American Prayer 2009

January 19th, 2009 § 3 comments

Friday Fill-in #107

January 16th, 2009 § 5 comments

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  1. Enough with the Dubya farewell tour. Get him out of there and let the new administration get on with cleaning up the mess he and his Dark Lord, Cheney, have made of the economy, the constitution, and America’s standing in the world.
  2. Israel’s incursion into Gaza causes me to be conflicted. As I have written before, Israel has always been the good guys for me, the triumph of good over evil. But what is happening now in Gaza is beyond comprehension. I get that Hamas rockets are deliberately targeted at Israeli civilians and that they are using their own people as human shields against the Israeli invasion, but it cannot justify carnage on the scale that is happening now—over 1100 dead and 5200, mostly women and children, injured in Gaza. And it can never excuse exploiting a loophole in the Geneva Convention to use white phosphorus on civilians.
  3. I’ve been craving some solitude.
  4. Non Sequitur always makes me laugh. Especially today’s strip, which is a keeper.
  5. I wish I could go to Italy next week. Or any week, for that matter.
  6. Self-improvement has been on my mind lately. Which is a bit of a cliche at the turn of a new year, but what the hey.
  7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m (not really) looking forward to attending a wine-tasting and silent auction for a charity, tomorrow my plans include attending a wake for a decent man, too early departed, followed by a birthday celebration with the Krazy Kristians (family joke) and Sunday, I (don’t) want to work, but I have no choice!

Thank you to Janet for the template.

Highway of Heroes

December 9th, 2008 § 3 comments

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On the eve of the Iraq invasion in 2003, the Bush White House decreed that there would be no coverage of flag-covered coffins returning from Baghdad. It appeared their war would not pass the so-called “Dover test,” named for the Air Force Base into which soldiers’ bodies are flown. A ban on photographs from Dover, or any other armed forces base was imposed, and, to this day, caskets and injured soldiers are generally flown in under cover of darkness.

When Stephen Harper, our own Canadian Bush-lite, as wisewebwoman so shrewdly named him, became Prime Minister, he attempted to enforce the same kind of ban on Canadian casualties returning through CFB Trenton. An outcry by Canadians, led by the families of soldiers who had died in Afghanistan, led to a partial climb-down, and the media are allowed to cover repatriation ceremonies from outside the fence around the base, so long as the bereaved families do not object. To the Armed Forces’ credit, the bodies are always brought home during daylight hours.

As further proof that no tin-pot little dictator is going to tell Canadians what to do, hundreds of people from the town of Trenton also gather around the gates every time casualties are brought home, that they might pay their respects as the hearses pass through the gates.

The First Husband and I sailed into Trenton, during the summer of 2007, on the day a dead soldier was brought home. An escort of F18s flew over the town, followed shortly by the plane carrying his casket. Every single person in the marina, and the majority of people in the town, stopped what they were doing and stood in silence, gazing upwards, many of them holding a salute as the planes flew overhead. It was an incredibly moving experience.

But the real story lies in the spontaneous movement that began after people realized that all the bodies brought home are transported by road from Trenton to Toronto, where they undergo postmortems at the Coroner’s Office. Every time the news breaks that a soldier or soldiers are coming home and are on their way to Toronto, people begin moving out to Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway, the highways the funeral corteges must traverse between Trenton and Toronto. Where they can, they stand by the edge of the road, or they line the overpasses and bridges. Some carry the Canadian flag, others throw petals down onto the hearses as they pass under the bridges. Off-duty firefighters and police officers also come out, usually dressed in uniform, as well as veterans, but the majority of those present are just ordinary Canadians, with no connection to the military.

Yesterday, the bodies of three Canadians killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar were brought home to Trenton and, despite the freezing weather – a wind-chill of minus 20 degrees Celsius was recorded on the 401 – thousands of people turned out to mark their passage to Toronto. Traffic going in both directions was stopped or diverted by police as the cortege passed, and the people who had been waiting, for hours in some cases, stood in utter silence as it went by. I wept buckets as I watched it unfold on television last night. If it weren’t 50 miles away from here, I’d be out there, too.

