April 10, 2021

In old Star Trek episodes (the original series), the starship Enterprise and the crew would often find themselves in battle against some aliens whose technology was compatible with respect to being able to launch weapons at each other. Accordingly, Captain Kirk would sit on his throne on The Bridge and bark orders to Spock and Chekov… and when they were under heavy attack and the ship was in trouble, it would be something like, “Divert all power to the shields!!”

By that time, though, the poor Enterprise had been suffering volleys of alien torpedoes and lasers and whatever version of energy beam was the flavour of the week… it was springing leaks, and major systems were malfunctioning… so, quite often, Kirk was met with a response of… “Unable.”

Captain Kirk always improvised, and things always turned out well. They always managed to survive. In fact, he, Canadian icon William Shatner turned ninety a few weeks ago. That’s the actor. The actual captain won’t be born till March 22nd, 2233… a birthday celebrated every year in Vulcan, Alberta.

But there’s not much to celebrate in Alberta these days, nor here… nor anywhere in Canada… because, like Kirk vs. The Universe, we’re in an epic battle… against an alien we thought we knew, but now some variant aliens are showing up, and it’s a problem… and the ship is perhaps damaged more than we can tolerate.

To continue with the metaphor, if the Enterprise is the world, we here in Canada are presently the shields. We need more power diverted to us. But… the entire ship is under attack and everyone needs energy, and perhaps there’s nowhere to pull it from. The heroic crew member that’s in the engine room where the Warp Core is about to breach… that guy is asking for help. Send power… we need to vaccinate the anti-matter containment field. Scotty needs to vaccinate the shields. Deck 8 needs to vaccinate the hole in the hull that’s already ejected a few unfortunate red-shirts into deep space. Dr. McCoy needs more power to Sick-Bay so that he can… well, perhaps, actually vaccinate people.

When the shields were low and the Enterprise would take a direct hit, everyone would be bumped hard… left or right, for some reason… never up or down. I guess the gravity system didn’t need a lot of power to keep operating.

The next couple of months are going to feel like that… we’re going to get bumped around. And the present inability to have badly-needed energy/vaccines directed to us will be a good topic of discussion once the ship is docked at Starfleet for repairs. Once the pandemic is over.

But, for now, we just need to get there. Beam me up, Scotty… quickly, before a travel ban is imposed.

January 26, 2021

There’s an episode of Star Trek:TNG where Captain Picard and the gang happen upon an odd planet… completely devoid of life, save for a small but picturesque patch of land where a peaceful, old couple (of humans) are living.

This guy (let’s call him Kevin) and his wife tell Picard that an alien race came by and wiped out everyone… except, for some unknown reason, them.

There’s far more to the story, but as it turns out, the alien who did the real wiping out was Kevin himself… who only looks human, but actually isn’t. Some aliens did come by and attack the colony… and Kevin’s wife was killed in the attack. Kevin, who’s actually a very powerful alien, took it upon himself to exact revenge by wiping out all of the aliens… and not just the ones that had attacked him, but he scoured the universe and found them all. Fifty billion aliens; the entire species wiped out. And now he was just trying to live his eternal life on this patch of land with a reconstructed illusion of his wife.

What do you do with a being that wipes out 50 billion others? Picard concludes that they, humans, are not qualified to be his judge… because there are no laws to fit the magnitude of the crime. Picard and The Enterprise leave, and he puts out the word to Starfleet; stay away from this planet. Leave Kevin alone. You really don’t want to piss him off.

Indeed, the punishment needs to fit the crime… and there are places in this world where that’s the case. Finland, for example… where in 2015, a successful businessman by the name of Reima Kuisla was caught doing 64MPH in a 50MPH zone… which translates to doing 103km/h in an 80 zone. That’s not even excessive speeding, and I’m sure more than one of you reading this today were on a highway today, where the limit is 80, and where you were exceeding 100. You’re lucky you didn’t get caught; that’s a $173 fine and 3 points.

