Our time and our place

Ed
Ed Smith
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I think I’m getting too old for this. Too old for writing “The View?” Shhh. Bad thoughts have a bad habit of becoming bad suggestions. And that’s bad.

Editors read this stuff, you know. At least some of them do. Actually I’m beginning to worry if any of them take the time to read my columns seriously. I haven’t been offered a raise. I haven’t been offered a promotion. I haven’t been invited to any of their staff parties. What does that tell you?

It tells me that nobody cares. So, one of those days when I get an offer from some group in the great United States of America to syndicate my column in 500 weekly papers at 20 bucks a column, I’m going to seriously consider it. I hate to play hardball with artistic endeavours, but hey, we writers need to keep up our lifestyles as well.

Oh, right. I haven’t yet had a letter telling me my services are no longer required. Shhh.

I think it’s wonderfully exciting to be beginning a new decade, one that only a few people gave us much chance of ever reaching. Remember the intense days of the Cold War in the ’50s and ’60s, when the nuclear clock was advanced to within a moment or two of war that would destroy civilization as we knew it?

When there were more bomb shelters in American backyards than swimming pools? When white-robed, self-styled prophets tramped around with signs reading “The End Is Near”?

One of the funnier photographs I saw during that time was of this hippie-prophet type person walking away from the camera with a billboard hanging down his back reading “The End Is Near.”

There were hordes of such people.

If they weren’t littering the sidewalks of larger cities, their like was crowding the airways of radio religious programming. Their attitude seemed to be that if they kept at it long enough, they were bound to be right.

Many of them during that period were intelligent enough to put actual dates on the end of the world. The fact that the world didn’t end when they said it would didn’t seem to faze them a bit.

Probably no causal relationship, but sometime around then we began to be aware that perhaps the greatest threat to the survival of man and womankind might have more to do with a tiny virus no one could see than with a great big bang and a large puff of smoke.

Then we went in the other direction and are now frightened poopy-less that nature will take over and wipe us out in one fell swoop. That could be sunstorm activity, errant asteroid, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, typhoon, tornado, flood and/or super storm — perhaps a more or less lethal combination of them all.

Of course, if certain elements south of the border get their way, Americans will shoot themselves to death within 10 years. I admit that sounds crass.

No one in his right mind would have given a shaved feline for our chances of reaching 2013. Great heavens, I forgot all about the Mayans and their good wishes for a happy new year.

But here we are, and happy to be here, except for those peoples who would rather be anywhere else on Earth except where they are.

And it seems even more crass and incredibly shallow and grossly uncaring to be thanking whatever gods there be for the accident of birth that landed me and mine — or most of me and mine — in this particular corner of the good Earth.

I’m often torn between gratitude for being a Canadian (OK, Newfoundlander and Labradorian as the best of the best), and awareness of misery and suffering elsewhere.

“Breathes there the man with soul so dead who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native land” and all that.

Are there Syrians or Sudanese who can feel those lines as I do? Most Americans will and New Zealanders and Britishers and French and on and on and on. What a mixture of lucky and unlucky, fortunate and unfortunate, victims and spared this world is made up of.

Still I’d bet Mary Brown’s legs against rat poison that the proportion of people who live in Syria, the Sudan, Mali, or anywhere else on Earth where life is totally unbearable, who would not claim they love their country, is so small it’s hardly worth talking about even as they’re murdered, raped and tortured.

So, how much greater is the tragedy that their love for their native land has been so smeared and trodden upon that they have to flee from it in fear of their lives and the lives of their families?

I do not admire Stephen Harper. But he is far from a cruel dictator who has absolute disdain for the lives of his people.

Yet I get frustrated and upset when I see him doing things to this province that I think affect us negatively. I feel my great pride in being a Canadian is somehow demeaned when he removes a coast guard station from St. John’s and gives it to central Canada.

I wonder how my love for my country might be affected if we were ruled by tyrants instead of idiots. If La Belle Provence were to send us all back 100 years by becoming a separate state, and especially if that separation were to be violent.

So, my heart goes out to all those barbarized and disenfranchised peoples of the world who begin 2013 with their beloved land torn from them and wet with the blood of those who continue to sacrifice for it.

And I am grateful for where I am and what I have.

 

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: United States of America, Syria, Sudan Mali Springdale

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