Toronto housing is unaffordable…

but who cares, because… Booth!


Utilize your Booth. Or it’s Church Basement for you, loser.

Overflowing as I am with ideas like a genetically-enhanced Thanksgiving cornucopia, I found I have given life not to one post, but to two. Previously on slowpainful, death by conservative; today, affordable housing. Go on, feel gifted!


Drawing on an entrepreneurial offering that I keep bumping into online, I think stand-alone phone booths costing $3,495.00 USD — yes, this is an actual thing—would make a simply spiffing way of adding some affordable housing to the Toronto real estate scene.

I’m hoping to blatantly steal this idea and convince Mayor John Tory and/or Premier of Ontario Doug Ford that it’s the only way, once I have their attention. And I’m positive that I will have their attention after next Tuesday, which is when I plan to streak through Nathan Phillips Square and nail my scrotum to “The Archer”. (I did a course.)

I’m The Guy with Ideas About the Homeless and Affordable Housing Problem. Ideas that don’t involve simply waiting until after Christmas then putting homeless people and the other losers who can’t afford over two thousand a month, not including utilities, in a church basement, feeding them macaroni dinner and canned ambrosia pudding, then bringing out some Anabaptists to scream at them about how they’re all losers who’ll never amount to much.

(Are Anabaptists the ones with the tambourines? Or the ones who baptize the faithful by holding them under water, just not, and this is only my personal opinion, for a long enough period of time?)

Having ideas about housing people is not difficult. Even I can do it. I, David Roddis, whose last idea about paying my rent involved having a roommate, which hasn’t been successful in six years, but somehow I have ideas about housing people, so the complexity level is, as they say, low.

John Tory—I wish all politicians had to change their name to John Tory, or Justin Liberal or Jagmeet Endeepee, in the manner that people used to be called “John Norfolk Cowherd” or “Betsy Poxstrumpet Back-Alley”, so you could make an informed choice—John Tory, Toronto’s OK-ish, “if you have to have one it might as well be him” Mayor, promises more affordable housing but does nothing.

OK, this is positive! At least doing nothing means he doesn’t actively destroy anything, and this reassures me that he’s merely a lackluster, underachieving old-school conservative, and not secretly cooking up something involving virgins, junior hockey coaches and the Book of Revelation.

A “cuck,” in today’s parlance.

I shudder with revulsion as I type that word, like I shudder when examining plasticized fast-food menus offering “sliders,” or catching sight of a mall-goer wearing a sweatshirt that says, “wine me dine me sixty-nine me,” or learning that there is a porn category called “creampies.”

But for taxonomic purposes, comb Roget’s from dawn to dusk though I may, “cuck” gets right into the nooks and crannies of John Tory and his oh-so-Canadian brand of bland. Are you still awake?

You can’t not like John Tory. That would be almost abusive. It would be like not liking the runty, annoying kid in class, the kid with bad breath and whose kitten just died, who gives one answer in class per year, and it’s wrong. You give him a pity-hug, but you wince.

It would be like admitting to Carrie that you took her to the Prom on a dare while preparing a bucket of pig’s blood. Except John would just go, “Oh, OK. Thanks for letting me know,” look a bit crestfallen and go home to re-read “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

I’m gonna come through this! There’s always next prom, and I’m a Good Person!

A “cuck,” if you didn’t know, is a man who is so clueless, he is literally the only person in town who doesn’t know how clueless he is.

John Tory is so clueless he waits until it’s cold in January, expresses shock about how cold it is, then tells us how determined he is to get on top of this homeless shelter thing, because cold in January in Canada? Who knew? Goldarn weather in January, sneakin’ up on us!

Mad Magazine, where males first imbibed smart-ass satire at the ages of twelve to fourteen, may be shutting down, but we have Maclean’s to pick up the slack. Maclean’s magazine tells us that Trudeau’s housing plan, and I must have nodded off during that one, is a bad idea and that we should—now, I hope you’re sitting down, in case you fall over laughing and crash into that Lalique figurine you just finished paying for—we should let the market provide affordable housing.

Right? Talk about obvious, staring-us-right-in-the-face solutions!

