Today would have been my brother’s 68th birthday. I wrote about him here (on the anniversary of his death) and I won’t add much in this post, other than to say he would absolutely love this political climate – not the divisions or anger, but the vibrant, rebellious aspects. And it would be so great to have him to talk to about it. In his honour, I post two terrific columns about Obama’s disastrous legacy. Alan would agree with both of them! The first is from Lord Black; the second from John Robson.
I posted earlier about the quakes and such going on here, and it occurred to me that I really need to put things in perspective. I was talking to a couple of classmates here in Italy who are from the Ukraine, and they basically said they felt safer taking their chances with quakes than going back home to deal with war. And then I remembered my uncle’s letter about nearly being killed in a buzz-bomb attack (two months before he was killed by a German shell). Please read that letter and spare a thought for those who serve and those who served. Remember all those young men and women.
Four years ago today, my brother died. I miss him every day and while I don’t want to dwell too much on sadness, I never want to let this day go by without acknowledging what a hole his death left in my life. He was the only member of my family (of origin) with whom I spoke every single day, in some capacity. I miss those talks. I miss the intelligence and the moral compass. I was surfing his first blog (which is still online here) the other day and felt such grief. But — sappy as it sounds — he wouldn’t want that. So I will add that I was so lucky to have him as a brother and friend.
…Canada entered the Second World War.
A propos, please visit my other website.
These three ferals are from the same colony, and as you can likely guess from their appearance, are related. The bottom two are siblings and the older black and white fella (top photo) is their dad. The one peering through the fence is the shyest.
I shall miss David Cameron – have always liked him. A shame he felt he had to fall on his sword. Only a few days after Brexit, he had these choice words for Jeremy Corbyn, obviously playing on Leo Amery’s famous words to Chamberlain – in turn borrowed from Cromwell. (FYI, I referred to my mother using this quote in a column from two years ago.)
On the occasion of VE Day, I recommend this series (it is available on Netflix). It is fascinating and frankly, we often forget how important stopping the heavy water production in Norway was; if the Germans had got the bomb before us, it would have been beyond disastrous. The series certainly has its standard 21st century biases — for example, the Americans are made to look like bullying allies, whereas if you read World War II history, rather the opposite is true.
But the basic facts of the sabotage are there, and I love the portrayals of the Norwegian heroes — men for whom we should be forever grateful and who, in true Norwegian fashion, were ever humble about what they did (a profile of one of them here).
My uncle — his war letters website is here — was being trained to parachute into Norway, interestingly enough. It is possible they were considering him to be part of this project, as he had the language skills required. Either way, the likelihood of survival was slim.
My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.
First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.
I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.
By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).
There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.
In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.
I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).
Ron Hynes died recently. His song “Sonny’s Dream” is truly the great Canadian song — unfortunately, since I associate it strongly with my late brother I can barely stand to listen to it. The lyrics just kill.
In tribute (and have some kleenex handy).
I am back posting at my tumblr, as well.