Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Traumatic Brain Injuries: Having The Discussion

 I became part of an important conversation in the minutes after our Montreal Canadiens won their game against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night.

The game was marred by the injury sustained by forward Andrew Shaw, after he checked former Habs defenseman, Greg Pateryn. Shaw went down, and it became apparent immediately that he was in trouble. We witnessed Pateryn's fist making contact with Shaw as he lay on the ice, and then a member of the Habs' medical staff running out to tend to Shaw.

It was really clear that Shaw was not "all there" ("wonky", is how I usually put it). He was helped off the ice by two of his teammates, and - disconcerting to see - he was flexing his hand even as it was in his glove. Immediately, given Shaw's history of TBIs ("concussions"), I wondered if his neck had somehow become involved (that would have affected his hand, perhaps tingling or pain).

The sobering sight of his trainers, one on either side, taking him into the dressing room (he had one arm over each trainer's shoulders but was not walking of his own volition) tarnished the power-play goal the Habs scored as a result of Pateryn's penalty.

After the game, noted sportswriter/broadcaster, Brian Wilde, tweeted the following thread:

(He later corrected it to "2017", citing what we all felt: upset for Andrew Shaw that affected even the most basic thought processes as dates)

I joined the conversation:

I learned the term "TBI" (traumatic brain injury) in October of 2013, when my younger son sustained his first (of two). We were seen at the incredible Trauma Clinic, at the Montreal Children's Hospital, and he was followed closely until given the green light to return to hockey. 

Others joined in the conversation, including a firefighter-paramedic, who has also served as an EMT.

Note: Am I an expert? A doctor? A therapist? No. Just a mom whose son still struggles with post-TBI symptoms, even though his second injury was sustained in the fall of 2015. One becomes a pseudo-expert when one is immersed in the day-to-day "new normal" of a TBI in the family.

Our thread was retweeted numerous times and to me, that's a good sign.

See, the NHL had put in "concussion protocol" after our Max Pacioretty was checked into the stanchion, by Bruins' Zdeno Chara, March 8th, 2012. Headshots in the NHL became a Topic amongst everyone from GMs to medical staff, fans, and media.

The problem is that it's 6 years later, and we're not seeing much of a change. We see players disappear into the alleged "quiet room" for "concussion protocol" (which is supposed to be 15 minutes at least, but they return to the ice after a shift or two).

We see players returning to play just a couple of games later. We see players never miss a shift.

And then we see players like Andrew Shaw, who, in a pre-season interview revealed how much he had suffered with last year's TBI. He had tried to conceal it from his team doctors, yet, he was experiencing symptoms - physical and emotional - that affected him even at home.

See, TBIs are an all-consuming type of injury. The brain is encased within the skull, and depending on the impact, ricochets off the inside bony structure at different speeds and impacts.

This is why helmets don't prevent TBIs. They prevent skull fractures, of course. They may lessen the blow of TBI-inducing hits. But you can't stop the brain from its rocky course with the skull.

And TBIs don't just affect hockey players. They don't just affect athletes. The firefighter from last night's conversation revealed how a coworker's daughter missed her entire soccer season after hitting her head on the ceiling - while jumping on her bed.

Everyone is at risk. You can take a fall, and sustain a TBI.

I learned, as a new parent in hockey, that mouthguards were mandatory. Without hesitating, our coach explained to us that the kids were also wearing mandatory cages on their helmets. So, why the mouthguard if their teeth were protected from pucks?

Because TBIs can be sustained by players' teeth coming together hard - as in a fall, for example. Think about it: the skull starts at the upper jaw. When the jaws snap shut, the impact can lead to a TBI.

TBIs can also be sustained when a player's head whiplashes - as in a check, a high-sticking incident, or a fall. The spine begins at the neck, and of course, it's all connected.

As Brian mentioned, each subsequent injury increases the fallout. Shaw has sustained more than one TBI, in his career prior to coming to Montreal. He's a physical player. We are all deeply worried for his condition this morning, and - as is habitual - the coach and team have released no information yet.

The conversation needs to be held - over and over, until something is done.

Sidney Crosby was shut down, some years ago, after he sustained a TBI in their Winter Classic game held New Year's Day, 2011. He did not return that season, and only returned in November, 11 months after the injury.

I understand the loss of any player, as the team relies on all its pieces to move through a season and playoffs. But the risk to that person - not just as a player, but as a functioning human being - is greater than the loss of a season.

And Brian is right;  Phillip Danault and Carey Price both sustained TBIs this year and are out of the lineup (though Danault, inexplicably, had returned to play briefly). Do they really need to return for the last handful of games in this all-but-over season? We're all hoping the team shuts them down until next year.

Shea Weber has been shut down. And before you tell me, "Well, he had surgery, DUH," realize this: there's no surgery for a TBI. And it is a more esoteric type of injury as it manifests in myriad different ways from person to person. Weber's injury is as real as Danault's, Price's, Shaw's; just not as obvious.

 My son used to tell me he was worried people at school would think he was faking, because a TBI is an invisible injury, but no less real than the fractured wrist he sustained one season. We were lucky that (CEGEP) John Abbott, and Concordia's John B. Molson School of Business student centres both boast experienced, compassionate staffers who accepted everything from an MRI requisition to a receipt from a physiotherapist as "proof" of injury, and accorded my son the accommodations he required (such as writing exams in a quiet room with low light, and extra time for assignments and exams).

It's good that young people are being treated properly for their TBIs. When will the NHL develop a consistent, enforced protocol to protect its players?

Having that conversation on Twitter Tuesday evening, continuing into Wednesday, was a good start - perhaps the Powers-That-Be will continue in the closed-door meetings, and start to see the severity of traumatic brain injuries to those who are responsible for the success of the NHL in the first place.

Thanks to Brian Wilde's expressing his concerns, we can promote wellness and awareness.

The rest is up to the League.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Gun Debate: Can Open Discussion Really Exist?

Last night, I watched what I knew would devolve very quickly into a finger-pointing echo chamber: CNN hosted a "town hall" for students, parents, and the Parkland community to listen to confront political leaders.

