Review of Dallaire’s ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’

I tried to read Romeo Dallaire’s ‘Shake Hands with the Devil.’ The overwhelming arrogance of the author left me so cold, I had to abandon it about a third of the way through.
Reading a book involves a contract between the buyer/reader and the author. I will give you twenty dollars or so, plus ten or twelve hours of my time, and you will entertain/inform/enlighten me in some fashion. I am agreeing to spend twelve hours listening to and considering their thoughts and opinion.
It is an intimate commitment, a close one-on-one between reader and writer. If it is not enjoyable then there must be some over-riding gain for me, the reader. When that gain is insignificant, I don’t feel compelled to spend that time with a weak mind, an arrogant blow hard, or a self-righteous preacher. The twenty dollars I wont get back, the twelve hours I can better spend.
I have a quote by Theodore Sturgeon saved. ‘It doesn’t matter what you write, what you believe will show through.’ Dallaire believes he could solve all the world’s problems if people would just do what he says.
So many people rated the book great. I guess they don’t read many really great books by wonderful talented writers. This isn’t one.

Lessons on Hate from James Baldwin’s ‘Going to see the Man’

I woke up in a very bad mood. Angry. I read a short short story by James Baldwin yesterday that upset me. ‘Going to See the Man’, a story of a lynching somewhere in the US south. Told from the Point of View of a cop who as a young boy, was taken to the lynching as if it was a Sunday picnic. The anger and hate carry with the boy into adulthood. Impotence leads to rage.
And I woke up angry this morning. My anger is directed at the people blocking roads and railroads in Canada in the name of First Nations people. Just as the cop in the Baldwin story wonders why they can’t learn, meaning the black people, I think someone should crack some heads on these climate change shits to teach them a lesson. Which I know is exactly the opposite lesson Baldwin would want. But he does see and show how hateful dehumanizing behavior can spread and infect people, over and over, like a virus.
We need to be on guard for it, aware that in weak moments, when tired or irritated, we can lose patience and revert to this thuggish behavior.
I am ashamed when part of myself leans to that course of action. They say good writing is honest, so I share my shameful thoughts in the hope of creating good writing, and becoming more aware of the thoughts and feelings that course through me and all other people. None of us are saints.

What Trump and the GOP Fear

Political pundits wonder aloud why does nobody in the Republican Party stand up to Donald Trump? A superficial analyst would say they fear him. If you cross Trump your political career is over. But this week Trump made a slip, and we saw what they all fear, President Trump included.

A Trump rally in North Carolina disgusted most decent people when the crowd whipped itself into a racist chant of ‘Send Her back! Send Her back!’ Echoes of ‘Sig Hiel’ and waving swastikas appeared in this former Confederate state. The next day worldwide condemnation had Trump backing down. He lied and said he had tried to cut them off. But then the tell.

Nobody accuses Trump of thinking four or five steps ahead. It’s not his forte. But he can think ahead to the next rally. And he knows those chants will come up again. The calls, the angry braying of the mob, the spittle and the hate flying in the air. ‘Send her back!’

And as Trump tried to position himself back in front of that angry mob we saw what they all fear. Hate now calls the shots in the Republican Party. And any sitting GOP member knows, crossing that angry mob will bring it’s focus on you.

Political parties of all stripes have their fringes. The kooks, the single issue fanatics, the crazy aunts we keep in the attic except when we need their donations or votes. We pay them lip-service, give them a nod, a wink or a dog-whistle to keep them on-side.

We don’t invite them into the wheelhouse and let them steer the ship. Except the Republicans have. It was a way to win. Pander to the White Nationalists, the Gun nuts and the Abortion Evangelicals. A core of single issue fanatics that have coalesced around a message of hate. A crowd stoked by cruel treatment of unfortunate refugees fleeing Central America. Cruelty is acceptable now. Anger and hate are ushered out of the shadows and celebrated in packed arenas and stadiums. The mob has over-run the GOP establishment and are asserting control.

Many are making the comparison to 1930s Germany. But I think that was different, in that Germany was lead by the fanatical true believers. This reminds me more of France after the Revolution in 1793 when a mob terror swept up everyone into a blood lust of retribution. A monster that nobody controlled.

Can you tell me that anyone controls that mob shrieking ‘Send Her Back’?

