There Goes My Hero

MARCHAND2
Not everyone gets to talk to their heroes. Not everyone has the chance to sit next to the living embodiment of what can be accomplished, when you set your mind to it.

The first time I spoke to my hero was in October of 2008. I was sitting in my living room and my phone rang. A scratchy voice on the other side of the line asked if I was “Joey Jack who writes all those letters to the editor?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Who is this please?” I said, expecting someone was preparing to tell me off.

“Well, my name is Len Marchand Sr and I grew up just down the road from your family on the reserve in Vernon.”

I was shocked.

He refused to allow me to call him Mr Marchand, or senator or any other sort of honourific.

“Just Len,” he said.

Len had called me to let me know that he had been following me in the paper over the years and felt I had greater things ahead of me.

My hero made me cry.

We kept in touch over the years and would talk politics and whatever else we could think of. Laughing about Pierre Trudeau while his beautiful wife Donna served coffee and muffins. Len always corrected the way I said kilometre. Who was I to argue with the man who brought the metric system to Canada?

By the way, reporters on CBC says kilometre correctly.

Over the years, Len and I kept in touch over the telephone and I secretly adopted him as my grandpa. I would call him to brag about good news in my life and for advice. He always gave me sound advice and always told me he was proud of me.
We spoke after the last federal election for an article I was writing for a publication. He was beaming while talking about the election results.

“I look back to the mid and late 50s when we were just trying to get the vote,” he said, “Now 54 First Nations people were candidates.”

When I asked him about Stephen Harper he said, “The only thing I like about Stephen Harper is that my second name is Stephen and his second name is Joseph, which was my dad’s name.”

We laughed.
Over the past 6-8 months I’ve been dealing with depression and the last time Len called me was just this past March. I called him the previous day and he could hear the sadness in my voice as I tried to be strong and put on a brave face when he asked how I was doing.

The next day he called me back and told me he cared for me and that I should keep my eyes on the prize of better things tomorrow.

Now, that I’m feeling better about things, I had meant to call him and thank him for always being in my corner.

So, while many people will read the tributes and recaps about The Hon. Leonard Marchand Sr PC CM, I just wanted to tell you about my hero, fellow Okanagan Indian, friend and secret adopted grandpa Len.

Thank you Len.

Thank you for showing every Indian person in Canada that determination, hard work and kindness can help you achieve what you set out to do.

A Response to Chris Kempling

Dear Editor,

The Kamloops PennySaver recently printed a column by known religious-zealot-homo-focused-former-teacher-bus-driver Chris Kempling titled, “And Such Were Some Of You..” which was basically about who famous people have sex with.

Kempling jumps around the Bible, picking some tidbits of info from the Old and New Testament to get to his point that people choose their sexuality. How does he attempt to prove that people choose their sexuality? Because a gay guy who can write songs is now married and has nine kids and Anne Heche used Ellen Degeneres to try and advance her career.

I wish that people like Kempling would just stop with their fascination with homosexuals and who and how we have sex. I get that people should be able to express themselves, but there are far more interesting subjects to discuss which, more than how many children an “ex gay” man has, will really make you scratch your head.

It’s the concept of “ex-straight.”

Take a look at some of the more famous ex-straight people in the world. A man like George Rekers, a psychologist, minister, co-founder of the Family Research Council and scientific advisor to the North Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH.) In 2010, Mr Rekers was photographed with a male prostitute from the rentboy website returning from a trip to Europe. When questioned about the incident Mr Rekers stated he needed a travel companion to help with luggage, even though he was seen photographed picking up a suitcase, and also stated he liked to “spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”

yikes

What did the prostitute say? That he gave him daily nude massages for his sore body, including his sore genitals.

Isn’t that CRAZY!? That’s far more an interesting story than someone being sexually repressed by religion.

Take a look at ex-straight pastor Ted Haggard. He was the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder of the 10,000 follower strong New Life Church in Colorado. Haggard was even captured on film for a documentary called “Jesus Camp” quite plainly condemning homosexuality. In 2006, it came to light that Mr Haggard was engaged in a meth fueled sexual relationship with a gay prostitute. He later admitted to masturbating infront of a 20-year-old male church member. To quote Grant Haas, “..he grabbed a bottle of lotion and started masturbating.” Haas also said that Haggard told him that even men of God can have a little fun on the side.

fabbulouthhhh

Isn’t that WILD?! Far far more interesting than promoting shaming and pressuring individuals to conform to archaic stereotypes and gender roles.