This is the much-celebrated “trickle-down” effect, and for visuals I invite you to imagine the moment in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy’s farmhouse trickles down right out of the tornado and lands right smack on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, if the tornado represents The Market and the Witch is, well, us.

Just to think of all the time we’ve wasted, annoying politicians with our suggestion that the market, released of pesky rent controls and awash with subsidies for first-time buyers’ mortgages, having spiraled so out of control that an average one-bedroom apartment in Toronto now costs $2,200 per month, does not seem to be getting with the program and providing affordable housing.

I can’t image what happened, the market having been so amazing at providing all the other things that the middle class, now reduced to a bunch of hobos sleeping in a dumpster, so desperately needs.

I think, on the balance of probabilities, that someone probably forgot to tell the market it was supposed to provide affordable housing. A simple oversight, and thanks, Maclean’s, for a well-needed reminder of that market-based approach that has never, ever, even once, achieved what it’s supposed to achieve without someone in government legislating in order to provide affordable housing and stop the market doing what it actually, in reality, does.

How off track is the market? Let’s see. Minimum wage, now rolled back by Doug Ford to $14.00 per hour because every small business in Ontario will founder if employees get one dollar more per hour, works out to $28,000 per year, assuming a forty-hour week (non-existent for the minimum wage crowd, but let’s play extra fair) and two weeks’ vacation.

Twenty-two hundred dollars per month for a one-bedroom apartment on the market is $26,400 a year, leaving that single mom a nifty $1,600 per year in disposable income, or a jaw-dropping $134 per month.

For everything.

But it’s me, as always, to the rescue, this time with my stand-alone phone booth idea. It’s win-win, just with both wins for me.

All mod cons:

Beautiful particle board finishes, which you won’t see because there’s no electricity. You can just maybe run a big-ass extension cord from the Don Valley to, say, the reference library if you’re not content with the sun in the morning and the moon at night. Also, the holes in the back of the booth for those self-replicating cords that come with your technology and get updated once a week by Apple are perfect for peeing out of, bit more challenging for the ladies, but when did we promise that your choice to be homeless would bear any resemblance to a bowl of cherries? Exactly!

And someone just said “glory hole,” but that’s possibly an extra level of market segmentation too far, at least before I’ve pitched John. We’ll reserve judgment on the glory hole thing, pending Tanya Granic Allen and any resolutions she might get on the agenda regarding gay people being a “liberal holocaust of heterosexuals and what about the children.”

Also the phone booth has just enough space that you can bring your own phone as long as its the Samsung foldable.

There’s no kitchen. Kitchen, already! So you can cook that filet mignon stuffed with foie gras from the Food Access Program, no doubt! Unbelievable!

Cutting-edge Iconic Design bit:

The Philip-Johnson inspired glass door with its twelve square feet of glass and awesome, jaw-dropping hinges will make you think your portable ghetto, or single-dwelling slum if you haven’t taken your meds in a while, is sitting in its very own National Trust landscape of rolling hills and, at first glance, galleries. Which is an easy mistake to make when you catch your first glimpse of artists jumping from the Overlea Bridge with burlap sacks of their best work because they can’t get a grant any more.

If an artist lands on your booth, they should just bounce off, due to its flexible yet durable construction.

Kiss our Boothy asses, Frank Gehry or do we mean Stella!

Minimalism+Modernism= Minimodmumism: We Bore Down and Birthed a Movement

You want to live the Toronto lifestyle, but you don’t have the cash. We understand.

You’re still fucked, though, because you can never stop working for the rest of your natural life, or save any money, or move, and every time you move out the landlord gets to jack up the rent as much as she likes.

Fast food workers can’t get a raise of one dollar after years and years, but landlords absolutely have to get a raise every year. Every year for a guaranteed amount. Otherwise, they’d be so resentful they’d come around to your place at night, sneak in and turn down the thermostat and close your windows, so extravagant are you with the utilities.

And at four times eight equals thirty-two people per booth, so the monthly rent of $3,495.00 plus any charges for spontaneous drug raids and to make sure everyone’s buying the cheap, zero-percent-fat yogurt, divided by thirty-two works out to—a helluva lot fairer, assuming the breadwinners for the booth can extract themselves enough times in a month to buy enough fifty-percent-off “enjoy this tonight!” pork chops to cook over the flame of someone’s torch lighter.

