Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

HOW WE TREAT NEW IMMIGRANTS DEFINES US   Leave a comment

By Jim Taylor – Sunday March 5, 2017

During the depth of winter, when snow lay deep on the ground and arctic winds sucked warmth from bare skin, small groups of people from countries where snow is as unknown as poutine struggled across the world’s longest undefended border into Canada.

Illegally, of course.
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Night after night, TV news showed video of these asylum seekers. Stumbling through snowdrifts, burdened by baby strollers or car seats. Dragging plastic suitcases. Huddled at a roadside, too numbed by bitter cold to go any farther.

They were greeted by police officers. Who led them gently to a warm car. Who helped carry their children. Who delivered them to a border immigration station, where kindly officials helped them fill out their applications to stay in Canada.

This is the Canada we imagine it to be. Compassionate. Decent. Hospitable.

NOT SO WELCOMING
But at the same time, there’s another side. A recent Angus Reid poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians want to impose travel restrictions; over 40 per cent feel we’re being overrun by too many refugees.

As Scott Gilmore wrote in Macleans magazine, “As of last month, Canada has accepted 40,081 Syrian refugees. That’s one refugee for every 857 Canadians.”

Let’s put that statistic another way. Kelowna’s largest arena holds around 6,800 people for a hockey game. Would eight Syrian refugees — yes, just eight — somehow subvert the local culture?

But political parties still foment fears of being overrun. Leadership hopefuls want to grill immigrants to make sure their “values” (whatever that means) won’t conflict with ours (whatever they are).

There are also legitimate concerns. Such as that it’s not fair for some refugees to get a free pass into Canada, while others wait for years in refugee camps.

LEGAL COMPLICATIONS
For the last 15 years, too, Canada and the U.S. have shared a legal agreement to treat each other as a “safe” countries. Essentially, that means we trust the other country’s justice systems to process asylum claims fairly. Refugee claimants must request protection in the first “safe” country they reach. So if they come to Canada through the U.S., we should return them to the U.S. for processing.

So far, the U.S. is the only country considered “safe.” But what happens when a new administration’s xenophobia makes the country no longer feel “safe”?

It’s not as if all of these border-crossers are helpless indigents. Some take taxis to the nearest border point. A few admit coming a long and expensive route: from the Middle East or Asia to South America, up through Central America and the U.S. to the Canadian border.

Legally, we should send them back. But turning away a family with shivering youngsters just doesn’t feel like us.

Gilmore again: “There is nothing we can do to stop asylum seekers from walking into Canada, Samsonite in hand. We aren’t building a wall, or even a fence. Our armed forces don’t even have enough drones to take a group selfie on the parade ground, let alone patrol over 8,000 kilometres of frontier.”

ESSENTIAL DISCONTINUITY
There are no simple answers. Because there is a discontinuity between micro and macro perspectives. You cannot always extrapolate from the small scale to the larger, and vice versa.

Physicists tell me that, at the ultimate micro level, my chair isn’t really there. Neither am I. We both consist of quarks and gluons, which are not things at all but packets of energy measurable only as probabilities.
But I still need a chair to sit on.

If a shopper at the grocery cashier’s lineup can’t find a few missing coins, I will gladly give her what she needs. But I won’t extend the same privilege to every other shopper.

Macro reasoning says that we can’t just throw our borders open, take anyone who shows up, anywhere. Micro says that we can’t callously turn people away.

So what should we do about this discontinuity? Again, Gilmore offers good advice: “We can help them settle into our communities, reducing tensions with those who are less welcoming. We can find ways to help the small towns along the border who are suddenly rattled by refugee families walking over the stubble. We can publicize that crime rates among refugees are lower than among native-born Canadians.

“And we can ignore the bigoted leeches on the fringes of our political system, people cynically turning reasonable concerns into wide-eyed panic….”

Most of all, I suggest, we can make the way we welcome asylum seekers a model for the kind of country that they — and we — want to belong to.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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What Can One Do in These Times?   Leave a comment

Feeling helpless is seldom a solution to responding to what is going on in the world. We all have power, and all to frequently we give that power over to others. The following column was written by Jim Taylor and there are suggestions about how we can act. Taylor suggests that we avoid “wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes”.

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Take Responsibility

A week ago Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries where he doesn’t have business ties. He branded them “evil”.

Two days later, a Canadian with far-right sympathies entered a mosque in Quebec City and shot six men in the back as they knelt in prayer. Eight others were injured.

The timing is too close for pure coincidence. If you’re a white supremacist feeling you should take action against people you dislike, what better justification could you ask for than encouragement from the world’s most powerful person?

Trump called Ottawa to offer his condolences. I think he should be charged as an accessory to murder.

So far, the man charged with six murders and five more attempted murders, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a student at Laval University, has volunteered no information about his motives. But his Facebook page reveals that he paid attention to Trump’s rants.

