15 January 2018

Apparenty, we're as bad as Nazis

One of the ideas bandied about by my merry band of Knights was to hold an inter parish skating party this winter and an inter parish barbecue at one of the city's parks this summer. The city allows private people and groups to book parks and rinks for such events for a nominal fee (it really isn't much)- all you have to do is fill out this form.  our problems began when we encountered this line on the form:  "Your Organization has signed and submitted a copy of the City of Toronto's Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/ Discrimination Declaration of Compliance? A copy of the Declaration is attached or is available online at:" etc .  The declaration can be found here.  Go and read it if you will.  I'll wait.

If I am reading this correctly, in order to rent a park for a few hours, we have to say agree in principle to abortion, as well as a host of other things.  I am not sure why we have to support abortion to barbecue hamburgers, but that's how it goes.

These things simply don't happen in a vacuum. There almost always has to be some reason, some excuse, to introduce a new policy such as this: As near as we can tell, the excuse came from a library allowing neo Nazis to use one of their spaces.  I could be wrong, of course.  I can't tell for sure when this policy came into effect, but on the whole, the city rather understandably does not wish for Nazis to make use of the public spaces.  Rather unfortunately, Catholics who actually believe what the church teaches are, in the eyes of the city, as bad as Nazis.

Ironically, I am still in the process of researching a period in our past where the city council also debated on what rights should be allowed to Catholics, and sought to restrict their ability to express their faith within the city.  I'd like to say that back then, the Catholics united and rose to the occasion and fought back, and that we will do so again now.  But that does not seem to be the case.  back then, a sleeping giant was aroused.  Now, it is far more likely the giant will mumble a little in its sleep, roll over, and continue snoring.

12 January 2018

Just going over the stats again

Every now and then I check the stats on this blog.  They don't often change- the posts on prayers for insomnia, for instance, are almost always near the top spots- but sometimes they do, and for reasons that are not at all clear.

Last week, for instance, I suddenly had a rash of hits on the ten year old post "Music Matters" where I take apart Marty Haugen's Gather Us In.  Another post from that year, wherein my younger daughter randomly pounded out letters on the keyboard, has also re-entered the top ten.  Another post where I linked to some panoramic views of some of Canada's most beautiful churches also has hit the top ten, but that is not surprising.

However, for the life of me, I can't figure out why the number one post at the moment is one post from three written about the monuments of University Avenue- the one that discussed Walter Allward's monument to the Boer War.


3 January 2018

Always ready to believe the worst

I have been doing some more research into the Jubilee Riots of 1875, mainly by reading the papers of the time.  The papers themselves are fascinating.  They are, generally speaking, far more erudite than the newspapers of today.  Many people of today like to think we are more intelligent than those of the past- but that is not borne out in the newspapers.  They used longer and more complex sentence structures as a matter of course. They needed a considerably larger vocabulary to read their newspapers than we do to read ours.

However, there are things that do not change.  I had thought that the tendency to shift blame onto others, or to claim to be "triggered" was a modern development.  However, the flight from responsibility appears to be age old.

Like the newspapers of today, the papers of the past were aimed at specific audiences, only more so.  They were openly party newspapers, aimed at specific groups of readers.  As such, they tended to be what we today refer to as 'echo chambers'.  C.S. Lewis had their number years ago when he wrote:

There is always the danger that those who think alike should gravitate together into ‘coteries’ where they will henceforth encounter opposition only in the emasculated form of rumor that the outsiders say thus and thus. The absent are easily refuted, complacent dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are embittered by group hostility. Each group hears not the best, but the worst, that the other groups can say.

And so it is in the articles regarding the Jubilee Riots.  The Mail is a staunch protestant voice. The Irish Canadian, on the other hand, tries to appeal to both the Catholic and Protestant Irish, for example there is this passage from the September 22nd 1875: "“Our loyal and pious- who that is of the chosen Orange fold is not good and loyal, glorious, pious and immortal- friend, the Kingston News...."  but when push comes to shove- as it did, literally, in the riots- the gloves come off.

