Monday, April 30, 2012

the court system should simply get a backbone

This very interesting article (below) indicates to me that there is a widening gap between rational thinking and hateful utterances in folks who are for strange and bewildering reasons ---concerned about what men and women do in their bedrooms in the privacy of their personal relationships.
I have never been indoctrinated in the unwise beliefs of religious groups who feel that they must single out non-heterosexuals for their biblical forms of love which means as I understand it –to save them from lakes of fire –after they die –which appears to be their only fate after living lives as non-heterosexual entities.

I am always surprised that such horrible people exist that have instructions for the rest of us on how we may conduct ourselves in love.

I feel it is unwise for those who ask everyone to love each other to then go about hating groups of folks who follow their advice to love everyone.

I feel it is even more unwise to go out and make themselves into groups like the Wildrose Party and promote their religious beliefs in speech and acts that are intolerant.

I feel that such folks should come out of the wood they have been burrowing in for (it appears to me) most of their termite lives and come into the light of reason.

They should stop their preaching in public which I construe as hateful utterances and discriminatory practices and instead focus on the love part of their biblical teachings and practice what they purport to be all about.

And in any case, if they don’t listen to their bible stories, I hope the court system should simply get a backbone and do the work of shutting them up. I know we cannot depend on our politicians for this sort of leadership since we have in Alberta, the sort of groups that promote this sort of nonsense instead of stepping on it and classifying it is as the hate speech that it is.  When will our politicians shut the wacky right up? When they get a backbone themselves and this will not happen so our justice system must do the hard work of propping our jellyfish invertebrate political system up. Good luck with this work, oh justice system. But I hope you do it. And soon.

It is getting mighty hot here in Alberta (all those lakes of fire are burning!).

Where does legitimate religious expression end and hate speech begin?

