I brought home Stella, my eight week old Brittany puppy last Saturday. She is a dear little dog, and very clever. She mastered the stairs on the porch in the garden almost immediately. She is boldly climbing the steep river bank at the edge of the Rideau River where I run her and my six year old Brittany, Hera. I am on leave from work this week to spend time with Hera and Stella to help them adjust to life in my household together. This morning I took them for a run by the river. It was quiet when I got there. At one point during the run, we came across a man I had not seen before. He parked on Revelstoke Road and had a Golden Retriever on leash. He gave me a baleful look as he took his dog to an entrance to the park a short distance away from me and my dogs. "Fine," I thought, "he is not particularly sociable." I moved on with Hera and Stella toward the river. When we got to the river we found the man and his Golden Retriever at the edge of the river. The man prepared to play ball with his dog. Next thing I knew, the man complained his dog is "uneasy around other dogs." When you are a dog owner, you run up against people like this from time-to-time. It leaves you wondering why people like this insist on bringing their dogs to dog parks. I am no pushover, but I know when to pick my battles. I called Hera and with Stella at my side we continued our run in another direction. There is plenty of space in the park for everyone. Also, I make sure the daily run for my dogs is fun for them. If this means walking away from an annoying stranger, rather than standing my ground, so be it.
A group of high school boys on a field trip to Washington DC waited, minding their own business as they milled on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for the bus to take them home. Some of the boys wore MAGA hats they bought from a street vendor; presumably as souvenirs from their trip to DC. The boys are accosted by two groups of grownups who hurled abuse at them. The boys responded in belting out a school chant to drown out the abuse coming from the Black Hebrew Israelites. The boys laughed off the taunts from the Native protesters who invaded their space. One of the boys stood calmly while an old man beat a drum in his face and sang something unintelligible.
Irresponsible news organizations pushed out a scurrilous narrative that it was the boys who accosted the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Native protesters. In doing so they incited a frenzy of insane hatred and death threats against the boys, one boy (Nicholas Sandmann) in particular. The truth came out in short order. The boys did nothing wrong. Among other things, the elderly Native man is exposed as a liar. Defamation lawsuits are pending against those behind the libelous narrative. I hope the people who rushed to judgment--for no other reason than it is white high school boys who were falsely accused of wrongdoing--will stop and think about their racist assumptions.
I really enjoyed reading the novels in the series "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" by Robert Arthur as a boy. These are very well written mystery stories for young readers. Of the three characters in the novels, the Third Investigator, Bob Andrews, was my favourite. His job, as his title on the The Three Investigators business card indicates, was records and research. He maintained the files, typing up reports of the Investigator's cases and worked part-time in a library. He also gathered information for the Investigators as they worked on cases. Once in a while I like to read the novels anew as I still find them entertaining. The character of Bob Andrews resonates with me all these years later as records and research is what I do for a living as a librarian and blogger. In the library I create and manage catalogue records for music scores and sound recordings. I use the skills I acquired in library school in carrying out my own research for the articles I publish. Who knew all those years ago when I read these novels that like Bob Andrews, records and research would become my vocation.
I am no white knight. What made me think of this is an incident, a robbery in progress, I witnessed in the spring of 1996. It was a rainy Saturday morning as I drove to work at the Cumberland Public Library. Despite the rain I had the window open in my car and as I made my way down Percy Street, just past Gladstone, I heard a woman screaming. I glanced in the direction of her screams and saw her chasing a man running away as fast as he could. The two of them turned at the corner of Percy and McLeod Streets and I followed in my car. I drove up alongside the woman who stood in the rain, gasping for breath. She told me between gasps that she and another woman were waiting at a bus stop on Gladstone when a man snatched the other woman's purse. She gave chase, screaming, in an effort to draw attention to the robbery. The mugger dropped the purse as he ran off and the woman retrieved it. I asked her to take a seat in the passenger seat of my car, offering her shelter from the rain, while we waited for the police to respond. Before long I saw a police car in the distance and flagged it down. The woman police constable drove up and after I explained what happened to her, let her take over. With that settled, I continued on to work.