Mr. Kuisla wasn’t so lucky… he got caught, and because of his Ten Million Dollar income, paid a fine of $80,000. To scale it down, that’s like someone making $50,000 a year being fined $400. Sounds about right… proportional fines, depending on the income of the perpetrator.

There are more extreme examples, but they seem to top out at… one million dollars. Yes, in 2010, a 37-year-old Swede had just taken possession of his new Mercedes SLS AMG in Germany and was driving it home. The cameras that clocked him only go up to 200km/h, which is what they captured… but the Swedish cops that caught up with him clocked him at close to 300km/h. He claimed he thought the speedometer of his new car was broken and that he was just putting it through its paces. Sure. That’ll be a million dollars, please.

Which brings us to a couple of local lowlifes, the ex-CEO and his actress-wife, whose actions have made them front-page news all over the world… and somewhat tarnished the view that all Canadians are thoughtful and polite.

It takes a lot of planning and a lot of disregard for others… to charter a plane, head to the middle of nowhere, lie repeatedly, and get into a vaccine line-up that’s supposed to be for, more than anyone else, indigenous elders. They lied about quarantining, they lied about why they were there, they lied about where they worked. And as soon as they got what they wanted, they high-tailed it out of here. Or, tried to… but that’s where piece-of-shit narcissists usually mess up. They’re so completely caught up in the ME ME ME of their existence that they forget everything and everyone else. Ten seconds after they got their vaccines, you can imagine hearing them saying to each other, “Let’s blow this popsicle stand”… and it was that urgent “straight to the airport” request that made people wonder… ok, who exactly are these people?

They were slapped with $500 fines, which is a joke… but, to some extent, like Picard… I’m not sure we have laws in place to punish this sort of thing appropriately. Like the Finnish businessman, the now-former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. made $10M last year. Is $80,000 an appropriate fine?

It’s a good start, but there needs to be more. A lot more. There are tens of millions of dollars to follow for that guy, thanks to stock options and the sale of the company… but it’s about a lot more than money. I’m not sure the answer is jail time; I think the answer is community service, and lots of it… and all of it in the community they affected.

Remote communities like Beaver Creek can probably use some help. Wash dishes at the restaurant. Mop up the airport. Or, actually, go work at that famous motel they don’t actually work at — and clean some rooms. Contribute back to the community, given that what you stole from them is difficult to pin a value on. Maybe consult with those indigenous elders from whom you stole the vaccine… and ask them what they need. And, might I suggest… you start with a series of apologies… to them, to their entire community, and to the countless others who deserve and need that vaccine ahead of you… but, like everyone else, are patiently waiting their turn.

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January 21, 2021

Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman, subject of the award-winning fantastic movie “The Pianist”, was playing live on the radio on September 23, 1939… when the Germans opened fire on the studio, causing him to flee — and run for his life. The piece of music he was playing was Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor – a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, one that I’ve been trying to master for better part of this pandemic. I so wish I’d latched onto it 30 years ago… it would’ve been far easier to learn it… and then, playing it once a month or more, I’d know it for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, neuroplasticity degrades as we age. The ability for the brain to change and rewire fades. Neurogenesis, the ability to create new neurons and connections also suffers. To put all of the fancy words into colloquial language… you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Or maybe you can, but it’s a lot more difficult.

Szpilman was 27 when he was so rudely interrupted, but his young brain, like any of a brilliant musician, managed to retain all of what he knew, and I don’t think I’m giving much away when I tell you he survived the war (he died in 2000, aged 88), and his ability to play the piano was not an irrelevant side-note of that survival… notwithstanding the slow descent from studio musician to holocaust survivor; it’s a hellish story and, again, if you haven’t seen the movie, you must. The first bit of music you’ll hear is the aforementioned piece.