I also wish that people like Kempling would discuss more serious issues raised in the Bible. Sins we’re all guilty of on a daily basis. Did you know that there are more damning statements about lending money for profit in the old and new testament that any discussion about homosexuality.

Infact, Ezekiel 18:13 says “He lends at interest and takes a profit. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.”

Pretty scary stuff eh? There goes our entire economic system. I wonder if the person who borrows the money should also be put to death? I mean, like when a man layeth with a man as a woman (Lev 18:22,) both parties go into it with their eyes open so shouldn’t everyone who’s reading this with a mortgage, credit card or student loan be put to death?

Even Jesus spoke out against usury more than homosexuality. That’s because Jesus NEVER spoke about homosexuality. It was the apostle Paul who, only after he cut the schmuck (foreskin) off of Timothy’s teenaged schmekel (penis) (Acts 16:3,) said people didn’t need to be circumcised (Galatians 5:2,) who spoke out against the gays (Corinthians 6:9-10.)

The most annoying part of Kempling’s unlettered rant was where he said that “some people aren’t happy with their sexuality.”

Yeah Chris..for a long time a lot of people hid that they were of mixed race on account of the ignorance which is rampant in society. My great grandmother went to her grave saying she was Dutch because people hated Germans after WW1.

Gay kids are 14 times more likely to kill themselves than kids who are not gay and people in society who support and promote the continued shaming, abandoning and pressuring of people to conform, need to give their heads a serious shaking.

Albert Camus said that it’s the responsibility of the thinking person to not be on the side of the executioners and the same concept applies here.

If Chris Kempling lined up the gays and prostitutes, like the ones I mentioned above for a good old bronze age stoning on one side of the street, which side of the street do you think his Lord and Saviour would be standing?

?

That’s what I thought.

Joey Jack

Human Rights Tribunal Affirms Well Known Truths

The recent decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal regarding the unfair treatment of Aboriginal children and their families by under funding of programs by the Federal government affirms what us in the Aboriginal world have known all of our lives.

We’ve been and continue to be treated like dirt by the Canadian government and our fellow Canadians.

Quick history lesson:
-Indians were rounded up and placed on plots of land, all other lands were taken from them
– Permission required to leave the reserve
– Children taken away and robbed of everything that made them people
– Having religion forced on them
– Being barred from hiring legal council
– Being barred from selling and buying goods from non-aboriginals
– Being banned from poolhalls
– Not having the right to vote federally until 1960
– Not having the right to a representative jury (the first Aboriginal juror served in 1972.)
– Sexist status policies robbed thousands of Aboriginal women of status whilst granting non-Aboriginal women “Indian” status
– Unfair funding cap put in place 20 years ago (looking at you Jean Chretien!)
– Over represented in prison populations, violent crimes and soup kitchens
– The findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission showing that non-Aboriginals were taught the same slanted and hurtful lessons about Aboriginal peoples

And now the Human Rights Tribunal has found that the previous HARPER government (feels good to write that) underfunded Aboriginal child welfare programs in the range of 22-34 per cent compared to non-Aboriginal children in care. These are innocent children remember.

Chip on my shoulder? No. The few items I mentioned above are just the superficial wrongs which most Canadians know, or at least should know, before they collectively shrug their shoulders while saying to themselves “meh, happened along time ago…” I’m not even going to get into the deeper racism which exists in our world and in my opinion played out very well during the OKIB/CN rail line debacle of 2015, but that’s another letter for another day. Let’s just say that the leaders of the Okanagan Valley can look to the coast for how to build meaningful relationships with Aboriginals.

What next?

I am holding out for the implementation of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to following through on.

I’m also holding out for Aboriginal leaders to show up to the table ready to do some of the heavy lifting. The capacity to provide the necessary services has to come from our own communities, from our own people.

It’s time for Canadians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to take a long look at ourselves in the mirror.

