Saturday, August 19, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part Five

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Five
            I don’t know if anyone believes in Indigenous legends and the stories of times past.  But the legend of the Seven Sacred Fires would give you pause if you thought about it in the context of the forgoing blogs and the frustration of the families involved.
            To quote from the legend: “The seventh prophet was different from the others. He was young and had a strange light in his eye. He prophesied that in the time of the Seventh Fire, a new people would emerge out of the ashes of the old. They would ask the Elders for guidance on their journey but some of the Elders had fallen asleep for they too had lost their spirits.
'When they awaken to the new people they will have nothing to offer', said the prophet. Others of the Elders will remain silent because no one will ask anything of them.
These new people will need to carefully choose how they approach the Elders for their task will be hard. If they remain strong and steadfast in their quest, the Water drum of the Medewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. The Anishinabe Nation will be reborn. The Sacred Fire will again be lit.
Now the light skinned race will come to a fork in the road. Should they choose the right road, the Seventh Fire will ignite the Eighth Fire. This will be the eternal fire of peace and brotherhood among all the people, men and women alike. But should they make the wrong choice, the destruction they brought with them from across the sea will return to them, causing much suffering and death to all of the Earth's people.”
I pulled that out of the stories of my book “TruthSeeker” that I published a few years ago. I don’t know how I came to it, but a combination of a number of things caused me to think about it (as I sometimes do). And suddenly, the whole solution of what I have been proposing was laid out in front of  me – as real as it can get, like a blueprint.
            Central to it is Wab Kinew, Manitoba Legislative Member running for the NDP party leadership. Now just think of his credentials. A journalist and author, broadcaster for the CBC, the TV station I mentioned earlier. He is also host for the documentary series The Eighth Fire (2012) of all things.  The list goes on. Not only that, but he is young as it says in the legend.
            And Wab is well connected too. Running for his party’s leadership, he is being endorsed by Ovid Mercredi, the fiery former chief of the AFN. And that brings up a whole other power base of Elders: Ovid Mercredi, Phil Fontaine, and Mathew Coon Cum to name a few. These are all former AFN chiefs, all fearless advocates for their people, each well connected in his own right.
            Well now if that isn’t a perfect resume for the task at hand, I don’t know what is. Of course, all I can do is to send this blog to him and hope he reads it. If he feels compelled to act on it, that’s his business. If not, at least he will know there is one old white guy who cares enough to make an observation. In any case, my work is done.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous |Women and Girls - Part Four

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls – Part Four
            I suppose I could go on hour after hour, beating the dead horse but it would just be rehashing what has already been said. Clearly this, as much as other things within the Indigenous community, falls on the shoulders of the community itself. It has become totally clear that however well intentioned the government and its bureaucrats are, they are singing the same old song. Maybe they don’t know any better any more. And in the Indigenous community, the chiefs and counsels are sitting on both sides of the fence. And that leaves the victims of these horrific attacks being tossed back and forth like a political football with no resolution at all.
            These victims must mobilize the tools that are at hand to tell their stories in spite of governments and bureaucrats. They must call on the literary and film resources, the museums and public places to bring this to fruition. Indeed, The CBC, being a Crown Corporation and award winning documentary producer could well be the vehicle to bring these stories into being. If the government wants to participate, they may do so under the direction of the victims by providing the funding, the grants, and the public facilities for the display of these stories. Then if they further wish, they could listen and learn.
            You see, over the years of European contact, Indigenous people have been so denigrated and dismissed as inferior people by the “Empire Builders” and so enamored with their gifts and gadgets that they slowly accepted their subordinate place in society. And the “Empire Builders”, seeing their success at subordinating the Indigenous communities have just continued on until they themselves believe this to be right.  And so the Prime Minister strikes a committee to “fix” the problem. By doing so, he has inadvertently created the most colossal blunder of his career.
            Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe Trudeau is sincere in his concern over Indigenous issues. He has his hand and his heart out to them, no question. But striking a committee of white Empire Builders to structure a path to heal the victims and their families and to zero in on closing the files successfully is the wrong way to go about things.  Firstly, empires are no longer in fashion. Neither are the means and the methods associated with them.
            Listen, here’s what has to happen: From the government side, the “whatever you want to call the department” needs to be scrapped and dismantled, its finances handed over to the auditor general for arms length disbursement and replaced with a committee of Indigenous nations to run by way of consensus. The government should then mandate the CBC to document all the stories to be told in documentary fashion and the storytellers be brought in to a studio to tell their stories, preferably in their own native language with visual translation on a screen. This should then be placed in the Museum of Human Rights for all to see.
             I can’t see for the life of me how the cost of this sort of program would exceed the cost of the committee and all its studies and consultations, especially if the chiefs and counsels were to give their time to this without compensation. It would likely be the first step to a true healing of the communities and rebuilding of self esteem of the nations.

