Monthly Archives: July 2015

The ticket having been issued, the incident should have been over.

Even for an aging White high school teacher in faraway Canada, thinking about the Sandra Bland incident is upsetting. Bland reminds me of a hundred young women that I’ve taught over the years. I could imagine any one of them in the same situation as Bland, following the same bizarre script.

When I watched the police video showing the young woman get pulled over, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a decent, intelligent young person. Yep. I liked her instantly. For whatever reason, she wasn’t prepared to suffer this fool of a cop. She had some “edge”. The video shows her to be articulate and intelligent; strong-willed. I like that in a young person.

Hers was a reaction that anyone might have after being chided for such a minor offence as failing to signal. She naturally felt a bit insulted. Hell, I would have felt the same way, and may well have reacted the same way, although it is unfathomable to me that as a middle-aged White man I’d ever be treated the way she was.

But I digress. The point is, the ticket having been issued, the incident should have been over. The police constable gave her the warning ticket, and in a rational world, everyone goes on their way.

But the cop didn’t stop there. He derisively asked Bland “What’s wrong?”, as if he expected her to be all smiles after getting a ticket. (Actually I have no idea what answer he expected, so bizarre was his behaviour.) But as a cop he must have known that whenever you have to address someone’s behaviour, you’re going to encounter a bit of attitude. After issuing the ticket, he should have simply left her to sulk. But this just wasn’t good enough for him.

After the cop asked Bland what was wrong, she told him quite specifically. Unless this was his first day on the job, the cop should have expected this. She wasn’t even disrespectful about it, conceding, “you have to do your job” (or something like that. I don’t have the stomach to watch the video again to get the quote right.) And then the cop escalated the tension in the situation, engaging in argument, and demanding Bland put out her cigarette. And when she refused, he dangerously escalated, illegally demanding she get out of the car.

Clearly, the cop wanted far more than to be able to uphold the law. He wanted unquestioning compliance. It was personal. It bugged him that this girl opposed him, and he wanted to humiliate her: put her in her place.

And really, it’s suspicious that he pulled her over in the first place. He went after someone for failing to use her signal light as she pulled over to let him pass. Can there be any doubt that he was looking to stir up trouble?

I can only imagine the awful feeling of vulnerability and trauma Bland must have felt as she was forced out of her car. What if she had been assaulted before? We all know (cops more than anyone) the high rate of assaults against women. And if this is what happens on a public road in broad daylight, I shudder to think what might happen behind closed doors in a jail.

I guess it’s important to recognize that this incident, as awful as it was, wasn’t the ultimate cause of Bland’s death. But looking at the incident on its own, and knowing it was the event that set off a three day jail term culminating in this poor woman’s death is just awful.

I don’t remember where Bland said she was going, but one flick of the wrist ignored; a signal light not engaged, and three days later she’s dead. It’s so senseless.


What we need to do about global warming

I’m no scientist, but even I, with my limited knowledge of science, recognize that many species, not the least of which is homo sapiens, will be wiped out soon due to climate change if we don’t change our behaviour in drastic ways. And I do mean “drastic”.

Ask yourself: “How important to me is the survival of the human species after I’m gone?” We are at such a level of crisis that this should be the most pressing question of our time. The science is well documented. If you have doubts; if you think me to be alarmist, you might want to have a read of John H. Richardson’s Esquire piece from July 7, 2015. There are many things we need to do. Without further expostulation, here are a few things that I can think of that we need to do right away if we give a damn:

1. Stop eating ANY meat at fast food restaurants.

Why? Because large, powerful fast food corporations are stripping the skin off the earth (the rainforests) in order to produce pastureland for animals that will be rendered into hamburger. The animals produce methane, which contributes to a feedback loop of more and more harmful hydrocarbons in the atmosphere that can only be diffused by more trees, which are being further and further stripped away. Pork and chicken produce their own environmental nightmares.

2. Stop driving cars. Wait. No. Don’t just stop driving them; stop OWNING them.

Why? Because the production and operation of cars relies on fossil fuels, and everybody knows that the production and burning of fossil fuels leads to increased carbon in the air, and pollution of the water supply and oceans. Unless you can use mass transit, move close to where you work so you can use transit, and if two of you work; one of you quit. You will need to give up a lot of your comforts. Make drastic changes to your lifestyle. To hell with luxuries, if you really care.

3. Buy EVERYTHING in bulk in re-usable containers. Stop buying ANYTHING that is pre-packaged.

Why? Because the plastic, the cardboard, the paper that go into merchandising things like breakfast cereal, nutrition bars, soda pop, candy, frozen meals (just to name a few): all of them require an exorbitant amount of fossil fuels and wood fibre to produce. The production of petroleum products (like plastics) and the destruction of trees are two of the leading contributors to increased hydrocarbon emissions and toxic pollution (and consequently, global warming). And we are fooling ourselves if we think that recycling can fix this problem. At best, recycling only slows the inevitable.

4. Reduce travel – especially travel that requires short flights in jets.

Why? Jets burn a LOT of fuel. Enough said.

5. Vote for government that will tax fuel.

Why? Because it is a well documented fact that the more that fuel is taxed, the less of it people use. Furthermore, the revenue generated by fuel taxes can be reinvested into national economies, paying for such things as health care, education, and the building of green infrastructure.

6. Buy local groceries.

Why? Because global food corporations are using harmful techniques to mass produce food. They are killing bees; they are creating genetic modifications that could be harmful to eco-systems; they are burning an inordinate amount of fossil fuel to cool and transport food. Warning: it will cost you more, but shopping more frequently and locally, you ensure that you buy only what you need, so less is wasted.

7. Spread the word by example, through education.

Why? Because we live in a capitalist world in which over-riding motive is profit. This motive is what drives people to harm the world for personal gain. It’s what entices corporations to stop at nothing to earn market share, and what entices consumers to save a few bucks by buying the cheap goods these corporations offer. Through powerful manipulative advertising, we are seduced into becoming consumers. We want to have a little more than the other guy. We don’t want to give up our shiny toys, our green lawns, or our nice clothes. We can’t be caught dead wearing the same thing at two different parties, as if this matters at all – all at the expense of the ecosystem that sustains us.

If we don’t break the cycle, we can look at ourselves as one of the last generations of humans on earth –the ones who saw the trouble coming, and did nothing. This is no exaggeration. The science is irrefutable.

A note to progressives: You can celebrate Canada Day

If you’re conflicted about celebrating Canada Day, think about this. Who says Canada Day should be about pride? Ignore the people who would have you believe this.

Canada day is not at all about pride; rather, it is a celebration of community.

No matter what we’re proud of or ashamed of, we’re here. Today we go outside, meet our neighbours and “be” together: sing some songs, eat some food, watch pretty lights in the sky. It’s about being alive together in this good place.

Happy Canada Day.

Peace and love to you all.