Lawsuit Against a Law

Same-sex marriages have been legal throughout Canada since 2005, by federal law. I believe 2003 was the beginning in some provinces; in 2005 the federal government told all provinces they had to accept it. So for me, seeing New York finally follow suit warranted a response of "Well it's about time!"


Canada is, admittedly, far more liberal in its ways than the fifty states south of the border. This does not mean there were no opponents to same-sex marriages, though. In fact, Alberta's premier refused to accept the federal mandate declaring it legal. But, with the way the Canadian legal system is set up, legal everywhere means legal everywhere. Canadian law may be slow to be updated - in the rare case that it actually is; I could cite multiple Charter cases here - but precedents are set all the time and followed throughout the nation (Quebec being an exception, as its legal system is different). So once something is decided, the chance of it being changed later on is slim to none.

The relevance, you may ask? Same-sex marriage. Even the most adamant oppositionists in Canada would not dare challenge the law and say it should be removed. Now that it is in place, it is there. It is fact. They may have challenged it full force before it was enacted, but now there is nothing left to do but protest against the acts and the actors. Crude, but true. Compare this to the situation in New York state, if you will. Same-sex marriage was legalised very recently and marriages have taken place (congratulations to the newlyweds, by the way). Now, the day after the first weddings, a lawsuit has been filed. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, people are suing in challenge of same-sex marriage being legal. I am in shock not only at the ridiculousness of this lawsuit (I mean, suing a law?!) but also at the fact that it is possible in the first place.

This whole situation makes me question the fundamental freedoms and what they really mean - whose rights are being infringed upon here? Are any rights actually being impacted by the existence of the lawsuit?

Gay marriage opponents sue to overturn New York law - The Globe and Mail

Stand Up for Freedom 2011

As soon as I got the tweet about this, went and bought my ticket. I am looking forward to it and UTTERLY EXCITED!!!

Stand up for Freedom 2011, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Amnesty

At least 80 killed in Norway shooting, police say - The Globe and Mail

I wonder if this will impact that Nobel Peace Prize at all.

At least 80 killed in Norway shooting, police say - The Globe and Mail

My thoughts go those suffering.

Dear Facebook, Stop Discriminating!

Dear Facebook,

 

There was a time when your social networking application was a unique and innovative way for people to connect and communicate with their peers.  It allowed for personal expression, updates, and networking in ways that were previously unavailable to the masses.  This was the source of your widespread appeal and the reason so many people signed up.

 

Now, five years and millions of followers later, you have deviated too far from what gave Facebook its original appeal – the ability to express oneself freely to one’s peers.  Some of the changes over the years have been good, some not so good; the real matter here is the level of discrimination put forth via the basic profile.

 

People are forced to choose a gender – not even a biological sex (which would only be mildly better) but a gender.  There is the option to hide it from the public profile, but one must choose male or female.  While this does encompass the majority of the world population, it does not allow for all options.  What option is a transgendered individual supposed to choose?  Or a hermaphrodite?  By forcing them to choose between “male” and “female” they are being directly and unjustly discriminated against.  To begin with, forcing anyone to define their gender is unfair, but if you feel that is necessary, then allow for the definition of all genders.  Given the current set-up of the Facebook profile, this would not be a challenge; at the very lease, add the option for “other” or “prefer not to say” to the drop-down menu.

 

Every other part of the Facebook profile is fully customizable.  There are endless options for activities, religious and political beliefs, sports, interests, etc.  But when it comes to one’s gender or sexual orientation, the limits are clearly defined.  For gender they are limited to the TWO options in a drop-down menu – one is not even capable of choosing both.  As for sexual orientation, one can choose to be interested in males and/or females.  The rest of society is blatantly absent from this, though.  Transgendered and hermaphrodite individuals exist.  They are people, just like everyone else, and should have the same ability to express themselves on social networking sites as everyone else.  To disallow this – an act of blatant discrimination – goes against the very tenants that made Facebook so popular in the beginning.  Even more so, they contribute immensely to the problems faced by such individuals.  To directly quote the American Psychological Association on transgendered individuals,

Transgender people experience the same kinds of mental health problems that nontransgender people do. However, the stigma, discrimination, and internal conflict that many transgender people experience may place them at increased risk for certain mental health problems. Discrimination, lack of social support, and inadequate access to care can exacerbate mental health problems in transgender people, while support from peers, family, and helping professionals may act as protective factors. (Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity, American Psychological Association)

Do you see my point?  Forcing them to conform to antiquated social norms only exasperates the problems these individuals face, along with putting forth the image of Facebook as a discriminatory social network.

