Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sept. 12: A blog which will have a p.s. tomorrow

All around the world, we are involved in starving people to death, or murdering them as a matter of government policy. Our mining corporations are killing and looting and dumping toxic waste and destroying lands and waters and impoverishing people in Latin American, Africa and Asia. Then there's the massive tragedy of refugees that we are helping to create.

Locally, we have done almost nothing to prepare for the climate change that is closing in on us – fast. We have done close to nothing about the stunning rate of illiteracy in this province. We tolerate a legal system which allows spies to watch us and report on us constantly. And we all know our elected government is not what runs this province.

And, the big banner headline - read it while it's hot, breaking news on the front page is---duh---”Election signs take a beating”. Be still, my heart.

As the story says, this happens every election. Nobody knows who does it. Nobody knows why. So why is it a story at all?

The big, front page photo is of an aging Jake the Snake pretending to strangle somebody. Then there's a gripping story that rain is slowing down roadwork in our neighbouring town. Wow! Who woulda guessed it? Great investigative reporting.

But the longest story, packed with drama is about a 15 year old who will be the first person under the age of 16 to play major junior hockey. It's a big story. That's why it's covered by an ace reporter at the Irving press bureau of the New Brunswick Legislature – the greatest puck-passing (or buck passing) institution in the country.

I've read some very bad front pages. But never anything like this.

Then get a real kick out of the big story on A3. Yesterday's rain got Moncton wet. The rest of the news in section A is mostly ads and memorials.

On balance, the biggest news in this section is that the Irving Memorial Chapel, our very own equivalent of Mecca and Bethlehem, and a symbol of the rule of Christ in this world, will have special music on Sunday – perhaps that favourite of my school days, “Roll me over in the clover” (ask your grandparents about it.)
The editorial isn't great. But it's very good by the standards of the Irving press. Norbert tackles the lack of enforcement of the requirement for vaccinations at the start of schooling. It's the same topic as yesterday. But he does a much better job of it this time. I really can't understand how this problem of vaccinations ever arose. I grew up in neighbourhood that was poor, quarrelsome, and with an adult world of virtually no education. But we all were vaccinated, and even proud of it. What is causing this problem in New Brunswick? Could we get more on that?

A12 has an excellent commentary by Erin Schreyer of Elementary Literacy Inc. Learning to read and to enjoy reading at the earliest reasonable age is crucial. I was a lucky kid in a functionally illiterate community. My father read constantly. And he kept me supplied with used books every Saturday. I still remember “The Bobbsey Twins”, “With Morgan on the Main”, the poetry of Kipling and Robert Service.

Most of my friends were functionally illiterate or worse. That's why most ended up in menial jobs that they hated. I was a lazy student in high school and while doing a BA – but my literacy is what saved me so I could train for a job I loved. Literacy is important. It's important for children. It's important for adults so they can understand what is going on around them. If more New Brunswickers were literate, this would be a much better place to live. (Of course, if more New Brunswickers were literate, that would kill the circulation of the Irving press.)

Oh, and if we want to improve literacy, firing teachers is not a very good way to do it.

Brent Mazerolle has a good column on Acadian writer, Gerald Leblanc. I came across a book of his poetry several years ago – and it enchanted me. It was superb poetry, of course. But it also captivated me because it was written in 'chiac', which brought back memories of my childhood in Montreal, and the 'street' French dialect that surrounded. The only difference is there are fewer swear words in chiac, Christ d'enfant chien, tabernouche.

And Alec Bruce has an excellent commentary on restoring the quality of the Peticodiac River as an environmentally and economically wise move.

So it's good marks all round for the editorial and commentary pages – and for the political cartoon.

But we're left with columns so local that they come close to navel-gazing. We need far more commentary on world affairs. If it's only for our own survival, we need much more information about the rest of the world. (And we need less propaganda.)
Foreign news is skimpy, and most that we get is trivial. For example, there's a big story that a couple of people have accused the father of the three-year old boy who drowned on a Turkish shore of being the captain of the boat. Others, including the father, say he wasn't the captain. Who cares? In the first place, it wouldn't matter if he were. Certainly, nobody is suggesting he deliberately sank the boat. In the second place, he is not someone who created the middle east refugee crisis. In the third place – we created the crisis.

On B7, the UN general assembly has voted, by a wide margin, to allow the Palestinian flag to fly at UN headquarters. The U.S. voted against it, of course. And the Canadian ambassador wagged his tail to support the U.S.

Palestine has been made a prison. Israel's intent is obvious. It wants to keep Palestine cut off from the world. It wants to annex Palestinian territory, and kick out the inhabitants of the annexed land. It wants to keep Palestine poor and, eventually, just a part of Israel. This has been going on almost since the creation of Israel in 1948. The U.S. has supported all this with billions of dollars and massive weaponry for Israel. Israel's intention is to expel all Palestinians from Palestine, and even the Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and who live in Israel. This is not very different from what Hitler did to Jews.

B8 has the story about Obama warning Russia against arming Syria. Obama says it could hamper U.S. efforts to bring peace to the region.