I put "town hall" in quotations because it wasn't; a town hall is where the central speaker, or speakers, fields questions from the audience, listens to concerns, and is given the opportunity to address them.

Wednesday night was an opportunity for the audience to confront those they erroneously hold responsible for the tragic shooting of 17 in their school. The questions were there. The concerns were there.

But they did not listen to those with whom they disagree: namely, Senator Marco Rubio, and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch.

The other 2 politicians in the first hour were Florida Senator Bill Nelson (Democrat), and Congressman Ted Deutch (Democrat). They spoke first, using all the leftist catch-phrases that eschew reality and push emotional buttons:

Assault weapons
Common sense gun laws
Weapons of war

And, of course, the NRA - an organization whose mission it is to protect those exercising their Second Amendment rights, educate those who wish to learn, promote proper training, handling, and storage of firearms. An organization which is vilified at every turn, because politicians receive donations from it. What naysayers don't want to face is that politicians receive donations because they support the principles guiding the organization, not the other way around. Nobody's mind gets changed based on donations from the NRA.

After the Democrat politicians spoke, Marco Rubio faced the music. He began a little hesitantly, but struck some very poignant chords.

What first affected me was his pointing out that people aren't talking to one another anymore. That people actually stop talking with others because of who they voted for, or whom they support. It affected me because that has happened to me, too many times.

Personal Interjection:

I support the Second Amendment. I am an NRA member. I don't own a gun yet, but will, and I live in Canada, but supporting the very notion of freedom is a universal value. Or, in any free country, it should be.

I've been vilified for my stance. I've been mocked, cyberbullied, shunned, insulted, harassed, unfriended, and even blocked. I've been told that - quote - "you haven't convinced me of" (whatever gun-related issue it is being debated).

Well, I'm not out to "convince" anyone. An educator doesn't convince - we teach, by presenting facts, evocative questions, and connections to the issues we are discussing. So if you believe I haven't done what I've set out to do - you're attributing more to me than I deserve. All I've set out to do is learn, and teach those willing to listen. Or, have a civil discussion with someone who would like to present their side of things.

The problem with that is that those who jump into my mentions to confront my stance get in my face, not by presenting their points of view - but by attacking mine.

I know I won't "convince" anyone. But that's okay. However, here's a newsflash: I'm a recovered leftist. I was as liberal as they come, arguing for every leftist issue, learning the buzzwords and the catchphrases.

But then my eyes began to open. I had a conservative awakening which led me to holding tightly to values I was always meant to hold; however, even before my conservatism emerged, I had begun to learn about the Second Amendment, weapons - their names, proper terms (no, it's not a "clip"), the different types, operational mechanics - and all things related. I continue to learn, too. Learning is a neverending journey.

See, I'm an example of someone who was as anti-gun as the next liberal, who has changed her mind based on facts, not emotions. I don't lecture. I just discuss. I don't ask for a fight - but sadly, too many who disagree with me choose to become aggressive and combative.

Some of the people who have chosen to drop friendship with me have been actual friends with whom I had what I thought was a true relationship. But it seems that some cannot see past the things they disagree with in order to keep a friendship which was, I thought, built on a stronger foundation than the narrow road of politics.

Back To Wednesday Night's Fiasco...

So I watched Rubio face the den of lions, and he was gracious, humble, honest ("You won't agree or like the things I will say here tonight,"), and magnanimous, asking for a chance to be heard.

Instead, they booed him, they insulted him (kids, not just the parents), and they refused to acknowledge that his values (and those of hundreds of millions of others) are just as valid as theirs.

But when this teenager stood up, he was confrontational, and what he said was shameful:

Senator Rubio, it's hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at [shooter's name] but the point is you're here and there some people who are not. 
 I was aghast. The kid equated Rubio with the monster who took 17 lives in cold blood, not even blinking as he did so. Rubio handled it beautifully, but I was incensed.

In fact, after being bullied by a kid who wanted Rubio to promise not to take any donations from the NRA (showing, again, that they don't understand how that works), it emerged that Marco Rubio, of the $162,824,985 he raised for his 2016 campaign, only $9,900 came from the NRA.

And yet, leftists want to accuse him of being "bought" by the organization.

Facts matter. 

In the second hour, Dana Loesch came out. Now, if you've never heard her speak, you should - even if you disagree with her stance, her organization, her values.

Dana is one cool customer. She is incredibly honest, deeply principled, her intelligence shows in everything she says, and she has a compassion that showed strongly in her words, her face, and her body language.

She has been the recipient of death threats for years, those who threaten her, her children, her husband. And she reached out to the audience with incredible compassion for their pain.

But she was vilified by them - many interrupting her not to get their point across, but to yell at her ("You're a murderer" was one charming accusation that spurred others to pick up the thread; "burn her!" became a chant in the audience; and host Jake Tapper did nothing - which is even more disappointing).

It was infuriating to watch - for me - yet Dana kept her cool. She very calmly continued to tell them that if they want to hear her answer, they have to let her speak. The teacher in me was in awe - her classroom management skills are enviable.

She did, at last, confront the sheriff, stating how his department failed. 39 times they were called regarding the shooter, and had any one of those times resulted in flagging the shooter in the system, he never would have gotten his guns legally. (NB: he could still have obtained them illegally - criminals don't worry about a little thing like laws when they want to go out and murder 17 people)

She, incidentally, was - and remains - the ONLY person to ask that sheriff why he didn't have the kid involuntarily committed (the Baker Act allows for that if there is a credible threat; with the shooter foreshadowing - for all intents and purposes promising - what he was going to do, there were more than enough incidents which presented evidence of a credible threat).

Dana was a powerhouse. She did get some respect, afterward, when people tweeted how they may not agree with her but they respect her for having been there and faced them.

I was actually shocked by the grandstanding of some of those students, their disrespectful statements to those with whom they disagree, even accusing both Rubio and Loesch of being responsible for those deaths; even the anti-gunners have to be shocked at that leap of logic (but then again, maybe I'm overestimating them).

The evening ended where it began: with nobody having heard, or even listened to those who came to try and help them understand the Other Side. 

