Orenda, a Huron word, represents the power of human will to change the world around us. It is an opposing force to fate or destiny. If powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force you one way, orenda is a kind of voiced summoning of personal strength to change fate, says Tom Regan.
Regan, a journalist now based near Washington, D.C., has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s National Film Board, the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the U.S. Online News Association, he is a former fellow and currently on the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.
I recently experienced a moment of cosmic irony. I had just learned that Andrew Potter, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, had “resigned” as head of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal, when I received an email from McGill touting that another of their own, Karina Gould, as Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions. How sad that Gould won’t be able to include her alma mater in her new area of expertise.
There is a war looming on America’s horizon. Not with Iran or China or North Korea … for the moment. No, this war will take place entirely in America, and it will involve members of the Republican Party. It won’t be pretty.
The question of the Trump administration’s involvement with Russia, and Russia’s attempts to undermine the 2016 American election, are starting to smell like three-day-old fish left in the sun. The Trump administration had vehemently denied that any member of its team met with any Russian official of any kind. The evidence shows otherwise. Russia is the story that just will not go away.
Like many Canadians who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system. He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada.
The definition of a black swan event — impossible to predict yet with catastrophic ramifications — perfectly describes the rise of Donald Trump, from clown celebrity to the most powerful man in the world. And in that, there is hope.
In the fantasy world of America, globalization can be stopped dead in its tracks, and blue jeans will still sell for $20 a pair at Sam’s Club. Manufacturing jobs long vanished will be returned, despite the onslaught of automation …. Oh, it’s a wonderful world. Lollipops and unicorns and everybody wins the lottery under President Donald Trump. Too bad it doesn’t exist.
For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally: people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.
Donald Trump-lite. It’s a scary idea. Anything that looks like a version of The Donald is bad news for any country. Yet this is what Canada faces with the upcoming candidacy of Kevin O’Leary for the leadership of the Conservative party in Canada. For, make no mistake, Kevin O’Leary is Donald Trump-lite.
Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are not America’s friends. They are not friends of democracy, nor are they really interested in promoting any sense of peace in the world – at least a balanced peace. Russia is primarily interested in undermining Western democracy as much as it can without firing a shot … at the west.
Our Time to Rebel, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda Column
It’s our turn, as American Democrats. This will be a ‘take no prisoners’ fight. Donald Trump and his minions have already shown that they will lie, obscure the truth, manipulate and deny facts, and threaten all who oppose them. And then there are the attacks and threats to be launched by his slavish, zombie-like, mainly-white-supremacist alt-Reich followers. There are several ways to participate in this peaceful ‘rebellion.’
Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan Column
We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them all together.
America, for all its talk of the love of liberty and equality, has long had a fascination for fascism and the rule of the autocrat, especially at times of economic trouble and cultural upheaval. Fascism of the kind offered by Donald Trump appeals, as a bromide against the problems of the day.
After the election of 2015, Canadians probably thought they were safe from the kind of racism and bigotry that has gripped the United States after the election of Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry to break your little “we’re so great” bubble. Vigilance is needed in Canada, too.
We were wrong. So very wrong. We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.
It’s like being stuck in a dryer, constantly going around and around, too hot, and claustrophobic. I’ve covered, or worked on, many, many elections. I’ve never seen one like this one. Both main candidates in the American presidential election are like wounded dinosaurs, out for one last battle. I’ll vote for Clinton, but not because I’m overly enamoured with her.
Science proved long ago we are all one race, with differences based on the environments of our ancestors. Much racism is born of fear, and after Donald Trump loses on November 8th, America’s alt-right movement will not go away. The rest of us must remind people that biology is not destiny.
Why Putin Fears a President Clinton, by Tom Regan Column
Why would Russian work so hard to elect Trump? There are several theories– but I believe the reason is Vladimir Putin is terrified of Clinton.
When did the men in America – white men in particular – lose their sense of poetry? When did they stop being aware of the ebb and flow of life all around them, and lose that spark that separates those who are merely alive from those who are actually living? When did they settle on violence, brutality, and a nasty churlishness?
Many years ago, I was waiting in Boston’s Park Street T-station on my way to Cambridge, when a group of African-American teenagers came down the stairs. They were a swarm of loud, boisterous kids. I had a white person’s reaction. I felt myself tense. I moved away from the group. I gripped my luggage bag tighter. Honestly, I was a bit afraid. Then suddenly I caught myself.
More journalists need to state the facts about Donald Trump’s lies. That he lies can be proven and is fact, not opinion.
