Saturday, July 23, 2005

Taking people for granted

I have a friend in Winnipeg who will be turning 103 at the end of October. He is the "younger" friend of my late grandparents. We have been communicating by phone or by e-mail for the last six years since he was 97. Because of his advanced age, I am diligent about keeping in touch with him. I make a point of calling him up even though I may feel too busy, and it's hard to talk to him because he can't hear well. I find the time to write notes to him. After all, he's 102! How much longer can he last? In the back of my mind, ever since I met him in 1997, I've been worrying that he might pop off. I make him a priority.

I wish that I could say the same for the rest of my friends and family. There are so many times when I don't feel up to contacting people. I have too much work. I have a headache. I'm too tired. There's always tomorrow. I have all of the time in the world. Or do I?

D'Amour Road is dedicated to an acquaintance of mine who went missing and never resurfaced alive again. We don't expect people in their forties to disappear and die. Most of us in the First World expect to live well into our seventies and eighties. But are we living lives of quality where we have ample time for reflection and relaxation?

When I was doing my undergraduate work in psychology, I remember reading a book by Alvin Toffler called Future Shock. It postulated that in the future -- i.e. now -- everything would be automated. People would have so much free time that they wouldn't know what to do with it.

HA! I don't know anyone who has free time. Most people I know are working 50-70 hours a week, raising kids or traveling as part of their job requirement. Many businesses are now open 24 hours a day. Employees used to be able to take a break on the weekends or when they were on vacation. Now we have cell phones, Palm pilots, e-mail, pagers and fax machines. People feel pressured to be available when they really should be off duty.

It's hard to take time for ourselves. Some things have become antiquated like writing thank you letters or staying in touch with elderly relatives. Not everyone can decide that they will spend more time with their kids or skipping stones across a pond because they are being held hostage by their jobs. But all of us can take a hard look at the way that we spend our time because it's a fallacy to assume that our loved ones will always be there.

Recently, I heard of two people in their forties who died suddenly without any warning. Actually, one died and the other one is currently on life support, but has been pronounced brain-dead. We never know when our number is up or when we could lose the most important people in our lives. I would like to believe that I can start treating most, if not all, of the people in my life the same way that I treat my 103-year-old friend: as precious and temporary, thus, to be treated with great love and respect at all times.

Sigrid Macdonald

Monday, July 18, 2005

50 days and counting

Not knowing is worse than knowing. The poor Holloways are being tortured, waiting for news about their missing daughter, Natalee.

Today a strand of blonde hair wrapped in duct tape was found on the beach but we don't know if it belonged to Natalee. There have been so many false leads in this case including a supposed confession and retraction and blood found on a mattress, which was later discovered to be dog's blood. If nobody talks and a body does not wash up, this case could drag on forever.

Normally, I do NOT agree with Nancy Grace. In fact, I think she is an overreacter who goes on the presumption of guilt (e.g. she jumped all over the Runaway Bride's fiance without any evidence that he'd been involved), and she's slow to say "sorry" or admit that she was wrong. [The fact that her book OBJECTION is number 424 on Amazon is shocking! Clearly, Nancy has a lot of fans who are not keen on civil rights.] But in this instance, I concur that it looks bad for Joran van der Sloot.

If he's innocent, why did he have to invent several different stories? What happened? He wanted sex, Natalee refused, and he got rough with her? He and his friends drugged her, assaulted her and disposed of her with the help of the boat guy? He did not leave her on that beach alone at 2 a.m. Not credible. Nor did she willingly disappear. No way.

I pray that we discover the truth about Natalee's disappearance soon for the sake of her poor distraught family.

Sigrid Macdonald

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The civil rights of the uncivilized

Canada's most notorious female criminal, Karla Homolka, was released from prison yesterday. She granted a rare interview to the press in Quebec, trying to reassure the public that she is no longer a menace and deserves to live a life free of harassment.

For those outside of the country who have not heard of Karla, she and her husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, sexually tortured and murdered several teenagers back in the nineties. Karla also "gave" her younger sister Tammy to Paul because Paul wanted to take Tammy's virginity. In addition, he took her life.

Fortunately, Bernardo was given a life sentence. However, Homolka led the court to believe that she was a battered woman who was under Bernardo's influence, and that she only went along with the kidnappings because she was afraid for her own safety. Right after Karla signed a sweetheart deal with the Crown, videotapes that showed Homolka's active participation in the killings surfaced. But it was too late. Karla was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She served her time and now she's out. Rumor has it that she has been corresponding with an inmate who has a history of manslaughter, and that the two of them have a romantic relationship. What reason do we have to believe that Homolka has changed?

She was an exemplary prisoner, she claims, and served as a counselor to help other women. She wants to live in Quebec because she believes that the media there presented less sensational coverage of her story, so there may be a chance for her to establish a second life.

Meanwhile, Homolka has been receiving death threats. People on the Internet have been talking about her like she is the lowest form of humanity. And she is, but the question remains: How do we treat people who have served their time? Does Homolka deserve police protection if her life is in danger? Should we care about Karla Homolka or should we turn our backs and hope that someone takes care of her the way that someone took care of Jeffrey Dahmer in the slammer?

This is a no-brainer for me. I despise what the woman did although I recognize that to some extent she was a victim of Bernardo's. (Handsome, charismatic Paul Bernardo was also the Scarborough Rapist before he graduated to murdering high school girls in St. Catherine's, Ontario. He was a tyrannical and domineering partner to Karla.) But being under his thumb does not make her any less culpable in my eyes. Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and Tammy Homolka would be alive today if it weren't for the sick, codependent, "I'll Do Anything to Please My Man" attitude of selfish, sociopathic Karla Homolka.

Having said that, two wrongs don't make a right. The only time vigilante justice is cool and exciting to watch is on old movies like Billy Jack and Walking Tall. In real life, we make a decision as to whether or not we are a humane and just society. If we are, then we must concede that through a legal loophole, Karla served her time. No matter how despicable her actions were, she needs police protection if her life is in danger.

Homolka is still young. She may live among us for many more decades. Harassing and persecuting her will only creates stress that may cause her to become alcoholic, drug addicted or to re-offend by becoming involved with another male criminal. She's out. Let's leave her alone.

Sigrid Macdonald