Will the universe unfold as it should?

October 18, 2015 - Leave a Response

I have spent countless, honestly, a ridiculous amount, of hours pondering this federal election.

I woke up today as nervous as I did the day I was elected to Council in my own town. Why are some of us driven to care so much about the outcome of the vote? Who knows. But I can tell you, my life would not be the same without it. And despite the butterflies and total disregard to household detail, I’m grateful for it.

As the sun sets on another general election, I’m thinking back to the first time I voted. My guy lost.

That’s been the trend (with one exception), I must admit. But if I get any sleep tonight, it’s because I think this time is different. You see, it’s not a general election for me, it’s a generational one.

So I will lay bare all my votes this past so many years. I hope I remember most of them. But I’m getting to the age where the details get a bit fuzzy.

1984 – I voted for Jean Jacques Blais – a Liberal Cabinet Minister. A stand up guy. He wrote me a letter of reference for the Parliamentary Page Programme. When offered six tickets to the Queen’s State Dinner in Toronto that same year, he invited high school students instead of campaign donors – I made that list. All round stand up guy. Got pummelled by a nice guy named Mo. Tough lesson. Something about “patronage” and “not having a choice”. We always have choices.

1988 – As a young economics student, I was enthralled by the possibility of “free” trade. I voted Conservative. The Liberal incumbent, who I would eventually work for, won handily. He understood that serving the constituents was his number one job and they rewarded him for that. Lesson learned.

1993 – I voted for Kim Campbell. Her house was two doors down from my apartment in Vancouver. I learned that being a good neighbour was more important than politics.

1997 – I honestly can’t remember. I don’t think I voted Liberal because the candidate had spelling mistakes in the flyers and I was in the publishing business. Fickle, I know.

2000 – I voted for Joe Clark. I always liked him. Still do. No go.

2004 – Again, not sure. Maybe Jean Charest. He was a Minister when I was a Page. Nice guy. Capable. young, promising. A girl can dream. He lost too.

2006 –  Likely Conservative – I liked (and still like) Colin Mayes, Mayor of Salmon Arm and new federal candidate at the time. They won. Just barely.

2008 – Liberal – though I was uninspired by the local candidate. Was seeing that my 2006 vote might not have paid the dividends I’d hoped for.

2011 – Green – Elizabeth May continues to be a powerful and inspiring voice. I hope tomorrow’s winner remembers that.

2015 – This time, I’ll vote Liberal. And it’s the first time, I feel great about the candidate AND the leader. I feel good about the vote for my parents (whom, I’m sorry to say, haven’t figured greatly in my previous votes). My mom is, to say the least, not a fan of Harper. My dad is unsure about “young Justin”. I hope they don’t cancel out each other’s vote. But I know they’ll vote as they need to because they are honest, determined, smart, kind and considerate. But mostly, I feel good about a Liberal vote for the young people in my life. My kids, my nieces and nephews and their friends, my students, the young people I get to work with every day. It’s their Canada now. And I want them to have that.

So maybe, just maybe, the lesson is that when you cast a vote for you, it doesn’t always turn out as you might have liked but when you cast a vote for the benefit of the people you love and care about, things work out.

Trudeau Sr. was famous for quoting Desiderata by Max Ehrmann “The universe is unfolding as it should”. Here’s hoping.

Please vote.

For the first time in my life, I will vote to elect a Prime Minister who is younger than me.

October 14, 2015 - Leave a Response

For the first time in my life, I will vote to elect a Prime Minister who is younger than me. I feel as though this is more than a general election, it’s a generational election. I’m excited at the prospect of being a young country once again full of ideals, ideas and innovation and for the young people in my life who are full of promise, potential and possibility.

By the same token, I feel like our national leadership has skipped a generation. Where was our leader from our generation? That’s the challenge of my statistical cohort. A big bulge of population ahead and a smaller and more capable one behind. 

Let it be our legacy that we give the next generation the chance that we missed. A real and genuine chance to shape the next generation and to take the place at the international table that we all know, on some deep cultural level, is the legacy of the leaders that came before.

I have total faith in our young people and I chose them over more of the same. It’s their turn.

You’ve got this. I know we’ll help in any way we can. We helped them plenty, it’s our turn to help you now.

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I elect to challenge assumptions

October 2, 2015 - One Response
This column first appeared in the October All Month edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm, BC
A federal election is a most excellent opportunity to challenge assumptions. Our news feeds are filled with promises, statements, attacks and assumptions that need to be challenged. The future of our communities and our country depend upon our ability to rationalize all that is put forward in exchange for our precious vote. 
My take so far:
1) A long election campaign is worthwhile giving Canadians more time to decide.
Not so fast. A long election campaign means that the Caretaker’s Convention is in place for the Federal Public Service. No decision that shall lock in the future government to a course of action can be implemented. Seventy-eight days of fewer decisions has a direct impact on the business of running a country, running provinces, and running municipalities. We’re sidelined to some extent during such a long campaign. It’s my view that this unilateral decision is one for which we all pay in the short and long term. Plus, I think we could have done it just as well in 40 days. 
2) A failing economy is the fault of government. 
That’s false as far as I’m concerned. We compete on a global scale. The price of oil is controlled by those who have the easiest and quickest access to the resource. Our oil takes more time to get out of the ground and to market. The industry knows this, and that has had the greatest impact on the downturn in the Canadian oil industry.
It does point to the need for innovation, automation and specialization. Government can foster a climate that motivates business to change. But the change is ultimately up to the market to implement. We are leaders in science, engineering, international development, non-profit management, and resource management but we have to show the next generation that we believe in them by giving them what they need to succeed as early on as possible through education and infrastructure. But there is risk involved. 
3) A low tax environment will create jobs.
False as of late. Prior to 2008, that statement may have been the case. As it is now, we live in an ultra-low interest rate environment combined with a low-risk business environment. Yet money isn’t moving at the rate it once did. Money is like water: if it doesn’t flow, growth slows. There is, by some estimates, 650 billion dollars of dead money sitting in corporate bank accounts because the appetite for risk is not what it once was.  Unspent money can be expensive, as it turns out. 
Ninety percent of the Canadian economy is small business. It’s more difficult to access credit despite record low rates. When the largest share of the market has more difficulty accessing capital, the whole model falls apart. It’s my view that there is a direct correlation between access to credit and economic growth. If you don’t believe me, ask your small business owner friends about their relationships with their banks and multi-national suppliers. If we protect cash at the expense of reasonable risk, we slow things down. Cue the second quarter of 2015 of the Canadian economy. 
4) Cuts are bad. Surpluses are good.
Again, false. We need to stop talking about cuts for the purpose of surpluses. We need, instead, to talk about productivity. Something as Canadians, according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), we sorely lack. Some things need to be cut as public dollars need to be spent as efficiently as possible. And a surplus is just another way of saying that government took more than it needed. If a federal surplus goes directly to pay down debt after all the needs are met or to fund reserves for future public projects, then it’s worth it. But it has to be part of the plan in the first place. 
5) Canadians don’t understand the complexities of economics.
False. We are all economists. Economics is the business of managing households. We make economic decisions—powerful ones—every day. We are the most powerful economists in the system. How you spend your household budgets, what you buy, what you save and where you invest has far more impact on the economy than what any party of any stripe might have you believe. With personal debt levels at record highs, we likely know more than government about the real balancing act that is household management—or economics. 
6) Your vote doesn’t matter.
False. It always matters. But we like to vote for the “winner” and if we aren’t sure, we don’t vote (that’s just a theory). Running an election for the sake of defining a single winner is only of benefit to the winning party. But all parties represent some risk and some benefit. I don’t believe in the all or nothing approach. I don’t believe we can afford to take that view any longer. 
Which leads me to may last point. Please cast your vote for the local representative that you believe will best represent and engage us as an innovative, caring, contributing, and capable community. Some will tell you to vote for the conductor of the orchestra. My preference is that we elect good musicians who are in tune with the rest of us. 

