Monday, December 08, 2014

Jean Béliveau: A Farewell Tribute

It’s been six days since the passing of Montreal Canadiens' great Jean Béliveau, and he remains in the forefront of everyone’s minds. It was announced that the family would open visitation to all who wished to pay respects and that Mr. Béliveau’s casket would lie in state at the Bell Centre. This was, already, an incredible showing of recognition for the man he was and remains in the hearts of the city and hockey fans worldwide. But the Canadiens organization — renowned for how beautifully they pay tribute to their own — outdid itself.
For two days, the Bell Centre became a makeshift chapel. I chose to go downtown and be a part of this historic event because of my love for the game, the Habs, the city and my deepest respect for a man I’d never even seen play, but whose enduring larger-than-life reputation transcends hockey.
After a half-hour in line, we began to move. People filed in from two sections of the lower bowl. The arena was draped with black cloth, floor to ceiling. All around the stands, on every level where there is an LED display panel, his beautiful, famous signature was lit in white on a black background. The ice was covered with black flooring, and a floodlit red carpet, leading from both sections and converging in the center, up to the makeshift alter where the casket lay.
In the darkened stands to our left, lit by white spotlight, was Mr. Béliveau’s regular seat, draped with Habs colors and his number. The sight of that empty seat was what started my emotions.

Photo courtesy of (my camera wouldn't take the photo with any justification of the beautiful lighting)
 Hanging from the ceiling were two banners with Mr. Béliveau’s photos: one recent, wearing his Habs jersey, holding the iconic torch in hand, and the other from his playing days, where he is hoisting the Stanley Cup. In the center was his No. 4 banner, lowered from its usual place in the rafters. The casket stood in front of two flower arrangements, both of which depicted the Canadiens’ logo. Also present was his bronze statue which normally graces the outside square of the Bell Centre. And in a row, four trophies which bear his name (numerous times): the Conn Smythe, Hart Memorial, Art Ross and the Stanley Cup.
But it was the presence of the Béliveau family which shone brighter than the trophies. Mrs. Béliveau, her daughter and granddaughters stood in a receiving line, greeting each visitor personally, tirelessly shaking hands, thanking us and taking the time to receive our own words of condolences and gratitude. This was the second day of visitation, and they were present on the first as well, from 10:00 a.m. till 6:00 p.m; this speaks loudly for them, their humanity and their generosity of spirit.

The Bell Centre seats 21,273 usually-screaming, cheering, chattering fans. To see it that somber, hear it that hushed was startlingly surreal. But it illustrates the respect this man commanded that the room was absent its usual noise and instead filled with the reverence and emotions of thousands who came to say goodbye to a hero.
When it was my turn, I stood in front of the casket and said a few silent words of thanks. I walked toward the family, shook Mrs. Béliveau’s hand and offered my sympathies. I thanked her for allowing us the opportunity to honor him and to be a part of his farewell. She was incredibly gracious and I was humbled in her presence, able to express my gratitude to her. I went down the line, was thanked by each member of the family even as I thanked them, then made my way up the steps, unabashedly choked with emotion.
A few rows up, I stopped and turned; I had the need to take it all in. I stood in one of the lower rows, and just took some time to watch the hushed crowd — people of all ages — and faces of those who were feeling the same awe that I was.
This was more than a visitation; it was a moment in history. In the history of Montreal and of hockey, but in the history of humanity. Because Jean Béliveau was of an era gone by. His class and his dignity, his humility and generosity of spirit is known to everyone who knew of him, whether they had seen him play or not. Everyone has a story about him. Everyone has a memory.
And now, even in death, he is providing memories for those who have filed past his casket and felt what I did: a sense of having paid respects to a man whose very nature embodied the word.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Emotional Tidal Wave

I created this last night when I needed to express my love for Canada

*Note: I won't get political here; that is for another time. But I will also not stand idly by and allow Prime Minister Harper to be denigrated by those who hate him merely for their own reasons and refuse to see all the good he stands for, and has brought about in Canada.

On September 14, 2001, I stood in my kitchen on crutches, having fractured my fibula 2 weeks earlier, watching the television on the counter, in tears of the deepest emotions, and watched a worldwide prayer service unfold on the screen. It was 3 days after the worst terrorist attack on United States soil, and I remember when the services in Canada were shown.

There was a beautiful blue sky, and the majestic clock tower of our Parliament building stretching up into the sunlight. Still picturing those planes flying into the World Trade Centers, I remember thinking, "We're not immune. We are so vulnerable."

I never lost that - I never fooled myself into thinking Canada would never be attacked. In fact, I think I was just waiting for that shoe to drop.

Yesterday, it did. In events that shocked the world, and shattered mine, we were attacked.

It wasn't a massive attack in terms of lives lost. It wasn't loud or smoke-filled or broadly chaotic or (for want of a better word) grandiose.

But it was a very profound statement to our country, by someone who stood for much more than the lone-wolf stereotype being put forth in analyses.

It came 2 days after another attack - one that took place just 45 minutes away from my sleepy suburb. One that killed a soldier, and one that was classified "terror" just hours after it happened. That was shocking enough.

But there was something so surreal about seeing the capital of Canada, an iconic building in that capital, and the symbol of our very democracy, under attack; chaotic in its own right as a citywide lockdown remained in place into the nighttime hours.

There was something so bizarrely shocking about seeing our country's capital city portrayed on U.S. news networks in a terrorist attack framework, broadcasts that lasted through the entire day, many without even taking a commercial break.

And there was something so profoundly moving about the tweets and Facebook messages I got from American, British, and Aussie friends offering love and support to my country. By the early evening, there was a flood of red and white across social media as scores of people - of all nationalities - changed their display photos to our flag.

I cried too easily yesterday. I didn't even try to stop or explain it.

I broke down inconsolably when the Pittsburgh Penguins organization announced, prior to a game against Philadelphia, that in solidarity with Canada, they would sing the National Anthem, and the voices from the stands rang out in the familiar strains of "O Canada". I watched the video twice. And broke down both times.

And I just saw that Boston did the same. And I reacted the same way. Again.

I am sad that our military personnel across this gorgeous land are being told not to wear their uniforms in public. The pride they feel in their stature, their place in the fabric of our guard, the joy they get from donning those garments must now be closeted because they may be in mortal danger for merely showing their roles in our lives. When I read the announcement that this should become the current norm, I broke down yet again.

I've tried to analyze my feelings. I've heard many people diminish the incident as "one mentally ill man". Well, yes. Anyone who does something this heinous is mentally ill.

I've heard it relegated to a "just one guy died, and while that's tragic, it wasn't like 9/11."

One is too many, first of all. And two soldiers died, when Patrice Vincent was mowed down by another Jihadist terrorist two days earlier. And I know those who say that kind of thing don't mean to downplay Corporal Cirillo's death. But they are looking at what did not happen.

I don't see it that way.

In two short days, we have had two men take the lives of military heroes, in the name of Jihad.

We can't diminish this to numbers of dead vs. other terrorist attacks. Anytime we see terrorists take lives, threaten lives, harm others, it is bigger than the act itself; it is what that act symbolizes. And it stands for hatred. Hatred born of an ideological way of thinking. Extremism that goes beyond simple disagreement.

I want to ask those people who downplay the death toll, where does the line start, for this kind of emotion? Must it be 10 people who die? 20? 50? 100?

The families of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent don't think 1 is manageable.

And nor do I.

This was an attack on me, personally. I love my country. I have come to feel more patriotic, more proud and more protective of her than ever before, as I've grown more politically and ideologically aware.

And this was an attack on my home. Ottawa was the place it happened, but Canada was the target.