Written by: Kathleen Mahoney
PDF Version: Where does legitimate religious expression end and hate speech begin?
Alan Hunsberger, a Wildrose candidate who ran for election for the provincial legislature in Alberta, believes the Edmonton Public School Board’s policy of adopting anti-bullying policies to protect gay and lesbian students is wrong. He says that to adopt such policies is “godless, wicked and profane.” He says that homosexuals ” will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.” He went on to write that others shouldn’t accept homosexuals for the way they are because “accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving.” For the full text of his statement see here.
Should we be concerned? Is this really a freedom of speech issue? Or is it something else?
Even though Hunsberger’s views were widely publicized across Canada, political leaders and other candidates running for election, with few exceptions, have been silent in the face of these homophobic expressions of hatred against the gay and lesbian population of the province. The Wildrose party leader, Danielle Smith, went so far as to say Hunsberger’s statements are a legitimate form of religious expression. This is consistent with the Wildrose platform which says that the Alberta Human Rights Commission should be disbanded because of its “politically correct” record in trying to protect homosexuals from religious hate propaganda. The relevant parts of the platform are at here.
Hunsberger’s statements raise the same issue that is before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Whatcott v Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission), 2010 SKCA 26 case and before courts and legislatures in many other countries. The issue is the same everywhere - are such religiously motivated statements legitimate forms of expression or are they illegitimate forms of hate speech?
An analysis of hate speech shows it is more than mere words; it is a process. It involves at least three steps: first, singling out a targeted group on the basis of their immutable characteristics; second, targeting them for differential and discriminatory treatment; and third, furthering their social definition in society as inferior, unequal, and rightly disadvantaged, not deserving equal treatment or legal protection because of their group identification. Acts to enforce its messages often follow, from the denial of employment, services or accommodation to terrorizing, bullying, beatings and murder. In its most virulent forms, hate speech singles out certain groups for existential or genocidal elimination.
For example, on January 27, 2011, Jeffery Gettleman, a reporter for the New York Times reported that the Ugandan Parliament, with the encouragement of North American homophobic evangelicals, sponsored an Anti-Homosexuality Bill requiring the death penalty for homosexuals. The leading gay activist in the country who led the opposition to the Bill was murdered and Ugandan newspapers, encouraged by the acts of the politicians, published lists of the names of alleged gays and lesbians with blaring headlines such as “Hang Them!” and “Homo Terror!” Many lost their jobs, were threatened, beaten, and some raped. See Ugandan Who Spoke up for Gays is Beaten to Death.
After an international outcry the Bill was pulled last May but was reintroduced in February 2012, once again calling for the death penalty for anyone caught more than once engaging in homosexual acts. The Bill also proposes to criminalize public discussion of homosexuality and would penalize an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual. See here.  Nigeria has a similar Bill awaiting passage, while many other African countries are moving to criminalize homosexuality using the religious justification to do so.
Adrian Phoon, writing for The Age, Sydney Australia, (”The Role of U.S. Evangelicals in Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill,” The Age, January 12, 2012) reiterates that it is American evangelicals who have promoted the Uganda legislation and the theory that underlies it, which is that homosexuality as a satanic global conspiracy bent on destroying society’s foundations. This is eerily similar to the views expressed in Hunsberger’s blog cited above and akin to the “Jewish octopus” in classic anti-Semitic narratives. Phoon points out that when the Ugandan anti-gay activists speak about homosexuality, they cite materials by Scott Lively and Paul Cameron, two of the fiercest American opponents of gay rights who engage in the same hate rhetoric as Hunsberger.
What confuses people about the competing rights debate is that hate speech discrimination most often takes the form of words and symbols which leads to the argument that it must be tolerated because it is a form of expression. But just as sexual harassment is not considered “speech,” the regulation of hate discrimination should not be considered as such either. The Supreme Court of Canada said this in Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd. [1989] 1SCR 1252 , when it described how sexual harassment consisting solely of words and can poison the work environment, do serious harm and be prohibited. It is not protected speech. To legitimize hate speech discrimination because it may convey a “religious” message misses the point that the uttering of hate speech is an act, an injury, and a consequence in itself, just as sexual harassment in the form of words is.
Another way to understand hate speech is to understand that it combines content and form. Sexual orientation, or other identity provides the content. Promoting hatred of certain groups is its form. When the Supreme Court of Canada said that: “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers. It began with words.” they were saying that hate speech is a practice of racism that cannot hide behind the principle of free speech.
More recently, the Supreme Court of Canada in Mugesera v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2005] 2 SCR 100, found the unfettered dissemination of hate speech in Rwanda was a cause of the genocide that resulted in the massacre of 800,000 people. The Court said Mugesera’s hate speech was much more than speech - they said it amounted to a crime against humanity.
Since the late 1960’s, Canada has taken a dual approach addressing hate discrimination in both criminal and civil law. The Canadian Human Rights Act, RSC 1985, c H-6, and the Canadian Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, differ substantially. The purpose of human rights legislation is to prevent or rectify discriminatory practices and to compensate victims for harm caused to them by hate speech, whereas the Criminal Code is designed to punish and deter hate speech crimes. The provincial human rights codes of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories include similar provisions to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
So far, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld all of the federal and provincial hate laws under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Part I, Constitution Act, 1982),
Both leading Canadian cases, R v Keegstra, 1990 3 SCR 697 and the Canadian Human Rights Commission v Taylor, 1990 3 SCR 892, originated in Alberta. Both dealt with hate discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity justified on religious grounds. One was a criminal case, the other a human rights case.
In Keegstra, a high school teacher in Eckville, Alberta, was charged with unlawfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group under section 319(2) of the Criminal Code. The criminal charges originated from Keegstra’s anti-Semitic statements to his students, which attributed various evil qualities to Jews. Mr. Keegstra expected his students to reproduce his teachings in class and on exams. If they failed to do so, their marks suffered. Keegstra argued that section 319 (2) violated his right to freedom of expression guaranteed under section 2 of the Charter.