 

I am not alone in questioning your actions and decisions to discriminate, nor am I alone in speaking out against it.  If you truly want to be a forum for the masses, why ban people this way?  And what of the many people who have quit Facebook since this discriminatory policy was put in place?  As a business, you are failing to cater to your audience.  As an outlet for the people, you have failed us all.

 

Sincerely,

Jasmine Dobosiewicz

Feminism’s Next Great Battle

Although there are times when it may seem otherwise, I am indeed a modern, liberal, feminist.  What that means is I believe in equality of opportunity for both biological sexes and all genders.  I am not a radical feminist – I do not blame men for the current stats of women in general.  There are subtle differences in the terminologies and branches of feminisms, but the general perception of feminists is, as far as I have encountered, far more radical than I would consider warranted.  Some feminists hate men as a rule, but this i snot a requirement of feminism in general.

 

Feminism (I believe we are in the fourth wave now, but it has been a while since I studied the logistics so I may well be wrong here) is about equal opportunities and rights.  Both men and women – and all “others” – should be able to do what they want without acing issues based on sex or gender.  It does not mean women must seek the top careers in their fields, or men must stay home with young children; it simply means they can if they want to, and no matter what they choose, that the costs and benefits should be equal.  This, by definition, makes me a liberal feminist.  Equal rights, equal opportunities.  Women should have the freedom to pursue “male-only” careers just as men should have the opportunity to pursue “female-only” careers.

 

Even though I consider myself a feminist, rarely do I broadcast it.  This may seem counter-productive, and in some circles it is, but in general I feel this is not necessarily a bad thing.  I do not always feel it is necessary to argue that equality of opportunity should be the norm; quite often, I find the people I am conversing with to already have this same belief.  Generally they do not view it as feminism – and indeed I think it will stop being considered feminism within a few decades – and to say I am a feminist conjures up images of radical feminism in their minds.  This, of course, I challenge and explain as above.

 

But as society moves forward – chronologically, at least – I cannot help but wonder, why are our views of feminism still stuck in the 1970s?  I am quite pleased to see most of my peers believe in equality of opportunity for all, but at the same time though their perception of feminism does not convey the same message.  There are people – mostly women, but not exclusively – who do further the misconception of all feminism being a radical anti-male ideology, but they are by far the statistical minority of feminists.  What baffles me, then, is why they still dominate society’s perception of feminism.  Are the rest of us simply too quiet about what it means to be a feminist in today’s world?  Or is this a battle previous generations won for us and now it is time to let it die down, and pursue the issues free from the feminist label?  is the next – or current – great battle of feminism within our own ranks?  If I was to stand up and say “I am a feminist” would it help or hinder?

 

Honestly, I have no idea.

Syrian forces in violent crackdown as thousands protest - The Globe and Mail

Syrian forces in violent crackdown as thousands protest - The Globe and Mail

Ottawa pledges another $50 million to famine-hit Africa - The Globe and Mail

The stories are incredible. It does not take a "bleeding heart" to care about this.

Ottawa pledges another $50 million to famine-hit Africa - The Globe and Mail

Seven dead as bomb rocks Norway; 10 shot dead at youth camp - The Globe and Mail

Seven dead as bomb rocks Norway; 10 shot dead at youth camp - The Globe and Mail

Saddened and Appalled, but not Surprised

Some of the things people have to say are simply appalling.  When I say people do not care, this is what I mean

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/africa-mideast/somalia-the-horror-of-famine-in-a-failed-state/article2104347/comments/

The Globe and Mail Headlines Update

Home - The Globe and Mail, 21 July 2011

This time, there is no need to draw a box around the article on Somalia.  Thank you, Globe and Mail, for finally giving it the attention it deserves.

The Globe and Mail Headlines, 20 July 2011

 

Home - The Globe and Mail, 20 July 2011

This is a screenshot of the homepage of The Globe and Mail website from 20 July 2011.  I want to draw your attention to the headline bordered in green.  This is where the famine in Somalia figures into the headlines.

Human Rights Violations? But our Trade Relations Might Suffer!

Lai Changxing will be deported back to China.  For some reason, the Canadian government has decided it is indeed safe to do so; that the Chinese government will not subject Mr. Lai to torture or other human rights violations while he serves his prison term.  Technically, the deportation order will be challenged on Thursday but given the course of events thus far I doubt there will be a change.

