During the traditional singing of the national anthems of Canada and the United States at the opening of baseball’s All-Star game, while singing the Canadian anthem, the singer is heard to giggle slightly.
The Twittersphere went nuts with harshness about disrespect and some even suggesting banning anthems at games.
Who among us has not giggled nervously when under stress at the worst possible moment?
I’ll let well-funded sociology and psychology departments at universities figure when we became a culture of blaming and seemingly have forgone any capacity for compassionate understanding.
Since the so-called ‘Age of Enlightenment’ began in the 18th century, for all our progress in terms of free speech, democratic development, religious tolerance, etc., as a human community we have been on a trajectory to the proverbial ‘vanishing point’.
No wonder the other day a young adult said to me they have no hope and see nothing but the end of all things approaching at a frightening speed.
Bloody as they were, especially the French revolution in which hundreds of non-combatants were summarily executed, and the American revolution, which had its own various acts against so-called Loyalists, many of whom fled to Canada, nonetheless it did appear for a time that democratic forms of government would prevail. However, we must keep in mind that universal franchise of the vote did not happen for almost two centuries, during which time France went through a series of upheavals, including the Bonaparte era, the Americans had a civil war, those deep wounds not totally healed in either country.
Slavery and the so-called “Indian Wars’, actual wars against the Indigenous people by the American government, one post-confederation brief rebellion in Western Canada, another not yet healed wound, by the dawning of the 20th century primarily France, Canada, Great Britain and the USA were moving towards actual democratic systems and, though not until after WWI, supported by universal franchise.
However the profound bloodletting of two world wars, the Great Depression in between, has resulted in several paradoxes: international forms to govern world affairs, such as the UN, but it is largely ineffective because, and will remain so, five nations alone have veto power in the security council, the price for which is paid in blood by people subjected to genocide, such as in Rwanda; while Canada has very strict laws regarding boundaries for seats, known as ridings, in parliament, decided by independent commissions in each province based on population numbers after each decennial census, spending on elections is tightly controlled and financed in the main by tax payers, while individuals may contribute to a party or candidate, the amount is strictly limited: for example in the last federal election less than 2,000$, while corporations and trade unions are forbidden by law to contribute to parties or candidates.
I mention the above against the background of the, as yet, unfinished project of maturing democratic systems.
With extension of the vote first to non-landowning men, but well into the beginning of the 20th century before the franchise was granted to women, and even longer before women as government leaders or ministers became the norm, democracy began spreading across the globe, after WWII, until recently.
In our day once more the powerful and elites, of both the right and the left, an ever smaller, more powerful number of people, have seized control and push their own agenda.
No surprise then since after the US Supreme Court decision in ‘Citizens United’ money, not the voice, the votes, nor the concerns and needs of the common people, i.e. all the rest of us, has a wit to do with power, governance, elections, for when ballots are cast the outcome is virtually pre-determined because of the influence of hard, cold, cash.
On this point, I highly recommend Jane Mayer’s seminal work DARK MONEY.
Neither major party in the last US election listened to nor heard the people.
One man did, himself hardly the forgotten, common man, but shrewd enough to listen to and become the voice of ordinary Americans.
Brexit happened in Britain because of the same arrogant deafness and the country remains in a blaming lather with still nothing resolved.
France has deep divisions and anger, Canada likewise, while so-called, or formerly, democratic countries, Venezuela and Turkey being just two examples, have more and more oppressive regimes and a very angry and divided populace.
The Canadian Prime Minister, frequently an immature flip-flopper, prevents passage of a bill which would have protected police officers from being slaughtered by criminals granted bail because their violent past cannot be revealed at bail hearings, participates in the relentless blaming by Indigenous people of the rest of us for all their past trauma, some of it truly horrific and needing to be addressed, but the way his government handles things is beyond rational comprehension.
Things on most reserves are ‘third world’, but no one in his government seems willing to follow the money!
