Monday, August 24, 2020

Grumbling at 'the establishment' need not destroy its target

 This morning, I heard a long-time minor hockey coach and executive detail how Hockey Canada, like to many other umbrella organizations, has a prepared bible of how to teach young kids to play hockey. And like so many other umbrella organizations, seeking primarily to avoid potential law suits, has detailed minute instructions even for such physical encounters on the ice of one player about to receive a check into the boards from another. Hunker down, while remaining at right angles to the boards, the recipient will take the impact of the ‘hit’ on the right or left shoulder, driving the opposite shoulder into the unforgiving boards. This coach-executive points out that he has discovered and taught a different method: instead of hunkering down and absorbing the impact on one shoulder only to be driven into the boards on the opposite shoulder, the player is to jump off the ice, and absorb the impact while extending his body higher at the level of the “plexiglass’ providing a much higher degree of flexibility than available at the level of the boards, leading to far fewer if any injuries.

But…and here is the but that is haunting so much of our culture: Hockey Canada will not have the “taking a hit” instruction taught in the latter manner, only the former. Any teaching of the less-impactful technique has to be kept within the local coach’s purview, and not disclosed to the upper echelons of the Hockey Canada kingdom.

This “grass-roots” wisdom, based on personal experience, and excluded from the official manual for hockey coaches, has several implications. One is that the locals are reinforced in a prevailing culture of “thumbing their noses” at officialdom; after all, that local instruction is far less likely to provoke injury and the inevitable parental fear, anger and potential suit. The observable conflict undermines the legitimacy and the authority of the ‘higher’ supervising body, without integrating the better method into the universal instruction manual. The resultant “reverse snobbery” from the lower ranks to the higher ranks, like the reverse snobbery that infects millions of poor people towards the affluent, ennobles a kind of perception, attitude and potential belief that can and does lead to some serious negative attitudes.

One such example is the growing spread of an anti-vaccination cult, based largely on mis-information, or perhaps dis-information, based on anecdotal accounts of negative reactions to a few inoculations. Feeding this growing sewer of distortions, dis-information, and outright lies, of course, is the master of deception, the man who has just in the last hour officially been nominated as the official candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency of the United States of America in 2020. Only last night, at a singularly noticeable and yet irrelevant presser, at the White House, trump announced a plasma treatment of a few people suffering with COVID-19, as if it were the silver bullet he has been promising for months. Not only has the treatment not been through the normal required clinical trials, and not only has it been in use for weeks if not months on severely ill COVIC-19 patients, with limited success, the announcement itself, once again erodes public confidence in the medical fraternity’s legitimacy, authority and ethical superiority among many people. When politicians undermine the medical and the public health authorities, in the middle of a pandemic, for their own narcissistic political ambitions, they not only erode public confidence in any such treatment, but they further erode the trust of the public in those whose rigid diligence to the science, of the disease, and the appropriate treatment options, thereby potentially extending the spread of the virus itself.

Back in another life, we often heard the word “anti-establishmentarianism”…an almost unpronounceable word that then named a kind of thumbing of the nose at the establishment that usually stopped at the attitudinal, without reaching into the behaviour of the persons who deployed the word. Another word that had currency at that time was iconoclast, an image breaker, or a social visionary, who saw through the blind-spots that accompany most long-standing institutions. Back then, there was a refreshing if somewhat irreverent attitude attached to both words, and to the people whose perspective beg their use. While riding a very different, potentially virulent wave of the latest iteration of this iconoclasm, trump’s brain-child, Steve Bannon, openly acknowledges that trump ‘the transformational president intends to eviscerate the political, institutional establishment, commonly referred to by that cult as the “deep state”.

These days, however, far removed from the rather idyllic and naïve, flower-child freedom of the seventies, those who belong to a growing cult that despises the “deep state” to the degree that, for them it is inhabited by liberals, Hollywood, the political elite and also, according to the highly virulent, toxic and even life-threatening code of QAnon, these people of the ‘deep state’ are believed to be so vile that they traffic in children, murder children and then drink the blood of those children. Some of the most animated adherents to this “conspiracy theory” have recently been successful in primary elections for the Republican party for Congress. Naturally aligned with those in the anti-vax “cult” they are foreshadowing a looming cloud of the dark side of the American culture that threatens to inject this cancer into the public debate, as if it deserved to be taken seriously.

When Peter Navaro, the president’s wingman on trade, tells the FDA to “get onto trump time” referring to the perceived tardiness of the agency in requiring all COVID-19 treatments go through the trials that ensure both safety and efficacy, he is signing on to the trump-dominating political, and soon-to-be-public perception of distrust of a once respected, ethical, professional and non-partisan institution. And this institution lies at the core of the nation’s mind-heart-and muscle in any initiative to combat a national, and an international pandemic.

The FDA, like the CDC, both highly trusted and respected at home and around the world, as leaders in the field of public health, has held that stature because they both were committed to the strict, rigidly enforced and scientifically-established regime of long standing. And their reputation did not rely on favouritism from either Democratic or Republican administrations, until they were both politicized by the current administration.

That local hockey executive, while proudly honouring the creative insights of locals whose personal consciousness generated ingenuity and a potentially safer way for kids to absorb a hit near the boards, and complaining that the innovation cannot be spread to others, does not have the capacity to undermine a nation’s political structure for his own personal gain. Nor does he seek such influence.

It is the millions of people who have become drunk on the kool-aid that trump is serving, through deception, lies, manipulation, hiring and firing of mob-type sycophants, all the while trumpeting a regime of falsehoods, false and unfulfilled promises, and distortions that increased the spread of a deadly virus and the potential for some 310,000 U.S. deaths by election day, according to at least one model.

That hockey executive has no intention of overturning Canada Hockey, for the purpose of replacing it with his own narcissistic cult. He has no desire to withdraw from minor hockey, a life-time passion, simply because there are some differences between his nuanced teaching techniques, (there may even be at least another half-dozen ways to absorb the impact of a shoulder check into the boards) and the Hockey Canada manual. A difference in opinion based on experience, and a human ambition to find what seems the safest technique to teach, at this time, in this place, will not become a national insurrection, funded by millions of contributions of deluded contributors who believe blindly that their saviour is another human being.

QAnon cultists actually do believe, according to multiple reports, that trump is their saviour who is going to rescue them from the hoards of evil people, including especially Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama (whose birth certificate continues to haunt their ghostly caves).

And when one links the public disclosure by the Republican-controlled National Intelligence Committee of the Senate, that the trump administration sought and accepted assistance from Russian intelligence officer(s?) in order to win the 2016 election, and that the Russians are continuing their dis-information campaign into the 2020 campaign, on behalf of trump, it is not difficult to not that the American political and cultural soil is ripe for the seeding and growth of political malfeasance. And the agency that has poisoned the political soil is none other than the trump cult.