It’s all about density, guys.

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Conservatives finally broke the world…

… with help from my mom and dad


So I’m sitting on my balcony with a friend of my friend. The friend of my friend is black, from Jamaica, and looks like he might have some Indian blood mixed in there, too.

It’s an uncomfortable muggy July evening and we’re eating a chickpea stew over couscous from white Dollarama bowls. Our thoughts turn, don’t ask me how or why, to immigration, and this guy, Alex, says to me:

“The refugees get all these beautiful town houses, for free. They get more than you get on benefits.”

And after I mentally rehearse the vomiting up of a full bowl of couscous and chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce then the post-puke dabbing of my lips accompanied by a final, raucous belch, my heart seizes up and falls out of my shirt like a lump of concrete.

I’m thinking, “I’m a sixty-three- no I don’t, do I? year-old white guy and I have to explain to a black guy that refugees do not get all these beautiful town houses for free. I have to explain to a black guy that he’s repeating these fake news stories and urban myths and being racist.”

So that’s why I jumped off the eighth-floor balcony and landed on my feet, crunching my legs right up into my pelvis, which has meant having all my trousers re-hemmed and also turning in all my opera tickets for the COC and exchanging them for supernumerary work any time they stage “Rigoletto.”


I grew up, like any mid-range Boomer, inside a normal, white racist household, with a normal, white racist mom and dad. My mother, who did the talking for both of them, cleaned up nice and, when meeting a new department store charge card, would skip the introductions and press it tearfully to her bosom like Dorothy hugging Toto after his escape from Elvira Gulch’s basket.

I’m not going to even try to list the racist epithets and bons mots, but I do recall, “Barbra Streisand just opens her big J—–h mouth and yells”, an example of WASP musical criticism. Jews, and Italians, who were also Catholics, got kind of lumped together, and these people were not strictly “white” because, you know. Ethnic.

Ethnic meant colorful, so Gary and Adelina, the only Italians in Whitby, served as, you might say, the town throw cushions who lived three blocks down the street, throw cushions in black velvet and gold braiding and “Souvenir of Niagara Falls” stitched on the front. Ethnics were not expected to have or represent good taste, which for WASPS means how many shades of beige and cream can you deploy in one room. You’ll never go wrong with beige, my dear!

So we toddled along, making do with Italians and Jews, maybe the odd Polish Catholic if you were really desperate, in order to discharge our Anglo-Saxon bile and make them be the cause of things, rather than the cause being our obnoxious self-regard and personal manifest destiny.

And then of course came the sixties! Lyndon Johnson and civil rights, and race riots, and MLK Jr, and suddenly my mother and other family members were able to process the dusky Europeans into “white,” and focus on figuring out what to do about these new shiny black people.

We’d literally, in Whitby, Ontario, never seen a black person live. They existed only on American TV and in the pages of my children’s encyclopedia, god help me, where they were called “Negroes,” (the new N-word) and where it was suggested that they were “good at sports and as entertainers, even scientists!”

Well, pick that cotton to a chorus of “Mammy” and stick a jockey on the lawn, who knew?

My parents didn’t really say much that was bad about black people. The whole concept was so fantastically alien it eclipsed any concept of ethnic, leaving most people at a loss for words.

And so we went back to watching Judy Garland singing “Swanee,” her face loaded with more boot-polish than the entire U.S. infantry, in our leafy all-white enclaves, breathing a sigh of relief that we wouldn’t have to deal with integration. We considered black neighbors to be a rare, slightly suspect and peculiarly American custom.

I mean, if they’d just pull themselves up by the bootstraps, maybe they coulda been white? You know?


Thinking more about my mom, which reassures me that she’s still dead, I am reminded yet again about Trump’s comments that “the Squad” should “go back to their own countries.”

My mom did the same thing with sofas. This is a direct analogy. She would invite a sofa into our home — say, in coral silk or blue brocade, cover it in heavy plastic and, for a while, the two would co-exist happily.