In Taylor, the respondent was charged with committing discriminatory acts by spreading racial hatred through his recorded messages on a telephone line. He argued that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was unconstitutional because it violated his Charter rights to freedom of expression to promote the religious views of the Christian Aryan Church. Both cases were heard together. The Court held that neither sections 319(2) nor section 13 was unconstitutional.
In spite of these landmark cases, courts in Alberta and Saskatchewan seem to be looking for ways to get around them, especially when hatred towards gays and lesbians is involved. Three cases deserve mention for this trend, the Owens v Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission), 2006 SKCA 41, case, the Boissoin v Lund, 2010 ABQB 123 case and the Whatcott case (supra), a Saskatchewan case presently before the Supreme Court of Canada.
In Owens a newspaper ad appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, with two stick figures holding hands covered by a red circle and slash with a biblical reference from Leviticus, stating that a man who “lies with a man” must be put to death. The Court of Queens Bench found the ad to expose homosexuals to hatred when it stated:
“There can be no question that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule. When the use of the circle and slash is combined with the passages of the Bible, it exposes homosexuals to detestation, vilification and disgrace”
This decision was appealed to Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal and was overturned. The Court found that because Owens was expressing his sincerely held religious beliefs, there was no violation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, SS 1979, c S-24.1.
Evidently, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal believes the Trojan horse of religious freedom trumps equality rights of some (homosexuals), but not others (racial and ethnic minorities). In both the Keegstra and Taylor leading cases, the hate speech was about sincerely held religious beliefs about racial purity and Judaism, but the highest Court was not prepared to give it extra constitutional weight just because it masqueraded as religious belief.
Singling out sexual minorities for less protection was dealt with head on by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Vriend v Alberta, [1998] 1 SCR 493. Commenting on the deliberate exclusion of sexual minorities by the Alberta legislature in the Individual Rights Protection Act, RSA 1980, c I-2, the Supreme Court said:
[The] exclusion, deliberately chosen in the face of clear findings that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation does exist in society, sends a strong and sinister message…. It could well be said that it is tantamount to condoning or even encouraging discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Thus this exclusion clearly gives rise to an effect that constitutes discrimination.
The exclusion sends a message to all Albertans that it is permissible, and perhaps even acceptable, to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The Queen’s Bench judge in the Lund case seems to have overlooked this direction from our highest Court. There, the respondent wrote a letter to the editor in the local Red Deer newspaper declaring “war” on homosexuals and called on people to rise up and act against them, accusing them of preying on children, spreading disease, being mentally ill, conspiring against society, being wicked and dangerous, and having an agenda and a homosexual machine to take over decent people with good morals.
Justice Earl Wilson held that the hate speech did not offend the Alberta hate speech legislation. In reasoning unsupported by law or by the legislation, the judge held that in order to offend the legislation, the writer of the hate speech must be shown to have intended to contribute to discriminatory practices through the hate message and that readers would likely engage in discriminatory practices because of it.
The decision is troubling because it begs the question about the purpose of human rights legislation generally and flies in the face of prior decisions that clearly stated neither intent nor motivation to discriminate need be proven by the complainant. It is difficult to conceive of a scenario that could result in a successful prosecution in the future with these new requirements. Disadvantaged minorities, especially homosexuals, will be at the mercy of hate mongers who will now be able to engage in their discriminatory activities with impunity and cause serious harms as a result.
The Whatcott decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal took a similar approach to limiting the protection of sexual minorities from hate discrimination compared to other minorities. The case involved four pamphlets placed in mailboxes at people’s homes under the name of Christian Truth Activists. The pamphlets condemned homosexual behavior in extremely hateful terms. The Respondent claimed the pamphlets were an exercise of his religious freedom and further made the argument that pamphlets were not hate speech because his target was the behavior of homosexuals, not their sexual orientation.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal agreed, accepting the bizarre argument that “sexual orientation,” can be restrictively interpreted to exclude sexual conduct. The appeal court went further, expressly distinguishing Whatcott from the Taylor and Keegstra cases because the hate in Whatcott was directed at sexual minorities instead of racial or religious minorities.
This dangerous precedent seriously limits the protection of sexual minorities under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and ultimately the Charter. Creating a hierarchy of grounds in human rights legislation, giving greater protection to some and not to others, is both contrary to the Charter equality guarantees as well as the legislative purpose of the Code.
This judicial thinking is reminiscent of pre-Charter cases that differentiated pregnant women from non-pregnant women, saying it was all right to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy but not all right to discriminate on the basis of sex. See Bliss v Canada (Attorney General) [1979] 1 SCR 183 subsequently expressly overturned by Brooks v Safeway Canada [1989] 1 SCR 1219
The logical inconsistencies in the three decisions described above along with their disregard of established precedent could support the conclusion that the decision-makers approved ends-based reasoning rather than reasoning based on established legal principles - not unlike politicians who appeal to the politics of hatred to gain power for themselves. In the Wildrose Platform, the party is on record as promising to disband the Alberta Human Rights Commission because of its stance against homophobic hate speech proselytized by religious extremists, stating, ” Over the last 20 years, the Human Rights Commissions in Alberta have probably been the single worst offender of Rights: i.e. freedom of speech; politically correct activists have used them to punish religious and right-wing social commentators.” See the platform at here.
Such an approach is not only dangerous to the equality and security of homosexuals, it risks undermining the legitimacy of the court system itself and the legitimacy of human rights.
When politicians as part of a political campaign, can gain comfort from the Courts to boldly and publically express hatred of a singled out disadvantaged minority while advocating the removal of the only legal protection they have against hate discrimination all Canadians should be very concerned. This selective treatment of homosexuals is frighteningly reminiscent of the state persecution and demonization of Jews prior to the Holocaust.