If you want to talk numbers, think of what was averted. Were it not for the overwhelmingly heroic actions of Sargent-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, wholesale slaughter would have been the headlines, including perhaps our incredible Prime Minister and the leaders of the opposition, along with all the other elected officials who were in active meetings on either side of the hall the terrorist took on his last run.

I don't believe there is - or should be - a mandatory minimum dead before we react emotionally.

I make no apologies for my tears, my hair-trigger emotions, or my deep sadness at what has transpired, and what it means for my country.

I embrace those things; because their presence in my life this week reminds me of how much I love Canada, and how desperately I want to see her - and us - thrive in the freedom our soldiers have died to protect. That now includes Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent.

Honoring those men means we do not allow their deaths to become murder statistics or stars on a wall. It means we stick to our resolve not to allow the terrorists to win. It means we support the strength our government is showing and the mission Canada has undertaken to play a major part in helping to rid the world of these monsters.

Downplaying the meaning of this week's attacks dishonors their memory.

And I won't do that - nor will I stand idly by while others attempt to boil it down to "mental health issues" or "lone wolf acting alone in an isolated incident" theories.

Not facing the reality just leaves us open to more attacks. We may yet see more, in short order, or in the long run. But playing ostrich is foolish and ignorant.

And while I continue to struggle in trying to find the balance between vigilance and paranoia, I stand more proudly alongside our military, our citizens, and our government, as a Canadian through and through, who loves and honors her country and all it has to offer.

I'll get a handle on my emotions. But like Canada, I have changed forever. I plan to take that change and make it work in my favor.

For now - I just need to allow the easy tears to flow. 

G-d keep our land glorious and free.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Cyberbullying Hollywood

So, we've all heard about (and weighed in on) the celebrity photo hacking scandal that hit the news a couple of days ago. We've heard about three beautiful actors/models who had their iCloud photos hacked into, and nude photos of them were distributed online. There are many more than three. But that isn't the point of this entry.

I have seen every reaction from the lascivious to the mocking, and what tends to emerge more often than not is the victim blaming.

"If you don't want nude photos of yourself accessed, why do you leave them online?"

"If they thought anything they did was private, they were ignorant."

"It's their own fault for having raunchy photos of themselves in the first place."

And so on and so forth.

There's one problem with that: it blames the victim. 

Let me preface this by saying that celebrities in all walks of fame realize that their lives are lived in a fishbowl. But they are entitled to privacy, and they do get that in many other aspects. It is not for anyone to breach their chosen privacy. Nor is the public entitled to every single element of their lives beyond that which they distribute consensually.

Let's look at it from the above perspective:

Yes, anything you put online is out there. Nothing is private, everything is permanent. These are warnings I give people all the time, as an educator well versed in all elements of the digital world.

But if it is private - i.e. your iCloud (which is not a public place) - does that make it fair game if it's digital?

Let's look at it from the lowest common denominator: let's remove "nude" from the equation. Let's just call them "photos". And let's remove "cloud" from the equation, let's just call it "digital storage".

There are digital storage services everywhere, from Dropbox to Carbonite. These are "cloud-based" services that are private. They are like storage lockers for the digital world. The user is assigned space in the ether, a password (which is purposely required to be strong in nature) and pays, per month or per gigabyte, for the storage privileges which keeps their digital "stuff" off their physical drives. 

Cloud-based storage services act like physical drives in every way but physical. They are accessible to the user, they store anything digital, from documents to photos to music, and they are private. 

If someone came into your house and took your portable hard drive, jump drive or laptop, took the photos you had stored there, and distributed them, you would be crying bloody murder and you would probably accuse them of a crime. 

Would you blame yourself for having your photos (nude or otherwise) stored on that drive in the first place? I'm thinking you wouldn't.

So why is it the fault of these celebrities to have had their photos stolen? And why on earth is it their fault to have had those photos at all? It doesn't matter what the nature of the photos were. It doesn't matter what the nature of the storage was. 

It matters that someone took something that belonged to someone else and publicly distributed that material without the knowledge or permission of the owners.

As simple as that.

Blaming these women for having nude photos, or nude photos in the cloud is like blaming the holder of a credit card for the security breaches we've seen at Target, and Home Depot.

Blaming these women for having nude photos in a place that is accessible is like blaming the person who has valuable jewelry in a safety deposit box that gets blown open and robbed during a bank robbery. 

Blaming these women for having photographs stored in the cloud is like blaming anyone for having anything in their homes after they are victims of a home invasion.

Blaming these women for having nude photos at all is a dangerous practice. For me, it goes beyond just victim blaming in Hollywood.

As a cyberbullying educator, I am alarmed by the trends I am seeing against those celebrities. See, I am always asked "what can a parent do when their child comes home and says they are being cyberbullied?"

Fact: cyberbullying largely goes unreported for fear of being told one has done something to provoke one's bully.

The first thing you do is assure that child that they have done nothing wrong, nothing to bring about the bullying. Because they haven't.

Fact: another major reason kids don't report cyberbullying is out of fear that their parents will take away their device.

So, what you must remember is not to take away the device(s) from your child. It is not the device that provoked the bullying; bullying is entirely because of the perpetrator of the behavior. We don't blame the device. We don't blame the victim. We address the behavior by reporting the child who is bullying another, either to his/her parents, the school, or both.

Back to Hollywood.

Factor the above into this situation: those of you questioning the women for having nude photos in the cloud or on their devices are responding in the two biggest undesirable ways we advise against when in a cyberbullying situation. Don't ever suggest the bullying was provoked, don't blame the device.

That's why this situation is a red flag to me. Because I see people blaming grown women for a crime of invasion against them and their property instead of blaming the criminals for invading privacy and stealing property.

Moreover, you are judging them for those photos. And while your judgment will probably never reach or matter to them, it is not your business to sit on the high horse and tell others what they should or should not be doing with their cameras. Or the products of those cameras.

And you are adding to the victimization by pointing a finger at them with a "shame on you" written along its length.

Think about it. What if it were your child? Would you ask them why they took those photos in the first place? I really hope you wouldn't, because that would instantly trigger feelings of shame, humiliation, regret, self-deprecation, and guilt. No matter how loving you might be in addressing this situation, the message of "why did you...?" is loud and clear, and though they might not show you, they will already be blaming themselves.

Let's face it - the nature of the photos is irrelevant. I would be just as pissed off if my photo stream were hacked and a photo of my dog were stolen without my permission. Why? Because it is an invasion of my privacy, and a theft of my property.

Let me add that theft of digital or intellectual property posted online is a form of cyberbullying. One of the biggest factors of educating people about cyberbullying is to help them see how it manifests, and it isn't always in the most obvious ways.

By scoffing at those who took the photos and stored them in the cloud, you are not only condoning cyberbullying behavior (the theft/hacking) but you are joining in.

Think about that.

And please, let's have a dialogue. If you have comments, questions, critiques - I am here to listen, to help and to educate. The more people who can see how cyberbullying manifests and recognize it when it does, the fewer victim-blamers we will have.

The Hollywood scandal goes way beyond the celebrity magazines. This incident has a much larger message for every parent, every grandparent, every sibling, every aunt, uncle, coach, friend, teacher, principal, guidance counselor.

Let's talk.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Question of Justice

The story of Michael Brown's death is tragic. There is no question of that. An 18-year-old shot dead, a police officer in the spotlight.

The city of Ferguson, Missouri, is a tinderbox. There have been protests, violent at times, for almost 2 weeks, and there is no sign of it letting up.

The family of Michael Brown has lost a son, brother, friend.

The family of Darren Wilson has lost the comforts of security. He, and his family by association, fear for their lives and Officer Wilson has not left his home (if, indeed, he is still there; media dogs have led cameras and protesters to his address, an irresponsible deriliction of journalistic integrity).