QAnon, as what might prove to be the most virulent political beast on the current horizon, inside the U.S., for many whose search for the fine points of reality remain totally foreign to their alleged saviour, could and likely will flow into a hot-house of their own imagination which has been given over to growing and spreading conspiracy theories. And it is just such conspiracy theories in which the Russians also trade, according to published, respected and trustworthy reports.

Just how far apart are the lies and deceptions of Putin from those being spread by QAnon? From this vantage point, it would seem not very far. And what would it take for each to reinforce the other, as agents both dedicated to the re-election of trump? Highly valued, needed and previously staffed and trusted institutions too are under threat from trump himself. These now decimated institutions now include the Justice Department, the Homeland Security Department, the State Department, the Health and Human Services Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the aforementioned CDC and FDA. Not incidentally, the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci has been threatened, presumably because he will not fawn to the idol of the QAnon, (and Putin).

And his life, at seventy-nine, is clearly one life worthy of upholding, sustaining and supporting. Just as is the life of the now-comatose Alexei Navalny, lying in a German hospital, following confirmation from the German doctors that he was indeed poisoned in Siberia, in spite of the denials of the Kremlin and the Siberian doctors who detained him for the first forty-eight hours, presumably in order to give time for the poison to leave his body.

We are not yet living in Russia; nor is the United States on the verge of becoming a full-blown dictatorship. However, all the signs, the language, the behavior, the attitudes of an incipient oligarchy are right in front of our eyes.

Those who deny the evidence are engaged in a conscious and willful effort to comply with the trump regime. Those who brush it aside are just as dangerous, for their’s is the complicity of spinelessness. And those who continue to massage the danger of QAnon, and the imminent threat from Russia and potentially other foreign adversaries, whether inside a political party or inside a mega-media outlet (read FOX NEWS) are equally complicit, if more difficult to excise. The Fox nest, now disclosed by the reporting of Brian Stelter in his book entitled  HOAX.

The title word has been used by trump well over 250 times in tweets, and public utterances, and one can only guess that Stelter is attempting to glue the word where it really belongs on the orange-blimp himself, enmeshed as Stelter demonstrates in the very fabric of FOX News, where many of his sycophants find their political ‘sugarpops’.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Obama's prophetic "bird" call to Americans and the world

 Kierkegaard knew that he could have no friends….he loved the universal, the human in men, but as something other, something denied to him….Kierkegaard, said that he was ‘in almost every physical respect deprived of the conditions for being a whole man. He had never been a man: at very most , child and youth. He lacked ‘the animal side of humanity.’…In contrast to the abandonment, failure, and contingency of ..existence…was the growing consciousness …of the meaning, sense and necessity of all that happened to (him.) Kierkegaard called it Providence. He recognized the divinity into: ‘That everything that happens, is said, goes on and so forth, is portentous: the factual continually changes itself to mean something far higher.’ The factual for him is not something to abstract oneself from, but rather something to be penetrated until God himself gives the meaning. Even what he himself did became clear only later. It was ‘the extra which I do not own to myself but to Providence. It shows itself continually in such a fashion that even what I do out of the greatest possible conviction, afterwards I understand far better….Kierkegaard compared himself to a bird which foretells rain: ‘When in a generation, a thunderstorm begins to threaten, individuals like me appear.’…Kierkegaard repeated innumerable times that he was not an authority, or a prophet,  apostle, or reformer, nor did he have that authority of position. His problem was to awaken men. He had a certain police talent, to be a spy in the service of the divinity. He uncovered, but he did not assert what should be done. (from Karl Jaspers, Reason and Existenz, Noonday Press, 1955, p.41-44)


Why all these words, in honour and respect and remembrance of Soren Kierkegaard?

There was a line in the historic address by Barack Obama on Wednesday evening, about the nature of democracy. The transcript reads like this:

But here’s the thing: no single American can fix this country alone. Not even a president. Democracy was never meant to be transactional—you give me your vote: I make everything better. It requires an active and informed citizenry. So, I am also asking you to believe in your own ability—to embrace your own responsibility as citizens, to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure.

Obama, like a burning bush, here bursts into a culture in which so much of our public discourse, and indeed our assimilated mind-set revolves around the “transactional” (what have you done for me lately?) as if in each and every encounter we are either consumer or producer, either buyer or seller, either in charge or in debt, either superior or inferior, either liked or hated, either worthy or worthless, either likeable or contemptible, either admirable or detestable.

We have fallen, often if not always, unconsciously, into a my-camp, or the enemy camp mentality, and we too often continue to dig a deeper and deeper trench around our “camp” and even build fortifications to keep those “others” out of our space. Inevitably in such an ethos, given the fear and the insecurity of each untenable, exclusive and each obviously superior side, we each gestate and then traffic in conspiracies that enhance the demonization of the other side. Currently, it seems that the ‘trump-cult’ seems far more dependent on such a stream of bile, given their leader’s overt support for such groups as Q-Anon.

Whatever the racist, sexist, or ideological basis of any group, and regardless of which social media platform has not yet banned its dissemination of hate, one of the features seems to be a fealty, indeed a fawning over a single personage, even if that personage is little more than a papier mache version of a fully-developed human being. And this sycophancy, of course, is underscored by a person whose psychological needs are so profound that “liking me” is the single criteria of acceptance and even honour.

So, ‘there were very good people on both sides’ in Charlottesville; and these people love America (commenting on QAnon) and the enmeshment of individual and cult grows inextricable, cemented, of course, by the gorilla glue of political fawning.

Into this cauldron of national, personal, political and potentially global existential threat, Obama trumpets a call to reclaim personal responsibility, through independent critical thought, investigation, and then marking a ballot. A government and an administration that behaves like an elementary school child, imposing tariffs on a whim, banning Muslims also on a whim, incarcerating children as a violent and viscious “deterrence” to others, framing COVID-19 as the “China virus” and continuing to frame opponents as sleepy, criminal, lazy, and “unwanted” simply adds venom to the already smouldering political crock-pot.

Obama asks each American, and by inference, each person listening around the world, to recall and to reflect on the fundamental nature of democracy: not merely a reductionistic transaction of a vote and a solution. Democracy is antithetical to a car or a computer purchase. It has unwritten warranties that require a critical consciousness of who one is as citizen, who one is as representative, what each can and must expect of the other and what processes exist to enable the relationship to continue to function based on mutual trust.