The Quebec murders are not an isolated incident — although they are the most extreme example of the anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and homophobic outbreaks since Trump’s election. The same mosque previously had graffiti painted on its walls, and a pig’s head dumped at its door during Ramadan.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
Several readers have written, in response to earlier columns, asking “What can we do?”

I hesitate to prescribe anything that I am unwilling — or unable, by my nationality — to do myself.

I know that not everyone can do what Oyama resident Bev Edwards-Sawatzky did last weekend. As a 70th birthday present to herself, she flew to Washington to take part in the Women’s March.

With half a million other women — massively more than attended Trump’s inauguration in person — she pushed her walker through Washington streets. Over a million more joined in marches in 670 locations around the world.

But we can’t all go on marches. And marches in cities Trump has never heard of will have little influence on his policies.
We need to avoid wasting energy on efforts unlikely to produce desired changes.

WORDS OF WISDOM
The widely known Serenity prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr back in 1934, offers some valuable advice:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

First, then, accept that some things, we cannot change. Mass protests will not undo an election. Clever placards will not unseat the emperor, with or without clothes. Storming Washington with scythes and pitchforks will not eliminate the electoral college.

We cannot, as individuals, reverse Trump’s immigration bans or reshape international diplomacy. We cannot call back the missiles and drones. We cannot make ISIS vanish.
And it’s futile to reason with unreasonable men.
So we need to focus on things that we can change.

Which means that we start with ourselves. We need to ensure that our words and actions never, never, foster the prejudices we deplore — racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry. We must exemplify — nay, incarnate — the virtues we claim to value.

By forcing us to examine what we consider right, Trump may actually have done us a favour. (I don’t recall him ever saying that he would do something because it’s the right thing to do.)

CALLING FOR COURAGE
Doing the right thing might mean offering hospitality to marginalized minorities, regardless of their origins or religions. For me, it requires being scrupulously honest — both with others and with myself. As far as possible, I intend to avoid purchasing products from, or investing in, companies that support Trump’s version of justice.

And I shall try not to remain silent when I hear racial, sexual, or religious slurs.

When the indigenous peoples of Central America were being slaughtered by government-backed death squads, when survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools were being ruthlessly cross-examined in courtrooms, representatives of North American churches risked standing with them. To simply be there.

Perhaps, once again, we need to be companions, to stand in solidarity with those being demonized. A recent report says that Trump plans to change the program “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” — despite an FBI report showing that the primary danger to Americans now comes from home-grown white supremacists.
So we may want to attend worship in mosques, with their permission. We could recognize — even celebrate — non-Christian festivals like Ramadan and Divali.

Yes, that may involve some personal risks. That’s why Niebuhr’s prayer asked for courage.

So….
Know what your values are. Do what you can, in accordance with our values. Don’t waste energy on what you can’t change.

But most of all, don’t do nothing.
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Copyright © 2017 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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Just tell me the TRUTH, eh   Leave a comment

Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners lives in Washington, D.C. That is true.

However, there seems to be some debate beginning about what is true these days, and what is not. This applies to politics in Canada, and possibly elsewhere. I can only speak from my experience of politics in the country where I live.

According to Stanley Hauerwas, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us that politics “can never be divorced from truth.” Indeed, Hauerwas maintains that Bonhoeffer believed that “cynicism is the vice that fuels the habits to sustain a politics that disdains the truth.”

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The paragraph above is a quote from a posting by Rev.  Jim Wallis, the title of which is “Christians” Call to Speak Truth to “Alternate Facts“. Wallis examines what role Christians may have in the coming days, and years, as he makes the following observation:

Christians are called many times in the Scriptures to be truth-tellers and to reject falsehoods, from scriptural commandments against bearing false witness to Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.”

Yes, I believe that we are all in this together. As The New Creed in the United Church of Canada says, “We are not alone. Thanks be to God!”

The full column by Rev. Jim Wallis, from Washington, is available at:

https://sojo.net/articles/christians-call-speak-truth-alternative-facts

Citizens in God’s Commonwealth   Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:33-34When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 19:33-34 NRSV Anglicized


As we live through these “interesting times”, I found inspiration in the words of The Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons. Desmond is concluding his service as Chair of the ecumenical coalition known as KAIROS.  His concluding paragraph in his recent post on the KAIROS website reads:

“Like many of you, as an individual, I have a partisan opinion about what has happened in the US election and I have them in Canada as well.  Some in KAIROS have the same opinion, some different.  It doesn’t matter.  Our common work is the work of Love – let us profess it boldly, with conviction, employing our rights as citizens and demanding the same for all.  And although the times may be times of fear, let us remember proclamation of the angels in both testaments: Do not be afraid.”

