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

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

What Unites Us Still Doesn't Make Us The Same: On Trump And Commonalities

 It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. - Audre Lourde

I've been vocally anti-Trump for over two years now. After he announced, I knew what we were looking at, I predicted much of what has already come to pass, and I stopped watching his speeches, rallies, even interviews.

The sound of his voice has grated on my every nerve. The imbecilic level of his speech has grated on every LAST nerve. The hypocrisy of his followers, and his own turnabout positions has made me almost smug.

Thing is, I knew what has happened was going to. It wasn't hard to see. Many of us did predict it. His ineptitude has been glaring. And his followers are still buying him as a viable president. One long-time Facebook follower, whom I thought was a friend, didn't like my posts against Trump, and not only unfriended, but blocked me.

There were, however, many people with whom I shared the same frustrations. And we banded together in voicing those frustrations and wondering where this would lead the country, and the world.

But I've slowly come to realize that many of the contacts I made during the past 18 months or so ONLY have the Trump-aversion in common with me. The rest of their ideologies not only do not mesh with mine, they are diametrically opposed to mine. And that's okay - as long as that doesn't dictate the tone of other interactions, or worse, cause sniping, discord, and attacks. Sadly, that's just never the case. And ever since the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, it's become déja-vu all over again for me.

Along with these new contacts, I've been cheering on the Russia investigation. I've been hoping for a result that would see this arrogant, incompetent, petty little unpresidential man leave the White House à la Nixon, helicopter wave and all.

I've been eating up the "Breaking News" alerts, each one piling onto the already-questionable collection of Unsolved Mysteries, ethical violations, and unanswered queries.

I've even jumped on the Vilify GOP wagon (to a certain extent) because the Republican Party has continued to sell out, after having nominated the worst possible candidate to lead its broken membership.

But when it comes down to it?

I'm glad there's a Republican president in the White House.

And I want the Republican Party to emerge victorious in 2018. Senate, and House, I want them both to remain in the Red column.

Beyond this being the appropriate stance to take, as a conservative, why do I want this?

Because as long as they do, my conservative values - and those of my American neighbors - can remain as intact as the voters will allow.

Because as long as they do, the Second Amendment will remain uninfringed - as it should be ("...shall not be infringed" - per the Bill of Rights, 1791, emphasis mine).

Because as long as they do, funding will not go to Planned Parenthood to murder the hundreds of thousands of babies PP kills per year.

Because as long as they do, liberals are held at arms' length, unable to pass crippling government programs, bleeding the country dry in order to carry out social justice, and raising debt to even more astronomical levels.

Because as long as they do, conservatives have a chance to elect a more capable, knowledgeable, truly conservative candidate to run in 2020, and get the taste of the Trump administration out of our collective proverbial mouths.

I have realized that the battles I fought, in my conservative awakening, some years back, the realizations I experienced when finally understanding what conservatism embodies, those things are happening again.

Back then, I lost "friends", I experienced personal attacks from "friends" and from their friends, I turned to my own network of information (people whom I trust and sites that informed me), and weathered the storm.

And now it's happening again.

I'm being attacked by people who had one thing in common with me: a visceral dislike for the president.

And you know what? Though I won't defend him, I will defend myself. I will not shrivel from criticism, because that criticism comes from ignorance.

Steven Crowder - born Canadian, now a conservative pundit in the USA - says this:

"Argu[e] from truth: provide as much information as is humanly possible, and let the cards fall where they may."

I've argued in favor of the NRA - of which I am a proud member. I've been told that not owning a gun (I will, soon) and being a member of the NRA makes me "disingenuous and hypocritical." (That from a Canadian who fights Trump more than he fights Canadian politics)

I have chosen not to reply, but I am a member of the NRA because I believe in its mission, I have learned a LOT of information about guns, gun safety, and the organization's accomplishments. I actually believe being an NRA member makes one more savvy, and would welcome a suggested membership for gun owners when they purchase - or at least a mandatory safety/training course.

