Category Archives: Politics

Why All These Old White Men?

Women make up slightly more than 50% of Canada’s population. 30% of Canada’s population is not white. The median age of people in our country is 40. Now check out the faces of the premiers of Canada’s ten provinces.  In order to be representative of the people they serve, at least half of those faces should be female, four of them should be from diverse racial groups and a goodly number should be under 40.  What does it say about us as a nation that the people we elect to represent us are all old white men?

I’d like to know what motivates people to vote for leaders who are all the same and don’t represent the rich and diverse human landscape of our country. Why don’t more women, young people and people from minority groups run for office?  Why does a poorly-qualified man like Doug Ford win a party leadership race against two extremely capable, experienced and qualified women?   Is it because old white men still control the money in our country and although we live in a democracy it is those with money who have the most power? Is it because people have just given up on the political system or has politics become so demanding and demeaning that few people besides old white men have a desire to enter that world?

Why do you think ten old white men lead the provinces in our country?  Do you find that troubling?  I do! What can we do to change that? 

Other posts………

Women in Politics

Knock Down the House

The Matilda Effect

 

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Hyphenated Lives

Sun-Poe by Reena Saina Kallat. The sunbird is the national bird of Palestine and the hoopoe is the national bird of Israel

The drawings look like something you would see in zoology or botany textbooks.  Hyphenated Lives is a collection of art pieces by Reena Saina Kallat that depict hybrid specimens of birds, animals, trees, and plants. They were created by merging two species that are the national emblems of countries that have at some point been politically partitioned. The purpose of national symbols is to unite people but these drawings merge symbols from countries that have been separated. The artist illustrates that not only people but also elements of the natural world are interconnected and also suggests that sometimes nature can defy the barriers set up by politicians. This is the Sees-Yal tree.  On the left, you see the Sessile Oak the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. On the right, you see the Royal Oak an important symbol in England since legend has it that Charles II hid in an oak tree to escape Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers.   In 1921 Ireland was partitioned, with southern Ireland becoming independent and eventually a republic and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  Although the relationship between northern and southern Ireland is relatively peaceful right now from 1968-1998 there were thirty years of terrible conflict between the two that resulted in thousands of deaths. Some of the Hyphenated Lives pieces, like this one, feature electric cables. They are a symbol of the way ideas and information can be transmitted bringing people together.  Often however Reena Saina Kallat has them morph into barbed wire barriers.   Behold the Ti-Khor. On the left, you see a tiger, the national animal of India and on the right the markhor, an endangered species of a wild goat that is the national animal of Pakistan. In 1947 a provision of the Indian Independence Act which separated India from Great Britain also separated Pakistan from India. This partition created along religious lines- Pakistan largely Muslim and India largely Hindu- created a refugee crisis and stirred up large scale violence that resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The relationship between Pakistan and India continues to be a troubled one. The Edel-Lip is a hybrid of the Edelweiss the national flower of Austria and the tulip the national flower of Hungary. Austria and Hungary both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 but after World War I became distinct and separate European countries.  In 1945 the advance of communism in Hungary and the erection of the Iron Curtain which Russia used to separate its European allies from the West created a barrier between Austria and Hungary and Austria took in thousands of refugees from Hungary. The Iron Curtain came down in 1989 and in 2007 an agreement between Austria and Hungary allowed citizens to move back and forth freely between the two countries.

This art piece is called The Jordan River. The  Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 in an area previously called Palestine that was home to Arab Muslims who became displaced refugees when Israel was established.  Adjacent to Israel to the west of the Jordan River is an area called The West Bank that holds many sites of cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and there has been a long history of violent conflict as both Israelis and Palestinians have tried to claim this territory. The Jordan River is the primary water source of the area and so it has been at the heart of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Pea Yel bird is a combination of the peacock which is the national bird of India and the doyel or magpie robin which is the national bird of Bangladesh. The Partition of Bengal in 1947 divided the province between India and Pakistan. Predominantly Hindu West Bengal became a state of India and predominantly Muslim East Bengal which would later become Bangladesh became a province of Pakistan.  

Hyphenated Lives is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of the Vision Exchange exhibit that features artists who have their roots in India. I find Hyphenated Lives very thought- provoking as I try to envision other combinations of living things that could illustrate the establishment of a relationship between countries or groups of people that have barriers real or imagined between them. 

Other posts………..

Animal Wisdom

Nature’s Artwork

The Book of Creation

 

 

 

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Filed under Art, Nature, Politics, winnipeg art gallery

Knock Down The House

Last Sunday over dinner my son and I talked enthusiastically about a movie on Netflix we had both just watched.  It is called Knock Down the House and tells the incredible story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and how she defeated ten-term incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Crawley to become a candidate in the 2018 election and subsequently was elected to the American House of Representatives.  Although Crawley was a prominent member of the Democratic caucus, was backed by big business interests, and spent nearly twenty times as much money as Ocasio-Cortez did, she still won.  Everyone knows this story but it is chronicled in exciting personal detail in Knock Down the House

What I learned while watching Knock Down the House that I didn’t know before was that AOC, as she is affectionately called, was one of many new candidates for office sponsored by the Justice Democrats an organization that formed after the 2016 election to promote Democratic candidates that were not in the pocket of big business, candidates that were not funded by wealthy individuals or major corporations. The movie details the bids of three other women besides AOC who also tried to defeat established corporately funded candidates to be nominated in their congressional districts. Although they didn’t win their primaries their stories are also inspirational.  

