Citizen Opinion Pieces

Citizen opinion pieces are citizen submissions on social and political topics of the individual's choice.  We wanted to allow a platform where people could write from their own point of view on issues that matter to them.  All submissions are posted in the order their received, with the most recent at the top, so you always know what's new.  Note: the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vocalize Sarnia. 

A Society Spoiled 
By Rob Turnbull

How do you know when a society is spoiled?

 

When they start looking for things to complain about.

 

Here in the Western world we are supposed to be living the dream life. The life that many in less fortunate parts of the world wish they had. I'm almost certain the sorts of things we complain about in our daily lives would make those people laugh wishing they had those kinds of problems. But I suppose that is a downside of success.

It hasn't always been sunshine and roses though. I can't help but think about how difficult it was during the world wars. Now that was a time when people had genuine problems. You just can't compare our trivial problems with those that worried about whether their sons would return from the war or those that were actually in the trenches.

An older Scottish fellow I used to work with told me about how his mother would have cook meals during World War II. Apparently electric stoves were not common in those days so it was necessary to light a fire in order to cook your meals. Normally this would be done with a wood stove but the last thing you wanted to do was generate smoke that could possibly attract bombers. The solution was to dig a hole, produce coals when it was safe to do so and then place the meal to be cooked on top of the coals and fill the hole back in with soil. How's that for roughing it? I literally grumble to myself when standing at the microwave reheating something thinking, "Hey I don't have all minute here!". Just doesn't compare to the threat of potential death just for supper.

Without doubt there are many legitimate things to complain about these days. Those that lived through the world wars don't have the market cornered on problems after all. Our health care system for example is in dire need of overhaul. What's that you say? Our current system of health care didn't come into being until 1966 and before that you were completely on your own? Oh well, there are still many legitimate issues for us to complain about. Many of our streets for example are filled with potholes after winter. What's up with that? Shouldn't they be filled in within hours of opening up? Never mind that streets and roads were nothing more than dirt at one time, we deserve nothing less than perfection. Feel free to research how the name Plank Road came to be to fully appreciate our current roadways.

It sometimes genuinely disturbs me just thinking about how trivial most of the beefs we have these days are. I think it boils down to the belief in society that we all deserve all the best things in life. We are bombarded daily with advertisements and media that reinforce this notion that there is this perfect life out there that we should be living. And when that inevitably falls short we strike out at the source of our grievance. It's basic human nature and believe me, I'm as guilty as the next guy on some things. I grumble about my eight year old car from time to time when gazing upon the newer cars in the parking lot at work, but soon come to my senses and realize at least it's paid for and gets me from A to B. And I'm sure there are people that would feel lucky to own my shitty eight year old car.

No matter which way you look at it, we have it much better then those before us. I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement; obviously there is no such thing as perfection so we should always strive for better. I think we just need to bear in mind just how good we really have it. So maybe the next time you turn on the tap and notice the water is a little discoloured, just think; well at least we have access to clean water on demand; unlike millions; and you're not outside pumping it into a bucket.

A Society Spoiled

Rob Turnbull

The Downward Spiral of Politics
By: Rob Turnbull

(Author's note: the term "common man" appears in the following piece a number of times and in no way means to demean, diminish or offend the female gender in any way. It is merely a common term that hasn't yet been easily replaced. If you feel this might offend you please discontinue reading.)

To myself and many Canadians the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States is absolutely baffling and horrifying at the same time. Well actually the very fact he has had success both financially and in popular culture completely eludes me. It seems quite apparent to me that he is nothing but a narcissistic, shallow, self-serving, misogynistic, egomaniacal ...... and really I could go on but it would take far too long. I actually Googled negative attributes and the first one that came up was a 175 word chart, of which about 95% described Trump. Here is the link for the curious: https://writerswrite.co.za/a-fabulous-resource-for-writers-350-character-traits/

Despite possessing nearly every single negative trait mentioned he was elected to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. So what gives? It's a question I've struggled with ever since he won the Republican nomination. I almost laughed out loud when I read he was throwing his hat in the ring. How can he possibly believe he has what it takes to be the president, no less actually get elected? Well he was elected and the rest is history.

But really it all started with George W. Bush winning the Republican nomination. He was up against what I felt was a much more credible and intelligent candidate in John McCain. Bush did not fit the stereotypical mold of a president. He wasn't very bright, well spoken, successful or charasmatic. He did have the benefit of the name which provided some credibility; but what put him over the top was his down-home, aw shucks, down-to-earth attitude. That drew the common man votes to him like bees to honey and let's face it, his rival; uncomfortable in his own skin Al Gore; just wasn't a great candidate. Although it did turn out to be a very close election, it just wasn't in the cards for Al. The people had spoken, the common man was in and the traditional politician was out.