There are no widgets being produced, packed and shipped to a waiting consumer, who can then open and examine the quality of the product. There are no specific profits to be garnered by those engaged in the debate of public issues, the “sausage-making” of preparing a legislative bill, and then of debating the merits/demerits of that bill prior to voting. And those processes, including warranties, and boundaries, and relationships, while somewhat guarded by legalities and regulations, not merely imply but rely on a level of understanding, both cognitive and emotional, both denotative and connotative, both historic and contemporary, both philosophic and pragmatic, both conversational and communal, both sacred and secular, both immediate and long-range. And also much more than each of these either/or’s…

And to participate fully in the complexities of this democratic process, two primary ingredients are required. There has to be a highly engaged, informed and proactive mind and body and spirit among the people, that has not been contaminated by the rust of cynicism, suspicion and disengagement. And in order for that proactive and engaged person to participate fully and authentically, those in positions of leadership have to honour, respect and comply with the obvious and stringent requirements of not merely ethical comportment, nor merely public relations talking points, but the hard work of learning the fine print of each issue, the competing interests and the necessity of explaining these to as broad a range of constituents as is feasible.

Simplifying, as reducing each issue to a “right” or “wrong” as trump does with every single issue, is the kind of contemptuous patronizing his administration claims as its signature. Disregard of the details, disregard of the guardrails, disregard of the people themselves, lies at the core of his modus operandi.

And it is that ensnarement of the population by trump and his altar-boys, barr, mnuchin, dejoy, mcconnell, graham, to which Obama is singing.

There is a profound constitutional issue at the heart of Obama’s plea. There is also an equally profound human/personal/identity issue at the core of the Obama prayer. To be and to permit trump and his cult to continue to impose a patronizing, reductionistic, hyperbolic, narcissistic, and melodramatic framing of each and every person and issue on the political stage, is the monster Obama is confronting.

Of course, as a constitutional scholar and lecturer, Obama is steeped in the vernacular and the thought processes and the traditions of the democratic process as enshrined in both law and tradition. A knowledge and a basic consciousness of both law and tradition is increasingly absent from a large segment of the population. And it is this vacuum that Obama seeks to awaken, and then to enrich, for its own sake and for the sake of the republic.

Like Kierkegaard, Obama is more interested in being the ‘bird’ in the thunderstorm, in this historic (as a former president excoriates his successor) speech, than in debating the various policy proposals of his ‘brother’ Joe Biden. Obama has had his turn at the helm of the ship of state, and, not incidentally or accidentally, steered her through some very choppy and dangerous seas. His reputation, his honour and his dignity were never in question throughout his two-term tenure in the Oval Office, at least to the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle.

The current administration, incarnated and embodied in a single person, seeking a single transactional exchange, with a base enmeshed in a mind-set and a cultural ethos that needs to simplify, and to reduce each and every issue to a sound-byte of their preferred ‘fast-food’ hamburg, easily and voraciously consumed and digested in contempt for all liberals and supporters of the Democratic ticket.

Clearly, it is not only the system of governance of the nation that is at risk. So too is the literal and metaphoric health of every American, seen from a physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional and especially a spiritual perspective.

And this ‘bird’ sees a thunderstorm far beyond those currently being reported by the political, the climatological, the fiscal and the entertainment forecasters. While Joe Biden says he is fighting to reclima the “soul of America” and his claim is both worthy and justified.

There might just be some uncertainty as to what is comprised in a nation’s soul.  Of course, it has to include the access to opportunity, health care, education, work with dignity and freedom from injustice, as well as a clean environment. Yet, if and when each individual loses or neglects, or walks away from the seat at the table to which all have been invited, through birth, family, citizenship, landed immigrant status, permanent work visa, or whatever legitimate ‘credential,’ because s/he has lost trust in the vision of legitimate and feasible possibilities, (that key definition of the United States for Biden himself), then the energy to continue to participate in this “relationship” atrophies.

And if you have ever been in a situation in which your whole being “knew” that you no longer had energy, commitment, hope and trust for this relationship, you know what that feels like and what is the likely, if not inevitable, outcome of that relationship.

And, tragically, for millions of Americans, who, without publicly articulating their truth, “have quit and stayed” and then turned their contempt into nationalistic venom, conspiracy-mongering, racist rhetoric, homophobic slurs, (even Amazon had to withdraw a t-shirt bearing the words “Joe and Hoe” as part of a cynical anti-Biden campaign), this ‘bird’ is cawing loudly, from the shores of the St. Lawrence River, barely a stones-throw away from upstate New York, wake up America.

To plunge your country into four more years of this debacle is not only a foretaste of your own tragic demise; it also portends a serious erosion of the planet’s capacity to withstand the pressures we are all collectively imposing on its fragility. And we are also likely to experience the spill-over of a cultural meme of hate, racism, sexism, and the importation of weapons through the underground economy, on which most criminals depend, regardless of where they live or were born.

Leadership of the kind the world has witnessed for the past nearly four years from this administration, has no respect for the human condition, for the planet’s future, for the plight of refugees encamped in tents by the millions, and for the human rights of besieged peoples in too many countries like China, North Korea, Syria, and even Russia.

When the president-turned poetic prophet sings, can the people of America hear his truth? And if they can hear it, can they discern the depth of its import? And if they can discern the profundity of its weight, can they summon the will to exercise both their ballot and their commitment to support the legitimate attempts to dissipate this engulfing thunderstorm that has a human and a vile author?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A little truth-telling wouldn't hurt any of us!

 Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end which is always present.  (T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Burnt Norton)

Sitting in the parlour of Huron College, at Western, in January 1988, I heard this same message from a bishop whose visit was motivated in part by a desire to further probe and potentially derail this candidate for ministry. His military chaplain to candidates had summarily dismissed my person, and likely as an act of calming the room’s social freeze, invited me to share a coffee with him. I declined.

The moment, clearly preserved and resurrected many times in the intervening thirty-two years, continues to vibrate perplexity, ambiguity, ineffability and also, on reflection, portend many political, social and professional volcanic vomits.

Was the bishop’s warning an attempt to ward against any potential disturbance to his tenure, should one confront others with painful ‘truths’?

Was the bishop setting the scene ‘straight’ in order to pave the way for a more tolerable and tolerant excursion into ministry?

Was the bishop expressing a red flag in opposition to curiosity, intensity, spontaneity and unpredictability which had already emerged in a divided first-year class in theology?

Was the bishop straight-out telling me from his supervisory perch that too much truth-telling bode ill inside the church?

The conjunction of Eliot’s potentially bland, somewhat-open-to-interpretation injunction with its dark side, secret and invasive and manipulative investigation of the private lives of candidates, has forever haunted my experience and my vision of an ecclesial organization, dedicated both to worshipping God and to inspiring others to join in that discipline.

Which realities were/are intolerable to which people, when and why? And when and how does this question intervene in the many processes designed to martial the spiritual growth of parishioners including those charged with the ostensible mentoring of that growth?

Was another bishop driving his prominent thumb into my chest forbidding the publication of a thesis on the only known liturgical suicide in Canadian church history a clear indication of the nuclear nature of what the church “could tolerate”?

Was this same bishop’s inflamed charge of “evil” of a Lenten study session, in which “betrayal” was the central theme, and in which  participants were invited to explore not only how they had been betrayed, but how they themselves had betrayed others another example of  how and when intolerance of reality plagues the church?