Out on a Limb

September 8, 2015 - Leave a Response

This column first appeared in the September edition of the All Month Friday AM in Salmon Arm

I’m going to go out on a limb here (pun intended) and suggest that in Salmon Arm, we live in an urban forest.

What distinguishes us from many other communities is the tree canopy that surrounds and protects us. It’s as though the town was conveniently placed at the base of a natural forested amphitheatre from Bastion Mountain to the north, to Fly Hills to the east, Mount Ida to the south and Larch Hills to the east.

Trees are marvels of engineering. From roots, to trunk, bark, limbs and leaves, they reach towering heights in search of light and water to grow. They provide oxygen, act as nature’s air filters, air conditioners and shade from the sun. They dampen noise, nurture the soil and prevent erosion.

Our forest sustains us in many ways. And, as life would have it, sometimes we only appreciate what we have after it’s gone. I refer of course to the the catastrophic loss of reportedly 1,500 trees in Vancouver alone this past weekend during a violent storm on the coast.

In addition to their contribution in their lifetime, they also sustain us when harvested as building materials and, in turn, ensure major employment. Salmon Arm’s largest private employer is Canoe Forest Products. They harvest trees and manage forests. In BC, two trees are planted for every tree cut.

When a tree falls in the forest (maybe you’ve heard), they go on to provide habitat and valuable nutrients for the next generation of trees. When trees fail in urban environment, they need our help. Sometimes we have to move them away, trim them up, treat them for disease or replace them altogether. And given all they contribute, I suggest it makes good business sense.

Speaking of good sense, an emerging field of study called biomimcry addresses the ingenious attributes of nature. Engineers, scientists and businesses tasked with solving complex problems are more often turning to nature for sustainable solutions. From fish scales (that prevent bacterial build up) to coral (which captures carbon and uses it to build shell) to flowers petals (which repel dust and dirt), we have many lessons to learn from the nature that surrounds us. But that’s just a secondary job, the first priority is to contribute to a healthy environment where nothing is wasted (we could learn that lesson too).

Some communities in Canada boast about the economic advantage of their tree canopy. Oakville, aptly named, is a champion in this regard. Oakville is a community approximately 50 kilometres from Toronto on beautiful Lake Ontario. During the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference I attended with Mayor Cooper in Edmonton in June, I went to a workshop hosted by Trees Canada. The Mayor of Oakville outlined the direct correlation between their city’s urban forest policy, the health of the population, their relatively higher family household income and their ability to attract high-paying employers. It was a compelling argument; one that was not lost on me as I drove home from urban Edmonton to my rural neighbourhood of mature trees in Canoe.

Trees work hard to sustain their forest and in turn, sustain us. Might I suggest that a simple take away when faced with a problem within our own environment is to consider the question “what would nature do?”.

“When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find the image haunting

September 3, 2015 - Leave a Response

I find the image haunting
yet somewhere in my head
I’m desperate to believe
that little boy’s not dead

I wish that he was sleeping
gently carried to his bed
his mom would tuck him in
and kiss his sweet forehead

He would awake in safety
with dreams within his head
of play and books and friends and fun
instead of strife and dread

What will those young remember
of those of us who can
provide the sanctuary
the humanity of man

We are all gifts of hazard
our home assigned by fate
we do not get to choose
which side of the gate

My Canada includes
those so desperate to flee
they’d risk their lives and family
to escape by cruellest sea

Once not so long ago
my boys were 3 and 5
I looked at them today
and tears did fill my eyes

I still have what they lost
so many miles away
and all we had to do
was welcome them to stay

Graduation – 15 tips for the class of 2015

June 8, 2015 - One Response

This column first appeared in the All Month Edition of the Friday AM in Salmon Arm

It’s graduation season and the internet is chalk full of commencement speeches by the famous and infamous; some marvellous, some just meh.

The irony of how we cap off our academic achievements is not lost on me. We finish the way we start. By standing in front of a class of sitting students to tell them how life really is. And we would know, right, because we are the grown-ups after all.

Or do we? Our reality is not their reality. We forget that. And when we forget that, we miss important lessons such as student debt, higher youth unemployment, housing affordability, twitter, instagram and snapchat to name but a few. We take our lives for granted. Our graduates can’t yet afford that luxury.

