All posts by meanderer007

Rebellion Returns to Steinbach

 

 

 

The group known as Hugs not Masks together with their local ally the Church of God Restoration had a second rally in Steinbach today. This time I was determined not to miss it.

Pandemics make stranger bedfellows. Sharon recited the lyrics to John Lennon’s classic, Imagine. Hardly a regular hymn from the church services I would expect.  Remember this is the song that suggests the world would be better if there were no religion or country to kill or die for. I would hardly think the members of the Church of God Restoration would want to imagine people living without religion, yet they seemed to be smiling fondly. Perhaps they did not understand the song.

 

 

There were about 50 to 100 people there and most were from the church or invited speakers.

 

This was one of the rare people who wore a mask at the rally. Most people did not wear masks or maintain social distances. I did. Frankly, I did not want to be identified with the group.

The proceedings started with an opening prayer by Pastor Tobias Tissen that was as much a political statement as a prayer.

 

 

Next was the speaker who identified only as Sharon. Sharon had a Canadian flag wrapped around her shoulder. I guess she wanted to make Canada Great Again. She gave a speech that I would call rambling. Or perhaps it was meandering. In my opinion her speech did go beyond gibberish but only barely. She asked if we knew that Canada was a corporation not a country?  She did not explain on what basis or why that was significant. She also asked us if we had ever looked at our birth certificates? “It shows you are the property of someone else,” she boldly asserted.

Jordan Ross reported this way about a local rebel:

“Steinbach resident Antonio du Rocher listened to  speeches while holding a yellow sign reading: “Gov’t lies are the real threat.”

Governments and health experts are “oppressing people, oppressing the truth” by refusing to admit when they’ve been wrong. About Covid-19 du Rocher said. He cited U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute  of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who advised against buying masks early in the pandemic.

“Doctors, scientists have debunked this for months now and they refuse to say ‘Hey, you know what we were wrong,” Du Rocher said.

He called the Covid-19 vaccine “genocide” and an attempt by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to instigate mass depopulation.” Du Rocher wasn’t worried about receiving a fine for attending the rally.

“They can’t fine me. They can’t. I don’t consent. I know the law.”

 

 

 

I found some of the signs interesting:

“Faith is essential”

“Freedom is essential”

“The media is the virus”

“Lockdown is out of control”

“Love over fear”

“Freedom over Tyranny”

“No study has confirmed masks work”

“We are all essential”

“Stop Agenda 2030”

 

The last one is right out of the conspiracy theories on the internet. This is based on very laudable goals of the United Nations but an instrument of Satan according to many of the right-wing conspiracy theorists. According to The southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate group in the US, this conspiracy theory claims that there is “a secret plot to impose a totalitarian world government, a nefarious effort to crush freedom in the name of environmentalism.”

I mention this last one just to make sure everyone realizes we have our crazies in Steinbach too. As if anyone ever doubted that.

 

Winter at Buffalo Point

 

 

 

Winter in Canada is filled with awesome beauty. You pay a high price to see it, but it is awesome beauty. Too often those of us who live in northern climes are so focused on the coldness of the winter that we miss its beauty. That is serious negligence.

 

Since I was stuck here for the winter I did resolve to enjoy it this year as best I could. I wanted to draw in to me the beauty of winter and silence.

The American writer, Jack Kerouac said, “I got all my boyhood in vanilla winter waves around the kitchen stove.”  A vanilla winter. How fitting. My favorite flavor joined to winter. That is a good way to think of winter. Even when sitting indoors.

The Cure at Troy” by Seamus Heaney

There was one more wonderful poem read out in part at the Joe Biden presidential inaugural. This is it.

The Cure at Troy”

by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.