The kids in that audience were handpicked by CNN. We know that because every single one of them vilified firearms, the NRA, and parroted the CNN talking points of "do something, we need action" that we see after every mass shooting (though, ironically, not after every incident of Islamic terrorism).

We also know the kids were handpicked because there wasn't one among them who took the other side. It was an echo chamber with only 2 dissenting voices - invited speakers - all evening.

And yet, we do know of Brandon Minoff, the 17-year-old whose brother was inside during the shooting (and survived), and whose outspokenness took MSNBC's Brian Williams by surprise (not a pleasant one, for him).

Minoff's interview with MSNBC had him expressing his dismay that the media is politicizing the event. That their narrative of gun control is taking precedence over the focus on 17 innocent victims. Minoff stated that he knows many students who are pro-gun.

I know many people who are pro-gun and others who support gun control but it seems that the media is specifically targeting those in support of gun control to make it seem as if they are the majority, and the liberal news outlets are the ones that seem to make the bigger effort to speak to these people, and I'm talking from experience.

Where, then, were those students on Wednesday evening? And where was Brandon Minoff?

I can tell you where he was: he was definitely on Twitter. I tweeted:

Not too long afterward, Brandon Minoff "liked" my tweet. I immediately reached out to him, offering him my support and admiration for his principles.

A story emerged, after the evening, as was reported on local news. One student - a member of the JROTC (none of whom were on the stage or asking questions), who wanted to ask his question about armed guards at schools, was told by CNN that he couldn't ask that question, and instead was given a scripted question.

He and his parents had been dressed and ready to go - but chose, instead, not to attend.

I shouldn't be surprised - but it's shocking nonetheless. CNN's disingenuous "let's hold a dialogue" is shattered by this one interview; after all, if they scripted this student, how are we to believe they didn't arm every single questioner/commenter who spoke out? (Hint: we can't)

In fact, earlier in the evening (before that news report came out) I tweeted this:

CNN created an echo chamber in that arena. If their intent was to give everyone a voice, they failed; Rubio and Loesch spoke but over the unruly audience members who disrupted their replies, and in the end - as was expected - nobody's mind was changed one way or the other.

If that was the purpose, it was a losing proposition from the start. In fact, if anything, the audience members, Democratic politicians, and those on social media finally came out and admitted what their end game is in this issue: bans and confiscation.

That won't play well - for them. Rubio pointed out that, even if the dreaded (my word) AR-15 were to be banned, there are at least 2000 other firearms that operate the exact same way and that it would mean banning all semiautomatic weapons.

The crowd erupted, which - to some on Twitter - was a misfire of Rubio's intent.

But I see it as something different. I see it as an example of the staggering lack of education on firearms that was present in that room, and is present across the country.

It wasn't the time for Rubio to educate - though the hyperbolic Deutch grabbed his opportunity to score some loud cheers from his adoring audience.

This is just one example of the epic fail that was Wednesday night's event. Not for those who might have come away with one or two questions raised by what they heard - and who just might want to follow up to learn more.

But for CNN, and for the left, it was a failure. As Ben Shapiro said:

It was frustrating for me to watch, because it was a microcosm of the attitude about guns among those who don't have a fundamental understanding of the issue.

However, it will stand as a statement in and of itself. A statement that perhaps, just one short week after a tragic shooting, while funerals are just being held and mourning hasn't even begun to peak, it isn't such a good idea to get a burning-hot-button issue onto the airwaves with an angry mob ready to grab pitchforks against the only two voices raised in debate, not bobbleheaded acquiescence.

Perhaps - but not likely - CNN, and other leftist media, will take from this that stacking the deck against those whose opinions they vilify on a daily basis on-air will only result in a free-for-all, a demonstration of attacking dissenters, and one that will probably backfire.

It left me saddened. As David French tweeted:

What I choose to take away from this is validation of my values, renewal of my resolve, and the impetus to continue to use my voice for good: education, truth, facts, and logic.

I hope that, unlike the vitriol I encountered on Twitter Wednesday night (and have, for years), I will be met with the same respect I display. I have to hope things will change, even though I've seen little evidence of that.

To quote Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Emotions Vs. Reason: Yes, Facts Matter

Last night, I was accused of lacking love, compassion, and - yes - a heart. All because I'm not joining the chorus of Gun Control Central.

It's time to say my piece.

I have taken a Facebook hiatus since the latest mass shooting at a Florida high school. Very much like the one I took after the 2015 Canadian election, and for the same reason: Leftists and gun-grabbers (most of them ill-informed, or downright uninformed) who suddenly become political. I pull away from Facebook at times like these, not because I can't "deal with" the opposing views, but because it is so, profoundly tiresome. See, leftists react because emotions have flooded their core, and they are emboldened by their supposition that their position is the only one to hold. They believe that those of us on the right dare not refute the words of a grieving mother, or a teenage survivor.

They're wrong.

See, I hold to facts, and reason. Information is power, and any employer will tell you that if you are faced with a decision to make, and you choose to go with your heart over your head, without weighing all the facts, without seeing the big picture, you will make the wrong decision. Every time.

In crises like these - shootings, specifically - the left tends to leave reason behind and go with emotion.

No one is saying this isn't an emotional situation. I weep for those grieving families and for the survivors whose lives will never, ever be the same.

But does being a critical thinker, someone who looks for facts to try and understand a situation, does that make me uncaring?

According to this leftist last night, and others I see across social media, it does.

I'm a big fan of Ben Shapiro, the conservative analyst whose reason and articulate analyses are profoundly sharp. I'll quote Ben quite a bit here, because he states my position beautifully.

The latest accusation from kids in Parkland, where the shooting took place, is "you're either for us or against us."

Anyone who's ever been in any kind of relationship knows those words are the kiss of death in an argument, a debate, even a disagreement. And, as Shapiro says, the kids are mobilizing now, to march on Washington and demand that President Trump "do something."

Here's the problem: they can't delineate what they want him to do. In fact, in many of the interviews with these teens, they show a marked lack of knowledge where civics are concerned. Perhaps they aren't learning that in school or, they aren't getting it. But their belief that POTUS can enact sweeping measures is misguided and just plain wrong. It shows that they have no understanding of the roles played by various government branches.