I think high school commencement speeches should be delivered by those who graduated last year, or those who just graduated from post secondary or those who just got their big job or signed their first mortgage. Those are the lessons from which our grads could really benefit;  solid first-hand peer experience.

There are things I didn’t know that I’d need to know when I left high school. But within a year of the cap and gown ceremony, I appreciated the opportunity to learn them. There were also delightful benefits, the sum of which nobody had ever told me about. That was a gift too.

I’ve thought of a few lessons my twenty something self would have given my eighteen year old self. Simple stuff really but there is beauty and power in simplicity That’s the trouble with being a grown up it’s unnecessarily complicated.

Here, for your consideration is a list of 15 simple things for the Class of 2015.

1) You’re going to meet some very interesting people. They will think that you are interesting too. That’s how they roll.

2) Have a bit of cash on hand, just in case. A cab ride can save you from a mess of trouble.

3) Follow your gut. it won’t lie to you. If you think it’s creepy, it is. Go with that.

4) Don’t drive like a show off. It’s the single most dangerous way to impress nobody at all.

5) Show up early. That’s when all the fun stuff happens.

6) Keep all the important papers in the same place. There’s lots of paperwork to deal with.

7) Hanging out with friends, listening to music, laughing and getting some exercise won’t cost you money or your good judgement. Other choices might. You always have a choice.

8) Staying up all night and eating crap food isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think.

9) That boring stuff that parents do – laundry, grocery, paying bills – it’s kinda awesome when it’s yours to do on your own.

10) Your parents will miss you. You might miss them too. Keep in touch. They were your age once upon a time. They get it.

11) If you ask people for help, they almost always say yes. So go ahead and ask.

12) Fear, loneliness, heartbreak and anxiety are universal emotions. See above.

13) Try new things – travel, food, movies, sports, arts, hobbies – it’s a big world and it’s pretty amazing.

14) Curiosity is a good friend. Spend time with it.

15) The place you left to find your way will always have a place for you. There really is no place like home.

Go. Be. Happy. And congratulations on your graduation. It’s only the beginning. The world belongs to you now and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do, how far you will go and how proud you will make us.

Make a decision. Be proud of it.

May 12, 2015 - Leave a Response

When was the last time you made a decision of critical importance? How would you feel if the people whose own decision was not endorsed by the voting public used it as an opportunity to slam yours? Not great.

This is how I feel about the collective conservative response to the election of an NDP government in Alberta. Seriously fellows, me thinks doth protests too much.

To be transparent, in my life, I have voted it all. Progressive Conservatives (three times), Liberal (more than three times), NDP (at least three times) and Green (once too). And every single choice I made came from a deep commitment to democracy. As, I suspect, did those of every single Albertan who voted a week ago. And frankly, the hard right should be ashamed of their elitists, we know better, attitude.

I think back to my own childhood. My parents had blue signs, red signs and brown signs (which pre-dates the NDP orange) on our front lawn during various provincial and federal elections. We were engaged. We discussed it at the dinner table. I am grateful for their commitment as well as the risk they took to take a stand in the neighbourhood. They didn’t have to do it. But they did it because it mattered. And looking back, I’m proud of it.

Now, as a city councillor in a very small and still beautiful town on the shores of Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, the election result in Alberta has been somewhat of a rally cry for me. And I didn’t even to get to vote. But my friends did and I’m damn proud of them. Proud of the decision they made. Proud of the recognition that a single focus economy based on forty plus years of “same old same old” came to an end.

As I watched the election results last Tuesday, I was shocked, to say the least, thinking that, in typical Alberta fashion, they might flirt with the newcomer, but ultimately they’d vote with the party that brought them to the dance. How wrong was I? Plenty wrong.

As I listend to Rachel’s acceptance speech I heard words that  I had never ever heard from an elected official. She called business owners JOB CREATORS. Hallelujah! Governments don’t create jobs, businesses do. It’s high time someone pointed that out. Shocking, isn’t it, that those words would be uttered by a New Democratic government in waiting. Leaders who can connect to the risk that individuals make to feed their families, employ their team and improve their communities need to be recognized. And this recognition is not coming from the typical right of centre business community who, for lack of better words, have spent much of the last decade asking for what, more or less, amounts to corporate welfare, in my view.