So George W. Bush was one thing, but Donald J. Trump? Well that's absolute lunacy! I felt the future of politics; in the U.S. at least; looked decidedly apocalyptic. Absolutely no good could come of this; and possibly something really really bad could happen. Bad as in nuclear war bad and I'm exaggerating only a litte bit. How could those that actually voted for him not see that!

Well of course there are a multitude of reasons that led to this but it would take an entire book to list them all and I'm sure there are several people already working on that as I write. In addition, it would take a psychologist; or better yet a team of psychologists; to truly understand the phenomenon that is Trump and his devotees.

But in my humble opinion the main reason for this debacle comes down to the shrinking middle class and the feeling that the traditional parties have abondoned them. Under President Obama the middle class continued to shrink and Clinton was not promising anything to change that. Add to that she was a less than ideal candidate.

Here in Ontario we have a somewhat similar situation with Doug Ford. By no means is he Donald Trump, but he is a very unconventional candidate. Like Trump he is brash, somewhat impulsive, quick to anger and moneyed; but he also possesses the common man touch. The average person feels they can relate to him in a way more conventional politicians can't. In the provincial Conservative leadership race he was running against candidates that I felt were more qualified and capable (Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney), but like Trump he came out on top.

So more and more the average person is voting for someone they feel they can better relate too, rather than the traditional candidate. I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons for this shift, but the biggest one I suspect would be that the electorate has tried the conventional and it hasn't worked for them, so why not try the unconventional? It couldn't possibly be any worse, right?

Well down in the States they are finding that the unconventional politician is not quite meeting their expectations. Trump's approval rating has been consistantly low in the polls over the past several months and in fact much lower than almost any president this early on in their first term. The Democrats continue to win in special elections in districts where Trump easily won in 2016 and the mid-term elections in November look grim for the Republicans. While Trump certainly still has his core supporters, a whole lot of other folks have changed their mind.

So is this the future of politics? Will there be a president "The Rock" or a Prime Minister Don Cherry? What will become of this experiment in alternative voting? Is this a trend that will continue or will it prove to be a complete failure and things will return to normal? Only time will tell, but I'm really hoping I won't be writing about Prime Minister Don Cherry.

The Downward Spiral of Politics

Rob Turnbull

Conservatives and Climate Change
By Rob Turnbull
 

I am a card carrying member of both the Conservative Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario. I am also a firm believer in climate change and until recently I didn't realize they were considered by many to be mutually exclusive. I will admit to being somewhat of a small "c" Conservative but none the less a believer in core Conservative values. But I was taken aback recently when a Facebook friend of mine; who is a NDP supporter; posted a meme making fun of Conservatives for not believing in climate change. Was this really how the left viewed the right?
 

Well of course nothing is ever that black and white in the real world and not all Conservatives view climate change as a hoax. Granted there are quite a few that do believe that but I consider myself and most Conservatives to be very practical and believe that the extreme weather events we are seeing is not normal. Scientists that study such matters are in full agreement that climate change is a reality.

For those on the right that believe it to be a hoax, I suspect one source of their disbelief was the initial term used: global warming. Science discovered that while indeed the temperature of the earth was slowly increasing; the term global warming was a misnomer. So along came the term climate change which better described what was actually occuring. Unfortunately many people were slow to recognize the change in terminology, so when some winters were actually colder than normal and some summers cooler; it enforced their belief that it was all a lie. Plus I'm sure many purposely chose to ignore the change.

So while there are many conservatives that still don't believe; the leaders have at least begrudgingly admitted to it's existence. Why else would Stephen Harper for example enter a G7 agreement in 2015 to substantially reduce carbon emissions by 2050 and completely eliminate them by 2100? And while it was not a huge step towards a solution it was at least acknowledement of a problem. Afterall someone that disbelieves in climate change does not enter an agreement to reduce the direct source of said problem.

Of course I'm not blind to the fact that Harper actively tried to block the science of climate change from entering policy and I personally found that very disappointing. The Conservative record with regards to the environment is certainly nothing to brag about, but that is an entirely different discussion.

It's a little different story in the U.S. of course where the GOP almost unamimously rejects climate change. Of course the main source of this disbelief has more to do with business than actually accepting the science. Acknowledging its existence would require more restrictions on the part of polluters to reduce carbon emissions that take away from the bottom line. I've even read that while publically Donald Trump throws cold water on the idea of climate change, in private he has admitted to his belief in it.