This was “the honeymoon.”

Then, of course, as in any relationship, the sofa would begin to get ideas. We’d get up in the morning and the sofa would somehow have thrown off its plastic cover in the night, or it would deliberately heat up when you sat on it, so you’d be sitting in an embarrassing puddle of sweat. The valance on the bottom of the sofa would begin to fray. High and mighty, I call that.

My mother would not stand for any show of sofa independence. Sofas had to know their place: to please her, to be a source of comfort, and above all to exact the high interest rates that would keep her relationship with the Robert Simpson Company well-oiled and meaningful and my father permanently on the road earning too little money.

The day came that she would no longer be speaking to the sofa. This was the contempt period, following, like a case of crab lice follows hooker sex, the last gasp of the honeymoon and the nano-second period of contentment; for my mother was a consuming soul as restless as the westward wind, that wayward wind that’s sure to wander.

I don’t know if my mother ever told a sofa, “Go back where you came from.” But soon after the contempt came the delivery men, rolling their eyes, for this ritual was repeated once, twice, three times per year. My mother would get a full refund and a new sofa, this one more compliant, less uppity, than the one before.

You just have to be absolutely clear who’s boss.


Conservatives, most current among them Donald Trump, the Great Mouth Breather, have finally done it. They’ve finished the work that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and the two Bushes started, not to mention de facto conservatives like Bill Clinton.

They’ve ruined the world, broken the social contract, turned everyone against the people who should be their allies, namely all the other people, and made division an agenda.

Democracy is gone, busted, kaput. There is no longer any representative democracy, because the representatives just want to represent their ideology and redraw the boundaries to ensure their ideology gets woven so tightly into the law that plucking our own eyes out would be easier than unweaving it.

For a liberal, pluralist democracy to exist, we all have to agree on some basic principles: we have to realize that democracy is first and always about human rights, equality, justice and dignity, and we have to agree what this means.

Liberalism is incremental, contextual, progressing slowly as we learn. It’s not black and white, revolutionary or impatient. That’s why “the wheels of justice grind slowly,” and why Trump complains about that very slowness of the legal system. But justice demands time: for gathering evidence, for preparing a defense, for weighing of rights and responsibilities, for understanding mitigating factors. For presumption of innocence.

We have to agree that there is a role for government; that government is the best deliverer of universal services, and that these are not frills, and that to deliver services does not entail “stealing taxes,” but rather creating insurance programs not motivated by profit.

This is because we agree that government is not a business, but a trust representing our ideals in action. That leaders of our countries are not accountants, but visionaries who make us better together than we would be individually.

We have to agree, for example, that health care, and affordable housing, and hospitals and the utilities that consume our country’s resources which we collectively own, and day care for our youngest citizens, and prisons that rehabilitate rather than serve as a vehicle for society’s revenge, that these things exist not for profit for a few, that their role is not to be efficient, but to be redundant; that if they exist it is for the public good.

We have to agree to be there for each other; and that there is a level below which we will not let people sink. This is not pure altruism, pure sacrifice, but an investment in a robust, stable society over the long term.

Extremes of wealth inequality stop democracy from functioning:

  • If your life consists of a struggle to house, clothe and feed yourself and your family, there is no time or energy or will to do anything else. In this sense, democracy is a luxury item.
  • If you can’t afford access to the truth and get your “news” from Facebook, you are a sitting duck for disinformation and will soon end up in a bubble of lies, half-lies, fake “experts” and conspiracy theories; soon no information source is trusted and what you believe is what your fellow bubble-dwellers believe.

But for democracy to function we all need the tools to participate; we have to agree on the truth and know where we have a reasonable chance of finding it.

We have to agree that good government codifies our common belief that everyone deserves a fair start, everyone deserves respect, everyone can fall down but can stand up again, that university or the polytechnic or trades should be an option for everyone who wants this, and that this is not merely an expense but is offset by the productivity of well-paid workers and thinkers and experimenters and artists and plumbers and widget entrepreneurs who emerge from these institutions.

