The Value Of Life

“These days I just try to remind myself of the miracle this is life and not take it for granted.”
-The Mischief Mistress

I almost lost an uncle recently. He, like the majority of my father’s family, lives out west so I don’t get to see him very often. He’s part of a group of people I love dearly and wish every day that I could see more of. For the past few years I’ve been dreaming about the trip I’m going to take out there once I graduate school. All the people I’ll see, the fun things we’ll do, and the photos I’ll take. The thought that he might not be there scares me to death. Or what about if I get married someday? I want him to be there too. In light of what almost happened I’ve been reevaluating what it means to be alive and what a gift it is to be so fortunate.

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Thoughts On The Gulf War

I recently did a Political Science Assignment on The Gulf War and I thought I’d share my thoughts with all you lovely people. What follows is a copy of the short essay I produced for the assignment. As always comments and alternative opinions are appreciated.

For the purpose of this paper I will discuss what I believe are the most important consequences of the Persian Gulf War. The three long term consequences that I will examine are 9/11, The Iraq War, and the demonization of Arabs and Islam in the popular discourse. This war, though little discussed in Canadian classrooms, was and is a major event that continues to shape the interactions between Western and Eastern countries on a daily basis.

The first major political consequence that I will be discussing is the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This attack was seen by the American population as an attack on the country as a whole and a declaration of war. Al-Qaeda, the group supposedly responsible, and their leader, Osama Bin Laden, were painted as insane Muslim terrorists by the media and the United States Government. The general population was lead to believe that this was an unprovoked attack on an innocent nation. This falsified, propaganda fuelled interpretation could not have been more untrue.

Committing a suicide bombing mission and killing hundreds of innocent civilians is a horrible thing to do, it pales in comparison to the horror caused by the American military during the Gulf War or any of their other conflicts. Why do I bring this up? I bring it up because without the Gulf War 9/11 may have never have happened. In taking responsibility for 9/11 Al-Qaeda leaders listed several Gulf War actions as their reasons for committing the attack. One of which was the construction of permanent U.S. Military bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in contradiction to America’s previous promise to its Arab allies not to do so. Another factor was the conduct of American soldiers towards retreating Iraqi troops such as in the Highway Of Death incident. If the United States had not engaged in the Gulf War many of the actions that supposedly provoked the 9/11 attacks might never have happened.

This brings me to the next major consequence of the Gulf war, the 2003 American invasion of Iraq colloquially referred to as the Iraq War or The War In Iraq. In respect to the Gulf War there are two ways of seeing this conflict: one, as the continuation of a conflict that never really ended or two, as a sequel to a previous conflict. Regardless of what view one takes it is clear to me that without the Gulf War the Iraq would not have happened or not in the same way. Much like in the Gulf War the United States created a nice sounding reason for why they were going to intervene/invade another country. When they went into the Gulf War it was to supposedly to protect Kuwait’s sovereignty. When they went into the Iraq War it was because Iraq’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction threatened their security. It eventually came to light that the U.S. had for the sovereignty of any state except their own and that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, the result of both these wars and the propaganda that fuelled them has been the demonization of Arabs and Islam in popular culture. While it’s true that Arabs were discriminated against and caricaturized before 9/11 the Western propaganda machine worked overtime in the wake of the attack to ramp up negative stereotypes and hated towards “those Arabs”. Some have argued that when the Cold War ended a new enemy was needed to rally against. Since the enemy could no longer be the Communists or the Russians/Soviets the creation of a new enemy was needed. This brings us to the current trope of “Muslim/Islamist Terrorist” that has helped garner support for wars and endanger the lives of Arabs and Muslims living in Western countries.

In conclusion, the Gulf War is a rarely discussed conflict that has shaped international relations on an immense scale and helped to cause the 9/11 attacks which moved most Western countries to tighten their security to an alarming degree, the Iraq War which in many cases can be as a continuation of a previous conflict, and the demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in popular culture.

Idealism

“Idealism is good, that’s how you get to realism.”
-Carly S.

This quote was said by a good friend of mine as we discussed the nature of war and how unnecessary the conflicts of the last ten years had been. I said that what was I about to say may be idealistic and this was her response. This to me is beautiful and a perfect example of what I fight for everyday in my role as a social justice advocate and free thinker in a culture that seems intent on oppressing opposing views.

The Meaning Of Courage

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”
– Ambrose Redmoor

This is a favourite quote of mine that I am sure many of you have heard time and time again over the years. Yet, for me the power of this quote never seems to wane. In times of hardship, war, bad times, tough times, and extreme loss we must find the courage in ourselves to press on. I think it is a grave misnomer that being courageous means that you are not afraid. It’s a out right lie most of the time and when its not there is probably something a miss. As humans we feel many emotions, fear being one of them. Were supposed to be afraid sometimes, it’s okay to be afraid. What it’s not okay to do is stop living your life or never try anything new because of that fear. I battle with this on a daily basis. It is not easy, but it is necessary. I deal with it by surrounding myself with people who I can trust who push me to do things, even when I’m scared. If anyone else has any strategies they use to tackle fear and being afraid in their daily lives I would love to hear them.

Baking Secrets

I realized recently upon reexamining my blogs subtitle that I haven’t posted anything on baking.
This has three main reasons:
-One: I couldn’t cook or bake in my previous house.
-Two: I keep most of my baking secrets to myself.
-Three: After I bake something that turns out well I usually put my remaining energy into uploading the photos to the website of the baking business I am a part of.

So without further ado, here are two cookie baking secrets I have come to live by.
1. Have you ever noticed that even when tightly sealed Brown Sugar tends to go hard, stiff, and clumpy over time? Corner shops have been known to sell ceramic disks to alleviate this problem, but there is a better and cheaper way: Bread. You know how nobody ever wants to eat the pieces on the end of the loaf? Take them out, fold them in half, and stuff them into your container or Brown Sugar. Putting a piece of bread in with your Brown Sugar stops it from getting hard and lumpy while neatly solving the, “What do we do with the end pieces?” problem.

2. This one I learned recently from a roommate/best friend of mine. The same trick works for keeping cookies soft! If you need to store cookies in a container and are worried about them going hard and becoming edible stick a piece of bread in there. As an added bonus, the bread trick also turns cookies that have become hard soft again.

Happy Baking! 🙂

The Absence Of Fear

“The fear that used to plaque me no longer does.”
-The Mischief Mistress

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be at peace, with yourself, with the universe, with the world around you. I think in a lot of ways peace is the absence of fear. When you are no longer scared, worried, or stressed then you find yourself in a place of peace.

Making Peace

Source: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/world-peace/images/31167779/title/peace-photo
Source: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/world-peace/images/31167779/title/peace-photo

“Something I’ve learned recently: when you make peace with the universe, the universe makes peace with you.”
– The Mischief Mistress

As those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know, I just got out of a terrible and stressful semester. For the first time in months I am happy. I am no longer over-stressed, overworked, and overtired. I finally live in a house where I am respected and made to feel welcome. I can bake again. I can cook my own food. I can live my own life without dreading coming home each night. I now feel safe coming home each night. I have learned to treasure small triumphs. Today I called mom after I getting my new oven to make perfectly baked cookies on the first try. I told her how my day was going and how much I’d enjoyed my first History of Rock & Roll class. I could hear her holding back tears as she spoke to me about how worried Dad and her have been about me. I can’t blame them. I was worried about me which is why I sought help in the first place. So here’s my message to all of you out there struggling with depression , a crappy living situation, a tough work load, or just a crummy week: don’t give up. Don’t loose hope because there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things are going to get better. I know it sounds cliche and it’s lot easier to see the light once you’ve come out the other side. I knew things would be better this semester, but when your deep in the throes of depression soon isn’t soon enough. You can’t see the light. But it is there, trust me.

The Spirit Eternal

As I mentioned in a previous post a friend and co-worker of mine recently passed away. On Wednesday I attended a memorial service in his honour. Until that moment it didn’t really hit me how much he had meant to me and how knowing him had changed my life. I heard that there had been a funeral service sometime in December, but from the sounds of what I heard afterwards I’m glad I attended the memorial service instead of the funeral.

The memorial service was held at the homeless youth resource center where I volunteer. Before you start thinking that I’m just one of those selfless people with lots of time on my hands, let me explain. Although I try to be selfless as possible, one of the main reasons I volunteer there is to fulfill a program requirement. The memorial service was held at the centre so that the homeless and downtrodden youth he spent his life helping could pay tribute as well as the volunteers and staff members who worked beside him. Members of his family along with close friends also attended.

Death to me is a very scary and bizarre thing. One day you’re talking to someone and the next they’re gone. I’ve been lucky in this respect. I haven’t known very many people who have died. I’ve had family members who lost people, but very few who I knew personally or all that well. The closest I’d come up until this point was the death of a beloved high school history teacher. An entirely different experience from the one I’m having now. In the previous case, the person I cared about became very sick and took a year’s leave which culminated in his passing. While I missed the person I had come to care about and trust, his year long absence from my life made his death feel more distant than my friend’s death does now.

The service itself was beautiful and a perfect tribute to his memory. I heard from friends that had also attended the funeral that it had been really impersonal. It was a full Catholic mass and the main speaker hadn’t known our friend at all. I’m glad they did a second service. After everyone crowded in, his partner and a close friend got called everyone’s attention. After a few words she turned it over to close friend of his who as we discovered was native in descent. She spoke of the person she had known and of how she had come to know him. She held up a basket of strawberries and explained their symbolism as the first berry of spring, of the many seeds they possess, and of the heart inside each one. The basket was then passed around and everyone ate on in his honour. She sang and drummed a song in his honour. A ceremonial stick was then passed around so that anyone who wanted to speak could. People shared stories and memories and the grief in the room became palpable.

Throughout the service I learned so much about him that I hadn’t known. I learned that he had been close to and very involved with many members of the region’s native community. I learned the importance of Christianity to his family members and that his family had lost three other members in the last two months. I learned that different spiritual views can be moulded into one vision of hope to owner a loved one lost. Later on five of his friends, who were also of native descent, did a chant, which without knowing the language I understood the meaning of. Another friend sang a Gaelic Wake song and after that one of his brothers told a biblical story.
Sitting in the taxi on my way home later that night what came back to me was the eternalness of one’s spirit and the definitiveness of one’s time on earth.