The city is at the center of a federal investigation. I will address that at another time; but suffice it to say that with all the murders that take place every single day in every single American city, why this one has gotten the attention of the feds is solely based on the constant and escalated race-related issues that have only worsened. I do not believe the feds have any business making this case their pet cause.

And as I write this, reports are coming in with more veracity than not, revealing that Darren Wilson suffered an orbital blowout fracture (that's a fracture to the bones around the eye socket), and was severely beaten in the incident, to the point where he was nearly unconscious when taken to the hospital after the shooting. Should this prove to be true, it is what the media have been calling a game changer: he will have had sufficient fear for his own life, and justifiable force would have to exonerate him.

Michael Brown had been involved, just moments before the shooting, in a "strong arm robbery" where he stole from a convenience store and physically intimidated the clerk. Witnesses say that he was also involved in a physical altercation with Officer Wilson when Wilson confronted him and a friend in the street. Michael Brown was 6'4", 290 pounds, and could very well have injured the officer to such severity.

These details are being downplayed because it "disparages the dead" or "assassinates the character of the victim". The video of the robbery was withheld for days before the police department finally released it. This is all evidence that speaks to the officer's actions that led to the fatal shooting. Evidence is about facts - and those are only disparaging when assigned emotion.

The governor of the state has overstepped his office, and the very clear lines of his legal profession, with an egregious breach of prosecutorial discretion. He made a statement, in the heat of riots and tensions in the streets, that called for "Justice for Michael Brown", "Justice for this family", and "Justice for Michael Brown and his family" (as well as a call for "vigorous prosecution" - a rush to judgment if ever there was one).

This is where it sticks most in my craw. If I've learned anything at all about the American justice system, from my reading, from listening and watching news and trials over the years, from listening to legal experts and analysts, it's this: people who cry for "justice" are only looking for the results that will satisfy their side. Those who call for "justice for Michael Brown" are only looking for an indictment, and that prematurely mentioned "vigorous prosecution" of a man who has not even been seen since the day of the shooting, 11 days ago. A man who has not, to date, even given his side of the story. Those who call for "justice for Michael Brown" are looking not only for prosecution, but conviction, and sentencing - most likely, a death sentence. Because - for the record - Missouri does have the death penalty.

Those calling for "justice for Darren Wilson" are looking for him to not be indicted by the grand jury; if he should be, they are looking for a judge to determine there is not enough evidence to go forward with trial; should that not happen, they are looking for an acquittal.

Those people parading with signs and t-shirts, and yelling for justice do not understand one key premise to the American justice system:  justice is not a verdict; justice is the process.

The Sixth Amendment in the United States Bill of Rights states the following:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

That is what defines justice. Justice is due process. Justice is the right to a trial, a jury of one's peers, the right to confront one's accusers and have counsel represent the defendant. Justice is the right for said counsel to obtain and use evidence in presenting his/her case, question witnesses and obtain testimony of supporting witnesses. Justice is an impartial judge. Justice is using facts to present and argue a case, in a Constitutionally mandated, courtroom adversarial setting. Justice is the process, not the verdict.

In fact, nowhere in the Amendment is the verdict addressed. Nowhere is the verdict disparaged as fair or unfair. Yes, there are factors that could be considered unfair - jury tampering, witness tampering, judicial bias, the list goes on. It happens. We've all seen episodes of The Good Wife, Law and Order, or read a few John Grisham novels.

But when the word "justice" is used, it is not supposed to be used in conjunction with "for the victim/family" or "for the defendant", or even "for the community". As I was reminded by Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, justice is supposed to be for everyone. Justice is supposed to be blind.

When the word "justice" is used in cases such as these, it should always refer to the process that must always be followed. Justice is the beauty of freedoms afforded in the American - and Canadian - system of law.

Investigation - including gathering of all evidence, interviews with all parties as is possible, and with witnesses. Presentation of said investigation before a judge, or a grand jury. And only then does it move forward, or end with a non-indictment.

The protesters, the agitators, the social media activists and the news media opiners have all lost sight of what justice means. There have been statements made by protesters and media alike, threatening that the violence seen in the streets thus far would be "a picnic" compared to what would unfold should the officer be acquitted, or not indicted at all.

What will be the denouement? Will there be an indictment/prosecution/conviction because those who cry for "justice" are actually hitting emotional heartstrings? Or out of fear for that threatened increased violence in the streets?

No one is diminishing the pain of a family whose son is dead. Nor should any diminish the anguish of the officer who shot him.

After all the evidence has been weighed and properly considered, should Darren Wilson be found to have unjustifiably fired his weapon to deadly consequences, I will be the first to say that justice has been served. Based on the evidence.

But if an officer is wrongfully indicted, tried before what could well be an already-tainted jury pool, and convicted because due process was denied?

If an officer is indicted and convicted because the court of public opinion has already rendered its verdict and sentence and the "justice system" follows suit?

And if an officer is wrongfully indicted because the true meaning of the word "justice" and the Sixth Amendment have been diluted to generate a result that would appease the masses?

That would be the truest tragedy of all.

Let justice be served. And when I say that, I mean let the process take its proper course. Investigation first. All evidence. Fairly, impartially.

And no matter how it bears out, if all steps have been taken properly, then - and only then - will justice have been served.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Israeli Conflict: Having My Say

Loosely translated, this means "The People of Israel Live"

So, lately, I've been called "angry."

I've been called "biased."

I've been called "one-sided."

Well, yes. Perhaps I am all of those things.

And I would have been those things regardless of what else I am. But today, I'm going to say something I never quite declared out loud "just like that". Something that is a pride and joy in my life but something that was never quite encouraged to be proclaimed.

I am Jewish.

There, I've said it.

Why is this a fact that is not always stated just like that?

Because Jews, throughout time, have been exposed to a special brand of misinformation, a special brand of misunderstanding, a special brand of  hate.


So, I grew up proud of being Jewish but not flaunting it. I went to a mostly Jewish elementary and high school (though there was also diversity and that was always something I cherished in my educational institutions). My family celebrated the main holidays but we still drove on Saturday, watched TV Friday nights.

We kept kosher, observed the holidays with respect and reverence.

But never really advertised our faith - though we were never told to hush it up either.

It was just something we were.

In 2006, when my firstborn had his bar mitzvah, we joined a synagogue for the first time. Attending High Holidays that year instilled in me a feeling I had never experienced to date, but one that grows with the years. A spirituality, a comfort, a soothing, and an awe of my own religion that I was now exploring.

I have always defended my faith in the face of the ignorant, low-informed, misinformed. I was never the object of anti-Semitism personally but knew it was out there, lurking like an evil that could rear its head at any time.

But I find myself, now, defending my spiritual homeland in her time of need. And that astounds me. What astounds me even more is the growing number of Jews who stand against her.

For those who are unaware, every Jew in the world is entitled to citizenship in Israel. No questions asked. Jews are welcome to emigrate to Israel and receive citizenship no matter from where they come. Welcomed with open arms.

Having visited Israel, the feeling is even stronger. The land is magical. The country and spirit and feelings come home with you. You never forget your visit. For Jew and non-Jew alike, the country holds mysteries, histories, sights, sites, and sounds the likes of which are found nowhere else in the world.

And now, that country is being torn apart in rhetoric from news media, politicians, and every social media insta-humanitarian worldwide.

There have been extremely deadly conflicts for years, across the world. Afghanistan. Syria. Libya. Egypt. Iran. Iraq. The list goes on.

I saw no one on my Facebook or Twitter timelines cry out for justice for those who were being assaulted, tortured, murdered in those distant lands.

But suddenly, in this conflict, they come out of the woodwork. They criticize Israel. They dish out scorn and disappointment and condemnation on Israel. They regurgitate the anti-Semitic lines that are watered down for palatable consumption.

