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This article, “Fundamentalism, racism, fear and propaganda: An insider explains why rural, Christian white America will never change,” caught my attention recently. The author begins:

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is still being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

There are books available to explain Trump followers. A couple that have come to my attention are Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I haven’t read these books but found the following CBC radio interviews with the authors fascinating and enlightening.

Why White Working Class Voters Favour Trump: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-september-14-2016-1.3761300/why-white-working-class-voters-favour-trump-hillbilly-elegy-author-1.3761428

Trump Supporters Experience a Secular Rapture Says Sociologist Arlie Hochschild: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/pets-aren-t-people-trump-voters-canadian-meets-stem-cell-donor-who-saved-her-life-monet-s-water-lilies-1.3813712/trump-supporters-experience-a-secular-rapture-says-sociologist-arlie-hochschild-1.3813719

Any hope for any sort of meeting of the minds, accords, or rapprochement seems elusive. I have no solutions. I can only offer the information and insight of these people who have shared their first-hand experience of Trump’s supporters.


The Decline of Trump’s America

This brutal, frank analysis of Trump’s performance at the G20 this past week by Australian journalist Chris Uhlmann appeared on my Facebook feed this morning. It is a sad commentary on way the United States is now perceived by the world.

There can be no pleasure in the fall from grace of this mighty nation. I’m a Canadian, yet many branches of my family came to Canada via the US. I have family and friends now living in the US. On election night 2016 I stayed up late with an American friend. When the unexpected, yet all-too-possible results became apparent I had no words of consolation or reassurance for her. I knew that the unfolding next four years were going to be bad; I just didn’t know how extraordinarily bad. Trump has exceeded my expectations.

I resent that too much of my time and energy has been consumed by this man. I try to limit my time reading about his latest news-making bungle or insult. I don’t follow his Twitter account; I see enough of his tweets retweeted by others. I don’t watch Trump’s live broadcast events. Even with those limits I see too much.

I resent the separations that this divisive and polarizing figure has created among family and friends. That many see him as God’s instrument is beyond me. In what way is he Christ-like? How does his life point others to the God of the Bible?

Unlike others, though, I can’t ignore it. There is too much at stake. Liberal democracy is at stake and the life and freedoms, rights and privileges that we take for granted is not guaranteed or a given.

However, to return to the implications of the video that prompted this blog, what of the United States’ position in the world? Who will fill the void? Will the US continue to retrench and isolate itself from the world by continuing to abdicate its leadership role and enact tighter immigration rules? Will Donald Trump be re-elected in 2020? Will another leader in 2020 or 2024 be able to recoup what has been lost? Questions enough to ponder as I watch, wait and pray from Canada.

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Family Portraits


This is a portrait of my Great-Grandfather, William Slee, painted around 1924 by his artist grandson-in-law, Ernest Sampson. Ernest has placed him in his favourite setting, a garden, and entitled it, “The Ancient Perennial”.

Mom’s older first cousin, Ethel, married an artist who had emigrated from Liverpool to Canada, Ernest Sampson. (Not only was he from Liverpool, he had attended the same art college as John Lennon and Paul McCartney many years before. In my Beatlemania days I thought this remote connection was pretty cool. Actually, it still is, in my mind.) He co-founded a commercial art firm, Sampson-Matthews in Toronto in the early part of the 20th Century.

The company at one time or another employed various members of the Group of Seven and Charles Matthews donated a number of paintings to the McMichael Gallery. Ernie accompanied the Group of Seven on painting trips, often in Algonquin Park.
According to my cousin, Richard Slee, in the 1970s, Ethel was rummaging through her garage while Richard was with her, and came across Ernie’s paint box. When she opened it, she found a small double-sided canvas painted by A.Y. Jackson, one of the Group of Seven. Jackson had asked Ernie to take the picture out of the backcountry for him on one of these trips. Ethel showed it to Charles Matthews (the business side and surviving partner of the firm) and asked if it was worth anything. He sawed it in two (back to back) and sold the two paintings on her behalf, which he didn’t think were particularly good for $10,000 apiece.
William and Margaret Slee England 1867

Newly-married William Slee and Margaret Taylor in 1867. My great-grandparents in England.

The heads of this clan, my great-grandparents, William and Margaret Slee, came to Canada with their young family from a small village in Northwest England, Kirkby Stephen. I was curious about the reasons for their departure from England and had assumed that it was for economic opportunity. That may have been the case, but a few years ago I learned that there may have been another more pressing reason.

