Paris!

Ms Soapbox and her daughter have gone to Paris for a week.  Take good care of the province and the country until we get back.  🙂

france-banner-desktop_0

What pops into your mind when you see this: Louvre or Da Vinci Code?

Posted in Humour, Vacation | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Ontario Elects Doug Ford; Alberta Unleashes the Valkyries

Valkyrie: from Norse mythology, meaning “chooser of the slain”;  female figures who choose who will die in battle and who will live.   

Ms Soapbox has a message for all the politicians who “know” what their female constituents need but can’t be bothered to ask them; who condescendingly brush aside social issues because politics is only about the economy, and who in their heart of hearts believe politics would be a whole lot easier if women would stop bugging them about access to abortion and the cost of child care and just let the men get on with it.

Guess what.  The women have had it up to here.

The Doug Ford factor  

The election of Doug Ford, surely the stupidest conservative leadership candidate to emerge in a very long time, was the last straw.

valkyriesride

Valkyries

 

Sure, Alberta’s UCP consider Ford’s election as proof that the populist playbook guarantees success (Jason Kenney is lauding Ford’s election as “a great day for Albertans”) and yes, the UCP will unleash a tsunami of empty slogans (Alberta Advantage, rah, rah), dog whistles, and failed economic ideologies, topped with a dose of victimhood every day until election day but it won’t be enough.

Here’s why.

The women are engaged    

Ms Soapbox participated in four women-only political events over the last two weeks.  They were hosted by women who are horrified at the prospect of a UCP government in 2019.  Here’s what she’s learned:

  • Politicians who say politics is just about the economy really mean there’s no room for that “what-do-women-want-crap” in their party.
  • Politicians who say there’s no such thing as women’s issues haven’t the foggiest clue about the challenges Alberta women face 24/7.
  • Politicians, wannabe politicians and backroom players who shred party institutions in their quest for power don’t deserve anyone’s support.
  • Politicians who boast about holding the government to account while boycotting the debate on Bill 9 (the abortion clinic bubble zone bill) because it’s “divisive” are widely recognized as hypocrites pandering to their evangelical, pro-life base.
  • Vitriolic and veiled attacks on female politicians (of any stripe) say more about the attacker than the woman being attacked.
  • Politicians who label “feminism” an “f-word” are oblivious to the fact feminists come from all parts of the political spectrum.
  • Politicians who have a field day when a female politician stumbles are hypocrites if they continue to sing the praises of Doug Ford.

We could go on, but you get the drift.

Politicians who hold such beliefs are viewed with contempt and concern given they’ve been around for decades and are apparently unaware of the feminist waves which started in the 1830s with the fight for the right to vote, returned in the 1960s with a focus on the workplace, sexuality and reproductive rights, and morphed in the 2000s into a broad demand for political, social and sexual equality.

The Valkyries

Alberta is grappling with complex challenges. It is transitioning from a resource-based economy to one that’s more sustainable.  It’s trying to address the lingering effects of underspending in health, education and infrastructure while continuing to meet the demands caused by demographic changes in the population.

Populist politicians offer simplistic solutions to these problems:  inane slogans and quick-fix policies like returning to the flat tax and cutting “government waste” juiced up with dog-whistle appeals to cause Albertans to lose focus.

The women recognize that populist politicians pandering to their right-wing base will roll back the advances the NDP government has made on social issues like protecting gay kids in schools, protecting women exercising their abortion rights, improving the delivery of education and healthcare, increasing access to affordable child care and heightening awareness of climate change so we can transition to a more sustainable economy.

And they’re fighting back. 

They’re joining constituency associations, identifying potential candidates and encouraging women to run for office.  They’re busy fund-raising and volunteering for their  MLAs.  They’re speaking up and amplifying their voices on social media and in the main stream press (a slew of letters, even if they’re not published, will focus an editor’s mind).

They’ve become more visible.  They’re marching in festival parades to show support for the political party that supports them.  They’re telling their friends Rachel is doing a good job.  They’re reaching out to their networks and encouraging their friends to get engaged.

They’re brave.  They’re doing everything they can to ensure the next government won’t hurt their children, their partners, their parents or themselves.

They’re Valkyries soaring over the battlefield looking for political leaders who know that women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

[And for those of you looking for a little inspiration, here’s Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries]

Posted in Economy, Feminism, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

What do Jason Kenney, John Horgan and Elizabeth May have in Common?