Updates from Danny July 17, 2019

All
An update on my last 6 weeks.
On June 3rd after work I went for a mountain bike ride on Mount Seymour. Good news was I got a free helicopter ride, link below. Bad news I crashed, went over the handle bars, landed on my head and damaged my spine. Didn’t break anything, but it is a serious injury and I will be off for a while. The doctors say most people with this injury make a full recovery. They just wont say how long.
I started walking after my first week, and did both stairs and a stationary bike over that weekend, so I am on the mend. I was wearing a neck collar 7×24 up to Friday July 12.
I spent the first 3 weeks on the 7th floor at Lion’s Gate Hospital, (the Critical Care unit) then 2 plus weeks on the 5th floor, The Rehab unit. They let me go home Friday July 12th.
I started out patient rehab on Tuesday July 16th. Typing is hard, as my hands are numb.

I have been told to set some goals by the Doctors, PT and OT teams. Skiing in… This Season? Is one.
Bike and hike again. Be able to travel. Not Nepal this year, but maybe Costa Rica again.
Drive a car. Make it to Lake Sakinaw this summer, and maybe fish.
And I have always wanted to write, so as my typing gets better, I am going to work on that. Check our http://writing.aldham.net.
Going back to work is not high on my list. This whole thing is causing me to reassess my priorities.

VIDEO: Injured mountain biker rescued from Mt. Seymour – Peace …
https://images.app.goo.gl/CJvZ4t3yqo5BnNsM7

North Shore link:
https://www.nsnews.com/news/mountain-biker-suffers-spinal-injury-in-seymour-fall-1.23844863

Bike route:
Check out my cycling activity on Garmin Connect. #beatyesterday
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3696542209

The Caravan and Thoughts of Charity

I was thinking about political correctness today. The right scoff at the ‘snowflakes’ and the left rail at the ‘facists’, and in between it has become impossible to have a decent conversation.

The caravan of Central American refugees, that the Republicans have made such as election issue of, has dropped from public view. But the entire debate was framed as a ‘Be tough, show resolve, defend the borders, build the wall, send the army’ conversation. The rebuttal was non-existent. It was politically impossible for anyone to show the kind of traditionally conservative Christian values I grew up with, and that is heartbreaking. What have we become?

I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. If anything, I would call myself a ‘closet’ Christian. And I feel too many people who call themselves Christian seem to live in the Old Testament, forgetting the messages from Jesus in the New Testament. I remember Sunday School lessons about compassion and empathy for our fellow men. The good Samaritan, the Seven virtues, Kindness, Charity, Compassion and Mercy.

When one side frames the debate about who can be the toughest, the other side commits political suicide by admitting any of these virtues. How did this happen? When did the voices of all the good people cower in fear?

This is not who we are. Sure, we all get angry sometimes. Life can be tough. But we have it good compared to those people in Central America who are fleeing totalitarian dictators, civil wars, corruption and abject poverty.

We need to show a little empathy. Recognize that these people are fleeing a humanitarian disaster. And since the Americans have told the rest of the world to stay out of the Western hemisphere, via the Munro Doctrine, Americans have a responsibility to address this disaster.

Bob Hope once said that ‘A man with no Charity in his heart, suffers from the worst kind of heart problem.’

As the bumper stickers say ‘What would Jesus do?’

Close the #Trumpcamps

Over the last few days we have seen images of children being torn from their mothers. There are reports of camps being setup in Texas and children in cages. The similarities to concentraction camps is too easy to make.
And now Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders are holding up the bible to justify their heartless cruelty.
There is no empathy in this Administration. That Donald Trump was damaged as a child and is now a narcissistic socio-path incapable of seeing people as humans is a given. Trying to appeal to his heart is useless.
But he does care about something. His Name. How he is percieved by the public. His image on TV and Twitter. His brand.
Trump towers are supposed to be luxurious. Mara-Lago is better than Disney Land. Trump University, Trump steaks, Trump Casinos. He loves to see his name on everything. So let’s put his name on this. Let him own it. #Trumpcamps.
Every conversation, every story, every image of families being torn apart and people being thrown in jail for misdemeanor crimes and having the audacity to beg for asylum , needs to be tagged and branded as a trumpcamp story.
Right now it is a bargaining chip. Let it be more. Let him own it. Let it be Donald Trump’s legacy,his place in history. #Trumpcamps