 

My initial reaction to this article by the Globe and Mail (Lai Ordered Released from Jail in Advance of Deportation Hearting) was wholly inappropriate; hopefully this post will not come across the same way.  As has been previously mentioned, I am none to happy with my current government.  Let me assure you now that I do not let such views predetermine my opinions on any matter at all.  I firmly believe in objectivity, then forming my own opinions based on what I have learned.  Frequently, these opinions follow the same trend as past ones but the important part I want to stress here is they do not start out that way.

 

Mr. Lai, the Chinese citizen in question here, is an acknowledged criminal currently seeking refuge in Canada.  I am in no way making any statements for or against the claims that he is a criminal; what I am concerned with here is the political “dealings” involved with the deportation case.  The argument – a very real one, in my opinion – is about the prospect of Mr. Lai facing torture and other human rights violations if he is extradited to his native country – China.  The defendant (Mr. Lai) and his lawyers claim this will happen; the Chinese government has offered reassurances it will not.

Earlier this year, Chinese authorities agreed to give Canadian officials regular access to Mr. Lai in prison, as a way of ensuring he is not tortured. Mr. Lai’s lawyers have scoffed at that promise.

Mr. Lai’s continued residence in Canada has been a sore point with Chinese leaders. Former prime minister Zhu Rongji once said Mr. Lai should be executed three times over. (Lai Ordered Released from Jail in Advance of Deportation Hearting)

I agree with the lawyers.  There is no way the Chinese government can convince me they will not torture Mr. Lai if given the opportunity.  This should be common knowledge these days – the Chinese government controls the media and the information that is released from and about their country.  Ideally, I would love to believe the claims of torture are all made up, but the fact of the matter is, there is a 99.99% chance they are indeed accurate.  Me being naught but a university student in a different field, I will refrain from delving into the details of such claims and arguing over their accuracy.  That I will kindly leave to the professionals who have access to far more information on the matter than I do, and therefore would be able to present the case with more conviction and proof than I could hope to.  Nevertheless, I would consider it common knowledge – and indeed common sense – that the risk of human rights violations are indeed a threat for Chinese prisoners and that reassurances from the Chinese government mean diddly-squat.

 

China is an immensely powerful nation in today’s world.  When I was young, a teacher of mine once said “China will be the next superpower.”  Today, governments from other nations are trying very hard to improve their relations with China, Canada included.  The re-emergence of Mr. Lai’s case in national headlines coincides nicely with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, John Baird, visiting China and, essentially, paying lip service to the nation.  Once again, I would prefer to quote the Globe and Mail on this matter rather than paraphrase about Baird’s visit.  This lowers the risk of “lost in translation” or misrepresentation through unintentional omittance, etc.

“I think obviously the relationship has entered a new era over the past few years,” Mr. Baird said in a conference call with reporters from Shanghai at the end of his visit to China. “We have a strategic partner, whether it’s on energy, natural resources, international affairs.”

Mr. Baird insisted he has raised human-rights issues, including the case of a Uighur-Canadian imprisoned in China, Huseyin Celil, and that it’s no “either-or” choice for a Canadian government between chasing trade and pressing for the respect of rights, “not forgetting that neither one is more important the other.”

“I think we need to pursue both, and do it vigorously. You know what, there will be honest differences of opinion,” he said.

When a representative of the Epoch Times, a newspaper with links to China’s Falun Gong movement, suggested Mr. Baird’s language did not match the actions of a Chinese Communist Party regime that has killed millions, Mr. Baird argued history should not get in the way of relations.

“When you say millions have been killed by the regime, I mean, obviously countries we work well with like Russia and Germany have been through challenges in their history, but we now count them as allies,” Mr. Baird said. “Obviously we have substantial disagreements on some files with our counterparts, and we’ve taken the opportunity during this visit to raise those.” (Effusive John Baird Wraps up China Visit with Praise for "Strategic Partner")

 

To me, this is all just political grand-standing.  Globally, China is an important power – because it is powerful in every way necessary.  As always, this leads to weaker nations – like Canada – to try very hard to get on their good side, which unfortunately means ignoring blatant human rights violations and other obvious problems.  To compare the current Chinese government to the Nazi regime is wrong on multiple levels.  For one, Canada opposed the Nazis after they invaded Poland.  For another, to allow that to get in the way of modern relations with Germany would be ridiculous; World War II ended in 1945.  If the Nazis were still in power, then the matter would be different.  But they are not, and Germany is not currently murdering millions or lying about torturing and executing anyone who speaks out against the government.  Now China, is.  Not was in the 1930s and 1940s, is, and now.  So to draw that comparison that Baird made, I find rather crude and blatantly offensive to the Canadian public.

