Residents in my beloved home town were up in arms earlier this week. If you grew up in Stratford, the best place for tobogganing was always the hill at Stratford Central Secondary School. The hill is big and steep. It's perfect for kids with sleds, tubes or crazy carpets (are they still around?) to burn off steam with friends and siblings.
That hill is a source of many splendid memories in my family and in countless other families around my neck of the woods.
A controversy started when pictures surfaced on Facebook showing that this hill had been sanded and salted. People immediately made a connection between this and the recent stories in the news about municipalities banning tobogganing due to insurance liability concerns.
The uproar was swift and furious. All hell broke loose on social media at the prospect of this treasure being taken away from our children. It has given us so much fun and happiness over the years. They deserve to enjoy it also.
A common refrain that emerged in the online discussion threads was that this was yet another example of the 'wussification' of society. Childhood is about learning, growth and fun -- three things that require children to push the boundaries.
My childhood and adolescence were a magical time. There are hundreds of memories I cherish but here are a few and they may seem masochistic but I doubt it. Most people can relate. I broke my arm in Grade Seven while playing an impromptu game of extreme tackle football, I dislocated my shoulder in Jiu-Jitsu, my parents put my brothers and I into boxing classes when I was 11 years old and if I shave my head you'll see multiple bald spots from the various trips I made to the hospital for stitches when a wrestling match with my brothers caught the corner of a table or wall.
Then there was boot camp. My Sergeant told our platoon on the very first day at C.F.B. Borden that boot camp is, "the best time you'll ever have being miserable." His message was crystal clear -- boot camp was going to be challenging, difficult and even painful at times, but that's what makes it great. That's what makes it such a growing experience for so many people. Young people have to experience and get through tough situations to evolve into responsible adults capable of facing life's many trials and tribulations.
So, I fully understand the concerns of people in this day-and-age that the unholy trifecta of lawyers, insurance companies and opportunistic whiners are ruining much of what makes our young lives so wonderful.
There are just two problems with The Battle of Central Hill.
One: the school board salted the hill because it had become too icy and was a risk to students. This is only temporary and has been done before. Tobogganing is NOT banned. It's business as usual.
Two: while I love seeing my fellow freeborn Canadian citizens getting fired up about a problem, I have to wonder if our rage isn't slightly misdirected and disproportionate even assuming the worst case scenario was true (which it isn't).
I have noticed a peculiar trend in modern society. We are silent or slightly irritated about massive wrongs then volcanically outraged about legitimate but smaller grievances. The tobogganing hill is one example.
Another example would be the perennial 'Merry Christmas' vs. 'Happy Holidays' controversy every December. I find the latter greeting to be annoying, vapid political correctness and I don't use that greeting in the lead up to December 25, but that's as far as my anger goes. Yet, every year my Facebook feed fills up with people (legitimately) angered by the constipating effects of political correctness.
But follow me for a moment!
It was revealed this week that the federal government has spent $700,000 to fight a group of our wounded Afghanistan veterans who filed a class action lawsuit against them.
This follows on the heels of other revelations that the government has clawed back $1.1 billion from Veterans Affairs since 2006. The government has closed nine regional VA offices firing the workers who serviced our veterans. Since 2008 the federal government brought in 961 unpaid interns (a despicable practice that should be banned everywhere) with Veterans Affairs being the worst exploiter at 142 unpaid interns. We also learned that the government slashed jobs at the disability branch of Veterans Affairs while increasing funding for the VA's communications and PR budget.
Why hasn't my Facebook feed filled with at least the same level of indignation about our government's disgraceful treatment of our Veterans as it was about the salted tobogganing hill?
There was another strange story that has dominated this week's headlines. Michelle Obama didn't wear a headscarf at King Abdullah's funeral in Saudi Arabia. The media elites have wasted tons of space discussing the merits and drawbacks of her wardrobe decisions. Was it a bold statement of defiance by the First Lady or was it disrespectful of someone else's culture?