I've argued in favor of the Second Amendment because that is what drives people apart faster than any other issue in this landscape.

Unlike that person I was when I was still an uninformed, dreaming leftist (and I still shudder when I think of that "me"), I have the knowledge, the resources, the confidence, and the support more strongly than ever.

I am better equipped to recognize talking points (those brainless, mindless, repetitive security blankets leftists grasp for dear life, with no substance, truth, or evidence to uphold their statements. [See also: rhetoric]).

I am better equipped to argue from that Truth Perspective, and I am less inclined to stay in an argument going round and round until I'm exhausted from typing the same things over and over again.

I am more inclined to stop the "debate" sooner rather than later, with a cheery but decisive adieu, and even more inclined not to return to it despite my exit. (The previous me couldn't pass up a good rebuttal...when I think of all the hours I will never get back, trying to convince one person of the facts I was presenting, I emit a heavy sigh)

I am, most importantly, deeply confident of my positions, without the need to recruit or convince. I need no talking points - and that's because I use facts.

One startling chasm I crossed when awakening to conservatism was how leftists are so quick to embrace the false, the bent "truth", the outright lie, capitulate to the emotions that govern their thoughts, that comfort zone in which they exist to fight their social justice wars without any regard for cold, hard evidence. I, on the other hand, will not be governed by my emotions. I recognize them, acknowledge them, and meet them with facts that will either validate, or correct thoughts born of feelings.

It's only one reason I am so proud to be conservative. I research everything. And if the truth is not on our side, I will admit it and we go from there.

I have yet to see a leftist break with their positions.

I must amend that. Leah Libresco is a Washington Post writer, whose article, "I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise." shows profound courage and incredible dissent with her party. She admits that she is still anti-gun, but she has accepted that banning weapons is not the answer - contrary to how it is with so many leftists these days.

So yes, that is one person. There are likely more. I am a recovering leftist, so I can recognize that glimmer of light in someone's eyes when they begin to realize they've been fed the wrong intellectual fodder all their lives. It's heady.

A wise man told me that Trump - for all his faults (and there are many) - is still representing the Republican Party, and as such, we have not fallen into the pit of liberalism that we narrowly escaped with Hillary's defeat.

He tells me, constantly - whenever I waver: "think about the long game. The bigger picture."

I finally see it. And it is what I will keep hold of as these months continue to unfold with unprecedented spectacle day after day.

But to anyone who is reading this, who has shared the anti-Trump with me, in thinking we are the same:

We are not. My positions and values do not, in any way, echo yours in the slightest bit.

The main difference between you and me?

I will never vilify, attack, or mock you for your views. I never resort to disrespectful, insulting, or personal attacks. It's too bad you don't accord me the same courtesy.

But that's okay.

Because I know who I am, what I stand for, and I don't turn to celebrities and vapid activists to tell me what to think.

Trump may have brought us together on social media, in our common distaste for him.

But we are not the same.

And I am perfectly okay with that.

Monday, August 21, 2017

City Refuses To Allow Swastika Removal From Park

On August 17th, 2017, Corey Fleischer, of Erasing Hate, was called by a concerned citizen, regarding a swastika prominently displayed in a park. The park is Parc des ancres, in the town of Pointe-des-Cascades, located north of Vaudreuil, Quebec.

When Corey arrived, he found two swastikas to be on a large anchor displayed in the park. He observed that the city had taken care of this anchor, repainting it (beige, black, and white) and the swastikas were engraved into the metal - and painted a prominent black against the white background.

Photo: Corey Fleischer, Facebook

Corey wants the anchor removed altogether, but in the interim, was satisfied to simply obliterate the swastikas. As he began to paint over the first swastika, the mayor of the city showed up and told him to stop.

As Corey said:

 He couldn't understand why I was so upset, and why I was removing the paint that covered the Swastika. He then told me that if I didn't leave the park, he would call the police and charge me with "Destruction of Property."

