It’s been a month from hell for many Canadians — watching truckers clog the Ambassador Bridge and destroy normal life in the national capital for thousands more living in the city center. Not to mention an arson attempt — including locking shut the building’s front doors — on an Ottawa apartment building.
For those readers here who are not Canadian, this thuggish bullying behavior (still felt by First Nations and Inuit) has come as a tremendous shock to the system, in a country where we are socialized heavily to be polite, civil, calm. To discuss issues, not block millions of dollars of global trade because you feel like it.
It has really struck at the heart of what Canadians, at best, like to think of themselves — and I was born there and lived there ages five to 30. We are generally well-educated, thanks to much more affordable university than the U.S., and with a stronger system of public education. We are proud of being less aggressive and violent, not shooting one another daily, our children not subjected to “active shooter drills” in school.
So persistent aggression is simply…not what we’re used to.
The pandemic and Trump and the GOP and reams of disinformation and misinformation and about zero media literacy have added up to a new and toxic form of “freedom” — spitting and coughing viral load onto others for amusement; punching flight attendants in the face for daring to insist every passenger wear a mask; screaming abuse at retail clerks for asking shoppers to wear a mask. (Data point — the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team at Beijing 2022 beat the Russians wearing masks.)
Freedom has become weaponized into others’ fantasy we owe them deference, obedience, admiration, when all they’re doing is having the sort of public tantrum any weary parent hopes will fade after toddlerhood.
I am also really fed up watching fellow journalists — often trying to do a TV stand-up out in public — being shoved, shouted at and insulted for doing their job.
It’s incredibly selfish for anyone refusing vaccination to suck up ICU and ER and OR skills when others are getting sicker and sicker or dying for lack of access to the care they need.
People who were mature enough to care for themselves and their neighbors.
If you’ve been reading Broadside for a while — thank you! — you know I’m generally an openhearted person.
I like people and approach new situations, professional and personal, with a sense of optimism.
Working as a journalist means I have to quickly put strangers at ease and gather useful information from them. We have to establish trust fast — something of a contradiction.
Working as a journalist also means assuming most people are not lying to me, or want to do me harm in so doing, because a journalist who publishes lies is someone with a very short career. So we fact-check when possible and seek out sources whose background and credentials are as legit as we can find.
When it comes to personal relationships, trust is also paramount, at least for me.
My first marriage, to a physician, lasted barely two years; he bailed and remarried, quickly, a fellow therapist (!) he worked with and with whom he spent a lot of personal time. I was wholly reliant on him financially, so I had to trust him. I had little choice then.
Jose and I have spent time apart. I traveled alone for six weeks in Europe in June-July 2017, as blissful as I could be. I love solo time and traveling alone, exploring to my heart’s content.
I had an amusing evening in Berlin, sharing a table with three handsome young men (all co-workers), one of whom (as part of the conversation!) took off his dress shirt.
It was all good fun, nothing more.
Trust is the basic foundation of every interaction we have, from infancy to death:
— our parents
— our physicians
— our caregivers
— our teachers and professors
— our school/college administrators
— the police
— the courts
— our clergy and religious leaders
— our political leaders
— our relatives
— our romantic partners/spouses
— our employers
— youth group leaders
— our co-workers
— government agencies whose job it is to regulate/fine/shut down offenders
If you’re a person of color, or non-Christian, or gay, you have now become a target for hatred — with more and more deaths-by-vehicle, targeted by sociopaths or a pervasive police brutality that is deeply shocking, if no longer surprising.
You can’t even go out for a bike ride or a walk trusting in your personal safety.
And, as I’ve written here before, trust can be quickly shattered, and is difficult to regain….after dating a con man in 1998, being laughed at, literally, by my local police and D.A., my worldview would never be the same again.
My family relationships, too often toxic through anger and alcohol, taught me to be wary of intimacy.