I’m often told, “I didn’t do anything to you, it was someone else.” Yes, you’re right, and when you ask aloud why some Aboriginals get their post secondary education paid for (also underfunded,) my response to you will be “Well we didn’t do anything..it was someone else.” I bet the majority of Aboriginals would’ve given up the free education part…had we known that it meant generations of our children would be subject to sexual abuse and systemic murder at the hands of the Canadians responsible for the Residential Schools.

Apology not accepted by the way, still in the cooling off period.

We’re stuck in this hostile holding pattern because since Confederation, Canada has treated Aboriginals as the junior partner. Our education system relegated us to the margins of history books, our governments deny our colonial history and if internet comment boards are any indication, at least 31.9 per cent of Canadians don’t think there’s a problem at all and if there is one, it’s not Canada’s.

Well I’m here to tell you it is Canada’s problem and until we air out this 150-year-old dirty laundry, reconciliation will never happen and the stink of racism will never go away.

“I” statements anyone?

So.. when I was five I was hit by a van.

The scar starts at the right side my temple and creates some kind of C like formation on my scalp. I remember being able to actually feel the wound and having skin flap over my hand (that’s when I started to cry cos I was a tough post-toddler..How tough? I told my mom to stop crying in the ambulance.)

I don’t consider what happened to me as being actual head trauma because I’m not dead and my GPA is pretty good. A good friend decided to mess with me (love you d-caf) by suggesting that I act how I act because of the accident. I’m in a weird predicament because when you’re only five, you’ve not had a lot of time to develop into anything..so I don’t recall how I changed post accident.

I can’t really rely on my family to say whether or not I changed because in the 80’s, parents gave lesser shits about their kids and my siblings were probably already actively ignoring me.

So now I’m stuck wondering if getting hit by a car was the best thing that ever happened to me or the second best thing that ever happened to me?

I often think about how I would be if I didn’t live in Kamloops anymore and if I would be the same kind of person. In my wildest fantasies, I would be considered a far more cerebral person discussing important subjects at great length while keeping comedy to a minimum. 

I’ve failed nearly every chance to “just be,” because I’m just more comfortable performing for people. There is a wonderful sense of control to be in front of one or 1000 people being the one guy everyone is paying attention to. Moment of honesty? I often get horrible anxiety while being out in public spaces. I just want to wear headphones and buy my groceries and go home rather than engage in idle chat…I feel weird about it and it has nothing to do with the other person.

Another moment of honesty?

I’ve found myself stuck in the grips of depression for a long time.

It’s not a strange thing to feel because I know many of us feel the same way and we’re just not used to talking about it.

There are so many contradictions with depression and just overall mental health issues. I am anxious to go out and just be, but when I do go out, I can’t help but try to be entertaining. I’ll be in the WORST mood while shopping or something and still try to be funny/kind to people around me. What I love about posting these entries is the ability for others to point out times I’ve not been kind.

This post isn’t about that.

Why can’t we just always be able to express how we feel? What the hell is so wrong with saying “I fucking hate when you do that bullshit asshole.” Wouldn’t it be great if that person could say, “yeah? Well I hate when you do this!?” It’s like we’re so afraid of conflict that we just let the strangest shit happen all around us.

Conflict happens and things blow over. How do I know this? I’m the youngest of four kids. Trust me..people get over shit.

I’m not entirely sure what this post is about anymore, but I told myself to free write today this way rather than a word document that gets deleted.

Back to the topic of depression, I’m not sure if people realize how feeling depressed becomes a “normal” pattern and you start to think that the ideas that are happening in the depressed state are perfectly reasonable. I can’t speak for anyone else because I don’t speak to many people about my own depression, but months afterwards you start to feel bad again because you ask yourself “what was I thinking?”

The cycle can get exhausting.

There is a strange paradox being a depressed person and known to be entertaining. Complete strangers share with me the most intimate of details because they saw me beaming about my gran, mom, niece of nephew on CFJC. You want to show empathy and sympathy for their issues, but maintain a firewall to be sure not to get caught up in other people’s problems (yeah you know me!)