But they're marching. And they're giving interviews. And the sole purpose of those actions is just to get the listening, and sympathetic public on board.

I'm not without sympathy. No parent should ever have to bury their child. No child should ever have to witness the horrors, experience the terror, or live with the likely post-traumatic stress they will suffer for decades to come.

But I also don't believe that, by simply lecturing government to "do something" - especially without any proposals behind that imperative - the government must enact what will be ineffective, redundant, and unsuccessful measures.

The students are calling for "victory" - as Shapiro says, "what does that look like? If by victory, they mean no more shootings at schools, then yes, we're with you. If it means sweeping gun laws that will do nothing but penalize the law-abiding gun owners in the USA, then no, we're not."

This is what I've found in the past 6 days since the shooting occurred. I left Facebook, but have been on Twitter, where the commitment to "socialize" is more fleeting, and where dabbling is more the norm (for me, anyway).

But last night, I checked in, and saw someone arguing that it's wrong to - his words - "quibble about the numbers of mass shootings."

So I jumped in.

See, it's not wrong to correct the inaccurate. If someone continued to say something about you,. and it was not only inaccurate, it was wildly out of bounds, would you not want it corrected? Would you not want to set the record straight?

That's all I did. However, I was met with the same leftist talking points, which I'll list here, along with the facts I produced to refute them:

  • NRA
  • No need for automatic weapons
  • You don't care about those kids
  • NRA
  • Second Amendment
  • NRA
  • AR-15s are bad
  • NRA

Full disclosure: I am an NRA member, and have been for years. I'll repeat here what I've said to countless accusers:

The NRA makes no legislation. They have no power in the Senate, House, or in Washington. The NRA actually pushes for gun laws and gun safety, along with teaching responsible gun ownership, safe gun handling, and educating about the Second Amendment.

From 1998-2016, the NRA has spent a total of just over $203M on political activities. That ends up being approximately $22.6M per 2-year election cycle.

By contrast, unions spent $1.713 BILLION for the year 2016 alone.

The NRA is powerful because a huge number of Americans agree with its mission. If people would stop trying to repeal or rewrite the Second Amendment, there would be no need for the NRA.

The NRA donates to politicians who support its teachings. The leftist of last night (let's call him Last Night's Leftist, or LNL for short) stated that politicians are "bought by the NRA."

Again, quoting Shapiro, show me even ONE politician whose position changed from being anti-gun to pro-gun because of an NRA donation. That's the only proof that politicians are "bought" by the NRA.

See, the NRA won't donate to politicians who don't support its cause, just as Planned Parenthood won't donate to any politicians who aren't pro-abortion. It's common sense.

LNL claimed that the AR-15 is not "needed" for law-abiding citizens. Claiming to be "ex-military" (one is never "ex-military; the term used is "former military"), he showed a disturbing lack of knowledge about the AR15.

See, the AR-15 operates the exact same way handguns do. Its cosmetic makeup changes nothing about its operational mechanics. One squeeze of the trigger = one bullet. Nobody is "sprayed by thousands of rounds a second."

LNL said: "start confiscating and ending the sale of this type of weapon."

There it was. That's what they mean by "gun control". Confiscation. And history will show that is not only not a solution, but that disarming those who never have murderous intent leads to tyranny and death of innocents - moreso than if law-abiding citizens remained armed.

Cocaine is banned. Meth is banned. Has that helped the drug addicts in this world? How's that opioid crisis intervention working out?

Bans and confiscation are not the answer, but LNL was having none of it.

I replied with:

AR15s = handguns with a different body. If you're former military, you know this. Stopping the sale of this weapon would have no effect on the gun crime rate (look at Chicago stats and weapons involved).

For the record, kids die every single day in places like Chicago. Why aren't there hashtags and TV coverage for that?

His response:

Like I said...NRA NRA NRA

I care about saving more children's lives now and in the future. Stop trolling me with NRA alternative facts. As per the constitution, the right to bear arms was for muskets back then. Do more research.

 The Musket Defense. With glee, I responded thus:

Tell me how in the world the NRA figures in. None of those facts comes from them. How are they even remotely responsible?

The FBI dropped the ball. They got info about this very event about to happen, a month before it did, and never forwarded the tip to the Miami Field Office.

Police were called 39 times to the shooter's home - many of those calls came from his mother.

He'd brought weapons to school, was expelled, and he wasn't allowed on campus with a backpack. Students said they were afraid of him. They said it was a known fact that they all thought if their school were to become the site of a mass shooting, he would be the perpetrator.

Now tell me how he got away with it - and wake up to where the system went wrong and failed those 17 victims.

NOT the NRA. You, and people like you are so obsessed with your NRA talking points you can't even explain why you have a hate-on for it.

Honestly, what you don't know about the Constitution is astonishing, but not surprising. The Second Amendment was written for muskets? What a laugh. I know more than you do, if this answer of yours is any indication.

Do you think the Founders didn't foresee automatic weapon? Look up Puckle Gun. It was in existence for 73 years before the Bill of Rights was ratified.

But let's just say the Bill of Rights is antiquated, as per your opinion.

Don't reply. At least, not here. Go get your quill, ink, and parchment, and write your reply to me there. Then have it delivered to me by some guy on a horse.

After all, there were no computers or Internet when the First Amendment was written. There were, however, machine guns when the Second was.

I don't need to research in order to field your replies. Clearly, I can cite more off the top of my head than you with Google. You didn't even know the basics about semiautomatic weapons.

What did you learn while in the military, hmmm?

Probably not world history.
I included a historic photo.

That's when he came back with his accusation that I lack love, heart, compassion for those kids.

I drafted this response - and it never got posted because the thread got deleted.

But it deserves to see the light of day.

I see. Because I face these tragedies with facts and by thinking, I must automatically hate kids. Wow, you just pull out every specious talking point you can parrot, don't you. Newsflash: I weep for grieving families and survivors whose lives will never be the same. But I also know how to look at facts.

I believe knowing all the facts is CRUCIAL to how to approach any problem. In ANY situation. No employer wants someone who doesn't see the whole picture. And people who pick and choose will never have a clear understanding of anything.

