Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Past Deadline: Current Events 101

It’s tough being a so-called humour columnist these days.

You may have noticed that in the grand scheme of things there isn’t a lot of funny stuff going on. Oh, sure, I could tell you about March Break and how, for a change, the kids were healthy but I lost the battle against a yucky slobbery cold. I could wax woeful about listening to all sorts of people jetting off to warmer climes. I could probably come up with an entire column about the misery of looking out my window and seeing everywhere in the backyard melting except my ice-encased patio, where I would love to be sitting right about now.

But now, given current global events, doesn’t seem to be the right time for minor complaints.

Groom-boy and I are news junkies, which goes with the journalism training, I suppose. So we often watch the news in the evening, and it is usually on in the background during supper, too. I realize the news and family dinners do not always make good companions. Fortunately it is mostly background noise – we can’t all see the television while we’re eating. That’s a good thing, too, because I honestly can’t think of a time in the last few years when there has been so much really bad news in one newscast night after night after night.

It’s safe to say recent current events have raised a lot of questions in our household, and it all started with Egypt. Boychild is beginning to get a handle on his place in the world, but sometimes that link is a bit tenuous. Since he is showing an interest in current events I’m not about to discourage it, even if it could, conceivably, cause nightmares. That’s why I’m around to help explain it and put it into some sort of context. This isn’t always easy, though. When he asks why people are rioting and protesting and fighting in Egypt and Libya, I have a tough time coming up with suitable answers about north African politics (and please don’t ask me about the Middle East).

“Well, the people don’t like their government, and in those countries that is the only way they can express that.”

“But why?”

So there are watered down explanations about government oppression and democracies versus dictatorships and how dictatorships aren’t considered to be a good thing and how some leaders are a bit too crazy to be running a country. (I left out the part about Gadhafi’s weird costumes.)

“But Stephen Harper is a good prime minister, right?”

Ahem. “That depends on who you ask,” I said, biting back some beautiful opportunities to be sarcastic about dictatorships in Canada.

Now we are bombing Libya, but as of this writing that development has not registered with any of the shorter residents of the house. That one might be trickier to explain. And then there is Japan and the “would that ever happen here” questions. At first it was easy to answer “no” to the tsunami and earthquake questions. First of all, we’re too far inland to ever be affected by a tsunami. But then eastern Ontario gets rattled by a tiny earthquake (which I thought was someone slamming a car door really really hard). So then we have another discussion about plate tectonics and how even though there is a fault line near here, it’s not the same as what exists in “the ring of fire.”

So far there haven’t been many questions about the nuclear catastrophe. I’m still thinking about responses to that one because even though we have been assured our plants are “safe,” it’s nuclear power, for crying out loud. Never say never. If it’s not an earthquake, it could be something else.

“What kind of disasters could happen here, Mom?”

I think about the ice storm and climate change and how we might see more severe storms roaring through here. I think about terrorism and its “randomness” that isn’t necessarily random. Flooding, fires, train derailments, chemical spills – lots of things could happen. Thinking about these things is just one more reason why being a grown-up can be stinky.

“I think we’re really lucky to live where we do, Boychild. We live in a good place.”
Published in The Perth Courier, March 24/11.

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