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State of the (Dis)Union

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It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. To look outwards and stay focussed on all that is positive can be challenging.

Generally I do my best to avoid drinking up the deluge of information that emphasizes things I can worry over but which I have no control.

And yet…

When I read the essay below by my friend and frequent guest-blogger Jim Ferguson, I listen up because, as I know him, and as the way he describes himself near the end as, “Ever being the optimist…”, it prompts the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention.

So, let’s let the eternal optimist Jim carry you forward now from his unique perspective as a proud Canadian (and prouder HABS fan!) living in the tumultuous American milieu… Sir James?

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Keep a room ready… I may be making a run for the border soon…

As usual, thanks to Larry for giving me a platform to express some thoughts.

As the title of this latest guest edition of Man on the Fringe suggests, I may be making a run for the border in the not-too-distant future.

No! I am not having a hankering for Timbits or the urge to get a hot plate of poutine. What I am witnessing before my very eyes is the socio-political infrastructure here in “the States” crumbling at a rapid rate and the thought of moving home to Canada seems more and more appealing to me.

Frankly, I have seen this coming for many years. No! I am not the great Kreskin or Nostradamus, but one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the glaring evidence of a society in collapse.

The U.S. is such a society.

And believe me, when the tipping point is reached, it will impact my family and friends north of the border and globally. As the saying goes “As the U.S. goes, so goes the world”. I don’t know who said that but I’ve heard it down here for years.

For those who are history buffs, go back in time to the Holy Roman Empire and its collapse. Read Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. History has a way of repeating itself over and over and over and…well you get the point.

Obviously, humanity A. hasn’t learned from past idiocy or B. doesn’t give a rat’s arse and keeps putting its proverbial hand on the burner over and over to see if it is in fact hot when turned on!

For those who have read my guest blogs before, you may recall that I am not involved in partisan politics. I do not belong to any party. Partisanship I find to be divisive and destructive to the general welfare of society, so I avoid it like the plague.

Oh yes! I vote but I try and examine the candidates and vote for character…not party. There’s a novel idea, eh! Having said that, the comments that follow are general and any likeness to any candidate or party is purely coincidental. Ok…I’ll do my best, but I am not perfect…😊

So… back to the collapse of American society.

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Let’s look at the facts as I see them. I present my views in short, compact paragraphs. There’s no way to do a deep dive on each issue. I simply state them and offer a comment from my personal viewpoint and observations living in the States for the past 42-years.

First, this country, and so many others, is heavily driven by unbridled materialism.

Any nation that has such a leaning towards material pursuits at the expense of morality is doomed to fail. Think about it. If the almighty dollar is the ultimate value even more than human life itself, then human life will easily be sacrificed in favour of the almighty dollar and those in power who push such an agenda will not lose a moment’s sleep over it.

There must be a corresponding moral/spiritual/ethical code that leads to balance in society and brings out the nobility inherent in human beings so that the materialism is kept in check. If such morality does not exist what we see is what we are seeing now in the U.S. in the political realm where each party is accusing the other of being Godless, of killing the “others”, of lying, of cheating, etc.

When this occurs so freely, is anyone surprised when people fall into their “rigid identity” camps of their religion, their political party, their race, etc. and from inside those walls they can easily “other” those they feel are the cause of all of society’s problems?

It is happening before our very eyes and the result is societal collapse. When a group can “other” another group based on whatever criteria they choose, how long before it becomes acceptable to imprison the others or even kill the others.

I have seen this firsthand as a Baha’i with the persecution and execution of my co-religionists in Iran where many hundreds have been imprisoned and executed simply for their beliefs.

Second, I will state it for what it is. Pure and simple. Political corruption at all levels of government.

Corruption is rampant and the news daily is filled with glaring examples of the corruption. Here in the States, it is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Those days are long gone.

Special interests have control of the direction of the country and sadly the people suffer. There is evidence of this tragedy in every aspect of American life – politics, healthcare, education, equality, voters rights, etc.

