100 Books: December

Jan Feb March April May June July August September October November

Phew.

I was reading up until midnight. And past midnight. But I count anything I finished by 1:15 a.m. on January 1st as something I read in December because, come on.

I’ve also been counting anything I finished in early hours of first days of any month as being from the previous month, so at the very least I’m consistent.

I read 17 books this month. Really it’s 16, which makes this an even 100 (I’m almost sure and I’m afraid to go back and do the math and find out I’m short). But there was one horrible extra book that counts on a technicality and so I’m including it to complain about its existence.

Here are some notes from the end of this journey:

  1. As December wound down someone on our Twitter timeline was talking about having finished *365* books this year. *365* BOOKS. And she finished before the month was over, so that’s MORE THAN ONE BOOK PER DAY. HOW. But despite a little bit of jealousy, mostly I feel very proud of that person. I hope one day if we happen to be in the same vicinity I’ll just spontaneously be struck with the desire to shake her hand and congratulate her and then we’ll both be really confused. But anyway.
  2. Reading 100 books in a year was a little much. I think now that I’ve proven to myself that it can be done, I’ll read more books than I so far have been reading per year, but the deadlines make it hard to enjoy things. I have a bad habit of skimming that I picked up while studying English Lit in university, and also from being a Harry Potter fan and needing to know everything that was going to happen as quickly as possible but still understanding what was going on in the story, and that habit reared its very practical and useful head here. I want to slow down and enjoy things that I read from now on, though.
  3. Kids’ graphic novels are good.
  4. I have some favourites. And I’ll probably blog about them at a later date.

For now, here are the last 17 books of my 101 books read in 2017, a not good year, but an OK year. With books.

Lumberjanes: Volume 5

lumberjanes 5

CTRL C CTRL V: It’s good it’s Lumberjanes so it’s very Lumberjanes and good.

Lumberjanes #21 & Lumberjanes #33

lumberjanes 29  lumberjanes 33

Same as above, but here I read two chapters that will eventually be added to their own volumes. I prefer reading it as a whole thing, and also I missed a chunk between the end of Volume 5 (I think) and the beginning of #21, and obviously there are several chapters missing in between the two I picked to read. But anyway. When they’re added into their own volumes I’m sure I’ll reread them and be just as happy with them as I was reading them separately.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

It’s basically the Jim Carrey mocap movie adaptation, but obviously it’s just a book and it doesn’t have the overdramatized chase scenes and screaming, so, I loved it, but I also missed the overdramatized chase scenes and the screaming. I know why this is a classic but of course I already knew why it was a classic. Despite the fact that there are thousands of movie adaptations out there to choose, even if you don’t like the mocap one, I still recommend it because it’s nice, short, seasonal reading and all it asks is that you be a generous person if you’re totally capable of being a generous person, both in money and in simple kindness to the people around you.

You Can’t Punch Every Nazi by Mike Isaacson

you can't punch every nazi

This is a 30-some odd page zine that contains information on modern fascists and some strategies on how to talk to them. I personally don’t know any people who have been completely seduced by fascism but we’ve all seen the slow slide into rather harsh far-rightism, and most otherwise good, decent people do harbour slivers of white nationalist opinions. I decided a while ago that I would try to speak up when someone I know espouses harmful opinions, and I figured this would help.

It’s the beginning of 2018 and somehow, I think it’s pretty useful, and also, it’s available here for free.

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erica Johansen

invasion of the tearling

My Christmas gift to me was waiting until December to read this. It mixed it’s high fantasy main story with a modern(ish) day dystopia kind of like early-stage Handmaid’s Tale, which was very surprising and also very surprisingly well done. Kelsea is a teenager on her way to very young adulthood and she acts like one, and so far, I love everything about it.

It was especially good to read this book now that I’m completely disenchanted with Game of Thrones and even A Song of Ice and Fire. My sister said in her review of the first book in this series that it’s like if A Song of Ice and Fire was only about Danaerys. That was how she sold me on the book, too. And I agree, that’s pretty much what the Tear universe is so far. After watching the seventh season of the show, I’m going to go so far as to say that the Tearling series is like if Game of Thrones had any reason for existing whatsoever. (I’m sorry but I’m so done. I wish I wasn’t.)

Because Tearling is grappling with how to be a good leader, how to be idealistic, how to create a just society in ways that Game of Thrones is certainly not. Not at all. Maybe the books. Not the show. The show is a pile of rancid cynicism with good acting, music, and CGI.

OK, so, positivity: this series so far is gold. It’s not without it’s uncomfortable faults, but it’s good stuff.

Reasons to Vote for Democrats by Michael J. Knowles

reasons to vote for democrats

I realized as I was writing this post about some really good books that I could technically include this incredible waste of paper because the joke is that it’s blank.

Like.

There are chapter headers and then just blank pages.

It’s.

Look I think all books need to be printed on recycled paper but I think this book especially is an incredible waste of forest.

In some ways I understand that it’s kind of funny but the joke is actually on you if you pay your hard-earned money for a blank book that took a bunch of jerks pretty much no effort to create.