Wynton Marsalis made me realize that what is missing most from life around us at this particular moment in history is authenticity in the now.
My first real exposure to people not wanting the truth, but only hearing what they want to hear, happened 25 years ago. My friend Deb Amos, NPR’s well-known and extremely talented Middle East reporter, had been invited to speak to an elderly Jewish group in Boston about her experiences in Israel and Palestine. Then an interesting thing happened.
Joy in doing something you love, badly, by Tom Regan Column
Florence Foster Jenkins, the subject of a Meryl Streep/Hugh Grant film, had a very interesting career as a bad singer. But why was she a role model for my daughter?
There comes a time in life when all good things must come to an end. This is certainly true of the “modern” Olympics with one small change – the Olympics are no longer a good thing.
On the opening day of the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I invented a drinking game. Every time I saw a black or Hispanic (heck, any person of colour, period) shown by the cable news networks of Bernie Sanders supporters, I would take a swing of beer. I ended the night stone cold sober.
It is perhaps the most famous myth about the creation of America: the “American Dream.” The belief that no matter what your background, where you’re from, or who your parents were, that if you work hard enough added, you can achieve anything, any goal, any dream. But the American Dream has become a problem.
Why the NRA makes America so very dangerous, by Tom Regan
Recent events in the U.S. – the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent shootings of five police officers in Dallas – show how the National Rifle Association’s toxic message of guns, guns, guns, and fear, fear, fear, affect the way people deal with daily problems, and the way police respond to all kinds of situations.
Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry report, on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided damning evidence of how the British people were misled by their political leadership. But once again the journalism media, enormously important in providing the false justification for the war, which in turn led to much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East today, was ignored.
Immediately after the Brexit vote, to take Britain out of the European Union, the hyperventilating United States media found umpteen different ways to say “It could happen here.” This American media chorus is wrong.
Canada’s debate over changing its anthem to make it gender neutral is immature. Seldom has so much ink and indignation been spilled over such a simple matter. Making Canada’s national anthem more open to all people is of course a good idea. It is the very essence of Canada itself.
It’s not Donald Trump but his followers, who defend him so ferociously, that really give one pause — particularly when one considers what they will do after their “Messiah” loses in the fall.
here are a few suggestions (based on my personal experience doing polls in Canada and the US, and the wise words of the master of polling Nate Silver) about what to watch out for in polls, how you can tell a good one from a bad one, and why you never, ever, ever bet your house on one poll only.
Six decades gives you a lot of material to work with. I can’t list all of it, but here is a partial list of what I now know.
There isn’t a fear that Americans won’t embrace. Fear controls almost every aspect of America society, seeps into every part of our lives. And that fear is used to manipulate us.
They say we get the government we deserve. The same is true of media. If so, then we are a stupid, shallow people, easily manipulated, poorly informed and a greater danger to democracy that any al-Qaeda or ISIS fighter. Commercial media – almost all cable TV news networks, most “news” websites and many, many papers – pay little more than lip service to quality journalism in the second decade of the 21 century.
Donald Trump is not the real problem in the rise of racism in the US . He is merely the catalyst. It’s his ham-handed ridiculous racism masquerading as “policy” or “outreach” that’s the problem. He has let the racist and bigoted genie out of the bottle and it won’t go back in peacefully. America needs to prepare for scenes of violence and hatred it may not have seen since the 60s in the South.
It was a rough week to be a woman in the public eye in the United States. Not that normally it’s a piece of cake. This week, however, gave us a rather disturbing view of what happens when a woman angers the army of Internet and social media male trolls whose hatred for women cannot be understated.
It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.
A true story of living in a country overwhelmed with firearms, and how it constantly leads to you imagine the worst. About a month ago, I went to see the movie Zootopia with my family in Frederick, Maryland. We like to sit close to the screen, so we planted ourselves about six or seven rows back. I noticed a tall young man sitting in the very front row, but didn’t think much about it at first. As the pre-show features came to an end, that changed.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” How you answer this question tells a great deal about you as a person and about the kind of society in which you would like to live. And the great clash of civilization is between tolerance and intolerance.
It was a horrible attack. The terrorist gunmen walked up and down the beach, slaughtering men, women and children with each step they took. In one case, a small child begged for his life only to be murdered by the gunmen. A deaf child in the water, who others tried to warn of the danger, was also gunned down. In the end at least 20 people lay dead, including two soldiers from a group who had arrived to confront the al-Qaeda terrorists. But I’m guessing you don’t know about this attack. That’s because it happened in the Cote d’Ivoire.