I heard this joke about two honest politicians going into a bar… the punch line involving the fact that there is no such thing as an honest politician. How tragic is that!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movies – Gladiator – with Russel Crowe as Maximus and Richard Harris as Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius is talking with Maximus after the opening battle victory and asks him to be the protector of Rome after his death and give the power back to the people to which Maximus replies “this I cannot do sire”. Caesar states something like “that’s why it must be you Maximus”. In other words, the only honest politician is the one who would have the humility to decline the opportunity for such leadership.

America is struggling to find politicians of this type, and subsequently the nation has been dragged to the edge of the precipice and is teetering precariously on the edge. The notion of truth has been perverted to the extreme and people now hang their truth hat along party lines no matter if it is true or not. People often say that their truth is just as valid as someone else’s truth. They are willing to accept the poison as Kool-Aid and to continue to drink with healthy relish.

Third, I have talked about racism here in blogs but believe me when I tell you that racism has once again openly and freely reared its ugly head here in the States and it is frightening to witness.

When political leaders make blatant racist statements (as recently as today) publicly and make no attempt to hide their racism, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation. When police gun down innocent African Americans one after another, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation.

Racism did not end with the civil rights movement. There was no gathering around the White House with all colours singing Kumbaya! Dr. King’s dream of black and white children playing together in peace is still mostly a dream to many. Yes! There are models of unity throughout the country, but more is needed. Racism went underground and the guerrilla politics of the past few years have brought it out of its cesspool, and it is ugly and the stench is rank.

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Fourth, the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.

This will not surprise any of you. This has been going on forever.

The problem today is that there seems to be no way out for the middle class and the poor. The economy, with its ups and downs, is collapsing and the “have nots” are in even worse shape. They cannot get decent jobs and subsequently cannot afford decent food, health care, etc. Their quality of life i.e. that mythical American Dream has been tossed out into the streets along with the families who bought into the nightmare. The current economic landscape does not bode well for survival of this nation.

Fifth, the loathing people have for their neighbours is palpable.

This hatred and antipathy are related to status, race, religion, economics…you name it!

I live in a small town in Oregon and maybe you have read about the great divide in Newberg, Oregon involving the school board and the tremendous disunity here.

It is sad as it has divided this community. I look out on the street where I live and there are yards with Republican candidate signs or slogans followed by Democrat candidate signs or slogans. Neighbours don’t talk to neighbours. Another sign of a decaying civilization.

Friends, I could go on. There are numerous other signs of the decline of American society.

It is now common talk among people here that depending on how the mid-term elections go it could lead to all-out civil war.

The BBC recently had an article on this. The reporter was interviewing people and one elderly couple in Arizona said they were ready for civil war and had armed themselves and were ready to fight to preserve “their way of life”.

Ever being the optimist, I am trying to be a catalyst for the positive and directing my energies towards the forces of light and away from those forces of darkness noted above. That’s all one can do I feel. No matter how dark things get, keep being a beacon of light in the darkness. Eventually others seeking the light will be attracted.

Keep your porch lights on and the spare bed ready in case I make a break for it. Thanks.

Peace,

Jim

As Different as Poutine and Apple Pie

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Guest Post by Jim Ferguson, Oregon, USA

Welcome to something new and something different… a guest post…

Jim Ferguson is a Baby-Boomer-Physician-Assistant-Canuck who lives in Yamhill, Oregon with his wife Deborah, a Physiotherapist. He is also the part-time co-founder/tender of the “Sheltering Branch Farm”, and a huge Montréal Canadiens booster.

Jim is a long-time friend of mine from our 1970’s days working in the Arctic at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, and is a frequent commentor and supporter of my blog with many insightful, positive, and compassionate thoughts on the state of our world.

OK, I’ll let Jim speak for himself…

Larry Green here back for another blog installment…Heh…wait a second…you are not Larry Green! What are you doing high-jacking Larry’s blog?

Is this some weird episode of the Twilight Zone?

Well not exactly…Larry asked me to contribute a guest blog about some differences/similarities between living in Canada vs the U.S. and I offered to step up to the “blog plate” and give him a wee mental rest.