Trust also underpins every freelance personal and professional relationship:
— our friends
— our colleagues
— our clients
— our agents
— our editors
— our social media networks
I spend a lot of time (too much!) on Twitter, where I have some 5600 followers, including some very senior people in my industry.
I’ve made several very good friends with people I still have yet to meet face to face, whether in Brazil or Tennessee.
So this past weekend, we did!
SO MUCH FUN!
A gay couple, one of whom works in our industry (journalism) and her partner, came up to our home and shared a long lunch that started at noon — and ended at 5:30.
We all took the chance of getting together and hoping we would be as we are on social media — fun, funny, playful, smart, interesting.
We were and we did.
I call these Twitter blind dates, not that we want a romantic thing, but we go into them really only knowing a tiny profile photo, a bunch of tweets and LinkedIn profile. Hoping for the best!
I’ve done this many times, never disappointed.
With a retail expert who lives in Virginia.
With a travel blogger and an archeologist (2 people) in Berlin.
We’ve been repeat house-guests a few times, and that also requires trust — that we’re quiet and thoughtful and don’t smoke or do drugs or will break or stain or ruin things. We bring food and drink and a gift and we always send a thank-you note.
We also trust our hosts to offer us a clean, soft bed. To let us have quiet alone time. To offer good food. To not (as one did to me?!) leave a filthy cat litter box beneath my pull-out bed.
I also once house-sat for a family of four headed to Tuscany from Vermont — unpaid. I was perfectly happy to walk their small affectionate dog. I was not at all happy to also get stuck watering their large garden in a heat wave and (!?) cleaning their pool.
That friendship died with this abuse of my time and energy. I trusted them to be fair with me, and they were not.
A Muslim family was out for a walk in London, Ontario, a regional city. Five went out and one returned — the rest mown down by a racist piece of garbage in his truck, who hated them for being…non-white. Non-Christian.
The sole survivor is a nine-year-old boy, orphaned.
And now a vicious and brutal attack on a gay man in Toronto for daring to be homosexual.
Not sure how I will celebrate Canada Day, July 1, this year.
Not sure I want to right now.
I haven’t been back to Canada since September 2019 because of Covid; the border has been closed ever since unless my travel is “essential” and it’s not.
Canadians so love to congratulate themselves for being polite and civil and compassionate, traditionally welcoming far more refugees and immigrants than the U.S. and many other countries.
Their social policies are generally much more generous than those in the U.S.
And they really enjoy making sure they are so much better than those nasty, violent racist Americans.
Today? I think not.
When I last lived in Toronto, the streetcar I took to the subway was filled with Caribbean Blacks, the bus down Spadina to my newspaper job filled with Vietnamese.
That was just normal life there.
No one noticed. No one sparked violence.
Pay your taxes, get along.
There isn’t a lot useful to say here, really, beyond expressing my horror and deep disappointment in my country of origin. Sadly, I just expect daily racism and violence in the U.S. It’s baked into the DNA here.
Canada is 100 years younger.
It did not have slavery — although its racist policies have destroyed generations of Inuit and indigenous lives.
Traditional con men do their work one person at a time. It’s a laborious process, earning trust and the benefit of the doubt before ultimately ripping someone off.
Toward the end of my dad’s life, shameless/shameful phone salespeople did just this and stole his trust, his time and his money.
Like most things, industrialists want to do it faster and bigger.
Scammy direct mail used to be obvious even at a distance. The labels, the stamps, the typography–it all signaled that this wasn’t personal.
And the occasional phone salesperson, calling from a boiler room–we could tell.
Now, as data acquisition continues to scale and become ever more granular, the hustle is getting more personal.
It’s in an uncanny valley–almost real, but not quite. And of course, the distance keeps getting shorter.
So the mail merge, the phone spam, the faux intimacy of a stranger. They continue to blur the lines between personal and personalized.
The end result is going to be a shrinking of our previously-widening circle of trust.
The benefit of the doubt is priceless. I have no patience for people who want to take it away from us.
I think about trust a lot.
