The glass half full

Ed Smith
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I am sitting here pondering what this coming year might bring.

Same as you, I suppose. I’m not overly worried or concerned, al­though both OH and I have our challenges, same as most people in our age group. It comes with the territory, does it not?

What we do tend to worry about are our children and our grandchildren. Will they be secure and happy? Will they be fortunate enough to run the gauntlet of all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that flesh is heir to” and reach the light at the end unscathed? How well have we prepared our children to prepare their children for life?

And most important of all, have we given them the resources to cope with the vicissitudes of life? I don’t know what a vicissitude is, mind you. I don’t even know how to spell it. Neither does my computer speller. I don’t even think I want one.

Future direction

Quite apart from our personal futures is the continuing question of what will happen to us as a people. How will our security be affected by world events? It has already been suggested by those in the know that Canada is a prime target for terrorists. Will someone in a quest for virgins in the afterlife decide to strap a few sticks of dynamite to himself and stroll aboard one of the Gulf ferries?

As an aside, you have to admit that the so-called Muslim extremists have us beat to hell and back when it comes to eternal rewards. Your pick of 40 virgins hardly compares with playing hymns on a harp all day.

How will our values as a society change? For example, will we suddenly decide that we should be

putting criminals to death, thus becoming the Texas of the North? Those of us already opposed to murder in our name, which is what capital punishment really is, are only a bare majority in Parliament. Our fearless leader has already proclaimed himself as being sympathetic to it, and the Canadian public seems ambivalent. So where does that leave us?

Perhaps the government will change its position on abortion and decide that a woman must apply to a committee of three, no matter what her circumstance. That committee could include a doctor, a clergyman and her MP. If that were to be forced upon us, how far would we be willing to go to fight such draconian measures?

Collective will

What kind of collective will do we, as Canadians, have to keep a rational perspective on the issues that are important to us? Can we be trusted to elect governments that will reflect our national conscience?

That’s a series of rhetorical questions, meaning we don’t expect any answers to them.

We used to joke that Canada had no national identity, that we didn’t know who or what we are. That’s probably more true now than it ever was. Or perhaps we don’t like the identity we’re projecting to the rest of the world these days. Certainly our recent record on the environment and international peacekeeping, to name but two crucial areas, have taken a beating.

Another rhetorical question: realistically, how much power do we have as a people living in a relatively peaceful and stable democracy, to effect change in our national direction? Through the vote? That can be extremely powerful when used as it’s intended to elect honest and selfless individuals.

Ay, there’s the rub.

So, as we look ahead to 2014 and the questions and concerns we have concerning our personal futures and the future of our country, what resources do we have to come to grips with them? That isn’t a rhetorical question. Let me take a shot at some possible answers that may seem naïve and oversimplified.

Testing strength

In our personal lives, we have our faith, whatever that faith may be, and our individual strength. Some of us have tested that strength already, and more than once. We’ve found that our strength comes from different sources, certainly religion for many, but mostly from family who wouldn’t give up on you, or allow you to give up on yourself. Close friends are very much the same as family, and they can be a well of strength that never runs dry.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have found a unique strength that lies in the closeness of community. More often than not, when some of us get in trouble, the rest of the community is there for us. It’s one of our great strengths.

Today, it’s the United States of America that has the identity problem. Actually, it’s like a Russian doll set of identities, each one containing others. Basic to them all are the geographical extremes: the ultraconservative Deep South, the largely liberal Northeast, the conservative Central and, defying label, California and the West.

On top of that you may wish to overlay the ultra-conservative Christian right in the South, the mainstream religious denominations in the Northwest, the more conservative Central and the anything goes (glass cathedrals, etc.) systems of the West. Then you may want to talk about the deep political chasms between Republicans and Democrats.

It seems to me that in order to have a bona fide national identity, there has to be some commonality of values and interests. The only common ground I see in the U.S. is a culture of violence. I don’t see that in Canada. Our real interest seems to be concern for each other, certainly on a community basis and more and more on a national level.

Gen. Rick Hillier was on radio this morning talking about the need for Canadians to look after our veterans in particular and each other in general.

That is where we have our real authority and power as Canadians. That’s the identity emerging from a multicultural nation. That’s our hope for our future, whatever that future brings.

I have great hopes for 2014, and for all of us.

Happy New Year.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Geographic location: California, Canada, Texas United States of America Newfoundland and Labrador Springdale

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