            If you wait until next week I’ll tell you who should act on behalf of the government and who should act on behalf of Indigenous peoples and the ramifications of the proposal. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Missing and Murdered Women and Girls - Part Three

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children – Part Three
            Ms. Poitras is right in her determination that these issues have been studied to death and discussed to death by now and none of the solutions have worked or are likely to. Bureaucrats are good at organizing meetings arranging study groups and so on. But what do they know of Indigenous culture?  What do they know about the deep and rich spiritual heritage that underlies the very fabric of Indigenous communities? You have to be an Indigenous person to know these things.
            And what do they know of the pain and anguish of those who are left to mourn for their loved ones lost in such a brutal way? Not much, I think. Still, they have a purpose. They are good at organizing and running focus groups, and they have access to funding. They should confine themselves to those tasks.
            It’s my opinion that the whole commission should be made up of those people victimized by these tragedies. These people will understand what is needed. It’s also my opinion that the commission should muster the many tools available to it within the Indigenous community. What I mean is that there are Indigenous publishing companies, a major Indigenous television station, writers and actors who can bring these stories into reality. And above all we have the Museum of Human Rights where the stories can be told for the whole world to hear. Where else will you get a better audience?
            To my way of thinking, the Indigenous community needn’t wait for some white man’s commission to go through all its protocols in order to tell its stories. Each nation and each community has its own management structure. And each has an affiliation to a national structure. If the chiefs ever want to do something for their people, they will join forces to marshal all these things together and begin the process of putting themselves on the world map.
            No one needs to wait for government approval or bureaucratic formatting for permission to tell their stories. You’d think there’d be a large studio in the Museum of Human Rights where people are brought in for this very purpose and the process begins. I don’t pretend to have any organizational knowledge of the process. I just know it can be done and a few people who could do that. Before you know it there would be a flood of people coming to share their stories and it would finally take shape for the world to see what Canada is made of and how we treat people of ethnic origin. But it takes the people from each community, not the chiefs and counsels. The people affected need to pressure their administrations to make this happen. Perhaps the “Idle No More” people can mobilize a groundswell of ordinary people to participate.
            My mention of the Mennonites at the outset of this series was not frivolous but had its purpose in pointing out the importance of stories. There is a whole shelf in my book case of stories told by Mennonites of that terrible era. We know what happened, why and how. That doesn’t make it any easier particularly, but at least we can move on, knowing our experience has been recorded for all time.

            But that’s the whole thing. There must be a groundswell from the people themselves. It’s time the government and the bureaucrats acknowledge that Indigenous people ARE people too.  They have a value! The pride in their heritage has been beaten down so much over the years by the Europeans that they dare not speak of their self worth other than amongst themselves.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 2

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – Part Two
            I guess one of the reasons Mennonites empathize with Indigenous people to the degree they do is the similarities of their respective situations from the past. Me an’ the Missus visited the Mennonite Heritage Center a while back an’ on the way home she says to me, “Holy crackers, there’s Mennonites everywhere!” She was talkin’ about the Mennonite Central Committee and all its involvements in every corner of society.
            Well, it’s true. Them buggers are everywhere. They’re in government, in industry, in agriculture – you name it an’ you’ll find ‘em. The reason I bring this up is that given their treatment in the old South Russia, they should have pretty well been wiped out – but they weren’t. There are many parallels in the story of the Mennonites and the Indigenous nations, the difference being that it was the men and older boys who were taken away instead of the children. That left the women and younger children to look after the farms and businesses.
            What would happen was that in the evening or at night several armed authorities would show up at a given house and demand entry. Using their authority they would search through the house, looking for letters or papers jewelry or wealth of some sort to incriminate the resident. They would then give the head of the house about five minutes to pack a few clothes, a little food to eat and pack him off to a courthouse in another town, promising the mother and the children that he would return in a day or two. That of course was a lie since many of them never returned. It got to the point where every household had a package prepared to give to the head of the family for his journey to court.
            Well that’s a bit of an over simplification, but generally pretty close to what happened. There is a book with lists of people who were shot, or deported to northern Siberia or imprisoned for long terms, some of my own relatives among them. It’s a gruesome record.
            Now this is the point I’m trying to make. One of the women waiting to tell her story to the commission for Missing and Murdered Women and Girls is extremely frustrated with the commission and its activities. The hoops these people have to jump through to get at the commission overwhelms her and she is afraid she’ll never get to tell her tale. That is what confuses me. I totally agree with her in that every time you get to tell your story, you heal a little bit. So the stories must be told – all of them!
            The question is, must they be told to the commission being run by the government? No, they must be told to someone who will listen. To my way of thinking, the system is entirely backwards. Indigenous peoples have been telling stories for ever. They have good memories and a penchant for the truth. We see that over and over.
            So now we have a group of white people who were and are the enemy setting the terms of when and how the affected people can speak, subordinating the indigenous people once again.
            And who are these people setting the agenda? Oh yeah, they’re government people and bureaucrats who have no experience in being bullied by their own kind. They have no idea of what goes on in the minds of the people affected by these losses.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls - Part 1

This is a new series coming up that I thought was important to talk about. It's not so much about the people who have gone missing as it is about the survivors and their families, and the commission regulating the procedure of dealing with the issue. I don't know how many parts there will be to this, but it will end when I've had my say. Here is part one:

