Mental Health Taking a Beating

Its like a kick in the groin. You don’t feel it at first, but if you wait a few seconds, it hits you. This is happening to many people right now and we need to take a moment of pause to look after outselves.

COVID-19 seems to taken a toll on us. Some in a small, minor way but for others, the world is a giant weight hanging around our necks. Tempers are short, frustration is at an all time high. We’re scared. Well, those of us that believe the pandemic is serious and that we need to take every precaution needed to protect ourselves and our loved ones are scared. Those who believe that this is all a hoax or a giant conspiracy have nothing to worry about. Tell that to the 1,000,000 people who have died around the world. Yep, just a hoax. Many will believe London City Councilor Van Holst who has taken to quoting Homer (not that Homer) stating that sacrificing a few for the good of the many is acceptable. While MVH is entitled to his opinion, is he serving his constituents by spreading this nonsense? The unfortunate thing is that many believe in what he says, despite science and data saying otherwise.

Parents are sending kids back to school….a bittersweet moment. Glad they can resume their schooling and see their buds, but terrified that their kid will get sick. Huge lineups at COVID testing centres, frustration that although it was predicted a second wave would be coming, we’re not prepared. We’ve seen it already in other parts of the world. The fact we have a few students testing positive after visiting downtown bars has further concerned many.

Social media has ramped its anger, disinformation and downright ignorance and stupidity. I admit I’m a hot head, but am damn impressed with myself at the number of times I’ve either not replied to a comment, was about to comment but deleted it before I could push send or my restraint in not using the “f” word more than I usually do or simply calling those idiots a bunch of mindless, moronic dumbasses. Oops, there, I said it.

All of this is ON TOP of what we are already dealing with in our own worlds and heads. I’m not going to elaborate, but a friend of mine and her family, are grieving as a friend took his own life. My heart is sad as I write this. However, it serves a reminder to take care of ourselves. Talking can be tough, especially for men, but trust me, it works. Taking care of your mental health is as critical as trying to prevent COVID and we cannot dismiss this fact. Taking a moment, or a day for ourselves is step one. Shutting down is a good thing. Getting off Idiotbook, I mean Facebook is another way.

One mom was feeling guilty for not doing housework on the first day the kids are back to school. Who gives a damn about the housework. Take the day for yourself to relax, refresh. Watch TV, read a book, have a physically distant coffee with a friend (might I recommend Locomotive Espresso?). I did a few times last week and it did wonders for my attitude. One dude on Twitter found it hard and felt guilty for focusing on himself instead of others. Can’t help others if you’re not in the best of shape my friend.

It may be a long road ahead, but I believe we will come out on the other side. The first step is to take care of yourself. Talk. Talk to a friend. A counsellor, whomever you feel comfortable. Suicide is not the answer. I killed myself three and a half years ago but here I am. Yet, given all that has happened to me, the current climate we live it and the missing of “normal”, I’m glad I failed. I’m still standing (yes, I really am thanks to 2 cool new feet). I have more to be grateful for than to be sad about. Yes of course I get into a funk. But then I shut it down, watch some Avengers or Simpsons, enjoy some Doritos or a raisin butter tart (or 4 tarts 😜) and I’m good to go. Lets be there for those who need us….as long as we take care of ourselves too.

Fabricland Lady

Many of us have seen the video of the woman in Calgary, caught on video, acting rather strangely in the Fabricland as she was challenged for not wearing a mask. We’ve seen so many videos similar to this on social media. We have this desire to whip out our smartphones, video behaviour like this and then turn to public shaming. I’m not talking about filming the idiots that spew racist hatred…they deserve what they get. I’m talking about the Fabricland lady or the Walmart couples who, while refusing to wear a mask, are outed in public and online.

Here in London, and in many other places, we have mandatory mask orders, with some exemptions. The orders are very clear in many places that proof of exemption is not required. This means a person who cannot wear a mask can do so that their own risk and without challenge. Some claim its a human rights violation to force mask wearing. We are expected to show kindness and consideration.