Like many Canadians, I’m ambivalent on our involvement in this horrific war. On the one hand, as an army brat, I love to see pride in Canada’s military being rekindled among civilians and military alike. Liberal governments have always treated the armed forces miserably, forcing them to get by on crumbs from the budget table. While popular international opinion has it that Canada is the most boring place on the planet, we have an extraordinary tradition of military accomplishment, dating back as far as the Boer War and reaching its apotheosis in the trenches of World War I, when Canadians troops fought so fiercely that they captured and held positions that the other Allies had failed miserably to capture, despite many attempts. It was said the Canadians were the troops most feared by the German soldiers, because they just didn’t know how to give up trying.

After the Canadian forces – army, navy, and air force – were amalgamated in 1968, Canadians lost sight of the fact that the Royal Canadian Air Force had been the fourth largest air force in the world after WW2, and that its exploits matched or exceeded those of any other air force, with a roster of “gongs” that included the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross, the Croix de Guerre, the Legion d’Honneur, the Star of Valour, and a veritable alphabet soup of DFCs, DSOs, DSCs, DFMs – to name but a few.

But, and it’s a very big BUT, none of this makes the waste of lives in Afghanistan any more palatable. That benighted land has been the cockpit of Central Asia since time immemorial and no foreign invader has ever managed to subdue its savage tribes. When we were in Ireland last May, I noticed this plaque in the church in which my niece was married:
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“He died at Candahar on the 10th October 1880″ it reads.

As of today, 100 Canadians have lost their lives in Kandahar region, while the Taliban continue to cement their hold on the population. And that does not take account of 128 British and 556 American casualties, as well as those of 19 other Coalition forces in other parts of the country – making a total of 955 killed to date in this most frustrating of wars.

The view from the ground

December 3rd, 2008 § 8 comments

Today’s Huffington Post has an interview with Deepak Chopra by Michelle Haimoff. I’m not much of a Chopra fan, but he has some interesting insights into the self-censorship by the media during the eight years Bush has been in the White House, especially since the USA Patriot Act was introduced and the Orwellian Dept of Homeland Security started poking into citizens’ private lives. (Bet you didn’t know that USA Patriot is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Nice to know someone in Homeland Security had the time to sit around thinking up that one!)

Chopra also speaks about the Iraq war and the appalling loss of Iraqi lives since it began. And then he says:

FOX News actually produced the Shock and Awe campaign as a theatrical production. They hired a musical director. They had symphonic music. And when you saw it on TV it was a glorious, glorious attempt to liberate the people of Iraq. It’s easy for a person sitting in a plane 32,000 feet above sea level to press a button. When he looks at the map he presses a button. And you know, we’re seeing it on screens. We’re calling it ‘Shock and Awe’ and we hear this beautiful music – sounds almost like Mozart – while this is happening, while on the ground there are grizzly scenes which we don’t see in the media, of people being mutilated. People in the throes of death. Bodies all over the place. And gruesome scenes the American public is totally unaware of, but people in the Muslim world are very aware of… We are very self-absorbed.

It brought rushing back to me the events of one January night, way back when the first Gulf War began — what did they call it? “Operation Desert Storm?” I was working with a potato chip company at the time, in the marketing department, and I was responsible for the introduction of some hot shit new packaging. I got a call one afternoon to say the first print run would be on the presses at the printing company that night, and I had better get my ass down there to meet up with the design team and carry out the final proof before millions of packages were printed. I raced out to #1 Son’s babysitter (he was about 7 years old) and picked him up, promising him he was going to have a great time (yeah right) watching this process. (Come to think of it, maybe he did — he’s an industrial designer now, after all, able to design and proof packages in his sleep!)