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
            Well, let’s begin with studies and their costs. Forget that! There is so much of that out there it appears to be a whole industry in and of itself. I can remember that from my old real estate days when a fellow got a government grant to do a study on starting up a fish farm in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I think he got a $45,000.00 grant to study the feasibility of the venture that never got anywhere. But he was happy with the grant money and went on his way. Then there were the guys who wanted to turn water into fuel, and so on ad infinitum.
            The same thing more or less applies to Indigenous issues. Marilyn Poitras is exactly right in my opinion regarding these studies and inquiries. We’ve been there, done that, it hasn’t worked. So why are we still doing that? I’m not willing to believe that the Government is so na├»ve as to really think they need another set of studies to address the problem or even to define what the problem is – or if there is one. I rather suspect that these studies and inquiries are a foil to avoid making a decision or even to put it off. I imagine a good grant writer can make a decent living uncovering this stuff.
            Well, so much for the churches, the Government bureaucracy and all the other white colonialists intent on maintaining the status quo for as long as they can. It is they who are intent on maintaining this sustainable industry at the expense of Indigenous people. But sooner or later that must also stop.
            As for the Indigenous People, at least in Canada, they are not without blemish either. They were very quick to pick up on the white man’s ways in terms of hoarding money and keeping it from the communities who needed it, and could cite long winded explanations for it.
            And the Elders will not speak. They have nothing to say. If you look at the teaching of the Seven Fires of the Anishinabec, you will see that it is exactly what is foretold. But there is one thing I don’t quite agree with and that is that the people wait for a young man who will lift them out of their wretchedness and a return to the spiritual world. It’s not that I disagree so much as I don’t understand. Why are the people waiting for someone else to lift them out of their misery? Why are they not doing it themselves?

            Well, you mustn’t take too much stock in what I say. I am after all, speaking from the top shelf where all my knowledge and experience are put away as irrelevant, part of ancient history. But I’ll speak my mind anyway. It looks like this is going to be a multiple piece, so look for the next post after this.

            Just sayin’.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - Six

Oh God – Part Twenty – Six
                   Schwartz thought about it for a minute. Basically it was not a bad idea, so he said out loud, “I forgive myself for all the crap I did on other people,”
                   Well that didn’t work! God, who was forever in his face, was suddenly absent. Now what?  “Hey God,” said Schwartz, “I forgave myself an’ nothin’ happened. What’s up with that?”
                   “What did you forgive yourself for, Schwartz?
                   “Oh, everything in general, I guess.”
                   “But what specifically did you forgive yourself for?”
                   Schwartz thought for a moment, “I don’t know,” he admitted.  “ I really don’t remember.” That was odd. He really didn’t remember the specific things that had been so prominent on his list of offenses. In fact, he was feeling a little lighter, less burdened as it were for the loss of these memories. “God,” he said in a business-like voice as though he were conducting a meeting. “We have to discuss a few things about my coming here in the first place.” Well he may have lost his memory of earthly things, but at least his organizational skills were still intact.
                   “It was probably a redundant call,” said God reflectively. “The human race never ceases to surprise me. You’d think they’d use the brains I gave them for useful reasoning. But instead they’re in such a rush to do everything faster and shorter, not realizing that it’s contributing to their own demise that much sooner.”
                   “You mean . . . . ,” Schwartz started to say.
                   “I mean they are racing toward their end at top speed. I don’t have to do nothin’. It’s a bit of a shame though about all them other creatures on earth but . . . . . .”
                   “You mean the world itself will come to an end?”
                   “No, the world itself won’t explode or dry up or anything like that. But after all the damage humans have done, it will take a while to heal itself. That’ll give me time to rethink my creations. Fortunately by then I’ll have turned over all the unworthy spirits to Satan to fry into eternity and I’ll be left with the good ones to make the new world into a homogeneous loving and caring place.”
                   “So how long will that take?” wondered Schwartz.
                   “Oh, maybe a million years or so, maybe two, it’s hard to say.
                   “A MILLION OR TWO YEARS! All of life will be forgotten by then,” lamented Schwartz.
                    “Not really, not in the grand scheme of things. It took several billion years before there was any possibility of life surviving on earth, so a million years here or there is no big deal.”
                   “And the souls you sent to hell – what about them?” was Schwartz’ next question.
                   “Ha ha, they’ll be screamin’ an’ yellin’ an’ sizzlin’ on Satan’s barbeque.”
                   Schwartz shuddered at the thought. That could have been him for God’s sake. Well, except for God’s sake. “An’ what about us up here in heaven, what happens to us?”
                   “Well, you good souls who have shown your loyalty and dedication will be sent out again to re-populate the earth with love and goodness and proper respect for the atmosphere around you. It will be a perfect world.  As for Satan’s bunch – to hell with them!” God chuckled at his own joke.

                   There was a huge crash in the kitchen that echoed throughout the dining room. God winked at Schwartz and muttered, “Even here there are some that like to give orders.”

