Monthly Archives: January 2018

Communications: Builders vs Politicians

My big brothers Jimmy and Wally are twins and both have been in construction their entire lives. They are both smart, generous, hard-working and funny. If my mom could have heard the language they adopted in construction, she would have washed their mouths out with soap. Still, they are the ones you want to have building your house; they are builders, not talkers.

I’ve been invited to sit on a panel at a conference of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy to discuss the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Pearson Centre is not generally the kind of group that would invite a Conservative like me to address their members. I give all kinds of credit and kudos to them for being open to hearing opposing ideas and opinions.

I’ve thought a lot about what I would like to say, and I keep coming back to the difference between politicians and builders.

In politics, we work in the realm of thoughts, ideas, words, messages, and rhetoric. “Words ARE action in politics,” Ronald Reagan once noted. Sometimes, when I hear people speaking harsh or horrible words, it actually causes me to cringe in physical pain: my ears hurt.

Builders work in a different world, the world of concrete reality. “Matter matters,” my brother Paul observes.

I have six brothers and many nephews, and most of them are builders. They communicate using language so completely different than political rhetoric, I am sure it hurts the ears of many listeners.

My brother Jim, a builder for 40 years, is the best example. He has a repertoire of phrases that still make me laugh after decades.

“C’mon, people, we’re burning daylight!” he barks when the crew is not in action at 6am.

“C’mon, people, we’ve got a dime holding up a dollar!” he exclaims when a petty detail is holding up a project.

One day, Jim fired a man. The man returned to the jobsite the next day; he had a sawed-off cane handle tucked into the waistband of his pants, so it looked like he was carrying a gun.

“What did you do?” I gasped when Jim told me.

“What do you think I did?” he exclaimed. “I shit little blue putty balls!”

Oh….that was not the first thing I would have thought of, but I understood what he meant.

Jim was hired for the television show “Extreme Makeover” as Project Manager on the build of a house to be donated to a family in need, which would be featured on a special episode. The show also hired a handsome and charismatic actor to stand in front of the cameras and PRETEND to be the Project Manager, explaining to the audience what was going on.

Ten hours into the build, the show’s producer approached my brother: “We have a problem. Your team is building so fast, we can’t get all the shots we need. We need you to  slow down.”

”We can’t slow down. The volunteers already have their modified schedules,” Jim snapped back. “You’ll have to shoot faster.” They did.

While Jim’s words might hurt your ears, I have no doubt that if he was building your house, it would be perfect. If Jim did a walkthrough and the floor was not level or there was a gap around a window frame, the air would be purple with profanities. No amount of words, rhetoric, language or messaging could fix the problem: competent subs and trades will fix the problem. You might not appreciate his language, but you don’t want a talker to build your house. You want a builder.

Donald Trump is a builder. I’m sure his words hurt the ears of many listeners, but at this point in its history, I think America needs a builder, not a talker.

Happy anniversary!

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Wishing you lots of Epiphanies

Somehow, I ended up with Six Kings, which hopefully means there will be even more Epiphanies around my house.

I must live in a rarefied world.

I was so surprised when a neighbour asked me after Christmas: “Aren’t you going to take down your Nativity decorations now that Christmas is over?”

“You mean, before the Epiphany?” I asked in a state of near-shock. “What would even be the point of putting up the Nativity, if you did not celebrate the Epiphany?”

I understand that much of the world celebrates Christmas on December 25th. As Will Ferrell states clearly in “Talladega Nights,” “Dear 8 pound, six ounce newborn infant Jesus,  with your tiny clenched fists…”

His character, Rikki Bobby, refused to accept the fact that Jesus Christ ever grew up or lived as an adult. He just loved the idea of Jesus as a new born baby, which we celebrate on Christmas morning.

As a child growing up in the Mid-west, however, my big sister Mary taught me the meaning of the Epiphany: Christ might have arrived on Christmas night. Unfortunately, human beings, dull as we are, did not grasp what His arrival meant until several days later. We are slow like that: God and Truth come to Earth one day. We figure out what it means weeks later. That’s just us. It doesn’t make us bad or stupid; it just makes us human. For some people, it takes days or weeks. For others, it takes years or decades; maybe a whole lifetime. The gap between the arrival and the realization is what makes humans, human.

Growing up in a family of 10 kids, doing dishes after dinner was a serious deal, and a real job. However, working with my big sister Mary, it never felt like work. I recall perfectly clearly the night she taught me the words to “We Three Kings” while she washed and I dried the dishes, pots and pans for dinner for 12 people.

