Appreciating the Good Things

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American neighbours!

Family
Gordon Johnson – Pixabay

I hope you’re all having a great day with family and friends, giving thanks for all the wonderful people and blessings in your lives today. Granted, there’s always something that could be better, but a whole lot of people in the world would gladly trade places with us here in North America. Which reminds me…

A Great Thanksgiving Day Read

Awhile back I read a really inspiring book and this is the perfect day to tell you about it. Stories to Remember is written by Dr Pedro Garcia, an educator who immigrated to the USA from Castro’s Cuba while still in his teens. He and his brother came first and their parents were able to join them later. They’ve made successful lives in the States and Dr Gracia really appreciates all the freedoms he’s enjoyed in his adopted homeland.

You could say he doesn’t see the trees for the forest. Rather than elaborating on all the malfeasance of current politicians, he focuses on the vast forest of freedom and opportunity that exists in the USA.

Some of his stories are from a Christian perspective; the majority are his personal experiences. He writes of coming to the American Midwest and making the country his home, also about his work as an educator in various cities. All the way through he points to the blessings and successes he’s enjoyed through the years. Delightfully upbeat, well worth reading.


Those of you who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited can read it for free.

 

Book: Love of Finished Years

When I read a good book, I like to tell people about it. This story reminds me of something British writer D E Stevenson, another excellent author, would write.

Love of Finished Years
by Gregory Erich Phillips

This moving debut novel by Gregory Erich Phillips won the Grand Prize for best book of the year in the Chanticleer Reviews International writing Competition.

From the first paragraph to the last, this compelling story illustrates the desperate poverty of one immigrant family from Germany who landed at Ellis Island in 1905. After struggling to earn a living for several years, their dejected father abandons the family, so the mother and two daughters work in sweatshops, determined to survive.

The heroine of our story, Elsa, finds a friend at work who teaches her English. Later she manages to find work as a secretary, ostensibly a German-English translator for an American businessman, but Esla basically becomes the companion of his daughter Dafne and is introduced to the world of the privileged.

This story is so realistic it could have been a biography. I felt along with Elsa and her family as they faced a new life in an alien world. I believe this reflects the lot of many immigrants. Slowly the three immigrant women manage to pull their way out of desperate poverty, maintaining close ties. Then comes World War I and they must cope with anti-German hostilities and the tragedy that results.

While she is companion to Dafne, the debutante is engaged to Glenn and when war comes he’s eager to go and serve his country, do his part to deliver the world from the evil aggressor. Glenn’s war experience and his enlightenment was very realistic. I have to agree with the writer’s take on the idea of a “just” war: all the “save the world” idealism is a thin veneer covering various hidden agenda.

I thought the writer portrayed Dafne with fairness, too. An immature, spoiled debutante carried away by adult dreams too big for her to really comprehend, she really needed more parental guidance than she got. Thankfully, through their years together Elsa filled the place of a big sister and guided her in many ways.

It really is an engaging, well written tale.

Two Canadians Peer Across the Border

WHATNOT WEDNESDAY

Blogger Biff has begun a series on his blog which he’s calling “Whatnot Wednesday,” and invites others to follow suit. The idea rather appealed to me, so I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and write a post about the US political scene. Seems to me that’s a Whatnot if ever there was a Whatnot.

Regarding the title of this post, I’m not referring to the two Canadians who live in this house. We may read a lot but, give-or-take, we have a rather limited understanding of the subject. I may slip in a few opinions of my own, but mainly I’m going to tell you about two books written by prominent Canadians who do have a good grasp of the global, American, and Canadian political scenes, and have shared their understanding.

“Who cares what a Canadian thinks about Donald Trump,” you may ask? I’ll be so bold as to suggest that we may at times have a clearer view from up here. There’s so much smoke and fireworks generated in the US political scene, I wonder how often Americans in general can see the total picture? Also, it does anyone good at times to look at the situation through some neutral person’s eyes.

THE AGE OF DISRUPTION

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper writes in the introduction to his book that he was sitting in his living room on Nov 8, 2016 watching the US presidential vote. He didn’t expect Donald Trump to be chosen that evening, though he did think there was a slim possibility. He says:

“Trump had not impressed me He seemed to me less conservative, less convincing, and less politically capable than virtually all of the other candidates. He had a presence and a forcefulness, but not much else…
But Trump won the Republican nomination, and now he was winning the presidential election. So I asked myself: What happened?”