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - Five

Oh God – Part Twenty – Five
            “Schwartz mulled that over for a bit.”So there’s really no Heaven or Hell?” he pondered.
            “Of course there is. It’s just not where you thought it was,” answered God.
                   “Aw crap!” complained Schwartz, “Where is it then?” He heard dishes rattling in the kitchen.
                   “It’s everywhere, especially within your own spirit. In fact, your spirit is also within us. We are inextricably connected, so heaven and hell are all around you and even within you. You and your spirit are essentially an extension of ourselves and have nothing to do with your dad blamed churches, religions or cults. Basically, we are all one.”
                   “In other words,” Schwartz summed up, “our whole time on earth is nothing more than an exercise in futility, a total waste of time.”
                   “In one sense I suppose you’d be right Schwartz,” replied God, “if it was about you, but it’s not. The only meaning the things you do on earth have are as a test of your character, the strength of your spirit. After that, they are of no value at all. They are merely a means to an end.”
                   “Well that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it?  I mean, you work and toil all your life for something and then when you die, you have to throw it all away as though it never existed in the first place? That doesn’t seem fair.”
                   “You didn’t think you could bring it all with you did you?” asked God.
                   “No, but at least I’d like to have credit for it. After all, I’m the guy who did all these things. At least I was able to toot my own horn when I was living in hell.”
                   “And who was listening to you?”
                   “Nobody I guess.” Schwartz slumped listlessly at the thought.
                   “And did you also crow about the ways in which you cheated people out of what was rightfully theirs?”
                   “Why not?”
                   “Guilt, I imagine.”
                   “Do you see the futility in all that? Is that what you want for all eternity?”
                   “No, of course I don’t. I just can’t deal with it anymore. I suppose that’s why I keep on about my achievements so much, to drown out my guilt.”
                   “Well, you seem to have a grasp of your miserable situation, but you haven’t cottoned on to the solution yet have you?”
                   “That’s what’s holding me down. Until I do, I’ll have no peace.”
                   “It’s complicated, yet it’s so simple. It’s called ‘forgiveness’.”
                   “FORGIVENESS?” shouted Schwartz. “Who in blazes am I gonna forgive – myself?”

                   “Exactly,” said the Lord.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - Four

Oh God – Part Twenty – Four
            Schwartz thought about that for a minute. All the wealth he had amassed over the years lay back there in the earthly world, likely fought over and split up between the heirs to his estate.  But his name, his name would have been erased the moment the various cheques cleared the banks and his legacy would become someone else’s. That’s just how things worked in that world.           
            Well, and of course the chaos continued in hell too, where things were remembered and still being trumpeted. It was becoming distasteful for Schwartz. He didn’t like it one bit and wanted no part of it anymore.
            “That’s a good start,” God noted.
            Schwartz found it strange that every time he thought or said something, God was right there to answer him or make a comment. “You know the myth of the two sides of your conscience sitting on either shoulder to advise you what to do. That’s not as much of a myth as people might think. It has to do with your conscience; your spirit as it were and is really an extension of the afterlife. It’s basically a communication system that Satan and I provide to help humans make a determination of their actions,” God commented, almost casually. “So you see, we are constantly with you.”
            “Hmph,” grunted Schwartz, “so you’re like that with everybody?”
            “Of course! We are God and Satan. We can split ourselves up in as many parts as there are spirits. We are infinite.
            “In other words,” pondered Schwartz, “no matter what God we choose to worship, we always end up with you?”
            God let out a guffaw that was like a volley of rolling thunder. He was particularly amused. “Do you really think people get to choose who their God is?” he laughed. “You see, there’s the rub. People have the idea that it’s all about them. That’s actually how you got here, working with Satan and setting up systems of acronyms. Your heart was in the right place but your mind was short sighted as is always the case with humanity. So I decided to give you the opportunity to find more. I believe that perhaps you might have got a glimpse of what you’re after.
            “Now you have to imagine me an’ Satan, one on each side tuggin’ at your spirit. That’s what we do – continually. The choices you make are strictly up to you. We don’t interfere, but we are always with you and within you. So you see, you have no choice about other Gods (either good or bad) because we are already there.”
            “That certainly puts a lie to everything we’ve ever been taught!”     

            “That’s humans for you,” announced God.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Canada Day

A few years ago, my alter ego, Nestor Kropatnik wrote a letter to the nation about his experience with Canada Day. I thought I'd dig it out for your amusement on this Canada Day. That'll be my contribution to our 150th anniversary:

Dear Canada
Dear Canada;
It’s me, Nestor! Hoys Boys, I so embarrass early first thing in morning I don’t know should I sit down, stand up, or hide face in corner. Sun is just peeking up from under sleeping blanket when I take my coffee and little bit ham sausage on balcony for think about what to do today. Well I know I not going to do things no more – I retire – but is old habit I pick up and hard to break. Even still is nice to plan for do nothing whole day. Besides, is Canada day today. Whole country having birthday party.
Now I look up from comfy balcony chair – just like pope – and look across courtyard at other buildings. Holy Moley, I bet my big boots I jump a mile high! Lots o’ people got big Canadian flag in windows and draped over balcony – just like huge big birthday card. Hoy Boys! What a good idea! How come I never think of that? I gotta admit, sometimes city slickers not so dumb after all.
All of a sudden I get great idea myself. Maybe I got no flag so I gonna make one for sure! Quiet as a little mouse I sneak in bedroom where missus still sleeping. She so cute, purr like tiny little kitten on pillow. I find brand new pair red wool gotchies and brand new white bed sheet and tippee toe out so wife not wake up. I know I got no business in sewing basket, but I look anyway for safety pins and take whole shebang to balcony. Hoy Boys – is hard job to figure out how to make maple leaf from pair o’ gotchies. Is one part short until I remember trap door. Look at that. Trap door is good for lots o’ things. By time I all finished, tongue is all twisted from concentrating, fingers full o’ holes from safety pins, but whole thing looks pretty good, I figure out. Not so bad for old pig farmer.
Holy Moley, if I not still on hands and knees, I bet you for sure I be fall down right away quick. Right behind me cute little purring kitten turn into ferocious big tiger – roar like lion – in mother tongue! Missus lets out string o’ words, some I never even know what mean. What I think I doing showing underwear to neighbors on balcony? What people going to think of bunyak pig farmer? They gonna laugh us right out of neighborhood! Hoy Boys, I so shocked I don’t know what to say for minute. I never thought o’ that.
Finally I get tongue back and I say, ”Hey listen sweetie, calm down. I make birthday card for Canada.” Hoy Boys, big mistake! She give me ‘nother blast.
Now I got to dig heels in little bit. I tell her, “Listen here sweetie, I CEO of balcony. If I wanna say ‘Happy Birthday Canada’, I gonna do it”.
Missus shoots right back. “Maybe you CEO, but don’t forget who is Chairman of Board. Now shaddap and give me gotchies”.  
Just then our Olga – she now CEO of pig farm since I retire, walks in door and wonders what is all squawking about. Missus tells her I make jackass of self and show her what I make. She says she gonna throw in Dumpster.
Daughter says, “no, no mommy, don’t throw away! Is very important to say ‘Happy Birthday Canada’. Look, I brought present”! She open big Eaton’s shopping bag and haul out huge big flag bought from store. Holy Moley I get such a big surprise! Is beautiful flag.
Missus like it too. She says, “here Mr. CEO, go hang up proper birthday card – and do it straight”.
Daughter tells mommy, “Give me daddy’s flag. I got good place for it. I hang it up in barn. Pigs will be so happy, they gonna squeal like pigs – maybe even sing ‘Oh Canada’. They see daddy’s gotchies, then they know who is Chairman of Board in barn. See, everything is hunky dory”.
Look at that! I don’t know how it happened. Missus comes and gives me little squeeze. She says I cutest little bunyak. Daughter says she gotta go show flag to pigs in barn.
Let me give you little bit friendly advice. Don’t worry, it’s free – no red tape attached. When it comes to ladies, just shaddap and do what they say. Somehow by magic, everything work out – every time.
You should drop by sometime. We could have some sausage and maybe I ask my boy who live close by if he got some extra beer. We could have nice visit. Just don’t ask for lady advice.           
Your pal,

Nestor Kropatnik PF (Retire)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty-Three

Oh God – Part Twenty-Three

            Well, come to think of it, he didn’t really see what his grandmother Sara looked like either. It was strange. He didn’t know what anybody looked like. He just knew who they were. It must be another one of God’s little tricks to confuse him. There must be a relationship between body recognition and life in the real world.
            “The world you talk about is not real,” spoke God. “It is your training ground; your school. That’s where you learn everything you need to know for this world – the real world as it were. There’s an infinite variety of what you can learn there and practice during that lifetime. It’s all your choice within the parameters of that world. When you are finished and have gained all the knowledge and experience, it’s over and done and of no more use to you.
            “You come here, into purgatory and generally sleep until the day I judge your performance at ‘school’ and you are placed either here in heaven with me, or in Satan’s hell.”
            “Purgatory? I was in Purgatory? How’d I get here then?” Schwartz wanted to know.
            “It was a special case with you, Schwartz. While you practiced all the wrong things in your ‘school’, you had certain information I wanted to curb this Acronym business. So I brought you up here to stop that nonsense. It’s actually quite unusual.”
            Hmm, thought Schwartz, He’d been promoted to being God’s helper; not a bad gig for an old Jew. Maybe I was one of the ‘chosen people’ he mused.
            “Don’t flatter yourself, Schwartz.” God sounded a little annoyed. “That old myth don’t hold no water around here. What we got here AND down in hell are SPIRITS! Humans are all down on earth an’ there’s no special kind. All the talk about things like that is nothin’ more than political
rhetoric. It’s just that you’ve got a few left over memories that make you useful to me.”
            “What if in the process o’ bein’ here I lose those memories? Will I still be welcome here?”
            “Of course! You are after all, part of the family. I told you that when you first arrived. Don’t you feel that way?”
            “I do, I do,” beamed Schwartz. He was a bit confused as to how this was all going to roll out for him.  How could he possibly forget his earthly life with all its accomplishments and accumulation?  Funny though, he couldn’t remember the devastation he had wrought upon his family and business associates during the course of his life, as though it wasn’t important.

            “It’ll take a while, but you’ll get used to it.” Said God.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty - One

I don't know exactly what happened, but somehow my "part Twenty-one" never got published. Perhaps I was being punished, but I'll have another go at it.