The English Language as a Lesson in Resiliance

It has been beaten, invaded, subjugated, enslaved, driven underground, sneered at and crushed like a cockroach. Yet it has rebounded to become the world’s first Universal Language. English.
Around the time of Christ, Londinium was the furthest outpost of the Roman Empire. As the empire fell the Romans withdrew. The few Celtish tribes that still existed made themselves at home.
Until in AD499 the Germanic tribes invaded: Angles and Saxons, bringing with them their language that was to become German.
In AD597 a peaceful invasion happened, as St. Augustine brought Latin and Christianity to the Island of Albion. And the language of Celt, German and now Latin merged.
Next the Viking invaders came, raping, pillaging and speaking that mix of Danish, from which the locals again borrowed and stole words and phrases.
Alfred the Great brought together the English clans in AD793 and the basic English language became the common through the realm.
Until 1066 when the Normans defeated the English at Hasting, and imposed a French speaking aristocracy that lasted 300 years. Again the locals absorbed the words and grammar of their overlords, until the overlords were overrun by English, so that French became a second language to them too.
With the hundred year war, French fell out of style, and English was the language of the land.
So came onto the landscape Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1300s, and then Shakespeare in the late 1500s, followed by the King James bible in 1600 or so.
And the dye was cast. The language that would traverse the world with the British empire, take root in the new world, and spread to become the worlds first global language.
It holds a lesson. Bend but do not break. Adapt. Learn, hide if need be, absorb from others. But never surrender.

How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation

This thread comes from the ‘Writing Ethnically Different Protagonists’ thread and concern I have from a reviewer.
I have a character in my work, Ruth, who is a North American Native woman from Saskatchewan. She is abused. I am neither a woman nor native. An artist friend who is reading the draft suggested I could be called out for Appropriation of Voice with this character.
I have done some research and found the Canadian Author Margaret Atwood was accused of the same thing with Pauline and Surfacing.
I don’t want to change her background, her culture or her history. She plays an important role in the story and as a metaphor for our Canadian society.
But I want to be empathetic to the Aboriginal culture, history and concerns. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to avoid the charge?
thanks

 

Book review of Frances Itani’s Tell

I recently finished reading Tell as a NVCL Book Club book. I was underwhelmed. In fact, I had to force myself to complete the novel.
I had trouble visualizing the characters. Tall, short, dark, fair, I couldn’t see these people, the descriptions were lacking. But that was only the beginning of my issues.
The story revolves around secrets that are kept in the small town. I grew up in a small southern Ontario town, so I thought I could relate. Not so much.
In truth most small towns are full of busy-bodies who love to talk about each other. That these secrets could be kept for decades was a little dubious. But reading fiction involves a suspension of disbelief, so I will give the author that. That the secrets were only revealed at the end felt a little forced.
The ice rink. If it was a metaphor for something, I missed it. Maybe the big snow wall. But there was too much description of building the rink for my liking. As above, I lived in Southern Ontario, I get it.
Too often I wanted to take the characters and bang their heads together. Just speak for god’s sake.
But the final killer for me was that the novelist showed a lack of caring and empathy. The main female character Maggie cheats on her husband Em. Neither Itani nor Maggie showed any thoughts to the pain they were inflicting. Not a second thought. My idea of a good writer is one who has empathy for the world, and shows it in their work and their characters. Itani failed at this.

Danny

Consenting to Learn in Public

“Consenting to Learn in Public”

I am beginning a journey.
A flag was raised when I had my first draft of a fictional story reviewed. A major character in that story is an aboriginal women named Ruth. She is a North American native from Wood Mountain Saskatchewan. She is abused. And a reviewer suggested I drop the native character as I might be accused of Cultural Appropriation or Appropriation of voice.

I don’t want to change her story or her background, or make the issues invisible. Native people are a real part of the Canada I love and call home. I do want to be empathetic to the real concerns of the community. I don’t want to steal anything. What to do?

The plan is to do some research. To read. Books, web sites, blogs. And to speak to the people I know who have a Native background.
To look for organizations that can teach me, inform me, educate me.

So the journey begins.

I might make some mistakes. I may ask some really dumb questions. I may publicly show my ignorance. Please forgive me in advance.

 

#Consentingtolearninpublic