The Question: Idealistic perhaps, but what one thing (or things) do you wish would change for your life, or for the world, in 2017?
The question of what I would do to make the world a better place for individuals has been on my mind for a long time – maybe thirty years. I have given it a lot of thought and come up with a range of ideas but later dismissed most of them. However, three things have remained consistently on my mind for when I am made Emperor of the Universe.
1. There would be universal health care for everybody. I would nationalize all health care and have no public money invested in a private system. Nobody should miss out on excellent health care just because of where they live or how much money they have.
2. In the same manner, I would nationalize all education from kindergarten to university. Everybody should have equal access to good education and the only limit should be a person’s desire or their grades. I don’t believe financial status should determine the level of education available to people.
3. Thirdly, I would nationalize the legal system. Everybody should have equal access to good legal representation and more money should not give advantage to people in matters of the law. Too often the power in the legal system belongs to those people and corporations with the most resources.
In most other things I am not particularly socialistic, but I feel fairly strongly about socializing education, health and the legal system.
On a personal note the single most important thing that I would most change about my life is to be able to travel more with my wife, Michèle. We rarely get to have time away together and when we do we always want to do more.
Built in 1908, the cottage stands alone on a rocky shoreline in the woods of Northern Ontario. It overlooks the Narrows, the place where the fir covered islands squeeze the sixty-eight mile river in a tight embrace. I’ve escaped here every summer since I was two.
Without electricity, running water or WIFI, the civilized world disappears. I drink from the river and when the waves cooperate, I canoe in the shallows.
Before I bathe, I scan the top of the water for snake heads and peer into the blackness. The water is opaque and offers cover for creatures lurking near the bottom. I slap the water with my foot to announce my arrival, and when I can stall no more, I slip into the chilly depths.
When something long and slippery glides over my foot, I jerk, but the weed is a false alarm.
I watch the main channel for the two-foot snapper who comes in to feed. Once, I watched him surface, spraying water from his nostrils. “He could bite your finger off,” my uncle had said, but the turtle only looked at me and descended.
Rain bleeds from the clouds up the river, and I exit the water. Dripping wet, I pull each of my toes apart, but I find no leeches. In forty-eight years of checking, I’ve found just one.
It didn’t hurt.
In dry clothes, I rest on the porch swing and watch a mink sneak in and out of crevices on the far shore as the loon yodels warnings. The damp air reaches the dirty porch screens, and the dust in my nostrils announces the rain’s arrival. Chairs move across the floor, and the screen door slams. A tree cracks on a nearby island, and I look to the sky for lightning. I recall the night I leapt from bed and crouched on the closet floor…shaking.
Today, I watch the sky and river dance their familiar tango. My shoulders shiver with a chill, but I do not go inside.
Weeks will pass before I return home to news of a terrorist attack, hate crimes, and ethnic wars. Media will blast that the world is doomed.
I’ll remember life on the river and remain steadfast to what is true.
There is nothing to fear.
We can all learn to live together.
For the world I wish a large dose of tolerance, a universal desire to ensure a sustainable environment, and a little good grace thrown in with it.
For myself, a little less procrastination and the instant loss of a few kilos. Perhaps I’ll think about both a little longer.
Past and Present Imperfect
I always wanted to be a perfect person, at least as perfect as I could be.
Yet every single day it seemed I would wake up and make mistakes. For the sake of saving my ego, I would occasionally blame others when I did.
In that spirit, I am going to take an old blotted leaf from my grammar school copy book and blame the nuns who tortured and taught me. They set high standards and I aspired to meet them, sometimes wondering why. I now think that some of the standards they set weren’t mine at all.
I certainly intended to write perfect papers for those paragons of holiness, but I must confess, that concentration was never my strongest suit. I could crochet armies of sweaters with the wool I’ve gathered over the decades.