I don’t know if I’m unable to discuss my depression issues because of the following reasons:
1. Trite responses like “awww hun.”
2. Giving that person something to use against me one day for whatever reason.
3. Knowing that if I share my problems with someone..they’re SO prepared to share their problems with me.
4. I grew up in a family full of people who would just rather not talk about anything too personal.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be there for my friends and support them when they need me. I may share a personal story with them to let them know I understand where their coming from, but more and more these days, I’m noticing that when people start to share their problems, it becomes a contest to see who is worse off.

I don’t know if my frequent-ish depression issues stem from my environment or one of these “chemical imbalances” we hear about now and again. I read an article from The Walrus:

“I said I’d had a difficult period with some colleagues and had found it hard to control my emotions, to which she [Joni Mitchell] said, ‘Why the hell would you want to do that?’ For an artist like Joni, the whole point is to be completely in touch with the volatility of emotions.” Stevie Wonder once told him that “he often couldn’t finish a take, because he’d be on the verge of tears. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” Artists offer consolation, Levitin says. “It’s like you’ve been cut off from your emotions, and suddenly there’s another person feeling what you want to feel. They’re on the cliff edge with you, and, more than that, they’ve taken their despair and turned it into a beautiful piece of art. It’s inspiring.”

http://walrusmagazine.com/articles/2008.05-sad-music-depression-moira-farr/

Should I just accept that I’ve always been who I’ve been and stop living up to expectations I’ve created for people who know me? Should I just be more comfortable to say to people, “Hey, I’m having a me day..thanks.”?

Or has the past 29 years been a flash forward for the little boy who was just hit by a car and is laying on a gurney at RIH?

I guess what I’m saying is…. I don’t know if my accident affected my brain and I don’t want to know.

I thought I’d write this profoundly personal blog entry but I’ve been trained to self censor ever since I was eight.

For what it’s worth..if you’re a quiet person dealing with depression and we’ve met….I just want you to know..that I know where you’re coming from and it’s why I try and hug as many of my friends as possible when I see them.

We’re all we have on this ever-shifting mass called Earth.

p.s. Remember earlier when mentioned if I thought being hit by a car was the best thing to happen to me or the second best thing to happen to me? I think the other best thing to happen to me was to be able to finally accept that I am a person that deals with depression.

It’s like I’ve come out all over again!

I hope I experience the same level of weight loss as I did when I told people I was a gay.

j2

Innocence.

I’m quick to say that I dislike children.

When people hear that they often say, “Oh! You were a child once.”

It’s true, I was a child once. I was a self loathing child. I would sit there watching PBS Nova thinking “I wish I was older.” I couldn’t wait to get older.

I am still waiting to grow up.

There are two children that I love very much. My niece Lilah and my nephew Hunter are my sister’s kids and they’re so special.

Yesterday we watched TV for a couple of hours…well I should clarify, the television was on and my niece and nephew were spending their free time annoying me while I sat on the sofa.

I loved it.

They were playing with felt pens and I told them to give me tattoos.

Lilah wrote on my arm that Charlie, Rango, Mimi, Peaches and Odie RULE! (those are a sampling of her pets.)

Hunter drew two things. He drew a potato which he named Oxy and a man with a small body, a big head wearing a birthday hat, with a big nose complete with ice cube hanging out of it.

He also drew an hour glass.

He named the man Horbart and said that he was “running out of time,” in reference to the hour glass.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He’s running out of time to feel normal.”

It was an interesting thing to say.

In the light of the recent shootings in the USA, it’s nice to know that my niece and nephew are still sweet innocent children.

I hope that Hunter’s mention of time running out to feel normal wasn’t one of those strange insights that only children have.

Who’s running out of time?

Who feels normal and what does it mean?

I wish I took a picture of the drawings. They were pretty cute and in terms of what Lilah wrote, given that two of the pets are sleeping right beside my mom.. I think she’s right.

Mom

I wrote this in April. Within a few months of the post, my mom suffered a stroke. Things are so different in our lives now.

***

Mom

I’ve been visiting the home I grew up in recently. It’s been a few years since I’ve done so.

I don’t really recognize the place anymore. The stairs aren’t as steep as mine and the walls in my old room have been painted over.

It’s been interesting to explore my past, to see the items that were once on display in my old room relegated to a few boxes and bags under the stairs.