It's sad that you are exonerating the shooter. He loves people like you. People who blame the NRA, the inanimate object, and a 227-year-old, often-misunderstood document - that's what this shooter loves. Because you must think he's a victim of evil NRA members and "gun nuts". Poor little shooter. According to you he's innocent in all this whirlwind created by the big bad NRA and the scary black rifles.

You have a real problem. You don't THINK. You just let emotions take over.

It's your liberalism that blinds you to reason. Emotions and facts CAN co-exist (and I'm an example of that), but those who throw away reason in favor of emotion are those who never, ever understand the core of the issues. Those who react only based on emotions will be gullible to regurgitated talking points, erroneous blame, and ignorance of the facts. And *you* are an example of *that.*

"Everybody react! Don't assess the facts!" You must be fun in a crisis.

I'm proud of my critical thinking skills. I can sleep at night knowing my sense of reasoning is ever-sharp and I don't epitomize the very meaning of the word "kneejerk."

This is where we are. Gouging each other's eyes out with accusations that I don't believe the accusers really take seriously. It's their verbal weapon, but it is a sad, impotent non-starter pistol.

I've always used facts in my discourse. It's the researcher in me, it's the curious mind I've always had, it's the need for truth, even if that truth is not something that supports my side of the debate.

But to be in any debate - especially on social media - with leftists who want Emotion to be the ONLY thing present in any debate, I expect the replies I got from LNL: accusations, talking points, and baseless finger pointing.

Now, the leftist media is trotting out kids to make their (the left's) argument. And that is exploitation.

There is, however, one teen who isn't as visible on television, whose name isn't being used in hashtags, and who isn't getting a microphone shoved in his face everywhere he turns.

Here are some of his quotes:

I wholeheartedly believe that the media is politicizing this tragedy. It seems that gun control laws is the major topic of conversation rather than focusing on the bigger issue of 17 innocent lives being taken at the hands of another human.

 I know many people who are pro-gun and others who support gun control but it seems that the media is specifically targeting those in support of gun control to make it seem as if they are the majority, and the liberal news outlets are the ones that seem to make the bigger effort to speak to these people, and I'm talking from experience.

There are measures that should be taken right now. Eliminating gun-free zones. Arming security guards and posting them at every door, every entrance to the school. Shapiro suggests that lockdown procedures, as in hospitals, be implemented in new buildings, or that buildings be amended to accommodate them. Having just those two measures alone would save lives.

We post armed security at banks, museums,. Federal buildings, even Hollywood VIP events. Why are children being left vulnerable, in gun-free zones where criminals know they are sitting ducks? Leftists say I don't care? It's precisely because I do care that I want to see children properly protected.

I won't elucidate my thoughts on the measures that can be - and should be - taken, at least not here.

But if you find yourself accusing pro-Second Amendment people of not caring? Then you should be ashamed of yourself. Because you know that is as far from the truth as it gets.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

An Open Letter To Gerald Butts: The Word "Nazi" Is Not Appropriate

Mr. Butts,

You are the senior advisor - Principal Secretary - to the Prime Minister of Canada. Therefore, your words carry weight, and are important.

Recently, your boss interrupted a young woman to interject his own word in place of one she used. Specifically, he "corrected" her from "mankind" to (the non-existent) "peoplekind".

The headlines were swift, as political correctness, made-up words, and interrupting a woman's question to further an agenda were seen as rude, inappropriate, and downright nonsensical.

You decided to weigh in, on Twitter:

I would like to weigh in on your choice of words.

The word "Nazi" is NEVER appropriate to use unless in context. And the ONLY context in which it is appropriate is in describing actual WW2 killers

You throw that word around like it's not the most chills-inducing representative of murder, torture, cold-bloodedness, and hate. For your information: it is.

Are you even familiar with a fraction of what Nazis did? How they laughed when their victims choked to death on poisonous gas? How they threw dead bodies into mass graves without so much as a whisper of respect? How they experimented on children, or smashed newborns against brick walls to kill them? You might want to educate yourself, and you can start by finding many accounts of Nazi atrocities at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum online.

Have you ever met a Holocaust Survivor? Have you ever seen the visible shudder, the flicker of fear in eyes that have witnessed the most horrific brutality of loved ones, the physical tension that is present whenever the word "Nazi" is spoken?

Because I have. I have listened to them tell their history.  I have heard them speak the word.

Some speak it in a hushed whisper, as though invoking it would somehow result in a ghostly reappearance of their tormentors. I have heard them spit the word with such anger that if said ghost were to appear, it would be decimated by the emotions expressed by the survivor sitting before me. 

I have listened to the stories of incredible cruelty, perpetrated for no other reason but that the victims were Jewish. I have cried with those who are, more often than not, the only survivors of their families, as they've told about barbarity inflicted upon minds and bodies, to break, and terrorize, and humiliate, and eliminate an entire group of people based only on religion. 

And each of those crimes against humanity was carried out by Nazis. Men and women whose souls were blackened by prejudice and whose obedience to a dark-hearted man was so complete, they took lives without flinching. 

Nazis were the most savage, heartless, despicable killers in history, directly responsible for the murders of 6,000,000 Jews (1,500,000 of whom were children), and 5,000,000 others who dissented against the Nazi movement or stood up for their countrymen. 

We do not use the word lightly. We do not condone those who do. We know, only too well, the horrors the Nazis perpetrated, each one more inhumane, more fiendish, more sickening than the last. 

So imagine how visceral our reaction is to your offhand, callous, cavalier usage of the word when used to describe people who criticize your boss. 

I'm not sure you can imagine it, Mr. Butts. Because if you had even an inkling of what the Nazis had done, you might - might - have thought twice. 

We demand an apology from you, and a retraction of your thoughtless statement. The Jewish community, and especially survivors and their families, deserve nothing less than a full and sincere indication of remorse for your inconsiderate blunder. 

Criticism of political figures is a Canadian right. No Canadian should be taken to task for expressing his or her rightful opinion, whether or not you agree with it.

And nobody deserves to be compared to a regime that comprised history's most monstrous killers. 