Anyway. My sister and I were shopping for a book for our frighteningly conservative-minded (which means racist) (maybe it doesn’t always mean racist but in this instance it really does) cousin and that’s why we even saw this waste of space.

I’m one of those people who thinks there’s no halfway understandable reason to vote Conservative apart from racism and hatred of air but I’m going to say this too: a book called “Reasons to vote for Republicans” or “Conservatives” or “Donald Trump” that’s completely blank would ALSO be bad. Just as bad, actually, because surely at least our side can come up with some arguments and counter-arguments like reasonable people who don’t want to cheat people out of money and trees in exchange for negligible artistry.

Anyway. We bought Humans of New York for our cousin and maybe he’ll glance at it twice. Whatever. That one actually took effort to create.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

eleanor oliphant

I don’t think there’s praise enough for this book.

This book is all over the place here – and I don’t mean huge eye-catching displays at Chapters, because no, but it’s everywhere else. It’s in big box grocery stores. Usually, to me, because I’m still a bit of a snob (but I’m working on it), if there’re two solid shelves of a book at Walmart or a substantial stack of them at Costco it’s maybe not the best book, or it’s a blockbuster book like Harry Potter or Twilight or A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I’m not sure if Eleanor is a blockbuster but I hope it is. It was exactly what I needed, in any case, and I’m sure lots of other people could get something they might need out of it. I picked it up because I liked the cover and the summary sounded OK, but it exceeded all of my expectations enormously. Eleanor is instantly likably unlikable. I love her, and I love that she’s sometimes a little bit difficult to love. Pretty early on there are hints that all is not well and the more you learn on that front the more lovable she becomes. It doesn’t hurt that as we learn more about her she learns more about sensitivity, which is excellent.

It’s worth pointing out, mainly because of how much I loved this book, that it deals quite a lot with child abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, and domestic violence. I think it handled these various topics really well, but obviously your mileage may vary.

There are two big reasons that caused me to decide that this is probably my favourite book this year.

  1. The climax/”conflict is now at peak levels of intensity” moment. I was waiting from the first few pages for the conflict to blow up and be ridiculously dramatic. But, no. It’s handled with a lot of maturity. Eleanor figures out what she needs to figure out without making a huge scene the way she would have in a different book, or maybe in a quirky rom-com version of this same story. It’s not that she faces her problems squarely and with heretofore unseen inner strength, because she doesn’t. But neither does she act like many of the lovely teenagers in all of the lovely YA I’ve read this year would have, bless them. I was torn because while I felt bad for Eleanor, I was also thrilled at how calm everything was. The fallout is also handled really well, I think. There’s just enough drama, it’s nicely paced and rather cathartic and it’s everything.
  2. I like how the one potential maybe romance thing ended – small. And potentially… not romantic. Although it’s clearly implied that it’s romantic and I’m all for it being romantic but I think it’s exactly the right way for that subplot to have ended. Again, maybe it’s just that I’ve read loads of YA but I’m comparing this really quite beautiful slow progression into romance (that maybe is going to stay friendship, who knows) to a climax in which two characters make out furiously in a tree in front of all of their family members, and, yeah, this is more my speed. Also, it’s so important that “romance” is not a thing that fixes everything. I know there’s a place for that, but I prefer when it doesn’t happen.

I didn’t want it to end. And when I did finish it I wanted to just reread it, since that was my only realistic option. But I had more to do before the year’s end so I COULDN’T.

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel

dog

I learned that labs are terrifying and that dogs are ridiculous.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

binti

This short novel/novelette is really cool. It’s science fiction, which is not close to being my favourite thing in the world, but it does what science fiction is supposed to do, as far as I’m concerned, anyway: it challenges things. This is a challenging story that has pretty much all of the characters reevaluate their initial feelings and biases and work together. I kind of think this shouldn’t work (I can’t give away why). But it does.

There are a few sequels to this and I’m definitely interested in reading them. Sci-fi so rarely captures my attention but this one was really really cool.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

spirit hunters

We bought this for our youngest cousin. It’s a ghost/possession/haunting story for children and it’s super creepy.

I read it quickly before wrapping it (I usually try to, because sometimes a book will seem like a good idea on the shelf and then you bring it home and it’s full of unfunny rape and animal cruelty jokes for literally no reason and then you have to go back out shopping again because this trash is not worthy of our baby cousin) and I’m a little worried that it’s going to give him nightmares.

On the other hand, I kind of hope it gives him nightmares. When I was a kid I loved scary stories and getting spooked. Well. It was a love-hate relationship, maybe, because I never loved the part where falling asleep at night was impossible. But in the end it’s always worth it. I recommend it for the kid in your life who wants to get scared but because horror movies usually have unnecessary sex/gore/etc. they aren’t allowed to watch most of them yet and they therefore need to resort to scary books. This one will do.

