September 30, 2022, Flagstaff- Today would have been Penny’s 68th birthday. She would have joined me in cringing, if anyone said sixty-eight YEAR anniversary. We were of one mind, about language purity, and if anything, she was more adamant about precision, when it came to names of people and things.
She saw beauty in most things, although acts of racism and sexism were called out for what they were. She struggled, mightily, to throw off her own vestiges of prejudice, and would have made overcoming “white fragility” a major focus of her life, had she been here when it rose as a social construct.
The most important creatures in her life were animals, especially dogs. People could be the source of disappointment and letdown, but dogs and horses were blameless. Cats were outside animals, and they could come and go at will, but dogs were a source of comfort. Horses were the epitome of nobility, and visits to her horse-owning parents most often meant a ride or two, until she could ride no more.
She would be happy at what women and girls have achieved, in terms of resisting paternalism. Although she, like me, abhorred the idea of abortion, she would have remained adamant that it was the woman’s ultimate choice-not to be relegated to others, especially men. She was of a mind to challenge and argue with doctors, when she saw fit. That, besides the undying respect I had for her judgement and dignity, was why she kept primacy over decisions to be made regarding her health. She was a steadfast advocate for holistic health practices and organic foods. I have tried to keep the faith, in that respect.
She had a strong love for children, and fought with herself-a lot, to put their well-being above her urge towards ego-centrism, the legacy of having been raised as a “princess”. This didn’t do her health any favours, but she was a good mother to Aram, and a fine wife to me. She was also a strong and dedicated teacher, even at the end-when declining health and unsympathetic administrators made her professional life a nightmare. The children always came first.
I like to think she would approve of my autumnal years, and how they are playing out. I get inklings, every now and then, like the image of a spirit that appears on the wall calendar, as if to say, “You are not alone”.
June 19, 2022, Montreal- Today was a fitting confluence of observances: Father’s Day, celebrating the best of those who help raise a next generation and who continue to offer guidance to the men and women they helped rear, and Juneteenth (which will be officially observed tomorrow, as a National Holiday in the U.S.), wherein paternalism, the opposite of good fathering, took a well-deserved hit, with enslaved people in Texas finally getting the word that they had been freed-more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation-and two months after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army, at Appomattox.
The concept of a person making decisions FOR other people has been with us for at least 10,000 years. It has many permutations, and will die hard. We are, however, entering an Age of Fulfillment, in which individuals are growing into humans who can make their own decisions. There will be a lot of mess involved-that’s the nature of growth. Mistakes will happen, at all levels, yet hopefully lessons will be learned. Those who see life through a progressive lens can be just as authoritarian as their polar opposites who seem to want to turn back the clock.
Paternalism, or excessive maternalism, for that matter, serve to debilitate the very people one secretly wishes would stand up and do what’s right. The rub comes, when the domineering one realizes that maybe the children or teens are doing precisely what is right-for their lives. Teaching people the thinking process is far more valuable than pontificating on what to think.
My Father’s Day, with a son who is away in a training exercise, was spent being proud of what he is achieving. I also returned to a city that taught me some hard lessons, four years ago-at exactly the time when I learned them. This year, Montreal was far easier to navigate. I had the satisfaction of visiting the shore of Lake Ontario, at Kingston, where I spent last night, and the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, at Prescott, Ontario (“That’s PresCOTT, there, Yank!”). I also was able to put the Saturn in a highly secure garage for the evening, once arriving in Montreal. Father’s day, my way, was capped by a wonton supper at Chef B.Lee, on St. Catherine Street, in the heart of Montreal’s Asian Food District (“Chinatown” would be an inadequate term here, as Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese eateries are just as common).
It’s been a good day, all in all. Here are a few scenes from the course of the journey.
The most important aspect of this park, however, is the newest and oldest, at the same time: The Alderville First Nation, a Mississauga Ojibway band, blessed the area with one of its artists and healers, Terence Radford, who created a Spirit Garden for Lake Ontario Park. All the Great Lakes are sacred to the Ojibway, so this blessing of Lake Ontario means a great deal, both to the Ojibway people and to their neighbours in the larger community.
THIS strikes me as the real reason I stopped overnight in Kingston.
A while later, I stopped in Prescott, ON. This town has a nice River Walk, focusing on the St. Lawrence, so I took a walk along a short part of it. Here are views of the river and of Fort Wellington, a British fort during the War of 1812, built to defend shipping from the American troops stationed across the river, in Ogdensburg, NY.
This was a cool find. In the 1960s, Leo Boivin (“That’s BwaVAN, Yank!”), was a respected member of the Boston Bruins. Kids were always calling me “Leo”, though quite honestly, I couldn’t stand up on skates, for more than two minutes. As Leo was a native of Prescott, the town named its community center after him, when he passed away, last year.
Tonight, I am here, at Montreal’s Auberge St. Lo, formerly called HI (Hostels International) Montreal. It is a very comfortable and accommodating place, with the study room where I am writing this post.
It’s been hot and dry here, this month, as it usually is in Arizona, during the month of June, and often during the first half of July. There are high clouds, that keep the sun from becoming too blazing in intensity, and sometimes, we get the cooler air that’s left over from the storms that are hitting the Rockies and Great Basin. The monsoons, though, come from the south and southeast of us.