Corey did not back down, and a discussion ensued when police were called. You can see it in the video below:

Corey had to leave the park without taking care of the hate symbol.

Later in the week, Corey posted this photo of the plaque under what he calls "Swastika Anchor".

Courtesy Corey Fleischer, Facebook

What adds to the disturbing nature of this entire story is that someone in this city felt proud to display a Nazi "souvenir" with a symbol of hate out in the open, a park, where kids play and families gather.

There are many who support Corey and are disgusted by the city not only endorsing but protecting this hate symbol.  But the most shocking results are the comments his Facebook post has received.

There were those who tried to argue that the swastika is a sign of peace, originally. There were others who argued that these particular swastikas were not painted on an angle, and therefore were not symbols of hate. And still others - too many, in my opinion - who tried to debate that the anchor predated World War II and was not intended to offend.

It is impossible to comprehend how anyone can defend this hate speech, and not experience the visceral, gut-punched revulsion that most decent humans do when confronted by it.

It begged the question: is a swastika any less offensive if on an item that was not intended to persecute the Jews?

The answer is very clear: there is never going to be any other meaning assigned to the swastika than the one it became in 1930s and 40s Europe: anti-Semitism, hate, and persecution of the Jewish people.

For those who claim - as has been reported -  that the swastika was painted on a British anchor, I say this: swastikas that are spray painted on a Canadian brick wall are no less hateful than those on Nazi flags and armbands worn by the S.S. Therefore, the anchor and its origins do not soften the meaning either.

The British anchors that bore the swastika before Nazis made it into their flag were not painted in the Hitlerian color scheme. They were monotone. The one in Pointe-des-Cascades was very freshly painted black, on a white circle; that is clearly Nazi-related.

But here's the thing: the historical context, the date, and the meaning of the swastika when that anchor was created are no longer relevant. The symbol has been forever perverted by Nazis who marched under it while they set out to humiliate, isolate, torture, murder, and burn the bodies of six million Jews - and never can the swastika be seen in any other light.

Even the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington D.C. states that "By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed." (emphasis is mine)

We have seen neo-Nazis marching on a city in the USA just this month, carrying swastika flags; we cannot deny that the symbol continues to be anti-Semitic.

For those who derisively sneered that perhaps no Nazi memorabilia, or Holocaust artifacts should ever be seen, I say this: there are places for those items. Yad Vashem. The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Museum. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The myriad museums around the world where one can go for the express purpose of learning about the Holocaust, its atrocities, and its outcomes, so that education can ensue and the world can continue to remember the horrors of Nazi Germany. Museums are designed by those who know how to teach, properly exhibit, and provide explanations for the items curated within. A park is not a museum.

For the one incredibly obtuse, disrespectful commenter who suggested to me that Auschwitz be bulldozed ("to the ground" because it was made by Germans), I say this: missing the point is a sign of deep ignorance, or cognitive dissonance. Deflection is a sign of defensiveness. If he was defending his hate, it was blatant.

Ignorance will breed more ignorance, and when we say Never Forget, it's a literal mantra. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

No one is saying that all remnants of World War II be erased forever. Quite the opposite. There are places for such memorabilia, to educate, to witness, and those places are where visitors expect to be confronted by symbols of hate and horror.

But a park is not a museum - no matter how much its defenders call it thus;  and it is certainly not a place for swastikas - most especially not when they are freshly painted, defended, and protected by the mayor of the city in which they are located.

Fleischer has retained the legal services of a lawyer who will represent him if further action is taken against him (thus far, none has been instigated). I have no information as to how he will proceed from here, but what we know about Corey Fleischer is that he doesn't give up. He is a crusader against Hate of all kinds: against religious groups (ALL religions), races, sexual orientation, gender, nationality. He has made it his Mission to Erase Hate wherever it is displayed, and there's no way this will continue without his pressing the matter.