What both papers lack is a sense of responsibility on their readers part for the riots.  (In truth, I blame the protestants myself, but it was a complex situation.)  To recap, some protestants spotted an article in the Irish Canadian of September 22nd- the same issue that praised the 'loyal, pious, etc." Orangemen- for the provincial council. The article included a description of a procession that was to take place in honour of the council. The protestant readers quickly formed a petition and sent it to the mayor asking that the procession not take place.  The Mayor sent the petition on to Archbishop Lynch, who agreed to tone down the procession.  However, the various protestant groups were out looking for Catholic processions, and, unfortunately, there was another one happening that day in honour of the Jubilee Year of 1875- hence the name 'Jubilee Riots'.

The Mail article, when reporting the first of the riots in their article for Sept. 29th, tries to shift blame away from the protestants.  They hold that some blame must fall on the archbishop for the article from the Irish Canadian: "We cannot hold the Archbishop and his advisors blameless in throwing such a firebrand into the community as his advertisement in the Irish Canadian."   He must also take some blame for not staying in his part of the city: "We may question the taste of the Archbishop in obtruding upon the community, largely Protestant, a display which would be infinitely better confined to those portions of the city set apart for the religious exercise of the Catholic people..."   The article claims that the protestants followed the procession, and did nothing as the procession went into old St Patrick's (now Our Lady of Mount Carmel) until they were attacked by some Catholics in a house near the church.  Nothing would have happened had the Catholics not started it.  Shots were fired, but apparently from nowhere.  The group of protestants are not identified.  In another article a few days later, the group that is identified in other newspapers, the Young Britons, is described as a gathering of 'respectable looking young fellows.'  The group is having a meeting whereby they resolve that they were innocent of all charges of starting the riot.  Neither they nor the Orange Lodge are to blame for the riot, says the Mail.

The Irish Canadian, on the other hand, the paper that published the article the Mail claims was the start of the riot, lays all the blame solely on the Protestants.  They make no mention of their article, nor of the petition to the mayor, nor of the archbishop's decision to tone down his procession.   In their construction, the Catholics were processing along peacefully when they were set upon by a group of Young Britons and Orangemen for no reason whatsoever.  But first, they want to heap some abuse on the Orange Lodge.  



It is indeed to us a painful duty to be compelled so frequently to notice the lamentable occurrences which are born so prolificly (sic) in this Western Province of the Orange institution; and we would fain close our eyes to many of the faults which are justly laud at the door of that body for the sake of smothering bad passions and fostering a more Christian spirit. To bear and forbear, in times of great trial of temper, is a golden rule; and he who inculcates it which sincerity is a benefactor of his kind and a blessing to the circle in which he moves. There are, however, those on whom forebearance is a virtue wasted, and with whom it is as impossible to reason intelligently and rationally as it is to change the Ethiope’s skin; and of this number we must say are many of the members of the orange organization. We are not speaking from any feeling in this matter; we speak from the hard logic of facts as they loom up in the light of day- facts it would be well for all there were less or no foundation for. 

Facts are thin for the first several paragraphs of the article, as the author continues in a similar vein for some time.  Eventually he identifies himself as one of the processionists, so he will be giving an eyewitness account.  The first problem encountered in the procession could be described as 'even younger Britons,' and the author takes advantage of the moment to heap even more abuse on the protestants.

It (the procession) turned west and kept along Queen street. Along the way several small boys amused themselves by shouting "To h-ll with the pope." The parents of these hopeful youngsters may not aware of the pious training which their children are undergoing in the lodges;  but if they lay any claim at all to the solicitude for their future well being as respectable and honored members of the community, they must at once withdraw them from these hives of waywardness and transgression, and teach them that it is enjoined from on high that, after God, they must love their neighbors as themselves, and do unto others as they would be done by.