 

There was a time when Canada prided itself on being at the forefront of human rights.  Now, all I can see is politics getting in the way of human rights.  Canada walked out on multiple Untied Nations events because “we” oppose another country.  Here we have another example of global politics taking precedence over blatant human rights issues.  And not to be trite, but dare I say remember Rwanda?  What is the point of a blue beret if this is what the government has to say about other matters of importance?

Cutting Knots: No. Hitting is Not Okay.

Cutting Knots: No. Hitting is Not Okay.: "Images by Mikrasov Design Today is International Criminal Justice Day , so I thought I should show some sort of support for my fellow hu..."

Afghanistan begins transition to control own security; NATO kills 13 Taliban - The Globe and Mail

My thoughts on the matter have remained the same throughout - do not leave the job until it is done. I do not feel like it is done yet; I think the troops should be staying longer and continuing the training and work. But, in the end, my opinions are of little to no value to the actual decision makers.

As I continue to share my thoughts on various matters here on my blog, I will also be posting articles and updates - sometimes without any comments. There are times when I just do not have anything useful, nice, or appropriate to say on the matter; therefore, I will say nothing. The article posts will usually be from the Globe and Mail (Canadian newspaper) because that is the one I read and because I feel they do a decent job as journalists. Of course, their views and mine do not always go the same way, but when it comes to reporting events I do believe they get their facts straight and maintain a level of professional journalism I feel comfortable sharing.

Afghanistan begins transition to control own security; NATO kills 13 Taliban - The Globe and Mail

International Criminal Justice Day 17 July

I have been uber excited for this day!!!

International Criminal Justice Day 17 July

Chocolates

Life is like a box of chocolates.  It is full of various different experiences - some are good, some make you want to gag, some are nutty, and some you change your mind about afterwards.  In the end, both the box of chocolates and your life experiences would not look quite right if some of them were missing.  Both would look empty.  So take the good with the bad and the questionable.  After all, they are all chocolates.

99 Ways to Die, by Megadeath

A Megadeath song that goes nicely will the CoD and the talk of controlling arms trade and weapons.

Help Someone if you are Able

When I was young, I used to thank God every night for all the blessings in my life.  No one needed to tell me I had a good life; I knew it, even if I was not always happy.  After thanking God for it, I would then ask for help using all that I had to help others.

Dear God, thank you so much for everything You have blessed me with in my life.  I have a wonderful life full of so much more than I truly need.  Please help me to use these gifts to help others who do not have as good of a life, so they may be happy too.  I understand suffering is an inevitable part of life, but please, at least let their basic needs be met.  Let them not worry about food, water, shelter, security, safety, or love.  I have so much more than I need, but there are others suffering all over the world.  Help me help them, please.  Amen.

Now that I am older, not much has changed.  I still feel like those who “have” ought to help those who “have not” in any and every way possible.  Not all the necessities of life are tangible; sometimes the best gift is simply to help someone understand they are not alone and that people really do care.  Truly, I do feel that as a human being, I am partially responsible for the “uncontrollable” situations of other human beings, be them tragic or brilliant.  Nothing I do to help others is done with the motivation of social recognition or reward; to me, it simply is what needs to be done.  This does not make it a chore in any way; rather, it is a part of life, like eating and sleeping.  Help someone if you are able.  Not everyone is able to do so, and I fully recognise this fact.  What truly bothers me are those who can, express the desire to do so, but never actually make an effort.  Words are merely sounds; it is our actions that truly define us.

The world is a harsh, cruel place and one person will not be able to change the world alone.  But one person can make a difference.  Even a tiny raindrop can ripple out and effect the entire pond, yadda yadda yadda.  If you are looking to change the world, get  your head checked.  If you are looking to make a difference, then go out there and change your world.  Change what you see around you, what you see everywhere you look.  When something bothers you, instead of just complaining, do something.  My only fear is dying with the regret that I should have done more to help others.  I cannot change the world alone, but I can try to change my world and everything in it.  Letting opportunities to do so slip away, now that is what scares me.  I leave you now with a great quote from the Declaration of Arbroath, one of the most important documents of Scottish independence.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
~ Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

Nobody’s Listening

Last night I posted about the growing insecurity in Afghanistan (True Casualties).  Today I shared an article about a Somali rape victim with my social networks (Somali Rape Survivor Rebuilds Life) along with the comment “Nobody’s listening.”  This garnered a few responses, all along the lines of “people do not care, but they should.”  Hopefully this has come across as my view as well, but  I cannot let it stop there.