To cut a long story short, we finished up around midnight, and I set off on the 75 km journey home with one mighty sleepy kid curled up under a rug in the back seat of the car. At that hour, the roads, which had already been cleared of snow and salted, were fairly quiet, and I drove steadily towards home, listening to all-news radio as I went. The airwaves were ablaze with the news that Operation Desert Storm was under way, and some five hours earlier, while we were holed up in the printing room, US-led coalition forces had begun bombing Baghdad. Excited reporters on the ground were yelling over satellite phones about bombs lighting up the early morning sky, and they were all just as happy as clams, as reporters usually are in situations like this.

I was still listening to the reports as we drove past Toronto Airport, and I looked up, startled, as a plane flew low over the car on its way down to the runway. I checked the rearview mirror to see how #1 Son was doing, and he was still sleeping, his blonde hair tousled and cheeks flushed. Out of the blue, a rush of emotion forced me to pull over to the side of the road, where I clutched the wheel, waiting for it to subside. To this day, I still remember it — a visceral realization of exactly how an Iraqi mother was feeling at that same moment, fleeing with her child as the planes rained death all around them. I was so shaken that I could not drive on for a half-hour or more.

Twelve years later, when “Shock and Awe” — such a puerile name — began, I turned the television off and went for a walk.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2008 § no comments

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For my American friends, a piece from Anne Lamott, a Christian even a disgruntled old atheist like myself can love.

If you’re an aspiring writer – I’m looking at you Smart Mouth Broad! – I recommend Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, which IMHO, is second only to Stephen King’s On Writing, for making you feel good about your chances of making it as a writer.

Confirming what the world has long suspected

November 25th, 2008 § 4 comments

From Harper’s Weekly this morning comes this little bit of “news:”

New evidence suggested that Adolf Hitler was monorchic, or single-testicled, having lost the other in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Apparently a WWI German army medic confessed Der Fuehrer’s little secret to a priest in the 1960s. The priest kept note of this interesting tit-bit, and it has now come to light. But this is not news to anyone who has ever sung the words of Colonel Bogey’s March, which go something like this:

Hitler has only got one ball,
Goering has two, but very small;
Himmler has something simmler,
But poor old Goebbels has noebbels at all.

I hope there was no note-taking during my days in the confessional. Not that there’d be much to record. I and the rest of the neighbourhood kids, pushed out of the house by our mothers every Saturday to go to confession, always lined up outside Fr Taylor’s confessional, even when the other pews were empty. He was known as ‘Flash’ Taylor, because you were in and out in seven seconds flat, with three Hail Marys for your penance. Didn’t matter what sins you confessed, it was always the same. One of the local bully-boys used to boast that he’d proved this, telling Flash he’d killed his granny and still being sent away with three Hail Marys.

Clinton as Obama’s first challenge?

November 18th, 2008 § 3 comments

There’s an interesting row brewing over Obama’s supposed choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. It’s perhaps best laid out by Al Giordano, in a post on HuffPo, in which he quotes some of the many voices being raised pro and con.

He does not mention the fact that Henry Kissinger has bestowed his seal of approval on HRC as SoS. But having a war criminal in her corner is probably not something Clinton supporters should boast about.

There’s a very interesting suggestion buried in the following from Giordano’s post:

There are better uses and positions for someone of the undeniable talent of Senator Clinton in your cabinet, or even on the Supreme Court, but the discretion and diplomacy required of the next Secretary of State to undo the grave messes already created cannot, should not, must not be placed in the hands of someone who – even if it is through little or no fault of her own – is a magnet for the kind of media circus that the mere suggestion of her appointment has drawn already.

Hillary for the Supreme Court! Now that’s a bloody brilliant idea, IMHO.

Me and Obama both

November 18th, 2008 § 2 comments

It seems my predilection for washing dishes places me in very good company. In his Nielsen-busting interview with 60 Minutes last Sunday, Barack Obama confessed that he finds it soothing to do the dishes. But then Michelle had to go and spoil it all by asking “When was it ever soothing for you to wash the dishes?” Hush your mouth, woman. You’re screwing with the dream!

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