Was the hegemonic presumption of a member of a founding parish family to be selected as ‘warden’ and then the blatant, yet secret and private revenge for the clergy’s refusal of the obvious pretention another sign of the deep penetration of Eliot’s insight?

Was the abrupt, arrogant, oligarchic and viscious announcement that a right-wing evangelical video would be shown “on Tuesday evening this week” in order to illustrate how evil were the homilies then being delivered by the neophyte cleric another example of how “reality was not able to be tolerated”?

Was the recorded phone message intoning contemptuously, “You are the antichrist because you read and recommend Scott Peck,” another example of how reality is intolerable to so-called devout parishioners?

Was banning the display of the black pastoral theologian’s work, “Becoming a Self Before God,” by the church bookstore another example of how racism secretly deployed infests the interiority of the church body politic and incarnates a profound contempt for reality?

Was the refusal to investigate the context of multiple conflicts between clergy and parish, especially given the obvious, yet ignored conflict of interest of the complainants, thereby defying any and all attempts to provide “due process” another series of examples in which “tolerance for the full display of the reality” is/was/and will continue to be beyond the tolerance of the church?

Was/Is the refusal/avoidance of any and all reasonable processes of orientation of new clergy to parishes in turbulence from previous tenures another blatant example of the church’s addiction to avoidance and denial of responsibility in its appointment, mentoring and support of those “thrown into the deep end of the pool”?

Was the blind and neurotic assessment by a primary teacher, of a friendly poke and Hi Rog’! as a friend passed by, worthy of the immediately delivered ‘strap’ justice or just another example of sheer intolerance of reality?

Was the primary teacher’s injunction, “The honeymoon’s over!” to a ten-year-old boy who, having witnessed the crushing death of his brother under a flat-bed’s hay-ride only days previously, and was now finding it difficult to concentrate, another scurrilous example of how that teacher could not stand ‘too much reality”?

While himself reeking of alcohol in the middle of a bishop’s committee meeting was the warden’s demand that the cleric visit, alone, with a woman who had previously misrepresented another encounter with the clergy, another example of how reality is unacceptable to many?

Was the injunction of a Canon to a bishop not to attend a city-wide healing service, comprising all faiths immediately following the Columbine massacre, ‘because it was only a public relations stunt of the Roman Catholics,” another dirty-laundry example of how the church leadership refuses to acknowledge its own blind hubris?

Was the order to attend a meeting with the bishop, by that same Canon, to a new clergy, “because I have been telling my story for nine years without being heard,” and then failing to inform the bishop of his intervention, just another bit of office politics, or more likely, another instance of how unacceptable reality is to people in positions of leadership?

Was the blind and overt omission by the faculty of theology at Trinity College to include a single lecture on “conflict resolution in parishes” while dedicating least a dozen hours to “holy hand-waving” over sacraments, another blind, and hubristic example of unwilling acknowledgment of parish turbulence?

Was the story of a woman parishioner’s attendance at a social gathering where and when racist humour was being displayed, to “walk away because I would not want anyone to think that I considered myself superior to them” another example of not tolerating the complex truth that she was offended but silently put her own reputation ahead of the reputation of those whose race was being decried?

Was the story of the clergy, feigning seasonal affective disorder, and requiring psychiatric treatment, while really struggling with his own homosexuality, another example of how the church’s rejection of his sexuality was making him “ill” while the church bore no responsibility for the deep and penetrating pain he was experiencing?

Was the prominent local politician who claimed that she was only attending church services in order to better assure herself of a happy landing in heaven another example of how the church envelops even the most banal and ironically ineffectual motive, without even pretending to confront such a motive, another example of how reality denied, in its simplest and often deceiving form, aborts truth and authentic relationships?

Was the history teacher’s answer to a question supplemental to the text’s verbiage, “We do not have time for that question; we have to prepare for the final examination?” another example of how the reality of the moment, including the question and the questioner, gave way to the anxiety of the pedagogue, and the vacuum of the potential teaching moment?

Was the educator’s laughing dictum, “I consider the meaning of confidentiality to be that I tell only one person at a time!” another overt example, unchallenged, of how reality, in this case, of trust, is too radioactive for his mature and authentic handing?

Was the bishop’s response to hearing, “You know she (a female clergy) hates men!”…”I have never seen that from her!” another example of how a supervisor, unchallenged, avoids having to consider the import and the implication of such a report of misandry?

Was/Is the church’s acquiescence to the pretensive appearance of aspiring politicians in the midst of a election campaign, in order to be observed taking the collection or serving at the altar, when those appearances occur only at such opportune times, another example of “avoiding conflict at all costs,” and thereby of effectively “tolerating too much offense”?

Are those churches, and their clergy, who build and then trumpet the size of their congregations, and the depth of their trust accounts, as examples of highly successful ministry merely acceding to the “extrinsic, capitalist, marketing, evangelizing” model of religion, without having to take account of the spiritual lives of those numbers of people?

Is the bishop who directed a priest to fill the coffers and the pews, only to discover that, although he knew how to fulfil that directive, he informed his secretary of his rejection of the admonition, and then took his owe life, in any way culpable in the drama? And, of course, is his directive even known to those who might have a need and a desire to know of it, and of its implications?

When misogyny is rampant in so many quarters of institutional and corporate culture (especially in the Oval Office), is there any place and opportunity for opening the eyes and ears and minds of the culture in North America to the almost imperceptible, yet ubiquitous, misandry that has yet to find a voice, and a receptive ear in a culture that oscillates from one extreme to another, while finding the moderate and somewhat ‘grey’ middle BORING?

Our political leaders, while not being either required or expected to be paragons of virtue, are reflective of the ethos they represent. And that ethos, morphing ever more deeply and more speedily into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) mind-set, including, at the working level, a dependence on, even ingratiation towards, the binary, at the expense and even the denial of ambiguity, paradox, uncertainty, and the requisite humility and openness to others, and to others’ views, raises the spectre of a cultural denial of not only the observation of ambiguity, irony, paradox and uncertainty, but, more importantly, a rejection and a denial of the attitudes needed to appreciate those unknowns.

And yet, with Kierkegaarde especially, we acknowledge our incapacity to “know” the mind of God or even to speculate with certainty about the will of God. With the prevalence of denial, avoidance and even turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to those aspects of reality we find discomfiting, among the spiritual and the educational sectors of our culture, and even more among those whose lives depend on the elimination of ambiguity for profit and for votes, are we at risk of drowning in a cultural habit that, while easily rationalized, is also just as easily ameliorated.

If only we could/would summon the courage to “bring our truth to power” in our daily lives, at our kitchen tables, in our classrooms, and certainly in our social gatherings!

Our individual and collective failure to summon that courage not only empowers people like trump, and his cult, but paralyzes our capacity to deal honestly and effectively with those with whom we have a disagreement. And it is those same people who hold the key to our own new and unexpected insights and aha moments!