After he got over the shock, Mr Harper took an in-depth look at the political scene and the overall economic picture. Then he wrote a book for the benefit of his fellow Canadians, giving his opinion on how this situation came about.

RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Politics in the Age of Disruption, published in 2018 by Penguin Random House Canada, doesn’t examine President Trump or his candidacy as much as it analyzes the shift to the right that’s been taking place in society. Being an economist, he includes a look at market policies, trade, globalization, and immigration, issues that seriously trouble voters, factors that have produced this right swing.

“America Has Lot of Jobs”

My thought on one of these points:
I read a blog post by an idealistic young lady who denounced President Trump’s restrictions on immigration. Quoting the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, she suggested the States should rather open the doors and welcome all immigrants. I left a comment asking her where these immigrants are going to find work, considering how many manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. Her response was something to the effect of, “Of course there will be jobs for them. There are lots of jobs in America.”

Oh, to be so naive! The welcome on the Statue of Liberty is a wonderful ideal, but was written at a different time in US history. Now, before Uncle Sam opens the gates and lets everyone into the US who wants in, someone has to factor in the US economy as it stands today. There need to be jobs for those coming in, or the home folks may start to resent having to support the newcomers. Or they resent losing their jobs to immigrants who’ll work for less. Then you have anti-immigrant feelings boiling over. Read history; it’s happened before.

Folks who’ve made their money, who can afford upscale communities, holiday resorts, and luxury cruises, haven’t got the same take on jobs and immigration as the miner’s wife in Kentucky, the factory worker in Detroit, or the single mother providing for her family in Texas. I’ve heard that, with his plan to make American great again and provide jobs for Americans, Donald Trump’s tighter immigration policy appealed to not-so-politically-correct and non-globe-trotting Americans. And they are the majority.

A PRESIDENT LIKE NO OTHER

Former Canadian financier and newspaper tycoon Conrad Black has met Donald Trump and learned to know him, even done a bit of business with him. For his sin of owning too much in the US, Black also did a punitive year-long stint in a Florida prison, where he spend a lot of time teaching inmates how to read and write. There he got a good picture of life for those on the bottom rung.

Black is now retired, though he does some editorial writing. A celebrated historian, he’s written a hefty volume titled RISE TO GREATNESS, The History of Canada, also biographies of two other US presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard M Nixon. And now he’s written the book DONALD J. TRUMP: A President Like No Other, published in the US in 2018 by Regnery Publishing.

Mr Black believes in honest journalism, not the sensationalism that characterized the last presidential race. In a number of editorials during that event, he denounced his fellow journalists in the US for distortion and dishonesty and explained for bemused Canadians why leftists — including so many in the media — hate Donald Trump.

In his book he looks at Trump’s strengths and weaknesses. He considers why Trump, a successful businessman, chose this point in time to step up to the plate and run for office, as well as the way he’s conducted his campaign. Black also analyzes Trump’s America-first policies versus the more global approach of leftists like Obama and Clinton.

From the jacket:
Trump diagnosed what America’s ruling elite, in its arrogance, had ignored for more than twenty years — that it had mismanaged America’s affairs for the benefit of the few, the well-connected, and privileged identity groups, and not for the American people as a whole.

All in all, he’s done a thorough and honest analysis of Donald Trump and his methods. And Black continues to keep us informed, to balance out the none-too-accurate headlines we see so much of. Just recently he published an editorial in the National Post where he lists impressive gains President Trump has made in returning power and profit to America. He predicts that, in spite of all the media opposition, Donald Trump will win by a landslide.

We’ll see if his prediction comes true, but for sure it will be an exciting, even explosive, race. Depending on who the Democrats nominate to run against him, the next presidential election will generate a lot more smoke and fireworks.

Not to worry, though. According to Mr Black, Americans love political fireworks.

Book: Patrolling the Heart of the West

True Tales of a Nevada State Trooper

by Steve Raabe

Patrolling the Heart of the West: True Tales of a Nevada State Trooper by [Raabe, Steve]

Every now and again I finish a book and think, “Everyone should read this!” That was my reaction yesterday when I finished the final chapter in Trooper Steve Raabe’s accounts of incidents in his life patrolling the highways in Nevada.