I’m tired of all the handwringing about Donald Trump. Yes, he’s bringing out a lot of new white voters, particularly angry white men. Yes, more Republicans are showing up to vote in the primaries than Democrats are. Yes, Trump is the “unexpected factor” that no one saw coming. Yes, underestimating Trump in the coming fall, as Republicans did last fall, is the greatest danger the Democrats face. It doesn’t matter one bit.
Sometimes, when I’m driving late at night to pick up my wife at a train stop, or on my way to some event in Washington (about an hour from where I live) I turn on conservative talk radio. Just to listen to the other side. And the angry voices fill my car.
One story going largely unnoticed amid the circus-like atmosphere of the Republican presidential primary campaign has serious consequences for Canada and the United States, and for many of their Jewish citizens: the struggle over the the definition of what it means to be a Jew in Israel.
The process that led to the creation of the Trump monster began on the day of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009. The story has grown of how on wthat night a group of senior Republicans gathered at a private dinner, and decided to be not “the loyal opposition,” but a destructive and malignant force that would use any means at its disposal to achieve its desired outcome.
Once upon a time, long ago and faraway, there was a magical kingdom … And then one day the most amazing thing happened. One of the great judges, Scalia of the Sarcastic Sanctimonious Sentences died quite unexpectedly. While in most cases the death of one of the great judges caused some hubbub, the death of the Scalia resulted in a total hissy fit among the wing nuts and the wing nuts who only liked to drink tea.
You say you want a revolution … Well, I’m all in. I’m seized with joy at the thought of overthrowing the corrupt U.S. financial establishment. I’m gripped with enthusiasm at the thought of bringing justice and economic security for all Americans. But there might be a few problems …
Who is manipulating whom in media coverage of United States politics? American media manipulates the way they tell stories in order to increase eyeballs and produce a narrative that suits their tastes. But politicians then manipulate the media into creating those narratives and building on them, despite what is actually going on in the campaign.
I worked for newspapers for almost 30 years and I loved every second of it. So you may find it odd when I tell you that I don’t miss newspapers. I haven’t had a weekly newspaper for years. I won’t go into the long details of it, but from the spring day in 1993, when I downloaded my first copy of the Mosaic browser, I knew that, to borrow a line from William Butler Yeats, “all was changed and changed utterly.”
With the momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.
He’s there. Every day. Staring back at me. A white, late middle-aged man … He is, of course, me. I am the very personification of white male privilege. I am a racist.
For many years I have had two particular pictures above my desk at work. One is from the mid-90s, of a Bosnian Serb executing a man in cold blood. The other is of a star, the same size as our own sun, going nova. I call them my perspective pictures. They are very helpful lately, because I currently live in the U.S., which has lost all sense of perspective.
Why Christian religious extremists are just as dangerous as Islamic ones
After yet another mass shooting, it’s clear there are no safe places left in the U.S. You can point the finger of blame for this at many individuals and organizations, but the reality is, it’s a toxic stew created by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by right-wing media.
American conservative politicians, beholden to fossil fuel interests, pump out enough false propaganda and sometimes outright lies to keep scientists busy refuting them. They are aided in their subterfuge by a compliant U.S. media. The only solution is for the rest of the world to go ahead without the United States.
The attacks in Paris were as much a sign of ISIS’s weaknesses, as a demonstration of its ability to strike. If Western governments had grasped the opportunity to turn this horrible tragedy against ISIS, we might have pulled off a small but important victory against these murderers. Instead, we played the hand that ISIS dealt us like a bunch of hillbilly rubes at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.
ISIS is not going to go down easy. Even if we beat them back in Iraq and Syria, which is increasingly the case, we will be dealing with their disaffected and frustrated acolytes for years to come. We will not, however, be able to truly defeat them until the death of 100 people in Ankara, or 49 people in a market in Beirut, means the same to us as the death of 127 people in Paris. We have to move beyond the tribe.
The reason the media consistently ranks so low on surveys of public trust (particularly among young people) is that we frequently don’t give the public reason to trust us.
It was a bombshell: a local paper printed an exposé on sexual abuse by Catholic religious figures. No, I’m not talking about the Boston Globe, and its 2002 series on sexual abuse that won a Pulitzer Prize and is also the subject of the much praised film released November 6, “Spotlight.” That happened almost a decade after the story I’m referring to.
It’s the lying season in American politics. Lies fall from politicians lips like leaves fall from the trees in autumn. Politicians have been doing it forever. What’s different is our willingness to accept these lies.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued racist and potentially internationally criminal actions have made things so bad in Israel, one really has to question how long the country can survive with him as its leader.
Canadians are committing an act of insanity. On October 19 millions of Canadians are marching to the polls to repeat a time honoured tradition: throw the rascals out! The rascals in this particular situation happened to be the Conservative party who without a doubt deserve to be thrown out. But the more things change the more they stay the same.
We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We’ll know his name within the next week or so. It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any. He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s.
There comes a moment when every country goes through a “dark night of the soul.” Canada’s was evident this month, after some buffoon named Chris Alexander, apparently Canada’s immigration minister, said that if re-elected in the October 19 general election, the Conservative party would install a tip hotline, so people could inform on their neighbours practicing “barbaric cultural practices.”
The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.
It’s hard to be a cop. Especially a cop in the United States. Many police forces around the world don’t require their officers to carry weapons, the British bobbie perhaps being the most vivid representation of this philosophy. When British cops go out on the beat, they may always face violence in some form, but the reality is that it probably will not come at the end of a gun. It’s different in the United States.
To paraphrase Carl Sagan, no one is coming to rescue us. We have to solve our problems on our own. The Syrian refugee crisis. The Iran nuclear issue. Palestinians and Israelis. Sunni and Shia. ISIL. The overwhelming preponderance of guns in America that are undermining our culture. Police violence. Poverty. Climate change. Hunger. Pick your problem.
Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic (heaven knows I thought this would come before now), but I think we might be at a crucial tipping point moment in the long history of trying to enact stronger gun regulations in the United States, and finally putting the demon of the National Rifle Association behind us.
The recent report on future religious trends published by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” is an amazing look at the future of the world’s religious and non-religious alike. It’s also worrisome.
There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it.
Enormous wealth is not the only reason for Donald Trump’s popularity, despite what Beltway pundits referred to as his “erroneous steps.” In fact it might be these “errors” that are behind his surge to the top of the Republican presidential sweepstakes. Trump has captured the zeitgeist of the time in a bottle, at least the zeitgeist of conservative Republicans tired of what they consider namby-pamby, middle-of-the-road, Republican presidential candidates.
I had a lightning bolt after reading Paul Mason’s brilliant piece in the Guardian, arguing that we have quietly entered a new era of post capitalism. It was if (to get biblical for a moment) a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I suddenly saw the world in a completely different fashion. Because the truth is that sometimes when you live in the midst of change, when it is all around you, it can slip by largely unnoticed.
It’s pretty hard to underestimate the role that religion has played in promoting progressive ideals over the years. But that’s only one side of the coin. Far more often, religion has also been used as one of the main curbs on freedom – of person, of thought and of gender.
Many years ago, standing outside the main entrance to Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a street vendor was trying to sell me and my then-girlfriend (now wife) a rug. He made a remark praising Americans, trying to soften us up. I scrunched my eyebrows and said, “I’m not an American, I’m a Canadian.”
Back in the 60s, my dad was a press secretary/information officer for then-Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and intensely involved in Canada’s adoption of universal health care. The fight in Canada was every bit as noisy, brutal and political as is the current battle in the United States over Obamacare, and Pearson and his party also had to face doctors who were adamantly opposed. But i n the end, universal health care became an enduring reality in Canada, and for one main reason: once people get it, they won’t want to give it up.
Why the NRA deserves a large part of the blame for Charleston…and Aurora…and Tucson…and Washington, DC…and Sandy Hill…and Virginia Tech…etc.,etc.
The United States — and all jurisdictions — should teach “sexuality” education to children, starting in kindergarten. There’s a lot of great science and statistics to back up the benefits of this suggestion. In countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland, where comprehensive sexuality education begins in kindergarten, the teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion rates are the lowest in the world: about six per 1,000 women. Not only that, in these countries teenagers wait longer to have their first sexual experience than do teenagers in countries like the United States.
The popular image that Americans like to have of themselves is of one nation, undivided, standing together with friends and against foes, that there is no problem that the American people cannot overcome, symbolized most vividly in the image of the melting pot – that no matter where you come from, no matter what your race or ethnic background, it will all disappear one day and you will become an American. Horse hockey.