Now is your opportunity to put things right. The question is, will you take it? Or will you squander it and keep in place what will, one day, be your legacy?

Govern yourself accordingly.

Lissa Albert

One of the most famous photos taken during the Holocaust shows Jewish families arrested by Nazis during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland, and sent to be gassed at Treblinka extermination camp.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

World Junior Hockey Championship 2018: Learn To Fall (Sportmanship Does Matter)

The World Juniors Hockey Championship just wrapped up in Buffalo last night, with a perfect finish to the game (if you're a fan of the Canadian team - obviously, I am).

The tournament is an annual holiday favorite. Ten countries send their best under-20 players to the host country to play first in round-robin preliminaries for standings, and then quarter-finals, semis, and the Gold Medal game.

I've only watched the Juniors over the past 8 years, and it's exciting hockey. The obvious leaders emerge as the round-robin games take place, and by the time the quarter-final games are played, the tension has mounted.

8 teams play quarterfinals, with 4 emerging to advance to the next round. Those 4 compete in semifinals, with the 2 winners advancing to the Gold Medal game, while the losing teams play each other for Bronze.

I have no trouble admitting that Canada is a strong team every year, and the 17 gold medals won by my country are testament to that (the next "most golds won" number is 4 - shared by USA, Russia, and Finland). Sure, we've experienced crushing defeats (2011 collapse comes to mind), and heartwrenching "near-wins" (last year's shootout loss to the USA). But that's hockey.

One of the reasons these games are so intriguing is that many of the participants have already been drafted by NHL teams. They won't play at the NHL level for some time, but they're "spoken for"; this makes for fun viewing, because even if a player is not on our national team, he may well be a prospect for our NHL team.

Of course, that makes it even more fascinating, as we cheer for players on our national team even knowing they have been spoken for by a rival in the NHL.

This year, the 2018 WJHC, the Canadian team lost only one game in the tournament: the outdoor game played against the USA (the USA won Gold last year, in a shootout - but that's a whole other article).

The outdoor games are never predictable because ice conditions, sun, and other factors not found in a climate-controlled arena are at play.

Still, the game was anyone's to win, and the USA took it.

But Canada won decisively in quarterfinals, beating the Swiss team 8-2. In the semifinals, they faced the Czech Republic, handily winning 7-2.

In the other semifinal games, the USA was beaten by Sweden 4-2 (in a stellar performance by the Swedish team, which scored 2 short-handed goals on the same penalty kill, 8 seconds apart).

This saw Canada facing Sweden for the gold medal, and the USA playing the Czechs for the bronze.

The game between Sweden and Canada was not expected to be a blowout, nor was it going to be easy for either team - but both teams were ready.

It remained scoreless in the first, and Canada got the first goal in the 2nd period. The Swedes, in a repeat of their short-handed goal performance from Thursday, got on the board with another shorty, tying the game.

It was late in the 3rd period when Canada got a go-ahead goal with 1:40 remaining on the clock. The Swedes pulled their goaltender, but Canada sealed the deal with an empty-net goal. Still, the Swedes played the remaining minute with strength and aggressive hockey skills, showing why they had been such a challenger from the beginning.

Canada celebrated the victory among many Canadians (or fans of the team, in any case), who had packed the arena for this last game and were sending up a deafening roar of cheers.

When it came to the medal awards, the Swedes received their silvers. First up was the Captain, Lias Andersson. He was asked to take off his helmet, which he did. Instead of having it put around his neck, he put his hand out for the medal, but didn't receive it until it was put around his neck.

What happened next shocked the hockey world and dominated social media: he immediately took off the medal, skated over to the glass, and tossed the medal into the crowd.

(A man caught it and put it on - this guy has now gone viral, especially as he removed the 2 USA jerseys he wore to reveal a Sweden jersey underneath; later, however, the medal was returned to Andersson - who, in an interview, stated he didn't want it back)

What we witnessed became a source of controversy - which is puzzling to me. Why is anyone excusing the very rude, disrespectful, ungrateful behavior of a 19-year-old who has not only been drafted by the venerable New York Rangers, but who was captain of his Juniors team?

There's no excuse for it. And yet, it became a true debate online.

People excused it because:

  • He's a kid (he's 19)
  • He wanted to win (no kidding - didn't they all?)
  • He didn't go to Buffalo to get silver (see previous point)
  • He's a competitor and didn't like losing (that's why they compete - to win)
  • There shouldn't be "participation" medals in tournaments (want to change the Olympics too?)

Here's why I won't excuse it:
  • The game was fair - the Swedes even dodged a bullet when, due to a fast whistle, the Canadian team's first goal was waved off to keep the game scoreless.

  • There were no controversial calls, against either team.

  • The Swedes were on the penalty kill 6 times; with Canada's power play a strong 56% in the tournament, Filip Gustavsson (in goal) and an exceptional defense corps kept Canada scoreless in all 6 power plays. And, as previously mentioned, the Swedes even scored on one of their penalty kills, tying the game shorthanded.

  • The Swedes outshot Canada by 10. They held Canada to 1 shot in the first six minutes of the game.

  • Lias Andersson headed a strong team whose performance should be a source of pride.

  • Andersson is 19, and already a prospect of an Original Six team. If he can't lose graciously in Juniors, how will he greet the losses he will definitely face as an NHL player?

  • He's the captain - captains are chosen based on their leadership skills. Leadership takes maturity, and whatever the team saw in Lias Andersson to award him the C was not present in the loss Friday night.

  • None of his teammates displayed anything even remotely similar. If he can be excused by those who cite any of the points above, why did his teammates (all in the same boat) lose with grace? 

  • There are plenty of other players from other teams who would have given anything just to get close to winning a silver medal, but didn't win even one game during the tournament.  

  • Like it or not, there are silver and bronze medals in tournaments and in the Olympics. These are not "participation" medals (if they were, every single competitor would go home with something), they are earned by 2 other teams out of 10. 

  • It should be noted that the USA celebrated their bronze medal with more grace than the captain of the silver-medal winner. Team USA knew they could have come home empty-handed like the Czech team they beat. That's sportsmanship. That's maturity.