Oh God – Part Twenty – One
            It was heaven indeed. And what did they need? Nothing. It made the struggles and maneuvering of the living world appear totally useless; a complete waste of time. If only Schwartz had known. He had wasted his whole earthly life scheming and cheating and out maneuvering to gain his considerable fortune, and for what? It didn’t count for anything here. Not only that, but he didn’t give a rip about it neither. Mind you, when he was down in hell, it was a different story. They was yellin’ an’ screamin’ about their own accomplishments an’ importance all the live long day. When you put it into a collective production it was a screaming mass of ‘me, me, me.’ Disgusting, thought Schwartz. How could you possibly differentiate your own ‘me’ from all the millions of voices in a circus like that?  He was tired. All he wanted now was a little peace and human dignity. And that’s what he experienced here in heaven. ‘To hell with hell’, he thought, hoping that Petronella wouldn’t notice.
            “I heard that!” she demanded from somewhere he couldn’t see.
            “I didn’t say anything out loud,” whimpered Schwartz. “Don’t tell me you can read thoughts too!”
            “Listen, snot nose, I was the mother of six,” she snorted. “I can tell what you’re thinking even before you think it.”
            Sara, who was nearby, chuckled quietly. “My boy, one of the things you’ll have to get used to here in heaven is the fact of equality. Women here are NOT subservient to men (or the other way around). We are not people here as you remember them in the physical world. We are spirits of no particular gender – or species for that matter. We are just spirits. Our purpose on earth was to enrich ourselves and improve the depth of our character for the glorification of our Lord.
            “This world is unlike anything you’ve ever seen since you were sent out into the body of Schwartz. What you learned there and what you did with that knowledge determined the depth of your spirit. That is what you’ll be judged on.
            “So you’ll have to make up your mind where you want to be, either here or in hell. If I can give you one more little suggestion, you will also be judged one day when the time comes, so it bears thinking about and coming to a decision.”
            “But, I’ve done what I’ve done on earth, How can I possibly avoid going to hell, I’m afraid I’m doomed. In the end, he won’t let me in. What can I do?”
            “Ask God – and don’t even think about negotiating,”

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty Two

Oh God – Part Twenty-two
            “You know,” said God almost reflectively in a conversation that just seemed to come up, “most people that end up goin’ to hell are those who can’t let go of their past. Some mourn over losin’ their possessions, some the loss of power and authority, and still others who can’t get over the guilt of whatever they’ve done wrong in their earthly life. They haven’t learned to forgive themselves. They just haven’t learned to let go of their earthly existence.”
            “That’s the trouble,” lamented Schwartz, “I can’t get over my earthly life. There are so many accomplishments I’ve made and at the same time so many people I’ve cheated and – oh my – so many things I have to account for – “ He sounded totally pathetic.
            “You sound totally pathetic,” commented God. “As long as you hold on to these things, you’ll never get to heaven.”
            “So nothing I accomplished or accumulated on earth has any meaning here?”
            “Diddley squat” replied God.
            “So what was I so busy doin’ there then?”
            “Basically, you were wastin’ everybody’s time – includin’ your own.”
            “Well then. What was the point of my bein there?”
            “It was to test the resolve of your spirit. You see, everybody has two spirits – a good one and an evil one. You seem to have been governed by the latter for most of your life. Yet you never really abandoned the good one. Look at what you did for Tony Bennet. It came quite naturally to you. You possess many talents that can be helpful here in heaven, but you can’t do anything for anybody as long as you hold on to memories of your earthly life. They just get in the way.”
            “But I worked my whole life to accumulate those things. I can’t just let all that go!”
            “Think of it this way,” said God, “it’s like going to school and learning algebra and geometry and quantum physics, and then when you graduate, you get a job as a shoe-shine boy. You never needed any o’ that mathematical crap in the first place. That’s how it is with earthly life.”

            “Mmm,” mused Schwartz. It somehow didn’t seem right to him, but who was he to argue with God?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Oh God - Part Twenty

Oh God – Part Twenty
            “Hello my little Sunshine. How nice it is to see you again.” Schwartz’ neck hair suddenly stood up on end. Grandma Sara Lieberman gently sat down beside him and patted his head affectionately. “You’ve been dead a longtime. What took you so long to get here?”
            Stammering for words, Schwartz was going to say ‘lifestyle’ but somehow it didn’t seem appropriate. He was after all, no longer alive.  In the end, he simply said, “lost my way a little”, which in many ways was closer to the truth.
            “No matter,” Sara chimed in happily, “you’re here now. This is such a happy place. Come and meet the others!”
            Instantly he was surrounded by a whole host of Schwartzes and Liebermans all vying for his attention. They greeted him with such affection he had trouble remembering the extent to which he had cheated them in his other life and how much he had embezzled from them for his own gain. Yet there was no acknowledgement of his misdeeds. Schwartz couldn’t understand that. It was as though they didn’t remember.
            He spoke softly to Sara, “I can’t believe you’d take me up this way, after all I did to your savings and investments,” he said. Now his guilt was pressing down on him.
            “Look around you,” answered Sara sweetly. “We have our whole family here now that you’ve arrived. We have a never ending feast at this endless table, and we have friends we haven’t seen in a long time. You know how I loved to have guests over for dinner and the happy discussions we used to have. This now is just as good, if not better. There is nothing here but happiness and love of one another. What more can one want?”
            Schwartz suddenly realized it was true. Indeed, there was everything here one could want and he was slipping into that mode of grateful acceptance, except for the nagging feeling that his family was holding back a grudge against him. He tried to get it out of Sara, hinting at his misdeeds and transgressions in the real world.
            Guessing what was on her grandson’s mind Sara said, “When Jesus taught us to pray, he said; ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. We have done that, and it feels so good.”
            “But grandma,” blurted Schwartz. “We’re Jewish – not Christian!”
            Sara laughed out loud, “So was Jesus – same as you and me, silly. Ask him if you don’t believe me. He’s right over there.”
            “I don’t get it,” exclaimed Schwartz. “Then what’s with this Christianity business anyways?”
            “Exactly – it’s a business. Well really it’s a government, just like Judaism. Actually Paul started that government about thirty years after Jesus was crucified. Well it was a catchy name after all the turmoil that had gone on, so he went around preachin’ the gospel. It caught on big time. They made rules to live by, rituals they had to do and credos to follow, all of which were ignored by the people and in particular the hierarchy, just like the Jews. But don’t kid yourself, Jesus had nothin’ to do with it an’ neither did God.”
            “HOLY – “He was goin’ to say Holy Crap but caught himself in time before that woman in the kitchen chimed in on him again.