Five Stars from me! I found the writer’s on-the-job tales informative as well as interesting and well told. I think every American — and motorists everywhere — should read this book to get a clearer picture of what the job entails for the man behind the badge, the officer who pulls them over to warn them about that missing tail light, hand them a citation for speeding, or order them to buckle up.

I learned something myself in regard to an experience I once had in the States, when I came up to, and finally passed a patrol car going about 10mph below speed limit. Officer Raabe explains why this is a practice among patrolmen, how it’s helpful for spotting problems, like expired license plates and shifty-looking drivers. 🙂

Raabe shares his memories with compassion and a delightful humor. I appreciate that he hasn’t sensationalized or gone into gruesome details of accidents. He tells a few stories about speeders who paid the price, and of needless deaths because the driver and/or passenger wasn’t/weren’t buckled in. Yet he doesn’t come across in a preachy tone.

In addition to the on-the-road threat of armed-and-dangerous criminals, department favoritism or hostilities can sometimes make a cop’s job miserable. In one chapter we read how, sadly, even in the police force, administrative high-handed interference and imprudence can derail a promising career.

I think this book would be useful in driver training classes, a great asset for fostering understanding and compassion between police and beginning drivers. While the writing is overall quite clean, there are a few places where the author repeats the exact words spoken to him.

Of Chemicals and Consumers

Fandango’s prompt today: CHEMICAL

I wonder if this word, for most of us, doesn’t bring up negative connotations? We have a love-hate, relationship with the things. Like the old English song about the wife, “You can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”

Pollution of land, air, sea, and body — this all stems from chemicals, right? They’re keeping us alive longer and at the same time making us more sickly. We want our strawberry ice cream to be pink, our blueberry jelly to be blue, our white flour to be white. Which means we are, by default, consuming dyes and bleaches.

Even with death, we prefer the chemical version. When my birth mother died here in Saskatchewan the family opted to have her cremated. Our family doesn’t really do death and funerals well, so the children opted against having a viewing, so there was no cosmetology used. But I was coming from Quebec and my sister from Alberta, and neither of us had seen her for a good while — in my case it was over fifteen years — and we wanted one last goodbye.

So the funeral home prepared her for viewing that morning. When my birth father heard that I was going to view the body, he decided to go, too. We got there and looked down in her in the coffin they’d put her in, and she looked…well…dead. Her skin tone starting to degenerate in the way dead skin does.

My Dad was okay with it and so was I. He patted her hand and said his good-bye. But I made the mistake of saying in front of my sister, “I guess this is what the Bible means when it says, ‘From dust thou art and to dust though shalt return’.” And my sister burst into tears.

If given a choice, most of us prefer attractive to plain, enhanced to reality, bleached white paper to the natural colour that would come off the rollers in paper mills. But we fuss about pollution and climate change. Over the years we’ve come up with a delightful — at least to the employed — alternative. Companies in North America have shipped their manufacturing jobs to countries where pollution control and worker safety concerns barely affect the product or its cost.

We buy cheap; pollution, wages — or lack of — and safety issues are someone else’s problem. What’s not to love?

The trade deficit, you say? Forgot about that. (Thankfully my own country, Canada, has natural resources to sell, so our deficit isn’t so bad at present.) Immigrants flowing in the front door while jobs are flowing out the back could be an issue, too. However, I’ve heard some people emphatically deny that there’s a lack of jobs for the incoming crowd.

Which brings me to the dilemma I see in North America today: should consumers insist on buying items produced here in our own countries and pay the price — pollution control, wages, company pensions, and public safety costs included? Which means doing with fewer choices and a LOT less stuff. Or shall we continue to support overseas production and let those countries deal with the consequences? (And keep on borrowing from international money lenders to cover trade deficits.)

A person’s answer may well depend on what income bracket they are in.

And I have wandered far off the prompt topic of chemicals.

As I type this, I have bun dough rising in a warm spot. Yeast is a bacteria, not a chemical, so I can’t exactly call dough rising a chemical reaction. But the effect of warm cinnamon rolls on the human palate could maybe be explained as a chemical reaction.

When Cloud Banks Come Together

June 30, 1912

Citizens of Regina, Saskatchewan, a growing city on the Canadian prairie, sweltered in the sultry 100̊ F afternoon. The flags on display for the Dominion Day celebrations the next day hung limp on their poles. Folks sat on porches fanning themselves, longing for some ripple of breeze.