Uncommon Wisdom: The Hill We Climb

 

For the first time ever I watched the American presidential inauguration. Much to my surprise it was entertaining and interesting.  The best part was the uncommon wisdom dispensed by a 22-year old African American woman. She is the youth poet laureate of America. She is worth listening to. In fact she is worth reading. After I heard her talk I got a copy of her poem online through the wonders of the internet. I wanted to read it more carefully.   I recommend you read it and watch it.  Here is the poem:

 

The Hill we Climb

 

By Amanda Gorman

 

When day comes we ask ourselves,
Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice.
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny black girl
Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
Can dream of becoming president
Only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
But that doesn’t mean that we are
striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters and
conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know to put our future first
We must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
So we can reach out our arms
To one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat
But because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision
That everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promise to glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare.
Because being American is more than a pride we inherit
It’s the past we step into
And how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
Rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth,
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter.
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while we once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?,
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be.
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free.
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain;
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with.
Every breath from my bronze pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
We will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge
battered and beautiful.
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

 

Steinbach hits International News

Steinbach does not often hit the national or international news, and when it does it usually is at least partly about religion. We on occasion have been made to look ridiculous, not entirely without justification,  for actions taken based on the religious views of a majority of the community. The news has not always been negative. I remember when Steinbach hit the national news for having the most generous charitable donors in the country. That is pretty favourable news.

I have been a subscriber to the Guardian Weekly since 1982. It is a newspaper that is read around the world and widely admired for the quality of its journalism. Then it was called the Manchester Guardian. I assure you that since that time Steinbach has never been on the Guardian’s radar. They might have mentioned the name Steinbach (I can’t remember) when Steinbach’s most famous son was interviewed by the press around the world as a result of a journalist, Murray Hiebert, who I knew in passing, and who was the Malaysian bureau chief for Far Eastern Economic Review, and was jailed after serving one month for contempt of court. Basically, he was jailed for writing a book critical of the Malaysian legal system. I believe he was the first reporter in the Commonwealth that was jailed for his writing since the Second World War. I don’t know if the Guardian covered the story but they likely did because he was interviewed by media around the world. Briefly he was probably the most famous person ever to have come out of Steinbach. The Guardian might have mentioned Steinbach when it wrote about our most famous daughter—Miriam Toews. They have written about her on more than one occasion, and she is certainly worthy of international attention and has justifiably received much of it.

And now Steinbach hit international news again and this time for something that happened in our little city. Imagine my surprise when I read about this in the Guardian. The Guardian reported on the dissenting efforts of the Church of God Restoration. The Guardian juxtaposed their rebellion with the seriousness of the pandemic, particularly in Steinbach. Here is what Leyland Cecco reported in the Guardian Weekly:

 

“We’ve certainly been more aggressive with masks than the United States,” said Dr. Anand Kumar an infectious disease and intensive care physician. His province of Manitoba has the highest  active case rate in the country. 634 infections per 100,000 residents—seven times the higher than neighbouring Ontario. In Steinbach, the site of a recent anti-mask protest, officials have logged  10-day positivity rates of 40%.”

 

I was told that was the highest rate in North America at the time, yet our city was the site of an anti-mask rally. It was incongruous. Actually, it was worse than that. Dr. Kumar, an expert on the subject, was advocating, Manitoba’s restrictions be tightened, not loosened as the church wanted. He was worried about a health care overload that was already stressing our health care system. The dissidents included many members of the church, but many others as well. They  were primarily worried about their rights to congregate. The Guardian suggested that Manitoba would have done much worse had they followed American practices and ignorance about the disease and had Manitoba political leaders not refused to believe in conspiracy theories. As the Guardian said, that “probably averted a far more dire outcome.”

I wonder what will be the next reason that Steinbach attracts international attention? Maybe when Miriam Toews wins the Man Booker Prize.

Left or Right extremists: who is more dangerous?

Recently some of my friends suggested that Antifa is more dangerous than White Supremacists. Is this true?

 

To some extent for each of us it depends on whom we fear. If you are a well-to-do white guy, you likely tend to fear those left wing radicals who threaten to take away stuff from you. If you are one of the poor people, especially poor people of colour, you likely fear those white supremacists. Where does the truth lie?

One of my trusted sources of information is The Guardian a newspaper or magazine (The Guardian Weekly) based in England. Most of their revenue comes from a trust fund established many decades ago.  I have been reading it since 1982 and find their journalism stellar. I think it is the best in the world. They are not perfect, but they are very good.

Recently I read a very interesting article in The Guardian Weekly by one of their respected reporters- Ed Pilkington.

First Pilkington noted that Chad Wolf the acting secretary of Homeland Security in the US released his department’s annual assessment of violent threats to the United States.  It was written before the recent riot at the Capitol. In the introduction Wolf wrote that he is:

 “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years. [They] seek to force ideological change in the United States through violence, death, and destruction.”