Friday, August 14, 2020

A hymn to Tristen Durocher and other courageous, committed voices of protest

 Tristen Durocher is not a household name, in his native province of Saskatchewan, nor in his native country, Canada. And, certainly, he is totally imperceptible around the world.

Tristen Durocher, 24, is a Metis artist, according to the CBC story by Guy Quenneville, on August 11, 2020, “engaging in a ceremonial fast from a teepee site in Regina’s Wascana Park after walking 639 kilometers from Air Ronge to Regina in pursuit of a legislated suicide prevention plan. A fiddler, Durocher has performed at what he considers too many funerals for people in his community who have taken their own lives.

Surrounding the teepee, there were 89 portraits of victims of suicide submitted by families mourning their losses. According to an August 5 story on CBC:

the pictures surrounding the teepee …would account for about 4 per cent of the 2,338 people who died by suicide in Saskatchewan between 2005 and 2019, according to date from the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service….There were 665 deaths in that same time, recorded as people who were ‘North American Indian.’ Of those death, 413 were men and 252 were women….”Hopelessness in our communities up north knows no age limit. Children as young as eight take their lives in this province,’ Durocher said. ‘We have faces, we have smiles, and we are missed.’

A bill forwarded by NDP MLA for Cumberland, Doyle Vermette, and voted down in the Saskatchewan legislature, would have required the provincial government to recognize suicide as a health and safety priority. If the bill passed, the government would have had to recognize suicide as a public health issue.

From a July 6, 2020 edition of the CBC, Durocher is quoted as saying:

Several reserves across Saskatchewan have declared states of emergency in the past and nothing has been done…they own it to their residents of this province to provide mental health services and we are residents of this province, not some federal responsibility…Some communities the problem is the gang violence, some communities there’s a lot of drugs, some commujnitie4s we have high rates of lateral violence so it can’t be umbrella solutions for individual communities whose needs are different, and it needs to be community-based…..As a child I’ve been in gymnasiums trying to play (fiddle) and console families over the sounds of the echoes of grieving mothers burying their firstborns. I’ve seen too many graves for my young life and /I’ve seen too much indifference and political neutrality and kind of just this really disgusting attitude of not our kids not our problem and that is beyond horrifying.

Currently in a 44-day* hunger strike, Durocher says:

I’m starving in solidarity with our children who are-literally some of them are starving and figuratively they starving for equality…They’re starving for justice, they’re starving for belonging, they’re starving for their culture and this I my way of saying I love you and I’m starving too….(Fasting until the Saskatchewan government passes meaningful legislation) If they don’t, I’m prepared to let my family bury me because this needs to be shown to Canada, to the world, just the depth of our money-minded politicians indifference and heartlessness.

From the August 11 CBC story, more of Durocher’s words:

And Warren Kaeding (Minister of Rural and Remote Health) just told me about Pillars of Life, (the government’s proposal) and the $1.2 million they’re investing…(That money) cannot even cover the travel accounts of five psychiatrists or psychologists for a year and that’s his big plan for the province with the highest suicide rates in Canada per capita.. If they remove my teepee before because of a court injunction, that forces the hand of the Regina Police Service…that doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving. It means my teepee will be gone. I’ll be here until my fast is complete.

This news shower falls out of the television screen, the radio microphone and the digital screen at a time when the world is cowering under the hourly toll of a death rate from COVID-19 that far exceeds our individual and our collective capacity to absorb, digest and cope with the loss. It also comes only a few days after the death and protracted celebration of the life of civil rights activist “for good trouble” John Lewis. And it comes when Jimmy Lai has just been released on bail from jail in HongKong, and Nathan Law is in exile in London. The opposition candidate for president in the Belarus election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has sought refuge in Lithuania, following threats on her family, and also following the allegedly fraudulent election of long-reigning president, Lukashenko. Protests in the streets of Minsk continue long enough for observers to question whether the victor in the election can survive.

Although somewhat trite, and echoed repeatedly over the last seventy-five years, after first being uttered in Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Death of a Salesman, the Willy Loman line, “The woods are burning!” seems more than appropriate. Willy is, at that moment in the play, financially broke, on the verge of losing his job, nervous and exhausted, not unlike the specific and collective state of millions of people in America and around the world. And it is not merely incidental to take note of the literal burning of the Amazon Rain Forest, under the rule of Bolsonaro, another of the world’s faux ‘strong men’ whose individual and collective efforts threaten legitimate governments, the livelihoods of millions and the potential survival of the ecosystem.

Greta Thunberg, Nathan Law, Tristen Durocher, Jimmy Lai, John Lewis, …

Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin (#NeverAgain movement against gun violence after the Parkland Florida massacre)…

These are names of heroes whose lives have accepted responsibility for the care and support and activism that they perceive to be “urgent” in their respective perspectives. And, yet together, there are candles of hope, inspiration, promise, and even in the agape sense of the word, LOVE, threatened by the winds of fear, hate, lies, greed, (embodied in words, actions, attitudes called racism, homophobia, sexism, “freedom” “liberty” and “my personal rights” that are so coveted by many cult followers on the right. These people are not cowed by their disgust for the actions of what in many quarters are called ‘the establishment’ regardless of their ideology, the geography, the political theories, or even the economic constraints.

We are witnessing, BLACKLIVESMATTER, IndigenousLivesMatter, #TimesUp, #METOO movements that individually and collectively are shouting from the windows, “We are fed up and we will not put up with this any longer!” And the world seems to be writhing in a vortex of both revolution and evolution, trying to find its legs, its balance, the sources from history that might help to bring stability, confidence, trust and hope back into the drama.

The biographical perspective on history, as relying on the good will and the courage, creativity and steadfastness of those seeking power and already holding  power is, like a lone swimmer in a strong wind storm, fighting to stay afloat, to keep breathing and pushing his arms and legs to their limits, just in order to keep his life. Institutions are falling like the Milne ice sheet that just fell into the Arctic Ocean, left on ventilators like so many COVID-19 patients. And oligarchs siamesed to sycophants fend off “the people” with guns, lies, propaganda and deceit, in order to cling to power, as if it were a personal  inheritance.

Ironically, this is not the Middle Ages, but the twenty-first century, when many of us thought, indeed believed, that we had some through the tunnel of despotism and tyranny, the firestorm of hegemonic world war, the cold war and into a new horizon, epitomized as a “city on a hill” evocative of the biblical image in Revelation. It is relevant to remind ourselves of a perspective on history that emanates from the Jewish culture and community. Even in the Jewish marriage celebration, there is a crystal crushed under foot to symbolize the impermanence of everything human.

