Tag Archives: North Korea

Fire and Fury

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago the person who oversaw both the men’s and women’s shelters in this city expressed his surprise that far more actual physical fights broke out in the women’s shelter than in the men’s.

But it did make perfect sense after we discussed it.

Some irritation would occur, expected when living on top of one another, and a man would verbally insult another man. Then a pattern of behaviour would unfold that was learned on the playgrounds of every public school, playing field and back alley, one that probably has genetic roots we can observe with our cousins, the apes and chimpanzees.

“Yeah, and who’s gonna make me?”

“You and who’s army?”

Chin thrust forward, the baring of teeth, the snarl, the threatened encroachment on the other’s space, insulting the other’s sexuality, his courage, his birth, his mother, name calling, dire threats for the future, the unfurling of plumage.

Other men (boys) would intervene pulling the two apart as they hurled their last insults at one another. Their assuaging words were always of the order of, “He ain’t worth it.”

This last part is important, for it is face saving for both antagonists. And an actual fight is averted. Life goes on.

In the women’s shelter, one would insult the other, and the recipient of the insult would hurl herself at the antagonist. They had not experienced the same playground socialization.

I am thinking about this because of Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump and the way war begins, and even those words of Tillerson and others, “It’s the only language Kim Jong Un understands.”

No. No. No.

Tillerson, your job is to put your arm around Donald Trump, pull him aside and say, “He ain’t worth it.”

Maybe no one can do that with Kim.

It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that one of the protagonists, these blustering would-be alpha males, especially the stronger of the two, gets pulled back.

“Donald, he ain’t worth it.”

Now if American leadership really was smart and confident, it could offer Kim some face saving device. “But we will look weak,” American leadership will scream. This despite the fact they have the capacity to destroy the world and we all know it.

Tillerson, you appear mostly sane to me, and a man who understands a few things. It is your job to pull Trump aside and tell him, “He ain’t worth it. You could take him easy, but it ain’t worth it.”

And would it kill you to promise Kim that you will stop flying B 52’s over North Korea and stop practicing war in South Korea if he stops testing A bombs?

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I am Distressed to Hear the War Drums

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I am distressed to hear the war drums. I am distressed listening to the talking heads, the panel of retired generals, pundits, and experts on CNN talk of war with North Korea. I am distressed by their matter-of-factness, by their strategic and political ponderings, all so devoid of horror.

How do we remain so inured to the real consequences of war?

My grandfather died in 1972. I had long thought he fought at Vimy, and on a visit there, to see the trenches and the monument, I wrote in the guest book, “I came to see where my grandfather fought.” In the trenches and the bomb craters one can smell the fear, sense the horror, see the threat of opposing trenches a stone’s throw away. At the monument, awe and pride intrude. My grandfather was here.

But it turns out he wasn’t.

Thanks to the wonders of the digital age I now have 93 adobe pages of my grandfather’s military record from the moment he enlisted until his discharge and the time of his death.

He enlisted in January of 1915 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force when it was still necessary for a married man to have his wife’s permission. His wife and my grandmother was Irene Alice who he left behind in Victoria with three children. A fourth would arrive, at least by my calculations, after the war.

On the enlistment form, just above a final declaration, is a curious question: “Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement?” He answered “yes” and then completed the form with a signature much like my father’s and my own. He was 28 years old and five foot nine. He was assigned to the 30th battalion and sent overseas in the spring of 1915. From January 1915 until March 31, 1916 my grandmother received between 30 and 40 dollars per month.

He spent the summer training at Shorncliffe, on the Kentish coast of England, and then, in September, he was shipped to the front. The front being the trenches of France, and then Belgium and the second battle of Ypres.

Twice in France he was taken from the trenches to a field hospital suffering from influenza. He was promoted to Sergeant by late September 1915, and then to Sergeant Major. Upon discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On June 3, 1916, at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, within the second battle of Ypres, my grandfather rose from the trench at the call to charge. A bullet pierced his right bicep and shrapnel hit him in the right side of his face. He was evacuated to the Graylingwell War Hospital with “wounds to his right arm and scalp”.

In the documents I have the army is more detailed and thorough in its descriptions of the pay records than either combat or medical experiences, but I do have terse notes by doctors and digitized versions of the original x-rays.