After 6 years of surviving hell, the war ended, and life slowly returned to normal. And Szpilman returned to playing piano, and returned to the same, rebuilt studio… where he resumed playing Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor. Imagine the emotions he must have been feeling at that moment… bridging that gap. Everything that happened in those 6 years. The inward-facing question of “What was the point of all of that, if we’re right back to where we were?”

That’s the sort of question we often find ourselves asking when the universe seems to throw something negative and unexpected in our way… and after you muddle through it, you’re right back to where you started. Why? To what end?

This is the best explanation I have for what I’m feeling, watching CNN the last two days. I will stop after today because it’s somewhat intoxicating and I’m not getting much else done. I’m writing this while watching this 24-hour White House coverage, and I can’t turn it off. It’s just so freaking… normal. There have been two White House press briefings in as many days. They will continue on a daily basis. Reporters ask intelligent questions and get intelligent answers. Dr. Fauci offers his untethered, unbridled, uncensored opinion. Facts. Science. Forget policy, recent changes, and how of course there will be disagreement… above all that, there is now transparency and normalcy. An actual functioning government.

The unfortunate part of it is figuring out and dealing with the mess that was left behind… with the top of that list being no cohesive vaccination plan from the previous administration; lots of mixed messages and confusion. But… they’ll figure it out. And they’ll announce what they’re doing.

I’m switching it off after today, and will try to leave it off. But in the back of my mind, I know that if I turn it back on, it’ll be a lot like today and yesterday. And four years ago. And decades before that. There’s a lot of comfort in that, to be honest… and I’m certainly not equating Szpilman’s 6 years of hell to the last four years of… whatever you want to call it… but once you come out on the other side, there are certainly similarities. A giant exhale, and a giant, collective thought… like… ok, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?

I know, nothing gets fixed overnight… but state of mind, even with my degraded ability to learn piano, counts for a lot. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Whew. Onward.

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January 20, 2021

I remember exactly how I felt four years ago, watching Donald Trump’s inauguration, and listening to his speech. A sense of foreboding. Disbelief. Fear of the unknown. That this guy is going to guide the U.S. to some dark places, and he may well take Canada and much of the rest of the world with him. Barack Obama was probably having similar thoughts when he penned his outgoing letter to Trump. In it, he wrote, “… we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”

In Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, there is a song called “Goodbye Blue Sky” – and if you watch the video of the song (taken from the movie), it conveys it well… you only need to watch the first 30 seconds… where things go from sunny and happy and hopeful… to darkness. The symbolism is not subtle; it’s blunt, like a sledgehammer to the gut. Trump did indeed take many things in the wrong direction, but at least he didn’t take the planet down with him. He left his country in tatters, from which it’ll certainly rebuild… and now, at least, it can begin. There was a big sigh of relief when noon EST came and went. It’s done.

Biden’s inaugural speech was the polar opposite of what was spoken four years ago; he preached unity, understanding, dignity, tolerance, respect. He faced-up to the challenges ahead. He alluded to the mess he inherits. We shall see. Talk is cheap, and his actions will speak louder than his words… but in my opinion, he offers for the U.S. something that’s been sorely lacking for the last four years… leadership.

I’d never intended to write so much about Donald Trump, but I started writing this blog exclusively because of the pandemic, and what became glaringly obvious very quickly was his brutal mishandling of it… and, along with that, his brutal mishanding of so much else.

I was asked this morning… come on, name at least a few good things Trump did in power. Sure, there are a few… he didn’t start any wars, and the middle east is on a potential path to a more lasting peace. Those who support his policies would argue that the reshaping of the federal judiciary is an achievement. Same with his tax reform. Space Force sounds like a joke, but it actually isn’t. But ultimately, whatever could be called a positive achievement is far overshadowed by the negative. There’s one other achievement, and it’s hard to label it positive or negative; his raging divisiveness served to rip off a huge, ratty band-aid that had been hiding a wound that’s been festering in the country since its inception… the deep, ugly gash of inequality. A lot of issues have been brought to light, and a lot of people (myself among them) are now far more familiar with systemic issues that have been plaguing American society for years. Decades. Centuries.