Where was the discussion about why the President of the United States and his wife were at the funeral of a despot who lorded over his people with an iron fist? The Charlie Hebdo attack in France is less than a month old. World leaders are vowing to double-down on the War on Terror. So, why was Obama at the funeral of a man whose family has funded the Wahhabi Islamic sect to the tune of $100 billion over the last 30 years? Wahhabism is possibly the most backwards, fanatical and violent stream of Islamic terrorism in the world. There's a reason 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis.
Where was the outrage?
Saudi Arabia is the West's closest Arab ally in the Middle-East despite its funding of such a violent and primitive religion and its hideous track record on human rights. The Harper Government recently inked a $12 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia but won't disclose the terms of the agreement to the public.
I ask again, what's more important -- Michelle Obama's lack of a head scarf or our ongoing alliance with a monarchy that funds radicals as it desperately holds on to power?
On the subject of Charlie Hebdo -- a despicable slaughter of 15 innocent people -- it happened at the same time 2,000 innocent people were slaughtered by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Why didn't 50 world leaders descend on Abuja for the same show of solidarity as they did in Paris? Why aren't our CF-18s bombing Nigeria right now?
Meanwhile, we are now in Iraq. Our government has brazenly and repeatedly lied to get us there.
Where's the outrage?
Closer to home, nothing fires up taxpayers like stories about welfare recipients who abuse the system. In Ontario, a single person with no children gets $464 each month if they're on welfare. Talk radio hosts make it their mission to uncover examples (real and imagined) of people buying cigarettes, alcohol or lottery tickets with their cheques. I completely agree that it is irresponsible and unacceptable for the unemployed to waste money on these things. I fully understand and share in the anger people feel when they hear stories like this. Much like the sand on the tobogganing hill, it merits a response.
Why doesn't the $34 billion Canadians spend each year on fossil fuel subsidies provoke the ire of these same talk radio hosts or the general public? This is just corporate welfare and it sucks up far more tax dollars than the unemployed.
Which one of these examples deserves a bigger backlash from taxpayers: wealthy oil companies getting their bottom lines fattened by our governments or the unemployed buying a six-pack of beer while on welfare?
How many people are even aware of the back door bailout our banks received in 2008 when the housing market dropped? If you can't pay your mortgage, you're a deadbeat and you lose your house. If you may not be able to cover thousands of risky mortgages, you're a bank and the government protects you.
What about payday loan companies that prey upon the most desperate in our society and drive them deeper into destitution? They steal billions of dollars from the meek of the earth.
The fastest growing segment of food bank users in our nation is the working poor -- people who work hard but still can't make ends meet.
Where's the outrage?
Why isn't Nigel Wright facing charges for his role in obstructing justice, subverting democracy and paying off Mike Duffy (who is facing charges for accepting the cheque from Wright)? Not only is he not going to face the law, Wright's business prospects haven't been dampened in the least.
The Harper Government is bringing in new legislation to increase the powers of the state over Canadian citizens in the name of national security despite having underfunded CSIS, the RCMP and border security for years.
Have you posted your outrage about any of these things on your Twitter of Facebook feeds? We must learn to calibrate our anger so it's proportional to the injustice or slight.
Partially this is the fault of the media for spending more time following the Kardashians than adequately covering the sins of our political elites but the general public must still shoulder our share of the responsibility.
Could it be that we blow a gasket over tobogganing, politically correct Christmas greetings or governments being overly paternalistic about the food we eat because it's easy and it gives us the sense of doing something while ignoring the major issues in society?
To be perfectly clear, I am NOT saying people are wrong to be upset by the constant bowing to political correctness. Heck, I complete agree with them.
Let's just make sure that as we battle the smaller absurdities of life that pop up from time to time we also stand up to the gigantic monstrosities that are visible to everyone and completely artificial. There is no decree from God or law of nature which says corporate welfare is a necessity or that our political elites are entitled to a double standard.
So, let's change it!
Let's fight for the things that make life fun for us like tobogganing while also fighting the things that make life miserable such as payday loan companies, multinational corporations, venture capitalists, a failed War on Terrorism and the self-serving hacks in the media and government who enable it all.