The full reflection on “Citizens in God’s Commonwealth” is at:

http://www.kairoscanada.org/spirited-reflection-citizens-gods-commonwealth?

 

 

Humans voted in the U.S.A.   Leave a comment

Over the past week there has been plenty of commentary on the election of Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America.  People are people. What might be a constructive way forward?

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“Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant”, it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.”

Matthieu Ricard in the book, “Sustainable Happiness”, page 58

 

 

Lighting Candles in Paris   Leave a comment

Sunday November 22, 2015

LIGHTING A CANDLE AGAINST FANATICS

By Jim Taylor

In all the video since the attacks in Paris, a week ago, the image that sticks most in my mind is the picture of Parisians lighting candles in the darkness.
A friend, talking about the tragedy, burst out, “I feel so helpless! What can we do?”
French president Francois Hollande knew what he would do. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” he vowed. That weekend alone, a dozen French jet fighters dropped 20 bombs on the city of Raqqa in Syria, considered the headquarters of the Islamic State. The French Defence Ministry said they destroyed a command centre, a recruitment centre, an ammunition storage site, and a training camp.
The western media never give death counts for such attacks. But an independent study calculated that since the Syrian civil war started four years ago, an average of 144 people are killed every day. Some would be militants; most would be civilians.
Put that in context. More people have been killed in the Middle East conflicts — every day for the last four years — than died in the coordinated Paris attacks that so outraged us.
This is surely the wrong way to go about establishing peace.

THE IMITATIONS OF POWER
As Charles Pierce wrote in Esquire, “A 242-ship navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying an AK-47 into a crowded restaurant. An F-35 fighter plane will not stop anyone from detonating bombs at a soccer match. A missile-defense shield in Poland will not stop a platoon of fanatics from opening fire in a jammed concert hall.”
Andrew Bacevich expressed similar misgivings in the Boston Globe: “In this conflict, the West generally enjoys clear-cut military superiority. Our arsenals are bigger, our weapons more sophisticated, our generals better educated in the art of war, our fighters better trained at waging it.
“Yet most of this has proven irrelevant. Time and again the actual employment of that ostensibly superior military might has produced results other than those intended or anticipated… Instead, intervention typically serves to aggravate, inciting further resistance. Rather than putting out the fires of radicalism, we end up feeding them.
“In proposing to pour yet more fuel on that fire, Hollande demonstrates a crippling absence of imagination…”

THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE
During a period of prayer, another friend quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Her words reminded me of going on a tour of a potash mine in Saskatchewan, years ago. Our group donned heavy coveralls and headlamps. We went more than a kilometre underground.
In a massive cavern, huge excavators scooped up rich phosphate deposits. Our guide flipped a power switch. The floodlights went out. We waited for our eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. They didn’t. They couldn’t. A kilometre underground, there was no light at all.
Then our guide flipped his cigarette lighter. And that single tiny flame illuminated even the farthest corners of the cavern. It drove the darkness back.
Just as the candles on Parisian sidewalk memorials pushed back the darkness people felt.
It’s not fashionable these days to use metaphors of light and darkness as symbols for good and evil. It’s too easy to broaden the metaphor into racism — if dark corresponds to evil, then black people must be evil, right?
But the people of Paris were not thinking about political correctness, or metaphors. Instinctively, they lit candles, to shine light into their caverns of despair, of grief, of anger.

REASSURING OURSELVES
Martin Luther King had a second part to his line about darkness: “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Vengeance cannot defeat vengeance; violence cannot counter violence.
The trouble is, of course, that we can’t see how tiny acts of kindness, generosity, or compassion are going to change the mindset of Charles Pierce’s “motivated murderous fanatics.”
In reality, I suggest, we don’t light candles to change the minds of fanatics. We do it to convince ourselves that even small acts matter. That it’s worth helping a wounded person, or welcoming a refugee, or creating a small oasis of peace in an angry world.
Somewhere, deep inside, we recognize that light itself is active, not passive. Even the lonely flame of a candle or cigarette lighter does something. By contrast, darkness is passive. You cannot turn on a dark that will extinguish the light.
We know that darkness takes over only if the light goes out. And so we gather on sidewalks, in churches, in homes, to comfort each other, to provide support, to renew our commitment to lives beyond violence.
To light our own candles. To help drive the darkness back.
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Copyright © 2015 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write jimt@quixotic.ca
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Beyond Voting: The Fetishization of the Ballot Box   Leave a comment

Efforts to get people to vote, complete with ballot-box selfies, loomed large on social media, but when casting a ballot is treated as the noblest thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices.

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An excellent reflection on this important issue, written by Matthew Behrens, is available at:

https://nowtoronto.com/news/the-now-guide-to-the-2015/beyond-%23elxn42/

Posted October 20, 2015 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Idle No More, Politics

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