Larry told me to keep my verbal diarrhea in check and keep it under 1,000 words so here goes.

Have you ever wondered just how different Canadians and Americans are?

I have and not just a passing thought either.

I am a Canadian who has lived in “the states” for the better part of 40 years and happily I might add (inserted in case my American trophy wife Deborah happens to read this) and I have had a front row seat in observing differences and similarities between us.

I take great pride when, even to this day, the majority of people I encounter recognize me as Canadian by my accent and the familiar “oot and aboot” and “eh” and other language nuances that are unique to us Canadians.

My Canadian pride runs deep even after four decades away from “home”.

While I am a Naturalized citizen of the U.S., I am Canadian right down to my bleu, blanc, et rouge Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater and my current Canadian passport. You can take the Canadian “oot” of Canada, but you cannot take the Canada “oot” of the Canadian.


I am here to tell you that Canadians and Americans are different in many ways.

We Canadians are NOT simply a kinder and more respectful version of our American neighbors! Us Canadians have our own unique “culture” which runs deep in us.

You might be asking “what culture is he referring to?” Though we live on the same continent separated by an imaginary border running along the 49th parallel, there is much more than that which distinguishes us from Americans. Here are a few examples.


The most glaring difference that struck me upon my arrival in the summer of 1980 is this feeling that Americans are “#1”!

Many Americans (not all) see themselves as better than everyone else and when one listens to the political posturing here during election years, it is obvious that this image of “America is best” is a major platform issue of every candidate.

I mean, which politician is going to have “Don’t Make America Great” as their campaign slogan? That will be the death knell of any campaign in a nation where people see themselves as better than everyone else in the world.

I quickly realized that if America was #1 then other peoples and nations are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and the list goes on. This feeling of national superiority struck a nerve with me. I observed the divisions so prevalent in American society (social status, class, race, gender, religious, etc) as people came here from every nation in search of the “American Dream”.

The feeling was palpable that no matter where you came from or how long you lived here, if your family didn’t come over on the Mayflower then you are “not as American” as those that did, this despite the requirement to renounce allegiance to your former country when becoming naturalized (I refused to utter those words during my ceremony).

Coming from Canada where we are proud of our nationality and have a culture of being friendly with and open-hearted to all nations and peoples, I was a bit taken aback by this brash exclusivist nationalism.


The political systems of each country and the story of how they got to this point in history are different.

I was aware of this since childhood growing up in Nova Scotia and studying about our neighbors to the south.

We have a parliamentary form of government with a Prime Minister fashioned after Britain’s government, while the U.S. broke away from Britain through a bloody revolutionary war and established a constitutional federalist republican form of government with a President. Canada has a 3-party system while the U.S. has a 2-party system.

One other interesting observation – I remember learning a lot about U.S. history in school.

When I arrived in the U.S., I felt I was well-educated about the U.S. and could hold my own in any Trivial Pursuit game where questions about the U.S. were posed – politics, sports, geography, history- no problem! I am a wealth of knowledge on things American (thanks Ms. Callahan for the excellent history classes).

This was not the case with my American friends and their knowledge of Canada. Most knew little about Canadian history and our way of life.


I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard the phrase “as American as baseball and apple pie”. Baseball is considered the great American pastime with stories of “the Babe” and “Say Hey Willie Mays”, etc known to many.

Well, that saying does not cut it in Canada…more like “as Canadian as hockey and poutine”. Most here in the states have no clue about the “Stratford Streak”, “Chicoutimi Cucumber”, the “Rocket”, etc (or poutine for that matter).

While baseball is part of American culture, hockey is a MAJOR part of Canadian culture (it has now spread to the states but is well down the list in importance and fan interest after baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, tiddlywinks, and lawn bowling).

We are not baseball ignoramuses in Canada thanks to the Expos and Blue Jays, but hockey and Canada are synonymous.


Well…there you have it! Some observations about Canadian and American life from a Canuck who fell in love with a Yankee and ended up south of the border. Let’s hear your observations in the comment section. AND Larry…under 1,000 words too! Boooyyyaaahhhh!

Jim and Deborah Ferguson