Conjuring up hope
In October, Brian Bethune wrote a cover story about the importance of hope throughout history and why the world still needs it, even though there are plenty of reasons to give up.
Your latest cover story (“Have a little hope,” Civilization, October 2020) did little to raise my level of hope, but it did focus my despair on how little hope there is in Canada that we will ever see any political leadership that can mitigate the tragedies that loom before us. I do believe there is hope that mankind (peoplekind!) will emerge from the next century with some wonderful achievements in the progress of civilization. History gives us many examples of such progress: one is the United Nations, which emerged after two world wars. The unfortunate historical reality is that the UN emerged only after millions of humans died in misery, along with their personal hopes. One can only wonder how many millions or billions of humans will die in misery before that hoped-for progress in civilization occurs.
—Shane Nestruck, Winnipeg
There is nothing wrong with this world. The only wrong part is the human beings who live on it.
—Chris Pauw, Thunder Bay, Ont.
I’ll take Canada
In October, Adnan R. Khan wrote about his experience living in the United States in the lead up to the 2020 U.S. election, reflecting on the political polarization gripping the country and the apocalyptic mood of a nation in crisis.
I agreed with the article by Adnan R. Khan (“Great American implosion,” Politics, October 2020). Robin Williams once referred to Canada as “the kindest country in the world.” He went on to say that Canada is “like a really nice apartment above a meth lab.” America has traditionally been referred to as a “melting pot,” which has been described as a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society. But now it is the pot itself that is melting. When, to the widening gap between the haves and the have nots, you add racism, violence, guns, drugs, unemployment, a pandemic, climate change and stupidity, you get the soup called Amuraca. It is a bitter soup indeed, and I will not be going down any time soon for a taste. No, I prefer Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s (circa 1968) vision of a “just society,” in which unarmed Black men are not typically shot in the back seven times by a police officer who, as far as I know, has not received so much as a reprimand. For my money, “peace, order and good government” trump “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” any day of the week. I say build a wall and make Trump pay for it.
—Richard Guy, Sudbury, Ont.
Just not seniors
I agree with Claudette Bouffard: in Trudeau’s eyes, we seniors are a burden to society (“Good Point,” Letters, September 2020). Our monthly pensions hardly cover monthly living costs, and when an extra expense comes along, we have to cut down on groceries or put off the electricity or heating bill and worry about that the next month. And so instead of offering a pandemic subsidy each month as he’s done for every other segment of the population, he offers us a one-time payment of $300, a slap in the face if ever I saw one. One more reminder of how much he hates seniors who, along with their forefathers, settled this country. Heaven forbid we need medical assistance or help day to day and we find ourselves in a care home.
—Harriet Worden, Saint John, N.B.
In October, Nadine Yousif wrote about the the killing of the two Métis-Cree men in Alberta, which has deepened Indigenous peoples’ sense that their lives are less valued.
Nadine Yousif writes, “Canada’s Constitution was amended in 1982 to recognize Métis—people of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry” (“Death and distrust in Alberta,” Justice, October 2020). This is misleading because the Constitution does not define Métis by ancestry. There is also currently a strong political movement to define Métis in cultural terms that limit membership (and therefore Aboriginal rights) to Western Canadians in communities traditionally considered Métis. If validated (whether by statute or by judicial decision), this definition might deny Aboriginal rights to people in Eastern Canada who claim either mixed ancestry or membership in a Métis cultural community. There are now a number of rival or competing Métis organizations. In fact, 30-odd Métis organizations were founded in Quebec and Nova Scotia since the year 2000 expressly in order to secure Aboriginal status.
—Donald Phillipson, Carlsbad Springs, Ont.
In September, Allen Abel wrote about a trip he took to Georgia to look for the Argentine tegu.
I was about to read “Outlaw of the South” (United States, September 2020) and spotted the text under the headline: “There’s a stubborn, scaly, fork-tongued menace on the loose in America.” I could not help but wonder how many people read that and thought, “Geez, here’s yet another article about President Donald J. Trump.”
—Bert Hennigar, Mosherville, N.S.
In August, Jessica Lee spoke to Chinese Canadians about the racism they’ve faced since the start of the pandemic.
Jessica Lee’s piece on the atrociously ignorant vigilante attacks on Chinese Canadians is so effective (“Targets of hate,” Racism, September 2020). I hope it is educational to many. With no commentary other than her introduction, the personal stories recounted by these seven Canadians are poignant and heartbreaking. Among the many, Rachel Chen’s statement is gutting—perhaps without her intent. She states that in contrast to his younger brother, Mason, who’s in Grade 1, she hopes her 10-year-old son, Tristan, has “built up enough confidence . . . to be able to handle racist remarks.” My heart sinks. The suggestion is that it’s somehow incumbent on a 10-year-old to have grown a thick enough skin to handle being told that he has coronavirus and eats bats because he is Chinese. In my case, as a Korean-Canadian raised in Scarborough, Ont., should I have been sufficiently thick-skinned to be unaffected by being called a “chink” plenty of times in grade school? Or to have been excluded by the white boys’ and Black boys’ teams on the Grade 5 soccer field? We can do better. We must. For Mason and Tristan, as well as for children of every single skin colour, including white kids. All of them.