Some young folks and couples were spending the Sunday afternoon in Wascana park, or padding canoes on Wascana Lake a few blocks south of Regina’s business district. A flock of faithful Anglicans were gathered at St Paul’s Church listening to sermons by their local Bishop and Canon Hicks from London, England. Some women fainted because of the intense heat and humidity in the auditorium.

By mid afternoon storm clouds appeared in the south. Folks watched the cloud banks rolling toward each other, one system coming from the southeast and another from the southwest. At 4:30 pm the clouds were moving rapidly toward a collision. Folks began hearing rumbles of thunder; the sky took on a strange green glow; blue and red lighting bolts flashed along the ground. This phenomena was something prairie folks had never seen before. They had no idea what was coming.

The storm systems crashed into each other over the Saskatchewan Legislative Building beside Wascana Lake. There was a roar like two freight trains overhead and a colossal smoke-colored funnel dropped from the clouds. Packing a 500 mile-an-hour wind, skipping around crazily, the twister plowed a six-block-wide swath of destruction right through town, including the business district.

Reading in the book Great Canadian Disasters, © 1961 by Frank Rasky, one particular paragraph in the “aftermath” caught my eye:
Survivors today, with their varied memories, differ strongly on just about every aspect of the tornado’s aftermath: the degree of the onslaught, whether the government was generous (to victims), …the precise number of people wiped out by the catastrophe.

So true of any major event. Our own experience, our perspective on the scene, our general world-view, our position in society — all these make a lot of difference in how we process what’s going on, and later describe what happened, what helped, what hindered.

I’ve sometimes liken the Women’s Movement forming in the late 1800s to the two storm systems coming together over Regina. They came from different angles, when they united they formed a powerful force, and that force blew apart a lot of the status quo of their day. For better or for worse? Witnesses and historians don’t all agree.

I’d call one group the fore-mothers of the feminist movement as I knew it in the 1960s. Their agenda: universal suffrage; equal rights for women, including equal job opportunities and equal pay.

A lot of these women had graduated from women’s colleges in the Eastern States. They were sick and tired of the taboos of their day and did their best to prove these ideas false. I’ve lost my notes on this, but I recall that a number of these ladies met in Buffalo, NY in the late 1890s to form a group, establish their goals, and decide on a course of action.

Some of the misconceptions of their day were rather ludicrous. When trains were first invented some people raise the objections that women could never ride on a train because if women were to travel at speeds over 30 mph they would go insane, or mad with lust. Some “experts” of their day claimed girls’ educations should be limited to the basics because delicate female minds would shatter if forced to handle difficult mathematic equations. (I’m almost sad we lost that one — I’ve never been that good at math. 🙂 )

Some said physical training for girls was out because strenuous exercise would ruin their bodies and especially affect their ability to bear children. (That group should have rather taken a good look at the long term effect of wearing corsets.)

When you start setting up theories that can be so easily proven wrong, you can count on it that someone’s going to want to knock them down.

The other merging ‘cloud system’ was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As I’ve already written, this group sprang mainly from a Protestant Evangelical base. They had embraced the ‘Social Gospel’, which basically translates as ‘How Christians should fix the world.’ Their agenda: stable homes; healthy, happy families; reduction of crime; no more war. Each and every one a worthy goal.

As these ladies looked at their society, they concluded that laws were needed to ensure these goals. Thus voters were needed so political pressure could be put on to get those laws passed. Which meant their launching point was getting women the right to vote.

Meanwhile, over in merry old England, feminist suffragettes took a more dramatic approach. Up against a more rigid and long-established social structure, their struggle for the right to vote was long and bitter. They chained themselves to posts, went on hunger strikes, were force-fed.

They also adopted what they referred to as the politics of the broken window pane. Genteel-looking ladies would appear on business streets during a busy afternoon and station themselves in front of store windows. At a given signal they’d pull hammers from large handbags and start swinging. The damage was done before anyone could react and the ladies would make themselves scarce, leaving merchants sobbing.

I don’t know how much the WCTU influenced the women’s movement in Britain but I rather doubt Prohibition was ever a serious goal. In Europe and Britain so many women accepted social drinking and drank socially themselves. Also Protestant Evangelism was never as large or powerful in Europe as it was in North America.

To be continued.