Of course nobody wants to "settle" for silver. But if every team felt the way Andersson behaved, why come to a host country in the first place? Every player knows that he stands a chance of going home empty-handed, and yet, they still play with heart.

  • The Swedes played a beautiful week of hockey in Buffalo. They remained undefeated all tournament long, amassing 11 points (to Canada's 10). They were leaders in every game, and showed poise throughout.

 So why the ugly display of immaturity in the final loss?

Disclaimer: as a hockey mom, I get the emotions. I watched my kids win and lose. I watched them in games, playoffs, and tournaments. I watched them celebrate and I watched them deal with losses. I soothed, and celebrated, and each time was a privilege - win or lose.

When my younger son was in PeeWee hockey (he was 11), his team went to the finals of the local tournament. They were "The Little Team That Could", the team that had the smallest players, the most novices - my son included - and had the fewest "stars". They won the semi-finals in an 8-round shootout that showed them pushing as hard as they could. In fact, after they scored the winning goal, a parent from the other team - a team from a South Shore town - turned to me and congratulated me, with the utmost sincerity,  for our team's performance.

The finals were different - they faced a team that was populated with large kids, experienced kids, and that had an element on the team which can only be described as arrogance.

After a goal scored by that team, their player skated past our side of the bleachers, and gloated visibly, to our bench and the stands. It was something I'd never seen before, and it was that much harder when our team lost to them.

We had an impromptu party set up - win or lose - and the boys were dejected but they were doing better than I was. I'm an emotional person and I think I was more prone to tears in this loss than the kids were. 

But I was amazed when a friend of my son's - and then my son that night - told me that they didn't like losing, but they didn't mind it because they'd played their best. What they were bothered by, however, was the arrogance of the team that won; both boys said to me, "they were poor winners and that's what made it hard to lose to them."

Age 11, and they were already showing the kind of dignity we see in leaders.

I have never watched the Juniors without a pang in my heart and a lump in my throat for the team that loses; being younger, they wear their emotions on their faces. The Swedes were, almost to a player, in tears, and comforted by their coaches as the Canadian players hugged center ice. It was incredibly hard to see - as a mother, and as a human.

But the "hold your head up high, you played a fantastic game" adage isn't wrong. They have more to be proud of than not, especially the sportsmanship they showed in the game.

And yet, their captain's display of immaturity negates that (to a point).

No, this isn't something I will hold against Andersson, but he will be remembered for this, as it became A Story in the last moments of this event. Headlines alone attest to that. And, as they say, history will remember it.

I'm not alone, either - the general sentiment is that he will, eventually, come to regret that move.

And while I don't like to brag, I will: last year, in a heartbreaking shootout loss to the USA, Team Canada was gracious and dignified.

In 2015, the Russian team lost (to Canada) and a player threw his stick into the crowd, hitting a fan. In this story, there are photos and video. It should be noted that Ziat Paigin has not been drafted by an NHL team. Whether or not it's related is unknown, but what NHL team would take a chance giving a prized roster spot to a hothead who cannot lose with dignity?

Andersson is drafted. That won't change. But if his behavior doesn't change either, he won't go far. Sports are not, beyond the scoreboard, a black-and-white/win-or lose. Even if the scoreboard is cut-and-dried, the humanity of any sports team is very much at play. If Andersson shows poor sportsmanship at the NHL level, he will become that proverbial toxin "in the room" and his teammates will not take kindly to it - nor will management.

The player who plays hard, and loses (or wins) with dignity is the player who gets respect. The player who loses (or wins) and becomes a jerk about it is met with a very different outlook by everyone: from fans to media, from teammates to other teams, from his coaches to other coaches.

As in life, there is no smooth sailing in sports. When I first learned cross-country skiing, the instructor taught us how to fall, on that first day, in that first lesson. Being younger, that made no sense to me. He said, "if you learn to fall, you can learn to get up."

Every athlete should keep that in mind. It's a life lesson, and transcends the sport. Anyone defending the actions of Lias Andersson should take stock of how they lose the everyday battles in their lives.

I'll end with a quote that was tweeted by an unrelated account just as the evening wore down:
If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind. - Lao Tzu

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Rushing To Judgment: Habs' Andrew Shaw Wrongfully Accused On Twitter

It's hockey-less Sunday. The Habs have been losing every game but their first of the season. While it's only 8 games in, and 74 left to go, Habs Twitter (i.e. the stream of Habs fans tweeting about this team and All Things Habs) is an emotional minefield.

But it got ugly, this Sunday, as someone - namely, Scott Wheeler, a writer for the subscription-only site The Athletic -  tweeted out a millisecond-long video of Andrew Shaw from Friday night's game. (Don't go to his timeline looking for it - he's deleted it)

Shaw was in the penalty box, after having been pounded by Anaheim's Kevin Bieksa, and penalized only after he went after Bieksa.

The clip - soundless and fleeting - was tweeted out with an accusation of what it was purported that he said.

The first "f" word was easy to decipher, even for those who do not read lips well. The second f-word was misconstrued as Shaw using a derogatory term for gay people.

Twitter blew up with people jumping on Shaw's back for this. They condemned him, they were derisive of his ambassadorship with Patrick Burke's "You Can Play" organization (an organization that promotes a safe place in sports for gay athletes of all sports, and all levels). And they judged him based on his past.

See, when he was with the Chicago Blackhawks, Shaw did use that word. He was suspended one game, fined $5000, and sent to undergo sensitivity training - all of which he did, after issuing a public apology (one which definitely seems sincere).

Based on his past, this was a shoo-in for those quick to vilify without proof. This was Shaw, repeating his mistakes, and being a terrible person. This was Shaw who had to be suspended. Had to pay a fine. Had to be traded. Had to be benched. You name it, the armchair judges had his fate all wrapped up.

I read of it when a blog I follow retweeted the video and the post with it. I saw others jumping on the Excoriate Shaw bandwagon.

But I didn't buy into it. See, I do read lips, and I know how difficult some sounds are to discern. A hard "g" sound isn't visible. The clip was so fleeting, it was absolutely inconclusive.