I found some of my jewelry of mine in the bathroom that an ex-boyfriend and I painted yellow. My first earring (yes I only got one pierced to begin with,) and a silver bracelet that my mom bought me for my 19th birthday.

I decided to ask my mom if she had any of my other jewelry. I don’t have the heart to tell her I can’t find my grad ring so I was hoping that she’s been storing it all this time.

“I don’t know what jewelry of yours I’d have, but I can check,” she said.

I was at her house on Easter Sunday and stood in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. Peeling potatoes and catching up with my sister, while her 8 year old son Hunter laid on the sofa watching television.

I’ve come full circle. With so many of my aunts and uncles gone, I’m now officially the uncle. I’m the one who comes to visit and spend a little time with the kids before going off into the world again.

My mom got home at 2 p.m. & we chatted about her day at work. My mom is one of the funnier people in my life. She’s my own personal Betty White, preferring to be clean but knowing full well that an inappropriate comment from her will inspire “ewws” and “MOTHER!!”while she relishes the attention.

I am my mother’s son.

She told me that she found some my jewelry and my silver dollars. I didn’t want them, I just that I wanted to know if she had them.

“You can take them if you like, or I can hold on to them.. well until the day you’ll have to take them,” she said.

My mom is 67 years old and believe me that I’m at the age where I’m worried about her. When she said, “until you have to take them,” my thoughts went to mortality…the fragility of it all.

We stood there by the washing machine for a moment and she told me some bittersweet news.

“I’ve told Jen and Chris that I want you to have my wishbone earrings.”

They are my mother’s favourite pair of earrings, perhaps her most cherished item. Little golden wishbones with a diamond on each one.  She’s lost one of them for short periods of time, but its always turned up.

The shag carpet crisis of the early 90’s sticks out in my mind, but the crisis was averted after some close inspection.

After hearing the news I told her I didn’t want to know.

“No, no, no mom,” I said “I can’t hear this right now.”

Her eyes filled with tears and so did mine.

I asked her if she was sick or was there something I should know.

“No, I’m not sick…”

We just stood there for a moment.

“I love you very much momma.”

She told me how she waited for so long for the earrings to go on sale at Woodward’s department store.

“I’m cheap!” she said laughing.

It was good to laugh after our little moment.

We moved to the backyard and chatted about the future, where I’m going and what I want to do. I told her of a job I’m hoping to get in Saskatchewan.

As we talked she reached for her pack of cigarettes and I noticed the tape covering the pictures.

“It’s of someone who had a stroke I think,” said my mom. I wish she’d just quit already.

I went for a drive while Jen and my mom finished preparing dinner. I went by each of the other three houses I spent time in as a child. They’ve been repainted and renovated. The landscaping is different and all of the neighbours have long since moved away. Like my old bedroom, all I have is my memories.

I’ve not sat down at my mom’s house for a holiday dinner for 3-4 years.

The food was delicious but this dinner was different from others I’d attended in the past.

My mom and I sat at the table and ate while Jen attended to Hunter, who has been sick. Lilah and her friend Amy went to Lilah’s bedroom and watched a movie while eating their dinner. My brother in law Darcy helped Jen with Hunter.

My brother Mike is in California and Chris is in Edmonton, so it felt like it was just the two of us.

As I was dropped off after dinner I asked my mom again if she was ill.

“I’m tough, I can handle it.” (yeah right.)

“No, I’m not sick!”

Before I went to bed I was watching a program on Discovery about seals. How the mother and baby must bond quickly if the baby is to survive.

During a scuffle on the beach a baby is separated from his mother. He sits on the beach calling out for her and soon is rescued.

It seemed metaphoric.

I think returning to the house I grew up in was very cathartic. I know time waits for no one and while sometimes you’re the salmon swimming against the river to return home, other times you have be a tuna and go with the current (thanks Seinfeld!)

After graduation I am going to allow myself to be caught in the current and let it take me where it will.

I’m not the seal pup on the beach calling for his mother anymore.

I hope I don’t “have to take” my jewelry from my mom for decades. She’s such a special person and even the thought of losing her makes me ill.

I was so touched to hear that she wants me to have something of hers that has meant so much to her. She’s considered the wishbone earrings to be good luck because no matter how many times they’ve gone astray, they’ve always found their way home.