Dripping ink from my fountain pen almost always spoiled the perfect page. If it was in the first paragraph, I would crumple the paper up, start over and try again with a fresh clean sheet. But if I got down to the third or fourth paragraph and goofed, I would dig my heels in against a rewrite.
The worst times came when the editor in me found a better way to phrase a sentence.
Then I’d find myself scratching out and writing little notes over, under and around the offending words so that my essays often resembled strip maps as much they did prose.
Sometimes it has seemed to me that the blotted copybook is a metaphor for my life.
I thought of the blots and edits as shameful things, but I see things differently now, they are all just parts of a works in progress.
Then again, thank God for Word Perfect.
Judy wrote back with a few more thoughts. They are here:
This is tough. My inner idealist and realist have guided me through life, albeit slowly. I just spent a year and a half concerned that a bigoted, greedy lying cheat would become president of the United States. I tithed my yearly income to political candidates who represented progressive ideals and got Trump and his cohort of ugly customers instead.
I was like a warrior in my concern with ideals of truth, justice and my vision of an inclusive American way.
With the battle lost, I confess that it was a painful year and a half and if I am not entirely demoralized, I still have post-traumatic stress.
I don’t believe my candidate lost. I believe that the election was stolen. They did it before back in the year 2000 and then again in 2016.
I put the theft down to the influence of old-school energy opportunists, reluctant to switch over to renewable energy while there are still mega-fortunes to be made out of coal, oil and gas. Planet be damned.
For the time being, I am licking my wounds and devoting myself to the pleasure principle. I am reading lots and lots of books for pleasure instead of news feeds while my soft kitty friends crawl up on me to snuggle.
What do I wish for the world? More kindness, compassion and forgiveness. What has that to do with Trump? I will let Karma handle that battle for now.
But I may be back on the barricades by the end of the month when my R and R is done.
This morning I woke up to find a live Facebook feed of NAACP protesters staging an act of civil disobedience in Senator Jeff Sessions’ Alabama office.
The men and women, some later arrested when the building was closing and they refused politely to leave, were making a statement to induce the senator to withdraw his name from consideration as US Attorney General on the grounds of his record acting against civil rights.
I watched the people, quiet and suited, sitting on the office carpeting, absorbed in their smartphones, and I felt a shift in myself about what lies ahead under a Donald Trump presidency.
Scrolling down my Facebook feed, the feeling was backed up by several posted calls to action to phone representatives in light of a proposal to cripple the Office of Congressional Ethics. Though Trump might claim sway on this one, I understand Washington was deluged with calls from citizens pressuring a vote otherwise.
And that happened.
It felt like something.
It felt like a bigger action than Standing Rock, which in my mind was far too little too late for an indigenous, abandoned population who as a whole, have been driven to live so far below the expectations for the rest of America, it should be called a crime against humanity, culture and history.
I am vehemently opposed to Trump as the leader of the United States, in every possible way, but I am heartened to see people taking action. It’s about time. I wish I could take part in the women’s march on Washington later this month, but I will arrive home in the country a couple weeks too late. That event will have a lasting impact on the participants and younger generations who will see it as a rally to act, and movement of democracy.
It would never have happened if Hillary Clinton had been formally elected president, but it needed to happen. All this needs to happen. For too long, the country has been in apathetic lethargy, which caused Trump to be put instated in the White House in the first place.
I am not blaming Obama who was blocked by Congress at so many turns. Rather, I am blaming the inactivity of the American people, who were more content to righteously complain on social media (myself included), instead of picking up the phone, or pen a letter, and demanding their DC representatives do their job, and represent or stand up and cry out for the indignities against their fellow Americans, of every color, and every faith.
Actions in this last 24 hours, and ever since the election, has lifted my heart. Human rights and dignity, equitable education, health care, employment training and pay can be affected by the citizens and residents of the United States.
There is power in the people, as idealistic as that sounds. And if I had a wish for 2017, I wish that those who strive to banish hatred and deprivation from the country will continue to find the motivation and the energy to persevere.