By now, you’re probably pretty sick and tired of hearing about Trump. It was engaging before he was elected, interesting early-on in his presidency… but grew tiring, repetitive and frustrating as time went on. Four years was more than enough. Four hundred thousand Covid deaths (not all – but certainly a significant amount, his fault). While we’re keeping score… 22,000 lies… about 15 per day of his presidency. 150 rounds of golf (one every 10 days). 127 days at Mar-a-Lago. Two impeachments. Two popular-vote losses. I can’t attach a number to the lawsuits that await him, but they will deservedly hound him for the rest of his life. It’s sad that his brainless followers will be the ones footing the legal bills, but the thought that he and perhaps some family members may be facing prison time… there are some sleepless nights ahead. I’m sure Mar-a-Lago has 24-hour room service; one burnt-to-a-crisp steak with ketchup coming right up, sir.

I’m looking forward to writing about other things. Trump mattered when he could actually do something: Mandate a federal mask policy. Set an example. Say something meaningful to his 70 million Twitter followers. He didn’t do any of that, and now he can’t. Now he’s just a two-time loser… silenced, and facing an unknown future… but now his problems (and lack of ability in solving them) are largely his issue; not his country’s, not this country’s… and, certainly… not mine. Moving on.

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November 27, 2020

If you haven’t already seen “The Queen’s Gambit”, you probably have a lot of people telling you that you should… and they’re right. It’s really, really good. You probably know that it’s about chess, but, like chess itself, it’s about a lot more.

The basics of chess are easy to learn; anyone can learn how the pieces move in less than 10 minutes. But then you spend a lifetime trying to move them well. I’m happy that series came into this household… I only wish it’d been at the start of this pandemic. There would’ve been a lot more quality screen time in those early days.

It was funny… a few nights ago, to hear my son yell for me… “Dad! Help!” – I ran over there… what, is the room on fire? No… he was on chess.com, playing against some guy in Russia, and found himself in a precarious position, not quite sure what to do because he thought he was about to lose his queen. That’s quality father/son time right there, ganging up to beat some Russian in chess. Right on.

I get the impression that Donald Trump wouldn’t be a very good chess player, and here’s why I think that: Chess requires you to think a few moves ahead, and if you can’t do that, you have zero chance of success. Just like in life, if you lead it in such a way that’s entirely reactionary – stimulus/response, stimulus/response… you’re going to have a tough go of it. That lifestyle works well for single-celled organisms, but our real world is a lot more complicated than a paramecium needing to navigate a petri dish. And in chess, if every time you move a piece it gets taken… and then you stare at the board wondering how that could’ve happened… well, you’re doing it wrong.

The stimulus/response pattern of the soon-to-be-former-president is something I guess we’ve gotten used to over the last four years, but now that he’s on his way out, it’s a little more pathetic than it used to be.

Actually, at the start, it was far from pathetic; it was frightening, with real-world consequences.

Early in the presidency, Trump was watching TV and saw something… and then Tweeted about how the new Air Force One is too expensive, and “Cancel Order!” There’s a lot of misinformation in that Tweet to begin with, but the immediate response was a sharp drop in Boeing’s stock price. It recovered quickly when people realized the president didn’t know what he was talking about, but the damage was done, and it was a good indication that this guy shoots from the hip and doesn’t really consider the implications. Much bigger and broader shooting from the hip was his unilateral and unexpected Muslim travel ban. Never mind that it violated the first amendment, the fifth amendment, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act… who cares. You can see Trump, with his infallible logic… Muslim = Terrorist, Terrorist = Bad, Banning Bad is good… what’s the problem? No need to consider the consequences. We all remember the chaos that resulted, and how much effort it took to resolve it.