This just in from the “strange-bedfellows” department:    

When it comes to the Trans Mountain pipeline, Jason Kenney, BC premier John Horgan and Green Party leader Elizabeth May are singing from the same song sheet.

They all agree that the federal government’s decision to buy Trans Mountain changes nothing.

http3a2f2fi-huffpost-com2fgen2f14123802fimages2fn-elizabeth-may-jason-kenney-628x314

Elizabeth May & Jason Kenney

Who knew that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would create such strange bedfellows.

Some facts   

Trans Mountain has carried crude oil and other products from Edmonton to Burnaby since 1953.  It’s been transporting diluted bitumen since 2004.  Kinder Morgan brought an application to expand the pipeline in 2013.  The NEB and federal government approved the expansion in 2016.  The expansion will triple capacity and increase Kinder Morgan’s tanker traffic off the BC coast sevenfold.  (Note: this increased vessel traffic will amount to 4.6% of all Port Metro Vancouver traffic by 2026).

Numerous court challenges have been filed to stop the expansion.  Kinder Morgan won 16 legal challenges to date, leading one to assume that at least as far as the courts are concerned Kinder Morgan, the NEB and the federal government followed all the rules.

However, on Apr 7, Kinder Morgan advised the federal and Alberta governments that it would walk away from the Trans Mountain expansion unless it received greater certainty that the project would not be inordinately delayed by court challenges.  The two levels of government had 50 days to come up with an acceptable solution before the May 31 deadline.

After reviewing a number of scenarios Kinder Morgan decided to sell Trans Mountain (the existing pipeline and the expansion project) to the feds for $4.5 billion.

Political rhetoric  

After months of demanding the Notley and Trudeau governments do something, Kenney was caught off guard when they did something.

Kenney needed to respond to a solution that would see the feds bearing the political risk of buying the pipeline and the Notley government getting the credit for pushing the feds into asserting their jurisdiction, getting construction back on schedule and putting 15,000 Albertans and Canadians back to work.

Kenney had a choice.  He could say, “good job, Rachel” and move on, or he could denigrate Notley’s success by parroting criticisms made by John Horgan and Elizabeth May who wanted to see Notley and Trudeau fail.

He chose to parrot Horgan and May.  Consequently, his criticisms are all over the map.  Kenney says:

  • Kinder Morgan simply transferred the “risk” to Canadian and Alberta taxpayers.   Kinder Morgan’s “risk” was that a delay in construction would make Trans Mountain less profitable.  The federal government’s “risk” was that a delay would (1) undermine its jurisdiction, (2) imperil its carbon tax policy, and (3) damage Canada’s reputation as a safe place for investment.  The feds reduced these risks by transferring Trans Mountain to a federal crown corporation that would proceed with construction notwithstanding ongoing litigation (which the feds are comfortable will be resolved in their favour). 
  • The purchase is a “huge taxpayer bailout”. Unlike Harper and Kenney’s $9 billion bailout of the Ontario auto industry, an equity injection of zero to $2 billion in a pipeline project supported by large-scale energy producers who’ve agreed to pay a regulated rate of return is not a “bailout”, it’s a smart “investment.”    
  • Notley should have kept the pressure on BC by continuing the wine embargo and implementing the “turnoff the taps” legislation. Why?  This would undermine BC residents’ support for Alberta and the pipeline and have no impact on the real issue which is federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.
  • Things should never have gotten this far and it’s all Notley and Trudeau’s fault because they ignored the threat posed by the BC NDP.  This is a reiteration of the wine embargo/turn off the taps argument and is supported by no specific suggestions other than Kenney saying Trudeau should pass Senate Bill S-245 which would declare Trans Mountain to be “a work for the general advantage of Canada”–a suggestion that’s garnered little support from legal scholars and does nothing to knock BC’s court challenges out of the docket. 
  • Notley is “celebrating” Kinder Morgan’s decision to pull out. This is ridiculous coming from the man who failed to offer one concrete suggestion that would have given Kinder Morgan greater certainty.  The best response to Kenney’s spurious allegation comes from Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman who said, “Every party needs a pooper”.    

One can’t fault Elizabeth May for making her arguments;  her position is based on her conviction that climate change is endangering the planet and any expansion of the oils sands (however insignificant on the global scale) must be stopped.

One has less sympathy for John Horgan who maintains his hold on power by bucking the rule of law and mounting spurious legal challenges.