Eventually, the author comes to the riots that began a short distance from St Patrick's.  He names the group responsible- the Young Birtons.  No mention is made of the house and its inhabitants near the church.  The shots fired came solely from the Young Britons, 'who had made up their minds to break up the procession and slaughter the weak and defenceless.".  The Irish Canadian, being a weekly that appeared every Wednesday, could or would not cover the meetings of the Orange Lodge and the Young Britons that took place during the week, where the leadership of both advised their members not to riot or assault the processions that were to happen the next Sunday, but the rank and file members would have none of it.  The Mail would claim that the Lodge and the Young Briton organizations were blameless afterwards.  The Irish Canadian will have nothing to do with that.  The Orange Lodge and the Young Britons solely are to blame.  They can expect no justice, says the author, as the mayor himself is a high ranking Orangeman.  It is only here that the Irish Canadian says that some Catholics have some blame.  Some Catholics, he says, voted for an Orange Mayor  The conclusion of the article ends with a call for defence, even as Archbishop Lynch was writing warnings to his flock to not arm themselves or fight like with like:

If, however, the catholic people of Toronto are to be made targets of for (sic) the amusement of the as vile a lot of ruffians as ever disturbed the peace and denied redress, it will then become the duty of the Catholics of this city to devise some means for protecting themselves.  He is undeserving of the name of man that would quarrel with his neighbor on "points of belief." There is but one thing meaner- he who submits his dearest rights being trampled with impunity.

With this and similar sentiments being voiced openly, and sometimes not so openly around the city, the next procession could have been nothing but a catastrophe.  It is all their fault, those wretched papists, those vile Orangemen, and it will be their fault if it happens again.  Lynch's admonition, a warning that any who came to the next procession armed to fight would lose all indulgences and spiritual benefits of the devotion.  Their words would be spread out, and professional rioters would come in from Montreal, ready for the fight.  Orangemen would come from out of town for the same reason. And thus the hall was rented, the tables were spread, the band contracted.  All that was left was for everyone to come together and dance.

31 December 2017

Here comes another one.

A Happy New Years, to those of you who are into that sort of thing.

27 December 2017

I should have known

One day after I posted about the strange attacks on It's a Wonderful Life, I run into this article attacking A Christmas Carol (every version, including the original book) for ruining a benefactor to society.  I am not making that up- according to them, Scrooge was helping society before he was 'terrorized' by three Socialist spirits.  Seriously.  To quote:

Who knows what housing, stores, railways or other benefits to society Scrooge had made possible through his wise judgment? How many thousands of jobs had he created? Dickens is unjustly silent on this. Whatever Scrooge had financed, we know it was something the public wanted or needed enough to pay for voluntarily. Thanks to Scrooge, however crusty his demeanor, the common people of London were far richer than they otherwise would have been without his services.

The little we are told by Dickens of Scrooge's dealings appears to show him as a Victorian equivalent of a 90's corporate raider, with a sideline as a loan shark.  It takes a strange mind to find loan sharking as a benefit to society, but just yesterday I was re-reading an article where someone was arguing that Bedford Falls would be better if they invested heavily in prostitution and speakeasies, and had police firing wildly into crowds. Strange times and all that.  I would quote more and write a longer refutation, but why? There really doesn't seem much point. And besides, there is a danger in staring too hard into the crazy: look at it too long, it begins to make sense.

Scrooge the miser benefitted the people around him?  Tell his nephew that.  He really benefitted.

26 December 2017

It's still a wonderful life, repost

Once again, I find strange attacks against the movie It's a Wonderful Life.  'Tis the season, I suppose.  The movie elicits a host of strange and strong reactions from people. Those who love it find it embodies what they hold to be good and true.  Those who hate it find it embodies all they hate. With that in mind, I am reposting a reposting of my old article written in response to such an attack some years back.


One of my favourite lines from It's A Wonderful Life occurs quite early in the movie. Clarence has been summoned by Joseph and Sir to help George Bailey. "Oh no," says Clarence. "Is he sick?" "Worse," says the calm and patient Sir. "He's discouraged." The movie begins by recognizing that, worse than any disease of the flesh, is the loss of hope.