But these days, with only 53 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes (but who’s counting) left in his presidency, his shooting from the hip holds little clout. Now, it’s the same old baseless nonsense, and none of it is surprising to hear. I honestly thought he might have some surprises waiting in the wings, but… nothing. Like an awful chess player, he telegraphed ahead everything he had planned. He called the election a fraud before it even took place, threatened he had lawyers in place ready to challenge it, and, as a result, everyone was ready for it. He served up exactly what was expected.

Of course, there was no wide-spread fraud, and the “superstar” team of lawyers who were happy to say “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to him in person, and who were happy to take his money… most of them bailed before making complete fools of themselves. Those that stuck it out longer faced serious admonition from judges who were not happy to see their court’s time wasted with this nonsense, especially when the stakes were so high. Vague handwaving and unfounded, grandiose statements don’t work well in a court of law. Case after case was thrown out, some of them angrily.

At a recent press conference, Donald Trump was repeatedly asked if he was going to concede. His long-winded answers of irrelevant bullshit and false claims were exactly what we’ve grown accustomed to. He never answered the question, which of course, in itself, is the answer.

If this were a chess match, he’d be the king, pretty much left all alone. All that’s left of his colour is the king itself… and a few pawns. The other side has more than it needs… the queen, a rook or two, a knight or two. A bishop. Perhaps a few pawns. Perhaps 80 million pawns. Whatever.

In 53 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes, his Tweets will go from presidential and influential… to those from just another right-wing conspiracy-theory-believing nut-job. Right now, he could be Tweeting about how maybe masks aren’t such a bad idea. How maybe a little social distancing wouldn’t hurt. Will he do that? Of course not.

And during that time, more than 5 million Americans will become infected with C19, and more than 100,000 will die. And, after all of that, Donald Trump, the former president, will have the rest of his life to think about what he did, what he didn’t do, and what a mess he left behind. Maybe he can think about it while he’s sitting in prison, where he belongs… and where there isn’t much else to do.

Well, I guess he could always take up chess.

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November 7, 2020

There’s that moment in “The Wizard of Oz” where everything goes from black-and-white to colour. It makes quite an impact…and to a great extent, for a lot of people, that’s how it feels today; a four-year journey of black vs. white, right vs. wrong, us vs. them… finally coming to an end. We are once again surrounded with colour. Isn’t it beautiful?

Nearing the end of that movie, Dorothy and her entourage finally come upon The Wizard himself… and pull back the curtain to reveal that he’s no wizard after all… just a fraud, pulling some levers. Far from a wizard… he’s just a failed showman.

But this is where the similarities end. The wizard gracefully exits; he leaves The Scarecrow in charge of Oz, with The Tin Man and The Lion at his side. A very elegant transfer of power. Then he gets into a hot-air balloon, and flies off to live happily ever after.

Our present fraud-wizard-failed-showman won’t be leaving quietly. The hot-air balloon would be a helicopter in this case, but on January 20th, there’s a relatively good chance Trump won’t be on it.

What’s becoming interesting is the method with which the rats are leaving the sinking ship. For four years, they agreed with, acquiesced to, and validated – his narcissistic venomous bullshit. Now they don’t have to. In many cases, these are people with similar personality profiles, so now what? They arguably played along because it served their purpose; stay on his good side or find yourself with a figurative knife in your back, exiled from the kingdom of Trump. That’s no longer the case. In fact, Trump himself has been pissed off for the last few days, wondering why none of those people are Tweeting their support for their soon-to-be fallen leader. The answer is pretty simple; they’re looking out for themselves at the expense of others… a lesson they learned from Trump himself. It’s time to jump ship.

What’s also not black and white is what’s going on here… it’s red… as in cases across the board in Canada… as per below, so… much… red. All rising… sharply. Red alert.

Dr. Bonnie spoke earlier today and imposed new restrictions, in place for two weeks, effective as of 10pm tonight, affecting social gatherings, travel, indoor group exercises and workplaces. And, in that order: don’t, don’t, don’t, and… follow the rules. Let’s see if we can actually stick to that for two weeks.