But one really has to question the judgment of Jason Kenney, an Alberta politician who is so busy trying to score political points that he’s become utterly incoherent and now finds himself aligned with John Horgan’s NDP and the Greens.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Jason Kenney: When a Dog Whistler Loses Control of the Dogs

Ever wonder what happens when a dog whistler loses control of the dogs?*

Jason Kenney is beginning to discover that his supporters are way ahead of him on his “conservative values” ideology and it’s going to be hard to rein them in because once the hounds get out, good luck trying to get them back.

Dog Whistle #1: Conservative values trump human rights and dignity

At the recent UCP policy convention, 57% of the members voted in favour of a resolution requiring schools to out gay kids. This result is hardly surprising given Kenney’s “traditional family values” message but it caused considerable consternation for moderate conservatives and went beyond the pale for progressives.

Kenney responded to the blowback in a manner befitting a mature politician–he hurled insults at Justin Trudeau.  When he was criticized for the ad hominem attack (which was incredibly insulting even by Kenney’s low standards) he grudgingly apologized.

Then he tried a different tactic, implying the resolution may have been an aberration because “when you open up a process like we did, there’s always going to be a risk that there’s some things that are passed that are contentious.”

Indeed.  The UCP process required 50% to 85% support for a proposal before it was formalized into a resolution deemed fit for debate.  The risk wasn’t that a contentious resolution would be passed but that it would be proposed and thereby define who the UCP really are.

The resolution was proposed, it passed with a majority and defined the UCP at the Lake of Fire party 2.0.

Kenney tried to close the door on the issue by stating he’s the boss, he holds the pen, and the resolution would form part of the UCP policy platform (or not) only if he says so.

20228764-_sx540_

Dog whistle politics

But his supporters wouldn’t let it go.

Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education appeared on Rebel TV to defend the resolution.  Trimble blamed the mainstream media for getting it wrong, arguing that the resolution says nothing about gay kids or GSAs and simply reaffirms opt-out provisions “that have been long standing in Alberta.” This begs the question:  if the resolution is simply a reaffirmation of long standing practice, why did the UCP propose it in the first place.

Incidentally, we’re still waiting for Kenney’s pack to defend the UCP resolution prohibiting “invasive medical procedures” (read: vaccinations and abortion) on minors without parental consent.  It passed with 76% support.

Dog Whistle #2:  All non-conservative politicians are idiots  

Kenney is desperate to look like a politician who “goes high when they go low”, but his supporters know he doesn’t mean it.  This forces him into awkward corners as he struggles to maintain a statesman-like image.

Kenney owes much to an organization called Alberta Can’t Wait.  ACW is a coalition of five organizations dedicated to uniting Alberta conservatives into one party and defeating the NDP in 2019.   ACW supports Kenney and Kenney supports ACW, describing it as “very smart people who have their finger on the pulse of Alberta” and “a voice for united conservatives and free enterprisers”.

Recently ACW raised its “united conservative voice” by tweeting this about the NDP: “In Canadian history there has never been a less qualified cohort of legislators.  It is no disgrace to be a teacher, social worker, laborer or student.  But these are not the occupations from which capable #abpoli leaders generally emerge.”  The tweet referenced a Financial Post article that appeared after the NDP was elected in 2015.

Kenney tried to blunt the elitist tone of the ACW tweet by tweeting:  “I disagree.  Whatever happened to the concept of “citizen legislator?”  I for one would rather have a Legislature full of farmers, teachers, “labourers,” small business people et al than one filled with those deemed “qualified” eg lawyers and political scientists.”

Kenney buttressed his defence of the little people by adding “One of the most effective ministers in the NDP Government (by widespread acclaim) is Brian Mason, who I understand used to be a bus driver.  That’s a job where you’re responsible for other people’s lives, have to be conscientious, disciplined, handle pressure well, etc.”

Kenney sounded ridiculous, but that’s what happens when you try to pretend you’re Peter Lougheed while at the same time trash talking the government.

Dog Whistle Politics

Dog whistle politics are divisive because they send a subtle message to a specific subgroup.  “Traditional family values” is code for “no gays” and “no abortions”.  This code became transparent to everyone when the UCP passed resolutions effectively blocking GSAs in schools and abortions.

Now Kenney has a problem.  He may be able to soft soap his way around supporters who lash out at the NDP government by declaring Brian Mason was a conscientious bus driver, but he won’t be able to gloss over social issues that matter to his base but scare the moderates.