 

There are people who do listen and who do care, but so many just do not and it pains me to see this happening.  It is not by our words, but by our actions, that we are truly help responsible and accountable.  Saying “I care” or “I want to change things” does not really matter if the effort ends there.  What truly does matter and makes a difference is actually doing something about the issues and about the problems.  Sometimes, it seems, it is those who have the least to give who give the most.  Perhaps it is because they understand human suffering and wish to see it eliminated, or perhaps it is because they hope that someone will do the same for them.  With so much to give, how can I stand back and do nothing?

The True Casualties

''Afghans living in villages where conflict is rife are having to take an impossible decision: choose sides or leave home,'' added Mr Krähenbühl. "This is the reality of Afghanistan today." (Afghanistan: Insecurity at a Critical Level for Civilians)

After so many decades of violence it is no wonder life in Afghanistan is filled with hardship.  After the terrorist attacks on New York City on 11 September 2001 (better known as September 11th), NATO forces were keen to drive out the Taliban from this Middle Eastern nation.  Did they succeed?  To an extent, yes.  But at the same time, they created many problems in their wake.

Before, society was “oppressive,” particularly towards women and children.  Now, it still is.  Women may have some more freedom than they did before, but why?  Is it because there have been changes at to the legal and political environments of Afghanistan?  Or is it because enough men have died from the fighting – one way or another – that the women now have power from their numbers?  Either way, the necessary change must come at the social level.  Until women are accepted and treated as social equals, changes to the laws and politics of the nation will not have nearly the same level of impact.

In the past decade, the level of personal security has changed dramatically as well.  The US has not experienced more terrorist attacks – which no doubt is a result of military efforts in the Middle East.  While one would assume this to be a good thing, I must challenge with the question of “for whom?”  The fighting has not stopped.  Violence is still rampant between “terrorists” and “allies;” it is the battlefields they choose that makes Americans feel safe and secure.  It is in Afghanistan where the civilian population lives in constant fear and terror.

Allow me to rephrase – it is in Afghanistan that civilians live with the constant presence of violence.  The fear and terror, while inevitably still present to some degree, has been dulled by decades of seemingly endless fighting.  What is really different now, in comparison to the Soviet occupation?  The faces and the names; the reality remains the same.  Pro-government groups oppose “terrorists” openly, fighting everywhere, bringing the violence to the people whether they like it or not.  The military forces there only exasperate this calamity – their presence is a constant reminder of life’s inevitable ending with death.  For “uniformed forces” this is simply a normal part of their everyday existence; for the Afghan civilians, it now is too.

Does the world still care?  This is my question to all who are willing to hear it.  Reports in the media are quiet and focus only on the issues that can be directly related to the nation for which they are writing.  Humanitarian organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent/Crystal (ICRC) have been actively involved in Afghanistan for many years and will continue to be there, trying to help the people free from bias.  But apart from the small part of the global population involved in humanitarian works, do people truly care about what is going on in Afghanistan?  About the increasing level of insecurity for the local population?  If one was to read an article about the personal tragedies suffered by civilians because of the limited access to healthcare – roadside bombs, long detours to avoid closed roads, checkpoint delays, facilities closed from lack of staff, poverty – what would the response be?  Would there be anyone held accountable?  If so, who?  Would this be considered an unfortunate fact of life for people living in a war-torn country?  Or perhaps blamed on the “terrorists?”  What about the military forces that have invaded the nation?

Consider this – would those same risks, hazards, and problems still exist for the civilian population if military forces had never gone to Afghanistan?  Are we the ones to blame for this growing level of insecurity and instability in this Middle Eastern nation?  How many truly care and want to see the situation changed, beyond the obligatory “lip service” when confronted directly with the issues?  Do you really care?

If You want to Establish Presence, First be able to!

Now that Canada’s “mission” in Afghanistan is officially over, the government has decided to focus their efforts on the Arctic.  The new mission is to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.  Mhmm.

 

First of all, I think the issue of Arctic sovereignty is just flat out ridiculous.  That aside, Canada trying to use military might to make its position clear is even more ludicrous!  All joking aside, what military might?  The Coast Guard sends a vessel up, but requires a US escort.  Yes, an American ship went with it.  How does that show Canadian sovereignty?

 

And then there is the issue of pulling out of Afghanistan.  I know a lot of people are glad to have the troops out and many think they never should have gone in the first place.  Me, no.  Canada’s objective was to train the local forces so they could continue to deal with the Taliban.  Did they succeed?  To an extent, yes.  Some progress was made, and some troops were trained.  157 Canadian soldiers died.  and now, in 2011, Canada has officially pulled out.

 

Leaving the job unfinished.  That is where my point of anger lies.  Perhaps we (as a nation) should not have gone to Afghanistan in the first place, but we did.  Once we agreed to that objective, it became our duty to see it through!

 

I could continue, but I shall digress and leave it at this point.  Another time I may pick this topic up once more, but all I see is further disappointment arising.

The Devil was the First Democrat

~ Lord Bryon, 1788 – 1824, English poet and satirist

As you may or may not know, at this time there is an international conference taking place in New York City to address the issue of global arms control.  This is the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CoD), and in typical Conservative fashion, Canada is boycotting it because North Korea is allowed to lead.  Think I am just being cruel because I voted for a different political party?  I wish that was the truth.  Really, I do.  But alas, no; this was in one of the national newspapers today.

 

Canada will push for reforms to the UN’s disarmament agency, believing its problems go deeper than a rotating presidency that allows international pariah North Korea to serve as its chair, John Baird says.

The Harper government has decided to boycott the United Nations Conference on Disarmament for a month because it’s North Korea’s turn to take the helm. (Boycotting N. Korean term, John Baird vows to seek reform of UN arms panel)

 

Yes, my dear readers, Canada has once again decided to boycott a United Nations event because other countries were allowed involvement.  Yes, again.  In order to keep my personal bias as limitted as possible while establishing the background of the situation, here is another quote from the same article (link provided at bottom).

 

The Harper government has in the past occasionally chosen to make very public statements with boycotts at the UN, like walking out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the General Assembly in 2009 or staying away from the UN-sponsored world conference on racism, which Ottawa called anti-semitic. (Boycotting N. Korean term, John Baird vows to seek reform of UN arms panel)

 

Now, I do wonder, what the politicians who currently hold the majority – and therefore real power – in Canada plan to do about this issue.  Arms control is a serious matter and needs to be addressed on the global scale, with as many participants as possible.  I am fully aware of the limitations of international politics and implementing any form of policy or change, but still!  How can anything be changed if those who can, refuse?  Yesterday I was asked to explain why I have a personal interest in human rights and humanitarian causes.  My issue was not thinking of why, rather, I was challenged with explaining it properly and somewhat professionally.  Quite simply, the answer is “because I can.”

 

As I have said multiple times before, both of my parents grew up in very different worlds from what I have known.  My father was born and raised in post-WWII Poland, under the Communist regime.  His father, my dzadiek and one of my heroes, was born in 1910 and suffered far more than my father did and than I can even begin to imagine.  During WWI, his family was forced to move to Russia and live as refugees.  They lost everything.  Between the end of the war and the beginning of the next, my dzadiek grew up, became a teacher, married and started a family.  My uncle was born in 1939, mere months before WWII started.  As is considered a well-known historical fact, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and began WWII.  In 1941, the Nazis went through and arrested teachers, educators, political activists – anyone who could pose a threat to them and their regime.  This was the AB Movement, and like many others, my dzadiek was arrested and spent the rest of the war in the camps.  After that, there was the Communist regime, put in place by the Soviets.  Compared to many other places, Poland was not so bad.  But compared to what I know, it was terrible.  That is the time of my father’s childhood, youth, and adulthood.  To say it influenced him greatly is still putting it far too mildly.

 

My mother, also an adult immigrant to North America, was born in 1962 and raised during the Cultural Revolution and in Communist China.  Yes, China is still Communist – but not like it was then.  Because her father was in the air force, she grew up on various military bases all over China, frequently without one or both of her parents around.  This may have been the 1960, but it was commonplace.  She cannot stand it when anyone watches a Western film in the house, no matter where she is, because of the gunshots.  My father and I both enjoy the old Clint Eastwood films, but my mother cannot handle it.  She grew up with gunshots and violence being commonplace.  The environment she and her younger brother knew was so bad that my cousins were never told any of it.