 

This was also written just before the FBI in Michigan arrested 13 rightwing extremists who allegedly organized a plot to kidnap and try the Democratic Governor, Gretchen Whitmer.

Earlier in the year in February , the FBI Director Christopher Wray  (not exactly a left-wing radical) told the American Congress

“racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists” have become the “primary source of ideologically motivated lethal incidents” in the US. The danger overshadowed the jihadist threat that has dominated the security debate since 9/11.”

White supremacists in other words.

According to the Guardian, 2018 was the deadliest year on record for domestic extremist violence (it may have been surpassed by 2020) and that year

 

White supremacists were responsible for most of that bloodshed in 2019 – 39 out of 48 deaths, including 23 people who died at the hands of an anti-Hispanic racist in El Paso, Texas, and a Jewish worshipper murdered at Poway Synagogue in California.”

 

That means that other terrorists including Muslim Jihadis and Antifa only accounted to 9 out of 48!

 According to Vanda Felbab-Brown, whom The Guardian described as a terrorism and extremism expert from the Brookings Institute in the US, White Supremacy is “by far the most serious domestic danger in the US on many levels – the frequency of attacks, the level of recruitment, the scope of ambition of the groups and the wider political capital they are building.”

The most telling information though comes from FBI data (again not a left wing organization). This is how Pilkington described it after noting that the FBI spent much more money attacking international terrorism where it spent 80% than domestic terrorism where it spent 20%:

 

“The bureau’s own figures compiled for 2008 to 2018 indicate that the balance of threat is the exact reverse – some 73% of all extremist murders in the US in that period were by far-right terrorists, only 23% by Islamist terrorists.”

 

In other words 96% of domestic terrorist murders in the US were carried out  by what it called far right terrorists, again leaving Antifa, Islamic fundamentalists and others together being responsible for only 4%!

I think it is fair to say that the left wing terrorists are pretty small beer compared to the rightwing terrorists. And remember all these figures are before the  astounding invasion of the Capitol by Trump supporters who are hardly left-wing radicals.

Trumpism and the Unimaginable

 

Fintan O’Toole is a wonderful political commentator who writes for the Irish Times and frequently contributes to the New York Review of Books. He was recently interviewed on Amanpour and Co. He has been studying American politics closely. Sometimes it helps to get a view from afar to see clearly what is going on.

O’Toole said this about Trump the day before the Trump Insurrection in Washington on January 6, 2021:

“Donald Trump does not hide his feelings…He has been saying for over a year that losing the election is inconceivable… This is the language of autocracy. In an autocracy is not imaginable that the great leader can be removed. And for 75 million people who voted for Trump they voted effectively for autocracy not democracy. That is the profound consequence of what Donald Trump managed to do. He has created an enormous base for anti-democratic politics in one of the world’s oldest democracies.’

 

In other words, Trump created Trumpism. Trumpers made it clear that a defeat for Trump is not possible. You can hear it when television interviewers asked the Trumpers what they would be doing the next day—January 6, 2021. Of course they were going to the Trump victory to certified by Congress after which on January 20, 2021 they were going to the inauguration of Trump. There was no question about this. The followers of Trump, just like Trump see an alternative reality. That is what Trumpism is all about. It is a window into an alternate reality that is more to the follower’s liking—a reality posited by their spiritual leader.

O’Toole wrote this in the Irish Times,

“Trump has kept his eye on the great strategic prize—the creation of a vast and impassioned base for anti-democratic politics. This is his legacy.  He has unsuccessfully fed a vast number of voters along the path from hatred of government to contempt for rational deliberation to the inevitable end point—disdain for the electoral process itself.”

 

This is exactly the movement of Trumpism—a vast and impassioned base who have hatred of government, contempt for rational deliberation and disdain for the electoral process. The death of truth leads to the death of democracy. In fact, they are both opposite sides of the same coin—they are conjoined twins with a birth defect.

O’Toole also said in the Irish Times,

“Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands.  It is for him, not a good-bye, but hasta la vista. Instead of waving him off those who want to rebuild democracy will have to put a stake through his heart.”