Even the Buddhists describe “panna (discernment) as

“And what is the faculty of discernment? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is discerning, endowed with discernment or arising and passing away-noble, penetrating, leading to the  right ending of stress. He discerns, as it is actually present (the Four Noble Truths): This is stress…This is the origination of stress…This is the cessation of stress,….This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress. This is called the faculty of discernment. (from

In The United States, particularly, the cultural theme of “progress to a more perfect union” is like one of those optimistic, inspirational, hopeful and perhaps somewhat seductive and alluring myths of continuous, predictable, and eventually expected improvement, enhancement and ultimately victory over every perceived and dangerous monster. The myth includes, and perhaps is even dependent on another “the exceptionality” of each and every American citizen…And, unfortunately and also predictably, such an epithet of expectation inflates both the nation’s culture and the pressures on developing children, long before they are naturally ready to accept such a ‘gift’. Capitalism, of course, rides the tides of this hope and expectancy, to the denial, and avoidance, to the obfuscation and to the ridicule of those influences, societal forces and profoundly tragic realities that demand serious committed attention.

Such are the legitimate demands of each of our heroes: the right to vote, the right to clean air and water, the right to work with dignity, the right to respect and health care access including mental health, the right to a life free from threats of bullying guns, racism, sexism, homophobia. These issues do not bear a political party’s name, nor an ideology’s imprimatur, nor a religion’s dogma, nor an economic theory’s equation. These issues, individually and collectively, are human rights issues, demanding the common sense attention and commitment of all of us. .And the examples of leadership embodied by these heroes can and must serve to embolden hundreds if not thousands of others who too can summon the courage, the compassion, the empathy and the strength of a team of like-minded souls, to engage with atrophying and stultifying and narcissistic men (mostly) who cling to power in the most narrow sense, for their own aggrandizement.

Not knowing is not a defence for those in power to stonewall the legitimate protests. Not being able to identify specific steps for improvement in the lives of those who have suffered far too long is not acceptable any longer either. Not being able to “afford” to make reasonable, effective, measureable and thereby mutually compatible solutions is no longer an acceptable talking point. Clinging to an outmoded process, for the sake of preserving a hateful, colonial and submissive tradition is so blatantly and perceptibly wrong-headed not only for the victims but also for the establishment perpetrators. Clinging to the vestiges of privilege, status, class, wealth, and title is no longer tolerable to the nine billion world citizens whose lives and dignity and contribution are desperately needed for us to survive and grow and develop.

It is the voices, not only of the schooled experts who share the requirement of inclusion but those voices previously shut-out of the corridors and the boardrooms of power and privilege, (even the philanthropics like WE) that must be heard, not as token political photo-ops, but as relevant, serious, committed and reliable voices for others too humiliated to risk their lives, as statements of ethical honour, for their respective “people”.

As one who had to remove the loaded gun from his father’s hand, pointed at his head, in the middle of a winter night, I plead with the government of Saskatchewan to listen carefully to Tristen Durocher today, and to all those leaders who consider protesters a mere annoyance and a distraction from the real work of governance. Listen to those whose voices are telling hard truths, from the bottom of their hearts and minds. They must not be ignored any longer!

*44 highlights the 44 MLS’a who defeated the Vermette bill in the legislature.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Human Rights..v despotic regimes...will there be an answer?

UPDATE: Jimmy Lai was arrested earlier today (August 10, 2020) and charger with collusion with foreign powers and conspiracy to defraud, according to the Associated Press, as reported by CBCNews. 

When people take to the streets in protest against a draconian law usurping the fifty-year treaty granting Hong Kong national autonomous status, free to govern its own people, many in the rest of the world notice briefly, and then turn to their daily tasks.

Not so with Nathan Law or Jimmy Lai*, two protesters, the former now having sought exile in Great Britain, the latter continuing to protest, in spite of the obvious risk of potentially twenty-five years in prison.

According to Mr. Lai, the future of Hong Kong is at stake. Does this potential fate disturb, or provoke or embolden the rest of the world? In an expansive interview with CBC The National’s Adrienne Arsenault, cautioned international business entrepreneurs to be very cautious if they intend to do business in Hong Kong.

According to the Bangkok Post, in an article entitled, Hong Kong’s ‘rebel’ tycoon Jimmy Lai has no regrets, June 18, 2020:

“For many residents of the restless semi-autonomous city, Lai is an unlikely hero—a pugnacious, self-made tabloid owner and the only tycoon willing to criticise Beijing. But in China’s state media he is a ‘traitor,’ the biggest ‘black

 hand’ behind last year’s huge rallies and the head of the ‘Gang of Four’ conspiring with foreign nations to undermine the motherland. (And quoting him, “Maybe I’m a born rebel, maybe I’m someone who needs a lot of meaning to live my life beside money…..I’m a troublemaker. I came here with nothing, the freedom of this place has given me everything. Maybe it’s time I paid back for that freedom by fighting for it….’The communists, when they are in a crisis internally, they need to create external enemies to unite the people,’ he said.

The United States has recently paid tribute to another ‘trouble-maker’ who also risked his life in a cause worthy of his total and unequivocal commitment, Congressman John Robert Lewis. And in this space we humbly honour men like Lewis and Lai whose lives symbolize and even incarnate a depth and a reservoir of both courage and spirit that defies wrong, whenever they encounter it.

Certainly not all or even most of those history records as “troublemakers” have been honoured, elevated or even accepted. Many find themselves in the black pages of both the history books and in public opinion, long after their lives have ended. Names like Billy the Kid, Cesar Chavez, Guy Fawkes, Che Guevara and Edward VIII fall into that category. On the other hand, names like Anita Hill and Rosa Parks, have risen to the top of the public opinion polls for their courage and independent stamina in standing up for their civil rights.

Encouraging his various audiences, especially the young, to “make good trouble” in an ironic response to his mother’s admonition “don’t make trouble” Lewis’s life casts a new light on the meaning and purpose and even the need for troublemakers today.

There is a strong theme in public life in far too many quarters to impose serious and unjust and constricting rules, regulations and penalties for infractions. Recently, under the distorted and dissembling rationale of “protecting government buildings” from anarchists and rioters in Portland Oregon, the U.S. administration sent in vaguely identifiable troops with the word ‘police” emblazoned on their backs, to arrest and detain peacefully protesting citizens of that city, and shoving them into unmarked vehicles and driving them to some unknown and unnamed place of detention. Naturally, the mayor and the governor objected to this federal intervention of forces both unnecessary and uninvited. Eventually, the feds withdrew after having generated considerable push-back from other mayors and governors who rightly anticipated a similar unwanted and unwarranted invasion.