but there is three

When shall we three meet again?

I lift myself to you
and you to me
and between us

lies the third
that pastoral scene
with the seam of division

you see only me
I see only you
and yet there is

the shadow
that is three
perhaps there always is

I turn to you
you turn away
and so does the third

who is between
and who is to say
what will be

I can’t say
the world always rocks
on the curvature of two

but there is three
I tell you
but you mock.

thinking ahead

 I can’t believe that income tax returns are done.
I am now going to replace one horror with another horror which is the bathroom renovation in our rental place in Calgary.
I have to start organizing that piece of work.
It is bad enough to have the basement in renovation mode but now there will be a mess in Calgary as well.
I never understand why life is so complicated.
We could have sold the house in Calgary a long time ago but I am still unemployed and I keep the house as a sort of security blanket just in case I never get back to work.  With all the yapping I am doing on the blog it is highly unlikely that I will be employed by anyone and so I will resign myself to bag lady status but with the only remedy of that house in Calgary that is falling to pieces.
I must start to look for a bathtub and tub surround at RONA tomorrow. I do not want to do this but I have no choice. The bathroom has been our next renovation project for a decade and it is only now we have some extra money to do the work on it.
We will have to do the work ourselves (what am I saying?  My poor husband will do the work).
I will have to get the storage bin organized and  a helper and the materials and a garbage bin and ...
oh hell,  it will be a month where we will all be miserable and the rental place will be a place where life will not be bearable.

I will forget the problem for now and go read Sylvia Plath.

April 30, 2012 Reader Letter

Dear Reader,

I am still reading Charles Wright (“Homage to Paul Cézanne").
I don’t know if I will be able to leave it.
The fact is I like it and it is a good room for me to move around it –since it is all about the dead and I am mostly half dead.

Songs are ways we express what sits inside us.
I think most of what is inside me is dead.
This creeps me out but seeing what I put into poems—I can’t come to any other sort of conclusion—I am inhabited by ghosts who spell out their lives in these poems or else they are making up their new lives here.

I am also stuck on Sylvia Plath. I haven’t graduated from her poem “Wintering” where I was caught by that line –“This is the room I have never been in.”

It is strange how a line collapses all the other lines around it.
Just as one or two beloveds collapse everyone else in the world.

It is a matter of ferocity.

Certain lines grab your attention and preoccupy you.
You can also see this when you are infatuated. You are attending to one mind when there are dozens of others who may be more beautiful in their minds around you.
It is strange but there you go.

I am stuck on this line –“This is the room I have never been in.”

How many rooms have I never been in –that I planned to enter but did not go into---out of a lack of courage?

How many rooms did I fail to explore because of the matter of comfort in doing less?

I can’t say that I have left too many rooms unentered because I have done most of the matters on my to do list but perhaps I could have tried to know a few more human beings rather than books.

I prefer books to people since it is so much more efficient (you find the soul more often in books than in folks and in richer patterns so I guess I am more inclined to invest in books than in people-- it takes more effort to know the soul in people).

But in folks I have wanted to know ---I know what they mean to me---- almost immediately or if they will be irrelevant – I know this too-----it is as if I can see right through to the interior and there is no doubt once I am sure. It may just be that proof of learning is present in their forms and this is all I need to continue with the story.

Do you understand what I am talking about here?

Here is a poem I am stuck inside.
The one line has absorbed me over several readings.
I can furnish my head with a single line.
It takes me from a poem to this letter.
It takes me from beginnings to ends.
I have an accordion spread from one line that I hear music in.