“We Three Kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar…

Moor and Mountain

Field and Fountain

Following yonder star”

When we finished the dishes, I had to go find a dictionary to look up the word “moor,” which I had never heard before. Mary was mind-expanding that way; she also opened my mind to the fact that all people do not understand all ideas at the same time.

She introduced me to the ritual of moving the Three Kings around the house, moving them a little closer to the Nativity every day, although they never actually arrived until January 6th, the Epiphany.

Decades later, a co-worker complained to me: “Rita, your life is a series of endless daily Epiphanies!”

“And that is bad….how?” I spluttered. I always assumed an Epiphany is a GREAT thing.

Three years ago, we lost my big sister Mary to Alzheimer’s disease. How, I wondered, could a human being so full of sweetness and love could simply be…gone? It was an Epiphany I did not welcome.

This Christmas, my son David approached me and sighed, “Ma, I’m so sorry. Winner (his 100 pound Rottweiler) came to me with….a camel.” He held out a damaged camel, belonging to one of the Three Kings. The camel’s head had been mostly chewed off, puppy-Rottweiler style.

“Ah, well,” I laughed, “That will teach me to leave the Three Kings around the house, where dogs can reach them!”

Actually, I will still leave the Three Kings all around the house. Mary would have.

 

 

 

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Democracy for Iran! NOW IS THE TIME for a “Pussy March,” ladies.

It amazes me that I received these two Persian presents 15 years apart – yet the colour keys are virtually identical. The sight of them on my table makes me so happy.

“Even after all this time,

The Sun never says: ‘You owe me.’

Look what happens with a love like that:

It lights the world.”

–Hafiz

I have to say – and perhaps I have a selective memory, but I don’t think so – that every Persian person I have met or taught or worked with has been a smart, hard-working, impressive person.

Possibly it’s because many of the smart, hard-working, impressive people picked up and got out of Iran when the going was good, decades ago. Possibly it’s just baked into their culture….Homa Arjomand, who organized the globe to fight Sharia law in Ontario 2005 was born in Iran. Many of the students in my Carnegie classes (almost always engineers) were born in Iran.

One year, when I was hired to run the Taxis on Patrol program, we had 12 finalist “heroes” to honour, and 9 of them were from Iran. The winner, an incredibly humble man who really did not want to be awarded anything, had a knife pulled on him at the back of his cab. He popped the trunk, pushed the assailant in, and drove to 52 Division Police station.

“I need an officer to come out to my car,” he informed the desk clerk. “There is a man with a knife in my trunk.”

“What is it with Iranians, that they are so proactive they make 9 of 12 nominations in this program? What were you thinking when you locked that guy in the trunk?” I asked the cab driver.

“Well, maybe it’s because where we come from, if you wait for the police, all the damage will be done before anybody comes to help you; so you help yourself. Besides,” he sighed, “that guy with the knife was so old and weak and spindly, he really could not have hurt anyone. I felt sorry for him.”

Imagine my delight when a Persian couple moved in across the street last summer. To welcome them, I made up a tiny paper plate of cookies to leave at their front door with a little “Welcome to Milligan Street” note. The next day, an ENORMOUS pink geranium appeared on my front porch, which bloomed for the entire summer.

A few months later, after a trip to ARZ, I made up a platter of dips and stuffed grape leaves and zucchini so I could “share the wealth” of my favourite store with them.

The next day, my neighbour appeared at my door with an absolutely gorgeous glass bowl for my dining room table. It sits atop a beautiful fabric runner which came from Shiraz, in Persia. (Shiraz is famous for two things: the grapes from which the popular wine is made, and the poet Hafiz.) I have given up trying to out-gift my Persian neighbours: it’s impossible.

Now, thousands of men and women in cities across Iran are protesting in the streets, demanding a Democratic government and better economic policies. I always felt the West let Iranians down during their Green Movement in 2009; I can’t do much now, but here is what Homa Arjomand is asking us to do:

  • Support the movement of people in Iran for freedom, equality, prosperity and secularism.
    • Distribute the news as soon as possible through various social media
    • Join the demonstration in support of people of Iran organized in the West by activists and freedom seekers
    • Request the Canadian government and all other Western governments to put pressure on the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to adopt a resolution for closing down all Iranian Embassies around the world.