The fact that the Mayor Gilles Santerre (of Pointe-des-Cascades) couldn't empathize with Corey, or every other Jewish person to whom that symbol represents hate and suffering, is disturbing - to say the least. That he would protect it, even after Corey explained its meaning, is even more of a concern.

There are only two reasons someone would be so laissez-faire about a swastika: ignorance, or anti-Semitism.

Neither is a great quality, especially in a mayor of a municipality.

There should be no further ignorance, after being taught the reason for Corey Fleischer's desire to remove the swastikas. He explained, in the video above, quite clearly, what the symbol represents. The mayor should already know what the Holocaust was.

So, we're left with the other choice: anti-Semitism. Someone painted meticulously over those swastikas, to emphasize them. I find it hard to believe they didn't know what the symbol means. And so, we're faced with the mayor of a small town, his public works employees, and perhaps city councilors who are willfully allowing the definitive symbol of anti-Semitism to glaringly greet anyone who walks in that park.

This incident is a very slippery slope. I believe that if we do not succeed in getting the mayor to remove this hateful item from the public's view, we are going to see many more of these excuses made for other hate symbols that will pop up - not just in Montreal, not just in Canada, but perhaps worldwide.

Meanwhile, as of Monday, August 21, 2017, the following press release appeared on the city's website:

From Pointe-des-Cascades website

The mayor has decided to install new plates, explaining the history of the symbols and the artifact.

Not good enough. See, it doesn't matter what the swastika used to mean. It has forever been changed, and will never be seen as anything other than a symbol of Nazism and anti-Semitism. No amount of explanation will change that. Any Jewish person confronted by it will never be placated by a weak explanation of what it used to mean.

It means one thing, now and forevermore.

I sincerely hope the mayor of Pointe-des-Cascades - M. Gilles Santerre - will reconsider.

Perhaps he can meet with educators on the issue; perhaps a town hall in which he learns, and hears from survivors, families, researchers, those who work on behalf of combatting anti-Semitism. I would be more than happy to speak with him, as I know Corey Fleischer and others would as well.

But this cannot remain as is. No press release, no explanation, no historical context will ever take away the fact that the symbol was twisted into one of hate and cannot be unseen as such.

Education is key. It is not present in Pointe-des-Cascades.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Dear Mr. President: A Question You Haven't Been Asked

Dear Mr. President,

You've held some press conferences, given some interviews, and you tweet a lot.

But I haven't heard this question asked of you, and given the latest of your bizarre comments, I'm wondering if you'll answer it for me:

Why did you want this job?

See, I ask because you've had a tough 6 months, and there's no sign of it letting up. Let's review:

That claim was refuted by many outlets, including the National Park Service, which released photos - 2 months later! - to prove that your claim was, indeed, false.

You had Spicer battle the press almost every day. Not just for that claim, but for others as well. I would list them, but they're too numerous for one post.

Do you really believe that? I mean, Ronald Reagan was shot. John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were assassinated. Bill Clinton's sex life was dragged through the mud. Countless other politicians have been fodder for partisan press, but you believe you've topped the scales?

  • Your presidency has been overshadowed by the accusations of collusion with Russia to meddle in the election. Mr. President, there are reasons for that.

From the first day of your primary campaign, you took shots at every country, and every person. From leaders to your fellow candidates, you belittled, bullied, mocked, and maligned pretty much everyone we can name: except Vladimir Putin or Russia. You've refrained from saying a negative word about Russia, for over 2 years.

You even said the United States could be compared to Russia - in a baffling interview in which you refused to call Vladimir Putin a terrorist, and said, "Do you think our country's so innocent?" when asked to comment on Putin's known regime of killing.

  • You've stated that you didn't know healthcare was so complicated. Due respect, Sir, I've never held public office, but even I know that healthcare is a profoundly complex matter. And you've been fighting to get healthcare resolved for the entirety of your presidency so far, with no success. It makes you look weak, and it reflects badly on the party you have deeply divided.