I grew up in a family much more comfortable expressing anger, verbally, or not discussing feelings at all. I spent my childhood between boarding school and summer camp, surrounded by strangers, some of who were horrible, some of whom became dear friends.
When you’ve seen that people don’t want to listen to you, or misuse and twist what you’ve shared with them, trust isn’t something you later just quickly hand over to everyone!
I’ve learned this the hard way.
So it’s left me very wary.
In my 20s, I made the fatal error of telling a few coworkers II thought were friends something potentially damaging to me personally who, of course, used it against me. I left Toronto and never went back.
In my late 30s, divorced and lonely and my self-confidence at a very low ebb, I met a charming, handsome man through a personals ad — remember those?!
He said he was a lawyer and had a business card and personal stationery that seemed legit and spent a lot of time on the phone arguing with his “partner.”
He was just a con man who had already rooked a bunch of women in Chicago, done time for his crimes, and was now picking off fresh prey in New York and a few other states at once.
It became the most frightening experience of my life because the police laughed at me when I realized what a victim I’d become and the district attorney laughed because “no harm was done.”
The breast cancer diagnosis I got in June 2018 (early stage, no chemo) finally broke me open. I had to trust a whole new medical team to be kind and gentle and skilled — from the tiny black dot tattoos they put on your skin to guide the radiation machine to the techs who lay me face down there daily for 20 days.
Journalism is an odd business — because my role is to win trust fast from total strangers.
But I’ve learned how to do that and I’m good at it. Mostly it requires empathy. Really listening carefully without judgment.
There’s also now a very deep and widespread mistrust of journalists, which really upsets me. The monster who screamed FAKE NEWS at us for four years made sure of that.
So we’re really at a crisis point when it comes to trust.
Readers in England know what this post refers to — the recent horrific and shocking kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who walked home alone from a friend’s house but was waylaid, of all people, by a Met policeman, now allegedly her killer.
A public vigil held in in her honor became a site of rage and chaos as London police handcuffed women protestors and dragged them away.
Not exactly what anyone wanted.
Apparently, the constant fear and hyper-vigilance that women of all ages simply take for granted, is breaking news to some men.
We spend/waste so much of our lives making sure we are safe — we hope — by choosing a well-lit street or populated subway car, checking our car back seat before we get in.
Parking lots at night? No thanks!
Underground parking garages with no one around? No thanks!
Going for a run or a walk through woods or a forest or at dawn or dusk? No thanks!
Wearing headphones while out in public, just walking? No thanks!
Refusing the attentions, always unwanted, of some random man — Smile, sweetheart! –– can lead to a barrage of shouted filth, sometimes even a vicious physical attack.
almost one in three women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and women are far more likely to be killed by a partner than a stranger – so it’s not like keeping men in the house after 6pm would make women safe….
We’re used to women’s freedoms and women’s bodies being up for debate, you see. We’re used to women being told to modify our behaviour as a reaction to male violence. Women may not be under a formal curfew but you only need to look at the disgusting victim-blaming that went on with Sarah Everard to see that we’re under an informal one. Why was she out at 9.30 at night? Why did she walk home instead of taking a cab? What did she expect? Our freedom of movement after dark may not be restricted by the government, but we often don’t have the freedom to fully relax. We regulate our behaviour automatically; we keep our keys in our hands, we stay on high alert, we pay extra to take a cab because we’re worried about walking home. Street harassment is so common we brush it off as “nothing”; after all, it’s not like there’s anything that we can do we about it anyway. As a recent letter to the Guardian pointed out, “you can be fined for dropping litter in the UK, but not for harassing a woman or girl in public”.
The only time I was attacked was, bizarrely, in my own apartment, in downtown Toronto, never (thank God) on the street. I was not badly hurt, just scared enough to move within a few weeks.
However quaint the notion, most Western women now believe in two words to define how we want to, intend to, spend our lives — autonomy and agency.
But, funny thing, lived in homes and on streets and using public transit and public spaces overwhelmingly designed for the comfort and safety of men.
