Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Because Ottawa is not a Fortress

Mack Hall, HSG

                                        Because Ottawa is not a Fortress

On a perfect summer morning several years ago, two delightful children took me on a walk through downtown Ottawa and then all over one of their favorite (or, rather, favourite) green spaces, Parliament Hill.

Long ago, Queen Victoria chose the little community of Bytown as the capital of Canada.  The site was then given back its original First Nations name of Ottawa, and a great city developed there at the confluence of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

Canada wisely made its Parliament a park instead of a fortress, and what stands out about Parliament Hill is not its many noble buildings but rather the expanses of grassy lawns, the banks of flowers, and the children at play.  Any grim-visaged Member of Parliament who means to bring a bill must first work her way through children playing hide-and-seek, eating ice cream, blowing soap bubbles, pushing baby brother or baby sister about in a pram, chasing soccer balls, and maybe suddenly crying in need of a nappie-change.  All this childhood merriment reminds the MP whom she serves, and why she should take a brief recess from thinking Very Important Thoughts in order to hear a still more important thought – the name a little child has given her new doll.

Abbie and Alexander (for these of the names of the children in charge of me that happy morning) took me to their favorite places on Parliament Hill: the Summer Gazebo, for instance, and the Peace Tower, and some other places I don’t remember because of the children’s haste to their favoritest place of all, an ice cream kiosk attended by a cheerful man in a striped vest and a straw boater.

Here I must confess that although I was reminded by Abbie and ‘Zander’s parents to provide the children with a healthy, nutritious mid-morning snack during our ramble, well, nah, it was all a prolonged sugar-shock.  If the kids had asked for tofu sandwiches made from ranch-grown fungi, or cholesterol-free salads made of acorns and leaves, I would have given them that.  They didn’t. Now they are grown up and in university, and one assumes they eat only fashionable bacteria and mould, and are never tempted by ice cream.

We looked across the bluff to Quebec and the city of Gatineau (“Our house is about there…”) and down on the Ottawa River, the Rideau River, and the Rideau Canal, which flows to Lake Ontario.

The First Nations lived on what is now Parliament Hill, and then the French built a fort there, which the English took from them, and now there is ice cream and play outside great buildings, and, inside those great buildings, the making of laws and the administration of a great nation.  And the making of laws and the administration of a great nation is for this: that children may play in safety, even if they make a bit too much noise outside the windows of the Prime Minister’s office.

Alas that law and happy children are not universal.

Last week, Parliament Hill became better known for a bad reason.

Last week, two young, unarmed soldiers died for Canada and for civilization.  They were murdered because their uniforms offended some little mansies who never accomplished anything in their meaningless lives and who now never will.

The two brave young men were guardians of a nation where children are meant to play safely, in St. Jean sur Richelieu and on Parliament Hill and in Nunavut (except when the polar bears are being tiresome).  Those two young men, barely out of childhood themselves, will be remembered.  Their families, their comrades, their friends, their schools, their communities, their nation – all will remember them with pride.  Of each of them Canada can say

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt:
         He only lived but till he was a man.

  • Macbeth V.vii.39-40

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nurses, Ebola, and Manly-Men in Government

Mack Hall, HSG


Nurses: ThenSpeak / NowSpeak


ThenSpeak: Nurses are honored for risking their lives to heal the sick and wounded.

NowSpeak: She got sick? Must have been her own fault. Punish her.  If she survives.


ThenSpeak: When a man sees a nurse, he tips his hat respectfully.

NowSpeak:  When a man sees a nurse, he demands that she not take a trip, shop for groceries, take public transportation, or go anywhere except to work without asking his permission.


ThenSpeak: The wise physician always listens to the nurse.

NowSpeak: The wise physician still does.


ThenSpeak: Nurses are women.

NowSpeak: Men, many of them combat medics, are nurses too.


ThenSpeak: Three-year hospital schools produce generations of professional, well educated registered nurses.

NowSpeak: two-year colleges and four-year universities produce generations of professional and even better educated registered nurses.  In addition, many nurses accomplish master’s degrees and doctorates.


ThenSpeak: Nurses are on duty every hour of the day and night.

NowSpeak:  Nurses are still on duty every hour of the day and night.  So what are the staff of the Center for Disease Control doing at 0230 when the sleet is hitting the landing pad, the lights have failed, and the dust-off is yawing in against the wind with wounded aboard?


ThenSpeak: Nurses keep up with medical developments through in-service and professional journals; we should listen to them.

NowSpeak: Hey, forget them; we can cure diseases by throwing buckets of water over our heads and wearing little ceramic pins made in China.


ThenSpeak:  Nurses often make do with inadequate supplies.

NowSpeak: The CDC budget for 2012 was $7.16 billion (Huffington Post), and nurses still must make do with inadequate supplies.


ThenSpeak: Long hours, many demands, low pay.

NowSpeak: Long hours, many demands, low pay, and now under the rule of an Ebola Czar who kinda looks like a frat-boy version of Kim Jong Un and whose only medical qualification is being a pal to the vice-president.  One wonders what his hours, work, and pay are like.


ThenSpeak: Nurses are angels in white.

NowSpeak: Nurses are angels in white, in scrubs, in helicopter jumpsuits, and in combat body armor.  They are angels aboard warships, in field units in far-off WhoseDumbIdeaWasThisIstan, on long-distance evacuation aircraft, in foreign and domestic missions, and in great hospitals and in tiny rural clinics.  Nurses have suffered and died in POW camps and have been murdered by their captors.  Nurses are the immediate responders when some poor soul who is hemorrhaging, crying, puking, coughing, screaming, and gasping, possibly drunk or stoned or armed, is pushed through the emergency room door,.


So maybe the manly men in Washington and Austin are blaming nurses because the manly men aren’t doing their own jobs.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yom Kippur

Lawrence Hall

Yom Kippur

When the last synagogue is looted and burned
When the last Torah is desecrated
When the last Sabbath prayers fade into silence
When the last blessing ends in blood-choked death
When the last rabbi is beheaded in the street
When the last Shema is whispered in the dark
When there is no one left to say Kaddish
When the last dim sun flickers and dies away
And the gates of Heaven are closed at last:

Who will be left to blow the Shofar for us?

ThenSpeak / NowSpeak

Mack Hall, HSG

ThenSpeak / NowSpeak

ThenSpeak: Call of duty.
NowSpeak: Call of Duty™©.

ThenSpeak: “I helped build the Alaskan pipeline.”
NowSpeak: “I topped my personal best on the rock-climbing wall today.”

ThenSpeak: “When I was in advanced infantry school…”
NowSpeak: “When I was in graduate school…”

ThenSpeak: “I worked two jobs to get through college.”
NowSpeak: “Why doesn’t MY Pell Grant cover more of MY expenses?”

ThenSpeak: “In Viet-Nam I knew some great guys who…
NowSpeak: “I have 563 Friends™ on MyFaceMeSpaceBook™!”

ThenSpeak: “I remember this old sergeant who used to bellow at us.”
NowSpeak: “My therapist says I need to embrace my inner child.”

ThenSpeak: Thinking and voting.
NowSpeaking: Passively listening to the fat boys on the radio.

ThenSpeak: “At the beginning of my senior year my dad took me to be fitted for my first adult suit.”
NowSpeak: “Do you like my new knee-pants and cartoon tee?”

ThenSpeak: “When I got out of the Army I found a good job with the railroad.”
NowSpeak: “People just don’t understand how hard it is to find a creative position in fashion design that speaks to my special vision.”

ThenSpeak: Douglas Edwards, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, William F. Buckley.
NowSpeak: Legs.

ThenSpeak: Stetson.
NowSpeak: Gimme cap.

ThenSpeak: “Ah, wilderness!”
NowSpeak: “I don’t have a signal!”

ThenSpeak: On-the-job training.
NowSpeak: Sensitivity training.

ThenSpeak: Steak and potatoes.
NowSpeak: Leaf mold.

ThenSpeak: Squirrel season.
NowSpeak: YBox.

ThenSpeak: Louis L’Amour.
NowSpeak: Zombies.

ThenSpeak: Wedgwood.
NowSpeak: Plastic foam.

ThenSpeak: “I’m early so I can get the deep-fryer going before opening time.”
NowSpeak: “I’m an inspirational singer-songwriter and I’m only working here with you little people until I get my big break.”

ThenSpeak: “Thank you.”
NowSpeak: (Grunt).

ThenSpeak: “You’re welcome.”
NowSpeak: “No problem.”

ThenSpeak: “Fill ‘er up? You bet. And let me wash that windshield.”
NowSpeak: “Insert card now. Card not accepted. Insert Card now. Card not accepted. Insert card now. Enter your zip code. Select product. Begin fueling.”

ThenSpeak: “My boss is a cranky old coot, but I kinda like him. He’s paid his dues and he knows his job.”
NowSpeak: “My boss doesn’t understand my special needs.”

ThenSpeak: “I didn’t pay much attention in high school but I re-read Macbeth while I was recovering from shrapnel wounds. This guy in the next bed said it’s all about psychology and determinism, but I see it as a narrative of what happens when a good man allows sin to creep into him. We had some fine old arguments about it.”
NowSpeak: “I read Captain Underpants in graduate school because, like, you know, they said it was a banned book, and, like, stuff, you know? So I read a banned book and stuck it to The Man.”

ThenSpeak: “You always take off your hat when greeting a lady, or at least touch the brim. And a man never wears a hat in the house, in an office, or when sitting down to eat.”
NowSpeak: “This made-in-China hipster hat is who I am!”

ThenSpeak: “Always speak to a lady as you would expect any man to speak to your mother, your wife, or your daughter.”
NowSpeak: “**** that ****. We’re in the 21st century now.”

And, yes, we are.


ThenSpeak / NowSpeak II

Mack Hall, HSG

ThenSpeak / NowSpeak II

ThenSpeak: “The Secret Service is the finest police agency in the world.”
NowSpeak: “They could be a movie: Fratboyz ‘n’ Chicks Go Wild.”

ThenSpeak: “Dad, may I borrow your new car? My old heap won’t start and I’ve got a date.”
NowSpeak: “Son, may I borrow your new car? My old heap won’t start and I’ve got to get to work.”

ThenSpeak: “Let’s work on our penmanship.”
NowSpeak: “The PowerlessPointless won’t work; somebody call IT.”

ThenSpeak: “I want to be a policeman when I grow up.”
NowSpeak: “I want to be a fashion designer.”

ThenSpeak: “When the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on…”
NowSpeak: “There’s an app for that.”

ThenSpeak: “I enjoy reading about my favorite team in the sports section.”
NowSpeak: “I enjoy reading about my favorite team in the arrest reports.”

ThenSpeak: The Bible in Grandmama’s hands.
NowSpeak: The Bible on the dashboard.

ThenSpeak: Recruit training.
NowSpeak: Sensitivity training.

ThenSpeak: Pay phones.
NowSpeak: Pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for MePhones.

ThenSpeak: Ford vs. Chevy.
NowSpeak: Fiat vs. Toyota.