Kenney released the hounds; now we’ll see whether he can stop them from tearing the UCP apart.

*Before anyone blows a gasket, Ms Soapbox is speaking metaphorically, the terms “dog whistler”, “dogs” and “hounds” are figures of speech, they’re not meant to be taken literally.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Mr Kenney Runs Away

The last two weeks have been particularly tiring for Mr Kenney, the leader of the UCP, he spent most of it running away.

Mr Kenney hightailed it out of the Legislature, not once but six times, to avoid debating Bill 9 which would create protective bubble zones around abortion clinics to protect women from abusive protesters.  He kicked up a dust storm of excuses to explain why he’s not bound by a resolution passed by his party which would out kids who want to join gay-straight alliances at school.

Apparently social issues scare him witless.

Running away from the Legislature

It’s interesting to contrast Mr Kenney’s willingness to hide from the debate on Bill 9 bubble zones, with the determination of his caucus to stay to the bitter end on the debate on Bill 24.

The Notley government tabled Bill 24 in November 2017.  The Bill made it clear that the right of parents to pull their kids out of class if the curriculum dealt primarily with religion or human sexuality, did not extend to voluntary clubs like gay-straight alliances.  Consequently, schools were prohibited from notifying parents that their kids had joined a GSA.

The UCP did not support Bill 24.  UCP MLA Angela Pitt prefaced her comments by saying, “the United Conservative caucus does not take any piece of proposed legislation lightly.  We carefully review it, we ask questions, and we wonder if it can be improved.  We also look at each piece of legislation with an eye to determining if it has forged the right balance for Albertans of differing views.”*

The UCP vigorously debated the Bill and voted against it.  Even Mr Kenney, who was not yet sworn into office, participated in the debate by asking a colleague to read a lengthy statement into the record on his behalf.

But something changed between then and now.

This spring the Notley government tabled Bill 9, the bubble zone bill.  Mr Kenney, now a sitting MLA and the Leader of the Official Opposition, marched his caucus out of the Legislature again and again to avoid having to vote on the bill.

Contrary to Ms Pitt’s earlier statement the bubble zone bill did not trigger the Opposition’s duty to review, question and if possible improve each piece of proposed legislation; nor did it engage the Opposition’s obligation, as described by UCP MLA Prab Gill, “to defend…over 4 million [Albertans who] are depending on the decisions that are made in this House.”**

Why not?

Mr Kenney says he won’t debate legislation that’s a political ploy.

This is ludicrous.  Citizens most need a strong opposition party when the government is proposing controversial legislation.  It’s easy to nitpick issues we all agree upon (like pipelines to tidewater) it takes courage to debate issues that are contentious or controversial.

Running away from the UCP

Mr Kenney blamed his dereliction of duty as an elected representative and Leader of the Official Opposition on the NDP government playing wedge politics, but this does not explain why he rejected Resolution #30, his own party’s resolution to out kids to their parents before they’d be allowed to join a GSA.

1200px-john_martin_-_sodom_and_gomorrah

The Lake of Fire (again!)

Mr Kenney and his apologists made the following arguments:

  • The resolution was poorly worded–and yet it was clear as a bell to the three UCP MLAs who argued it would forever tar the UCP as the Lake of Fire party if it passed. Surprise!
  • It’s the result of parental backlash–this ignores the fact GSAs are clubs, not curriculum. Parents still have the right to pull their kids out of classes primarily focused on religion or human sexuality.
  • The UCP members who voted for the resolution fell into an NDP trap–in other words 57% of the UCP delegates were too stupid or too stubborn to heed the warning of their own MLAs who said, “Stop! It’s a trap!”
  • Half the delegates left before the vote came up, so Mr Kenney isn’t bound by the resolution–there is no evidence that half the delegates left before the vote, but if they did they should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning their party when it needed them the most.
  • (This one is my personal favourite). Mr Kenney said the resolution is entirely consistent with his own position on the issue and in the next breath said he’d have voted against the resolution if given the chance. What?  If the resolution is consistent with Mr Kenney’s position he would have voted for it not against it, right?

Nowhere left to run

Mr Kenney has shown Albertans he doesn’t respect the democratic process which requires the Leader of the Official Opposition to hold the government to account by debating and voting on proposed legislation, instead of dragging them into the hall where they can count the ceiling tiles.

He’s shown UCP party members that his Grassroots Guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  When he said, “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader” what he really meant was “Guess what–I’m the leader and I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy.”