Let's take some facts into consideration - because those are irrefutable.

The government of the Palestinian people is a terrorist organization. This is a fact. Hamas, which is a recognized terrorist organization, is in partnership with the Palestinian Authority. Elected by the Palestinian people, for the record, in hopes of regaining Israel for themselves.

Hamas's very charter includes the following:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.

And this:

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.

These are facts.

 The Gaza Strip was given to the Palestinian people in order to invite peace and coexistence. They razed greenhouses and destroyed settlements in order to build an infrastructure that was committed to the destruction of Israel. The sophisticated terrorist tunnels uncovered by the IDF shows the level of commitment to terrorism by Hamas. Hundreds of millions of dollars, an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete provided to Gaza to build schools and homes and hospitals were appropriated by the terrorists to build these networks of tunnels.

The list of facts goes on. The sad thing is, most people who are outraged aren't looking at the facts. They're looking at the photos and videos terrorists want them to see. The ones that tug at everyone's heartstrings (yes, mine, yes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's, yes, the heartstrings of supporters of Israel). Those photos are heartwrenching. No one is disputing that.

But why haven't the terrorists released photos of men killed by IDF retaliation? Because grown men don't pull on the bleeding heartstrings of the average middle-aged woman in North America as much as photos of children bleeding and broken.

That, too, is a fact. Evidenced by the condemnation of Israel for causing the deaths of children and shouted out by those average bleeding-heart middle-aged women in North America. Oh, men too. And not merely middle-aged. (I'm an equal-opportunity ranter, if nothing else.)

People on Facebook and Twitter, who have never, in my interactions with them, commented or cried out about any other humanitarian crisis the world has seen since the influx of social media. People who fight against Israeli rockets now, in cherry-picked articles and misinformed rants, who never spoke out against the Iranian police who executed Christian infidels, or the Syrian president who used chemical weapons against his own people, killing thousands, many of them children. People who engaged in hashtag activism and not much more when hundreds of children were abducted by terrorists Boko Haram, but whose timelines don't reflect an ongoing humanitarian attitude or concern for those now-forgotten girls.

So it isn't the children. It isn't the inhumanity. The only common denominator has to be that it's Israel doing the dirty deed now.

I won't go into my presentation on Israel's right to defend herself. After all, most of you have heard it. And you all know it, too, even if you don't admit it. Or grudgingly admit it. For over a decade, rockets have been fired at Israel's men, women and - yes - children who have had 15 seconds to run to the nearest bomb shelter or crouch in terror by the side of the road, or in their homes, praying that the rocket would be intercepted, fall short of its target, or that falling debris would avoid them and their families. There are cities in Israel where children don't even play outside because the cities are targets at all times. Would you accept sitting back and doing nothing if your kids could never be allowed to play outside?

A decade. Thousands and thousands of rockets. And yes, there have been deaths. But Israel, unlike Hamas terrorists, doesn't parade those bodies for the world to see. That isn't the way civilized societies operate.

I've heard the moral equivalence. Excuse me, the attempts at moral parity. The argument cannot be made. Terrorists who have it in writing that they want the other side dead, obliterated, versus a democratic, free society that just wants peace. A country that, in over a decade of bombardment, has only responded militarily on 3 occasions.  How on earth can anyone even have the chutzpah to attempt a comparison of morality? Did anyone feel badly for Al Qaeda supporters who were caught in crossfire when the US Army bombed the terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? Thousands, including children, of Syrians gassed to death?

Oh, wait, no they didn't. Casualties of war. Collatarel damage.So what if bin Laden hid behind his wives, they were terrorist sympathizers, they're dead, who cares?

Does anyone decry the usage, and deaths, of over 160 Palestinian children who were killed digging terrorist tunnels? Haven't heard anyone outraged over those deaths on Facebook. And I'd wager that is more a by-product of low-informed slacktivists who pick and choose what they learn, listen to, and condemn.

And while we're at it: this escalation began when 3 innocent Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered by Hamas members. I saw NO tears on anyone's Facebook pages where now, I see tears for the casualties of war. More specifically, the casualties of the IDF's retaliatory strikes. I see no tears for Israeli soldiers or civilians killed by Hamas rockets. Again, the low-informed, willfully ignorant minions of social media.

People who don't even understand the history of Israel and this conflict, believe Palestine is a state, and that Palestinians have been a people since time immemorial are now condemning Israel for reacting in a way that any other country would (without incurring worldwide scorn).

Let's talk about that - if your house was being pelted by rocks by your neighbor, on a daily basis; if your kids were forced to run to shelter because the kid next door had yelled "I'm coming to kill you now!" and was running full force with a massive baseball bat; if your city was suddenly invaded by "militants" (the watered-down version of "terrorist" for the verbally squeamish and politically correct) emerging from tunnels that came up in your back yard, your kids' school, or your workplace, and these invaders had tranquilizers, handcuffs and the ability to abduct you or your children...

Would you not want the full force of the law to come down upon them?

And let's talk about that. Israel has broken no international laws. Israel has fired in retaliation, on military targets, avoiding civilians when possible - and in fact, going out of the way to avoid civilians. Those actions are perfectly legal in the court of international law in matters of war and self-defense. Fact.

Hamas, on the other hand, has fired first, fired on civilian targets, broken every ceasefire, and fired from behind human shields - men, women and children. Those are not only illegal, they are crimes against humanity.

But it seems the once-exalted United Nations Human Rights Council (what a joke) sees fit to condemn Israel instead of Hamas.

And it seems - even more tragically - that the uninformed world has taken that stance as well.

Hamas has broken every single ceasefire since the escalation of hostilities has begun. Even when a ceasefire has lasted for days, Hamas tends to fire 2 hours (on average) before the truce is to expire. Might one make the illogical assumption that Hamas time is 2 hours earlier than Israeli time? They are, after all, a "separate state" according to those who wish to believe that lie.

Or can it just be that Hamas has no intentions or desires to make peace? Hamas wants this war. There has been literature recovered from captured Hamas terrorists outlining exactly how to get the world opinion to turn against Israel: fire from behind civilians. Fire from civilian structures (homes, hospitals, mosques, schools). Hamas knows the PR war is theirs to win because they already know the tenuous acceptance of Israel, Israelis, and Jews is breakable with the slightest provocation.

These are dangerous people.  Inflating the death toll - whether the numbers are true or not - has actually had two effects: Hamas has turned the world against Israel, and has legitimized itself on the world stage.

It's the equivalent of a hockey player taking a dive over an opponent's stick, feigning indignant injury and drawing a penalty for the other side to get the man advantage for his team.

Only this is real life. And real lives are at stake. On both sides.

It doesn't help that the United States has shown an unprecedented hostility toward Israel since Obama took office. It doesn't help that the world condemns Canada for standing unequivocally in support of Israel.

But I'm much prouder to be Canadian than so many of my American friends and loved ones are to be American when it comes to this topic. And so proud to be in a country whose leader takes a stand on the right side of things instead of joining the Muslim extremists, their supporters and the misinformed in hatred and disdain of all-things-Israeli.

So, am I biased? Only toward the strong side of justice. Fire upon me, I'll fire back.

Am I angry? Damn straight. I'm angry that I am being accused of blind embrace of Israel when all along, I am using facts in defending a country surrounded by massive populations of people who want to see Israel obliterated (it isn't just Hamas - they're just the ones acting on it now). I am defending a country that has only wanted to live in peace since its inception - and even before - and I am defending people who did not ask for bomb shelters in pretty colors on their playgrounds but know it is sadly necessary to have those structures.

I am defending an army that has sent hundreds of thousands of leaflets, text messages, phone calls and "dummy bombs" (blanks) to plead for civilians to flee the area because they are in a military zone. An army that, when pushed to the wall, pushes back. According to International law of war, legally and above and beyond.