When I see someone without a mask in a store, I tend to try and avoid them as best as I can. I don’t whip out my phone and create an unnecessary confrontation. I liken it to people with disabilities. No one has the right to challenge someone not believing they have a disability. For example, if I get on a bus and see someone sitting in the seats reserved for those with disabilities, I don’t question it. Now, I recognize some refuse the mask as their way of protesting the “man” who is trying to take away our civil liberties. I’m sure there are a few that refuse the mask simply because they are selfish knobs. Many have a legitimate concern and we don’t have any right to challenge them nor do we have a right to video them. I wonder how many situations we see on social media are due to the amateur videomakers? Again, there is a time and place for public shaming and even those instances are limited.

I see people post pictures of a supposed sketchy person in their neighbourhoods. My first question is: did you call the police? More times than not, they haven’t. If you’re suspicious, let the authorities do their jobs. If you see someone not wearing a mask, let the establishment handle it. Was Fabricland lady out of line? Probably. But ask if it was instigated by the person making the video. This may have been one of those times where you leave the phone in your pocket, go about your business and maybe, just maybe, quit being a disturber of excrement.

One Death Is Too Many

Yes, another COVID-19 rant. You’ve been warned.

The whole “Covid is an overblown hoax” boggles my mind. Worldwide, over 26,000,000 cases, approaching 1,000,000 dead. Here in Canada, over 140,000 cases with 9,200 dead. Locally, approaching 800 cases with 57 dead. How is this a hoax?

In order to prevent the spread, we’ve been asked as individuals to do the following:

  • wear a mask when entering a business, mall, store
  • Physically distance
  • Ensure good personal hygiene

Fairly simple. Slight inconvenience that we have to wear a mask. Better than getting sick or better yet: DEAD. Yet, there are many who are screaming their heads off that we’re infringing on their human rights and freedoms. Some have even suggested, as Councilor Van Holst has, that is is expected and ACCEPTABLE that some will die. On Facebook, a rather disturbing set of comments from people who support this idea. A couple are Trump supporters, living right here in London Ontario says it all. A thinning the herd mentality seems to be their argument. What in the actual hell? What is fascinating about a couple of the commenters is that they are local business people….who now don’t have a hope in hell of ever getting my business.

Thanks to Jeremy McCall who reminded me of this line from Rocky

If our reaction to the virus and now that the second wave is here and we’ve overreacted, so be it. I’m good with the better safe than sorry attitude. Too many people have died. I don’t care if they had an underlying condition. COVID is what ultimately killed them. Reckless thinking and behaviour, a lack of trust in the EXPERTS and whining about personal liberties is going to get more people killed. Currently, we are seeing a 6.4% mortality rate in Canada. The other 93.6% have recovered. Some had a mild cases, some went through absolute hell in their recovery. Think about everyone, not just those who succumbed to this virus. I liken it to the idiots who fail to wear a seatbelt, text and drive or drive impaired. The stats indicate that these behaviours are deadly and that taking steps to avoid these behaviours reduces the risk of injury or death. What’s next: refusing to cook your Thanksgiving turkey to 174F because the health unit highly recommends it? Use your heads people.

What is especially concerning in when a local politician, who represents 10,000s of constituents in his ward, spout off with disinformation and, as I stated above, condones the death of people. Many will believe in his dangerous messages, but most will not. Is he really serving his ward and his city? I think not. Thankfully, the majority of council do not share his views and will carry on with the appropriate orders of business. Still, unnerving we have people like this who walk among us, blatantly arguing policy policy that has proven to be effective in the prevention of further spread of COVID. I appreciate debate, when it is intelligent and has a ton of data based evidence to back it up. When you quote sources like Rebel Media, you’ve lost all credibility.

Too many have died. For most of us, we’re suffering a few inconveniences for the sake of protecting ourselves and others. To those who choose to spread disinformation while they challenge the system that is such a burden on us (*that’s sarcasm), I’d suggest you steer clear. They are careless, selfish and probably won’t be wearing a mask. They won’t listen to you anyways….too busy fighting the man!