Several years ago the above-mentioned cousin who carries the family name visited Kirkby Stephen and stopped at a pub. He was enjoying a visit with the locals until they learned his last name. The only person who would speak to him at that point was a travelling salesman who informed him that my great & great-great grandmothers had been leaders in the temperance movement that had bought up the bars in Kirby Stephen and shut them down!
I was amazed! After all, this was over 100 years and a few generations later. However I later read in a PD James novel that the longevity of feuds in parts of England can last hundreds of years. So what’s a mere 100!

William and Margaret Slee brought their four children to Canada in 1880. While William Slee, a carpenter by trade, built their home at 457

Kirby Stephen 1879

Taken in Kirby Stephen in 1879, shortly before the emigrated to Canada. My Nanna’s handwriting.

Ferguson Avenue in Hamilton, Margaret and the children stayed with Uncle Johnny (Slee) in Doon, Ontario, near Kitchener.* My grandmother, Katie, was almost 5 when they came to Canada. Another child, Willie, was born in Canada the next year. Sadly, he died of a head injury at the age of 9, when a large dog knocked him onto the sidewalk.

William and Margaret Slee made sure their two boys and two girls had a profession. My grandmother was a milliner, her sister a dressmaker. I believe the older son was a lithographer, and the youngest an engraver. At the turn of the century my grandmother was earning $300 a year, according to the census.
This is a bare bones outline of the beginnings of the Slee family in Canada. They remained devoted to the Mother Country while making the most of the opportunities of their chosen land. Dick Slee, the oldest, took his family to England around 1914, and my Nanna returned for an extended visit with an aunt in 1927-8. I have Nanna’s journal from 1897-1903, which has given me an intimate look at the Slee family during this six-year period, a treasured possession.
On this Canada Day, I pulled out Nanna’s Bible, given to her at the time of her marriage  by Gore Methodist Church, Hamilton, Ontario, in 1905. She has pasted into the back a typewritten speech written and delivered by her older brother, Dick, on the occasion of their parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, August 24, 1917. He wrote:
We look back with sympathy and pride on the courage and resolution which inspired you in the flower of your manhood and womanhood to sever the many ties and fond associations of  your early life, and to uproot the tree to put forth leaf and flower anew in the great land beyond the seas. We are proud of our ancestry and the traditions of our people, and truly thankful that our destinies have been cast in this favored land .

Dick Slee’s full tribute to William and Margaret Slee on their 50th wedding anniversary as it appears in Nanna’s 1905 Bible.

*Interestingly, Harold Slee, Uncle Johnny’s descendant sold his farm to Conestoga College. The Doon Campus sits on the farmland I visited as a child.
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Saturday Morning Musings

It’s been quite a week in the world. John Lewis took us back to the 60s with a sit-in, in the House of Congress to protest that body’s lack of action on gun control. As a Canadian, gun control is a no-brainer. I’ve watched and waited since JFK was assassinated for action on this critical issue. Back to the 60s indeed. And so it drags on, with the NRA’s hair-trigger sights trained on any attempts at meaningful legislation.

However, the event that grabbed my attention this week was the UK vote on leaving the European Union or Brexit. It was evident that it was going to be a close vote, but as the day approached markets expressed their confidence by moving upwards. However, matters began to quickly move in the opposite direction. By the time I went to sleep it was evident that the Leave side had won, albeit by a narrow margin. No Clarity Act for this referendum.

However, as bad as I suspected it was going to be, it quickly became evident that it was going to be far worse. As one commentator said on the morning after, “By the time I’d put the kettle on, the stock markets were in free fall, Scotland was debating a new independence referendum, Sinn Fein was making secession noises, and the prime minister had resigned.” The UK was like the person who had been on a bender the night before and was waking up to ask, “What have we done?” This morning-after regret was classic: “The facts are coming in now and our eyes are actually open.” A bit late. Sadly this is what happens when you put your faith in demagogues, yield to prejudice, and cast an uninformed vote.

And this: “In the West Midlands village of Meriden, some of the 17 million voters who had willed Britain’s departure from the EU into being were not so much celebrating Freedom Friday as enduring terrors of self-doubt. A few seemed like kids who had disobeyed instructions, pressed the eject button in the pilot’s cockpit, and were starting to wonder what the hell was happening.” A leap of faith. Dangerous stuff in a democracy, which is predicated on an informed electorate.