I heard a woman screaming and reasoned that she must be in distress. I offered her assistance that she gratefully accepted. In doing so I offered assistance to a fellow human being in distress. That it was a woman who needed my assistance was incidental. I would do the same for a man in distress. I did not view her as a damsel in distress. Hardly, she put herself at risk in chasing a mugger on behalf of a stranger. I happened to be on the scene when this little crisis erupted and chose not to remain a bystander. This does not make me noble or gallant; just someone extending a little kindness to a fellow human being in need. I like to think most people would do the same if confronted with a similar situation, not so they may be lauded as heroic, but because it is the right thing to do.
If you view my published writings you will find I am an equal opportunity critic when it comes to religions. Most of my analysis and criticism is directed at the Abrahamic faiths. While I am not shy about directing criticism at religion, I look for the good in religion and religious folk. I give credit where it is due. The reality is we live in a world where great swaths of humanity practice one religion or another. I interact with religious folk in my daily life as a gay man. I live openly as here in Canada every citizen is equal before the law and discrimination on the grounds of creed and sexual orientation is against the law. Moreover, in Canadian society tolerance is a principle by which we live.
Chechnya is a state in the Russian Federation. Sunni Islam, its scripture and traditions is the foundation on which Chechen society is organized. Currently, the Islamic clerics who determine social policy decided God and His Messenger demand that Chechen society rid itself of gay men. A pogrom is under way and there are reports of torture and killings of men suspected of being gay. This is more than immoral; it is criminal. Yes, religion is behind this gross abuse of human rights and the religion is Islam. I am doing nothing wrong in pointing this out and condemning it.
In doing so, I am neither pointing my finger at every Muslim across the world nor inciting bigotry or violence against Muslims. I have observant Muslims among my friends who see what is going on in Chechnya and condemn it. They are just as appalled as any reasonable person is at this deplorable conduct. This in no way represents their expression of the faith.
Beyond that, if this were happening in a neighbouring state in the Russian Federation where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant faith and whose clerics incited a pogrom against gay men, I would condemn it without hesitation. I would not care if the religious sensibilities of Christians across the world were offended either. Religious belief, no matter how passionately kept, does not justify such flagrant abuse of human rights.
Recently I struck up an informal acquaintanceship with a young Mormon Missionary whom I met on the bus as I rode home from work. He is nearing the end of the two years of missionary work young Mormon men are required to undertake. He was seated by himself across from me on the bus so I asked if he were alone, noting Mormon missionaries usually travel in pairs. He replied that his colleague was seated nearby. During the ride along Bronson Avenue to my stop we had a discussion about faith and Mormonism. I am familiar with Mormonism, having studied religion at university and through my acquaintanceship with ex-Mormons. My young acquaintance was duly impressed with my knowledge of his faith and accepted that I am not interested in converting. This came as no surprise to me; Mormons are generally good people. When the bus reached my stop, I bid him good day and thanked him for the discussion. He responded in kind.
Two weeks later, we met again on the bus and resumed the discussion. He told me he found our first discussion inspiring. It was just ahead of Easter and I told him though I am no longer practicing Christianity, I keep Easter in my own way. Easter resonates with me as it makes me think of loved ones who are no longer alive. It helps me keep their memory alive. We parted company once more as the bus reached my stop. I find myself hoping he and I will meet again some day as he is a charming young man and open to discussion of different ideas concerning his faith.
Gary Burlingame was my friend, my very good friend. We became friends in 2009 when he saw fit to send me a friend request on Facebook. I don’t know what inspired him to do so, but am ever so happy he did. I accepted his friend request and with a little trepidation texted “hi there” to him on Facebook chat. I was not sure he would respond, but he did and from that moment on we were in contact regularly. We became such good friends because we had so much to talk about and found we could confide in one another. Gary was a kind, generous and thoughtful man and a loving husband and father. His work ethic and love of life were second to none. His lengthy battle with multiple myeloma and emphysema involved ongoing treatments and the discomfort they caused him. He took it in stride; it did not stop him from putting in the hours on his job, being the loving husband to Marilyn and father to their son Gene.
I enjoyed hearing his anecdotes about work (he worked from home) and his life with Marilyn and Gene. Among other things, Gary enjoyed attending the hockey and baseball games featuring the minor league teams in Bellingham with Marilyn. Gene played hockey as a boy. He was a goalie. Gary told me about the good times he had going to Gene’s hockey games and tournaments. Gary enjoyed folk dancing with a group of people in a club. I remember him telling me he once took Gene as a baby to the folk dancing club and danced with Gene in his arms. I asked him with tongue planted firmly in cheek if this made Gene spit up on him. He assured me this did not happen.
