SIV: Germanwings, High School, and Islands

Yes, and you may have heard of Stubbornness Is Virtue (SIV) week, self-declared and self-extended, in which I have granted myself executive authority to Get Stuff Done, no matter how ‘last month’ it might be. This week, we have heard more from the investigation of the Germanwings air disaster, more on the sordid rehearsal that CopilotBoy did for his all-too-sadly-inclusive march into oblivion. I wrote, quite bitterly, about this unnameable coward earlier, but here was my first (pre-empted) reaction, now finally finished — rather like my lengthy high school career.

I was in high school for a LONG time.

It was five years, at first, back in the era of Ontario’s Grade Thirteen. Five years of education and some factory/retail time later, I did some teacher prep-time in a few southern Ontario elementary schools, and then resumed what seemed to be the endless walk down the halls of eternal high school. I was a full-time Creature in my 20s, and was still barking and grinning, cajoling and joking and explaining and teaming my ever-lovin’ head off ‘til I was deep into my forties.

Then, in China, I taught university students, but it didn’t feel much different. (The kids, so sheltered by the abrasive cocoon of high-pressure study – and so charming in their child-like forays into English – seemed younger than European and North American kids. Less experienced. Less jaded. The freshmen inevitably reminded me of ninth-graders, the girls beginning to dress for the male gaze, the boys pretending not to notice.) And even now, having retreated from that consuming, exhausting gig, I hang with high-schoolers all the time. Two of ‘em live with me, and I chase many more of them around gyms, with a whistle and incessant roundball counsel. (It’s no way to make a living, but I feel lively when I’m doing it.)

There weren't enough candles in the world to brighten that day. (photo from

There weren’t enough candles in the world to brighten that day. (photo from

High school is where I live, still, with much of my heart. No surprise, then, that when the Germanwings airliner went down, and my morning dose of Bad News at Home and Abroad muttered that “…eighteen of the dead are from one German high school”, my heart ached more than usual. The last time I felt this way – like a bombing near-miss, where I’m assaulted by the carnage but haven’t a scratch myself – was the bit-by-bit unfolding to me of the costs of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, especially in the lives of children buried in shoddily built schools.

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NINE-EIGHTEEN: Face to (Losing) Face in Asia

This morning in Dalian, there were no all-city sirens and alarm bells at 9:18. Yesterday, though, the Chinese loudly remembered what they consider perhaps their greatest national humiliation, an injury that they just won’t let go: the invasion of northeastern China by Japanese forces in 1931. They just call it “9-18”. It’s eighty-one years now, but if anything the memories are recently growing more bitter, as the obscure islands in the East China Sea — now, does Japan call it that? — that are claimed by both countries become a renewed source of hostility.

Diaoyu! Senkaku! Let’s call the whole thing off…

The People’s Republic of China says the Diaoyu Islands are theirs. (Actually, it says these islands belong to Taiwan, but that Taiwan belongs to mainland China, the PRC.) The Republic of China agrees, though it prefers the spelling Tiaoyu Islands. (It, however, also insists that it is a sovereign nation, so that’s a bit of a disagreement.) And although these tiny islands are quite close to Taiwan, Japan calls them the Senkaku Islands and says they are in charge,

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