And like the earrings being good luck, a part of me hopes my mom has considered me good luck. The child a doctor warned her not to have because she might have died. The son that clung to her like glue as a child. The son who would sleep at the foot of her bed because he was afraid of the dark. The son that accompanied her while she looked for her other children in the middle of the night. The son that spent three days on a bus to be home with her when she was sick.

When I am feeling low, I think about my mom. I think about the life she’s had and what she’s been through and her strength helps me through tough times.

On the sad sad day when I actually call for my mother and she doesn’t come to rescue me, I’ll take comfort in knowing that I’ll always have something of hers that she cherished.

I hope all of my hair is gray when that happens and just to be safe, I’m going to buy some dye.

If you’re reading this… I want you to tell your parents that you love them.

I love you momma.

Image

Talking to Canadians

I took an outlaw journalism class last year. We watched a Rick Mercer, talking to Canadians clip and our teacher wanted us to do something similar.

I wrote a satirical piece responding to a man that said quite racist things to me without even knowing it.

I thought it would be interesting to do a “Talking to Canadians,” bit and my teacher suggested I ask people to comment on the fact that Indians were going to receive free Tim Bits via a land claim settlement. I created two crude looking jpegs that appeared to look like the CBC website and asked people to read the stories and give me their comments.

The second “story” outlined the agreement reached between the Metis and the feds. Free WIFI, cable and cell service for all!
I put the photos on my tablet so they looked like I was connected to the internet.

It was a really fun assignment and only one person called me a liar.

CBC.CA

Some people’s children…

I will never forget

December 6, 1989, 14 women lost their lives and millions of women saw their lives change.

The Montreal Massacre, a documentary directed by Gerry Rogers gives not only a personal, first hand account of the tragedy, but also its lasting effect on women. The powerful film includes testimony from Sylvie Gagnon, a survivor of the attack, and interviews with women from various walks of life reflecting about their own personal experiences with violence and abuse.

The film outlines the different ways that women are exposed to abuse and how this continuing pattern can only help to produce more violent cowards, like Marc Lepine (the shooter.) These abusive behaviors begin to emerge at a young age for some and generational indoctrination seems to only buttress the status quo. Words like “bitch” are thrown out towards women who stand up for themselves intellectually , words like “slut” are thrown at women who have more than one partner while a male counterpart may be called the more acceptable term of “stud.”

I don’t think it is appropriate to blame these behaviors on the media. While it’s true that some parents rely on television to raise their children, it is ultimately parents responsibility to teach their children good behavior. If my mother didn’t teach me better lessons than I learned on television, I would have though it was completely acceptable to use the terms Archie Bunker used to describe certain groups of people.

It has been said that the men who left the classroom, when directed to by Marc Lepine, felt terrible afterward. The guilt of survivors has been well documented. In some instances, I agree that it’s appropriate to feel helpless in a situation when someone loses their life. In the case of the men who left the victims behind, there is no excuse. If you were asked to leave a room because you were a man, leaving behind a group of women with a man carrying a gun, you pretty much pulled the trigger.

The film really affected me. I felt sick. I remember when it happened, I was 10, what did I know?

I think there is an ongoing war against women on different fronts. “Red Zones” push marginalized women to the outskirts of society where, when they go missing, aren’t really that missed. The trail of tears in Northern B.C. The Pickton’s and Russell Williams’ out there.

There are still grumblings over a woman’s right to choose and the objectifying of women continues today. I suppose, in some perverse, kind of way…the objectifying of both sexes has occurred.

There are no winners though in the war against women, we all lose. We all lose – because without women in our lives what would we be? A bunch of jerk offs who would continue to entertain each other by passing gas and punching each other in the face. What a smelly and painful place that would be.

To quote James Brown..

Man makes the car, to take us over the road.
Man makes the train, to carry the heavy load.
Man makes the electric lights to take us out of the dark.
Man makes a boat for the water, just like Noah built the ark.

It’s a man’s world…

 

But he wouldn’t be nothing, without a woman or a girl.

 

I’d never leave a friend behind if a man was carrying a gun.

I’m crying just thinking about it.

 

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