We have to agree, for example, that the effort to treat others with respect and hear their stories of oppression will bring us closer together, and is not “political correctness,” or an act of “white genocide.” We have to agree to have the courage to shut up, listen, think, respond, make reparations as necessary and change.

We have to agree that market competition might work well for selling shoes but has no place in education; that two-tiered systems create first- and second-class citizens.

We have to agree that there is never, ever, anywhere, a “them” and an “us.” We are the saints and the monsters, the successes and failures, the common and the exceptional, we are all of these.

Do we have this agreement? We used to. Somehow the project of turning informed, educated, rational adults into disinformed, confused, panic-stricken children has created a giant playground full of whimpering liberals whose balloons have been popped by the snarky bully conservatives as they scream “Snowflakes!” “Libtards!” “SJW’s!”

And the liberals, believe it or not, actually mind these epithets. Which more or less tells me that conservatives have a point, at least about the snowflake thing, which I would have twisted myself into a pretzel to avoid admitting.


No sooner had we started cooking pad Thai and buying hand-woven rugs at Pier One to show how cosmopolitan we were about the brown people when Reagan and Thatcher and Bush started to cast their evil spell. They convinced us that prosperity was scarce and only available to those rat-like and ruthless enough to win the race.

They proved their point by de-funding the New Deal and the War on Poverty until they didn’t work; preying on Protestant guilt and chastising us for being poor and lazy while they sat around country clubs in Prada sneakers drinking rum that someone once traded for slaves.

They made the effort to lift everyone up, the effort to reconnect the human family, into an evil. By hammering us with the words communism and socialism they planted in our poor heuristically-vulnerable brains the false idea that to offer universal government-delivered health care was akin to denouncing your family to Stalin and sending them to the gulag.

But not for one second did they stop plundering, stealing, making pacts with devils and gradually enriching themselves. The white, male lords of the planet sold us out, distracted us, plagued us with fakery, and created an artificial, ideological concept of scarcity that we still believe.

There is no scarcity. The world is awash with money. Awash with money.

In the world, now, in America and in Canada as well, there are huge numbers of people who will never believe the simple truth of how we’ve been manipulated to arrive at where we are, and who are teaching their children never to believe it. They’ll believe it’s all due to a few thousand refugees seeking asylum.

We, for believe what I will, the confusion will win, we will begin to realize what’s happened only on the day when the drones fly overhead, the levees collapse, the waters rush in, the deserts crack open like desiccated skin and we’re all refugees without a safe haven.

Hear that blast? Look up.

That’s fifty old white guys in a space ship built by Elon Musk, smoking Havana cigars, watching the blue planet glimmer and recede as they voyage to another world conceived and built to their specifications


And my mother, like most people, softened once we’d moved to the city and met black people, homosexuals, including me, and other exotic types. Because you learn tolerance, then acceptance, by being forced by life to rub elbows with humanity.

This is what makes cities the roiling, bustling, all-in-this-together hope for human progress, and rural enclaves the hard, intractable kernels of smug self-satisfaction and hatred.

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A convenient hero…

… and a broken promise.


Frederick Douglass, from a speech delivered in Rochester, N.Y., 1852.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, A BLACK MAN who escaped from slavery in the state of Maryland and through monumental efforts of self-education and determination became one of the most celebrated abolitionists, activists, writers, orators and statesmen of the nineteenth-century, is celebrated as an American hero.

This astonishes me, though not because he doesn’t deserve his heroic status. His achievements would have been exceptional had he been a white man; but he was black, a former slave, and what he achieved required infinitely greater courage, persistence and faith. Together with his personal qualities—intelligence, ambition, above all, charisma—he was the abolitionists’ living proof that slavery was not natural law, that slaves were not “savages” undeserving of full citizenship.

His transformation, when it occurred, was effected by the simple act of crossing a state boundary, but behind that act lay everyday miracles of self-will. The obstacles Douglass overcame were intractable; the small acts of kindness shown to him, usually by the wives of his owners—a proper bed, a decent meal, the illusion of family— so rare he remembered each occasion from boyhood to the end of his life.

(How much I resist using the word “owner” in this context, resist admitting the appalling reality that, as a slave, he was property, a beast of burden, less than human.)

