Sunday, November 22, 2009

Canadian Mounties

Most Americans know nothing about Canadian history. I have visited most of Canada's provinces and I may be more educated about Canada than most Americans, but I still find myself woefully ignorant about our friendly neighbors to the north. Sarah Vowell, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, says it is because Canada's history is basically boring. It lacks the cataclysm in which their troubled neighbor to the south is mired. Perhaps it is, but I must say, I admire the boredom.

One big example of US's troubled history is our treatment of the natives of this continent. 19th century events are mired with such massacres (Sand Creek, Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee) ... truly shameful events in our past. Canada's one such massacre is called the Cypress Hill Massacre. In 1873 some horses in Montana were stolen from some whiskey traders. The traders chased the thieves into Canada (into what is now known as Saskatchewan) where they they lost the thieves but came across a camp of Nakotas. They blamed the Nakotas for the theft, killed 23 of them and burned their trading posts to the ground. Please note: Canada's worst Indian massacre had only 23 dead and the killing was done by Americans.

While the American government encouraged such violence offering bounties on scalps, the Canadian government tried to avoid it. To help maintain the peace in the Northwest Territories, Canada's Prime Minister John MacDonald (their first) created the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy (RCMP) aka the Mounties. While America's west was rife with corruption and violence, Canada's was controlled by a police force. While the US's Calvary waged war, Canada's maintained peace. I am sure their harsh weather has a lot to do with the peace being maintained as well.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Flat Earth Society

I am a skeptic. Quite some time ago, I came to the realization that most people are not. I just deal with it. I tend to want more evidence than most people. When I don't understand something or when I find it unexplainable, I try not to cling to a popular idea or a simple explanation ... I usually need more evidence. I find it okay to say that "it is unknown ... at the moment."

Lately I have heard people on podcasts, radio shows and in person refer to things that I just don't believe exist. Of course, this is not new but it does seem to be happening more these days. They talk about ghosts or Sasquatch with such strong conviction and an assumptive air about them that I am taken aback. I am not sure if this is something I should point out to them or just shut up and accept the fact that they see the world differently than I do. I feel the same way when people assume that I believe in God, but on these occasions I don't hesitate to state that I am an atheist. In an era of political correctness, don't they have tolerate me as well?

Last week I heard someone refer to the Flat Earth Society. I thought this was a joke until I thought to look it up today on the net. There are actually people who still believe that the earth is flat, specifically, a flat bottomed disc with the North Pole at the center with a large sheet of ice surrounding the continents. Their view of the planet looks a lot like the flag of the UN. These are the same people who started the conspiracy theory that the Apollo landing was a hoax. Even Christopher Columbus believed the world was round. He thought he was in Asia instead of being on the "new" continent of North America, but even he knew he traveled around the planet.

I have to say that I am a little fascinated by their on-line forum. They were founded in 1956 by an English astronomer named Samuel Shelton. When he saw the first few satellite pictures of the Earth and claimed its shape was a dome and not a sphere. The Society officially disbanded in 2001 but they still have a presence ... you got it ... on the net. I hate posting the link for fear of spreading this nonsense, but I find myself too fascinated not to (kinda like attending a freak show).

My first thought on hearing about this is group that they were just another group that were not being skeptical enough. But perhaps the opposite is going on here. Perhaps they are being so skeptical that they are not accepting something that is just too obvious. Believing in a conspiracy of this magnitude is mind blowing.