Pumpkin Spice 🎃

Fall is upon us. I have this love/hate relationship with Autumn for many reasons. I spent my entire working career based around the start of a new year in September. Exciting times as we ramped up for a new school year, a new Sarnia Sting hockey season or the fall Fair at the Western Fair. It also meant working a ton of hours during this prime time in the work year. Loved it.

I like the pleasant sunny weather with the cool evenings. I miss my hoodie, but still refuse to wear pants. We all have that go to hoodie, 20 years old, falling apart but still comfortable. The fall colours can bring a smile to anyone’s face. I took a trip a couple of years ago to North Bay and saw colours I never imagined. The smell of backyard fires, the crisp morning air and the end of complaining about summer humidity. The sight of pumpkins popping up for sale.

I’m not a Pumpkin Spice fanatic. Sure, I don’t mind the seasonal flavour, a muffin here and there. Unlike our SHE DEVIL London friend Sheryl, I can take it or leave it. I do love me some pumpkin pie after a Thanksgiving feast. Have we taken the pumpkin spice a little too far? Maybe. Not sure the world needs pumpkin spice kitty litter. I know Vader wouldn’t be a fan.

I’m not a football fan, but did work for years at Western where I’d spend my fall weekends working the games and always got pumped up for Homecoming. The NHL would be starting and I could start the season excited that this was the year for my beloved Leafs. Haven’t watched the NFL for years, but get the sense that Buffalo Bills fans are just as nuts as us Leaf fans.

I will, despite the challenging times we live in, endeavour to enjoy this season. However, fall seems to be a short season which also means winter is coming. If we could find a way to skip the winter months, I’m in.

A Noose and The Comments

The disturbing story in the media this past weekend about the discovery of a noose in Warbler Woods was, to say the least, unsettling. However one views this, whether an act of hatred or as a sign that someone was in mental distress, it was an incident to not dismiss. When I saw this, I immediately thought it was an act of racist hatred. Others did not. How one saw this in their own opinion and at times, despite me writing this, there are times that maybe we keep our comments to ourselves. The noose, at first dismissed by London Police, was a serious and disturbing sign to many. It was hurtful and brought pain to many people. This is something that shouldn’t be argued….feelings are personal and beyond debate.

I then made the critical mistake: I READ THE DAMN COMMENTS. What struck me about the majority of the negative comments was that the majority of commenters were white. As I read the comments, I grew angrier by the minute. Theories that this incident was invented by those who reported it or took offense to the display….WHAT IN THE HOLY HELL….ARE YOU SERIOUS? Many dismissed the thinking that this was an sign of anti-Black racism. Some suggested it was simply a prank and that this was all being blown out of proportion. A few suggested this was just a joke. It bears repeating: The comments were coming from White people.

It sounded a touch hypocritical when I said at times we should keep quiet with our opinions. But the bulk of the “opinions” expressed were nonsense. White folks have no idea what people of colour have and do continue to endure. We’re supposed to be an inclusive society but the comments such as this demonstrate we have so far to go in our struggle to ensure equality. This incident was inexcusable as was the lack of respect and ignorance displayed by so many. We, as people who have never endured hatred like this, yes white people, I’m talking to you ( and I’m one of them), need to close our mouths, take more time to consider others and ask “what can we do to support you?”. Your ignorance is repulsive.

Defunding the Police-Final Thoughts

As I sat down to write this today, I had just read a tweet that a portion of downtown was closed due to a report of a distraught man…..and who was tasked with responding? Fire, EMS and….Police. Pretty much sums up my thoughts from yesterday.

I love this graphic as it sums up my feelings:

I’m upset that our friends in the Black and Indigenous communities are being targeted for racism, by some police and people in our community. I strongly believe that Black Lives Matter. I am also a supporter of the many uniformed and civilian members of our Police Department. Most, NOT ALL are exceptional at what they do. Like any organizations, there are a few that give a black eye to the whole team. If I have a bad experience at a large store due to one staff member, I’m not going to boycott the whole company. I have an expectation that that company, like the police, will handle the concern quickly, efficiently and fairly.

