I've been thinking . . .

"A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity."    

Franz Kafka

"The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and if the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through--not ever much. And if he is a writer wise enough to know it can't be done, then he is not a writer at all. A good writer always works at the impossible."

John Steinbeck

On Being Less Barbaric

On a flight across Canada, while waiting for my next ration of six mini pretzel sticks, between bouts of elbow wrestling for the arm wrest, I had time to think. My mind quickly turned to the Conservatives' Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.

It occurred to me, in one of those hunger-induced flashes of clarity that draws ascetics into desert caves to commune with the heavens: If we're stuck with an unnecessary, even mean-spirited law, let's make full use of it.

Of course, there's always hope. Starving men in caves will tell you so. By some divine benevolence, Prime Minister Stephen Harper could be unemployed on October 20. Then his successor could immediately repeal his shameful law.

It demeans Canadians in the eyes of the world, and undermines any relevance we have left in discussions about tolerance, religious freedom, and basic human rights. It's also just cheap political pandering to the frightened xenophobe in all of us.

It's been better said elsewhere that the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which the Harper government gave us last spring, is unnecessary. Forcing children to marry and polygamy are already illegal unless, apparently, you're a Mormon in B.C.

"Honor killing" is just another name for murder. Thankfully, that was already a crime in Canada before Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander sharpened his legislative pen.

However, should we end up with another Harper government, Canadians ought to come together in the name of ending barbarity once and for all and press for amendments.

Under prolonged Harper rule, we will all need protectection from barbarity.

To that end, with fingers crossed that voters will make this moot, I propose the following list be added to the things prohibited by Canada's Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. Please feel free to suggest others:

1. Denying passengers proper meals, which by Senatorial amendment could also prohibit cold Camembert, on trans-Canada flights.

2. Cramming passengers into spaces so small that they would violate ant-torture laws anywhere else. 

3. Allowing passengers to bogart the arm rests. This amendment should specify, by international agreement, the middle passenger in a three-person row gets two armrests. The aisle passenger gets only the left armrest, the window passenger the right armrest. 

4. Driving through red lights on right turns. (This may sound like a redundant law unless you live in B.C.)

5. Driving through stop signs with a token tap on the brakes. (This may sound like a redundant law unless you live in B.C.)

6. Talking long and loud about nothing on your cell phone in public.

7. Serving hamburgers that are plump and juicy in ads, but look like tanned leather on the tray.

8. Using baby strollers or shopping carts as battering rams.

9. Driving mobility scooters on sidewalks faster than a person could walk if able bodied.

10. Behaving as if the world is not shared by all human beings.