  • You've made the baffling statement that you thought the job would be easier than your old life. Are you kidding me? Your old life consisted of living in your glamorous New York City tower, golfing all the time, hosting a reality television show, making deals, attending society events,  and spending time in your resorts at Mar-A-Lago in Florida and Bedminster, New Jersey.

And yet, you thought running the United States of America - dealing with every foreign power in the world, precarious situations in a time of war and terrorism, having to comport yourself with diplomatic dignity, making decisions that affect over 320,000,000 people in their everyday lives, balancing a budget for the entire country, fending off press that can be less than kind, and living in a virtual fishbowl 24/7/365 - would be easier than playing TV host and golf?

Clearly, you had no idea before you took the job - or after, either.

Chatting with some members before a recent round of golf, he explained his frequent appearances: "That White House is a real dump."

So, given your obvious unhappiness with the job, the people, the visibility, the restrictions, and even the People's House you were given to enjoy for the duration of your term, I ask you again:

Why did you want this job?

I have a theory. I believe you wanted to win. My theory is based on the fact that you have continued, for the past 6 months, to extol the virtues of your Electoral College win (even bragging to a crowd of Boy Scouts, whose Jamboree is supposed to be a non-political event, and who were not old enough to have cast a single vote).

My theory is, as well, based on your penchant to want to have the best, know the best, and ultimately  be The Best, in every single thing you discuss.

My theory is also based on the fact that you continue to hold rallies - ostensibly for the 2020 re-election campaign you are planning (despite the shambles in which your current term is). You have yet another rally planned for this week, going on as though you haven't lost your Press Secretary, Communications Director, and Chief of Staff all within the past 10 days. To be fair, in a stunning lack of self-awareness, you did summarize it as "a great day."

If you did want to win so badly, it was not the race to enter.

See, the Presidency is not a race to be won with election. It is not a race to the finish line. There is no gold medal.

The Presidency is a race that starts after the win. After those votes have been counted, victory has been declared, your opponent has conceded - that's when the race begins.

A race to establish a network of trusted individuals who will support and advise you.

A race to establish a relationship of trust between the American people and their soon-to-be new leader.

A race to formulate a detailed plan on how you will now carry out the promises you made, the promises that got you the job you were elected to do.

A race to plan everything, from the transition, to the first act as president, to the subsequent priorities you have laid out to your staff, your Cabinet, and the World.

The race begins in earnest after you have said those 35 sacred words in your oath of office, delivered your inaugural speech, and waved to the last of the crowd on the day of celebration.

The race begins after you've come back to your new home (dump or not) following the inaugural balls at which you have received the adoration of your followers.

The race begins on January 21st, the day after you have taken office, and you are now faced with the myriad balls to juggle for 4 years.

And the race does not end until you have left the presidency, boarded the plane to take you home, and return to your life as a private citizen.

I don't believe you had a firm grasp on that concept, Mr. Trump. I don't believe you had the slightest clue of what you were going to face when you first walked into the awe-inspiring Oval Office and sat behind that venerated desk to put your pen to your first order.

I don't believe you've ever worked with others you didn't domineer; Congress is not to be domineered. The men and women of Congress are your colleagues, and are to be your support network with whom you have to work to Get Things Done.

I don't believe you have ever had to answer to anyone but yourself, and now, you answer to over 320,000,000 Americans, countless world leaders, and citizens of Planet Earth, who are all affected by every action you take.

I don't believe you had any inkling that the race was not to be won in an election, but that your proverbial gold medal might be waiting at the end of your term, when history would judge you.

Some receive a shining gold medal of respect and admiration, success and historic acts.

Some never get any medal at all.

You are on a pathway to becoming a member of the latter group.

Only you can answer the question: why did you want this job?

And if you, as I suspect, wanted it for the wrong reasons?

Perhaps it's time to admit that you could win the election, but not the race, and cede your baton to the next guy to do better.