As someone astutely noted on Twitter, the signature on his Grassroots Guarantee wasn’t “Jason Kenney” but “Just Kidding”.

So, let’s pause for a moment:  If Mr Kenney is this arrogant when he needs our votes, what’s he going to be like if he actually gets them?

*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2017, p 1798

**Alberta Hansard, May 9, 2018, p 882

 

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Handmaids For Kenney Attend The UCP Policy Convention

This would be funny in the ironic ha-ha sense if it wasn’t so damned serious.

While the rest of us were watching UCP members debate policy resolutions in a conference hall in Red Deer, Handmaids for Kenney stood silently outside the convention hall and quickly discovered just how unprincipled and ideologically flabby Jason Kenney and the UCP really are.

Handmaids for Kenney

Handmaids for Kenney are political activists who take their name from Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale. Their twitter account @HandmaidAlberta is “dedicated to the promotion & passive acceptance of a future Handmaid lifestyle in Jason Kenney’s UCP Alberta.”  Their feed is full of ironic and cutting observations of life in UCP land.

Not content to ride out the UCP policy convention on social media with the rest of us, Handmaids sent a delegation* to the policy convention in Red Deer to stage a silent protest.

Four women in red robes and snowy white bonnets stood quietly outside the convention hall.  They carried a handwritten sign saying, “The Handmaid’s Tale is NOT an instruction manual.”  They did not interfere with UCP supporters streaming into the convention hall and yet their presence was too much for the UCP who forced the Handmaids to back off 50 metres.  Presumably the UCP’s right to gaze upon metropolitan Red Deer trumped the Handmaids’ rights of free speech and assembly.

11760314_web1_180505-rda-abortion-protest

Handmaids

The UCP’s inability to tolerate the Handmaids presence is even more ludicrous given the fact every member of the UCP caucus walked out of the Legislature last week to avoid debating a bill that would impose a 50-metre bubble zone around abortion clinics.  The bubble zone is intended to protect women and healthcare practitioners from aggressive antiabortion protesters.

Going on walkabout  

Kenney said the UCP MLAs walked off the job because:

  1. The legislation was “divisive”–a bizarre comment given the only possible bone of contention wasn’t whether abortions should be available to Alberta women (abortions have been legal for decades), but whether it strikes the right balance between a woman’s ability to enter an abortion clinic without being shamed or viciously attacked and a protester’s freedom of expression and assembly.
  2. The legislation was a “political trap”. See number 1.

The only reason for Kenney to fret about the legislation being “divisive” is the debate would reveal divisions within his own party.  His far-right supporters would expect their MLAs to condemn abortion clinics as yet another indication of a “promiscuous lifestyle” (not on my dime, thank you very much!);  while his moderate supporters would expect their MLAs to argue the legislation was unnecessary in the face of existing injunctions and would negatively impact protesters’ freedom of speech and assembly.

Rather than incur the wrath of a segment of his base or risk another UCP MLA popping off in a bozo eruption, Kenney pulled his MLAs out of the debate.

This is serious.

The UCP MLAs are the Official Opposition.  The Official Opposition has an obligation to hold the government to account.  This includes speaking to legislation and debating its merits and shortcomings, whether they like it or not. They don’t have the luxury of walking off the job.  It’s not as if we can call in a substitute Official Opposition, like a substitute teacher, to take their place when they don’t show up.

This flagrant abuse of process demonstrates Kenney’s belief that democratic principles are relative.  Principles are tested by context and will be upheld (or not) depending on who or what the UCP is protecting.  If showing up in your capacity as the Official Opposition might get messy, then ditch your duty and run away.  If four women bearing silent witness offends your conservative sensibilities, then ditch your “belief” in the freedom of speech and assembly and get rid of them.

Respect and representation

Kenney says he’ll run the policy resolutions through a non-party “platform committee” to create a “winning platform” because a Kenney government will serve not just the 120,000 UCP members but all 4 million Albertans.

This is a laudable statement but consider Kenney’s actions in the abortion clinic bubble zone debate.  Kenney pulled 25 MLAs out of the debate, leaving more than 1 million Albertans unrepresented (25 MLAs with constituencies averaging 46,000) rather than risk offending a segment of his base.

And if that doesn’t give you pause, consider the UCP’s treatment of the Handmaids who were standing quietly outside the conference hall while former Wildrose leader Heather Forsyth told an appreciative crowd that feminism is an “f-word”, Rachel Notley’s gender-balanced cabinet was “patronizing” and the idea that there are barriers to women in politics was “crap”.