In the summer of 2017, Kim Wall, an adventurous, ambitious 30-year-old Swedish freelance journalist made a last-minute phone call to Peter Madsen, a Danish inventor in Copenhagen. She wanted to ride in his home-made submarine, a potential story.
It’s the sort of thing many freelancers do all the time, without deep concern about the risks, as the rewards are obvious.
It would be her last.
He killed her, dismembered her and threw her into the water.
Now, HBO Europe has released a six-part series about the hunt for her killer, The Investigation, on in the U.S.
The show never once names him, referring to him only as “the accused.”
If you, as I do, loved the Danish show Borgen, this brings back two very familiar faces — Pilou Asbek as the prosecutor (who played the spin doctor in Borgen) and Soren Malling as the chief of Copenhagen police (the TV director in Borgen.)
We never see or hear much about Kim herself except through the characters who play her parents, who were as committed to her independence and freelance life as she was. It’s never an easy life, and one many parents find too worrisome and penurious, so this is an interesting piece of the story.
The show moves slowly, with many setbacks and confusion and a lot of frustration — just as much detective work actually unfolds in real life. Madsen was not tried and convicted until April 2018.
I found the show emotionally hard to watch — (I didn’t know Kim)– as it could easily have been me or many other freelancers. Our lives are full of such crazy adventures — many quite risky — we undertake in order to find and tell compelling stories.
And we go alone.
At 25, for a story about the many challenges of trucking goods across the EU, I climbed into an 18-wheeler French truck, met its driver, Pierre Boue, and set off from Perpignan to Istanbul (eight days.) We had never met or spoken. We were both single and he was 35. We. slept on tiny bunks in the truck cab, with no privacy possible. There was no Internet then or cell phones.
It proved one of the best weeks of my life and my career.
Some audiences may balk at the ways the HBO show (now available in full on HBO Max) removes some of these standard elements of biographical crime stories. In staying as close to its title as possible, though, “The Investigation” managed to address a recent tragedy in a surprisingly clear-headed way.
Much of that stems from the way that “The Investigation” handles the passage of time. Though the season spans months, writer/director Lindholm resists putting down easy markers to wring tension out of breaks in the case. There’s a sameness to the way it unfolds, the kind where a whiteboard sits with words and diagrams written on it that no one’s bothered to erase because there’s nothing new to add, either from detective Jens Møller Jensen (Søren Malling) or prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen (Pilou Asbæk). Finding Wall’s body becomes the overwhelming part of their pursuit — if the show returns to the details of the retrieval process and an item-by-item timeline of everything that happened on the submarine, it underlines how singular their pursuit is.
It’s not an easy show to watch, obviously, and some of the details are very grim.
But what made it most compelling to me was the police’s shared dogged determination to solve this crime and the incredible teamwork it took — including months of diving to find her and her belongings.
I know many Broadside readers don’t live in the United States.
Right now, I wish I did as well.
Almost 40,000 Americans died two days ago of Covid.
Almost 10,000 people died in just my (largely affluent) suburban New York county.
The President cheers and laughs and lies and urges his base to wreak even more mayhem.
I won’t waste your time or mine trying to parse the insanity and violence and physical destruction and looting of the Capitol.
I listened this morning to a reporter, and former research librarian Brandy Zadrozny, explaining the utter bullshit these people believe and advocate.
This from a recent NPR interview:
Trump’s referring to – we call it a misinformation pipeline or, really, a feedback loop. And what it is – is, you know, over the last four years, he has built a really impressive machine. And what it does – it’s, you know, made up of social media, of cable news sites like Newsmax and OAN, talk radio and websites on the Internet that are all sort of under his influence. So the president can make some outlandish claims, and then all of these websites and news outlets parrot those claims back and then expand them with more conspiracy theories. And then the president can say, look at all of this proof, look at all of these people that think this, as evidence for his original claims.