After all, wouldn't you be happier back in your old life, which was easier, and in which you lived in a palace, not a dump?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Facebook Etiquette: Birthday Greetings

Google's Personal Birthday Doodle, linked to the date and significant occasions related to it)

Yesterday was my birthday. (There - it's out - you can feel guilty now, if you didn't acknowledge it)

As part of my Personal New Year resolution to create at least once a day (writing, and graphics), this entry is reflective of the Digital Age's birthday etiquette - the Facebook edition.

Birthdays, being online, can be really fun. I've received coupon offers valid for the week of my birthday, from restaurants, online book retailers, bars, places I've shopped. I've received Happy Birthday greetings from newsletters to which I subscribe, and even Google had an animated candlelit logo, linked to July 17 events, occasions, and historical facts.

On Twitter, all day long, anyone (including you) visiting your page is greeted with animated balloons drifting up to the top of the page:

And anyone who is on Facebook knows that the platform provides you with birthday notifications for your friends/contacts (or at least those who have entered their birth dates in their personal information, and made that information accessible to their friends).

Besides an actual notification alert you get (stating "it's so-and-so's birthday day, help her celebrate!", and leading you to the user's page), it also shows up on the right-hand side of your user interface, first notification in the sidebar. It lists the name(s) of birthdays, hyperlinked to the user's page to make it that much easier for you to click, and type out a wish.

And if one has forgotten, Facebook now sends you a notification letting you know it was someone's birthday yesterday, asking if you'd like to send belated greetings; this is done when a user hasn't clicked the Facebook link to do so on the day of - and yes, Facebook does keep close ties with your clicking and greeting habits.

It takes 30 seconds - unless, like so many people who go the extra mile, one chooses to write a more personal greeting, a special wish, or even include graphics. Some people find nice birthday art online and use that, some create their own (I do that for people with whom I'm close), and Facebook even provides videos from which you can choose the right one for your friend.

Now, there's no delusion in anyone's mind that, had Facebook not included this handy-dandy notification, these birthdays would still be acknowledged. In this day and age, with Facebook users who count their "friends" in the hundreds, it isn't expected that every birthday be remembered and acknowledged.

Family members need no notifications for birthdays (one would hope). Close friends are the same.

But for those people you've befriended whom you may never even meet face-to-face - or haven't yet, or those you've not seen for a long time, the platform allows you to make their day that much more special with an acknowledgment of it.

Now, since I became a Facebook user, I can honestly say that it does make the day that much more festive, when the greetings roll in. As I said, no delusion that someone I've never met, with whom I interact more casually than others, will actually remember my birthday without the social media prompt. But it's nice that they did take the time to type out the message, even if it's a simple "Happy Birthday!"

It's fun to wake to them (or, in my case, watch them roll in from my overseas friends for whom my birthday occurs before it does here in Eastern North America). It's fun to watch them come in during the day. It's even fun to look at my page and see "So-and-so and 75 others have written on your timeline to wish you a happy birthday".

It's special when those people who are more peripheral than others still take the time to type out a greeting. I had a few first-timers this year, and it made me smile, and appreciate them that much more.

I'm a big kid when it comes to my birthday. I love being the birthday girl, and I doubt that will ever change.

Technology, and especially social media, changes that for the better.

I've watched people whose birthdays are being acknowledged, and how they choose to acknowledge those greetings. I've done it a certain way, myself, for years. And it made me think about the etiquette of birthday greetings, online. So much so, in fact, that I decided to write this little observation of how it's done across the Internet.

Here are the ways in which Facebook users can - and do - acknowledge the greetings they receive. There's no right or wrong way (except the obvious):

  • A collective acknowledgment the day after
  • A collective acknowledgment the day of
  • Individual thanks
  • No acknowledgment
  • Any combination of the aforementioned 

Collective Acknowledgment - Day After: 


This is when the birthday person wakes the next day, and posts - either first thing in the morning, or mid-morning - something along the lines of:

"I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to wish me a happy birthday yesterday. It was very apprecicated!"

Nothing wrong with that; it does the job. It also does the job of guilting those who did NOT take the time, and shaking them loose, in a flurry of "Oh no, I missed your birthday! Happy belated!" type posts.