My grandfather’s right arm healed quickly. The x-rays show a piece of shrapnel behind the right eye lodged in bone. They did not attempt to remove this. He is transferred to a convalescent hospital with his arm healed and almost fully functional but suffering from poor sleep (nightmares of his time in the trenches), headaches and dizzy spells. The dizzy spells cause him to black out and fall frequently. Specialists cannot find a physical cause to explain these latter symptoms and they diagnose the etiology as, in part, “nervous”.

By August of that year he is declared medically unfit to return to duty and then formally discharged from the army in January, 1917. The monthly pay to my grandmother ceases two months later.

So he did fight in the trenches; he was wounded, and he was furloughed to London as I knew, but he didn’t fight at Vimy as I had come to believe. And it is 30 to 40 years later that I formed my first memories of my grandfather and he never spoke of the war and I had no idea of the questions I might ask.

But now my medical curiosity has kicked in. Initially his symptoms might have been concussive, or post concussive. Next he certainly suffered from what they called “nerves” and would soon refer to as “shell shock” and now PTSD. He did suffer the living hell of the cold muddy trenches in France and Belgium through the winter of 1916. He watched men dying suddenly. He watched men dying slowly. He watched men throw themselves into battle to relieve their growing terror.

But it is also possible that he continued to report dizzy spells and he continued to fall down at the convalescent hospital because he did not want to go back to those trenches.

Perhaps he had come to know that in war there is no glory to be had.

Je Suis Charlie

cartoonBy Marvin Ross and Dr David Laing Dawson

As a journalist, on more than one occasion, I’ve been threatened with legal action for what I’ve written. And that is fair game for my often controversial articles. I once even had someone write a letter of complaint and cancel her subscription to a magazine because she objected to an article I did on hemorrhoids – yes piles because my lede said “ever since man began walking upright….”  I hurt her religions sensibilities and I have hurt the sensibilities of those who do not like psychiatric medications and some of them have called me some pretty nasty stuff. But the complaints against my writing have never gone farther than that.

And in our blog post on homegrown terror, Dr Dawson said “But at a certain low and troubled time in his life, how is a young man to know that this charismatic ordained bearded father with an ancient text under his arm, promising brotherhood, glory, certainty — is really a murderous psychopath?”

And, as Dawson’s blog on Sony and North Korea said:

“Of all the freedoms we have in our western democracies, the one we should prize the most is our freedom to poke fun at, to satirize, to lampoon, (and to seriously criticize) our leaders and our deities. It is by this freedom that all the others are protected. And so it is this freedom that deserves the most vociferous protection, the most careful vigilance, the strongest defense. It is this freedom that every would-be dictator first erodes (e.g. Russia, Turkey), and it is this freedom that allows us to become more than vassals, serfs, slaves, and supplicants.”

We must continue to tell the truth as we see it and to satirize for not to means that we have given in to terror and abandoned our freedoms.

RIP all the victims of terror everywhere.

Sony, North Korea and the Role of Satire

David Laing DawsonBy Dr David Laing Dawson

News item: Sony suspends release of “The Interview”.

By all accounts this film is a satirical comedy targeting one of Hollywood’s favorite demographics: teenage boys. It is probably lame and stupid and crude. So is this important news, this response to threats presumably originating in North Korea?

Well, yes, I think so, for this reason: Of all the freedoms we have in our western democracies, the one we should prize the most is our freedom to poke fun at, to satirize, to lampoon, (and to seriously criticize) our leaders and our deities. It is by this freedom that all the others are protected. And so it is this freedom that deserves the most vociferous protection, the most careful vigilance, the strongest defense. It is this freedom that every would-be dictator first erodes (e.g. Russia, Turkey), and it is this freedom that allows us to become more than vassals, serfs, slaves, and supplicants.

I think we instinctively know this. For when we can laugh at our Queen, our President, our Prime Minister, our Religious Leaders, and especially when we see they are smiling with us, we know we need not fear them.

The freedom to lampoon and satirize may be even more important than the freedom to seriously criticize, for satire is surely the most effective way to burst the bubble of tyranny, of autocracy, and of stupid fables masquerading as truth.

We need George Carlin parsing the ten commandments. We need Charlie Chaplin lampooning Adolf Hitler. We need Seth Rogen making fun of The Supreme Beloved Leader. We need Danish cartoons of Allah. We need “The Life of Brian”. We need our cartoons of mayors and premiers and prime ministers doing stupid things. This is the freedom of expression that guards all other freedoms and protects us from our own cowardice, stupidity and vanity. And more importantly, it protects us from the nefarious ambitions of those among us who love to tell everybody else how to live.