We have to stop asking for permission to build great communities, healthy neighbourhoods and sustainable environments. It’s not about government. It’s about leadership. It’s about understanding that everyone is part of the solution. So often in “economics”, and I should know as a qualified graduate of an economics school, we talk about profit and shareholder return. In that, we lose the importance of balance, the importance of value, the importance of equilibrium and the importance of respect.

I’m tempted to say – hey Manning Institute – suck it. But that’s not respectful and it doesn’t build community. And it doesn’t make it better. It’s better that we want. Think better. Think compassion. Think respect. And come October, think about voting. Your voice matters. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be bashful. Don’t put up with the ordinary. Reach for the extraordinary. Whatever that might mean to you. And know that your family, your friends, your neighbours will respect you no matter what you decide. And the Manning Institute will bitch about it regardless. But they are not government. They are wannabes. You are not a wannabe. You are a voter and in your pencil is held the future of our country. Make your mark. Kiss your children. And go for it! We are better for you.

Art is at the Heart of the Shuswap this Summer

May 1, 2015 - One Response

There’s nothing like some time away from your community to help you understand all that your community has to offer. This was much the case for me when I attended the Arts BC annual conference in Penticton as Salmon Arm Arts Centre’s Community Development Coordinator. It’s good to get away. Especially for me, as I’ve been hyper-focussed on learning all that I can as a new city councillor. 

The first take away for me was how big this province really is. It’s one thing to jump in a car and get to your destination, but when you take out a map, and give it some serious consideration, you might be surprised. BC is four times the size of the United Kingdom. It’s bigger than Japan and New Zealand combined. It’s all of Florida and then some. It’s big.

For all the benefits of big, it’s not without its challenges. How do we, as a province, made up of individual communities, plan and partake in a provincial cultural plan? Is it even a realistic option? These are questions I took home with me after the conference. We have big island communities, small island communities, northern communities, mountain communities, coastal communities, rural communities and urban communities. We’re a complex place. That’s a good thing. But it’s messy when it comes to provincial policy especially as it relates to culture.

But sometimes, big is just too big. We need to focus on specifics and learn from that. For example, did you know that more people earn their living in the arts in BC than any other province in the country? Maybe it’s the landscape, maybe it’s the sense of place. Whatever it is, it’s exciting. And come this summer, our region is in for some major excitement.

What might seem “normal” to us, is extraordinary in other regions. Both the Roots and Blues festival (23 years young) and Caravan Farm Theatre (now producing four shows per year) have been identified as national treasures in terms of cultural offerings. We’re very fortunate. Roots and Blues brings Grammy and Juno award winning artists to our community on an annual basis. Caravan Farm Theatre, over its long history, continues to have legendary influence and attract national talent in the theatre world.

When that level of talent is attracted to a region, other good things start to happen. Creatives like to cluster with other creatives. That’s how it works. In 2006, internationally renowned installation artists Cardiff and Miller, based in Alberta, moved their Canadian studio to the area. And here’s the small town benefit. The curator at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre, Tracey Kutschker, was a student of Janet Cardiff’s at the University of Lethbridge. When she learned her former professor had relocated her studio to the Shuswap, she began the process of securing a loan of a Cardiff and Miller piece. It took six years to secure as good things take time. This summer,  two Cardiff and Miller pieces, Experiment in F# Minor and The Muriel Lake Incident will show at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre.

So next time someone asks you “should I head to the Shuswap this summer?”, I’ve got an important answer for you to deliver. Say yes. There’s only one place in North America where you can see world renowned artists Cardiff and Miller, award winning performers at Roots and Blues and ground-breaking theatrical talent at Caravan Farm Theatre. It’s all right here.