It is all very strange.
Sometimes it feels as if a splinter is working loose in my head.

I will go finish that poem now or it will stay drifting through the neural tissue always.



imagine yourself here

Dunluce Castle

imagine yourself here
by the last pieces of some story
that is long past

the water below you
and the grasses growing high
over the place where there is blue sky above

and in the velocity of time
this is merely some stop for a minute
and so you understand--- you are but a smear and gone—

this is all you are---
some flip of a page  some dot at the end of a line
and all your feelings are done with   and when you go

these pieces of landscape will endure
the stone will be the polished bones of what was habitation for those
who also have been turned to dust      such are our monuments   such are

our victories   we are all passing through open windows and broken doors
we are travelling to where the castles are all that are left of what we meant
to say to each other  and how we are in relationship   before we pass and die

we are so small   and so temporary
what use are our great deeds?  what history do we leave in our cups and our spoons?
here lies the only solid form of who we are that will be left     here is the stone that is our success.

April 30, 2012 Muse Letter

I place the stones over
the grave of silence and wait

for the body to rise up
and from that sleeping awake

there is no real transition
the grave is filled and the body is dead

but somehow   if I am faithful
I can approach   the ghost   and make music

out of what was   
these lines are all sullen   they do not tell me

what they are moving towards
or what is the dream   that I am to dream

or even if I am
inside their motions   they flap their black wings

they rise up and they move off
to a different room   only the Muse knows for sure

what they mean   I am bewildered
I am often a plate  upon which bread and honey are placed

and who places the offerings and who eats
what is put there   is mysterious   I do not know

anything about these transactions of sound
When silence is crushed by the words    when there begins

a feeling that there will be another dream
I simply wait here   and let the music begin

I do not hesitate  I know if I do
it will be too late   I am merely the page

and the pen   the words are inked by another mind
and are put into my books   I do not know how  or why

 The Muse is imaginary   and yet he seems present
constantly  I look over my shoulder and I see Emily

these dreams may conjure them up
or they may be part of the story that I tell to myself

to make ordinary these rehearsals of words
that never stop   that continue each day as if I were a stage

where the actors are constant and must do the same play
One day I will be demolished   they will have to find

another poet where they can practice their acts
One day they will be forced to go underground

they will have their final performance
when I will no longer be around.


simple and small

I try to make it smaller than the wide acre of land outside my door
and as vivid as the drop of blood on a finger pricked by a lancet

I do not want ribbon after ribbon on this parcel
I want simple and small

this is not to say that a poem may not be a slab of snow breaking fee
of a shore of a glacier   but I prefer a drop of water on the hearse of a leaf

fallen down from a twig
red as desire

caught in the mouth
of a spider’s web

I prefer small---
word miniatures.

even if most of you is dark

A Long Way Down

even if most of you is dark
if a small portion of you is iridescent

this is all you need
to make the world vivid

for rainbows to form
across your wings and silver

your dark shadow
with the brand of a poet.

at the end of creation

Kenbane Castle and Rathlin Island

at the end of creation
is a place like this
where you will stand and see

the future that is
somehow independent
of your presence

you will watch the shore
that is a silver disc
and know its cut

you will not be here
you understand the gap
between the place you stand

and that distant shore
which is the future
that you are not a part of

how does the mind
comprehend a place
far away where you are not present?

one day the world narrows
to a rock where you stand
and look down at the ocean all around

and watch it all passing by
you are waiting for the water
to cover the rock and take you

you are dancing the last hour
completely free of what has tied
you to life   aware of the burdens dropping

letting you go towards
the distant shore that is a silver disc
that you are no longer a part of  

freedom is this beautiful
you are standing on a rock
surrounded by the water you

were always afraid of—
and now you are no longer weary
the water that you feared will carry you home.

only practice

rehearsals always
some sort of penance
for disaster    misgivings     upsets

forming a notion
losing its trace and source
outlines merely

of whatever was
now it makes a new revelation
of what is circular

how to explain it all?
some sort of combustion
addition of fuel      repeated flash   ashes   ending

I put the words down
they stumble to their ends
the graves are massed with their bodies

I do not look back
at their stories
this is a matter of rehearsal only