What they fail to realize however is that while businesses that pollute will suffer financially to a small degree; it opens up an entirely new sector of business devoted to environmental solutions. So while a door may appear to close, a new window opens.

In the end I think rather than make false assumptions it would be far better to actually learn what the other side is thinking. The same concept can be applied to life in general of course, but can be especially important within the political realm. When it comes to an issue as significant as the future of the planet, I believe it would be better for the different parties to try and find common ground and work together to find a solution.

Conservatives and Climate Change

Rob Turnbull

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Freedom
By Jonathan Maillet 

 

What is freedom? Do we understand it?

 

Over history, we have seen many examples of freedom being denied to people, whether based on gender, race, religion, or class. From slavery to not allowing women to vote, there are many times in history that people have been denied freedoms. We have seen things like freedom of speech be eroded in many places, places that are still like this where they have state run media and comments against government land you in prison. In western society, we tout our freedom and wear it like a badge of honour that our forefathers fought for and won for us. Do we understand it though? Are we free?

 

Simple answer is - we have more freedom than most, but no, we do not understand freedom. I don’t believe we want it either, at least if you base this on our current society and all the stupid things we complain about. For if we understood freedom, being gay would never have been a crime, abortion would never have been an argument and we wouldn’t be arguing about transgenderism.

 

Those are a few examples of things that people do in their own lives that have nothing to do with others, yet others seem to believe they can limit the rights of that person, all based on their own perception of what is right and wrong. If we truly believed in rights and freedoms, we wouldn’t spend so much time taking them away from people we disagree with.

 

We also wouldn’t constantly look to our governments to make laws to limit these freedoms, whether it be gay marriage, abortion, or even drugs. We constantly talk about how free we are, yet we can not decide for ourselves what substances to put in our bodies, there are certain activities we can not do without permission and, in some places, even collecting rainwater is a crime. Yeah, that’s how free we are.

 

At what point do we look at things in terms of how it actually affects us? If you are against gay marriage, what is it about 2 men or 2 women being together that interferes with how you live your life? I have always held a strong belief in freedom, and have often watched in horror how many people do not truly understand the concept.

 

If you do not think gay marriage is right as an example, do not enter one. Abortion doesn’t sit right with you? Don’t have one. The entire thing about freedom and rights is not to take away the rights and freedoms of others. So long as what that person is doing does not physically harm you or affect your ability to live your life, you have no right to deny someone else's ability to do so. Yet constantly we see people that look for ways to control what others do or say.

 

I will use transgenders as an example, since it is the latest and greatest attack on freedom in my opinion. Do I believe it to be real? No. Do I believe that those who say they are a woman when born a boy, should not have the right to claim so?

 

No.

 

The reason for this….Freedom.

 

While I disagree with it and feel that it goes against nature's laws, I also understand that not only is that simply my opinion, but that if someone wants to reassign their gender, it literally has no effect on my life. None whatsoever. I can still work the job I have, raise my son, and enjoy the things I enjoy. I also don’t feel that if someone does something I disagree with that I need to hate them for it either, unless as I said earlier, it interferes with someone’s ability to live their life.

 

Until you physically harm me or cause destruction to my property, or steal my property, then do as you please. Say what you want. If I don’t like it, I have the option to ignore it, or attack the argument in debate. I do not have the option to demand you can’t say it. Just as I do not have the option to demand you not be gay, religious, transgender or anything else that does not matter in terms of how I live my life.

 

I think if more people spent more time actually enjoying their freedoms and less time trying to limit others, we’d all be better off.

 

Let’s try to finally understand freedom, and tout it for what it really is...the concept that we can do, say and live how we please so long as we are not committing violence, stealing or destroying property and otherwise interfering with how people live their lives.

 

Go forth, and live free…

Freedom

Jonathan Maillet

Canadian Gun Laws
Rob Turnbull 
 

The federal Liberal government has recently proposed new gun legislation in order to combat the horror we are currently seeing in the U.S. Huh? What??? Well of course the proposed legislation is not to combat the devastation occuring in the U.S. but to combat all the crime supposedly being committed by legal gun owners here.

Statistically speaking most violent crimes involving guns here are committed with those that are illegally acquired. I believe the already very stringent firearm laws we have here would prevent almost all the tragedy we see occuring to the south.

Prospective gun owners in Canada have to jump through numerous hoops in order to legally purchase and own a firearm. This includes completing one or two firearm safety courses (depending on type of firearm), completing a form listing references, past spouses and any criminal convictions within the past 5 years among a host of other questions. The RCMP conducts a background check to ensure the applicant is not only legally eligible to own a firearm but doesn't present any red flags that would disqualify them. The whole process can take several months to actually acquire a firearm, depending on the type of desired. So it's not really an easy process and not inexpensive to boot as many of these steps involve fees. It is more than enough to discourage someone who may have ill intentions from trying to acquire a firearm through the legal route.