Gary and I shared a love of the outdoors. He had a passion for hiking and viewing wildlife and regaled me with tales and photographs of his time spent in the parks and trails in and around Bellingham. I must admit I experienced the slightest twinge of envy when he told me about walking along the seashore. I live in Ottawa, Canada a long way from the seaside. I hoped someday to see the Pacific Ocean so imagine my delight when Gary extended me an invitation to come visit. I happily accepted his invitation and made the trip in August 2012. I remember promising Gary that when I arrived at Vancouver International Airport and spotted him in the terminal I would give him a bear hug. Gary was a little concerned. What would people think. I told him I could not care less what anyone thought and kept my promise giving him a bear hug in the middle of the terminal.
Gary and Marilyn, my gracious host and hostess, and their son Gene welcomed me into their home. Gary had a full and exciting itinerary prepared for me. We hit the ground running. The day I arrived and after I settled in, we went to the stable where he volunteered. The stable offers horseback riding as therapy for children with autism. Volunteering at the stable was a manifestation of Gary’s kindness and generosity. Before I returned home Gary and Marilyn took me touring in Bellingham, hiking in the forests surrounding Bellingham and for a walk along the seashore at low tide. We went shopping and I found some great books at an antiquarian book shop. I went to the folk dancing club with Gary and enjoyed watching the various dance steps. Gary and Marilyn’s guest room has a number of book shelves with an interesting collection volumes. I am a librarian, so browsing their library collection kept me occupied well into the night after we all retired for the evening. I am so happy we had this time together.
Gary and I continued our friendship over Facebook, chatting almost daily in the years following my visit. Toward the end of his life I knew his condition had worsened, but remained hopeful he would rebound and beat back the cancer once more. The last time we chatted was two days before his death. I was performing in a play and he congratulated me on its success. I wished him good health. Gary left us the way he lived: a kind and thoughtful man. Together with Marilyn, Gene and the rest of his extended family, Gary leaves behind many friends who knew and loved him as I do. While I miss him terribly, I find solace that Gary lives on in the memories I keep of our friendship and the time we had together. Gary was a good and decent man and I have no doubt he left us looking back with satisfaction on a life well lived. May he rest in peace.
A report published by Tom Quiggin, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security, warns of the threat posed to Canadian society by the Muslim Brotherhood. He maintains "the aim of the group in North America is to weaken and destroy the free and open societies within Canada and the U.S.A. from within and replace them with the heavily politicized views of [founder] Hassan Banna, Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood.” This is a serious charge he makes and it has raised more than a few eyebrows. Left leaning pundits and the National Council of Canadian Muslims already dismissed the report as bunk and Islamophobic, but he raises a valid concern.
Islam is founded on the Constitution of Medina which was drafted by Muhammad (c. 570-632) in the 7th century, essentially creating a constitutional theocracy. Following the death of Muhammad a successor, the caliph, was appointed to serve as head of the Islamic State which became the Caliphate. A dynastic chain of succession unfolded with the following series of Caliphates: Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), Umayyad Caliphate (661–750), Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258) and the Ottoman Caliphate (1517–1924).
The Ottoman Caliphate was abolished by the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey on March 3, 1924, the last Caliph Abdülmecid II and his family were banished from Turkey and lived out their days in exile. Efforts to restore the Caliphate and the authority of Islam in temporal affairs got underway very soon after. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna whose members adhere to the credo "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations."
Unfortunately, nostalgia for the restoration of the Caliphate and the inability of much of the Islamic world to develop separation of religion and state (as in the West) has given rise to totalitarianism (as is the case in Iran) and religious intolerance, as seen in internecine fighting between the two most prominent Islamic denominations: Sunni and Shia.
It took several centuries and a great deal of bloodshed for the Western world to develop the separation of religion and state while preserving religious liberty. The last thing we need is a return to the sectarian strife of a sort Western society endured in the Middle Ages.