I saw It's a Wonderful Life on television the other night, meaning we are now into It's a Wonderful Month. I don't mind so much, as it is one of my favourite movies. It is about hope, and friendship, and love, and the transforming powers of all these. So naturally, at this time of the year people come out to attack it.

There are among us certain people who cannot stand the idea that goodness exists, which, if left to themselves, would mean little. But they also cannot stand that anyone else believe that goodness exists. Not content with being not contented on their own, they seek to draw others into their discontent. They are Evangelists of the Bad News. They treat life as only the bad is real, and good an illusion for children, as if black were the only colour, and all other colours visible to the eye are illusory.

With that in mind, I repost this piece from a few years back, written in response to one attack on the movie by someone who missed what I like to call The Entire Point.

Back when I was a teaching assistant, one of the theories of interpretation held that texts had infinite possibilities for interpretation, and were capable of being interpreted any number of ways.  I used to tell my students that, yes, it was possible that a text could have any number of interpretations, but that did not mean it could have just any interpretation.  Sometimes, an interpretation is just plain wrong.

I thought about this when I saw that Dale Price had linked to an article reappraising the old classic, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.   This article is fairly innocuous in its call to have a more nuanced interpretation of the old classic, as compared to others, which claim the film is possessed of a tremendous darkness, citing hatred George had for his life, even how each and every step he took even though it helped others, merely nailed his feet more firmly to the ground of Bedford Falls. 

One reinterpretation I once read even claimed that Bedford Falls would have been better off economically without George Bailey, for the manufacturing economy he favoured and fostered in Bedford Falls would not have survived the economic turndowns of the nineties and recent years, and a town like Pottersville would have fared much better through the Depressions of recent years. That someone would suggest that a municipal economy would be better off based on Prostitution, speakeasies, strip clubs, gambling, along with police who fire indiscriminately into large crowds is more an indictment of themself than it is of this movie.

The author of the article to which Dale Price links asks questions which seems to bolster the interpretation which says that the movie is complicated and darker than perhaps may be seen at first blush. 

What does George think about as he lies awake late at night? Does he resent that he saved his brother’s life? Does he hate his father for saddling him with the family business by dying? Does he resent that his wife chose him, a failure, when she could have had any man in town?
The conclusion to this line of questioning comes fairly early in the article: “On Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.”
This has stepped outside of the realm of interpretation, and moved into imposition.  It is a cynicism imposed upon the film, not inherent in it.  As I told my students, so I would say to this writer: this is not an interpretation the movie can hold. The writer is a materialist evaluating the movie in the light of materialism. He is correct that the George of Chrismtas Day is materially no different than the George of Christmas Eve. But he is incorrect to materially evaluate a movie which rejects materialism utterly. By doing so he ignores the one simple fact which the movie brings out in stunning clarity:  The George Bailey who awakes on Christmas morn is not the George Bailey who sought to end his hated existence the night before.
What has happened is that George has come to love his life.  All his life he has wanted to make his mark upon the world, carve George was Here in ways no one could ignore, by building skyscrapers a hundred stories tall, or bridges a mile long.  What Clarence has shown him is that, in his own quiet way, he has been leaving his mark everywhere and upon everyone in his little town.  He has lead the life he wanted, only he did not realize it at the time.  And now, returned from the very brink, he sees that everything he once hated is in fact the very stuff of his joy, and as he runs through the town he wishes Merry Christmas to all the things he once regarded as stumbling blocks to his dreams, but now realizes as the stepping stones to his truly wonderful life. If this man's interpretation were to be pushed to its logical conclusion, the greedy, lying, scheming and rich Potter, whom we last see alone but for his servant on Christmas Eve is the hero of the movie, and George Bailey, surrounded by his family and friends, singing, cheerful and happy, proclaimed by his successful, war hero brother to be 'the richest man in town', is the movie's chump. 
It is not so. George Bailey stood on the bridge a miserable man, seeing himself a failure.  That was Christmas Eve.  On the morning he awakes, a poor man with a poor job and children he struggles to support.  But that is not what holds him back:  it is what holds him up and strengthens him, and now he knows it.  Those who do not see this do not see the movie.