I am not dumb enough to believe that there are some who will cover up for their officer coworkers. Again, this a is culture found in many entities. Slowly, we are seeing some step forward and, with our current Police Chief, I am cautiously optimistic we will see the change we need to see. I also have a great deal of faith in our current Police Board who will make it their mission to ensure a fair, respectful and responsible team of officers are working on our streets. We need to stop beating up on the POLICE….because not every police officer acts in such a harassing or intolerable manner. Lets root out the bad ones, work to ensure an effective, respectful and professional team.

In my post yesterday, I failed to mention that the police do not control the social service budget, our politicians and by extension, we as voters, control the budget. If we are truly serious about defunding the police, we need to be serious about improving our social services networks. Lobby your local Councillors, your MP and your MPP…..let them know how you feel. Demand better for our vulnerable. Demand better training for our police.

BLACK LIVES MATTER. INDIGENOUS LIVES MATTER. For those who argue all lives matter, stop right now. Of course all lives matter. But it’s like the old tale (religious parable) that I am paraphrasing: A man has 100 sheep and one goes missing. After ensuring the other 99 are safely in their pen, he goes off to find the lost one. The other sheep yell out, “what about us? Don’t we matter?: The man replies, “yes you do, but right now, you’re safe. The lost one is not. I need to find it and protect it.” Be an ally for our friends and neighbours who need our help. Stand with them, step forward when you see injustice. Be the man who goes off to find the lost sheep.

Overall, I am thankful for the work that the majority of our police department members do each and everyday. One morning, about 5 am, I saw a man, in my mind, either in distress or under the influence, wandering down the middle of the road on Oxford. He’d then walk up to a sign in front of a business, kick it, screaming unintelligibly, then wander back onto the road, narrowly missing getting hit by a truck. I was concerned for his welfare and contacted police, as it was 5 am and no one else is available. The dispatcher was professional, caring and made a point of thanking me for calling. Minutes later, a couple of cruisers could be seen heading down Oxford. I have no idea what happened to this man, other to hope he was safe.

We need our police. What our police departments look like in the future is unknown. The focus today needs to be on improved social and medical services, actions to demonstrate that we as a society take Black Lives Matter seriously and a commitment by governments to spend less time talking and put OUR money where it needs to go. Thank you for following this rather long winded 3 part series….written by on old white guy ( I mentioned I was middle aged the other day and was mocked….in good fun)

Defunding the Police-Part Two

I have no doubt in my mind that we need to work towards defunding the police at some point. Two prevalent issues that need to be addressed: race relations and social services But today is not the day to defund the police. We have a long way to go to bring balance to our budgets, meaning our social services are way underfunded. and we still have serious challenges as it relates to the relationship between the police and our Black and Indigenous Communities. Until we put more emphasis on , racism, addictions, poverty, homelessness and mental health, we’re going to continue to have the critical and urgent issues we have today. We can’t simply take the funds from the police and put into social programs and expect instant results.

Currently, our police departments are dealing with a number of issues that no one else is equipped to handle, whether its due to the human or financial resources. Wellness checks, mental health calls….if we remove the police from this role immediately, who will handle this? Poverty and addictions are one of the main causes from crime, specifically theft. If resources are taken from the police, again, who or how are we dealing with these issues? Until we have a substantial and effective plan in place, with the badly needed funds, to handle the social issues we have, we will continue down this road. To defend the police, they’ve been handed the task of dealing with mental health calls without the benefit of proper training and then, with hospitals bursting at the seams, where are we taking these folks who desperately need our help? Our city has so many people suffering from addictions, illness and homelessness wandering our streets, lost. When a citizen has a concern, or better yet, a lack of understanding or empathy for the person doing drugs, they call the cops. Who else is there…London Cares? They simply don’t have the recourses to handle the growing number of people in trouble.

