Tag Archives: winnipeg free press

Sobering Sunday Morning Thoughts

A blog post called Death Toll I wrote last Sunday has been reprinted in other publications now. In my reflection a week ago I commented on the way we pay such close attention to the victims of COVID-19 and yet seem less concerned about the victims of hunger, violence and poverty in our world who are always with us. I compared that kind of indifference on our part to the fact that Donald Trump went golfing last weekend apparently unperturbed that more than 100,000 people in his country had died. 

Several friends took exception to me comparing myself to Donald Trump. One woman, an American, said it was a false equivalency because the very fact I was having the thoughts I expressed in the blog made me different than Donald Trump. She believes the President of her country has zero empathy and she worries about children growing up under his terrible influence.  She said whenever I give of myself to others I set myself apart from Donald Trump.  She reminded me that we cannot go down the path of sacrificing joy in our own lives because of the suffering of others.  We should appreciate the privilege we have, feel blessed because of it, and then give of our time and money to help those who are suffering. 

Since publishing the post last weekend I was asked if it could be included in the blog of the magazine The Canadian Mennonite. It was published on their site here.

I was also contacted about having it appear in the Winnipeg Free Press. It does this morning.  The Free Press has titled the story Sobering Sunday Morning Thoughts as the Death Toll Rises.  

This Sunday morning, of course, there are even more sobering things to contemplate as violence and anger erupt in American cities over racial inequality and injustice. 

A Sphere Within A Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro. I took this photo of the sculpture at the Vatican in Rome.  It shows our world cracking apart.  We see the inner core of cogs of our world which the artist is suggesting will keep on working even if the shell cracks. 

I took this photo of a version of the same sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro which is on display at the United Nations in New York

 

Other posts…………

Turbulent Times

China’s Unsung War Heroes

A President’s Funeral and A Statue in Hong Kong

 

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Good News and Good People-Not Good Parents

Photo from Niigaan Sinclair’s Twitter page

I faithfully read Niigaan Sinclair’s columns in the Winnipeg Free Press and think it is important the paper has an indigenous columnist who can help facilitate the journey toward reconciliation in our province. Most of the time I find Mr Sinclair’s columns troubling and difficult to read.  They can make me sad, force me to ask hard questions and inspire frustration.  

As I scroll through the comments readers post about Mr Sinclair’s columns I am often shocked and startled by their tone of venom, exasperation and brusqueness. Those feelings are directed both towards Mr Sinclair in particular and indigenous people in general.  It only points out why it is so necessary to have Mr Sinclair’s columns in the paper.

 Today’s column, however, is the kind I wish could be written more often.  It is full of good news. Mr Sinclair writes about non-indigenous and indigenous people working together to help provide shelter for homeless folks during the pandemic, about indigenous filmmakers being celebrated and the positive impact a Metis educator has had on the lives of thousands of students. I wish Mr Sinclair could write those kinds of columns more often but I understand why he can’t. 

Felix has a pet gerbil named Horatio and he sorely misses his beloved Grandma who has died. He has two bright and interesting best friends and they work on the newspaper staff at his French immersion school in Vancouver together. Both of Felix’s parents are artists.  He lives with his Mom and sees his Dad a couple of times a year. He’s a whiz at answering questions on a television quiz program he loves to watch. He has amazing powers of observation, has developed ingenous categories for different kinds of lies and……………..he’s homeless. Felix and his mom live in a van they have “borrowed” from his Mom’s old boyfriend.  

I just finished reading the novel No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. She introduces the issue of homelessness and mental health to her middle-grade readers with an endearing main character.  It’s simply impossible not to like Felix who is kind, resourceful, intelligent and perceptive. Felix’s mother Astrid struggles with serious mental health issues and while I felt sympathy for her, I just kept getting angrier at her as I read the book.  Astrid LOVES her son but she constantly makes choices that place him in jeopardy. She refuses to get help and manages to alienate most people who offer assistance. 

There is a line in the book that made me really think and ask lots of questions. Felix has just had lunch with his Dad and comes to the realization that while both his mother and father are “really great people they are not great parents.” How many children have that experience?   

Felix keeps track of the items his Mom has stolen in the hopes that someday he will have enough money to pay back the stores she has robbed.

I enjoyed No Fixed Address but did wonder if some of the lifestyle choices it describes including theft and sex for money might not make the book better suited for an audience that is just a little older. I had read Susin Nielsen’s book Word Nerd previously.  It was published in 2004.  As I turned the pages of No Fixed Address the similarities between the two books were uncanny.  Both have been very popular, so Susin Nielsen obviously knows a winning formula when she finds one. 

My book club read No Fixed Address and so I can assure you that not just kids but adults find the book a good read and a good discussion starter. 

Other posts………

Why So Many Dysfunctional Parents? 

Living Beings Just Like Us

The Great Statue Debate

 

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Filed under Books, COVID-19 Diary, Media

Harry Potter and Eminem

This week people have been celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Harry Potter. It reminded me of an article I wrote about the Harry Potter books in 2000. It was by debut column as a regular writer for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press.

I wrote about two events in Toronto’s Skydome.  On October 23, 2000 J.K. Rowling read excerpts from her book Harry Potter to 20,000 school children in the Skydome and on October 25, 2000 singer Eminem played a show there to a packed house of enthusiastic teenagers.  Many religious groups had been criticizing both Rowling and Eminem. The year my column debuted, Eminem and JK Rowling were two of pop cultures most famous icons.  

