Various Veins

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Ross Andrews - Various Veins

I came upon an article in October issue of The Walrus that brought me wide awake. I was reading in bed, you see. That usually lulls me to sleep. This was a letter from a professor to his students.

Okay, I'm not a professor. Still, a retired teacher can relate to this idea.

The professor was inspired by an author named Howard Zinn. Here's another parallel. I have never read Zinn, but I have been inspired by other authors, Richard Feynman in particular.

Howard Zinn wrote, "You can't be neutral on a moving train."

The train Zinn speaks of is not a real machine. It is a metaphorical train of events, change is happening just as scenery passes the windows of a coach.

Why can we not be neutral in the train of events carrying us along from day to day and year to year? Ask the makers of American cars who saw their products lag behind those of Europe and Asia. Ask Blackberry and IBM. Ask Beltone. Look at the decaying textile mills of Ontario crumbling to dust. What became of Tillsonburg Shoe?

This month we citizens of the tricounty area are being wooed by people who want to be our mayor, our councillor, our trustee. Do we know who has the best knowledge and intent to handle the challenges ahead? Will we vote or be neutral?

This week we citizens of Canada went to war. MPs who chose to stay neutral on this train are demanding answers. The claims that Canadians deserve to know how long our part in the war will last, how many people will be sent into battle and for how long are being made for political gain. If they are made for any other reason we can count ourselves lucky the askers are not our leaders.

Not so many months ago Canadian and American leaders announced when their forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq. All the opposing forces had to do was mark time until they had a highball signal to drive their trains of horror full steam ahead.

Suppose our leaders published estimates of the cost to wage this war. It would be pure guesswork, and provide the neutralists unimaginable scorn to heap on the government.

The same problem exists in estimating time to be able to leave the fighting to the citizens of North Africa.

Monetary costs depend on the amount of time it takes to make the world safe from assassins. All these conditions are evident in the torrent of articles about WWI and WWII just now.

Ebola virus is another moving train. Scared citizens ask if we are safe from the plague. What can be done to keep it out of Canada? There is no way to guarantee a virus of any sort can be kept out of any part of the world. A virus is not a living thing. It can lie inactive forever until it happens to be introduced into living tissue. As soon as that happens the packets of genetic material open and the genes begin attaching themselves to the proteins in the host and assembling copies of themselves. When they have crammed the cell with their clones they burst the walls and spread to other hosts.

What can be done is prepare our hospitals to keep staff, other patients and visitors from coming into contact with infected persons. Yes, that is expensive. Care to stay neutral?

Just as in the military war, there is opposition to methods that protect us from killer diseases. The opposers are convinced that inoculation causes such conditions as autism. By refusing to allow immunization these parents not only endanger their own children, they endanger everyone who comes into contact with them.

I remember all too well when we were afraid to swim in lakes and rivers where polio virus waited for living flesh. My neighbour Ray Baldwin had it. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met the virus and fought WWII from a wheel chair.

We can't be neutral on a moving train.

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