by Democrats. The rate of death in Florida is 10 times higher than New York which is led by Democrats. In fact, recently, where the US was suffering 1,579 deaths per day from Covid-19 and more than 1/3rd of them were in just two conservative led states, namely Texas and Florida. It sucks to be a conservative in the US!

As Boot said,

“Republican governors don’t seem to mind killing their constituents in the name of a twisted theory of “medical freedom,” but that doesn’t mean the president of the United States is helpless to protect the life and wellbeing of its citizens. In fact, as Washington Post contributing columnist Leana S. Wen argues, Biden still has not gone far enough — for example, he still needs to mandate proof of vaccination for airline and train passengers.

 But at least Biden has given up the hope that he could reason with COVID-deniers and anti-vaxxers. The Republican reaction to his sensible mandate shows that much of the right is beyond the reach of reason. It is now time to use federal power to protect the most basic of civil rights: the right to life.”

 

Although not every one will agree, I must say that I do agree.

 

Great Blanketflower

 

This lovely plant actually has two types of flowers.  The outer ring of yellow  flowers are called ray flowers and the inner circle of tiny flowers are called disk flowers. This plant has a “flowering head,” not a flower.  In other words, it has many flowers.

Gaillardia aristata is  sometimes called Great Blanketflower, no doubt after the colourful blankets of the American southwest. The colours are incredibly vibrant as I hope can be seen from my photos.  The flowers have sometimes been boiled  to make medicinal teas for problems ranging from headaches to tuberculosis and cancer, but I have never tried to drink such tea. Why not?  Sometimes the flowers have been used to forecast the future of patients. If the flower is boiled for a long time and the water stayed clear it was believed that patient would die.  On the other hand, a reddish or well-coloured liquid was a strong suggestion that the patient would likely recover.

As I have said before I don’t like perfection. Maybe it’s because I am jealous of it. I prefer flaws. How often in life is nature perfect? About as often as I am perfect.  I am much more comfortable with imperfection. I find Gaillardia one of the most beautiful flowers of summer on the prairies.

Agent Running in the Field

 

When you read a book by John le Carré you turn your life over to a master for as long as it take to read the book. Actually it is for longer than that, because the experience stays with you a long time.

John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field  is the story of a secret agent in his homeland of England who at the age of 45 or so has already reached his best by date. This was Interesting, because the author was  nearly 90 when he wrote this book  had not yet passed that date. Not nearly.

I am a great admirer of the novels of John le Carré and recently read his second last novel.  I know there will be no more because now the writer has passed away. What a pity.  The seemingly inexhaustible supply of outstanding espionage novels is about to crash to a halt.  This novel is a dandy.

The English agent has an interesting relationship with a Russian spy.  Even though it is the age of Putin, when money is all and ethics have slowly soured into hopeless  gruel, the Russian spy surprisingly turns on England for ideological reasons.  Another English spy can’t believe this is possible.  An Englishmen who was so puritanically ethical that he would turn to Putin “who wouldn’t know an ethic if it bit him in the arse.”  How is that possible? As le Carré says, it’s “a funny sort of Puritanism.” Indeed.

The English agent sees England as falling into what Russia used to be.  Everything is lashed together and nothing works. The traitor in these circumstances is a “secret monk in search of an absolute, even if it involves absolute betrayal.”

It’s really a deep pleasure to read a book by an old master in the field. I strongly recommend this book.

 

 

An Even Darker View of a Dumb War

 

I want to continue commenting on that conversation between Bill Maher and Craig Whitlock because Maher actually has a darker view of the war than even Whitlock has. According to Maher, talking about the incredible sums of money wasted by the Americans in Afghanistan,

“We went there to spend that money. That is where the money was. We wanted to spend that money! “In wars like that money just disappears in giant caseloads of cash. Of course, you’re going to have defense contractors and everybody else say let’s go to the place where the money is. That’s where no one is keeping track of it”

 

That’s what wars are for.  A Hole in the ground into which you throw money. And bodies of course.  What puzzles me (a bit) is why conservatives don’t object to that. Conservatives hate government wasting money and nowhere do they waste more of it than in wars.

Yet amazingly, Whitlock says,

 “It’s even worse than you think. The documents we got for the Afghanistan papers with testimonials from people who were there in Afghanistan–army officers aid workers etc. said, ‘We were spending money so fast we didn’t know what to do with it. We are building schools when there is no need for it. We built projects that were ghost projects. We were just throwing money at it to say we could do it, even though the whole time they knew it wouldn’t work.”

 

If you had ever read that brilliant novel, by Joseph Heller,  Catch 22, which I thought perfectly described the insanity of war, you would realize this war was much worse. According to Whitlock, “18% of the money went to the Taliban.” And this was before the Taliban was gifted all the military hardware by the retreating American armed forces! Afghanistan was a giant protection racket. You could not move around without paying off the Taliban.