Insane Clown President by Matt Tiabbi

insane clown presidency

We bought this one for another cousin! Mostly we think he’ll like the cover art. There are also illustrations along those lines for each and every chapter, which, unfortunately, is the best part of the book.

That’s not to say it’s not good, because it is pretty good. It’s just that the subject matter is so bleak and ultimately not funny.

Notably, Tiabbi’s discussion of Bernie Sanders/the young progressive vote/Hilary Clinton was by far the most palatable pro-Bernie thing I’ve read. Usually pro-Bernie stuff is condescending because it kind of has to sneer at the Democratic base for choosing “an establishment candidate who isn’t really that progressive personally” while ignoring that the Dem base probably went for Clinton because she was the more realistic choice, and they wanted the more realistic choice. For reasons. That need to not ever be dismissed.

HOWEVER. My reading, and other pro-Hilary readings, can often be condescending the other way, towards the young progressives who rejected Clinton. I’m still sure some of them are ridiculous and would never have voted anyway, even if Bernie had won the nomination, but the reality is, it really really is a good sign that a candidate like Bernie Sanders, no matter how tiresome hearing his name has kind of become, did so well, especially with young people. Their reasons for picking him were good ones. Tiabbi’s stuff made that clear without being awful and unnuanced and broish.

Anyway. Let that be the last I hear about the 2016 primaries and the 2016 election. It’s 2018 now and all I want to hear about is the impeachment.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

sisters

This was kind of wrenching. I really liked it, except for the part that involved dead/dying pets. One more time: the 2017 lesson is that graphic novels for kids are awesome.

Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook by Mark Bray

antifa

giphy (1)

HHHHHHHOMG. So.

I have a lot of thoughts, but they don’t really matter. Basically, if you’re interested in antifa at all, and, I said this earlier when I talked about reading the book about terrorism but I’m saying it again now, if you’re living in today’s reality then you probably are at least somewhat interested in the topic, I highly recommend this one. It places current antifa tactics and groups in their historical contexts, which is really unnerving when this book demonstrates all of the similarities between what’s going on now and what went on right before WWII. I don’t think the book is scaremongering – in fact I just think it’s being honest. I took away some fairly hard-hitting points from it, the most important of which is, if we’re serious about “never again,” we need to understand all of the different facets of how we actually make “never again” the reality… and this book suggests that antifascist action, some of which is violent, is a crucial part of it.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

radio silence

We intended this book for our little cousin but thankfully I read it first. It’s just a touch too old, but we’re lending it to her in a year or so because it’s so good.

First of all, I think it’s the most accurate and realistic depiction of being a high school student I’ve ever read or watched or encountered anywhere. And while that means it was delightful to read – the feeling of “so someone else felt like that once too!” is always so beautiful to stumble upon – that also means it goes to some very dark places.

This and Tash Hearts Tolstoy are high on my list of books I wish I’d been able to read when I was a teenager, but no matter. I’ve read them now.

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley

poems on various subjects

It’s available online to read freely, like, right now. I suggest you check it out, even just one or two poems, because the backstory on this one is intense.

I can’t really say anything about it except “how did I take two American lit courses and we never were assigned even one of these poems,” but here’s a thing you should definitely read about it.

Assholes: a Theory by Aaron James

assholes a theory

I don’t really know what the theory is, but this was a fun read. It will actually make you feel a little bit better about having to put up with a certain type of person you might often have to put up with.

Also there’s reference to Donald Trump, but he wasn’t even running for president when this was published (do you remember those glorious days), so it was kind of sad.

Arrival (but really, Stories of Your Life and Others) by Ted Chiang

arrival

Science fiction! Not my favourite.

I hadn’t realized that this is a collection of short stories, only one of which is the basis for the movie Arrival which I really like. The story is good – it’s probably my favourite in the collection – but I prefer the way the movie handled the alien aspect of things.

However. Amy Adams’ storyline in that movie kind of bugged me. In this version the character makes a similar personal life choice, but you get to see her thoughts and nightmares about it, and everything makes more sense. There’s a significant change in the adaptation as well that makes me frown a bit. SPOILERS FOR BOTH VERSIONS: In the movie, her daughter is fairly young, maybe a teenager, when she dies of an illness she was always going to contract and suffer through. In the story, she’s 25 – still young but an adult at least – and she dies rock climbing. Maybe the movie makers thought the rock climbing thing would make audiences go “Wait why couldn’t she go with her to the cliff or tell her not to go on that particular day” and sure, those would be fair questions. The illness makes it clear that there really isn’t anything she can do to prevent it.

Buuuuut the point is she can’t? The way we perceive time, when someone dies suddenly, we don’t see it coming and couldn’t have prevented it. The way Amy Adams’ character sees time, she can see a thing coming and yet she still can’t change it. She just knows it’s going to happen.

This bugs us because we can’t understand how a person could be able to see bad things coming and not be able to prevent them, what’s the point etc. etc. but the point here is that aliens will have vastly different ways of existing in this universe than we will, so. Shut up.

Ultimately I like this story, I like what it says about us and our one way of living in the world, but I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t just magically escape our narrow understanding of the world to write or to read a story, not fully.