Justin Trudeau, speaking ex-cathedra, as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, made a decidedly final pronouncement on the issue of abortion: "I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills." This pronouncement is decidedly illiberal, and something one usually expects to hear from only the most noxious, left-leaning ideologue. Given Justin Trudeau's heritage, I would have expected a more nuanced stance on the issue. His father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former Minister of Justice and Prime Minister in Liberal governments in the latter half of the 20th century is remembered for his stand on personal liberty and his faith (he was a practicing Roman Catholic).
On personal liberty, particularly on matters of sexuality, Minister of Justice Trudeau famously observed in 1967 "obviously, the state's responsibility should be to legislate rules for a well-ordered society. It has no right or duty to creep into the bedrooms of the nation." It was Prime Minister Trudeau who enacted the Constitution Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The opening sentence reads "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." Section 2 of the Charter guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. Justin Trudeau, it seems, has decided to strip members of the Liberal Party of Canada of their right to freedom of conscience and religion, at least as it applies to the controversy over abortion.
I find Justin Trudeau's stance on the issue untenable. What he implies is that the issue of abortion is settled, that there be no further discussion. He could not be more mistaken. Abortion is an issue that needs to be addressed and all points of view merit consideration. As a conservative who leans toward the libertarian camp, I am prepared to tolerate the pro-choice position, though I do not approve. I am in favour of what could be described as the pro-compromise position. While abortion should remain legal, the fact remains society has a stake in the status of the unborn, and this needs to be addressed in Canadian law.
The publication "Crimes Against the Foetus," published by the Law Reform Commission of Canada in 1989 includes several recommendations for amendments to Canadian law in this regard. In effect, these recommendations, if enacted, would make wrongful harm to the foetus criminal, rather than abortion. Abortion would remain a legal surgical procedure with no restrictions in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and with limitations brought to bear, maintaining society's stake in the status of the unborn, in the latter stages of pregnancy. The Law Reform Commission of Canada concluded such legislation is consistent with the Common Law and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I join in discussions of religion on the internet and come across a wide range of opinion. Lately, there is a great deal of discussion over the Sweet Cakes Bakery in Oregon, namely, the judgement against its owners who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. $135,000 was awarded to the lesbian couple for "emotional damages." I do not know all the details surrounding this case, but that said I think this judgement is excessive. News of this judgement is generating a great deal of anti-gay sentiment in the discussions of religion in which I take part. I knew all along there are people who dislike gay people, but in my own life have had the good fortune to largely avoid coming across people who think this way. However, knowing there are people like this kept me from coming out once and for all until 2012. I spent most of my life living anonymously as a gay man in and out of relationships until forming a lasting relationship with Mika. A select few friends and family knew the whole truth about me. When I came out in 2012, I braced myself for a flood of angry comments and discontinued friendships on Facebook and losing hunting buddies. As it turned out, the response I feared never came to pass. No one cares that I am gay, including my Muslim hunting buddies and Christian friends on Facebook. I am truly very fortunate.
That is not to say I am never confronted by anti-gay sentiment in my daily life. I lost an acquaintance many years ago, a man I knew when I served in the Army. I met him some years after we both left the Army and we resumed our acquaintanceship until he started in on all the things the Bible tells us not to do and how he could understand why anyone would choose to be homosexual. Without letting the cat out of the bag, I just stopped interacting with him. There are occasions when I overhear people using anti-gay slurs in public. I remember once having supper at a swanky Greek restaurant with another gay couple and some of our friends. We were seated together at a table, happily eating our meal and quietly going about our business when some cretin at another table made a snide remark about "the faggots" loud enough that everyone in the restaurant could hear. I felt anger welling up inside and expressed my disgust to one of my friends at the table. He calmly advised me to ignore the insult and just try not to let it bother me. Sound advice it was, because when I think about the incident, no one paid any attention to the cretin and his snide remark. All he accomplished was showing everyone in the restaurant want an ignoramus he was. Still, were I the owner of the restaurant, I I would have called him on his obnoxious behaviour and asked him and his date to leave and never return. I do not like rude, vulgar people and prefer not to have them around me. You are free to form your own opinions and to express them, just as long as you understand there are consequences when you do so.
I enjoy writing and publishing articles and find inspiration for my writings in life with my husband Mika and caring for my dog, Hera.