Lots of people will read that and nod in agreement. The reality is that the U.S. does not bring peace to anybody. It has been at war constantly since 1945. It has killed uncounted millions of people, most of them civilians, quite indiscriminately. It has brought turmoil, death, fear, poverty, starvation to whole continents. It has done it publicly with declarations of war and privately with bombing and with ground attacks. It has done it secretly using drones and 'special ops' in the form of killer squads whose attacks in countries all over the world are almost never reported. They operate in South America, all over Africa, the Middle East, and in much of the Far East. Nobody knows how many they have killed. This aggressive behaviour goes all the way back to the origins of the United States.

The American revolution did not create a free nation in which all people were equal. To even think so is unspeakably silly. Almost all the founding fathers were wealthy. And in the U.S. of the time, wealth was built on land. George Washington was probably the biggest slave-owner and land speculator in the country. The Americans wanted to move westward, killing or forcing native peoples to give up their lands.

The British didn't want that because British capitalists would get little from it, and Britain would have to pay the war bills. So the U.S. became, like Britain, an imperialist power from 1776 on. That's why it invaded Canada in 1812 (a point Harper did not make in his celebration of that war.) That's why it invaded Mexico – to steal what is now the Southwest U.S. That's why it shortly after declared the Monroe Doctrine which attacked European control of Latin America. The Monroe Doctrine had nothing to do with spreading freedom. - and the U.S. never did spread any. The purpose was to give U.S. capitalists the control of Latin America. (That's why Cuba had a revolution – to get rid of their American-appointed dictator.)

Hawaii was a conquest. Remember the TV show “The Bounty Hunter”? It was set largely in Hawaii. Ever notice how a high proportion of the poor in those shows were Hawaiian native people? They didn't want to be taken over by the U.S. - or by anybody. But there were two groups who wanted U.S. control.

One group was made up of the sons of missionairies who had become rich by confiscating native land, and then hiring the natives at low, low prices to grow fruit on it. One of those missionary families, notorious for its brutality and exploitation of the poor, was named Dole.

Meanwhile, American capitalists wanted Hawaii because they wanted the navy to have a fueling base well out into the Pacific as a staging point for invasions to spread the American empire to Asia. The Phillipines, where American army torturers first developed water-boarding, was their first Asian target, and where they set up their usual government – a dictator.

The U.S. is an empire, and one that now intends to conquer the world. That's what the terms “Manifest Destiny” and “American Exceptionalism” mean. It's an empire that's as greedy and ruthless as any in human history. And it is leading this world to more crises than it can handle.

So why don't most North Americans realize that? Why do we think WE are good. And THEY are bad?

Our news media and Hollywood are part of the problem. The news media lie. And often ignore news we should be receiving – like the slaughter of Guatemalans. Our news media are part of the problem because most of them are owned by large capitalists who have much in common with American, large capitalists.

As for Hollywood, think of a film of about a dozen years ago. It was very popular, and it was about the American revolution. In the film, valiant American rebels were forced by British troops into a church which the British set on fire.

No such incident occurred. So where did the film get its idea? It got the idea from World War Two when, in eastern Europe, German troops forced local civilians into a church and set fire to it.

But millions of American and Canadians who saw the film now believe it happened during the American revolution. The reality is that the rebel forces were very brutal with innocent people. They frequently attacked, looted, raped, murdered anybody suspected of being a royalist. The rebels also wanted some people's land. Remember – land was the most important source of wealth in those days. That's why so many people who were innocent of any wrong-doing, had to flee the U.S. and come to places like New Brunswick. We call them the United Empire Loyalists.

But they're only a few lines in history books. In a Hollywood movie you see the real thing – savage British troops forcing nice revolutionaries into a church to burn them to death.

I once saw a movie with General Custer as the hero in the battle of the Little Bighorn. How many movies have you seen about heroic native peoples righting to defend their land and their families against the ruthless Americans?

But it's more than movies and news media. I thought of that as I saw a story on the anniversary of 9/11.

However, it might need a bit of time to write on this. So I'll save it for tomorrow (Sunday).

Page C3 has an excellent column “It's never too early to read to your baby”. This is a must read.

The sermonette on C4 is a good start. But it needs a little more thought. It proposes that the churches in Moncton area each sponsor a refugee family – in keeping with “Love thy neighbour” I would certainly support that. But how would we get them to Moncton when we have a federal government that puts whole families into prison (often prisons with lots of real criminals in them) for weeks, months, more – and then usually orders them deported?

Would we also sponsor refugees from countries in Latin America, like Guatemala, that have been savaged by the U.S. for the benefit of American and Canadian capitalists? How about Congo? Yemen?

Would we help members of ISIL?

How broad is the meaning of 'thy neighbour'? Surely, it means everybody – including those we think of as our enemies. I don't suggest we bring all of them here – the reality is that we can't. I would suggest, though, that there are many ways we can help – including pressing for an end to the suffering that the U.S. is creating. And we can start by pulling our aircraft out of Iraq. We might also demand that our troops be pulled out of Ukraine when they are helping what is essentially a looting of that country by international bankers. We should also be offering help to Greece, and for the same reason.

It's not enough to say that 'our neighbour' means the family and relatives of a lovable three year old who drowned off the Turkish coast.

I think the church has to do more than doing “good things”. It also has to take some tough and unpopular stands about what we are doing to the world. And we might well take a look about what our capitalists are doing in Latin America, Africa and The Philippines. And here in Canada.

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