He was born in 1818 into slavery, taken from his mother, the common practice, and put to work; through his childhood and as a young man he was bought and sold and traded by one owner after another as casually as you would buy and sell and trade livestock, until he ended up in the service of an owner known as a “slave-breaker.”

(He needed to be broken because word had got out that he had been teaching himself to read, and then, as his fellow slaves learned of his accomplishment, teaching as many as forty of them at a time in impromptu gatherings.)

The slave-breaker’s preferred method of control was whipping. Whippings meted out daily, the fresh marks on top of those from the previous days, which would not yet have had a chance to heal. Whippings, Douglass said later, that indeed broke him, body, mind and spirit, until one day he stood up and fought back so fiercely his owner never whipped him, or even approached him, again.

You have seen, he wrote in his autobiography before describing that incident, how a man becomes a slave.

Now you will see how a slave becomes a man.

No, I’m astonished at his being considered a hero in contemporary America because Douglass was not a compliant, docile, forgiving man. He was not nice. He held people accountable. He did not think everything would be all right, at least, not passively, not without a struggle. His advice late in his life to a young black activist was: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”

Agitate! In other words: Stir things up. Make people uncomfortable. Don’t let them off the hook. Don’t smile at the camera, scowl; don’t be the happy slave. Don’t play into the stereotype, refuse it. Don’t speak gently to the white women of Rochester.

Agitate!

I’m astonished because I have no doubt that if Douglass were alive today, agitating today, he would be reviled. Because, literally or metaphorically, he’d be kneeling during the National Anthem, and that would be the mildest of his agitations.

Douglass’ house in Rochester was destroyed by fire in 1872; his daughter, her husband and their children barely escaped with their lives. This was without question an arsonist’s attack. What mysterious or public disaster, I wonder, would be visited on him today, for his agitation?

White people in the North had trouble believing that Douglass had once been a slave, so thoroughly, so greedily had he educated himself, so eloquently did he speak. What fakery would he be accused of today? What scandals cooked up, what smear campaigns? What would the memes look like?

How a slave becomes a man: By fighting back so fiercely your torturer never touches you again.

Agitate!

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It’s easy for white people to think of Douglass as a hero, because he’s dead and can no longer cause a ruckus with his activism; because he can’t respond to the white men who use his speeches to “prove” that, because literal slavery no longer exists, because the blacks have had the school busing and the Selma March and can even claim their very own martyr, because of the thirteenth and fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, America is post-racial, color-blind.

What the hell are they complaining about now, for pete’s sake?

Not content with the grudging concession that people of color have, say, the right to vote, now they have the nerve to object just because Republicans do a little creative redrawing of the county lines.

People of color apparently aren’t content with the cheap, lumpy sofa of human rights, the basic IKEA model that sort of looks OK but that you secretly wish was from West Elm. They want the West Elm sofa plus the throw cushions and the Berber carpet.

And every so often the exasperation and impatience of white people bubbles up, in the affronted, aggrieved tones of someone whose thoughtful gift has been rejected.

If you don’t like it here, you’re free to leave! Do you ever see that online? The assumption here is that if you’re not white you’re here on sufferance, you’re enjoying a probationary period—but complain too much, be a difficult, demanding, unappreciative guest, and whammo! Privileges revoked!

If you don’t like it here, you’re free to leave”? And I say to the petulant white guys and gals: So are you. You’ve got the money and the privilege, so how about returning to, say, Great Britain, where you will be better appreciated? I’m one hundred percent certain Boris Johnson will kiss you full on the mouth.

Douglass’s most famous speech, an excerpt of which is quoted below, was given to—the name reeks of white gentility—the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852, nearly nine years before the Civil War began.

“…your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages…”

Frederick Douglass, 1852 (excerpt)

Read his words: However nobly phrased, they are also withering, bitter, enraged. He blazes like an Old Testament prophet. Apparently nineteenth-century American women were not the wilting violets of cliché Victorian femininity. They could, as we say, “take it.”

Fast forward a century and a half. Colin Kaepernick uses his celebrity to draw attention to systemic racism in America, not with inflammatory words or disruptive protest. He simply kneels during the National Anthem before the game. All hell breaks loose. For this he is denounced as a traitor, when he should be celebrated for exercising his right to protest.