Religious groups were accusing Rowling of championing witchcraft and Eminem was being taken to task because his songs often promoted violent acts towards women.  In my column I suggested the Rowling books should not cause concern for parents but they would do well to read the frightening and disturbing Eminem lyrics and then decide whether they might be suitable for their children. 

The main point of my article was that parents had a responsiblity to be informed about the books and recordings that engaged their children, and be willing to discuss the content of that literature and music with their kids.   That’s as true today in 2017 as it was when my column was written in 2000.

Other posts………

Why Are Adults Reading Teen Fiction?

A Little Inspiration From the James Taylor Concert

Lynch Family and Lead Belly

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Music

Too Tough or Not Tough Enough?

A drunk driver who may not receive a tough enough sentence and a mother who has received a sentence even the judge feels is too tough .  Those were the two contrasting cover features in the City section of the Free Press on Saturday.  free press city section

The first story was about a young Steinbach man found guilty of dangerous driving causing death.  Columnist Gordon Sinclair seems worried the convicted man may not receive the sentence he deserves because he’s had a religious experience and his recorded testimony of repentance  is popular on the website of Steinbach’s largest church.  Will this influence the court to be too lenient? The mother of the girl killed by the intoxicated young man behind the wheel, says if he was truly sorry  he would have pled guilty and not put the girl’s family through the grief of a trial. True repentance should have motivated him to ask the family of his victim for forgiveness.  

The second story is about a young mother convicted of smuggling painkillers into Stony Mountain prison for her boyfriend, a gang member with a criminal record. A victim of childhood abuse she was susceptible to the manipulation of her boyfriend who demanded she smuggle the drugs. She has no prior criminal record and court evidence suggests she is a good mother.  Her kids will have to be placed in care while she is in prison. The judge wanted to be lenient saying the woman’s story had ‘touched his heart’ but mandatory sentencing introduced during the Harper era means he must send the woman to jail for two years, a sentence he feels is too tough. 

So two young people.  One may receive what some worry will be too light a sentence and another has received what even the judge feels is too harsh a sentence.  Both stories are heartbreaking. How sad for all the families involved.  One story makes you wonder if the courts have too much discretion in deciding on sentences and the other makes you wonder if they have been given enough discretion. 

I’m assuming Free Press editor Shane Minkin purposely chose these two contrasting stories for the front page of Saturday’s city section.   Their juxtaposition was thought-provoking. 

Other posts about court cases………

A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States

Red Bows for Michael’s Geese

Loving

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Filed under Media, Winnipeg

Doc Schroeder

Last week I attended the funeral of a former Canadian Mennonite University professor of mine. David Schroeder, affectionately known to his students as Doc Schroeder, was lauded at his memorial service for being a kind and caring person, whose gift of facilitating reconciliation helped to make the Mennonite church more welcoming and accepting.  

doc schroederIt was in Doc Schroeder’s New Testament class in the early 1970s that I came to understand the pivotal role women had played in the Biblical story. My final paper was titled Women in the Life of Jesus. Doc Schroeder gave me an A.

women of faith are not silentThirty years later I was working as a religion columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and received a letter from a reader who said the Bible clearly stated that women should be silent on matters of faith. He said it was inappropriate for me to be writing about religion in a newspaper.  In reply to my critic I wrote a column about women in the Bible and about Canadian women of faith who had not been silent and had used their voices to bring about positive change in society. 

e-mail from doc schroederA few days after the column was published I received an e-mail from Doc Schroeder, my former professor, telling me that my article had cheered and delighted him. It felt great to receive such affirmation, especially since it came from the teacher who had first helped me understand the key role women played in the faith stories of the Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Listening to the tributes at Doc Schroeder’s funeral it was clear I was only one of many people he had affirmed and supported and encouraged in his lifetime. 

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

 A Chat with my Old Professor

Thinking About Mary

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Filed under Education, Media, Religion

It’s All Part of the Job!

“You’re writing serves the forces of evil.”  

“ I was alarmed by your article. Someday you will have to account for your behavior.”

” I take exception to the slanted and erronous tone of your column.”

“I was shocked you would dare to take the stand you have.” 

Those are just a few of the comments I received in letters sent to me when I was writing for the Winnipeg Free Press many years ago. I have a whole box of correspondence from people who read my column. Some of it was positive, but plenty was not.

I thought about those critical letters this week when I was re-reading some of Colleen Simard’s articles in the Free Press. She is one of my favourite columnists. There are some people who are very critical of what she writes however, and every week she is sure to receive some negative comments about her column along with a bevy of positive ones.

When I wrote for the paper people could not give online comments  and so the response wasn’t as immediate or as frequent and no one else got to read the comments except for me, although when the feedback letters were sent to the editor they were sometimes published. 

Columnists now have their work judged and critiqued almost immediately and for all to see. That must be tough. I know it took me some time to grow a thick enough to skin to accept the criticism. It seemed I remembered the negative responses to my writing much more readily than the affirming ones.  

When I taught high school journalism I told my students they had to be prepared to have people disagree with them and to be critical of their writing.  We published the school paper as a part of our class work and so their pieces would often be subject to public scrutiny and critique. Some of my teenage writers were quite hurt when someone took exception to what they had written. I assured them that if people vehemently disagreed with them it was actually a credit to their writing because they had taken a strong articulate stand for their position.

I hope Colleen knows that too. I probably need to add my voice to those who give her affirming feedback. 

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Filed under Media, Religion, Winnipeg