(Note: there have been days that have gotten away from me, days in which I have not acknowledged the birthdays of those people in my life, and I have been known to be one of those guilt-ridden belated-greeters tacked onto a Collective Acknowledgment; it happens to us all)

Collective Acknowledgment - Day Of: 


This gets tricky. I've seen people post halfway through the day, which may just mean they're enjoying the greetings so much, they want people to know it.

It also serves as a "shake 'em loose" tool, for those who have not yet added to the chorus of greetings.

The problem with that is that many people don't check their alerts or notifications until later in the day, or even in the evening; as well, time differences are not accounted for.

As a result, those who post their greetings (which were likely planned for the time of day they were better able to take care of them) look as though they've been guilted into posting, or are just following the crowd.

I've been known to be unable to post greetings First Thing In The Morning, and when I see those collective acknowledgments, I will include, "I'm not posting because you wanted to remind everyone - I always planned to wish you a happy day" in my personal birthday wish." (I usually include an emoji to indicate that fact, something with a tongue sticking out or a winky-face)

(It doesn't take away from the nagging worry that said birthday celebrant may believe I did so grudgingly because s/he posted a big "It's my birthday and OTHER people have ALREADY wished me a happy one" update; yes, I stress that way)

In terms of etiquette, the celebrant must also take care to follow some informal guidelines so as not to make their entire Friends' List feel badly.

(Of course, there are still those who never post the birthday wishes, regardless of the Reminder Thanks broadcasts halfway through or day after; they're hopeless and need no acknowledgment of their boorish neglect) 

Individual Thanks (Anytime)


This is my preferred method. It takes very little extra time to type out my thanks to each one who's taken their time to wish me a happy birthday. For some, it's a simple "thank you", for others, it's a more personal acknowledgment which inspires a follow-up post (example: "thank you so much! How are things with you?").

I enjoy greeting each one individually. It's like opening presents. You don't usually open your gifts and send a mass email to everyone who gave you one ("just want to send this to thank everyone for the gifts you gave me for my birthday/wedding/anniversary/baby! I love them all!").

Whether you're opening gifts at your party, or afterwards, the etiquette is to send thank-you notes to everyone who gave you something for your special occasion.

That's why I do the individual thanks. It feels more personal, makes it more festive, gets my acknowledgments done on the spot, and doesn't guilt anyone the next day (though, if you read on, there are ways to acknowledge the non-acknowledgers).

And when friends have done the same, on their birthdays, it's really nice to get an individual acknowledgment back as well.

No Acknowledgment


Goes without saying - this is just rude.

Combination Of Any Of These


Some people choose to do any or all of these. Keep in mind, you're influencing behavior if you post a collective note, whether it's halfway through your birthday, the next day, or even the day after that. But it definitely beats no acknowledgment at all.

Facebook has put in a new feature: the day after one's birthday, you get a video that sums up some of the greetings you got. It's a pretty tower cake, whose decorations become windows opening to some of the messages you received the day before. It's always nice to see the more personalized ones highlighted but if not, Facebook allows you to edit your own video (so you can include those longer, more personal wishes over the simple - but always appreciated - "Happy Birthday" posts).

This serves as a nice Collective Acknowledgment - Day After tool. You can hit "share", write something to introduce it, or write nothing at all.

And as always, the Day-After post of thanks will invariably bring people out of the woodwork to acknowledge you belatedly.

If I seem judgmental in any of the things I have outlined here, don't worry - I'm not. These are observations, some tongue-in-cheek, and could - perhaps - serve as a guideline for others. Whether you are celebrating (and being Facebook Celebrated), or reaching out to others who are, you may choose to turn to this post as one person's take on Facebook Birthday Etiquette.

If you're wondering how to properly do Passive-Aggressive Facebook Birthday Acknowledgment?

Here's how I posted my Day-After birthday video.

(Never said I didn't have some of the snark within)