Look Up

As I put out the recycling bin last night as I do every Sunday night, I gazed up at the stars in the clear sky. I noticed that they seemed clearer. Closer, even. I wondered if it was just my imagination. I live in a suburb, and there is less light here than in the city. The sky looked like the night sky of my Laurentian youth (before the night lights for ski hills) or fond respite at Danny’s farm in Baldwin’s Mill near the Vermont border.

I read a post today from a friend who noticed the sky last night as well. He lives near Huntington so, his sky would usually be clearer than mine anyway. His opinion of last night’s sky validated my own. I think that perhaps with less commuting, less airplanes in the sky and less industry, less diversion the world may be showing us how to heal.

Look up!

I just finished reading “The Inconvenient Indian” by Thomas King. Sharon says she has never seen me read a book so fast. I think she is exaggerating. I read Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles VOL.1” very quickly as well. I tend to read things quickly that excite me. I am a dyslexic who reads well. I struggle with boring but adore nurturing.

Thomas King writes in style that reminds me of Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dry and witty, but poignant and pointed. I so admire the writings of all of these authors. King (I feel like using the more familiar “Thomas” as I have just spent intimate time with his book) talks quite frankly about the dubious interactions between aboriginal people in North America and “whites”.

I am white. The people who invaded and colonized this continent can be lumped into this category even though none of the terminology describing the many native tribes works, or the invading nationalities of settlers really works either except “settler”.

Semantics aside, my heritage is appalling.

Way back in 1066, my Norman ancestors invaded England, doing the dirty work for the aristocracy back in France. We became anglicized and continued being non-aristocrats for centuries.

On my recent trip to England and Wales I became aware in a visceral way of my heritage. and the whole notion of “Upstairs, Downstairs” and privilege and not privileged which had been festering for a while became crystal clear in my mind. As I trace my family tree, I can see that my ancestors were clerks, stonecutters, farmers, teachers, until my father and mother who both had post-secondary education and were considered professionals. All of them clearly middle class. Yet to hear my grandfather talk about England you’d have thought we were all Nobility. My dad used to say that Papa never forgave him for not being born in Britain which is odd because my Papa emigrated FROM Britain.

This arrogance propagated by movies such as “The Battle Of Britain” and songs like “Rule Brittania” are a part of my fabric. God Save The Queen…..what the hell for?

I grew up being a proud Canadian not questioning my place in society and feeling somehow superior to others by our “he’s Canadian, you know” mentality about people who “made it”. Superior to Americans in particular, but actually everybody in a very passive aggressive manner. “Sorry, (asshole!)” I don’t think I was alone, it was particularly Anglo centric and rah rah rah “We The North” attitude long before the phrase was coined.

My eyes opened up to much in the world through my friendship with Charlie Biddle. Charlie and I shared a lot of time when I was in my early twentiesand he, in his fifties. Charlie was an American married to a Québécoise. Charlie was black, and a jazz musician. Through a Charlie and Constance I learned much about racism (black and French) and I woke up to the fact that my upbringing to that point had made me of that ilk.

I changed. I worked at improving my French, I became more worldly, open to other sometimes contrasting points of view and more knowledgeable about subjects that would have been unthinkable to people in my family just a generation before.

I still feel pangs of patriotism if I hear O Canada played at the Olympics, but my geographic fluke of being Canadian kind of ends there. I am thankful to live in a country that has universal health care and space, but not thankful to be in a country that has bigots and selfish frightened people among us who sometimes gain political power.

Didn’t think much about native rights one way or the other. I started to become aware around the time of the Oka crisis. I heard many people shitting on the protesters and in particular on Ellen Gabriel who was an articulate and unwavering spokesperson for the Mohawk. It was clear to me that building a golf course on native burial ground was not right. Many of my friends disagreed. Particularly Franco friends whose ties to the Roman Catholic Church although severed, were as in place as my British roots. The land in question had been given to the Sulpician order by the King of France after France had claimed it from the people who had already been there for centuries.

Then, a few years back my daughter had a room mate who is Mohawk. My daughter’s friend referred to us as “settlers” which bothered me at the time, my knee-jerk being that I was born here and my grand parents immigrated.

All on the backs of colonialism, and expansionism and opportunism, capitalism, etc. Just like the marauding bastards that invaded England and kicked out the other marauding bastards who had kicked out the other marauding bastards……

I guess “settlers” is better than “marauding bastards”

The recent pipeline protests with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation brought up some quotes by Thomas King Tom “The Inconvenient Indian”. Sharon bought the book and read me pertinent passages which piqued my interest, and no sooner had she put the book down than I picked it up.

Thomas King wrote:

“The problem was and continues to be unexamined confidence in western civilization and the unwarranted certainty of Christianity. And arrogance. Perhaps it is unfair to judge the past by the present, but it is also necessary.”

I am an ally to so many causes. This cause resonates with me in particular as the First Nations are tied to Mother Earth. This is an important book for all North Americans to read!

The Covid19 crisis has pushed everything else out of the news, but we can all hope that Mother Earth is returning from the brink.

I am including some ideas here from a tract by Francis Weller:

“There are shifts happening along the fault lines of this evolving crisis.The insane pace of modernity is being brought to a screeching halt.The dominant ideology of power/privilege is cracking, coaxing a more compassionate and heartfelt response to our mutually entangled lives.Suddenly, productivity is not the primary value, but connection, affection, love, encouragement.In the pause of sheltering in place, we remember neighbors and kindness, mutuality and empathy.” -Francis Weller