And that was only the beginning. In the just over 36 hours or so that has followed, we have seen additional consequences.  Mark Carney emerged to reassure that he has a contingency plan to inject $250 billion into the economy, as needed. It’s hardly reassuring that this is necessary. Standard & Poors and Moody’s are reassessing their ratings, pension plans may be affected, and the UK appears to be headed toward losing far more money than the Leave side claimed it would gain. It doesn’t happen often, but this time I agreed with the bankers.

However, I doubt the bankers were aware of this result. It turns out that scientists were getting quite a bit of research money from the EU. Are the Leave voters willing to pony up to replace this lost money with their tax dollars/pounds?

Then there is that case of Cornwall, which it seems had been getting millions of pounds in subsidies from the EU due to its poor economy, yet had voted to leave.

John Pollard, the leader of Cornwall council said: “Now that we know the UK will be leaving the EU we will be taking urgent steps to ensure that the UK Government protects Cornwall’s position in any negotiations.

“We will be insisting that Cornwall receives investment equal to that provided by the EU programme which has averaged £60m per year over the last ten years.”

European money has helped develop infrastructure, universities and broadband internet in the county. From 2007 to 2013, €654m was given to pay for these projects, the Financial Times reported.

But a statement on the council website posted on Friday said prior to the referendum said the county was reassured by the Leave side that withdrawing from the EU would not affect the funding already allocated by Brussels.

Leave campaigners also promised the county would not be worse off in terms of the investment it receives. “We are seeking urgent confirmation from Ministers that this is the case,” the statement added.

Nigel Farage, the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) leader, attempted to backpedal on his promise to put purported millions in savings after exiting the EU into the NHS (National Health Service). This is the same guy who hours earlier claimed victory “without a single bullet being fired.” It seems that the senseless and tragic killing of Jo Cox campaigning for the Remain side only a week prior, that put the campaign on hold for a few days, was but a blip on his radar screen.

This is only a sampling of the fallout from Thursday’s vote. It is the worst case thus far of the consequences of voters heading to the polls without a clue about the implications of their choice. Everyone has an opinion, but please make it an informed opinion. It’s a plea for taking the time to carefully examine the claims all sides are making, to look beyond the rhetoric. With the US election looming ahead in November, and other future important votes, may it be a cautionary case study in the importance of taking the role of a citizen seriously.


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All Creatures

It was Animal Planet here this morning. Tommy had words with a black cat and I had to doctor a couple of scratches on the nose. I hope there aren’t any more. With fur it’s hard to tell until a scab forms. It turned out the cat Tommy tangled with was our neighbour’s indoor kitty who found her way out via the second floor window. There is a very aggressive black cat around the corner, so I just assumed it was her.

The neighbour’s cat has jumped out of the window (unharmed!) a couple of times in the last 24 hours. When I heard her calling to Tommy the other day from the window it sounded to me like she was in heat and wanted out neoow! I spoke to my neighbour this morning and it turns out that she isn’t spayed, so my assessment seems quite probable. She was out last night when they came home so there’s a good chance she found what she’s looking for!

Just before all the feline excitement, I spotted a robin’s nest in the tree by my door. I’d noticed a bird flying off yesterday when I opened the door. She doesn’t mind me sitting close to the nest, but no pictures please! I did take one. I don’t know if there are any eggs yet; she still seems to be adding twigs and mud to the nest. All the best to Mrs. Robin and her nest and to Mrs. Kitty as well! Image

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Talk Show – Dick Cavett

CavettDick Cavett was my favourite talk show host when I was young. Hands down. I read his first book, Cavett, years ago. He slipped out of my sight when I moved into rural mid-western Ontario without the benefit of cable and, therefore, PBS. Then I heard an interview on CBC radio with Mr. Cavett a couple of years ago. The same voice that had amused and charmed me in my youth worked its magic again. It took a while, but I eventually obtained this book, which is a compilation of his New York Times blog:

I was not disappointed. He’s not lost any of the intelligent wit that entertained me years ago. I was regaled with stories of John and Yoko, surprising friendships with Bill Buckley (after all Nixon had inquired of his henchmen, Haldeman and Ehrlichman, how he could “screw” Dick Cavett), and one-time employer, then late-night rival, Johnny Carson, and chess champion Bobby Fischer. There were perceptive quotes about “the vinyl Mitt Romney” during the 2008 campaign. He also quoted John McCain, “Referring to Mitt’s so readily adjustable convictions, McCain said, ‘We agree – you are the candidate of change.’” Oh yes, and Dick Cavett doesn’t spare himself in an account of a very uncomfortable encounter with Richard Nixon and daughter Julie.