So, much like me, you might not be an artist, or a musician or an actor. But you still have a role to play in your community’s cultural capacity and that starts with yes, come and visit. Art is at the heart of the Shuswap this summer. And we’re all the better for it. BC might be big, but the Shuswap is a small gem. Just as the milky way is big, ultimately, it’s the small star that sparkles. That’s us. Let’s enjoy it.

In Good Hands

March 9, 2015 - One Response

This last month on Council has been inspiring to say the least. After part one of a city facilities tour that included the water plant, RCMP station and Fire Department, it’s abundantly clear to me that Salmon Arm is in very good hands.

And by hands, I mean the volunteer Fire Fighters, the RCMP constables, the Auxiliary Members and the Citizens on Patrol but it doesn’t stop there. City council work isn’t just about council meetings (every second Monday, everyone welcome), it’s about committee work. The city has a number of committees that report to Council and Council members are also assigned to community committees. Mayor Cooper has assigned me to two city committees; the Heritage Commission and the Social Issues Committee as well as two community committees Aspiral Youth Partners and the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, all members of Council are members of the Planning and Development Committee (which meets the other two Mondays – again, you are most welcome to attend).

Most things we value as community members and as Canadians, in fact, are as a result of committee work. From Confederation itself to the Vancouver Olympics to Minor Hockey and the Art Gallery, a community has much to be grateful for thanks to their volunteer committee members. 45% of Canadians volunteer in their community. Statistics Canada values their contribution at about 14 billion dollars or 1.4% of the national GDP.

Canada excels in the non-profit sector which is the second largest in the world. Approximately 11% of our workforce is in the non-profit sector. We’re very good at this.

Some might still argue that committees keep minutes but lose hours. Fair enough. I respectfully challenge you to spend an evening at any one of the hundreds of community meetings that are held every month here in town and you might find that your point of view changes. In fact, some studies indicate that a volunteer hour is worth two and half times what a paid hour is worth. If the average wage is $25/hr as noted in Stats Canada records, that makes a volunteer hour worth approximately 62.50. I’ve heard higher. And based on some of the meeting I’ve been to this month, I’d argue it’s more.

There’s something about the communication, conversation and collaboration that happens at committee. Every now and then, the mere act of sitting together around a table, following a set agenda and getting to the business of committee work creates magic. It’s about ideas as much as it’s about experience. We all know things. But something very special happens when we all share what we know on a topic at the committee level. It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, it’s community building and I’m grateful.

I acknowledge that I knew a Council win would bring with it it yet more meetings. As a business owner, I spend much of my working day meeting clients and working with a great team to get the jobs done. What I didn’t expect was to find new meetings that I enjoyed as much  as the ones I already get to go to for my business. This town is stuffed full of talent and commitment.

Please don’t, even for a minute, doubt the capacity of your fellow citizens. The dedication, experience and commitment they bring to the community table is of great value and makes things happen. It’s a formal process and no doubt, it takes time. Sometimes it takes more time that we might like. But the work needs to get done. And most things of value happen through hard word, diligence and dedication which can’t (and shouldn’t, in my opinion) be rushed.

So, as logic would have it, if you want to build community (and I hope that you do), please join a committee that matters to you. Truth is, most of you already belong to one but if not, you have hundreds to choose from in our community – arts, crafts, recreation, sports, business, government, transportation, communication, education, well-being, environment, economy, health – you get the idea.  Whatever you care about, there’s a committee that needs you.

Ironically, we live in a world where we’re often encouraged to “be our own person” and “do our own thing”, but the people we are and the things that matter to us are ultimately about how much we care and how much we can contribute to each other’s well being. In business, we often talk about the free market and the invisible hand. Truth be told and knowing what I’ve learned about our economy and our community day in and day out, it seems to me that the free market isn’t really free and the invisible hand isn’t really invisible. We all have contributions to make and the more we celebrate what one another has to contribute, the better off we’ll all be.

So thank you. I appreciate your time, your meetings, your ideas, your conversations and your commitment to collaboration and community. As a result of what you do as volunteers, I can’t drive down a street, attend an event, walk in the park, or put my recycling out without remembering that we’re all in this together. We all have a say. We all have a role. We all have a share. And as such, we all are what we are together. So thanks for what you have to say and the role that you choose to play. It’s what makes community happen.