We are effectively back to late March/early April; it’s Déjà Vu all over again… and we managed to get this under control back then. And, of course, we’ve learned a lot since then… but don’t think that just because of that, and treatment options, and just because we actually have a vaccine around the corner, that we don’t need to take this seriously. We do… because the tornado that can sweep us away to a world of hurt appears quickly and powerfully. Just ask Dorothy. And yes, we all want things to be normal… and we’ll get there eventually… “there’s no place like home”… but unfortunately, just closing your eyes and tapping your feet a few times, and hoping… isn’t going to do it.

HK COVID-19 Daily Report Graph Nov 7, 2020

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November 4, 2020

Yogi Berra liked to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over”. The more sophisticated version of the same saying is… “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”.

That not-so-PC saying is referring to Brünnhilde, — usually cast as plus-sized soprano — who, after 15 hours of opera (German composer Richard Wagner’s “The Ring”, a 4-part mini-series) has a 20-minute dramatic finale before finally (and spectacularly) burning to death. A somewhat appropriate finale for whatever happens next.

And a somewhat appropriate comparison in that Richard Wagner actually has a lot in common with Donald Trump… numerous affairs, horribly in debt, and terribly racist. Hitler was a big fan. Trump might be as well, though I don’t get the impression that the president gets out to many operas.

So no, it’s not over, though it’s trending against Trump at the moment, and, as expected, he is fiercely lashing out, trying to hold on to the presidency. It was interesting to hear the commentary on CNN late last night, just before Trump spoke, the CNN panelists speculating on what Trump might or might not say. Do you think he’d actually come and question the integrity of the election? Do you think he’d threaten lawsuits? And do you actually think he’d come out and claim victory?

Come on… after four years of this, how can you even discuss it? Of course Trump came out, and did exactly all of that… and even threw out that he’d get the Supreme Court involved.

You know what… I hope he does. I hope he tries, anyway… because one of two things would happen. The first, and by far the likeliest, is that the SCOTUS will tell him to go to hell. Go away with your frivolous nonsense. Every single vote will be counted, period. And that would be a powerful and appropriate send-off to the man who, for four years, tried to stack that court in his favour. Forget the right-wing conservative-leaning court he left in place; he doesn’t care about that. He cares about himself, and counted on these people to save him. And they won’t. Or, at least, they shouldn’t. It would be a final and decisive goodbye, even after the near-corrupt and very hypocritical installation of the latest associate justice.

Or… once again, Trump fools us all and gets the SCOTUS on his side; these jurists who have spent their entire lives upholding the constitution suddenly chucking it all away for Trump. This is exceedingly unlikely, but it’s what would have to happen to somehow declare all votes after midnight invalid in Wisconsin and/or Michigan, but keep counting in places he needs… like Arizona. Of course, none of it makes any sense, but in that scenario… you’d have a corrupt president propped-up by a corrupt court. You’d have a corrupt Executive Branch, propped-up by a corrupt Judicial Branch… which would render the Legislative Branch useless. And at that point, I would agree you’d have to tear-up the constitution, because the U.S. as we’ve all known it is done. Then you start from scratch, once you’ve figured out how to get rid of King Trump; it’d be a nasty civil war because, like it or not, the military would be on his side. Some of them, anyway.

By the way, don’t think this doesn’t happen… the citizens of Chile very recently voted – with an overwhelming majority of 78% — to tear-up their constitution and re-write it.

The thing is… the Chilean constitution they’re replacing was created in 1980 by a military dictator. The new one will be written by committee, pretty much like the American one was written (and has worked quite well ever since) 231 years ago.

Biden is close… but it ain’t over. I can assure you, if Biden loses, he will smile, wave, and fade into obscurity, a long political career done. If Trump loses, he will not go away so quietly… and that’s where things get ugly… but, for everyone’s sake, I would certainly hope that even the most ardent Trump supporters, and his fellow Republicans… Pence, McConnell, etc… would respect the democratic process and support the result, whatever it turns out to be, including shutting down their irrational leader. If he’s voted out, smile, wave, and go face the music that awaits you. The voting wasn’t corrupt. The process wasn’t compromised. The United States constitution isn’t the problem.