Dick Cavett devotes a couple of chapters to Richard Burton and there is a very surprising story about John Wayne (you’ll have to read the book to find out, but I promise you’ll never view John Wayne the same again!). Both men were interviewed by Cavett at a time when they were in the midst of the illnesses that would lead to their death.

In a book entitled, Talk Show, he doesn’t leave out his account of the Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer showdown on The Dick Cavett Show on ABC and he also talks about the death of Rodale Press founder, J.I. Rodale, while he was taping the show.

Not all the pieces are about the famous. He writes about Buck, a typical beach bum youth from the early seventies whom he regularly encountered on a remote Long Island beach. He pegged him as a “dropout with a middling IQ.” Buck surprised him one day when he referred to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s appellation of fame as the “Bitch Goddess.” Cavett wonders how often our snap judgements of people are so far off the mark. To his great disappointment, he never saw Buck again. Cavett struggles with the thought that Buck may have OD’d on one of the substances of choice of the seventies and his own moral obligations to warn him.

Cavett also writes about his battle with depression. With gun control brought into the spotlight again after recent tragic events, it is worth reading Dick Cavett’s 2008 comments on gun control and depression in the chapter, “Smiling Through.” In “Smiling Through, Part 2” he writes, “Whatever wicked gods invented this torture should come down with it.”

The short chapters are packed with wonderful stories, observations and wit. Whether or not you remember Dick Cavett and that time, you will enjoy this book.

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#Cdnpoli: Harper Watch

After writing blogs on Scottish and American politics, it’s time to return to my home and native land. There’s plenty going on in this country to keep an eye on. This weekend there were three articles about our current government that caught my eye.

Doug Saunders in Peak Oil? More Like Peak Canada writes about how the Canadian government has squandered good will toward Canada with its short-sighted energy policy from the perspective of a future instructor reviewing our time period.

Ordinary Canadians embraced the hubris, spending far beyond their means, believing that our oil-boosted economy was permanent and invincible. In November of 2012, the peak of the Great Hubris, Canadians reported record levels of personal non-mortgage debt, piling on expensive cars and credit card bills – everyone believed theirs was a rich petro-state and it would last forever.

Of course, reality checkmated us:

 … That fateful November, just as their personal debts were red-lining, most Canadians failed to notice the annual World Energy Outlook, published by the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

It predicted what we all know now – that the U.S. would become the world’s largest petroleum producer by 2017 and a major world exporter not long afterward …

Saunders uses bit of dark humour on the topic of petroleum deals and pipelines:

Of course, the ecological consequences of this were horrendous. That’s why we don’t talk about that shameful era, or the politicians who turned “Canadian” into a swear word in many countries. Who’d want to be reminded of that when we’re getting our January suntans on Churchill Beach?

However, nothing was as disconcerting as reading the words, ” … as Prime Minister Bieber used to say”!

In the Huffington Post’s article, Romeo Dallaire Slams Harper’s Foreign Policy, Romeo Dallaire is not only critical of Harper’s foreign policy, but also that he is bypassing both houses of Parliament and making foreign policy announcements outside of Parliament:

“They announce new policies all over the place before they even introduce them in the House of Commons, let alone the Senate,” Dallaire told The Huffington Post Canada after a recent speaking engagement at Free the Children’s We Day youth rally in Toronto. “[Harper] holds more power than the President of the United States in his country, and because we’ve been strong on convention, and not on written decrees or documents, it permits someone who doesn’t want to play by those rules to have all kinds of room to manoeuvre. And this is what we are seeing now.”

Dallaire also noted that Canada has spent years trying to convince other countries  that using child soldiers is a crime against humanity:

“I was recently in the Congo and South Sudan … and it’s fine for me to go out there and try and stop them recruiting child soldiers, but when they turn to you and say, ‘What about your own?’ I mean, it’s like being stabbed in the back.”

Dallaire plans to introduce new domestic legislation regarding child soldiers that he hopes will prevent the Harper government from “pulling back from the grey areas of humanity and trying to keep it dumbed down to black and white.” 

And finally, a report that the government is keeping an eye on our blogs:

Google’s latest Transparency Report shows that the Canadian government is increasingly requesting that Google remove content from its websites, primarily for reasons of defamation.

The Canadian government requested the removal of 405 pieces of content between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2012. Of these, 325 were because the content was deemed defamatory. The Google service most targeted by these removal requests was Blogger, followed by YouTube.

Here today, gone tomorrow.