Je Suis Sorry

January 16, 2015 - 6 Responses

On the morning of the massacre, I awoke in my normal fashion. Coffee on, time to get up, CBC News. My ever aging eyes saw only 12 and Paris on the news scroll at the bottom of the screen. As a self declared francophile, I moved closer to the screen to see. 12 what in Paris? 12 new fashions shows? 12 new art pieces? 12 new patisseries? To my horror, my eyes then focussed in on the word dead. 12 dead in Paris. 

My first reaction was outrage. How could they? Why did they? What is wrong with the world? As it happened, and this is the weird thing about the universe – it forces us to address important issues – I was co-hosting a community radio show on the very topic of comic illustration that morning. To be honest, I stopped for a minute to wonder if I was having a bad dream. But no, there it was in all its live gory television glory – 12 dead; ten journalists, two police officers – Paris, democracy, western values, all under attack. 
I think I was in shock. I moved through the motion of the normal morning. Breakfast served, lunches made, bus met, kids to school, off to work then to the radio station for the weekly show. Would we still talk about comic books in light of the massacre? We had all of five minutes to decide. And decide we did. We ran with it. What else could we do. Give in? Give up? Be afraid? I hardly think so. In my own exagerated sense of outrage, I was defiant. Charlie would want us to go on with the show. So we did. And that was that. Nothing ground breaking happened except that we went on with our lives which, under the circumstance, was a welcome banality.
As the day progressed, I watched and listened and witnessed my culture’s typical response to a tragedy such as this. All united in our outrage about the whole matter. Twitter was set alight with #jesuischarlie. I too thought I was Charlie. I even tweeted as much. I listened to the defiant messages of world leaders which, “en bref” another great french expression, amounted to the usual rhetoric – we will not let this change who we are or do what we do and we will get them for this – phew I thought, life, as we know it, will go on, except for the man hunt, heightened security alerts and millions of people who would march in Paris a few days later. But other than that, it was pretty much the same old same old. 
And then I thought some more. It’s not the same. It has to stop being the same. How angry do you have to be to buy guns, plan attacks, kill and try to escape. As if this is something from which one can ever escape, alive or dead. Dead as it turns out. The French boast Fraternité, Egalité and Liberté which has never included getting away with murder (except for King-killing revolutions – that, as they say in France – is “pas pareil “)
Slowly, a mellow sadness overcame me. Maybe I’m not Je Suis Charlie. Maybe I’m Je Suis Sorry. I’m sorry we live in a world where young men (and a young woman too) were so angry and so radicalized that their actions were a viable option for them. Where not a single world leader had the humility to say sorry. Sorry to lead a culture where this kind of violence is a way to send a message of deep dissent. Sorry to be unable to acknowledge a deep and deadly divide. Hell bent on revenge. Which, if you’re keeping score, means we’re answering violence and threats with violence and threats and we wonder why it keeps happening. We aren’t Charlie. We aren’t Sorry. And we certainly aren’t finding the fundamental humility to find a solution. 
And then my argument falls apart. I don’t know how to fix it. All I know is that the young people who committed these crimes had parents and siblings and grand parents and aunties and uncles and cousins and neighbours and friends and colleagues and employers and team mates and coaches and school mates and teachers and doctors and yet, they left us. And they left us long before they fired the first bullet. We missed, and most certainly ignored, the cues, as we continue to do. 
Maybe, just maybe, we need to acknowledge that these tragedies belong to all of us, not because we endorse or approve (because we don’t), but because we live and walk and share our lives in communities and we have a fundamental responsibility to one another. Being a community member is a reality, a practicality, a convenience, a delight. But most importantly, as the tragic loss of life this last week in Paris highlights, a healthy and connected community is so much more. It’s how we survive, it’s how we thrive and it’s how we stay alive. Community failed last week. And if we miss that lesson, we fail too.
With all the compassion I can muster in light of this tragedy and trauma, could I be so bold as to suggest, the lesson here is that while history will remember JeSuisCharlie, we must never forget that, ultimately, we are #JeSuisNous.

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