The very ground, though, doesn’t usually sizzle. I feel it starting to smoke, this year, though. Earth has a memory, of how her children, whose remains lie in her near crust, have been treated- often in the name of profit; sometimes in the name of convenience; most often in the name of ego gratification-which takes the other two along for the wild ride. She also has a memory of how she herself has been treated.
Reckonings have, historically, been very hard-and are resisted by those who are being asked to face the music. So it is now. There are events that have already happened and those yet to transpire, which have caused, and may cause, me to wince. Many of the great national heroes of our past are being lumped with those who challenged our country’s more enlightened social constructs.
The Confederates, even with the attempted revisionist history of the period 1985-2015, are still relatively easy to relegate to museums and scholarly study. I have visited Stonewall Jackson House, in Lexington, VA and learned that he taught his male slaves to read and write-using the Bible as text. I have learned that he was an organic gardener and herbalist. I recall thinking that, well, Hitler was a vegetarian. There is a difference between Thomas Jackson and der Fuehrer, in terms of degree of supremacism. Nonetheless, Stonewall OWNED people.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and John Tyler each owned people. They did great things for the Nation, but they OWNED people. The Presidents from the northern and midwestern states didn’t own human beings, but they supported the institution of slavery, to one extent or another, right past the Emancipation Proclamation (which only freed the enslaved people of the states which had seceded). New York City even had a plan to secede from the Union, in 1864, to guard Wall Street’s investments in cotton and tobacco.
All Presidents, with the possible exceptions of William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, had blindspots when it came to the First Nations-and, except for Lyndon Johnson, none had a true sense that African-Americans were the equals of European-Americans. There were limits to how much the country was willling to do, to set things right.
For purposes of this post, I will stop by saying that “Liberals” and “Progressives” do not have a sterling track record, when it comes to empowering and working WITH those for whom they claim to support. There are many paternalistic efforts being made, which only draw the condemnation of conservatives and their supporters among the African-American and First Nations communities. Doing things FOR people has only resulted in a lack of progress for these communities.
I remind those on the Right, though, of two things: The Democrats who actively engaged in segregationist policies, until 1970, or so, became Republicans, at the invitation of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, in the 1970’s and’80’s. Donald Trump is accelerating that effort, in the current era. Secondly, there is still a climate of fear being stoked, by the leaders of both parties, but the Republicans are in charge-and can fire up the machinery of pushback.
Personally, I see value in some aspects of both sides of the aisle. There remain these, however: African-Americans, for lack of a better collective, are not “Negroes”, “coloured people”, or even “people of colour”. There is no “Negro Problem”. Native Americans, asking for their land titles, are still not intent on destroying long-established communities with diverse populations. I was in Maine, duirng the Penobscot Land Settlement. The once and again owners of 2/3 of the state’s land did not evict anyone from that territory. The settlement was legal and financial, not socially disruptive. It was gratifying, as the Penobscot Nation includes some of my distant relatives.
Both sides would do well to get past hatred of the other and dispense with any air of superiority, especially when approaching the communities about whom they claim to care.
Here is a link to a very important, and challenging, presentation. It is worth a lot of thought, in my humble opinion. God bless America.
The second day of the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference continued the examination of issues around wealth and building a sustainable new society. There was, however, a necessary sidebar: The curbing of violence against women.
Ms. Layli Miller Muro is Director of Tahirih Justice Center, a nationwide network of programs designed to safeguard women facing all manner of attacks on their person, especially with respect to arranged marriages, particularly of underage girls. Her two presentations today placed a searing light on the many aspects of this issue.
I have long been concerned with the maltreatment of women and children, especially of girls. In my initial work, there was a tendency towards paternalism-though just shy of infantilizing my charges. I have made it a lifelong goal to foster strength and independence- the lioness being more of a model than the fluffy rabbit. What that entails, in real terms, has been a learning process, for yours truly, despite having been raised by an indomitable woman and growing up surrounded by powerful females.
Nonetheless, my learning has continued apace, and the shedding of counterproductive, if well-intentioned, attitudes and thoughts is ongoing.
Mrs. Muro’s major points, in her first presentation, bear intense consideration:
“Unity is not possible, without justice.
The beginnings of justice are messy. Purification requires blistering heat.
Justice is the foundation of a spiritually-based global civilization.
As an individual, it is better to be killed, than to kill.
As a society, we must ALL serve as advocates.
As an individual, immediate forgiveness is essential.
As a society, swift and complete justice is equally essential.
It is NOT the victim’s job to arrange justice.
In the next life ( a spiritual life), justice is even harsher. It’s therefore better for a perpetrator to face justice in this world.”
In the afternoon presentation, Mrs. Muro noted that social action is a tool for achieving justice. We, even as individuals, may not be able to control pain and suffering, but we can control its duration and limit its severity. She noted that justice which does not end in unity is not true justice.
Furthermore, she noted that, if those who face incarceration realize the severity of justice in the spiritual world, they would certainly seek out appropriate punishment in this life.
These thoughts and statements, to me, are worthy of deep thought on the part of the hearer or reader. With me hardly being a paragon of virtue, historically speaking, I am taking Mrs. Muro’s points very seriously and will be devoted all the more to both self-purification and to aiding women and girls in both their self-protection and in advocating for those with a history of victimhood.
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