The gun laws we have currently in place are highly respected around the world, especially in the U.S. where they can only dream of having such laws. So why is Justin Trudeau going after legal gun owners in trying to fight the real issue here, which is gang violence? Well my guess is that there is no easy fix but he wants to make it look like he is doing something at least. It's a special talent all parties possess but the Liberals have perfected. So unable to easily go after the real criminals he has decided to go after the low hanging fruit, which of course is legal gun owners.

By and large gun crimes committed here involve ones smuggled in. It has been said that it's easier to get an illegal gun here than a legal one. In addition the Liberals claim that criminals often get their guns from domestic sources; inferring legally owned guns; is extremely misleading. In reality there are probably more guns in the country that are technically illegal, than legal guns. This would be due to the fact that many firearms were purchased long before the laws we have now; technically making them illegal if not owned by someone licensed. It is this sort of faulty reasoning that the Liberals are using to try and justify their bill to crack down on legal gun owners.

One aspect of the proposed legislation I guess I don't have a problem with is going back further than 5 years for a background check. On the surface it seems like a legitimate proposal. However in my opinion, it will do nothing more than make the process take longer than it already does, for no real increase in safety to the public. Again statistics show most crimes aren't committed with legally acquired guns.

While it is more difficult to reduce gang violence in big cities by going after the real source of the trouble,

there is no other realistic option. What is the point in going after law abiding citizens to prevent gang related gun violence, other than to provide the false optic that the government is doing something about it. It's populist politics at it's worst.

Canadian Gun Laws

Rob Turnbull

Athletes as Role Models?
By Rob Turnbull 

 

The news regarding local weight lifter Boady Santavy being charged with hit and run last month drew out my curiosity as to why society holds so much regard for athletes in the first place. Really they're just regular people that have dedicated themselves to a single physical pursuit such as weightlifting, running, baseball or whatever. And yet they are held up as role models for others to aspire to when they attain a certain degree of success.

Most sports if not all require some sort of innate ability that just requires practice and effort to become better than the next guy (girl). The same thing naturally applies to any venture but sports in particular seems to be the most highly praised and admired. But why? I will confess that I've never been big into sports; the whole idea of just watching other people play a game as entertainment really eludes me. I can appreciate the talent required to stop a puck or throw a ball accurately but that's about it. So to be fair I am biased in my quest to understand why society upholds athletes as heroes.

Personally I can appreciate amateur athletes more so than professional as they are doing it almost entirely for personal accomplishment and to a lesser degree admiration but for no monetary benefit. I think it speaks a great deal to one's character when they pursue a goal that has no monetary reward.

I view professional athletes from a less positive perspective. Granted they are very good at what they do but at the end of the day they are paid boatloads of money to do it. In the old days of sport the financial rewards were much less lucrative. They played for the love of it and were just glad to be playing it and making a good living. I really don't know that the same thing can be said of all professional athletes today? For sure a good number truly love it and would do it for less but I suspect more are probably just cashing in.

Personally I find it disconcerting that the ones that are really good are automatically admired and looked up to as role models. I recall when Shaquille O'Neal became famous he was asked by the press how he felt about being a role model; he responded that he really shouldn't be. He was fine with people looking up to him for his skills (well not for free-throws) but didn't want to be looked upon as a role model. I respect that.

I suppose I fail to see why simply being good at throwing a ball really fast should suddenly elevate someone to a high level of respect and admiration. Their talent says nothing about who they are as a human being. Being able to hit a fast ball doesn't mean you're not going to go home and yell at your wife and kids (or worse). Jeremy Molitor was another Sarnia athlete that was greatly admired but ended up being convicted of murder. While that's an extreme case it is another good example of why we shouldn't automatically hold athletes in such high regard.

So why are professional athletes admired by so many as opposed to those that have made great accomplishments outside of athletics but are not held in such high regard? So many people have devoted their lives to trying to cure disease, provide medical help in war torn countries or to simply try and improve their own community that's been torn apart by drug addiction. If you follow the news you might hear about them; but how likely is the average person going to say to their son or daughter "Wow isn't that awesome! Isn't that a great example to follow!"? It's just not very exciting or flashy enough.

I would suppose athletes are elevated to such lofty levels because sports is the great unifier. It is the one thing that so many people can relate to and admire. They may not agree on the teams but certainly on the concept. I guess it's just human nature to admire the athlete more than the academic. It's just the way it is.

Athletes As Role Models?

Rob Turnbull

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