I am culturally illiterate. You see, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s not that I don’t have a TV – I actually have two – but I just never use them. So when most of the American media has been abuzz over talk-show host and comedian David Letterman’s final show, and the final episode of the TV series “Mad Men,” I was unable to share in the collective viewer angst because, well, I just don’t care. I am not a man of my time.
t’s the question of the moment: Is the BDS movement a legitimate way to protest the actions of the Israeli government, or it is a slick anti-Semitic attempt to undermine, or even destroy, the state of Israel? The Boycott, Diversify, Sanction movement was created in 2005 by 171 non-governmental Palestinian organizations, to organize and promote “non-violent punitive measures” against Israel’s approach to Palestine.
The funny thing about absolutes is that sometimes they’re not. A recent competition that invited Americans to submit cartoons of the prophet Mohammed is illustrative. Organized by a woman whose attacks on the Muslim community have generated much publicity across the United States, the competition had two purposes, one explicit, one implicit. The stated purpose was to demonstrate that in the United States speech is free, and that Americans can do or say whatever they want. The unstated purpose was to provoke a violent response against the contest and to help the contest organizer, a New Yorker by the name of Pam Geller, promote her racism and bigotry.
After watching the media coverage of the events in Baltimore, Maryland, over the past week and a half I’ve come to two conclusions: down deep, America’s media is really shallow, and it’s very, very white. The city erupted in protests following the death of Freddie Gray, whose spine was fatally injured while in police custody; six police officers face charges in his death. I was utterly dismayed at the way the American media covered Baltimore. It showed me more than ever how little the American media, and its overwhelmingly white culture, fail to understand minorities in the United States.
It’s enough to give a person permanent hypertension. Russian president Vladimir Putin likes to flex his military muscles more than a steroid pumped-up body builder. China wants to challenge the United States for dominance in Asia. North Korea’s top leadership is, well, crazy. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are messing up the Middle East and threatening citizens around the world. And what ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t doing to destabilize the region, Iran is. It looks like the world is more dangerous that it has ever been for Uncle Sam, and Canada. Except that … it’s not.
A United States presidential campaign is a bit like that old joke about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Because oh my Lord, here we go again, 19 months before actual voting day. The only thing that lasts longer than the US presidential campaign is the Republican-led investigation into the events at Benghazi, which will apparently still be going on sometime in the 22nd century at its current pace. There are so many things wrong with the way Americans go about picking people to run for the presidency every four years, it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s just jump right in.
It’s never easy making peace with an enemy. It takes great moral courage, and there will always be a cacophony of voices decrying your every step, as with the current international negotiations about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Some only see calamity and disaster: one only has to think back to the Ronald Reagan – Mikhail Gorbachev negotiations about nuclear weapons in the mid-to-late 80s to remember how loud these voices of doom and destruction can be.
Supporters of the US state of Indiana’s new law call it a religious freedom bill, but is actually nothing of the sort. It’s actually a bill that celebrates religious bigotry. The only freedom it really offers is the freedom to exercise hatred toward other individuals who are different than you or who believe something different than you do. It is fundamentally un-American, probably un-Constitutional, and certainly immoral. It’s a bill that gives official government blessing for right-wing conservative religious fundamentalists to practice official government sanctioned bigotry against homosexuals.
When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s in Canada, I often heard this saying coming from south of the border. Patriotism was the unquestioning allegiance of an individual to his or her country. No matter what your country was doing (in this case the Vietnam War), you supported it without hesitation. At least that’s what “patriots” did. As I said, however, I was in Canada, a country that always had a very peculiar notion of patriotism – which was we barely had one at all. Oh, we cared passionately about beer, hockey, and fishing rights and about not being American, but that was about it. Then in 1994 I moved to the United States. And to borrow a phrase from Yeats, all was changed and changed utterly.
If the United States adopts a “What’s best for the U.S.” policy in dealing with the Middle East, perhaps Israeli leaders will see the need to ameliorate and fix their policies towards the region and the world that are not providing Israeli citizens with the security they want, nor the admiration and support of other countries which Israel will need to survive in the long-term. Because the Israeli government cannot continue to make the same decisions in the same way again and again and again, and neither can the United States.
Ordinarily, it would be laughable for a U.S. Republican senator to throw a snowball in the chamber, as did climate change denier James Inhofe, and say that recent cold temperatures in Washington, D.C., prove that climate change was a hoax. But Inhofe is the head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee, which means he gets to highly influence American policy about climate change. It is like a member of the Ku Klux Klan being appointed the head of a anti-racism committee.