With millions upon millions poured annually into reserves over decades where has it gone? Not into adequate housing, for example and neither are governments willing to clean up the secretive way in which chiefs and councils, often with every one of the same family, are chosen.
The removal in the US of Confederate monuments, of objectionable building names or monuments in Canada because of what the colonial powers did is, frankly, revisionist history at its most grotesque and heals no one, reconciles no one.
Unless groups such as ‘Black lives matter’ or the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, and their counterparts around the world, are willing to look in the mirror, government placations are akin to the famous story of St. Augustine strolling along the shore trying to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. Seeing a boy running between the sea and a hole dug in the sand with a shell in which he carried water, St. Augustine asked the boy what he was trying to do and the boy replied: “Put the ocean in the hole.” Augustine explained the impossibility of the task, to which the boy asserted: “I will put this ocean in this hole before you understand the mystery of the Trinity!”
Yes, black lives, but all lives, do matter, and yes injustice must be re-dressed, reconciliation worked towards, but with objective truth.
Yes, some police officers do kill minorities, but there are more, black on black murders per weekend in Chicago than police shootings, and yes Indigenous women and children should not be murdered, but excusing violence against them by their own, or ignoring it, because of past history, is disingenuous.
A prominent Indigenous recently stated how welcoming his people were when the British and French first came. Really? How traditionally Indigenous people have always been peaceful. Really?
So much for brushing out the wars between the tribes through millennia in North, Central, South America – much like the Jesuits did years ago at the shrine of the Canadian Martyrs, painting over beneath the clouds on which the martyrs stand, the depiction of their martyrdom.
Guess the Jesuits figure the martyrs were assumed into heaven!
A brother priest told me of his experience as parish priest of a large reserve when the feast of the martyrs was at hand and how nervous he was about preaching on the feast. So he went and asked one of the Elders what advice she had. The wise woman took his hand, looked him straight the eye and said: “Why worry, we did them a favour!”
This is truth speaking.
We know the molten core of the earth triggers earthquakes and volcanoes, neither of which we can accurately predict, both occurring with frequent destructiveness.
Both governments and elites of the left and the right, live on top of a seething, ever more hot and angry core of forgotten men and women.
Who knows when this core will erupt or what the consequences will be.
Erupt it will.
Blaming those who never had, nor have, any responsibility for the actions of previous generations, as terrible and destructive as those actions were, has become itself a form of discrimination and oppression and contributes more and more to angry resistance as minorities, finding every newer ways to blame and re-write history and making ever more extreme demands, trigger reactions which have both sides using ever more intemperate language.
This cycle will eventually stop reconciliation dead in its tracks.
We cannot rationally apply to previous eras of history, and human behaviour therein, our modern understanding of our common humanity, of intrinsic human dignity and rights.
That is a fool’s errand.
More and more it appears minorities’ understanding of reconciliation is: gimmee, gimmee, and there is no amount of money, no number of building name changes, nor monument destructions, which will ever satisfy.
Reconciliation must be mutual, or nothing is reconciled, nor will it ever be.
Reconciliation is impossible without mutual understanding, mutual forgiveness, mutual love.
Currently there is within societies, both national and international, such a dearth of understanding, forgiveness and love that the volcano of violent chaos is bubbling ever closer to the surface and the whole human family is at risk.
Thus, the first disputed question is: Are we willing to embrace objective truth and move away from blaming so that both just re-dress of wrongs and reconciliation can become forward moving within the context of authentic government of, by and for the people? Are we willing to become a people of attentive listening, reconciliation without vitriolic blaming, using instead love’s maturity?
Or is the chasm between the blamers and the blamed, the blamed who did NOT enact the evils of the past, so immense that for all the shouting back and forth no sound can carry that far and so each side becomes ever more distanced from and incomprehensible to the other?
We need to dispassionately, compassionately, find a way to bridge the chasm, find a meeting place, see each other as one like myself and begin to love one another.
Little time remains before the volcano erupts and the whole earth becomes a new Pompeii.