            “This is a place of forgiveness and tolerance” Sara continued, “It’s a beautiful place where everything is provided for. No one here can want or want for anything. It’s – well, it’s heaven.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Oh God - Part Nineteen

Oh God – Part Nineteen
            “Intel? That’s information you gather about somebody you’re snoopin’ on.”
            “Would that be like intelligence?”
            “Ya, somethin’ like that.”
            “You talk funny, Schwartz.”
            “That’s how everybody talks these days.”
            “Why? What’s wrong with sayin’ the word ‘intelligence’?”
            “It’s too long! Nobody’s got time for that.”
            “What? You got that much to talk about, or too much to do?”
            “Both,” said Schwartz. “Life gets busier and busier. That’s why we have to rely on acronyms in order to get everything said and done.”
            “Schwartz,” said God, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “You’re sittin’ here at our dinner table, havin’ a conversation an’ I don’t see anythin’ that’s so busy we haven’t got time to talk about it.”
            “Ah, time. That was probably one of the dumbest things you people ever thought up. I gave you time. I gave you daylight and darkness. Your ancestors used it well and wisely. They lived according to its law and did so very well. So what’s your problem?” asked God.
            “Well there are so many things to do and to discover about our world, we just don’t have the time to do it all!”
            “Well. LOL with that!”
            Schwartz was trying very hard to control his frustration. “That’s not even the right acronym,” he snorted.
            “I know,” laughed God, “but it works either way, doesn’t it?”

            Schwartz couldn’t say anything.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Oh God - Part Eighteen

Oh God – Part Eighteen
            “I hear you’ve got Alf Loewen up here to fix Tony’s harp,” commented God casually, sitting suddenly beside Schwartz. “Good move.”
            “If I can make St. Peter happy, it’ll be a relief,” replied Schwartz. “Loewen’s pretty good at what he does.”
            “No question. Professionally he’s the best. Personally – well that’s another matter. But I’ll leave you with him.”
            Schwartz left Tony washing and straightening his wings, humming a haunting little tune, and went looking for old acquaintances he might encounter. There were so many people here he found it hard to focus. Oddly enough they seemed to all know one another. He didn’t know anybody.
            Loewen, having finished with Tony’s harp, commented to Schwartz, “Nice place you got here.”
            “Thanks, I like it.”

            “How’d you get here anyways?”
            “I don’t really know. I was workin’ on makin’ a new language for people to use universally when I suddenly ended up here talkin’ to God. It seems he gets a little crotchety when people are tryin’ to figure out is world.  They keep tryin’ an’ he keeps catchin’ them. Since I was workin’ on that project, I guess he figured we needed to have a chat.”
            “Strange,” said Loewen. “After what I done in my ‘alive’ world, I never thought I’d end up here.”
            “You sound remorseful Loewen.”
            “Of course I’m remorseful. Who wouldn’t be? When you’re alive in the real world you do such stupid things that ya can’t take back. There should be a set of instructions that come with bein’ born,” Loewen lamented.
            “I think there is,” noted Schwartz. “I’m gonna find out, get some intel from my grandma. She’s gotta be up here somewhere’s.”

            “What’s an ‘intel’,” Loewen wanted to know.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Oh God - Part Seventeen

