Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death Penalty

I know - a nice light topic for our edification today, huh? But in the past week, it's been on my mind a bit, as in the United States, Troy Davis - convicted twenty years ago for the murder of a police officer - was put to death this week, around the same time as we in Canada (which does not have capital punishment) learned of the terminal illness of serial killer Clifford Olson.

I am not going to deal with the guilt or innocence here of either man - not in any doubt in Olson's case, and in a fair bit of doubt in Davis' - because in large part that's not my central thesis here. I mean, it is, to the extent in general that judges and jurors are humans, who therefore almost by definition can err, and the fallibility of the legal process is reason #1 I'm anti-death penalty. I have said and still say that until and unless we can create an inerrant justice system in which the rate of wrongful conviction is, without any doubt, absolute 0, death is far too absolute and final a judgement to potentially go wrong with. In saying guilt or innocence here is irrelevant, it is more in the sense that I'm not familiar enough with the details of either case to speak to the guilt or innocence of either - particularly Davis', as I do believe Olson has confessed etc. But also, because there's a more salient point I want to address here.

Throughout the last week or two, the families' of both of the above mens' purported (or actual) victims have spoken of the relief they would feel when they got the phonecall informing them of the death of the accused. And this is often the #1 case made by advocates of capital punishment - the concept of victims' rights, of closure and some sense of retribution (which is a nice way of saying vengeance - yes - that high and lofty Christian ideal) for those who lost loved ones. And I want to make perfectly clear here, that I do sympathize with victims of crime. As admittedly snearing as the above sentence might have sounded, I actually am not one who judges people for falling short of ideals - particularly in un-ideal circumstances. It is completely natural for one who lost a loved one violently at another's hands to be angry ... to hate ... to wish to erase that person's existence, and the pain it has caused, from their world. Like anyone, I have experienced times in my life where others have hurt me and/or my loved ones, in some cases very badly. They have caused anger. They have caused me, in private - and sometimes not so privately - to question my own ideals, standards, beliefs, in light of new and painful realities.

However, it is that word, that concept - reality - which can so often get lost to pain. And the reality is, I think those waiting patiently for the phonecall that is going to change their life and take away their pain after so many years, are going to be sadly surprised by the reality of it. Once that phone is put back down - your loved one will still be gone, their former space at the table will still be empty, and really, justice won't have been served; because the true injustice is the years that you were robbed of, which nothing - not even the death of the accused - is ever going to be able to fix. And that isn't even compounding the injustice by bringing up the possibility that 'we might have been wrong' - that's the reality, even if we got the right dirty perp.

I want to pause now and point out I am a great believer in justice - and this means being tough on crime where need-be. Even as a true red-blooded progressive, I find the idea that murderers pretty much automatically get out of jail after 25 years laughable. And I believe again, that victims and their families have the right, as much as possible, to get whatever closure is reasonable on their pain. But I don't see how responding to death with death creates any more closure than the knowledge the criminal who hurt me and my family is left alone behind bars with the reality of their actions for the rest of their natural lives. That IS justice, that IS a cold and hard reality. And to anyone who says it's more mercy or better treatment than they showed others ... is that what we hold ourselves to? The standard of the most deviant among us? Let us be the things these monsters aren't ... let us be firm but merciful, tough but reasonable ... that is truly the way of honouring those lost to crime and violence - to end that nightmare cycle, at the end of which really, whatever we tell ourselves ... grief remains.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Gramma!

I want to wish my Gramma a happy birthday tomrorow! Not sure if I'm going to be able to blog during the day (although of course I will give her a call) but I wanted to take the time and wish her a very, very lovely birthday weekend, and a fabulous year ahead. My gramma is the coolness, and always has been. XO

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Reading

After reading the Secret Mulroney Tapes, I was really on a tear for books about Canadian Prime Ministers. Hence, I moved on to "My Years as Prime Minister" by Jean Chretien.

1. Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris
2. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
3. Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi
4. The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
5. A History of God - Karen Armstrong
6. Dreams from My Father - Barack Obama
7. Beloved - Toni Morrison
8. 'Tis - Frank McCourt
9. The Host - Stephenie Meyers
10. The Constant Princess - Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked - Gregory Maguire
12. The Six Wives of Henry the 8th - Alison Weir
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine - Alison Weir
14. Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
15. The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers - J.R.R. TOlkien
17. The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula - Bram Stoker
24. Last Night at the Chateau Marmont - Laura Weisberger
25. The Inferno - Dante
26. Towelhead - Alicia Erian
27. Sex, Lies, and Headlocks - Shaun Assael and Mike Mooneyham
28. The Way the Crow Flies - Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood
30. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
31. This United Church of Ours - Ralph Milton
32. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
36. The First Christmas - Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
37. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
38. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
41. Deception Point - Dan Brown
42. Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
43. The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
44. Lolita - Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement - Ian McEwan
46. All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
47. Under the Dome - Stephen King
48. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
49. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett - Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise - Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
55. Primary Colours - Anonymous
56. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
57. Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
58. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
59. Misquoting Jesus - Bart Ehrman
60. Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlasser
61. My Years as Prime Minister - Jean Chretien
62. Memoirs - Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil - Romeo d'Allaire
64. Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin
65. The Secret Mulroney Tapes - Peter C. Newman
66. Why I Hate Canadians - Will Ferguson
67. Planet Simpson - Chris Turner
68. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish - Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams
73. Fifth Business - Robertson Davies
74. The Manticore - Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders - Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys - James Reaney
77. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage - Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
82. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible - Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire
85. The Emerging Christian Way - Marcus Borg et al
86. Sorbonne Confidential - Laurel Zuckerman
87. What Happened to Anna K - Irina Reyn
88. The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland
90. Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland
91. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
94. Interview with the Vampire - Ann Rice
95. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls - Damon Runyon
98. Good Book - David Plotz
99. He's Just Not that Into You - Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik
100. Undisputed - Chris Jericho
101. Jesus for the Non-Religious - John Shelby Spong

One thing I will give for this book off the bat - you can hear Chretien's voice throughout it. Of course it's an autobiography with a particular historical bias and perspective - but I feel he explains himself, his experiences, his choices and his perspective very well. I respect his toughness and his willingness to stand by his decisions, while still being willing to acknowledge at least the odd mistake here and there. He manages to share honestly about his troublesome dealings with Paul Martin without totally throwing him under the bus (just a car instead ...), and his love of his country, family, and job shine through every page. This isn't a pretty, misty-edged romance, but a very real and interesting perspective from a 35-year veteran of Canadian politics, who saw two Presidents of the United States, nine Leaders of the Opposition (I believe) sitting across from him as Prime Minister, and, prior to holding that job, had held virtually every cabinet position available in Canada. I almost want to read 'From the Heart', his first memoir, now, so interesting was this one (the odd time I read the sequel first!).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Two Tributes

While we were away last week, Canada lost a great man in Jack Layton, newly Leader of the Opposition, leading the New Democratic Party to its greatest showing yet, and landing them as the official opposition party for the first time in history. Prior to the campaign, Layton had undergone hip surgery, and, perhaps more seriously, seemd to have beaten back cancer.

However, after serving as Leader of the Opposition in the house for only a matter of days, during the summer session in July, Layton announced he was temporarily stepping down due to treatment required for a new, apparently more aggressive cancer. He looked frail and gaunt, but determined to return to Parliament when it reopened September 19. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and this past Monday, August 22, Jack succumbed to his illness. He left behind a letter for all Canadians which can be found easily by googling Jack Layton's letter; youtube footage is available of his funeral last Saturday. But as a fitting tribute to share on this site, I want to include Jack's own words, in his own voice from election night this year, to remind everyone of what he stood for, and the battle that all progressives, be they Liberal or NDP, face ahead. May Jack rest in peace, and may we not just yet.

On a smaller scale, Canada's most senior news anchor, Lloyd Robertson of CTV news, told us yesterday for the last time what kind of day it's been, as he hangs up the microphone after 40+ years behind the anchor's desk, and 35 years at the CTV. Perhaps the most fun reflection on who Robertson was can be found here, in the following Royal Canadian Air Farce tribute: