Bill Cameron’s Example
I have just taken a tour through “Cancerland” with Bill Cameron (“Chasing The Crab,” May). It is a frightening place where many of us will have to go, but now we can take the spirit of Mr. Cameron with us. He has asked all the questions and answered some of them, while we have learned about medicalspeak and about his courage. Thank you for publishing his article; I am so glad he wrote it. My only regret is that I never knew him.
As I read Bill Cameron’s rendering of his encounter with cancer, my heart broke. But his essay was also, somehow, restorative. I recognize that death is part of a basic equation—every day, a certain number of us will be born, and so a certain number must also die. Some equivalent balance is needed, without which none of us could exist.
With Mr. Cameron’s article, I have experienced vicariously the process of negotiating this circumstance—the situation of knowing you are soon dying; the mind-blowing thought of no longer existing. Human beings are sentimental, and so the topic is emotional. All of which made this calm, dignifying essay such a gift. Mr. Cameron had the talent, but also the discipline and composure to articulate this huge yet puny thing. I feel better having read it.
A War For Israel
David Berlin misses an important distinction in his assessment of the Disengagement Plan in Gush Katif (“Israel On The Brink,” May). The “Zionist dream” he describes in conjunction with settler ideology, with its emphasis on redemption and the miraculous, is not characteristic of all Zionists, nor must it imply the defence of Israeli settlements at all costs.
Theodor Herzl, the father of modern-day Zionism, envisioned the Jewish homeland as a geopolitical safe haven for a wandering nation, not the recreation of a Biblical kingdom. Herzl’s dream should not be conflated with the dogmatic Zionism of certain Orthodox Jews, including many settlers in the occupied territories, whose mandate has a more metaphysical ring. They will defy their government and threaten war with their fellow Israelis out of loyalty to a higher ideal: speeding the coming of the Messiah. Other Orthodox factions, meanwhile, consider it the utmost form of heresy to tamper with Jewish destiny by attempting to effect political revolution.
Sharon’s waffling about the status of the occupied territories is worrying, as it reflects his allegiance to political gain rather than a particular vision of Israeli nationalism—or, better yet, a commitment to peace. Even more frightening, however, are those who would throw their children in front of tanks out of reverence for a contentious version of messianic history. Let us not allow them to speak for Zionism as a whole.
David Berlin suggests that perhaps 100,000 Israelis will pour into the occupied territories to prevent the dismantlement of settlements, and warns of civil war. However, he touches on a more likely and more devastating possibility. Mr. Berlin describes graffiti he saw in one settlement that reads “Gas The Arabs,” and also the tribute paid by Israeli settlers to the murderer of twenty-nine unarmed Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994. He might have added that Palestinian homes and farms have routinely been razed in the decades under Israeli occupation, while Palestinians are euphemistically described by cabinet ministers as a “demographic problem.”
These messages are part of a troubling, and apparently growing, strain within the Israeli zeitgeist. If the protesters predicted by Mr. Berlin turn their wrath on Palestinians, what will happen? The victims of the conflict he fears may well be Palestinian, not Israeli. While it has claimed lives, internecine Israeli political violence is not as grave a concern as the danger faced by millions of Palestinians.
Brooklyn, New York
We Are Not Amused
Robert Mason Lee’s article serves up a confection of pseudo-psychological cultural analysis and snide commentary focused on the personal failings of members of our royal family (“Royal Cock-up,” May). What matters more than the exaggerated foibles of admittedly imperfect individuals is the institution of constitutional monarchy itself, which serves as a powerful icon of national identity. If we must focus on personalities, how curious that Lee finds nary a word for Charles’s good works, including his seminal role as a founder of the Prince’s Trust, which helps inner-city youth, and his place as one of the few respected interlocutors between Islam and the Western world. But why bother with facts, when soaps rate so high?
Dominion Chairman, The Monarchist League of Canada
Patrick Lane writes that while a forest fire returns carbon to the soil, clearcut logging removes the trees that are the source of that carbon (“The Forest’s Edge,” May). This is misleading. When wood burns, carbon stored as cellulose is released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The ash that remains does enhance initial forest growth, but this is mainly due to the nutrients in that ash, not the carbon in the charcoal that remains. While more could be done to address nutrient retention after clear-cutting, plants obtain their carbon needs largely through photosynthesis, not forest fires as Mr. Lane suggests. He also writes that species of trees are planted according to which species is likely to return the greatest profit—when, in fact, species are chosen for their suitability to the site, not their profitability.