O’Toole, like me, takes enormous comfort from the fact that Joe Biden has won, and ordinary government officials have done their duty and not bent to the will of the president and the catastrophe of another Trump term in office has been avoided. At least temporarily it has been avoided. But this danger has not passed. The United States has millions of Trumpers left and they are resentful and believe their saviour has been robbed of a second term. Many of those supporters think their government and their country has been stolen from them. These people are passionate in their devotion to that man. To me it seems insane, but it is real. They are devoted to him. Trump might be right that he could have stood on 5th Avenue, shot a man, and not lost any of that support. Only one with religious followers could say that. Now these passionate people are hugely disappointed. Resentment is a powerful toxic force. There is no telling what can happen if it is set loose. It could explode and there is no predicting exactly how explosions will turn out, except we know it won’t be pretty. These dangers are real.

Trump the Saviour

Some people are now saying Trumpism is a cult. There is some substance to this claim. Trump said that he could stand on 5th Avenue in New York, shoot someone, and he would not lose any support! That is theological support. Trumpers are accustomed to believing without evidence. As a result, the lack of evidence for Trump’s claims, such as his claim that he won the presidential election by a landslide, for example, can readily be believed by the Trumpers. That is why, I believe, Evangelicals in general have had such fondness for Trump. They find it easy to believe in him. That is why I have been saying beliefs have consequences.

Rick Wilson the co-founder of the Lincoln project had some interesting things to say about Trumpism:

“Trumpism is a cultural problem. That culture is defiant of reality and tradition and morality. It is a fundamentally unconservative culture.  They are not believers in limited government, the rule of law or the constitution. They believe in Trump. If he says something, that’s what they believe. If he said tomorrow ‘I am in favour of child sacrifice,’ they would say, ‘we ought to reconsider child sacrifice,’ because that is the power he has over them. It’s the most astounding diversion from what American politicians have traditionally been.  Traditionally, even powerful and charismatic American politicians have been in response to people.  These are in response to a leader.  He is a perfect authoritarian figure in terms of the charisma, the control, and almost religious devotion to him.”

 

The only thing that rings false in that statement is the word “almost.”  It is in fact religious devotion. The word “almost’ waters it down too much.

Trump is the saviour of Trumpers. As a result, Trump does not have to worry about his supporters being disappointed in. It does not matter. It is unlikely to vanish. It is possible it will vanish but unlikely. Other politicians can only envy Trump.

The Essence of Trumpism

One of the most insightful commentators on modern international politics is Anne Applebaum. She was interviewed recently on Amanpour & Co. She talked about  something new she called Trumpism:

“Trumpism is not as it was advertised. It’s not what it has been analyzed as.  It isn’t anything to do with economics. It has nothing to do with foreign policy or bringing home the troops. It isn’t anything to do with the issues it is attached to. The essence of Trumpism, the deepest meaning of Trumpism, is that it is a rejection of reality. It is a projection of victory for Trump by his followers no matter if that victory is real or not. The essence is the president declaring victory where he has lost…  So we have the Vice-president, the United States Secretary of State, also following the same pattern. They aren’t contradicting the president. They know he has lost, but because they too are vying for the same mantle, hoping to someday lead the same political movement. They need to keep telling their followers that they’ve won even though they’ve not. And that is actually the essence of the movement.  That is the piece of it that will carry on. We are now seeing the political successors to Trump   who are trying to create that same feeling…We triumph over reality no matter what happens.”

Anne Applebaum is an expert on the undemocratic movements in Europe that have been expanding in the past few years. She lives in Poland and writes for The Atlantic. Europe and other parts of the world that have political leaders that want to follow the lead of Donald Trump from democracy to some form of autocracy. This Applebaum says is very important. They see how America has done it. They will likely want to use the same methods to achieve the same goal even though it looks like Trump, so far at least, has failed to achieve his goal. But he clearly showed it could be done. As Applebaum said, “the great power of American politics was always its example…that 250 years of peaceful change of power that inspired people, and this will now inspire in the opposite direction.”

As Applebaum reminded us, “We now live in an era when rumour and conspiracy theories travel much faster than real news.” According to the fascinating film “The Social Dilemma” lies travel 7 times as fast as truth, because lies are amplified by social media while truth is boring and ignored.   We are in a highly volatile situation. Anything can happen. Explosions are hardly unlikely. We had better beware. All of us.