According to Whitlock, there was a racket where one brother was in charge of building a bridge which the Americans paid for and then it was blown up by the Taliban that was led there in that town by the brother of the official who was in charge of building the bridge. As soon as it was blown up he asked the Americans for more money to replace it and they did exactly that. According to Whitlock, “that was kind of Afghanistan in a nutshell.”

Surprisingly, Maher gave credit to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush because they did what Conservatives say they never do, they cut and ran. Reagan in Beirut ran because he said basically, ‘these guys are nuts.’  George H. W. Bush did the same thing in the first Iraq war. He got his limited job done by getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the country he invaded, and then refused to follow him deeper into Iraq. Many claimed he did not finish the job.  How many years and lives and dollars would it have taken to “finish the job?” No, he cut and ran.  It was the right thing to do. I agree. Finishing the job would have resulted in another “forever war,” like Afghanistan.

President George W. Bush was asked if the Americans would get stuck in Afghanistan as they had been in Vietnam. Bush, confidently said on national TV, ‘of course not, we learned our lesson in Vietnam. We also learned from the Russians who got stuck there.’ Both dumb wars. Then, despite what Bush said,  the Americans got stuck there for more than twice as long as the Russians were there and longer than they were stuck in Vietnam.  They might have avoided it if they had more modest goals like George H.W. Bush in the first Iraq War. Nowhere is humility more important, yet rarer, than in wars.

Even in 2021, when President Biden wanted to pull out of Afghanistan many in Washington still wanted Americans to stay longer, even after 20 years there. The leaving was a debacle, no doubt about that, but at least they got out.

Obama was right, let’s avoid dumb wars. And that is almost all wars.

 

Afghanistan: One of the Dumb Wars

 

I know some people can’t stand Bill Maher.  He is a comedian and often doesn’t allow his guests to speak. He likes to hear himself speak. Too much. But he does have some fascinating guests and interesting conversations. Recently, he had one with Craig Whitlock about the war in Afghanistan—a genuine debacle.

The war in Afghanistan originally had some semblance of a rationale. Not much but some. George W. Bush launched that war in response to the attack on the US on September 11, 2001. He like so many others thought Afghanistan was harbouring the terrorists who launched the attack on America at the Twin Towers on 9/11 and other American targets.

The US spent over $2 trillion on this war? What did it get out of it? Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan not Afghanistan.

Craig Whitlock was interviewed by Bill Maher on his TV show. He was the author of a book called The Afghanistan Papers.  He pointed out how the Taliban within about a week of taking over are banning music again. Women have been told to go home. As Maher said, “The Taliban have said the women will have all their rights within the limits of Islam–which is a great way of saying none.”  Maher says he is always surprised at how little liberals in America don’t care how women are treated in so many countries around the world. “We got into the mindset that Bin Laden is in Afghanistan so we gotta go there and stay there until we can say it will never happen again and which of course means we will be there forever.”

70% of the people in the country were not alive during the reign of the Taliban.  Do they know what they are getting in for?

One of the surprising and sad things about the war in Afghanistan is how similar it was to the War in Vietnam. As Maher said,  “It’s like we just did this shit and then we did it again,” One generation forgets what the last one did. In America they should start teaching history in school, that might help.

Whitlock’s book has a theory of the war that is like what happened in Vietnam. The leaders were optimistic in public and pessimistic (realistic) in private. They didn’t tell the truth to the American public–again. That is exactly what the American military and political leaders did throughout the War in Vietnam and then repeated it in the War in Afghanistan.

According to Whitlock this is what they did right from the start of the war. Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary of Defense  mocked journalists who asked if this would be another Vietnam. 6 months into the war he sent a memo to his military chiefs saying if we don’t get a plan to stabilize Afghanistan our troops will get stuck there forever. He ends the memo like this with one word: “Help!” Sounds a lot like Vietnam doesn’t it.

Should he not have considered this before he committed the troops to the invasion? According to Whitlock this went on for years. In public the leaders said things are getting better, we’re making progress, we’re turning the corner. In private diplomatic cables and memos they admitted things are a mess in Afghanistan–which is exactly what they were. The same thing happened in Vietnam. “They knew that gradually things are slipping out of their grasp and it’s becoming unwinnable.”

Maher was very upset with President Barack Obama.  Obama said he was not against all wars. Some are justified. I would add–not many. Obama said, but I am against dumb wars. That was smart! We all should be. Too many are not. After Maher heard Obama say that  he said, ‘that’s my guy.’ Yet Maher also asked, “How could a guy that was that bright do what we were trying to do? Surge? Take over the country? Flood it with money and that would change things around, when really it was doing just the opposite?”

When Obama ran for office he said Iraq was the dumb war. That was true. It was dumb. Even dumber than the ear in Afghanistan, but that does not diminish the fact that the Afghan war also stupid. The Americans soon forgot their goal which was to get bin Laden and somehow switched to nation building. Obama said Afghanistan was the just cause. And that made some sense, because bin Laden launched his attack or at least trained soldiers in Afghanistan. It was originally a war of self defense. That was why Canada and other NATO countries joined in as they felt they had to do under the NATO Treaty. Canada under Chretien wisely declined to participate in the second Iraq war. The first Iraq war, again, made some sense.

Why did the war not end when bin Laden was killed?  Instead the Americans allowed the war to morph into this idea that they would build the democratic nation of Afghanistan. As Maher said, “It morphed into nation building. It morphed into this ridiculous idea, as in Vietnam, that we could change hearts and minds when by the things we were doing there, you only lose hearts and minds.”

As Whitlock said,

“Each president–Bush, Obama, and Trump–said we are not nation building in Afghanistan., even though at that very moment that is exactly what we were doing. The United States spent more than $100 billion nation building in Afghanistan. That’s more than we spent in Europe on the Marshall Plan after World War II and now it’s all gone up in smoke.”

That was dumb and many lives were lost on its account.

Hans averts World War III

 

Many people don’t know about this but for decades Canada and Denmark have been “fighting” over a tiny island off the coast of Greenland. Denmark owns Greenland. Donald Trump tried to purchase Greenland but Denmark refused to sell. He should have made an offer for Hans Island instead, but probably did not want to tangle with Canada.

Hans Island is a tiny uninhabited island—no more than a big rock really—in the center of Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait off the coast of Greenland.  Like Hans Neufeld the writer of this blog, Hans Island has no apparent natural resources and is essentially worthless. Yet astonishingly there has been a decades long dispute between Canada and Norway over ownership of this tiny island that no one with any sense would want. It has no oil and is located precisely on the agreed border between Canada and Greenland, but sort of by accident this little island was left out of the boundary agreement. The island has  no apparent natural resources of mineral, oil or natural gas, but still, there is an ongoing territorial dispute between Denmark and Canada over who owns the half-squared mile of the rock.

This “war” between Denmark and Canada has been one of the most unusual in the history of warfare. For the past 3 decades each country has repeatedly placed a flag on the island claiming ownership and yet welcomes the other country to the island with a bottle of hootch. I kid you not. Canada leaves whiskey and Denmark schnapps. This is exactly how two friendly countries should fight a war and Hans Neufeld is enormously proud of the fact that this is how the battle has been fought over his namesake island.

In 2006 a student got into the act. He was a Carleton University student who announced he had set up the Government of Tartupaluk and declared himself “The Reigning Prince of Tartupaluk.” Since no one inhabits the island there was no one to challenge his claim or oppose it, but his claims sadly seem to have been forgotten.   As well recently there were some self-declared “Indigenous” Hans Islanders, called Hans who claimed ownership.  These people said they wanted other  to come to live on the unpopulated island. I wish I had been consulted by these two Hans as I would like to have a chance to put forward my case for this island. I could be “President for life of Hans Island.” Or perhaps I could be Emperor of Hans Island.

Recently I heard the two countries have agreed to share jurisdiction over the island. I don’t know what it means, but I guess this means war has been averted. It could easily have led to World War III so that is a very good thing. History would have been very different if world wars had been fought like this. I say, let ‘Let Hans show the way.’

 

This is particularly important on September 11 20 years after 9/11 which led to the longest war in American history for no apparent purpose. There is a better way. Hans Island proves it.

 

Time for some humility

 

I seem to have been on a bit of a high horse lately. I have an excuse. A poor one. I was set off by the anti-vaxxers in Steinbach. None of them showed any humility, but that is hardly an excuse for me to do the same. A good friend told me  how often I had used the word “idiot” lately to describe those who don’t agree with me. It wasn’t pretty.

 

Then on the way home yesterday day I drove by a church that had a sign out front of the church that read: “Imagine how much you could do today with some humility and listening.”  Wise words from a local church. Those words stung. It was time for me to take note.

 

Name calling is rarely useful. My excuse (again a poor one) was that I was not trying to convince those who disagreed with me, but rather trying to persuade others that we had been too kind and gentle with anti-vaxxers. It was time to give them a shorter leash, I thought.

 

A cousin of mine—a wise cousin—reminded me recently we had to be kind in this time of pandemic. I agree entirely with her. We always have to be kind. I don’t think I was kind. Kindness is important. Rudeness is bad and counterproductive.

I am not renouncing my positions on vaccines and the anti-vaxxers. I continue to believe that they are profoundly mistaken and they need to be called out for their opposition.

I also think we have to make judgments. We must make clear where we stand. This is, I believe, is one of those times, but we can make judgments with kindness. Kindness is always important. So is humility. It’s time for some humility. It is time for all of us to do better. Especially me.