In Nevada, Amy Vilela ran for nomination inspired by her twenty-two-year-old daughter who died because she didn’t get the medical procedure she needed due to confusion over whether the young woman’s health insurance would cover it.  

In West Virginia Paula Jean Swearengin a coal miner’s daughter ran for nomination inspired by the poor living conditions and low wages of coal miners and her concerns over the environmental damage caused by the industry including the high rates of cancer among her neighbors. 

In Missouri Cori Bush a registered nurse, ordained pastor and community organizer ran for nomination inspired by her own experience as a single parent having to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. She wanted to change a justice system that over-incarcerates, an education system that under educates and was disturbed by the fact that millions of American children live in poverty. 

Some critics say Knock Down the House would have been a better movie if it had just focused on the story of AOC but I think it is stronger for also showing us the other candidates, equally passionate, equally bent on changing America, equally dedicated to giving government ‘back to the people’, but women who ultimately did not have the success AOC did and were defeated by corporately backed candidates. 

My son and I talked about what was the most moving scene in the film for both of us.  After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is elected to Congress she visits Washington DC  and remembers how her father who died in 2008 once took her there and showing her the great monuments in the capital said, “These all belong to us.” 

We have an election coming this fall in Canada and Knock Down the House is a good reminder that indeed our government belongs to us and that we each have an important role to play in determining our country’s future.

Other posts………

What Happens When A Women Take Power?

Women in Politics

Difficult Women

 

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Where Does She Get Her Energy?

I have started following quite a few of the candidates for the Democratic leadership in the United States on Twitter.  These people give me hope.  Whether it’s the intelligence of Peter Buttigieg, the faith of Corey Booker, the joy of Kamala Harris or the honesty of Kristin Gillibrand it is heartening to know there are people out there vying to be President who have nothing in common with the man who currently holds the office. But no one impresses me like Elizabeth Warren.  What I admire most is her energy!  She is four years older than I am and there she is going, going, going all day long- out shaking hands with folks as she takes an early morning walk, making speeches to packed arenas, visiting a brewery, hugging children, hiking through a National Park, talking to supporters on the phone, taking selfies with fans, chatting with the thousands who come out to her rallies, issuing new policy statements. Where does she get her energy? As I have aged my energy levels have definitely gone down.  A full day of work usually means an evening  on the couch with Netflix and a glass of wine for me. But not Elizabeth! She’s a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a senator and a candidate for President.  And for me she’s an inspiration that no matter how old we are we can make a difference in this world in a more powerful way than we may think. Just watching Elizabeth in action gives me a burst of energy and the impetus to get out there and get going!

Other posts………

Sacagawea, Pocahontas and Elizabeth Warren

She Persisted

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Sacagawea, Pocahontas and Elizabeth Warren

President Trump has been sarcastically calling Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas for a long time now. This references the senator’s possible Native American ancestry.

wikipedia image of pocahontas

Wikipedia Image of Pocahontas

Pocahontas is an Algonquian woman who saved the life of John Smith the founder of a colonial settlement in Virginia in the early 1600s.

In a recent Fox interview a Republican congressmen named Matt Gaetz used the name of another First Nations woman to refer derisively to Senator Warren just after she announced she was exploring a possible run for the American presidency.  Mr. Gaetz called her Sacagawea. 

I learned about Sacagawea in Woodbury County Iowa a few years ago when we stopped at a travel rest area which also housed a History Discovery Centre.travel center Iowa tribute to lewis and clarkThe centre was a tribute to Lewis and Clark. It told the story of these adventuresome explorers and extraordinary journal keepers who were sent out by President Jefferson to map the Missouri River and evaluate its feasibility as a commerce route. The floor of the Iowa history centre was designed to look like the Missouri River.

sacagawea and son mural iowaThere was a mural of a woman and her baby on the wall of the centre. A brochure I picked up informed me her name was Sacagawea and she was a sixteen year old mother who traveled with Lewis and Clark. The daughter of a Shoshone chief, she was captured by Hidatsa Indians when she was twelve.  They sold her to a French Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau who made her one of his wives. She and her husband were hired as interpreters by Lewis and Clark. Her son Jean Baptiste was born on the expedition and was later adopted and educated by Clark. 

keel boat replica lewis and clark expedition history center iowaThe benches outside the Iowa rest stop were designed to look like the birchbark keel boats the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled in. One of these boats capsized on the trip and it was Sacagawea who jumped into the water to rescue the precious journals that contained Lewis and Clark’s detailed  notes and drawings of the wildlife, plants and First Nations tribes they encountered as well as maps of the river and regular entries about all their adventures. william clark's journal

Thanks to the Clark and Lewis journals we know about Sacagawea’s other contributions to the expedition. She served as an interpreter, was skilled at finding edible plants, helped choose good spots to camp and her presence and that of her child served as a symbol of peace with the various First Nations tribes the expedition encountered. sacagawea

Sacagawea has been immortalized on an American stamp and her image is on a dollar coin issued in 2000. There are American rivers, lakes and mountains named after her. Dozens of statues of Sacagawea can be found in various American cities. 