In terms of the relationship with the Black and Indigenous communities, we have some work to do and to think we do not is naïve. One may quickly point to a potential lack of training. Training is only effective if a culture of change, understanding and acceptance in clear. When I was at Western, during a Ministry of Labour Audit, I learned that no matter the amount of training, none of it would be worth our time if there wasn’t concrete change in the way we think and work….and in some cases, it takes time. We need our leaders and boards to hold officers accountable for intolerant behavior and work diligently to change the culture. Yes, training is required before they become a police officer…a role that only rakes a few months to complete (yet a hair stylist needs a couple of years of training??). An extended training program is first, then continued education along with leaders and team members who model the way. And when someone crosses a line, they’re done.

I’m not beating up on the Police as a whole. I truly believe overall, we have a very good team. But like any organization, a few bad members need to be weeded out. We can’t tolerate any kind of discrimination. and when its reported, its dealt with swiftly and effectively. We need our police and when we need them, we need them NOW. But we want the officers who show up to treat everyone with dignity, respect and compassion…no matter the colour of their skin, race, or sexuality.

Until we resolve the budget issues, crime will continue. Bike shops will be broken into, shoplifting will continue, drug over doses will grow in numbers. Until we as citizens force our elected officials to be put a critical priority into funding our badly needed social service and race relations programs, these heartbreaking and costly issues will continue. Yes, we need to divert funds from the police, but methodically and with purpose, not simply because we’re angry.

Defunding The Police-Part One

I have to state upfront that you’re about to read the opinion of a white, straight, middle aged man. It’s important that I state this as my views will be significantly different that many others. I’ve had many, many interactions with London Police, for the most part for business reasons. I have had a couple of interactions during my drinking, suicidal days. I’ve also been pulled over numerous times during my younger driver days as I tended to wear the shoes filled with lead. Each and every encounter has been respectful and professional. I’ve dealt with City of London Police, Toronto Police, Sarnia Police, Western Campus Police, RCMP and the OPP. I have had zero reason to complain. As stated earlier, I’m white and some will suggest, and maybe rightfully so, that this is why I was treated well by the police. I also have to add, I always treated them with respect, even when I disagreed (damn speeding tickets).

I keep mentioning the colour of my skin. This is important as we know many of our friends and families in the Black community and the Indigenous community have not had similar experiences. I have ZERO right to question or debate these groups as I have not been in their shoes. We see the horrors in the United States in particular and we get angry but think its down there, so its not my problem. WRONG. The more I read, the more I listen, the more I learn of the troubling issues in our own City. I was sitting in on a Zoom call the other day in my role on the Community Diversity and Inclusion Group (CDIS) and heard a horrific tale of a Black teenage male, doing nothing wrong, being harassed by the police. If the security person at the mall on duty hadn’t stepped in to vouch for this young man, who knows what would have happened. I was shaking when I heard his mom sharing this story. This has never happened to my son…..

There has been so much TALK about Black Lives Matter. Many organizations have issued statements supporting BLM. Now its time for ACTION. One speaker that I listened to this week stated that its time for us…all of us,…to stop acting as bystanders….and she is so bloody right. Talk…talk…talk. What are we actually doing about this injustice to our Black friends, families and neighbours? Statements are great if followed by measurable actions. The CDIS that I am part of is working on those actions and I’m excited for what is to come. Once I can post what we’re doing (as we await approval of City Council), I will. I am asking that if you haven’t been listening, start…and listen closely. Then, make the pledge to act. BLM needs everyone to be allies, but they need allies who will step up, act and defend them as they continue this fight.

Next post, I’ll get into my thoughts as far as de-funding the police.

Advisory Committees and Respect

On the day I post about Angry Advocates, it was reported in the media that London City Council has decided to review Advisory Committees, their structure and their usefulness. You guessed it…initial knee-jerk reaction was one of anger.

After sitting with this and after an online discussion, on the surface, a review makes sense. Every good organization takes a moment of pause to review status, adapt and make changes if necessary. The “its always the way its been done” is old school thinking. However, I have concerns.