I am defending my spiritual homeland whose destruction is the platform of many a terrorist group and political party (see: Iran).

And I am angry that I am seeing people crawl out of their hidey-holes of parties and lunches and make-up and fashion and everyday life normally unaffected by anything in the news outside of the sports scores, the weather, and the latest movies only to condemn Israel when Israel fights back against terrorism. People who didn't give a damn when Syrians were gassed. And Iranians slaughtered. And Christians beheaded in Iraq. All by Muslim extremists.

People who couldn't tell me, without the inimitable help of Google, who Mariam Ibrahim is. Or Saeed Abedini. Or Andrew Tahmoreesi. Or Kenneth Bae.

People who suddenly develop a moral, societal conscience.

Because it is Israel. Because it is Palestinians. Because suddenly, it is children.

And perhaps, not in all cases, but in many...

Because it is Jewish.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ghouls, Gawkers and Grieving

Robin Williams died yesterday. You might have heard about that.

Are you KIDDING? Might have?? It was plastered all over the news, the second the announcement was confirmed.

The first tragedy is this very talented, very heartwarming man's death. His depression, leading to suicide, his family's pain, his tortured soul. No question, when it comes to Tragedy Priorities, this is first.

The second is how many people thought it was a hoax. Why? Because social media users are that disturbed to create celebrity fake death threads and they go viral. In this day and age of technology, we hear things at warp speed, and thus, the minute anything hits the wires, it is immediately pounced upon. Will Smith, Paul McCartney, Britney Spears are among those who have the dubious honor of having had their deaths spoofed. The minute this death hit the news, there were immediate dismissals of "Hoax." Sadly, this would turn out not to be among the hoaxes.

The third tragedy is happening as I watch. The police department is giving a news conference on the death of Robin Williams. (I'm actually shocked CNN doesn't have a theme riff and catchy title for it yet: "Death Of A Clown", or some such dramatic-sounding intro)

The cops are briefing the press because Mr. Williams was a worldwide celebrity, and I'm sure such conferences happen in such cases. Every network is carrying it. I'm positive the radio stations have taken breaks from their regularly scheduled programming as well.

But do we really need to know the exact details of this man's death? I watched a Facebook thread unfold last night, as someone insisted he knew the exact cause of death, despite the fact that this detail had only been conjecture according to "an unnamed source". There was actually an exchange. Did he die this way? Maybe it was another way? I'm sad to say I was one of the contributors, but in my defense, it was to make the statement that we did not have a confirmed detail and should not jump to conclusions.

Yet, the police department is making this announcement with detached, clinical language and yet a graphic visual being planted in the minds of all who are listening.

I get that he was beloved. I felt this like a stomach punch when I heard it.

People are emotionally invested in the lives of public figures. I see it all the time. We call them by their first name. We seek their autographs. I see the younger set swooning over celebrities as though they may, just may be the one s/he picks to smile at, wink at, or - as I've seen - even talk to and want to befriend. There are those who talk about celebrities they've met as though they have made an impression upon him/her and will forever be remembered. I get that - I, too, was once a teenybopper.

But sometimes, the emotional investment goes too far.

The details of Robin Williams's death are being read off a report, in exhaustive, minute detail. As though it is for public consumption. As though our emotional investment, even if it was the peripheral "Oh, that guy is so amazing, I'd love to meet him one day," type, gives us free rein to wander through the intimate details of their lives - and deaths.


Is it our business? Is it our right to know?

People die every day. People we know, people we do not. People we know personally, people who are celebrities.

I can understand the press - and public - wanting to know the cause of death. Perhaps why this suicide happened and could it have been prevented? (though that can never be answered. Ever.)

I can understand those who make a living writing about celebrities wanting to know some details.

But is his body position, location in the home, location in the room - are those REALLY necessary?

It seems extraneous. It seems gratuitous.

It is an invasion. It made me uncomfortable enough to turn off my television.

It defiles his memory to be describing, in visual details, with analogies and description, the exact position of his body, and it dishonors his family's request for privacy at this time.

I get that the announcement is also to dispel the possibility of foul play. But that is an internal investigation that should be taking place.

Now the talking heads will all take over. They will, no doubt, dissect the press conference. They will, absolutely for certain, recap the exact descriptions. They will invite the experts, the coroners and psychiatrists, the MacTherapists who will analyze the details they have now been gifted with, and apply them to the inner thoughts of a man about whom they knew nothing, outside of his films, his appearances, and his death. And about whom they have no right to surmise.

This angers me beyond belief. It disgusts me to no end.

Pay him tribute, by all means. He has earned it. He touched our lives with laughter and tears, and profundities and silliness. He will be honored for years to come, in magazines and television shows, movies (a biopic will be in the works, no doubt) and award shows. He should be. He was a Force in the entertainment world. Someone who was known to pretty much everyone in the world who knew entertainment.

But grieving is a profoundly painful, intimate, private matter. And a man's last minutes of life, and journey into death - no matter how it happened - should never be public fodder.

I hope his family is avoiding the news. I hope they find peace within their own circle.

And I am not hopeful that the next celebrity death will be treated with any less rubbernecking than Robin Williams's was.

This society has gone to the gawkers.

And perhaps, second only to the loss of an immensely gifted entertainer, that is the biggest tragedy of all.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summertime Reading Memories

 (Post - and current listening choices - inspired by time of year)

In 2002, at the beginning of July, I lost my mom. My kids were at day camp every day and I found myself trying to deal with this new reality, as I stayed home alone.

I took an online course in digital graphics. I listened to "The Mikado" (on a loop!) while I learned more about how to create various effects, and use different techniques.

And I began to listen to audiobooks.

The first one was Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. I had gone into the library, and happened to have been carrying my paperback copy of the book (maybe I was re-reading it because my mom had first introduced me to it). Francine, a now-friend, was working in the library's audio-visual section and asked if I had ever listened to the audiobook.

Some background: The weekend my mom died, I had taken out a VHS film. I never watched it, as we spent every minute at the hospital. So I had not yet returned it the night my mother died. When Francine called me to tell me it was late (as a courtesy - there were big fines when films were late), I explained why I had not returned it. She had instantly assured me to keep it until I could come in, but I went in the day before the funeral; knowing I would be sitting shiva for 7 days, I didn't want the movie out for any longer than it had to be.

Francine wasn't there, but she had left a note on my file, waiving the charges (which, of course, I would happily have paid).

The next time I went into the library, she came out from behind the counter to hug me and give me her condolences. It was instant friendship.

A couple of weeks later, the day she recommended I listen to Memoirs of a Geisha on audio (cassettes, back then!), I eagerly asked her to put it on my file (it was not back from the previous borrower). She had raved about the experience, and I was hooked on the idea. As luck would have it, the next day it was returned, and I began to listen immediately.

That summer is defined by the experience of having listened to - no, being immersed in the story. It was read by a woman whose name I cannot remember, but whose version, sadly, is not available on DVD. I listened as I practiced my new digital graphics skills; I listened while doing the laundry, I listened while preparing my kids' lunches for camp the next day, I listened just relaxing on the sofa.

It opened up a world of audiobooks for me. And thanks to Francine, I have read books I never would have picked up on the shelf (Eragon, for example, was not my style when I first saw it on the bookshelf, but listening to it was an exhilarating experience).

(Francine also has a very keen sense for people and picked up on my tastes in reading immediately; she never steers me wrong, even though she's no longer at the library, but we remain friends)

I had begun to read the Harry Potter series. I got into them later than most, reading books 1, 2, and 3 first. I then discovered the library had them on DVD, so I began to take them out. I listened to the first 3 books, and from then on, would read the physical book, then take out its audio counterpart.