I just finished my latest Netflix binge, three seasons — 31 episodes in all — of Bordertown, a Finnish crime series set in the real life town of Lappeenranta, a 90-minute drive across the Russian border to St. Petersburg.
Horror writer Stephen King has proclaimed his love for it, and for the lead actor, Ville Virtanen.
I’ve really enjoyed it, for reasons I’ll explain here, but one of them, highly unlikely, is that this summer I interviewed a senior corporate executive via Zoom from her family cottage on an island in Lake Saimaa, the exact setting of this show! The opening credits for each episode are drone images of the lake, whether yachts in a harbor, a huge freighter passing beneath a bridge or logs.
It’s the largest lake in the country — 1,700 square miles.
I’ve been intrigued by the two Finnish women I’ve gotten to know a bit through this new work, my editor and the executive. I’m very interested to visit Finland now, and have been for years since discovering the beautiful black and white photography of the country’s top photographer, Pentti Sammallahti, and buying one of his images at an art show in Manhattan.
It’s a small country, bordered on the east by Russia and the north by Norway and to the west by Sweden, with only 5.3 million people, one of the least densely populated in Europe.
The show follows Kari Sorjonen, a weather-beaten detective who moves to Lappeenranta from the big city of Helsinki with his wife Paulina, who grew up there, and their only child, a teen daughter, Janina.
Unlike most crime shows, their family dynamics are as essential to the story-lines as his work: Paulina has survived brain cancer but she and Janina have a tough time with a man who shows very little emotion and leaves almost every family meal to rush to another crime scene. You really see the effects of his workaholism.
Sorjonen is eccentric as hell — and makes use of a “memory palace” to recall crucial details and make patterns of them to solve crimes. He does this in his bare feet in the basement of their home.
The crimes are varied, and some shockingly brutal, which can get wearying when you watch several shows in a row. But the music is haunting, and the landscapes and homes really beautiful and the characters complex and interesting.
It tends to run in pairs, with two episodes to complete each story arc, but its threads and clues begin at the first episode and go to the final one.
The first two seasons are shot only in summer or fall — with the final third season shot in winter, the crunching of footsteps in deep snow a part of every episode. As someone who loves and misses a snow-covered landscape, I enjoyed that.
And, if you love simple, elegant Scandinavian design as much as I do, you’ll also enjoy the stunning interiors! Lots of interesting hanging lamps, neutral furnishing colors, interesting wall colors and some very nice exteriors, whether a hotel or an office or even a hospital’s interior doors.
One really striking design element — even in all 31 episodes — no bright primary colors like red, blue, green or yellow, or bold patterns, whether in interiors or clothing. The cops all wear black, brown, navy or gray, always in plainclothes and mostly in jeans. The characters all wear shades of gray, brown, cream, pale pink — all of which are flattering to pale Finnish complexions and either dark hair or pale blond. You might see a flash of burgundy in someone’s tie, but that’s it.
And it’s so strikingly unemotional, in American terms — in 31 episodes, I think each parent says “I love you” maybe once to each other and to their daughter, even after she’s been traumatized by a crime. I wonder how much the Finnish tradition of sisu informs this: grit, determination, the pride in just toughing it out.
The authorities had been tracking Ms. Maxwell’s movements and had recently learned about her relocation to the New Hampshire home, an F.B.I. official said.
The indictment charged Ms. Maxwell with six counts, including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. She also faces perjury charges for statements she made during a deposition in 2016 about her role in Mr. Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation.
“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference on Thursday.
I was never — thank heaven — sexually groomed and victimized.
But I absolutely understand how it happens, and have written here before about this, so I won’t get back into all the grim details.
In 1998, I was a lonely, worried, isolated new divorcee, with no children, living in the suburbs of New York — an affluent place full of people with kids. This was back when we had and read weekly alternative newspapers, whose personal ads were still a thing, when the Internet was newer as a way to meet potential partners.
I answered an ad placed, it said, by a lawyer who liked to play tennis. “Integrity and honesty paramount,” it said.