 

So what does my family’s history have to do with arms control and Canada boycotting a UN conference?  Perhaps to others, not very much; but to me, everything.  Growing up, my parents used to always remind me of how good my life was and tell me stories about their childhoods; if I refused to eat something, I was lectured for being spoiled because when they were that age food was not guaranteed.  From all that, I developed a deep understanding and appreciation for what it means to be free.  In the West, “freedom” is just a term that is used liberally and loosely; few people really stop to think about what it truly means.

 

Freedom means being able to wake up in the morning.  It means waking up not being in fear of one’s life, or the life of those one cares about.  It means being able to walk down the street not wondering if there are people with guns or weapons around you, and certainly not seeing that anywhere.  Freedom is knowing your human rights are a reality and something you can take for granted and count on in your life.

 

At the age of eight, I wanted to join the military when I grew up.  For me, it was just a dream, a potential career aspiration that would have to wait at least ten years before it could see any form of development.  In the West, that is a given.  Weapons need to be controlled; children should never be allowed near them.  But is that the case everywhere?  No, not at all.  There are places where children are the soldiers; places where weapons are everywhere and even the triggers are not controlled.  When the media reports the death of foreign soldiers, do you really know what that means?

 

Arms control is just a part of this whole issue.  Violence everywhere is inextricably linked to people’s ability to access the necessary tools.  Full arms control will not stop all violence, but it certainly will make a huge difference.  This is why I think it is necessary.  This is why a lot of people think it is necessary.

 

It is the number of bodies, and not the number of words, that truly matter.

 

What duty, then, do “developed” nations have?  Like me, their duty is to help those who need it, in any and every way possible.  I never wonder why my life is so good; rather, I aim to use all this to help those who do not have as good a life.  When I used to volunteer at the Homewood supervising the eating disorder patients, the nurses would always thank me very enthusiastically for coming in; I never could understand why.  To me, I was just doing my duty as a person and helping others.  As nice as it is to be thanked, I didn’t see it as anything special.  Canada attending the CoD is nothing special, and certainly the nation’s duty.  So walking out on it, boycotting UN events, is dodging responsibility.

 

Canada, like all other nations, need to understand their role in the global community.  Instead of boycotting conferences and events, claiming it is “seeking to try to reform the group so it can be more successful in fulfilling its main mandate” it needs to step up and do something!  Imagine, if you will, a group of children in the same situation but instead of weapons perhaps they are arguing over the trade of sweets.  Walking away from the table means you no longer care to be involved – at all.  It will not incite any changes, and likely will negate your reputation and lower your ability to influence any future discussions, even if they impact you directly.  So what is Canada saying here, by boycotting?  Quite simply, that we are a nation that does not care about arms control.

 


As promised, here is the article that sparked this post.

Boycotting N. Korean term, John Baird vows to seek reform of UN arms panel


In the words of better men than me …

 

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.

~ Edmund Burke, 1729 – 1797, British statesman and philosopher

 

The world is a dangerous place.  Not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

~ Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955, German-born American physicist

 

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  he who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?”  Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?”  But conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”  And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 – 1968, American minister and civil rights leader

 

He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Being willing is not enough; we must do.

~ Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519, Italian draftsman, artist, architect, and engineer who epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal

A Philosophy for Life …

They say life's a dance and you learn as you go, but anyone who's seen me out on the dance floor knows that just ain't happening. So I'll just keep on dancing off-beat to that random song in my head until I run into that inevitable brick wall known as death. My mate always said his dying words would be "I have no regrets!" I want mine to be a laughing "Oops!" because I don't ever want to see that end coming!

Why Human Rights?

I am a first generation Canadian, and hold dual citizenship from Canada and Poland. My father grew up in Communist post-WWII Poland while my mother was born and raised during the Cultural Revolution in China.  From them both comes a deep appreciation for freedom and human rights, and an understanding of what it was like for them and for people still suffering today.  Although I was born into a safe, happy, and privileged life in the West, my parents made sure I knew how lucky I was and how basic elements of survival are not guaranteed to be available for everyone.  It is because of their teachings that I understand people have to fight for what I have, and that is not easy.  There are personal stories in my family's past that I have never forgotten and that have solidly ingrained in me the value of helping others have a better life.  Human rights should not be a question for anyone, ever.  Sadly, they are, and I want to change that.