As Applebaum said,

“Distrust” is an insufficient word. People don’t have faith any more in so called mainstream media that involves going down with fact-checking, conversation, and research. They are willing to believe material they find on Facebook. The essence of Trumpism is also based on that. It’s developed out of that world in which rumour, imaginary victories, and the imaginary world is much stronger and more appealing than the real world.      How do you deal with people who believe that Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 21, 2021? Or that believe there is a cabal of pedophiles that is trying to rob the country? None of us have thought through the implications of this new world view It is all over the world.”

 

That is the problem. We have a world in which millions  of people have given up on believing things based on evidence and prefer to believe what is convenient to their world view. They have lost respect for the truth. Such people can be convinced by their leaders of any conceivable lie. Such people can be convinced to do unimaginable things. Such people are dangerous. And we have to live with them. And we don’t know how we can do that.

 

Is Impeachment a Good Idea?

 

The Democrats are so keen on impeaching Trump they are doing so with unseemly haste. Is that smart?  All of them seem to think so. I have yet to hear one opposed. Every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted for impeachment today.  But is impeachment a big mistake?

Even though I am a lone wolf on this issue, I think it is a big mistake even though I think he is clearly guilty as sin and deserves to be impeached. Impeachment is a political process where facts are not very important. That is great for Trump and his fans. It is not so good for the rest of us.

Prosecutors have a rule that they should not prosecute unless they have a reasonable likelihood of a successful prosecution. That is a good rule. It reserves a court for what it was designed for. It is not designed to send a message or make a point. An impeachment trial is sort of like that.

Before Trump’s first impeachment trial in which Trump was acquitted the Democrats said they wanted to demonstrate that Trump could not get away with all the nasty things he had done.  They wanted to teach him and future presidents a lesson. Well what lesson did Trump learn from the first impeachment trial?  He learned he could get away with obstructing justice because the Republicans would back him up no matter what he did or said. He was emboldened by the victory.  I remember the Maine Senator who was interviewed after the trial said she was sure Trump had learned a lesson and would be more careful in the future. That was hopelessly naïve.  He learned he could do a lot with impunity.

If Trump is likely to be acquitted again, as many say, and as I believe, what will happen?  He won’t be president anymore so it won’t matter for that purpose. But even worse it will embolden the Trumper out there that no matter how bad they act their political brethren will save them. We cannot forget that Trumpism is alive and well. Even after inciting a deadly riot against the sacred temple of American democracy and encouraging and unleashing an angry mob that vandalized the Capitol, terrorized the politicians, and nearly led to a successful insurrection, if the Senate acquits Trump then Trumpers will get the same message. They will know they can get away with anything. Then the next Trump, who is likely to be smarter than the first Trump, will be emboldened.  America could be in for serious trouble.

Everyone must remember impeachment has the form of a trial but really it is a political process. At the first impeachment trial only 1 Republican voted to find Trump guilty of only 1 of the charges. This time to reach the required 2/3rds  majority in the Senate at least 17 Republican Senators must vote to find him guilty. In the House only 10 agreed to charge Trump.  Why does anyone think 17 Republicans can be turned against him. Trumpism is alive. His devoted fans are still exactly that.  Republicans will have to be brave to vote guilty.  I have never seen much bravery in the Republican party.  I hope I am wrong but I am deeply pessimistic.

After Bill Clinton was acquitted at his impeachment trial, where voting was largely on partisan lines,  he was charged up after the trial and became more popular than ever.

I fear the same thing will happen if Trump is acquitted, which I believe is probable.  He and his supporters—i.e. the Trumpers–will  be turbo-charged. If he is found guilty it will make no difference. They believe he was elected and that he can do no wrong and that the evil Democrats are out to get him.

The thing that Trump likes most besides himself is attention.  Another impeachment trial will give him abundant publicity, when it would be to the advantaged of Democrats to have the attention given to Biden and his new team instead. The Democrats should do whatever they can to take attention away from Trump. He will still get attention, but let’s not amplify it. James Comey said “The greatest punishment for Trump would be to be left at the lawn at Mar-a-Lago  yelling at cars as they go by.

Don’t give Trump what he wants. Give him what he hates–i.e. to be ignored. The Democrats have a lot to lose and little to gain by impeaching Trump again.