Cory Booker travels to the centers where refugees are being held in third-world conditions. He reports on what he sees; he helps five women obtain asylum, following the accepted legal process.

A woman on Twitter tells him he should be charged with treason. Treason, if you’ve forgotten, is punishable by the death penalty in the United States of America.

The average American in 2019, then, is less robust than the abolitionist women in 1852 Rochester, who could listen to the fiery oratory of a former slave. Who invited Douglass to speak to them.

Perhaps it’s Trump’s unapologetic supporters, the MAGA-hatters, the new breed of Republicans, who need smelling salts, or even tincture of laudanum. What they are suffering from used to be called hysteria, or “an attack of the vapours.”

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Those seeking asylum from the violence and miserable poverty of their lives in the country that promises new beginnings and freedom are caged like animals in overcrowded facilities. Children are separated from parents and denied the most basic care. All are demonized as “illegals.”

Some are so desperate, they die in the attempt. But seeking asylum is a legal act and the U.S. has a duty under international law to admit them.

Illegal is a label, a construct, a way of dehumanizing in order to justify inhumane treatment. Illegal is, in today’s jargon, performative: what you say is what you get.

Refugees are not immigrants. They are seeking refuge, obviously, from acute crises: persecution by their own governments; natural disasters, lawlessness, civil war or discrimination so terrible that to return them to their country of origin is certain death. They aren’t making a calm, considered, career decision to change their country of residence or citizenship. They are in some manner escaping a war being waged against them.

Canada admitted tens of thousands of refugees from Syria in 2015; This was our response to an emergency, a humanitarian crisis.

Canada also has a multi-faceted immigration program that reflects our values. Programs include pilot projects encouraging immigration to the north and to the Atlantic provinces, sponsoring family members, express programs for skilled workers and opportunities for caregivers, artists and sports persons. As part of our immigration program we encourage applications for refugee status from those seeking protection from repression and discrimination in their home countries.

The two classes—immigrants and refugees— have become synonymous in the public’s mind because of Trump’s insistence that everyone who is not white and who sets foot on U.S. soil is a “rapist,” “gang member,” part of a planned “invasion.”

Some day we will have to have the conversation about a borderless world. We can’t continue to build metaphorical walls and shut out that part of humanity which hasn’t won the lottery and been born in a developed and democratic country.

It’s also impossible to view the plight of refugees from Guatemala and other Central American countries as having occurred in a vacuum, when U.S. policies have directly targeted those countries with disastrous results.

In the short term, human beings are morally bound to help others if they possibly can, and to do so in a compassionate way that recognizes their inherent dignity and equality—our common humanity.

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Trump co-opts the Fourth of July celebrations and turns them into a tinpot dictator’s preposterous military parade; makes the Fourth of July all about him, in other words. Is anyone surprised?

Serial sexual abuser, criminal, pathological liar: Has a more ridiculous or contemptible impostor ever held public office in a democracy, anywhere?

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“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus ( (1849–1887)

“The New Colossus” was written by a young Jewish woman, Emma Lazarus, as part of the effort to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and who, dying in only her thirty-eighth year, would never know how the final five lines would enter American mythology.

“Give me your tired, your poor….” Give me. Not just acceptance, but an invitation. An active embrace by the mother of exiles.

Wretched refuse: Refuse is what you discard. Less politely, garbage. However rejected you have been, we will embrace you. Liberty as mother, blind to race, color, creed. What a mother, infinitely more than a father, creates is home and family.

This is the promise.

I can’t read these words without my voice breaking with emotion; yet on reflection, measured against reality, I see Lazarus’ idealism as irrevocably tainted. I see what has become an unfortunate American propensity to indulge in pompous self-regard and fine-sounding, empty rhetoric, boasts about shining cities on hills that shine only for that tiny minority gifted with the right time and place of birth, those who have never wanted for anything, struggled, gone hungry or lived in fear. Unholy license.

And how dark the world has become now that the mother of exiles has extinguished her lamp, slammed shut the golden door.

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