At the heart of Mr. Lane’s essay is the implication that the managers of British Columbia’s forests are a heartless band of corporate robber barons, their slavish minions plundering the forests for profit. My professional forester colleagues and I chose our careers not for the fabulous wages we would earn, but for love of the outdoors and the forests we made our living from. Serious problems still exist, including the vast number of forestry roads and the penetration of wilderness areas. These are important issues that need to be discussed. Simplistic and erroneous articles such as Mr. Lane’s do little to contribute to this discussion.
Patrick Lane responds:
Mr. Hallett obfuscates when he writes that species of trees are chosen for planting in clear-cuts according to their suitability to the site. That suitability is determined largely according to the needs of the mills. One only needs to look at the pine monoculture in the Prince George area that contributed to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, a monoculture encouraged by the advice of professional foresters. Unsuitable species are those that can’t be turned into pulp, paper, or lumber, regardless of their ecological worth.
If foresters love the outdoors so much, why do they continue to foster clear-cutting, a system decried by every ecologically responsible organization? Mr. Hallett writes that the penetration of wilderness areas is a serious problem that must be discussed. That discussion has gone on for fifty years, while we continue to practise both monoculture and clear-cutting. Forest practices don’t need to be “discussed.” Forest practices need to be radically changed—and professional foresters are probably not the ones to do it.
Lists Of Woe
Marni Jackson misses the main reason lists are so appealing: they give us the false impression of comprehensiveness (“13 Reasons For List Lust,” May). There is too much of everything available these days, all of it changing and growing too quickly for anyone to keep up. A good list, then, becomes a snapshot we all agree to be satisfied with.
There may have been a time, hundreds of years ago, when people could make a truly complete list, for example, of all the books available. Today, that’s so unthinkable that the best we can do is to pick some smaller number—ten, perhaps, or a hundred—and wait until next year to repeat the ritual. Lists such as David Letterman’s Top Ten are smart parodies that don’t even pretend to be comprehensive. The very concept of brainstorming—in the corporate boardroom or with your friends as you try to figure out where to go to eat—derives from a certain inherent fact: we can’t have anything complete, so we make do with a gaggle of partials.
Reason To Leave, Or Leave Of Reason?
As Joan Bryden demonstrates, Catholic marriages can be annulled through questionable applications of Church law (“‘Til Decree Do Us Part,” April). Under Canon 1095, grounds for annulment can include instability, stubbornness, excessive dependence, despotic authoritarianism, exaggerated self-worship, and narcissism. One may also be granted an annulment from a transvestite, the child of alcoholic parents and/or a dysfunctional family, or an explosive personality especially proven to contain some serious psychic irregularity. Lacking these, annulment may be granted on grounds of superficiality, simple naïveté, light-mindedness, lack of common sense, and incompatibility.
Catholic vows between a husband and wife are not so sacred, it seems, as they once were. They are most easily erasable through Canon law, loosely applied. If, as Ms. Bryden suggests, Catholic officials administrating annulments fail to inform respondents of their rights to an advocate, surely they cannot be fulfilling their vows of ordination. Should such officials not be forced from the Church for the same “despotic authoritarianism” they use to justify annulments?
A War Of Adjectives
As a Liberal, I feel compelled to respond to John Duffy’s personal attack on Allan Gregg (Letters, May) in response to Mr. Gregg’s article (“Quebec’s Final Victory,” February). Having built a distinguished track record as a thoughtful observer of our political scene, Mr. Gregg certainly deserves better. More importantly, it is hard to fathom how someone as bright and capable as Mr. Duffy could be so caught up in his politics as to lose sight of the truth. Every real Liberal I know believes that the federal government should be more than a purser for the provinces. In fact, that belief is at the core of what the Liberal Party is all about.
If, as Mr. Duffy suggests, someone is driving wedges into Grits, it is those at the centre of our current government, who have so recklessly and clumsily eviscerated the national fabric to curry favour with the provinces. That isn’t asymmetrical federalism; it is appeasement federalism, plain and simple. Better yet is Mr. Gregg’s term “Frankenstein federalism,” as the current government’s approach to our fiscal challenges is clearly monstrous.
While we appreciate the correction on the location of the Law Courts Building, it is actually York Avenue, not York Street as you indicate (Letters, May). In Winnipeg, avenues generally run east-west and parallel to Portage Avenue. Streets, meanwhile, generally run north-south, and perpendicular to Portage Avenue. Confusing a street with an avenue can put you on the wrong side of town—and very late for your doctor’s appointment.
Michael Dillon, MD
Journalist Bill Cameron died early in the morning on March 12, 2005, not late in the evening on March 11, as was reported in the May issue.
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