Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Lebanese Evacuation

Some Canadians are absolutely incensed with the idea of rescuing thousands of "sometimes Canadians." These complaining Canadians, of course, take the most extreme examples of dual Lebanese/Canadian citizens who have not been in Canada for over twenty years and then proceed to whine about multiculturalism and the waste of tax dollars on rescuing these Canadians of convenience. They never mention the vacationers, six-month residents, or the strong Lebanese community here in Canada. No, for these fiscally-conscious Canadians the lives and well-being of these people is not as important as balancing the budget. As I was involuntarily listening an inane talk radio show yesterday several people pointed out that these Lebanese-Canadians should not choose to live in a violent area and then expect to get rescued.
Suddenly, according to these budget-balancers, the onus is on the victims to read the political climate of the place they are living and correctly predict a sudden outbreak of violence. Would these same people be so harsh on the Jews living in Poland in 1939? After all, some people were aware that Hitler had plans to expand his influence. The Jews should have understood this and immediately dropped all of their belongings and livelihoods and moved elsewhere.
Would these Canadians be so harsh on snow-birds if a war were to break out in Florida? I doubt it. After all, snow-birds are usually white, elderly, and fairly wealthy. Lebanese-Canadians, on the other hand, are viewed as Arabs who took advantage of Canadian generosity by buying a sure-fire insurance plan to be rescued in the event of war.
First of all, Lebanese-Canadians are a diverse mix of Muslims and Christians who can be divided further into a number of religions and ethnicities from Greek Catholic to Kurdish to Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox to Druze. Far from the imagination of many complaining Canadians, the Lebanese are not camel-riding extremists in the middle of a desert. Lebanon is, or rather was, a beautiful, mountainous country and ideal vacation spot with breath-taking beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, few Lebanese could have predicted that Hezbollah's ill-advised aggression would have resulted in Israel bombing Lebanese suburbs and infrastructure along with supposed Hezbollah military targets. Many Lebanese feel they are being caught between two war-mongering extremists and they want out. Those who do support Hezbollah do so out of a sense of injustice. While this is no excuse, it is natural to want to lash out and strike back. Of course, that is no way to create peace.
Many Canadians were also upset over a perceived lack of gratefulness on the part of the rescued Lebanese-Canadians. Personally I believe that Canada is doing an admirable job amidst a staggering number of logistical and organizational nightmares. Unlike many European countries and certain ubiquitous world powers, Canada does not have a presence on the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it difficult for Canada to find ships willing to risk errant shells in order to pick up refugees.
I understand that many of the Lebanese-Canadians are under quite a bit of stress. It is exceedingly difficult to maintain a calm demeanor when bombs are falling without any apparent pattern all around you. Imagine, if you will, that you have just gone through several days of bombings; perhaps a bomb even landed close to you. Now, imagine that you finally find out what the government has planned for evacuation after several days of disorganized announcements, an extremely busy phone-line, and a useless internet connection. Imagine that a country that was, perhaps, on the verge of an economic breakthrough has been bombed back twenty years. Imagine that you have an extended family who is constantly at risk and cannot come with you to Canada. Imagine that you finally get on a ship after risking your life to come to port two days in a row and imagine that this cargo-ship is uncomfortable and floats in the water anywhere from sixteen to twenty-four hours. Now, imagine that you finally get on a plane once you reach Cyprus or Turkey. When you finally get home imagine that a camera and a microphone are shoved in your face and the following statement is implied, "You must be relieved and grateful to finally be back in Canada."
My first reaction would not be to wax eloquent about how great Canada is. No, my instinct would be to point out that people are dying in my country and that I am far from relieved. Then, with anger building inside of me I would launch into a tirade about all of the incompetent things that happened on my journey. Then, maybe when I went to a hotel, my home, or the home of relatives, maybe after some sleep I would start to be relieved that I was alive. Still, I wouldn't start dancing in the streets. After all, my country is still on fire.
On this same radio show, the host pointed out the bias against Israel. He claimed that few people attacked Russia over its heavy-handed atrocities against Chechnya, but as soon as Israel defended itself, everyone was ready to point out Israel's crimes. This logic sort of reminds me of a gradeschool boy who excuses himself for punching another student in the face by arguing that another student had done the same thing earlier. The host agreed with our prime minister that "Israel has the right to defend itself." I agree that every nation has the right to defend itself. Of course, defence implies a certain amount of restraint. If someone were to punch me, I would be justified in punching him back. Now, if I not only punched back but also pulled out a knife and slashed the individual forty times I would be overreacting. I am not astute enough to divine the reasons why these attacks are occurring, but I am clever enough to know that it isn't because of two kidnapped soldiers and some violent rocket attacks. Whatever the reasons, I pray that there may be peace.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Michael Franti and Spearhead in Concert