Also I wrote a bit about the heptapods and how I think they look like squid, but I forgot to talk about how they also look unnervingly and I think purposefully like human hands, but with one extra digit.

Anyway. The other stories were all a lot like this too, where I liked them but they were challenging and, I think, sometimes kind of too bold for their own good. But I definitely think this collection is a worthwhile read. Again, as with Binti, I think any sci-fi that properly challenges me is worth my time.

AND THAT’S IT! Time to… read. More. Again. Yey!

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It’s OK to have a knee-jerk reaction to stupid things

Hi. I’m supposed to be going up north but the highway is closed because some truck crashed and “dangerous liquids” spilled all over it and it won’t be open until 8 and I have nothing to do but wait as the bag of frozen edamame I just bought casually melts in the car where I left it because I have basically given up on everything. (PS: I… hope everyone is OK. Truck driving is scary.)

Anyway, I thought I could make use of the time by stating a thing: if you, like me, heard about the upcoming TV show picked up by HBO to be created by the Game of Thrones showrunners D&D about an alternate universe current America in which the Confederacy won the Civil War and slavery is still legal, and if you, like me, went, “Uggggggggh,” then, trust me: it’s OK. Even though everyone’s going to call you an over-emotional SJW, your reaction is fair. At least, according to me, it is.

It’s super early, we don’t even know if it’ll actually happen, who knows what it will look like, maybe D&D will hire a black creative team and they’ll treat the subject with respect and compassion and will ensure it won’t be exploitative. But. Probably not.

Even if they do (and… I hope that they do. I hope that either they have a good creative team and they salvage something out of this terrible, terrible idea, or, that they decide not to do this at all), this should never have happened in the first place.

Slavery is one of America’s greatest shames. It’s legacy continues to affect everything that goes on there. Everything. I think it’s generally a good thing if people want to explore these issues in art, but I have noticed that it tends to be white people who really want to do it in this specific way. “Oooh, here’s a super great premise that will be really important to work through: what if slavery still existed?”

The books I’ve read that take on slavery have been fantasy written by white Americans. One is the A Song of Ice and Fire series. One is Queen of the Tearling. Both feature young plucky white girl monarchs fearlessly stepping in and ending slavery. Like. In one fell swoop. There are complications later on, sure, but they end it fast, usually in front of a large, adoring audience. Slavery as a topic shows up, I would suggest, mainly to bolster the white girl saviour queen’s awesome hero image. I loved both of these stories. When Dany has Drogon fry that incredibly over-the-top evil slave merchant, I mean, I loved that. I was a little more cynical when Kelsea declared that slavery was over now forever, but that was probably because Johansen’s book is less about the spectacle than GRRM’s are. But here’s the thing: I think a useful discussion of slavery wouldn’t be easy, spectacle-driven, ideologically clear reading/watching. It might be fun for Quentin Tarrantino to imagine what he would have done as a white guy in the slavery-era south (so, he’d be a former dentist, current bounty-hunter, and he would mess everything up because he’s too pure to shake a horrible person’s hand) (that movie is embarrassing) (good, but embarrassing), as it might be fun for us to watch young white women take down slavery infrastructure with fire. But it doesn’t help. It’s easy to say, “Slavery was bad and I wouldn’t have participated.” It’s harder to say, “We need to rethink our current prison system because it is incredibly racist and if we’re perfectly honest it is a gigantic violation of human rights and it ends up functioning in ways that are quite eerily similar to slavery, which is supposedly illegal now.” You can barely say anything even close to that if you’re a politician and you’re seriously considering earning more than, like, ten votes. But if we’re as serious about being anti-slavery as we say we are and as we think we’re demonstrating when we geek out over Dany and Kelsea, then we should probably be thinking about the modern-day ramifications and equivalents of slavery. Because. Come on.

Considering the fact that they could have picked up a show about literally anything else, it’s even more annoying. You might argue that taking on modern racism by depicting slavery as being still legal could potentially be thought-provoking and norm-challenging, but even if it turns out to be just that, why would nobody instead do an alternate universe in which the Americas were never colonized? Or taking a look at what Africa would be like today without decades of European meddling? My guess is because there aren’t really opportunities to inject white saviour narratives into stories like that. But maybe that’s me being uncharitable. (It isn’t.)

Also D&D are not good. So, even early on, I think it’s a safe assumption to fear for the worst here.

Anyway. Be angry, it’s perfectly valid, you don’t have to wait and watch a show about modern day legal slavery before you’re allowed to say that it’s probably not a great idea and that you’re not interested and that most other ideas would have been better for a new TV show.

Richard Splett, best staffer ever

Why not take a moment to appreciate Richard Splett, who is one of the best characters on Veep? He’s unfailingly nice, cheery, and I would call him every day just so I could listen to his outgoing message, which is amazing.

I remembered how great I think Richard is when on a recent episode he told Katherine that he inherited a distaste for butterscotch but also a love of saying the word “butterscotch” from his father, so, obviously now I need to spend a bit of time explaining how awesome he is.

I found a channel on Youtube called “Splettnet” which is entirely devoted to posting strings of clips of Richard in the show. After watching these videos I’ve pulled out two key moments, both from Season 5, that highlight how funny it is to have a character like him along for the ride on a show that’s mostly full of horrible, horrible, horribleHORRIBLE people.

In this scene Amy and Dan are yelling at a staffer about getting something filed asap. Amy says, “You need to file this at the couthouse in exactly seventeen minutes!” while pointing frantically. And then Dan says, “Yeah, and if you miss the deadline find a rattlesnake and shove that up your dickhole cause it’s  a lot more fun than what I’ll do to you.”

And then Richard, from behind them: “And drive safe!”

Dan and Amy being angry and stressed out and awful is funny on its own but it just gets that much funnier when it’s punctuated with Richard just being cluelessly nice in the background.

Here, Bob, who ends up walking out of the meeting due to senility (of course) says, “I think the last time [I saw you] was at your ski cabin with your wife!”

And other dude replies, sleazily, “I’ve still got the cabin.”

So Bob laughs, Dan looks more than comfortable laughing, and then there’s a shot of Richard’s face as he works out what sleazy guy means and it’s just gold. If I had to translate it into text I might say it’s something like this: “Huh? Oh – oh. Uuugh.”

My favourite Richard moment ever is early on in this season where everyone is frantically trying to determine what to do about recounts, and then Richard blurts out the entire procedure, because as it turns out, he has a doctorate in constitutional law. Also he has one in veterinary medicine, his fall-back.

And at that moment he gets a promotion and everyone realizes that he actually does have value, and how can you not love that? Of course, the point of Veep is mainly to laugh at awful people doing really important jobs awfully, so I realize that characters like Richard can’t have moments like this all the time, but I’m just glad he got one. It’s great.

All political shows, comedy or otherwise, need a Richard-type character. Imagine Richard making these faces and sweet comments in and around all of the illicit, unhealthy, self-destructive sex all the characters on Scandal are having.

Oh also imagine if there was a real-life Richard tagging along after Donald Trump. I’d like to believe someone as pure as Richard could continue being endlessly cheerful even around that mess. And then when the chain of impeachment happens it could be President real-life Richard Splett, and everything would be at least 1000x better.

I dream.

Canada Has to Own This

I may be part French-Canadian, but I’m not Quebecois. I’m an Ontarian and I’m going to avoid talking about Quebec nationalism as much as possible because that would be kind of Ontarian of me, but regardless, Canada and Quebec have to own yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec. We can’t just blame it on Trump, and that’s the tldr version of yet another political blog post. 

I think that because of the timing of the shooting, this tweet is probably correct. But Trump, Trump’s Muslim ban, and Trump’s following are not alone in radicalizing this particular terrorist.

And although this attack took place as Trump was banning Muslim refugees, immigrants, and green card holders, last summer, long before we had to accept the reality that President Tiny Hands McRacistAF was going to happen, someone left a gift-wrapped pig’s head at the Mosque’s door with a tag that said, “Bon apetit.” Two of my favourite things, Islamophobia and dead animals. I mean, there’s a big difference between this “statement” and a terrorist attack that killed six people, but the terrorist attack doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. The culture of Muslim hate already exists in Quebec and was there long before Trump declared his campaign.

When the Parti Quebecois was in charge a few years ago, they tried to ban overt religious clothing and jewelry. And I’ll bet that slightly larger cross necklace is just there to try to disguise how racist this all is.

The Parti Quebecois were soundly defeated in the last Quebec provincial election but rampant Islamaphobia remains, as these two articles look into. From the first:

“A 2015 Quebec Human Rights Commission survey found that 43 per cent of Quebecers believe we should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion, with 49 per cent expressing some uneasiness around the sight of Muslim veils.”

“Anyone” openly expressing their religion, eh? “Anyone?”

That’s not a nice number. It’s almost exactly half of the province who feel threatened by a woman wearing a hijab or a niqab.

So I’ll be an Ontarian and say that Quebec has their own specific problem with Islamaphobia because they dedicate a lot of political energy to preserving their culture. In the past there was major pressure from the rest of the country to Anglicize Quebec, Canadianize it. They’ve managed to preserve their culture against the anti-Papists of old and survived as a nation within a nation through quite a bit of stupidity on the part of the federal government throughout the years, but their present-day hatred of immigrants who can’t and don’t try to pass as regular francophone Quebecois because they wear hijabs, turbans, or kippahs isn’t an acceptable way to preserve the Quebecois culture. (You know not to mention all of the steamrolling of First Nations peoples who were there, you know, first, but that’s a whole other thing and we’re all complicit in that so.)

Quebec is also not alone in its Islamaphobia. After Trump’s election a Mosque in Ottawa was defaced. Sure, that loser was emboldened by Trump, but the attitude was here long before that.

Here are three lovely stories of Muslim women being attacked by upstanding Canadian citizens.

In Quebec, and two in Ontario.

There’s a video of the last one, which I don’t want to watch, but the still that shows up is an angry white woman WEARING A SHIRT THAT FUCKING SAYS “CANADA” ON IT.

So, when I saw the Prime Minister’s tweet welcoming refugees of all faiths:

I thought, “And *that* is what I voted for.”

But it isn’t truly this country. We have to be careful to remember that, because if we don’t we won’t hold our government accountable.

I’m liking his stance here, and that he correctly called the attack a terrorist attack right away – both of these are important statements but it isn’t action yet. Then there’s his government’s stalling on its promises to indigenous communities.

The reason I’d consider this very relevant to this subject is that Canada’s struggles with the First Nations go on all the way to the beginning of Canada as a country, and well before. By now, we should be dealing with this much better than this. There’s no excuse, and it makes it hard to hope for new and decent legislation about anything related to identity politics and civil rights.

But this is a good post for Canadians looking to do something to help.

Familiar Fascism, or, I’m suffering from Stephen Harper Deja Vu

The only. The ONLY good thing. About this guy. Was the cats. THAT’S IT. And he could have had the cats without being a politician at all. Ugh.


We got rid of Harper and it was wonderful. After nearly 10 years of his leadership, left-leaning Canadians were so fed up with him that we all apparently mentally decided to not split the vote and we ended up kicking a bunch of established NDP MPs out of Parliament… which was a mistake. But an honest one. We needed to get rid of the Conservatives and the Conservative voters show up, with their strong 40% of the voting population, and they can easily win majorities when we on the left can’t collectively choose between the centrists and the actual left.

I would love the chance to vote for the Green party, actually, but I’d prefer to help keep the Tories out of power, especially after they spend a decade proving they didn’t even come close to deserving it. But now, with the centrist Liberal party in charge and without a stronger NDP presence to sway them leftwards more often than not, we run into problems like “Oh hey never mind about proportional representation, because that broken system we have just handed us a majority and what do you mean ‘think about the long term?'” and, “Yey, Trump reversed Obama’s decision on the keystone pipeline, that’s AWESOME for Alberta!”

You know. Until the environmental consequences of the tar sands catch up with us.

But I’m writing today because everything Trump has done so far (it’s Wednesday. Of his first week.) is reminding me strongly of Harper’s time as PM, and I thought I’d point out the parallels, because how else could I possibly spend my time until we’re all wiped out because of a tweet amiright

Gagging Scientists

Fascists hate science. Before Trump took office, some American climate research was saved on Canadian back up servers. Now that he’s been president for five minutes, scientists are banned from speaking publicly about their research.

Stevie did this too. In this piece, the way Harper’s gag worked seems pretty much identical to what’s going on with the EPA right now.

“In the past, journalists were generally able to contact scientists directly for interviews, but after these new directives they had to go through government communications officers.

And scientists had to get pre-approval from their minister’s office before speaking to members of national or international media, a process that can involve drafting potential questions and answers, which are then scrutinized by a team before the green light is given.”

So here are two examples of some information that might have been useful to be open to wide public knowledge from that same article:

  • Environment Canada’s media office granted no interviews after a team published a paper in 2011 concluding that a 2 degree C increase in global temperatures may be unavoidable by 2100. 
  • Postmedia science reporter Margaret Munro requested data from radiation monitors run by Health Canada following the earthquake and nuclear plant problems in Japan. Munro said Health Canada would not approve an interview with one of its experts responsible for the detectors.

The other unsettling part of this whole mess was the time they destroyed a bunch of research – it was originally claimed that they had literally burned some of it but apparently that wasn’t true.

The good news? This didn’t play well for Harper. I mean, the 40% of voters who always show up and always vote Conservative no matter the fuck what didn’t care, but the rest of us were pretty horrified. Gag orders. Muzzling scientists. Orwellian. We payed attention, and they really couldn’t spin this in a positive light.

The bad news? This was late into Harper’s 9 years. Trump is in his first week.

Abortion Abroad

Trump’s “Global Gag Rule” explained here by Laci Green reminded me of when Harper decided to be charitable with maternal and newborn health worldwide but wouldn’t fund abortions because they’re too “divisive,” in Canada (where they’re legal) and elsewhere, where the funding was going. An obvious point quoted in this article:

“New Democratic Party critic for international development Hélène Laverdière challenged the government on its summit theme of “Saving Every Woman, Every Child.”

‘Well, there’s 47,000 women who die each year from unsafe abortions,’ she said in an interview with CBC News.

‘So, if we want to save every woman, we have to address that issue too.'”

There’s only bad news here. Harper was very anti-abortion but started not talking about that publicly before he was able to win his first election. Given the opportunity to vote on reopening the “should abortion be legal in Canada” debate, he voted to not even have the discussion. I applauded him for that. It probably couldn’t have been easy for him (not that I sympathize with having “hatred of women” as a personal cause – listen, if it makes you uncomfortable that’s fine but then just don’t have one yourself, and if the thought of grown women dying from unsafe illegal abortions feels fine to you, reexamine that please), but it was clearly the right thing to do and he did it whatever his beliefs were.

Trump… is Trump. Lots of people have made the point that he’s likely paid personally for a couple of abortions, but to get that sweet sweet GOP teabagger applause he loves so much, he’s, you know, said some things. Much worse is that the people pulling his strings actually are fanatically anti-choice, and they will do whatever they can to make abortion illegal again in America. They’ve basically said so, and we would be wise to believe them.

Muslim People

We heard today about banning refugees and Muslim travelers to the US. This is disgusting. Harper didn’t do anything like that, but he used openly racist rhetoric during his final campaign.

The worst thing the Harper government promised to do was to set up the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline. Its intent was that if you had some Muslim neighbours and you thought they might be honour killing their daughters, you could call this RCMP hotline and report them.

Like.

How did they not realize how unbelievably racist that was? That would enable so many racist bozos to call in about nothing. “I saw a guy in a turban walking down the street.” You know some clownstick (or several some clownsticks) would call in about Sikhs in traditional Sikh clothing.

The good news? There’s only good news for Canada’s Conservative party. Kellie Leitch, who has expressed the ambition to use Trump’s campaign strategy to win the Conservative leadership race, regrets it. Tearfully. Here, and here (I bolded the ridiculousness):

“‘I’ve had a lot of time to think about this since the campaign took place and if I could go back in time, which I can’t, I would change things,’ Leitch said. ‘I would not have made that announcement that day.

‘As minister of status of women I was focused on making sure that we eliminated violence against women and girls especially making sure we advocated for women’s rights,’ she explained.

Leitch, who is also a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, said her intention was to ensure that if women and children needed to ‘pick up the phone’ to call for help that someone would answer, but admits that ‘the message was lost.’

‘We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,’ she said.”

So she’s not going to be outright racist. Maybe she’s leaving that up to O’Leary.

But.

Kellie.

It was called the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline.

If you really wanted kids, all kids, or anyone at all to call for help, and whatever, to humour you let’s use the example of a Muslim girl being abused, perhaps even for “religious” reasons. Why in fuck would she feel safe calling the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline? Call it something else.

Also, if you gave such a damn about women in perilous situations why did you not do a thing about the horrific number of missing and murdered Indigenous women? ???

Crocodile tears, is what I’m saying. You all knew what you were doing and you did it anyway, so now stand back and let the somewhat more competent and somewhat less racist than you political parties handle things until you and your voters are all old and dead, or have been replaced by people of actual quality. Thank you.

The bad news is that what Trump is promising is worse, and, again, it’s only the first week.

Medicine

Trump will be repealing Obamacare, to the horror of many voters of his who didn’t realize that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are in fact one and the same.

Harper didn’t like our government-funded health care system, but it’s fairly popular. I mean. You can find bozos here who don’t like it, and who in fact say things like “It’s so much easier for my dog to get treatment!” Honey. No. Some of these people are Conservative politicians, go figure. But most of us, even the basically uninformed, are proud of our health care. So Harper couldn’t outwardly state that he was going to privatize it. Instead, he made cuts. Lots of cuts. And we’ll be feeling them for years yet, at least.

There’s just bad news here. People are going to die, and those people who spite-voted him in because they didn’t like being called “rassist” will have blood on their hands.

Voter Suppression

The well-documented strategy of the Republicans has been to suppress the votes of people unlikely to vote for them – specifically, black people and Hispanic people. Trump will apparently be wasting money looking into voter fraud which of course is so minute that it may as well not exist.

Surprise, surprise, Harper did this sort of thing too. His policy was called the “Fair Elections Act.” We all made fun of it. We called it the “Unfair Elections Act.” Get it? It was clever.

They passed the Act because of a scandal they perpetrated – from this:

“The Conservatives put the new election laws in place ostensibly in response to the national outcry over the robocall scandal, in which party operatives were accused of using automated phone calls to direct non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling stations on election day. The misleading calls were reported in ridings across the country and appeared to be targeted based on information from closely guarded Conservative party data.”

Instead of actually doing anything to prevent further robocall scandals, the Fair Elections Act just made it harder to prove your ID if you don’t have a driver’s license.

The good news? After this “Fair Elections Act” was passed, we held an election, and everyone thought it was going to be close. We held our breaths for a couple of months. But Trudeau won a decent majority.

My hope is that in two years during the midterms, decent Americans will be as motivated, if not even more motivated, than we were when we voted our wannabe-fascist out of power, overcoming his election laws meant to shrink the numbers of people voting against him.

All right that’s enough. The Disney movie I’m pairing for today’s trip down a decade of Harper-themed memory lane is Wreck-it Ralph, in which bad guys have a support group and are actually really nice, and in which the real villain stole all his misused power from the girl. That’ll. Make me feel better. Sure.

Trump: First Thoughts

Tuesday was awful.

I got some pretty lousy news at work (suffice to say: head tilts are evil. Never doubt this), but besides that, everything felt wrong that day. When I got home I sat in the parking lot for a good twenty minutes and did nothing. When I got in, I went to sleep. Something was wrong and I didn’t want to be awake to face it.

I even messaged three with, “Today sucks. Trump will probably win.” I don’t want to claim some sort of clairvoyance or something (not out loud, anyway), but as I was feeling that way, Trump was winning. People showed up enthusiastically to vote for him. And lots and lots of people stayed home, perhaps feeling like Hillary would win without them, and perhaps feeling that it really wouldn’t matter either way. And all of them were wrong, but they did it anyway.

I hadn’t doubted, not for a second since early in the Democratic primary, that Clinton would be nominee. And once it looked like Trump would be the GOP’s, I never once doubted that she would be president. But on Tuesday, half-jokingly, and half-seriously, I started to believe that he would.

Last year, Canada finally woke up and decided, seemingly as one (the… 60% of us, at least, who cared) that Stephen Harper must not be reelected for the billionth time. He had run an openly racist campaign. They had just implemented some sort of “barbaric cultural practices” hotline to report scary Muslims to the government and a lot of other dog whistles and nonsense that I’ve pushed out of my mind (unwisely). Quebec, some time earlier, soundly decided that the openly racist Parti Quebecois should no longer run the province. Alberta got an NDP Premier, after years of Conservative leadership.

Canada is not a utopia. We still do and believe terrible things. 40% of the popular vote went to Harper, in spite of (and because of) the racism. We probably have as much secret entrenched misogyny as the US apparently does, and we have the Canadian form of racism where we pretend that we aren’t racist and laugh at how backwards the US is while they actually *deal* with their race issues (kicking and screaming, but still). The federal government led by the beautiful JT just defeated a bill that would have closed beastiality loop holes, banned dog and cat fur, and shark finning.

Who. Is. Pro. Those. Things.

(Oh. Right.)

But we recall the energy as we waited in line with about a hundred other people for an hour, ready and determined to kick the jerk out. That energy had been absent for a decade while people stayed at home or listened to anti-French and anti-intellectual rhetoric rather than paying attention to what was happening to the country, but finally, enough of us mobilized.

The story I told myself was this: the conservatives can’t win, never again, because Trudeau will bring in electoral reform (gahhhhhdammit Justin. Do that now) and if they only appeal to racist, angry white people, they’ll never have enough votes. They will be forced to change and suddenly we’ll have more options, more competitive politics, and the Liberals too will finally have to step up their game.

In America, it was even clearer. Obama won twice because of his enthusiastic base. Trump was unwisely catering only to the feverish Republican partisans, and there weren’t enough of them. And Clinton was the most qualified candidate to run in recent times, and one of the most qualified candidates to run ever. It didn’t matter that people didn’t like her. They couldn’t possibly fail to see that even if they hated her, she was a far better option than Trump.

And once she won, it would send yet another clear message to Republicans: the politics of hate don’t work anymore. Change.

But he won. He won because white people voted enthusiastically for him and some of them are now saying, “I refuse to be called racist because I voted for Trump my personal politics my rights you aren’t better than me blah blah blah” and some of them are spray painting slurs and swastikas on people’s property and ripping hijabs off of women.

He won because a bunch of people stayed home. Some of them are now saying, “It’s not my fault, come on, would Killary really have been better? She didn’t earn my vote and neither did he or anyone else, even Harambe. The political establishment is garbage and nothing will change that.”

The first group of people are almost hopeless. I won’t say they’re outright hopeless, but they’re almost certainly going to try to reelect Trump in 2020 no matter what he does. And some of them will try to reelect him because of any of the terrible things he might do.

The second group of people are unfathomable to me. We have them here, too. The silent, apathetic, nihilistic 46% of eligible voters. What are their lives like?

I hadn’t realized how much the first female president of the United States being elected meant to me until I saw this.

So we’re to endure 4 years of Trump. I would break out the American Idiot and all of the angry Bush-era Michael Moore documentaries, which I honestly thought I would forever be able to revisit as a reminder of when things were at their worst. Welp.

Instead, I’m going to watch my favourite redemption movies. Disney has a bunch, DreamWorks has at least one, Groundhog Day is the best thing ever. Those will have to do for now.

These things are also helping, and I’m sure there’s more from these fine people and other fine people in the days and years to come:

🙂 Hope and strength from our favourite fictional heroes from Paul.

Seth Meyers talking about his mom noooo

Laci channels some rage. APU don’t look at the comments. Or, look. Look right at them. See them for what they are.

Jay Smooth, who I hadn’t heard of before this one got shared everywhere but he’s great.

Three isn’t a fan but even she would appreciate this from John Green.

Samantha Bee’s take on anything will be a light over the coming years.

As always, Propane Jane on twitter is the best commentator on American politics and if she and more people like her were properly represented in the media, this would not have happened.

Planning my Christmas donations for this year, and preparing to donate what I can spare when I can spare it to these and others as the need arises. PP, ACLU.

And Poppy.

❤ erm