Now, I also need to remind myself of the slant media can place on a news piece and this needs to be considered. Again, on the surface, it appears that there is a lack of appreciation for the hard work that these incredible volunteers…yes, volunteers, put into these groups. Many are experts in their fields and are providing free advice…something that would cost the city a ton of money if they went to a consultant. Committee members donate their time because they believe in what they do and instead of sitting back, commenting from the sidelines, they chose to get involved. Of course I’m biased…I’m one of them. I have seen firsthand the passion displayed by committee members and I’m damn proud to be a part of the process.

I can also appreciate some of the points made by Councillors. The abuse they endure, especially on social media, is intolerable. Disagree with them? No problem. Have a spirited debate but take the high ground and keep the personal insults to yourself. This is one of those times when we’re supposed to be in this together, working towards the common good.

I also believe there should be an advocacy component to these committees. Many Londoners don’t know where to turn when they have a concern. Some Councillors do a great job communicating with their residents…a few do not based on my experience. A committee member may be able to assist in this manner or at least point them in the right direction. Or, if someone is nervous or concerned that their voice won’t be heard, maybe a committee could assist. Committee members are experienced and well versed in their specific committees and this knowledge is useful. I’ve always believed that part of our role was to serve.

I’m hoping that at the end of the review, Councillors find the value in the work these great committees do and maybe, just maybe, show a touch of appreciation. We don’t do this for reward…but a thanks once in awhile wouldn’t hurt. And remember, as I said, we’re here to help. A quote I’ve always appreciated: “Nothing about us without us”.

The Angry Advocate

Many know that over the past couple of years, I have spent a bit of time advocating for a community that ensures equality, inclusivity and access for not only those of us with disabilities, but for those who may not have a disability, but, since life happens, you never know.

I take part in a number of committees and have been following a number of groups on social media who focus on similar issues as I do. I’ve discovered something, and I shouldn’t be surprised, is the ANGRY “ADVOCATE”….and there appear to be quite a few of them. You know the ones I’m talking about: always barking if you say the wrong thing, express an opinion that is contrary to theirs, feels like everyone else is wrong or is trying to screw them over. The ones who make your blood boil as you reach for the block button. How is this public persona helping the cause(s) you’re fighting for?

Yes, I’ve only been disabled/been a person with disabilities/choose whatever labels works for you, for four short years. During this time, I’ve gotten involved quite heavily (you can blame Angela !) and have acquired quite a bit of knowledge. I have so much more to learn, but do know from decades of business experience, that public anger rarely helps one achieve the desired results. Of course I get angry, hell, sometimes downright furious…..but this is privately. I try and use that anger in a constructive manner. The most important lesson I have learned over the years is to listen and respect the many views of others. That is, until you cross a line with insults or a complete failure to have a respectful discussion.

I understand the anger. Living with measly financial Disability Support can cause frustration, worry, depression, and anger. Its depressing to know you’ll be broke the day after receiving your support. When you feel that no one is listening or cares, it is doubly hurtful. Its a challenge to maintain composure when you see something you’ve worked hard to change go right to hell. The thing about advocacy is that you won’t win every argument or get everything you want…..sometimes its simply not possible. The small, incremental steps and challenges and the small victories are important and are worth celebrating.

Those who you want to see implement change will not be receptive to the angry advocate. Diplomacy, respectfulness and a well thought out position are tools that will generally work. And remember strength in numbers….the more people you can get involved in the cause will speak volumes. Build respectful and professional relationships with those who you hope to sway. I know locally, I’m sure there are a few who, when I speak or post about issues, like sidewalk access, roll their eyes and think, “does this guy every shut up?” But you know what, there are many who listen and we are seeing small successes. Getting angry and being overly critical rarely works. Ask yourself if you’d want to listen to someone who is so angry or who won’t listen to reason And if you want to be that angry advocate and yell at me, go ahead. I won’t be listening. What I’m doing seems to work for me. Yes, I get angry and occasionally, snarky. However, it does me absolutely no good except to remind me how to go about affecting change the proper way.