—Rick Byun, Toronto
Thank you for your moving and insightful tributes to one of my favourite writers, Allan Fotheringham (“Loved, feared and never ignored,” In Memoriam, and “The life and bravado of Allan Fotheringham,” October 2020). I once had a close encounter with Dr. Foth while strolling through Eaton’s in Vancouver in the late ’70s. I noted, at the time, that he moved quickly, probably due to his track-star past. But at the time I was too shy to even attempt a greeting. I always admired his wit and sarcasm. In later years, when I entered the world of print journalism after 12 years in radio, I consciously or unconsciously tried to emulate his writing style in various columns. I even stole his beloved phrase “Regressive Convertibles” a few times. Fotheringham was an icon who won’t soon be forgotten, especially by yours truly.
—Ed Moore, Edson, Alta.
In September, Aaron Hutchins wrote about how a project featuring a statue of every Canadian PM has become a politically charged minefield.
It seems that in the fame game, the more statues of you get pulled down, the more important you were or, at least, the more famous you’ve become—as a de-platformed statue (“Statue of limitations,” Ontario, October 2020). Historic figures were given statue status because descendants wanted to commemorate their heroes. You’d think remembering together would be something any group would be free to do in a free society. Those who wish to can also freely forget, but paradoxically the more publicity their statue destruction causes, the less forgotten the historic figures will be. Many figures no one had heard of have gotten a new lease on fame. Indeed, if a statue hasn’t had paint thrown onto it, the person it represented, were she or he alive to know it, might feel quite rejected. Enemies confer significance; only the most banal non-doer never makes any. There’s something to be said though for anonymity, and probably more than a few of the commemorated wish they’d never become such famous objects of attention. Some, newly reviled by ideologues, would probably be happy to rest in peace, but they’re paradoxically being revived. When they lower your memorial, they raise your profile. Maybe some of the long-forgotten deceased are guffawing in their graves about that.
—S. B. Julian, Victoria
The Meng dilemma
In September, Shannon Gormley wrote a column about why Canada should not pay the ‘ransom’ of Meng Wanzhou in return for the two Michaels being detained in China.
Shannon Gormley’s article claims there are options to save Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor other than trading Meng Wanzhou (“When not to pay a ransom,” Diplomacy, October 2020). But the Chinese have made it clear they are interested in getting Meng back ASAP, and Canada wants the two Michaels back. Canada will only have Meng for a limited amount of time; either the courts liberate her or she is extradited to the U.S. In either case, we lose our leverage. Those who think that making such an exchange would set a terrible precedent appear reconciled to sacrificing the two Michaels for some greater principle. There can be no greater principle than saving the lives of innocent Canadians. Remember that Pierre Elliott Trudeau said he would never negotiate with the FLQ terrorists, but when the kidnappers of James Cross were discovered, he traded their liberty in Cuba for the life of James Cross. There were no more FLQ kidnappings. Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, kidnapped in Mali, would not be alive today if a ransom had not been paid. Ronald Reagan traded arms to Iran for the liberation of Americans kidnapped in Lebanon, even though he had claimed he would never do so. Real diplomacy is the art of the possible, and you can’t always get what you want by sticking to lofty principles. It is time for Justin Trudeau to do a swap and save the two Michaels. What happens afterward can be dealt with afterward.
—John Noble, retired Canadian ambassador, Ottawa
Andray Domise’s column on the family was such a jumble that I imagine many readers simply gave up and turned the page (“We are not the nuclear family,” Black Lives, September 2020). But they would have missed his key point: “The most brutal social structure that Western civilization has managed to force on the present-day Black family—the African family—is the alienating nuclear family structure.” The nuclear family, two parents raising their children, is a “brutal social structure”? The nuclear family has been “forced” on today’s Black families? The racial reckoning conversation needs more thoughtful and more inclusive ideas than presented by your columnist. You can do better, Maclean’s.
—David McConkey, Brandon, Man.
I just read the article by Rav Arora about how white guilt and atonement strip people who belong to visible minorities of their agency, and enjoyed it thoroughly (“White privilege?” Race, September 2020). This is a piece calling for wisdom, clarity of thought and, most importantly, unity in a very divisive time. This sort of rhetoric is needed more often. I am reminded of one of my heroes, Daryl Davis, who has been steadily talking KKK members out of their racist behaviours by befriending them. Arora’s article calls for redemption, grace and healing, and that’s what we need. It doesn’t sidestep the fact of racism, but it does maintain individual rights and responsibilities and encourages the reader forward to reconciliation. It is one of the few truly anti-racist pieces I have read.
—Ryan M. Sero, Hamilton