Neither Severity nor Sentimentality: Responding Well to Terror

The following is another contribution to my weblog, called “On Second Thought,” originally published via Context with Lorna Dueck.


I understand why Donald Trump wants to stop allowing Muslims into America, and why Jerry Falwell, Jr., wants to meet violence with violence. Don’t you?

Fear is a terrible thing to feel. And if we’re afraid enough, we’ll do anything to make the fear stop.

We can fight fire with fire, and burn the world down.

We can try to hug the enemy, only to be violated in return.

We can make ourselves feel better by screaming at someone else—governments, “rich people,” other nations—to solve the problem.

Or we can distract and dull our anxiety with tranquilizing entertainments.

To make a particular fear truly stop, however, we need to engage in two fundamental and demanding activities: analysis and response. We need to diagnose accurately what is wrong, and then undertake action properly suited to the problem.

When faced with the terrorism of ISIS, the first step we should take is a simple one: Refuse to be terrorized.

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Legalizing Marijuana: Facing the Realities of Altering Reality

[Here is another blog post from the weblog I’m now writing for “Context with Lorna Dueck.” The full bank of them is here.]

As Parliament prepares to discuss legalization of marijuana, here are some realities with which we all must reckon.

#1: There is no exact parallel with the legalization of marijuana in our culture today. The usual candidates are alcohol and tobacco, but they are not the same as pot.

Alcohol? People legitimately drink beer, wine, and spirits because they like the taste of beer, wine, and spirits. Do many people drink alcohol merely to alter their consciousness, which is the only reason anyone smokes pot? Of course. But if there were equally enjoyable nonalcoholic beverages and we kept alcohol legal merely for people to intoxicate themselves, we might have an exact parallel with marijuana. We don’t, so we don’t.

Tobacco? Tobacco use took general root before its health hazards were known. And there is sensual pleasure to be had, I’m told, in smoking fine cigars and pipes. So we allow people to risk their health in order to enjoy those pleasures even as we continue to pay a frightful toll in health care for the many, many victims of tobacco’s many harms.

The purported parallel with tobacco doesn’t help the pro-pot side much anyhow. Would our society have been better off if we had never legalized tobacco? Does anyone even wonder about that?

#2: The actual parallel with marijuana is (other) narcotics. People smoke marijuana for the same reason many people ingest stronger narcotics: alteration of consciousness. Yet we rightly fear addiction. We rightly fear brain damage. We rightly fear other psychological and physiological outcomes from chronic narcotic use.

So we don’t sell codeine or morphine or oxycontin at the liquor store, just as we don’t sell cocaine and heroin. But we’re going to sell marijuana?

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Ending the Nightmare before It Starts

Preface: I’ve been enjoying working with Lorna Dueck and her excellent team on the TV show “Context with Lorna Dueck.” For the last few months I’ve been blogging weekly on her site here. To encourage subscribers and other readers of this blog to subscribe to the one I write over there, I’ll post a few of those posts here for a while—and for faithful readers of both (God bless you) I’ll give a heads-up at the beginning of any blog posts here that have already been posted there. (I respect your time and attention.)

So then, let’s start with the first one I wrote for Lorna…one that got a lot of attention.


What’s the absolute, number one, no-doubt-about-it worst fear each of us have about aging?

Pain? My late mother endured it for more than a decade as a cancer survivor. I never again want to witness such an ordeal.

Blindness or other loss of perception? To lose contact with the world, to lose the enjoyment of its rich pleasures, is a grim prospect indeed.

Bodily dysfunction? Embarrassment from incontinence, fear of tripping and falling, frustration over household tasks attempted with arthritic fingers…the list of ways in which our bodies can fail us is horribly long.

No, as Bette Davis wryly put it, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Poverty—which haunts far too many older Canadians—makes all of these challenges worse, of course, since money can buy us medicine and tools and helpers.

Yet as bad as all these are, the number one fear we all have about aging is something else: loneliness…and being alone.

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