(In fact, the Eragon series was the first I had listened to without having read the paper-and-ink version first).

I loved the books - who hasn't? - and listening to the audiobooks was more of a completely-new-experience than listening to other books. See, they're read by Jim Dale, an English stage actor. Dale had never before read for an audiobook recording (but has since recorded other books - I just found out he is the reader for the brilliant bestseller by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus -  and has become the first inductee into the "Audio Publisher Association's Hall of Fame"). With Harry Potter, he creates a completely new listening/reading experience.

Dale uses voices rather effectively. He uses his own speaking voice for Harry, but every other character has a unique voice. He is so talented, one need not wait till he reads the part where the author has written "Professor Dumbledore said," as the voice alone alerts the listener to exactly whose words they are (he is still loyal to the text, though).

Listening to Dale is like listening to a play - a play of a familiar setting and group of characters, one in which dimension is added through expression and tone, timbre and inflection, and a play about magic made more magical by its very execution.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobooks. Whether you've read the books or not, whether you've seen the films or not - the world of Harry Potter is exciting and limitless, and Jim Dale makes it that much more enchanting.

I am just loading the DVDs onto my iPhone so I can once again slip into my summertime memories of sitting out on my deck, enjoying the sunshine and immersing myself into J.K. Rowling's world as brought to me by Jim Dale.

Oh, did I mention I now own the set? So if you see me walking Theo and smiling happily, you'll know why.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Awakening - Part III: Enlightenment And Exhilaration

(Note: I realize that Blogger posts in reverse order chronologically, therefore if you are just stumbling upon this blog, this is Part III of a series. Please start with Part I and continue through; I rarely do serial postings, but this one had to be done in parts. Thank you!)

(Continued from Part II)

In the early days of discussing my political views on social media, I would turn to what I already knew and felt, I would turn to sometimes-frantic web searches ("Does the NRA support gun sales without background checks?") and would more frequently turn to frantic texts to J ("quick question - debating a leftist - need a source or an answer to why the Second Amendment exists today and is important - thanks!").

See, as much as I knew, I was a toddler in my newfound education. I knew what I believed. But I needed to be able to combat what I now know is rhetoric-without-foundation and was not yet comfortable on my own.

I got the help I needed. But something happened - I was internalizing the values, learning the background, reading in my spare time and familiarizing myself with the common arguments that would get thrown my way. It always helps to be able to counter ideological contrarians when you know the ways in which you will be confronted.

And it was quite amazing. I found that the same (to use a common phrase now) talking points were held up almost as shields against the Truths I put forth. It became easier.

But it also became easier as I became more confident in my own ability to discuss, debate, discredit the rhetoric.

The first time I held my own in a Facebook "debate" (using the term lightly - they tend to get heated, ugly, and downright mean), I felt yet another weight lifting from my shoulders. I had realized that the whole time, not once did I seek a website for answers, text my Spiritual Guru for help, or access past arguments I might have archived for the sake of reference.

I had held my own. In the true sense of that phrase.

I had a Helen Keller "Water" Moment.

Let me explain: Helen Keller has always been a hero of mine. Since I was old enough to understand, since hearing of her death when I was a child, and from having read every book by, and about her that I could.

My favorite moment - from the books, from the film - is the W-A-T-E-R moment. Annie Sullivan, her tireless teacher, was spelling words in Helen's palm. It was gibberish to the blind, deaf, mute girl. But something clicked at the moment when Annie signed "water" in Helen's palm, coupled with the coolness of water from the pump she had just shown Helen how to use.

That was the Moment. Helen began to understand the connection. The letters, the word, the water. And she went into a frenzy of hunger for more. She touched everything she could - the grass, the tree, the flower, her dog - and went back to get Annie to spell the word in her palm.

That was the Moment when Helen Keller transcended her blindness, the world of darkness that she'd inhabited, and emerged into light of a different kind.

That's how it felt for me, learning about this new world of politics from a different perspective. Craving more. Seeking everything I could in order to learn my way around this new landscape. Taking that new information and using it to speak with authority from an entirely personal, but fact-based position, feeling confident and aware, knowledgeable and smarter than I had given myself credit for, in this new arena.

It was exhilarating.

Election 2012 saw me working hard (blogging, tweeting, Facebook discussions and debates) for The Other Side. The side I had not wanted to win last time. The side I now not only believed in, but embraced as "my people". And I had confidence that, with the tragedy in Benghazi, the world - or at least the voters - would see how important it was to have someone in the White House who would address the issues, not hide from them.

The results of the election shocked and depressed me. I felt a heavy-hearted sadness I could not describe. I felt a deep sympathy - even empathy - with those in the USA who had fought for REAL change.

Fear set in. What would happen now that this administration got a second term?

Fear rose as, from acceptance speech to second inaugural, there was an overt nose-thumbing at all political opponents. "We won, we don't ever have to win again, you're going to regret ever having gone up against us and we have the Power."

As I have continued learning, the administration has continued its downward spiral.  As the months have ticked on, the administration is plagued with scandals. That word is now a source of ridicule on the left - usually prefaced by "GOP-manufactured" and/or "phony".

And with each one, I have hoped that THIS will be the one that brings the administration to account.

So far - it hasn't.

With the recent developments between the Taliban and the United States government, more questions have been asked, more issues brought to light, and the same old issues (the lawlessness of this president) reignited.

When it happened, I - as usual - began to pay keen attention to the stories. I followed them on both left- and right-leaning news outlets (it is in my nature to be aware of what is being said on both sides and always form my own conclusions).

This story has invoked emotions from anger to disgust on both sides of the aisle. It contains elements of terrorism, lawlessness, lack of transparency (from the administration that not only campaigned on transparency but recently referred to itself as "the most transparent administration in history" - a line that has even leftists shaking their heads), and military-oriented issues.

And as infuriating, frustrating and frightening as the story is, with all the implications for what may well happen next and how it will affect the ones I love, as well as my own country, being able to properly understand and speak from an informed point of view has strengthened me exponentially.

I have to interject personally again - because, though I have done this before, I have to do it here.

I have apologized, profusely, sheepishly, shamefaced, to J for the insufferable Obamaniac that I used to be. I look back at that person I was (from Part I of this narrative) and I am deeply sorry for having been that person so loudly. He'd never held it against me - those we care about cannot sway our feelings no matter our ideological differences - but I've still felt the discomfort of having imposed that person on our friendship. He's already absolved me. He'll probably shake his head when he reads this.

But it is important for me to acknowledge that - just now, because having gone over this evolution, this conversion, this awakening, in writing, and in revisiting those times, I am even more keenly aware of how I used to be.

However, I also owe him a debt of thanks - for, among other things, having been there to support this new journey, to help me understand, to explain to me exactly what was happening (out there, and within my own soul), and for being a Guide along the way - steady, informed, willing to take the time to teach me, and encouraging me every step I take. And so here, publicly, I thank him for all of that, and more.

My journey is by no means complete. No journey in life ever is.

But I was compelled to write this down this way because if I'd waited any longer, there would be even more to write and I will tackle those events as they happen now that the genesis is down in words.

I know it isn't the popular side to inhabit. But looking around - in my own ever-expanding circle, on social media, in blogs, in media, and even in parts of the world beginning to see the Light - it is becoming less of a vilified position to take.

Part of that is due to the continuous news cycle of neverending "missteps" (in quotes because it is an understatement and the crimes to which I refer will be addressed in future entries on this blog). The government is messing up. It is happening more often, more publicly, and more egregiously than before. Perhaps there is hope that the media (at the very least) will experience an awakening of their own.

At this point, I'm not hopeful. I see some members of the Fourth Estate opening the other eye to begin seeing depth to the surface stories they're filing. But not yet.