Two Turtles

With both of my parents being immigrants to North America, the majority of our extended family lives abroad and so as children my sister and I were lucky enough to travel the world visiting relatives.  We both have a lot of very fond memories from these times and are incredibly grateful to have had the privilege to meet some very inspiring people - my dziadek (grandfather) being one of my heroes to this day.

Not all of my memories of these journeys are so happy, though.  One in particular has always stood out and still bothers me, many years later.  When we were rather young and visiting family in China, my sister and I saw a tank at the restaurant that had two turtles living in it.  We were accustomed to seeing large tanks full of fish, so those we ignored; turtles were something new to us.  So, while the rest of the family socialised before the meal, my sister and I spent our time watching the turtles like the kids we were, fully encouraged by the adults who saw how happy we were.

After the meal, I noticed the tank was empty and asked where the turtles had gone.  The answer?  The soup we had been served for dinner.  Even as an adult, I find the concept hard to deal with; as a child I simply could not.  I was glad I had not eaten any of the soup, but was so upset at what had happened.  Everyone knew the turtles were there to be eaten - everyone except my sister and me.  I think she was still a little too young to fully comprehend the severity of the situation, but it is still something that haunts me to this day.  Whenever I see fish tanks or lobster tanks in restaurants, I think back to those two turtles.

And I order a salad.

Quebec doctor who stabbed children found not criminally responsible

The title is a bit ambiguous - aquittal was not an option.  The jury had the option of three levels of homicide (all guilty) or not guilty by reason of mental illness (lacking the mental capacity to be fully aware and responsible for the crime).  In this case, it seems like it was "temporary insanity", in which juries are usually more likely to sympathise with the defendant's actions; in this case I doubt they did but likely sympathised with the defendant himself and were far more willing to blame external influences rather than the man himself.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec/quebec-doctor-who-stabbed-children-found-not-criminally-responsible/article2087128/

Will Power

I agree, and I too do not like the traditional motivational quotes. Most of mine come from the Navy Seals or the Marines, and are focused on surviving. The only one I have that is remotely related to an end goal is "You can't rage-quit the Middle Ages." It does not tell me I will accomplish my degree; it simply reminds me not to give up just because I am frustrated with it. Society may see not graduating as a failure, but to me it is more important that I did not give up just because I hit an obstacle. Will I overcome that obstacle? I do not know, and truly, that is not the part I care about. It is whether or not I try that matters to me. A major challenge for me is not giving up as soon as things get a bit rough. Sure, there are quotes like "Hang in there!" that address this issue, but they just seem too preachy to me. Instead, I go for ones like "The only easy day was yesterday, and that's because it's over." It may not be the most optimistic, but it is entirely realistic and it motivates me. Life is hard. Some days, remember to breathe is a major accomplishment. Most may find it silly, but yes, some days I do remind myself that breathing is not an involuntary activity like your heart beating, and therefore is worthy of a feeling of accomplishment. Take pride in the little things, for there you will find the most sincere and real feelings.

Cutting Knots: Will Power: "I don't believe in it for a second. Images by Mikrasov Design Or, if I were to believe in it, I would have to think that there are many..."

Cutting Knots: Taking Things for Granted

Cutting Knots: Taking Things for Granted: "The ideas introduced in this post are meant to be explored over the course of four posts: Guessing at Normal Taking Things for Granted Nor..."

Cutting Knots: Perfectionism

Cutting Knots: Perfectionism: "Dear Perfectionism, Images by Mikrasov Design I know and understand how you came to be a part of my life. You were born out of my fear..."

Change is Scary

Change is scary. Sometimes I realise I no longer hate myself the way I used to, and that scares me. My reality is different and I am still learning to cope with this change. I keep telling myself it is a good change, but that does not make it any less scary or any easier to deal with. The truth is, I spent 22 years hating everything about me and my existence, then suddenly, it stopped. Now what? Everything I have ever known is different. When something goes wrong, I do not always feel it was my fault or think I need to be punished for it. But this creates a bit of a void, an emptiness ... and the question that comes forth is "what do I do instead?"

Cutting Knots: Change is Scary

Cutting Knots: Adult Children

Another post from my mate's blog, and one that I feel really has a lot of meaning for me. This sounds like me ...

Cutting Knots: Adult Children: "I am an adult child of a dysfunctional family. Lots of people can identify with this concept. I wanted to quickly take the time to share wit..."