It is somewhat ironic that members of the Republican Party are trying to poke fun at Senator Warren by referring to her using the names of brave women of native ancestry who helped shape American history.   Perhaps their sarcasm serves only to mask the fact that they are scared of the way Ms. Warren might shape American history too should she be elected President of the United States in 2020. 

Other posts…….

She Persisted

A Beautiful Woman

 

 

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Like Father Like Daughter?

movie viceWe saw the movie Vice on Christmas Day. It is a biography of Dick Cheney. While serving as George W. Bush’s vice president Cheney probably wielded more power than any vice president ever has.  The film claims it was because of Cheney’s influence that……. conservative news stations like Fox proliferated, ISIS was created, the United States invaded Iraq, efforts to promote alternatives to fossil fuels were stymied, and America heightened the brutality of its interrogation techniques. Also thanks to Cheney the current interpretation of the constitution implies that a president’s actions are always legal.  The movie didn’t leave viewers with much of anything to like or admire about Dick Cheney.

dick cheney's daughter mary holds bible for him when he is sworn in as vice president

Dick Cheney’s younger daughter Mary who has a same sex marriage partner holds the Bible for her Dad as he is sworn in as Vice President

The one moment in the film when I felt somewhat positively about Cheney was when he made it very clear to George W. Bush that if he became his running mate in 2000 there would be as he put it ‘be a concrete line’ in the sand with regards to the fact that Dick Cheney’s younger daughter Mary was a lesbian and in a same-sex marriage. Obviously same- sex marriage was something Republicans did not support but Cheney indicated he loved his daughter and his bond with her was of primary importance to him. In 2009 Dick Cheney made a public statement in favor of same-sex marriage.

The early part of the movie depicts the Cheney family- Dick, his wife Lynne, his younger daughter Mary, his older daughter Liz and their spouses and children as being very close, affectionate and supportive of one another. 

Interestingly then in 2014 when Dick Cheney’s older daughter Liz, a former Fox News contributor, was running for a Senate seat in Wyoming, with her parents’ approval she publicly took a stand against gay marriage and gay rights, a stance that created a rift with her sister Mary that has lasted to the present day.  They no longer see each other and Mary and her partner have publicly criticized Liz.  

liz cheney posted this picture on her twitter page

Liz posted a picture on Twitter of her father hugging her after she was elected to Congress

Liz lost her 2014 senate race but in  2016 the state of Wyoming elected Liz as their member of Congress to fill a position left open by a retirement and just this past November Liz Cheney was reelected and has been picked as the GOP conference chair which means she will be in charge of the party’s communications strategy and is the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. Liz has always been very supportive of her father and played a key role in his campaign for vice president. He in turn heartily supported his daughter’s run for Congress.

Seeing the film Vice and learning just how tragically and terribly Liz Cheney’s father changed the course of American history it is pretty scary to think that such a man’s child is now gaining power in Washington. Like father, like daughter? 

Other posts……….

Women in Politics

A President’s Funeral and a Statue in Hong Kong

Doing Something

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A President’s Funeral And A Statue in Hong Kong

 Rev. Russell Levenson gave the homily at President George Bush’s state funeral on Wednesday.   The Bush family pastor described how just before the former president died his good friend James Baker who had been his Secretary of State and his White House Chief of Staff stood at the foot of the President’s bed and rubbed his feet for about half an hour.  “The president smiled at the comfort of his dear friend,” Levenson noted. The pastor then went on to say that as he witnessed Mr. Baker serving the former president in such a practical and caring way what came to mind was Jesus washing his friends’ feet just before his own death.  Jesus told his friends that he was setting an example for them.  He was serving them the way they needed to serve others. 

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet by Esther Augsburger

The pastor’s remarks reminded me of a beautiful statue at the International Christian School in Hong Kong where I was a teacher for six years.  It was created by Virginia artist Esther Augsburger. The statue shows Jesus washing his friend Peter’s feet. It stood on a podium just above the main entrance to our school to remind all who entered that serving others with care and compassion was the most important mandate Jesus gave to his followers. What a different world we would have if that was the top priority of all government leaders. 

Other posts………

Mennonite Nuns

I Want to Be Like Anna

Thoughts on Refugees

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Filed under Art, Politics, Religion