I discovered Michael Franti's music approximately three years ago when I downloaded a collaborative Marley cover he did with the husky-voiced Stephen Marley. One year later, I found the album this song belonged to and promptly bought it. The album, Chocolate Supa Highway is an eclectic mix of funk, reggae, soul and hip hop. I immediately appreciated Franti's deep soulful voice and simple but effective lyricism. I bought Stay Human and Everyone Deserves Music shortly afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed both albums; although the former remains my favourite. Later, I bought Songs from the Front Porch, an acoustic album, which is also enjoyable.
On a warm Sunday night at the Ottawa Bluesfest I had the opportunity to watch Michael Franti perform alongside his band, Spearhead. I waited patiently alongside my beautiful wife and our friend for Annie DiFranco to finish her set, and then waited further for the crew to set up for Michael Franti. Finally, the band appeared: bassist Carl Young (not to be confused with Karl Jung), uber-guitarist Dave Shul (I just wanted to use "uber" somewhere in this review), drummer Manas Itiene (formerly of Nigerian reggae group "the Mandators), and some guy on keyboards.
The band began playing a throbbing reggae riff and Franti appeared on stage juggling a soccer ball. Franti, who must be at least 6"3, was surprisingly agile for a musician. Franti immediately asked if there were any French fans in the crowd and immediately cried, "Viva Italia!" Apparently, Franti had taken in a game down on Preston and was enthused by the Italy's rather lacklustre performance. Yeah, I said it --- France deserved that game and Italy was lucky to make it to the second round, nevermind the final.
Ah well, it matters little now. Franti launched into his first songs and the crowd loved every minute of it. From reggae to funk to rock to hip hop, Franti played it all. As marijuana smoke wafted through the air (yes, marijuana smoke invariably "wafts" in the same way that Dutchman are "dour" and area witnesses testify "that nothing like this ever happens in this neighbourhood") the energetic concert continued. The crowd of approximately 16,000 heard the new cuts from Franti's upcoming album "Yell Fire" which, if the live performance is any indication, is going to be a superb effort. The dreadlocked Franti danced about the stage and, like any good frontman, gave his band every opportunity to show their talents. Dave Shul is, in my amateur estimation, a stunning guitarist with masterful skill. Manas Itiene was fire on the drums and even added some decent raggamuffin vocals to the mix. I once heard a radio host dismiss bass players as unnecessary, which is probably among the dumbest things I ever heard on the radio; but if that obtuse radio host had witnessed Carl Young playing that bass, he would have immediately retired from broadcasting.
Franti's politics lie somewhere to the left of John Lennon singing Kumbaya, but one can't dismiss the passion, love, and pure uplifting power of his music. From environmentalism and world justice to peace and legalization, Franti sings what is on his heart. The world needs idealists like Franti to counter the often sociopathic excesses of so-called realists. Michael Franti and Spearhead are definitely worth seeing live and I would whole-heartedly recommend attending one of his concerts if you ever get the chance.

Thank you Laurianne, for such a great birthday gift.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dear Boerishbwoy
Dear Boerishbwoy is a non-syndicated advice column appearing randomly every-so-often on the Boerishbwoy blogsite.

Dear Boerishbwoy,
I am an eleventh-century English peasant labouring under the benevolent protection of my feudal lord. I enjoy back-breaking labour, bone-gnawing hunger, and subsistence wages as much as the next man, but sometimes I wonder if there is something more. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that my lord will allow me to run behind his castle walls in the event of some violent action by a power-hungry neighbour seeking to further his property-line. I also understand that it is only fair for me to pay a healthy chunk of my wages back in taxes, and I know that it is only just for me to pay handsome fees to use the mill and the oven. Sometimes, however, I get this feeling of repression. My wife tells me I should just count my blessings, but after those five seconds are over I still feel the same way. What should I do? - A tad repressed in Northumberland.

Dear Repressed,
So you're hungry and you're being paid slave wages. So what? At least your pate hasn't been cleaved in two by Viking raiders. Quit whining and just do your work. I have also taken the liberty of reporting you to your feudal lord. Once he gets a monk to read my letter and your lord finds aout about your apparent literacy, you'll learn what real subjugation is.

Dr, Boerishbwoy,
I dont think that u reely need to half grammer in school, lol. I mean!!! Y should we suffer, lol!!! lol!!!! I h8 doing all that werk!!! I can tipe @ 90wmp & so I hardly need something ass arkaic as grammer!!!! I alredy no big words like osterize and recapitulate and ass I half alredy shewn, I can string together a sentients, lol!!!!! Plz right back sewn xoxoxoxo lol lol lol lol!!!! - cRaSeE~Grl165

Dear cRaSeE,
You have clearly shown the power MSN Messenger has to teach proper sentence structure. You're absolutely right, you shouldn't, under any circumstances, not learn your grammar.

Dear Boerishbwoy,
I'm a member of a Mongol horde and I'm just writing to complain about the bad rep we receive in all of the modern history books. Okay, it's not that we didn't do all the atrocities we're accused of, it's just that we're represented as somehow more barbaric than say, the Greeks or Romans. Somehow, when the Greeks slaughter one third of a city it's a glorious victory, but when a Mongol does the same thing and even thinks of piling his victims' heads in an aesthetically pleasing pile, it's an atrocity. Plus, we never hang our criminals on crosses for hours and hours like the Romans. Just because we're short and a little coarse does not mean we're barbaric. - Angry Fourteenth Century Mongol.

Dear Angry,
The Greek Acropolis is much more aesthetically pleasing than your pile of decapitated heads. Also, you may not hang your criminals on crosses, but there is a certain degree of savagery in cutting a man's hamstrings and leaving him to die on the open steppe. Try not to herd a milling mass of civilians in front of yourself on your next attack and maybe historians will reconsider labelling your victories as atrocities.

Dear Boerishbwoy,
I frequent a messageboard where I display my vast superiority over other posters by scoffing at whatever they say. Then, when they refute everything I say with cold hard facts, I feign that I am bored with what they're saying by pretending to fall asleep. Pretty smart, huh? - Narcoleptic in Cyberspace.

Dear Narcoleptic,

Who deh?