But of course it did — placed by a convicted con man who had already victimized many people in Chicago, done time and moved to New York to start again.
He was, oddly, extremely kind and apparently generous, bringing me a pot of home-made soup when I was ill, “paying” for a plane ticket to Australia after I missed my flight (part of his set-up since he made me late), quickly cooing at me (which I found creepy and weird) how much he loved me.
It took me four long crazy months, and hiring a former NYPD detective turned private investigator to finally smoke the guy out, to realize what I had allowed to enter my life and terrorize me.
By then, he’d committed at least six more felonies, including opening my mail, activating a credit card in my name, using that card and forging my signature — in front of me.
And the police and district attorney laughed it all off, because it was “only” fraud.
Predators choose their victims carefully.
Maxwell, allegedly, did her grooming very skilfully — finding young, vulnerable women who found her attention thrilling, at first.
What I learned very painfully, as an adult in 1998, is that being vulnerable and alone can leave one very easy pickings for people with nefarious purposes.
Nice isn’t always that at all.
After I recovered from my own experience, I joined a church, shored up my friendships and took a long time to trust again.
It is a brilliant analysis of all the many powerful ways girls and women are socialized to be delighted by attention and what appears to be affection.
To let a kindly stranger “help” us when we’re lonely and broke and scared.
Being vulnerable means being too open, too trusting, too quick to set aside our intuition that it’s time to flee.
From Wikipedia, and from the book, his useful warning signs that someone is grooming you:
Forced Teaming. This is when a person implies that they have something in common with their chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t really true. Speaking in “we” terms is a mark of this, i.e. “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.”
Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate him or her by disarming their mistrust.
Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.
Typecasting. An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.” The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.
Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.
The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.
Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.
It’s a drink that contains two to seven layers of alcohol, added by weight, to create a colorful array of stripes in one glass.
America’s rage is a pousse-café, with so, so many layers.
People are being tear-gassed and shot by police with rubber bullets.
Protestors, including professional journalists, have been targeted by police and permanently blinded.
Stores have been attacked and destroyed and looted, from mass market Target to luxury brands like Chanel.
Some Americans are appalled, astonished, gobsmacked.
A classic image, taken by the late photographer Bernie Boston
There are so many layers to American rage now:
— the endless lethal parade of African Americans who are shot and killed by police (ooops, wrong apartment!) or hunted down by gun-happy civilians, and here are only a tiny few of them: George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery…
— the daily fears this has created, for generations, that simply being black, going for a walk, walking too fast or in the “wrong” neighborhood or wearing a hoodie or even birding in Central Park, is an invitation, as it is, for some people to wield their white privilege and entitlement and choose to endanger or end others’ lives.
— the “talk” every black parent has to have with their children, especially teen males, about how to walk through their lives on eggshells because so many others will choose to see their basic existence in the same spaces as a threat.
— the income inequality that has kept so many Americans at such deep disadvantage in a nation whose comforting myth is “just work harder!”
— the extraordinary costs of attending even a public university or college, acquiring massive debt that dogs graduates for decades, even as they drift into poorly-paid jobs that make it impossible to repay those loans, and loans that — unlike any other — cannot be discharged by declaring bankruptcy.
— health disparities that have killed many more people of color thanks to COVID-19 because POC have underlying health conditions (“co-morbidities” in medspeak) that left their bodies more vulnerable, like obesity, asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.
— 100,000 Americans — with many more to come — already dead of COVID-19.
— a Federal minimum wage of $7.25 that has not been raised since 2009; only 29 of 50 states have made theirs higher, more than $11/hour.
— extortionate costs for health insurance.
— the loss of millions of jobs.
— the loss for millions of their health insurance coverage — because that’s how many Americans get the only coverage they can afford, when their employer picks up some of its cost (i..e. benefits.)
— widespread police brutality, even blinding permanently some protestors, including journalists
— a deep, abiding despair at the lack of political leadership, and shocking passivity on all sides, to address any of this.