I saw one tweet actually sent to Kevin Bieksa, encouraging him to "give that d-bag {abbreviation mine} a couple of more hits to the face next time." Despicable, given Shaw's recent injury (which I will discuss shortly).

Calling Shaw a homophobe. Calling for him to be traded.

I tweeted out:

I received a reply - from the person who originally tweeted the video: I replied:

I received a reply - from the person who had retweeted the video:

He replied:

He came back with:

My replies:

My replies: He didn't reply, which was fine with me. And the judgmental all over Twitter continued their smear campaign all day.

In the evening, it came out that not only was there a longer video clip, and that it had already been looked at by the NHL; what was actually being shouted from the penalty box was:

"Not f'ing fair" - a far cry from the original accusation.

The NHL statement:

The NHL statement: And still, some on Twitter replied, saying this was fake.

Suddenly, though, people were tweeting out that the poster who had been most vocal (the one quoted above in the exchange with me) had locked his Twitter account. This means nobody who is not a follower can see his tweets anymore.

Tweeters who had accused Shaw unfairly were suddenly justifying trying to justify their actions.

"He had done it before!"
"That's what it looked like he said!"
"He has a record!"


"Given the video we had and his past behavior, it was a logical assumption. We still don't know for sure what he said."

(That is verbatim - and a tweet to which I replied that no, logical assumption is innocence, not guilt, and without evidence, her premise was utterly rejected).

I posted:

There were those who did reply, stating they were wrong. There were those who didn't delete their original accusations but posted in apology to Shaw (who had been tagged in a majority of the angry accusations).

And yes, there were those whose tweets on the subject - judgmental, accusatory, and just plain wrong - were "magically" gone from their timelines.

For instance, Scott Wheeler, whose tweet began the whole day's ugliness, just deleted the tweets and replied to someone who called him out on it:

But he still deleted his tweets, instead of adding to them so that those who had already commented could see how wrong he was.

I think it's cowardly to delete tweets. We all saw them. Own up to them, quote them, and issue a mea culpa. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, it is admirable to be forthcoming when one is wrong.

Instead, they just pretended as though they never said it.

Let me explain why I gave Andrew Shaw the benefit of the doubt from the get-go:

I do believe he learned his lesson from having been penalized the first time. It was not just the fine, and suspension - I truly believe he realized how terrible it is to use that word in any circumstances, and his apology at the time was as sincere as they get.

Speaking before the team left for St. Louis, Shaw said he couldn't sleep after Tuesday night's game and that watching video of his outburst was difficult. It was video of the incident that went viral on social media, prompting sharp criticism and an NHL investigation.
"It was hard to see. Emotions got the best of me," Shaw said, adding that he understands why the slur is considered hurtful. "I'll never use that word again, that's for sure. ... That's not the type of guy I am."
Shaw was sent off for interference at 17 minutes, 56 seconds of the third period, hurting Chicago's chance for a comeback in what ended up being a 4-3 loss. While sitting in the box, Shaw pounded on the glass with his stick and then yelled at someone on the ice. As video of the incident spread online, the You Can Play project, a group supporting inclusiveness in athletics, swiftly tweeted that it was planning to contact the NHL.
After the game, Shaw was asked twice about what happened and said he didn't remember.
"Being like I just said -- I'll repeat myself for you -- emotions are high,'' he said. "I don't know what was said. Obviously I was upset with the call. I wasn't happy with the call."
A day later, Shaw said he saw the video after he returned home from the arena and said he was "sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made."
"I apologize to many people, including the gay and lesbian community, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Blackhawks fans and anyone else I may have offended," he said. "I know my words were hurtful, and I will learn from my mistake."

I am a firm believe in not rushing to judgment. In all walks of life, we have seen terrible consequences from drawing conclusions based on nothing but assumption. This is no different.

Moreover, Andrew Shaw sustained a severe concussion last season with the Habs. He missed 14 games, and later in the season sustained another concussion - one he tried to conceal. The interview he gave, pre-season, truly sheds light on what he had gone through. An excerpt:

"I remember waking up in the middle of the night, puking, not sleeping, and I wasn’t getting more than two or three hours of sleep during that night," Shaw said. "I was worried. If I’m worried, there’s really something wrong. The wife knew there was something wrong with me and she was angry with me for not doing anything about it earlier. A teammate came up to me and asked me if I was all right because he could see it in my eyes that I didn’t look right. He said it looked like I was looking right through him, and I was thinking there must be something wrong with me then."

Shaw, in the game against Anaheim Friday night, had been pounded relentlessly by Kevin Bieksa, and watching the video is painful to see. His head snapped back several times under Bieksa's fist, almost hitting the crossbar of the net against which he was pinned.

If anyone thinks, after knowing what he went through last season, that his health isn't always first and foremost on his mind, they don't understand post-concussion symptoms.

I do understand them. My son has had 2 concussions, and though the 2nd one was over 2 years ago, he is still experiencing symptoms. The brain is a mystery, and traumatic brain injuries are a very serious affliction.

I'm not saying that any of this is an excuse had Shaw been found to have used the slur. I'm saying that what he DID say makes a lot more sense. After Bieksa walloped him, as the refs did nothing, Shaw got up and went after his attacker. Only then was a whistle blown and both players penalized.

It makes a lot more sense that Shaw was protesting the fairness of having been penalized as well, rather than assume that he was using a homophobic slur to a referee.

But people won't ever give others the benefit of the doubt. And it is a sad commentary on social media - and society in general - to see what transpired this Sunday.

One tweet touched me with this:

Spot on. The rush to judgment makes people holier-than-thou.And I am not hopeful, in any way, that they will have learned from this. I'm sure, however, that they will be just as quick to jump on another scapegoat without evidence to prove them wrong.

I don't entertain any delusional aspirations that my writing about this incident will change anyone's views or behavior. In fact, I even got this - after posting how wrong it was that Shaw had been vilified:

Shaw had been vilified: They can try to deflect any way they want. Some have had the class to apologize in public for their jumping to conclusions.

Maybe they're the ones we can hope for, as those who will wait for conclusive evidence in the future.

I'm optimistic.

To a fault