The Handmaids respect the dignity of women; the UCP…not so much.

*I’ve been advised that the silent protesters represented Alberta, Edmonton and Red Deer Pro-choice organizations.  

Posted in Feminism, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Personal Will, Anyone?

Question:  What do Stephen Hawking and Shamsia Husseini have in common?

Answer:  They both know the power of personal will.

Ms Soapbox has been thinking a lot about “personal will” since she heard the term used by Sally Armstrong in a speech at the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) Breaking Bread event.

First let’s sort out the players.

CW4WAfghan is a Canadian non-profit organization that supports education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families.  It was started 20 years ago by two Calgary women who wanted to do something for Afghan women suffering under the Taliban.  It’s been tremendously successful in improving the lives of Afghan girls and women.

Stephen Hawking was a world renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist who didn’t let the debilitating effects of motor neurone disease impede his quest for knowledge or his biting sense of humour.

Shamsia Husseini is a woman living in Kandahar who was 15 when a man threw battery acid in her face to stop her from going to school.  She recovered from the attack, returned to school and became a teacher, eventually upgrading her skills at the CW4WAfghan’s teacher-retraining program.  Then-president Hamid Karzai promised to arrest and execute her attacker.  He did nothing.  Husseini is unfazed.  She says she’s punishing her attacker far more than the president ever could–she’s teaching the girls.

Sally Armstrong (aka “La Talibanista”) is an award winning Canadian journalist who covers zones of conflict and reports on what happens to women and girls.

Personal will

Armstrong says there are three kinds of will:  political will, public will and personal will.  All three forms of will involve advocacy for a cause.  Political will and public will require collective action while personal will is a solitary activity that demands personal courage, the level of which will vary depending on the circumstances.

sally-armstrong-image-1100x400

Sally Armstrong

Armstrong provided three examples of personal will:  Husseini returned to school after recovering from the acid attack even though her attacker was still roaming the streets;  a Nigerian girl who’d been captured by the Boko Haram leapt off the kidnappers’ truck and hid in the woods, knowing she’d be murdered by the militants if they found her and a 12-year old Somali girl who couldn’t go to school because she was pregnant identified the man who raped her at a public meeting.

Rarely are Canadians called upon to demonstrate such courage, consequently we’ve become complacent–it’s easier to go along to get along than cause a ruckus.

Personal will in Canada  

Complacency is easy, but only if we turn a blind eye to reports like the annual B’Nai Brith audit of antisemitism.  The audit shows a dramatic increase in antisemitic vandalism, harassment and violence–1,752 incidences in 2017.  Before we dismiss this number as an aberration, we need to put it into perspective.  The Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,986 antisemitic incidents in 2017 in the US, a country that is “almost nine times bigger and with a Jewish population 14 times larger.”

The numbers and the trend are worrisome because as Abe Silverman of the Alberta chapter said, when incidents targeting the Jewish community rise, there’s often a concomitant rise in incidents against other minority groups.

And this is where personal will comes in.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to be as brave as the girls of Afghanistan, Nigeria, or Somalia, it’s highly likely that you’ll be chatting with a friend or acquaintance who says “I know this isn’t politically correct” or “I’m not a [insert racist, homophobe, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobe, etc], but…[insert slur here].”

Hawking’s response

Now you have a choice.  You can turn a blind eye to hatred, prejudice and stupidity or your can address it.

If you decide to address it, you can choose the full-Hawking or mini-Hawking response.

When Hawking was asked for his opinion of Donald Trump he said Trump was “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator”.  This confused the public who took to Google in search of the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking”.

Trump’s campaign manager dismissed Hawking’s assessment:  “For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail.  If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

In a satirical piece for The New Yorker, Andy Borowitz reported that Hawking later clarified his comment by telling a reporter, “Trump bad man.  Real bad man.”

So those are your choices.  You can tell your friend/acquaintance what he just said was racist, homophobic, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobic, and explain why, or if the circumstances don’t allow for the full-Hawking, deploy the mini-Hawking and tell him “What you said is bad, real bad.”

This achieves two things:  (1) your friend/acquaintance may not understand why his comment crossed the line, but he’ll know that reasonable people won’t stand for it and (2) you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done your bit in standing up for humanity.

When someone promotes injustice, all of us must speak out.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments