A very sad state of affairs: the persecution of the media


“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level. ” – William Bembech

“The media’s power is frail. Without the people’s support, it can be shut off with the ease of turning a light switch. ” –  Corazon Aquino  


I just finished reading a story about how journalists have been targeted by both police and protesters as they tried to report on the news surrounding the backlash following the murder of George Floyd and so many others. I guess the war on media initiated and pounded home by the so-called “leader of the free world” has come home to roost. The sad thing is, even if the Donald loses the election (and I fervently hope he does), the repercussions will continue for years into the future. The thing is it is this same media that helps protect the freedoms we all enjoy. That is not to say there are no sensationalists in the media – of course there are. And, this is not to say that media is squeaky clean or completely innocent of some of the charges against them. No business or industry is without its shadow side. However, without media how would the public ever know the real story? Unlike social media, credible journalists, for the most part, are held to very strict rules regarding reporting on stories. They have to fact check. They also have to tell both sides of any story, and hopefully without their own biases coloring it.

However, the story I just read reports on injuries suffered by journalists over this past weekend. Stories of journalists being pepper sprayed; of a journalist who is now blind in one eye after being struck by a rubber bullet shot by police; of another being shot in the throat by another officer. As if that is not enough, protestors are also attacking the men and women whose job it is to tell their story.

Most journalists work very hard and long hours for very little pay. Why would they do that, you may ask. Perhaps it is because they believe in democracy, in the right of the public to know what politicians and captains of industry are doing that is helpful, or not, as the case may be.

In recent conversations with family members and friends the point has been made that media is sensationalizing the story. Are they? And why? It’s true that bad news sells. We are all fascinated by the drama that human beings become entangled with. And we want to know what’s happening in our world. And, we want to trust that what we are reading or watching is true, and a lot of that depends upon credible journalists doing their job. Unfortunately, too often, telling the story comes at a great cost, sometimes the very life of the journalist is the price paid.

“Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.” – Horace Greeley

Why I believe in human rights


Several years ago, I was studying journalism and as part of the program we students were tasked with creating and writing a blog – of which this is a continuation. I had decided to make the nucleus of my blog human rights. My instructor wanted to know why I chose that as the key reference point for my blog.

Now, I have never traveled outside of Canada. The knowledge I have gleaned about human rights and the abuse of same has totally come from books and newspaper stories and from people I have met. I grew up in rural Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, not a locale well known for human rights activity. However, I was also raised Roman Catholic and the emphasis on brotherly, sisterly love and the ‘golden rule’ was often preached at the school I attended as a child. Added to that was my mother’s faith and belief in the equality of people everywhere – regardless of skin color, religion, or nationality. I took these messages to heart.

When I was eleven years old the family moved to Ontario. I experienced “culture shock”, if you can call it that. I was horribly homesick. I missed my classmates, the sisters who taught me at my old school, and the ocean that cradled our island home and the trees that surrounded it. Added to these challenges was the horrid bullying that made going to school a miserable experience for me. Yet, I am thankful for it because I learned what it feels like to be judged on where you’re from and to be stigmatized and labeled. It made me passionate about speaking out for others who may be experiencing unjust behaviors based on the color of their skin, religious belief, or their nationality.

I also remember watching the television commercials that showed images of starving children and the abject poverty so many were living in, when I was just a child myself. It ripped my heart to pieces to think of children living in squalor and hunger.

I believe passionately in human rights; in the just distribution of wealth; that every person deserves dignity; that we are indeed sisters and brothers of millions of different mothers and fathers, but one human family nonetheless.

I am grateful to live in Fort McMurray, a city populated by peoples from all over the world. I may not have it in my power to change the world. But I hope I do all I can to make my little corner of the world a happier, better place for my neighbours, family, and friends. For “there, but for the grace of God, go I’.

Hearkening back to simpler times


“Economy, prudence, and a simple life are the sure masters of need, and will often accomplish that which, their opposites, with a fortune at hand, will fail to do.” –  Clara Barton –

Once upon a time most people lived off the land. Life was not easy, but families worked together and communities helped one another. In many ways this is still true, but far fewer people live off the land. Time marches on. We call it progress. I am not sure about that. I am concerned about preservatives and chemicals in our food and about water that is being siphoned off for the needs of industry.  I dread what our consumerism is doing to this planet, but I am eternally optimistic. People are good. The kindest in humanity cannot be denied. I think goodness will prevail, otherwise we are all lost and I cannot fathom that. These photographs are a tribute to simpler times – to a time when people knew how dependent they were on one another. “No man is an island,” let us remember that.

 

Decisions, decisions


 

I was raised in a rural area and have to confess that cities continue to intimidate me.  My husband has been having issues with his health for many years now and though I’d like to live out the rest of my life in the peace and quiet of the country I find myself thinking of moving closer to the city.

It seems these days that no matter where you live you have to travel for health services, unless you live in a big city. It takes a minimum of four hours for us to travel to the city for specialized health care, and that is if we do not stop for any reason.  So, we lose a good part of each day that we travel back and forth. In addition there is usually a fair bit of stress involved from highway construction projects to getting off on the wrong exit, although investing in a GPS unit has helped considerably. More recently I have also mastered Google maps on my cell phone, which is also a boon.

New technology aside, in a society with an aging population I worry we will all be lodged in cities, surrounded by a concrete jungle where high rise buildings block the moon and the stars. Now don’t get me wrong, there is much to offer in urban areas: theatre, concerts, museums, a wider selection of dining experiences and much more.  But for me personally I think I would die a thousand little deaths every day that I am unable to view the wide open countryside. Birdsong is very important to me – in the city it’s a strain to hear it above the sounds of traffic.  Quiet and solitude are as important to me as the air that I breathe.  Both of which are a rare commodity in the city.  Somehow we must strike a balance between the physical needs of health care and the profound spiritual needs of the soul. We must!

Read any good books lately?


Read any good books lately? In my opinion it is incredibly difficult to find a good story. Most novels are filled with drama; with death and mayhem and leave me feeling anxious, angry and disturbed. I prefer good news stories where the hero wins the day. Today it seems the villain of any given story is more glorified than the hero. Do we have any heroes to fight for what is right? Television, movies, books, and magazines all seem to sprout hate and negativity. I think the world sorely needs more positive messages.  Enough of drama, tell me about integrity, honesty, love, and peace. Tell me stories where people care about one another and this beautiful earth we call home.

We are all well aware of the large number of injustices in the world: war, famine, natural disasters, have been a reality since the dawn of time. I want to know the stories about the people who are fighting injustice; the people who step up to help in times of war, famine and natural disaster; the so-called little people who nevertheless are heroes in my book.  And, really, we can all step up to help in small ways. Even something as simple as a smile can help encourage a person who is struggling with some unseen burden.  In the book of life let us strive to write good stories.

Remembering Aylan Kurdi


It is one year since the photograph of a drowned Syrian toddler made news around the world and created a tidal wave of compassion and human kindness. Although hardness of heart left some people unmoved, for the most part people were intensely saddened by the photograph and by the depths of despair Syrian refugees were experiencing. It brought home in a way nothing else could the severe hardship that nation’s refugees were undergoing.  “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so the saying goes, and this particular photo spoke volumes. But I think there is also a danger of too much exposure, causing people to experience compassion fatigue. We are all only human after all and there is only so much heartache we can reasonably bear before we grow numb to the pain of others. That said, I hope and pray that people will continue to do their best to provide support for people fleeing war and disasters, whatever the cause may be. I firmly believe we are all connected and what hurts one hurts us all.  As my mother often quoted, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. Let us not get so complacent in our peaceful, safe abodes that we cannot offer a helping hand for those who sorely need it.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/02/dispatches-why-i-shared-horrific-photo-drowned-syrian-child

 

Sense & Sensibility After the Fire


I know people mean well and most have a genuine concern, but when people ask me if we’ve lost our home I shudder. We didn’t. But many have and I cannot imagine how painful it may be to be asked such questions. For some it may not bother them to talk about it, but for others being questioned feels somewhat insensitive.

I have heard stories of people going through major life events like divorce, the death of a loved one, or a serious illness and had the added stress of dealing with losing their homes; And even if they haven’t, for some talking about the wildfire that inflicted such damage in Fort McMurray is simply too much. At this time people need as much loving support as they can get, and they need understanding and compassion. Dealing with the aftermath is exhausting and traumatic. Life as we knew it ended on May 3rd when we were forced from our homes. It will take time to process the grief and to find the courage to move on.  My daughter shared a story with me of being pointed out in a group of people as being from Fort Mac. She was mortified. She didn’t want to share her story with total strangers. She is very introverted and does not share personal experiences at the best of times, much less now. Personally, I am more middle of the road – I am very social sometimes, at other times I am an introvert like my daughter. Sometimes I don’t mind the questions, particularly if the person I am speaking with has a personal connection to Fort Mac. At Other times, if I sense the inquiry is to satisfy a morbid curiosity or is just grist for the rumour mill I am more reticent.

People have been so very kind, caring, and generous with their immediate response to evacuees. I just hope people realize the wounds are deep, for some deeper than others. Every evacuee has their own story. Whether or not they wish to share it is a very personal decision. Let us all respect the right of individuals to choose what to share, how much to share, and when. Let us all be sensitive and employ sense and sensibility.

Water: A Basic Need


IMG_2430One of our first concerns after leaving Fort McMurray was the need for water to drink. We had left home in such a rush we did not have any with us. Stops at small stores garnered not one drop. In a crisis situation such as this the first things to sell out is cases of water, bread, and milk. We were fortunate to be travelling with friends who were more than generous with their supplies, including water. I had worked that day, which left little time – and I do not buy cases of water as a rule. The draining of water aquifers in small communities across the country by companies such as Nestle angers me. But that is another issue; a topic for a future blog perhaps.

We had first headed for Anzac, a small community 20-25 km from the city and felt we would be safe there. Our first step was to go to the local grocery store for supplies – no water! The next morning we were hearing stories about how the fire had spread during the night and after discussions with our friends decided to vacate the area. We headed down the road to a campground at Christina Lake feeling sure we were far enough away from the wildfires to be safe. While there we contacted the Red Cross and thanks to their prompt response we received water, food, and other essentials. Which brings me to the point of this blog – water is, of course, necessary for all life forms. I cannot help but think of all the news stories I have read reporting on the lack of safe, clean drinking water in many First nations communities and asking myself “Why?” Why in this day and age in a country as rich in resources as Canada has this happened? The answers are tied up with all the issues caused by our colonist past, and again, fodder for future blogs….

I cannot imagine life without all the amenities I take for granted. Turn on the tap and there’s water. Flick a switch and there is light. I live in a comfortable house. I have more clothing than I need. Even during this time of evacuation with all its frustrations, stress, and challenges – we have been provided with all the necessities of life. Having this experience has given me new insights and rekindled my passion for human rights. I hope lessons learned from the tragedy of Fort McMurray will move us forward as a society. I know our city will rebuild and come back stronger than ever. I hope it will also cast our eyes toward all First Nations communities so that they too will have all the necessities of life, including safe water.