However, I remain the eternal optimist.

And even if not - I am proud to be this person I have become. The one who shed the idealist blinders and faces truth no matter how frightening or unpleasant it is. Because one can never go wrong - in politics, in friendship, in love, in life - when one espouses the Truth.

I will end here - but only the narrative. The journey continues. The growth, the quest for more, the enlightenment, and the exhilaration (and the sharing thereof) continue.

My thanks for having stuck with this - and with me;  I extend to you an invitation to comment no matter what your leanings.  I've never shared my views in order to try to change someone's mind. But if I could help one person to stop and think - as was done, and continues to be done with me - it can be the beginning of harmony, shared enlightenment, and true change in a world that is fraught with challenges.

So, let's talk.

Awakening - Part II: With A Little Help From My Friend

(Continued from Awakening - Part I: The Beginnings Of Political Fascination)

By now, you've figured out that the girl in Part I is me. But I hadn't figured it out till I got a good look from a different perspective.

Let's go to 2010, about a year after the election of the young senator from Illinois to the Highest Office In The Land.

I had been enjoying my inclusion in the world of politics. I talked about how great the president was, how smart and how eloquent his speeches were. I collected magazines that featured him on the cover. I bought a Special Edition that featured all his speeches. That was mostly what I was seeing. I was still not as interested in policy, and was definitely not interested in any other Party but the Dems.

When the Tea Party began to emerge as a movement, I was aware of it, but I scoffed. It sounded so trivial. So not-serious. So rebel-without-a-cause.

{Personal Interjection: All along, since well before my peripheral interest in politics, I had "met" (using that term in quotes because the face-to-face hasn't yet happened but the friendship had) a man (to protect his identity, I'll refer to him as "J") whose political leanings were not really that important to me. We had other things in common and were enjoying the things we did. Everything from art, to music, movies and books, common mindsets and complementary values - those were what defined the friendship.

We never talked about politics.

Correction - I did. I would (I realize now) go on and on about this exciting new development. The election was an emotional time, the inauguration had me watching my television in tears of awe, and this man listened to me prattle on without ever opposing my views.

I think I knew he was not a Liberal. But because there was so much more to what we ever discussed, it wasn't important. So as much as I do know about him, it's odd to not have been aware of his political leanings.

This is important because in my Awakening, he plays a key part. THE Key Part.

It should be noted that he is a hunter. And that from the beginnings of our discussions back in the early part of 2000, I was learning about hunting; how it was not illegal, immoral, or cruel. His philosophy of hunting is not for sport; his Native roots have guided him all his life, and learning about how HE hunts, how he thanks the animal for giving its life, how he uses every part of the animal in every way possible, and how he does NOT hang the Trophy on some macabre man-cave collection wall, I began to not only accept, but embrace hunting as a practice. 

I also began to ask him to teach me about guns. I became aware that there were many people blaming the guns for all the evils in the world. It didn't sit right with me. I have known people who have died in car accidents, in terrible falls, and the headlines - though peppered with gun violence - also speak of drunk driving deaths, pool drownings, stabbings, and every other method of death one can imagine.

I began to understand that guns are merely an instrument, not an evil. And I began to defend law-abiding gun owners.

Operative word: began. This was very early in my awakening but I was seeing the Other Side a little more clearly every day; and it was no longer the Dark Side, but becoming lighter with everything I learned.}

Okay, 2010 - floating along in Obamaniac Mode. Defending why I, as a woman, did not pull for Hillary. (Looking back I realize my then-fellow Liberals slotted - either you wanted the woman or you wanted the black guy and you wanted them BECAUSE of that, not for any other reason).

In 2009, Obama made a speech in Cairo, essentially condemning Israel for building settlements. Stating that the USA did not recognize or accept the legitimacy of those settlements. And I was unsettled by that. It wasn't enough to sway me but future events would.

Israel is an integral part of my soul. Having visited, the land and the spirit of the country are inside me emotionally. As a Jew, I am an automatic citizen of Israel. I have always stood up for the rights of Israelis to live in peace. And I have always had a deep-seated fear that Israel's enemies would seek to destroy all she stands for, and more.

In 2010, Obama began to make announcements that a Palestinian State would be achieved within a year's time. I could see this was naive and next to impossible; without Hamas being ousted as part of the Palestinian government, without the Palestinians outright declaring they would accept a Jewish State, how could this happen?

And I began to question the Administration's position on Israel. Because how could he stand for Israel AND be advocating for a Palestinian state the way things were?

Disillusionment was knocking at my door.

At the beginning of 2011, tragedy struck in Arizona. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head in a mass shooting at an outdoor event she was holding. The world watched yet another Live Event as it unfolded. News stations rushed to announce Rep. Giffords had died of her wounds. Updates brought the welcome news that she had not.

But it was the immediate fallout that began to nag at me: Sarah Palin, the oft-ridiculed (shamefully, I was one) former Governor of Alaska, Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in the 2008 election, was suddenly on the hot seat. Palin, it was said, was directly responsible for the shooting as she had used the graphic of crosshairs on a map to "target" the "battleground" states. Being the Democratic Representative from Arizona, Gabby Giffords was in Palin's crosshairs, and therefore MUST have been targeted by Palin who must have encouraged the shooter in some warped way to actually shoot Rep. Giffords.

It didn't make sense to me. There were others on that "map". There were other states, other candidates. And how did anyone draw a line between a map with a little graphic on it to a disturbed shooter opening fire on men, women, children even if his target had been the Congresswoman? Just how closely were people watching the tiny details like these? And...could it be true?

I began to discuss my questions. I began to see that not only was it ridiculous, it was malicious. Palin was no more responsible for this shooting than I was. It seemed that my friends - the Liberals with whom I had freely, actively, and happily exchanged political discourse, were viciously attacking Sarah Palin for her part in this shooting.

I definitely took my courage in hand when I began to swim against the tide on a friend's Facebook page. I argued that it was not only premature to draw any conclusions, it was utterly illogical.

I then faced a deluge of hostility. It rose until my friend's husband posted, "It should be noted that Lissa is Canadian. A hike should be taken."

I was taken aback.  I was shaken. I was humiliated. And then I saw red.  I blasted him for his short-sightedness, told him I would no longer bother him or his wife, and did what I had not done to date on Facebook: unfriended and blocked them.

But I was feeling a stirring sense of realization. I was no longer who I had been just some short months earlier. It began with my discomfort over how the administration was treating Israel.

It continued with the illogical accusations being made against a woman living in a remote State that wasn't even part of the lower 48.

And I began to emerge from what felt like a groggy nap.

It made me start to question everything. What is the problem in this picture? Why are people so hostile when all I did was point out the facts and the illogical direction their arguments were taking?

And who was I?

Here is where J comes in - I told him what had happened on that Facebook page, and how it had made me feel. I was confused as to how I had been treated. How is it suddenly my nationality made me a pariah? How is it, when never before, my opinions are being vilified - and me with them?

J explained that I was starting to see that Truth, and Facts, are not always popular.

Here's where details get fuzzy.  See, if I could, I would recount exactly how he helped me to navigate being on this side of the Divide. But I can't - the details run together because just as suddenly as I was wildly unpopular, I was also beginning to feel a lifting of the veil. And it began to speed up, taking me with it so that the former mindsets I embraced were becoming blurry as they passed behind me.

J would encourage me to explore. He never told me what to think, or where to find my sources. He knew that the educator, researcher, and critical thinker that I am would find the credibility in what I read.

And I did. I was able to separate out the extreme viewpoints - on both sides (yes, there are right-wing extremists and no, not all conservatives hold them near and dear). I was able to cross-reference the more credible, reliable sources by the "About" tabs on their webpages (a skill I urge everyone to do, no matter whether you are researching politics or how to keep chickens in your yard).