A country often gets the press it deserves, particularly in the Western world. While we have no dictatorships in countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, France or Australia, we do have governments which will do everything in their power to reduce the importance of media and any unfavorable coverage of their actions. And most Americans have grown fat, lazy and complacent about freedom of the press because of the illusion that it is unlimited.
We all lie. Telling a lie is probably one of the most human things that we do. But when you’re a major TV network news anchor, and you tell a lie, it’s a big deal. NBC-TV anchor Brian Williams is learning that right now. But when you come right down to it, the lie Williams probably told about what happened to him on that helicopter in Iraq is really only a minor one when compared to the BIG LIE of the entire second Gulf War and why we were there in the first place.
Anti-science bias runs through almost every important public issue in America: climate change, whether gay people are born that way or whether they choose to be gay, the usefulness of vaccinations, and even evolution itself. People claim Constitutional rights to believe what they want to believe. If they succeed in undermining decades, maybe hundreds of years, of scientific advancement, we all lose.
This is where we have come to.
We have, as a society, become obsessed with trivial pursuits. Not that this is necessarily a new development. As journalist H.L. Mencken said , you”ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. We have always been rather easily baffled by bullshit. But the advent of the Internet and social media has kicked this cultural trait into hyper-drive.
It’s wacky season in Washington once again. Wacky season comes in two flavors in the nation’s capitol: during the summer, when all the politicos would rather be jetting to a prime vacation spot on the private jet of a fat cat corporate sponsor, and when it’s time to start running for president. And one of the things that you will hear most often are candidates who will say that they know what “the American people” want.
I want there to be absolute freedom of speech. I believe that freedom of speech means the freedom to offend everyone. But I can’t ignore that millions of good religious people, and not just Muslims, find the works of publications like Charlie Hebdo offensive, though they’re not going to kill anyone. Is there a way to protect freedom of speech and yet work to find a way not to needlessly offend? I don’t know. It’s complex. It will take hard work solution to find a solution. But try we must.
As much as I or any other atheist might wish it, religion is not going away. And so we as atheists have a choice: we can stamp our feet and rage against religion, or we can support those figures within religious belief systems who are fighting to make those systems more caring, compassionate, open-minded, accountable and willing to work with those who do not subscribe to their creed. And Francis is one of those figures.
There’s a deadly virus in the United States. Much more deadly than Ebola. (Two people have died of Ebola in this country.) The virus I’m talking about kills thousands of people every year. It’s a poisonous concoction of racism, police departments unaccountable to anybody but themselves and a tsunami of guns, guns, guns.
Twas the night before Black Friday, and all through the house
Every creature was stirring, yes even the mouse;
The credit cards were ready for use here and there,
In the hopes that a bargain soon would be theirs …
What’s in a word? A movement? A state of being? A political statement? A controversy? All the above? Feminism would seem to be one of those words that fits all of the above categories, for a variety of reasons. Try to define who or what a feminist is and you invite instant debate. Is Camille Paglia a feminist? Not like Gloria Steinem is, that’s for sure. Is someone like Laura Bush a feminist? She might not necessarily describe herself as one but many of her words and actions would certainly move her into that category. Can a man call himself a feminist? Or is it a word that is gender specific?
In his book The Believing Brain author Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, makes the following proposal: belief comes first, then the reasons for belief comes second. So to use an example, an individual might believe in ghosts, so she will then find the reasons to support that belief. That cold spot in the attic is not caused by a deficiency of heat from the furnace, but by the presence of a supernatural being. This is also the way the world of climate change deniers work. First comes the belief that climate change does not exist, second comes the search for reasons to support that belief.
Recently the Board of Education in the Virginia suburb of Montgomery County (which is just outside DC) faced a dilemma. A group of Muslim parents were pressing the board to add religious holidays that would allow Muslim children to observe the important days to their faith without missing any school. On the surface, I have no problem with this. If we’re going to allow Christian students to observe Christmas, and Jewish students to observe holidays like Yom Kippur, then it only makes sense that we allow Muslim students to observe their religious days. But I do confess I wonder where will this end?
We don’t have much of a tradition of military service in my family, but what we do have is meaningful. One of my uncles fought in the Second World War for Canada and saw some pretty serious action. My father-in-law, an American, was a lifetime aviator, and flew for the US Air Force in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. So I’ve always considered November 11th an important day to observe. But when it comes to whether I celebrate Canada’s Remembrance Day, or America’s Veterans Day, I almost always prefer the former over the latter. The reason may be a semantic one but it’s an important one.
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Tom Regan is a columnist in the Washington, DC, region
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