Oh God – Part Seventeen
“Schwartz, you haven’t even met any of your contemporaries yet. I would suggest you spend some time getting to know some people. It’s surprising what and who you may find here. First thing you know, you’ll be busier than you’ve ever been,” God smiled.
            Well, good idea thought Schwartz and started to look around. Low and behold, the first person he met was Tony Bennett. He didn’t even know Tony was dead, but here he was, singing away sadly while washing his face in a little hand bowl. His angel wings were all crooked and dirty and an old harp with several broken strings lay at his feet.
            “Holy Hannah!” exclaimed Schwartz, “If it isn’t Tony Bennett! What are you doing here? You look a total mess!”
            “I am a mess,” whimpered Tony, “it’s awful.”
            “What happened, Tony?”
            “The thing is that during my lifetime, I grew up with my boyhood buddy Sam Frank. We made a solemn promise that when the last one of us died, we’d meet up. Turns out he was designated to hell. So I begged my way into going down to see him for an hour or so. Turns out he’d never mended his ways and he had a little Bistro down there- wild place. We had a blast, just like in the good old days but when I realized what time it was I ripped outa there with my wings all bent and of all things, I left my harp in Sam Frank’s Bistro. I finally got it back, but look at the shape it’s in.”
            “A sad story for sure Tony, but maybe I can help. I remember seein’ Alf Loewen, the piano man down there a while back. I imagine he can fix up your harp. I’ll see if I can get him to help.”
            “Oh that would be amazing! I just don’t want St. Peter to be mad at me anymore.”
            “Aw relax Tony. Why don’t ya write a song about it. That’s what ya do ain’t it?”
            “Ya, that’s what I do. . . . ‘I left my harp . . . in Sam Frank’s Bistro . . .catchy first line Tony admitted.” He was happy.
            And Schwartz was happy too. The thrill of accomplishment rippled through his soul. He’d get Tony’s harp fixed an’ at the same time have a new recruit for God’s endless dinner table (maybe).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Oh God - Part Sixteen

Oh God – Part Sixteen
Thinking there must be a downside to living in heaven with God and the multitude gathered around his table, Schwartz tried to analyze the pros and cons of it all. Not that he had any great attachment to Satan, but there was the excitement of the art of the con that he was used to and good at. He’d never be able to practice that here. He’d have to find a new discipline to practice so he didn’t get bored. First thing he’d better do was to make some friends if he was to stay here.
            The thing that worried him about staying in hell was what God had said about judgment day was that Satan would be released and he would turn the heat up in hell to fry all its residents in an eternal fire. That was not cool (to coin a phrase), unless there was some truth to the story about the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley cup. But he was doubtful about that. He just didn’t fancy bein’ fried into eternity.
            On the heaven side, he had the pleasantries of conversation at the family dinner table which was nice and comfortable. It would expand as he made friends and met new people. Mind you, there was Petronela and her iron-fisted discipline about cussin’ an’ civility. But that was a minor irritant he’d likely get over in time. The only question was if he could stay here after being judged as he surely would be.
            Things were weighing heavily in favor of heaven for Schwartz. Surely he would be able to incorporate his freewheeling ways up here to one degree or another. Surely God must give him some degree of latitude in this. It was one of the few talents he had and without the ability to make a deal, what else would he do? Schwartz had almost decided for certain he would take his chances and stay in heaven. There were too many good things here to go back to that potential fire pit. If he had to learn something new, he’d do it. God would certainly have some suggestions. Well, they were at the family table after all where you could discuss things and come out with a compromise of sorts. ‘Okay, that’s it! I’ll mend my ways and stay,’ he muttered under his breath.
            Magically, God was again sitting at the table next to Schwartz and the latter suddenly realized the power of this guy. This was not somebody you wanted to fool around with. “It’s something you have to follow through on yourself,” God continued, as though he had never left.         “The thing you want to do Schwartz,” God said, “is to focus on your path from here on in, once you have determined what that path is.”
            “That’s just what I wanted to discuss with you God,” replied Schwartz.
“Good thing Schwartz. That’s why we have this lovely dinner table.”
            “The thing is, that I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Down in hell I’ve got all kinds of latitude to do my thing – exercise my talents as it were. If I give that up, exactly what will I have to do here?”

            “Good question,” God replied.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Oh God - Part Fifteen

Oh God – Part Fifteen
            “It seems that out of all the creatures I created, mankind was about the only failure I had. Not a bad average I would say. Mankind was not really a failure as such, but I made him more complicated than I needed to. If only I hadn’t given him dominion over all the other creatures, he may well have been satisfied.”
            “Do you really think that was the thing that caused all this expansion?” asked Schwartz.
            He really wasn’t thinking about the time of creation, but more about the chaos that was going on in hell right now and what that would be like in the future when Satan was finally released and turned up the heat, and did he want to be part of that.  He was in a real turmoil about it. Here there was no shouting goin’ on. There were no insults bein’ flung back an’ forth an’ no screamin’ for first place. Oh, there was all kind of banter an’ discussion about every subject under the sun around the seemingly endless table, but it was all discreet an’ friendly like.
            “I kind o’ think I like it better here,” said Schwartz hopefully. “Do you think I might have a chance to stay?”
God laughed out loud. “That Schwartz, is entirely up to you. It’s not something I can determine ahead of time. I’ve told you that I will judge every soul within the universe. By the look of things it will be sooner than later. When I examine your very inner soul, I will decide.”
            “Aw crumb,” muttered Schwartz.
            “I don’t know what you’re fussin’ about Schwartz,” God commented, “you’ve known what’s right or wrong since you were a youngster, so it’s all on your head. I can’t help you with that. Well, I could, but I won’t.”
            Schwartz had nowhere to turn but inward. He wasn’t used to that. Up to now there was always somebody else to blame for his shortcomings, but now he’d have to face himself. It didn’t seem fair somehow. But he quickly realized that that’s how it was, so he’d better button down to reality. The one thing in his favor was his tenacity.

            Schwartz grew quiet. God, realizing what was going through his mind, moved on to address some of the others.