Did I lose friends on social media? Yes. I lost one so-called friend when I posted on my own wall, and she somehow believed I had posted it on hers. She actually blasted me for making her friends uncomfortable. (While this is not a piece about social media, I will take a moment to assure you that it doesn't work that way - what one posts on their own wall stays there unless there are tags involved - in this case, there were none)

She "unfriended" without much fanfare after her tirade.

And while it bothered me at the beginning, I now smile in full knowledge that those who leave my milieu due to political discord were never people I would have enjoyed outside of the political arena either.

But as I continued in what J terms my "Awakening" (and truly, the visual fits), I began to see things palindromically. Things that had happened while I was still in the thrall of Obamania, believing what the mainstream media was feeding me, understanding now that it was a spoonfed, poisonous ideology that somehow the rest of the world was not catching onto as such.

Frustration set in.

I was suddenly seeing Liberal mentality everywhere. Like the optical illusion that, once seen, cannot be unseen, I was recognizing the Liberal Mindset in media, in friends, in commenters on websites.

I began to wonder if people really do believe what they are spouting or if they are toeing some collective line out of habit.

I began to watch Fox News, ever defensive of those who scoff at it as "Faux" and accuse the network of making things up (in defense of Fox, I found statistics conducted by objective researchers who found that it is not Fox that manufactures news but that this very accusation is what is manipulated to discredit the network).

I changed my homepage from to (that was a proud moment for me).

I began to shed my previous skin which had become too small, too constricting, too unbearable to wear.

And I came out as Conservative, proud of it, speaking up with truth, facts, and logic. I got *gasps* from the leftist friends I shocked, questions from many who believed I was going through a phase. And newfound respect from those friends who are not leftist but who suddenly revealed to me that they, too, hold to the values I was now embracing.

(Never mind the reactions I got from people who found out that I was now a card-carrying member of the NRA - that was fun!)

Scandal after scandal began to rock the administration. I expressed the relief and belief that finally something would be done, finally something would give, finally someone in the White House would be held to account.

When none of that happened, my frustration grew. My disconcerting fear of "what will it take?" overtook the exhilaration of enlightenment.

I began to express the tongue-in-cheek theory that liberal media's sole purpose of existence was to see to it that my head exploded on a daily basis, à la Kenny McCormick.

But in all the frustration, discord, outright vitriol I encountered in traversing the Internet and spreading the Truth, and bewilderment at said vitriol, I began to feel something else.

Something positive would grow.

(Part III)

Awakening - Part 1: The Beginnings Of Political Fascination

Once upon a time, there was a Canadian girl. And she grew up in two countries. In the fall, winter, and spring, she grew up in Canada, where she was born. And in the summer, she grew up in the United States. See, the little girl's family used to go across the border to Cape Cod every summer, and spend 6 weeks in a house near the beach.

The girl grew up understanding the accents of people who didn't speak like she did, and she learned that there was money that didn't have all the pretty colors, but that was just as valuable. She learned that the grocery stores in the United States had lots of cool things they didn't have in Canada. And that the border guards were really nice when you told them you got a new doll on your summer holiday. And what a "declaration" was when you crossed the border.

And she learned a little bit about the Kennedy family who lived on the Cape. Even though President Kennedy had been killed when she was just a baby, she had a crush on the handsome brothers who had been so tragically killed by people who didn't agree with their politics. She saw these bigger-than-life Kennedy family members, who flew out of the same airport the girl's father and grandfather did, and who were just like regular people instead of the royal family she thought they were. She met them. Shook their hands. Even sat at the same coffee shop counter with the matriarch of the family as they both had some time to spend over cool drinks, albeit separately (for years, the girl would brag that she had had drinks with Jackie Kennedy Onassis).

The girl grew up and she learned that it was good to be Liberal. See, Liberals believe in all kinds of things that the Others don't. They believed that guns were bad and that no one should have a right to own one. This made sense. Guns kill people and no one wants THAT.

They believed that abortions were good and that every woman should have a right to have as many as they wanted. This was important because NO woman should be forced to be a mother if she wasn't ready to be. Unwanted babies never have an easy life and no one wants THAT.

She even learned that they believed paying more taxes was a good thing. It was expensive but taxes were good because that improved the lives of citizens. Citizens who don't have happy lives do bad things and no one wants THAT!

Liberals believed that government agencies were there to take care of them, and to make sure they were happy and healthy and did all the right things. Because the more people in government who are part of people's lives, the better people's lives will be. And everyone wants THAT!

Liberals wanted people's lives to be better. It was good to be Liberal.

And the girl didn't think anything was wrong with that.

The girl grew up and she didn't pay too much attention to politics. In fact, she was more put out by the proceedings on television that would interrupt her summertime soap operas. When Oliver North was testifying before Congress, she was bored, frustrated, and downright mad. "Young and the Restless" was pre-empted for this drivel? Okay, so she felt badly when they made Oliver North get tears in his eyes, but "Young and the Restless" was SO much more interesting!

She grew up even more. And suddenly, she began to pay attention to politics. Sure there were the fun stories. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer who became president. Ronald Reagan was an actor who became president. Bill Clinton became a scandal-ridden philanderer while he was president!

And there was the frightening stuff. The Iran hostage situation. The Gulf War. 9/11.

As she became more involved in watching the newly formed 24-hour news cycle, she became more familiar with some of the terminology. She learned what Congress did (well, sort of), what the Senate did (well, kind of), and she became even more familiar with some of the names in the news that weren't movie stars or television actors or pop singers.

And she watched CNN because it was "the most trusted name in news!" and sported "the best political team on television!." (well, if James Earl Jones said it, it had to be true, right?) And besides, when she was in Paris, that was the only English television station to watch. If it's good enough for Parisians, it was good enough for her back home.

One summer night, with nothing else on TV, she watched with interest as a young black senator took the stage at the Democratic National Convention. The man had a name that was hard to forget, and when he started to speak, she leaned forward and paid attention to every single word. He was articulate. He had cadence. He seemed really intelligent.

 And just like that, she was enthralled by politics. This young State senator was going to become Somebody, she could feel it. She joked with a friend in Chicago, asking her to please "put in a vote for me too" at the ballot box when the mid-term elections were held. When the senator was elected as the junior senator from Illinois, the girl was over the moon. She bought his books. She looked up his life story. She even predicted it in an online venue she frequented: "you guys, we've just met the first black president of the United States."

The senator did, indeed, announce his candidacy just a short while after taking the seat in the Senate, and even as he did, the first potential female candidate announced hers. An embarrassment of riches!

The girl took part in many discussions online. She defended him against accusers who liked to drag out the "not enough experience to be President" line. Who cared? Surround himself with good advisers, and the guy would make a GREAT president! Right?

There were many people who felt the same way as she did, and suddenly, it was like a party for her: like-minded individuals who not only agreed with her but who helped her learn more about the new political scene upon which she was embarking as an involved spectator.

There were those in her life who did not agree. But because she had other things in common with them, it did not make a difference to the relationships.

Being part of the pack - the popular senator's followers - felt right. She was learning about politics because this candidate was successfully reaching out to those, like her, who had never cared about the details before. Hope! Change! A catchy motto filled with 3 words of Determination and Inclusion!  Things were going to be different now, hipper and cooler and probably really interesting! Besides, he would make History!

She was an exhilarated, engaged and educated participant on the political scene, enjoying this new role and feeling like her horizons were ever-expanding steps to enlightenment.

And no one seemed to care that she was Canadian commenting ad infinitum on American politics. She had an opinion, it mattered, she was being validated in her discussions with Americans about their political scene, she was part of a huge wave of Transformation upon the world. And it felt great!

Little did she know she was going to have An Awakening...

 (Part II...)