It might take a lot of people and a coordinated effort to execute another well-known saying:

“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.”

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October 29, 2020

An excellent scene in one of my favourite movies, “The Princess Bride” involves one guy continually using the word “inconceivable” … and another guy eventually saying to him, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

But the word we’re going to discuss isn’t that one… the word of the day is “freedom”.

Americans seem to think they have a monopoly on “freedom”. Hey guys… up here – we’re free too, you know. In fact, of the 206 recognized sovereign nations, the vast majority are also free.

On the list of countries that are not so free, you’ll find places like China, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela… places that are perpetually in the news, often for the wrong reasons, and that’s why perhaps we never hear about the rest of the world. Uruguay? Bulgaria? Mongolia? They all have their own problems to navigate, like any other sovereign nation… but their people are free, by whatever definition you want to apply. But perhaps since the U.S. isn’t meddling in their affairs, you never hear about them.

Somewhere along the line, the meaning of “freedom” has lost its way, especially by those who’ve never experienced the lack thereof. Anyone who’s been born and lived all their lives in the U.S. (and Canada), no matter how old they are, has never lived under a government that didn’t offer them freedom. Yet even today, more than half the world’s population lives without the basic freedoms we all take for granted.

It’s hard to put it in terms for people who’ve never experienced it, so let’s compare it to something relatable.

I’m old enough to remember well when smoking was ubiquitous. Ten-hour airplane flights so full of smoke you couldn’t even see the screen of the movie playing 20 rows ahead. Tiny no-smoking areas in restaurants, if any. Everyone smoked back then, whether directly or second-hand.

When smoking bans were proposed, there was a huge uprising… and the word freedom was thrown around a lot. It’s my right, it’s my freedom, all the bullshit arguments you can imagine. And it goes back to what I said yesterday; nobody wants to infringe on anyone’s rights. You want to smoke at home? As long as the smoke doesn’t bleed into someone else’s space, go right ahead. You want to smoke alone in the middle of nowhere, go right ahead. You want to smoke in a crowded boardroom because it relaxes you and helps you gather your thoughts? Too bad. Because what you feel you’re entitled to is not as important as other people’s health and comfort. Go outside.

Yes, you will be inconvenienced and perhaps feel offended… but everything about that situation is up to you. You are free to make those choices. And if you still want to scream about rights and freedoms, perhaps a little history lesson… or perhaps, just a present-day history lesson… of people who can’t leave where they are, can’t say what they want to say, aren’t free to participate in the religion or partnership they wish to pursue. *That* is a lack of freedom. Not you having to step outside to smoke where it doesn’t bother anyone else. There’s no issue of freedom there. That’s just part of living in a civilized society that’s decided that the harm inflicted by cigarette smoke is not something anyone has the right to impose on someone else.

Similarly, can we just cut the crap with masks and freedom? It’s not the end of your world to act responsibly for the benefit of us all. You’re not being deprived of some fundamental right, unless you feel that putting others at risk is something to which you’re entitled. This is temporary and this is necessary.

I’m well aware that there are people who’ll read this and still not get it, tossing aside the science and common sense. So just get this…. shut the hell up already with claiming someone is infringing on your rights. Nobody is making you wear a mask when it’s not called for. Smoke at home. Cough and sneeze at home to your heart’s content. But while there’s a virus going around that threatens us all, simply do your part. If you’re around other people, do what’s asked… or, just don’t be around other people.

See how easy that is? You *are* free – free to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s basic rights. I have the right not to inhale your cigarette smoke. I have the right not to inhale your Covid-19. I would hope for most people, this is pretty clear… though I’m also very clear that for a lot of people, this is… inconceivable.

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