While observing and marvelling at the courage and the commitment of men like Lai and Lewis, we are also taking note of the abysmal silent sycophancy of the mostly white men in the Republican Party in the Senate of the U.S. Congress, whose apparent strategy to maintain their hold on power is to follow blindly, (or at least dumbly) the wishes of their self-appointed leader in the Oval Office. Just as his record is replete with acts of demeaning and emasculating and even potentially destroying the institutions of government, bending the rules to suit his own personal ambitions, needs and ego-gratifications, sewing hate, division and utterly frozen insouciance for the millions suffering from the multiple plagues of poverty, racial injustice, the pandemic and ultimately loss of millions of jobs, their silence in the midst of this multilayered abuse of power only attests to their complicity, their insecurity and their ultimate worthlessness to themselves and to their constituents.

There is not likely to be any public ceremony honouring the “troublemaker” Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong, for that would invoke even more stringent measures of law enforcement from the Beijing authorities. And there is also little likelihood that the people of Hong Kong, nor the people of Great Britain will publicly honour Nathan Law, the 26-year-old activist now in exile.

From the CBC, July 8, 2020, we read in an article by Don Murray, these words from Mr. Law:

‘As a global-facing activist, the choices I have are stark; to stay silent from now on or to keep engaging in private diplomacy so I can warn the world of the threat of Chinese authoritarian expansion.’ (from Law’s Facebook page) The CBC story continues: The trigger for his decision was the new security law passed by the Chinese National Congress, which sweeps Hong Kong under Beijing’s iron umbrella…Already, the law is having an effect, with hundreds arrested after protests against it…The draconian law make subversion, collusion with foreign forces and preaching secession punishable with sentences up to life in prison….

Murray’s piece details the choice of hundreds of others, including Jews who fled Hitler’s Germany, Czechs and Slovaks fleeing the Soviets, Hungarians and Czechs and Slovaks who came to Canada as immigrants as the Soviet empire fell apart. Names like Solzhenitsyn come to mind as a prominent exile from the Soviet Union, who later received a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970.

Regimes that deploy exile as a method of attempting to maintain control provoke the anger and the rebuke of governments seeking to sustain basic elements of democratic freedoms. However, as we have seen over the past several months, quiet diplomacy has not worked in the case of the two Canadian men held in prison in China, over the diplomatic protests of the Canadian government. And, doubtless, the majority of the Canadian population, while aware and interested in the fate of the two Michaels, would undertake to make personal sacrifice in order to work toward their release.

Hostage taking, and exile-provoking measures are both anathema to the ordinary citizen living in a so-called developed, democratic country. In Canada, we have witnessed hostage-taking as a tactic of the former F.LQ. the sovereignist movement in Quebec. And, with the 24-7-365 distribution of news from all corners of the globe, everyone everywhere can become aware of the human rights abuses that are plaguing many.

“Not being willing to negotiate with hostage takers” is the moniker that many governments, including Canada, hold to with vehemence. And, it is a position designed to prevent repeat occurrences, once having ‘given in’ to the hostage takers. Somewhat under the radar, however, we are noticing a rise in the hacking of corporate and government offices, in which the hackers are demanding payment in order to have “order” and the confidential information stolen returned. And those payments have been made in many instances. Is this a shift in the traditional position of democratic governments away from refusing to pay hostage takers, if and when they are identified as “hackers” and not hostage-takers?

Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and the assault by the Chinese forces against the protesters, estimates of several hundred to several thousand were killed. That movement sought the end of corruption within the Communist Party, along with freedoms of the press, speech and association. Martial law was imposed for a period of some 7 months, from May 1989 to January 1990.

It would seem that, following a previously imposed law back then, the Bejing government is likely to take similar steps to stamp out the Hong Kong protest, without the rest of the world taking steps that would impede any attempts by Beijing to take control of Hong Kong, formerly under British rule.

Not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, is a cardinal rule of international relationships. And yet, those same nations seeking to deny civil liberties, human rights, and unimpeded civic freedoms for their people want a prominent place at the table of world governance. They resist all attempts to negotiate with countries like Canada, whose citizens are in prison in China, for dubious if not downright deniable offences and they continue to proclaim their right to charge, arrest, imprison and then deny even the most basic of human resources, like legal counsel, and Canadian counsellor visits to the imprisoned men.

At what point does the phrase “internal affairs” of a country spill over into the legitimate concerns of other nations whose citizens’ lives are in danger? At what point does the international community find the spine, and then the leverage to confront those nations like China, the former Soviet Union, and more recently Russia, whose public record of abusing human rights gushes like a river through the annals of both diplomatic briefcases and the front and back pages of respected news outlets?

One of the central themes of the current presidential election is how Biden and Trump ‘see’ China, with the latter painting the former as ‘soft’ on China. Undoubtedly, that theme will have resonance among the trump thugs, and Biden’s campaign strategists will have to counter its impact with rhetoric and muscle of their own. Removing the extradition treaty with Hong Kong, as several countries have done, including the U.S. and U.K., will not, however, have any perceptible impact on the will and the decision of the Chinese government, vis a vis Hong Kong, nor in the cases of the two Canadians or the case of  Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, now detained in Canada, under an extradiction treaty with then U.S. for allegedly lying to U.S. authorities about having traded with Iran, while under U.S. sanctions.

Human beings, caught in the maelstrom of international, national, digital, corporate and international law complexes, at a time when ordinary people everywhere are seeking legitimate freedoms of expression, association, and freedom from illegal and unjustified arrest, seizure and detainment only exacerbate the need for greater co-operation on so many files.

And while heroes like Nathan Law and Jimmy Lai will continue to attract cudo’s from supporters and arrows from the Chinese authorities, the game of international geopolitical power-brokering will grind on relentlessly without regard to the individuals ensnared in its grip.

What, after all, is a human life worth, in a world in which those for whom it has literally no value have so much inordinate power? And how might it be feasible to resist the deployment of such illegitimate and abusive power? Cheer-leading for Jimmy Lai and Nathan Law, and reminding the world of imprisoned Canadian men for the vengeful pleasure of the Chinese government seems rather shallow, hollow and ineffectual.

Amnesty International, of course, champions these cases. And what kind of traction does that agency have in a world tormented by existential threats?

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

A full-throated, Canadian loon's endorsement of Susan Rice for VP

It is reasonable to consider a Canadian’s endorsement of any candidate for the Vice-presidential ticket presumptuous. First, I have no voice and no citizenship in the choice. I have no history in the Democratic Party. I have no friends, business or professional associates in the party. I have no investments in the U.S. And, I have no credentials as an academic, a pollster, a political scientist, nor as an “expert” of any kind.

Nevertheless, none of these caveats seem sufficient to prevent my bashing into the prospect of a full-throated, uninhibited and unrestrained (if mute and literally emasculated) nomination of one Susan Rice, to be Biden’s pick for the number two spot on the presidential ticket.

Much time and ink has been dedicated to her extensive and professional service in the Obama administration, in several roles, primarily focused on national security and geopolitics. As former Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, puts it, “Susan Rice has a ‘black-belt’ in diplomacy.”

It is not only in diplomacy in which Ms Rice has a black-belt. She has an intellectual capacity that produced the best doctoral thesis at Oxford, not only for her own class, but for an extended period of modern history. It is not only that Ms Rice has a depth of understanding of how government works, and what those specific impediments to its fruitful functioning look like and need to be confronted. Ms Rice is the only candidate who brings a full portfolio of biographical chapters in international relations in comparison with each and all of the other potential names being considered.

Ironically, as Biden was chosen as Obama’s VP at least in part, because he offered several decades of Washington experience, knowledge and personal relationships to a relative neophyte senator at the time, supplementing Obama’s resume with what the media termed “gravitas” or in other words, trustworthiness, Biden’s choice of his own number two is being made when the world faces what amounts to a plethora of international issues, all of them crying for the leadership, mentorship and championship of the United States of America.

It is true that the immediate need of the Biden presidential campaign is to secure an unmolested, unprotested and unequivocal victory in the election in November, and that need demands a voice of substance, reason, and a degree of combativeness to counter the propaganda campaign of fantasy facts, untruths, conspiracy theories, foreign interference in the basic functioning of the electoral system, including the disinformation campaign in social media. So, to answer Congressman Clyburn’s plea for a choice with passion, and with the capacity to withstand the rigors of the undoubtedly viscious, politically violent and expectedly strategies and tactics for a mob-war, there are really three black female candidates who meet all of the immediate criteria: their names are Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and Susan Rice. While Karen Bass comes with respectable political credentials, as former speaker of the California State Legislature in the time of the governorship of Swartzennegger, at 66, like Elizabeth Warren at 70, she does not offer the prospect of a new generation candidacy.

Given that Biden, if successful, will be the oldest person ever elected to the Oval Office, the mere fact of his age on his birth certificate says that there is a reasonable, if lamentable chance he might not be able to complete his term. And, given that Biden himself has committed to nominating a woman, and given that the preponderance of public (and certainly Democratic Party) opinion recognizes, respects and seeks to honour the significant and singular contribution of black women in the recent electoral successes of the party (2018, especially), the narrowing of the choice to Harris, Abrams and Rice brings us to the next aspect of our endorsement.

Stacey Abrams, a graduate in law from Yale, a Georgia legislator and leader of the party in that body, and more recently an avid organizer and activist in extending legitimate and threatened voting rights across both her state and the nation, offers a highly articulate, highly combative and highly credible candidate for the position of either Attorney General or Secretary of Education. It is through deepening the resources, the political and fiscal attention of the nation to the needs of both government departments, that voting rights, and the long-term view of levelling the playing field for black generations threatened by exclusion, isolation and perpetual poverty and racism can be advanced, And who better than Ms Abrams to take up the life-long commitment of former Congressman John Lewis?

As for Kamala Harris, another combative, articulate and experienced campaigned and former Attorney General of California, she seems highly qualified for the obviously desperately needed transformation of the Justice Department, now in shambles administratively and ethically, following the sycophancy of William Barr to the president and his gang. Certainly needed and resourceful as a surrogate campaigner, as are the other potential vice-presidential picks, Ms Harris’s talents should not be vaulted into the inner circle of the administration. Lawyers, while highly nuanced in their interpretations of law, and in the administration of the law, are different in both temperament and in training/education/formation than the training/education/formation of an international relations scholar.

Susan Rice is, without doubt or equivocation, an acknowledged scholar of international relations, with a perspective not only on the history of how the United States has been and potentially can and will be again, a “lighthouse” in the dark and windy storms of geopolitical hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts and fires that currently threaten the stability of the international order.

It is not only that the international order is being threatened by the inappropriate, narcissistic and opportunistic decisions of the trump administration, so too is the very survival of the planet, including the very existence of millions of people now underfed, and the projected millions who face starvation in part as a consequence of the pandemic, and the inequality that plagues the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s among the world’s population.

New, vigorous, vibrant, and sustainable coalitions, treaties, banks, legal frameworks and security apparatuses are urgently needed and will continue to provide opportunities for the leadership of the United States, in a world in which the U.S. courage, creativity, boldness and depth of geopolitical experience and leadership have been missing at least since 2017. Repairing relationships of trust, rebuilding bridges of security and intelligence sharing, restoring the vitality of the United Nations and expanding and revamping the processes of the Security Council, will have to be undertaken by a leader of vision, experience, forbearance and courage. This leadership, given that the President himself will be intimately engaged in addressing the pressing and even the existential threats to American families, the economy, the health care system, the education system and the transformation of the justice system, can and will only come (from the perspective of August 2, 2020, some 90+ days prior to November 3) from a vice-presidential candidate of the stature, experience, temperament, stability and endurance of the former National Security Adviser.

Ms Rice is intimately familiar with the presidential daily brief (PDB) and has participated in its preparation. She is intimately familiar with many of the world leaders and their understudies, as well as with the relationship between the Congress and the administration’s initiatives in foreign relations. She knows intimately how and when to prepare and present a brief to the Foreign Relations Committees. She knows how and when to negotiate with a nation like Iran, with which nation the trump administration has abandoned the nuclear accord. She has proven her capacity, willingness and intrepid confidence to tell the president the truth even when that truth is rightfully deemed hard to hear, to absorb and to address.

Even in Canada, ordinary people are watching the daily misadventures of Washington, including their implications for our lives as citizens sharing a continent, an extensive unimpeded border, and a trade, health and political culture of co-operation going back centuries. And many Canadians share the perspective both that international relations, as a file whose global importance grows daily, is in “poverty” without the active, positive and supportive, as well as collaborative participation of the United States.

While no single individual can be expected to fill the vacuum both in Foggy Bottom (the home address of the emasculated State Department under Mike Pompeo, and trump) and in the corridors of power in capitals across the globe, Mr Biden can and is humbly encouraged, by these words, and by those of many others, to make a first step in restoring both sanity and hope to the world’s people, as well as to the people of the United States, by selecting Susan Rice as his Vice-presidential running mate.

At fifty-five, with the deep reservoir of talent, experience, an boundless circular file of “connections” going as far back as her childhood, when guests like Madeline Albright visited her family home, grand-daughter of slaves, whose parents rose through formal education and diligent ambition to positions of honour and serious contribution to their generation, Ms Rice is the most logical, the most seasoned, the most inspiring and the most transformative candidate for what we all hope will be the Biden administration.

And if this is not a time for both domestic and international transformation, in the multiple, complex and seemingly entangled and challenging array of issues facing the incoming administration, then given the last three-quarters of a century of my life, I do not know a time that qualifies for transformation.

Great crises are great opportunities, according to the old Chinese proverb. We all hope and pray that the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democratic Party seizes the opportunity offered by the gestalt of these many ‘gordion-knot type threats.

Choosing Susan Rice as his running mate offers the most hopeful, trustworthy, dependable and insightful, not to mention amenable, choice as Vice-president, on the Biden-Rice ticket for the Oval Office.