Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

The headline from this famous editorial from the Editorial Page of New York Sun in 1897 is well-known. The actual letter is less well-known, and neither is the back story about the editorial writer and the letter writer. We reprint the letter here, and below it the story of Virginia  O’Hanlon and Frank Church.

 

THE EDITORIAL

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view andpicture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

THE BACK STORY

Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

“It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

” ‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

“He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.’ “

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Fentanyl is a provincial public health crisis

Fentanyl is a provincial public health crisis

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 BY JOHN AND JENNIFER, MEGAN AND KYLE HEDICAN

Our family lost a loved son and brother at the age of 26 to a Fentanyl poisoning on April 24, 2017. Ryan was one of 124 people last April in British Colombia to lose their life and 1 of 1,400 British Columbians in 2017 due to fentanyl poisoning. Ryan was not sick – he was a healthy young man who was working as an electrician and had finished eight months of recovery.

It is now 17 months later, and we are on pace for another 1,400 British Colombians to lose their lives to the same preventable cause in 2018. More than four people every day in BC are continuing to die from a fentanyl poisoning. This crisis is affecting everyone, as it’s non-discriminatory in who is dying, affecting everyone from business people, health care providers, construction workers, teenagers to seniors.

Premier John Horgan needs to declare this Fentanyl crisis a Provincial State of Emergency and then call on the other Provincial Premiers to do the same.

In July 2017, our Liberal Government declared a Provincial State of Emergency to combat wildfires extended by our new NDP govererment in August 2017. This Provincial Emergency act was declared again in 2018 due to wildfires. Not a single life was lost to wild fires in either year, yet a contaminated source will kill 3,000 British Colombians and over 8,000 Canadians across Canada in 2017 and 2018. We understand because of the size and amount of fires that it was necessary to declare the Provincial Emergency; we don’t understand how so many healthy people across our province have died and continue to die every day and it is not a Provincial State of Emergency?

Our premiers need to call upon our prime minister and his Liberal government to declare this crisis a National Public Health Emergency now, so real changes can occur to save lives now. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Tam, stated that “tragically in 2016, there were more deaths from opioid related deaths than from the HIV epidemic in 1995. This is a major public health crisis in Canada.”

Our governments are responsible for the safety of its citizens and it has the responsibility to do all it can to stop preventable deaths, tragically the fear of losing votes and optics are preventing this.

The Hedicans are Comox Valley residents 

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The Week: bizarre backstory; great news on sewage planning

Good morning. We’re writing about the tragic backstory of a water valve, the state of happiness in Comox, new (and thankfully) long-term sewerage plans and the strength of women like Jody Wilson-Raybould speaking truth to power

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Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Help! Recruiters Needed for Pro Rep Vote

Relational voting takes democracy back to the citizen level

 

By CHRIS HILLIAR

Two weeks ago I signed up as a recruiter with Dogwood to help get out the Yes vote to support proportional representation in the BC referendum. The strategy being used by Dogwood is intriguing and I wanted to know more about it and about the local person driving it.

I sat down to speak with Dave Mills. He’s the Deputy Director of Organizing at Dogwood. He has a degree in Science from the University of Victoria, and a 25-year career in resource management and public services. “Dogwood”, he said, “first became well known in BC when they created the “no tanker” loonie sticker – a simple statement of resistance you could paste on the back of our dollar. It was a simple tactic that got under the government’s skin, rallied supporters and put the public on notice. The group continues to be creative and their work promoting Pro Rep is a good example.

I asked Dave to describe the new tactic Dogwood is using to encourage support for Pro Rep. “It’s called Relational Voting” he said, “a simple concept – friends talking to friends. Our networks contain the people most like ourselves. If you’re a ‘Yes’ voter chances are your friends and family are as well.”

As a get-out-the-vote strategy Relational Voting has been used in select US district and congressional races over the past two years. “So in one sense it’s quite a new strategy” he said, “but in the truest sense, it’s as old as the bedrock of democracy itself – conversations between people who share values.”

Relational Voting is ideally suited to the current political climate of mistrust because it bypasses the untrusted messengers of today such as corporate media and government institutions. Even large organizations like Dogwood are not immune to mistrust but Relational Voting means you, personally, deliver a message to your friends and family. “It’s twice as likely to result in action”, he said.

I asked Dave why someone reading this article should take the time to get involved with Dogwood to support pro rep. His response came without thinking so I know it came from his heart. “Because without the individual’s participation democracy unravels” he said. “If we opt out of participating, then democracy goes on death watch.”

“And”, he said, “participation at the citizen level rather than at the party level is the best medicine for what ails our political system.” “Conversation around kitchen tables is how democracy started. Relational Voting gets those conversations started and gives you tools to amplify them.”

If you want to get involved with helping to get the vote out to support Pro Rep, click on this link: https://organize.votebc.ca/recruiter

By the way, if you are worried about how to answer question #2 on the ballot because you don’t feel confident about the different types of proportional representation Dogwood encourages you to just vote Yes to proportional representation on question #1 and leave question #2 blank.

If you want to take a seven minute questionnaire to determine which voting system is the best fit for your values please check out this link: www.referendumguide.ca

Chris Hilliar is a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. He can be reached at hilliar1@telus.net

The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

The Lows and Highs of Grassroots Initiatives

Fair Vote needs volunteers for the final push to electoral reform

By Pat Carl

Two things happened very recently that illustrate the lows and highs of grassroots efforts like the campaign to change BC’s electoral system.

The first thing that happened was the release of an Angus Reid poll taken in September. The poll asked voters in BC how they intend to mark their ballots when it comes to voting on the referendum about electoral reform. According to the poll, about 60 percent of voters are pretty evenly split in their support of either the current electoral system or proportional representation (Pro Rep).

But it’s the other 40 percent of the poll respondents who caught my attention: these are people who describe themselves as undecided. For a grassroots activist, it’s those undecideds that are the really scary wildcard.

The second thing that happened was a folding party. What’s a folding party, you ask?  Well, it’s when an organization like Fair Vote Comox Valley (FVCV) can afford to print 5,000 one-page, two-sided flyers with information in support of Pro Rep, but can’t afford to have them folded. Then you have a folding party at your house, invite your friends to fold the flyers, and serve them chili and wine or beer as a thank you.

That’s what FVCV did the evening before municipal elections and, wonderfully, over a dozen people arrived at a supporter’s home around 5 p.m. and spent several hours folding flyers and eating, the buzz of friendly talk in the air.

These two things that happened are representative of the lows (the 40 percent of people still undecided about Pro Rep) and the highs (volunteers folding flyers) that many of us who are working on the referendum have felt over the 10 months of the campaign.

We attempt to keep our sights on highs, but we can’t ignore the lows.

Two examples of lows: The half truths and downright lies spouted by the BC Liberals and their leader, Andrew Wilkinson, and the nuisance injunction brought by the Independent Contractors and Business Association of BC challenging the referendum, which BC Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper declined to grant. 

Despite lows like these, FVCV and its grassroots volunteers have tirelessly reached out to voters.

We have canvassed two times a week most weeks since January, so much so that our tennis shoes are showing serious tread wear.

We have hung thousands of information door hangers on door knobs, we have written articles and letters to the editor, and we have sponsored and continue to sponsor numerous public presentations about the referendum which includes the  audience taking a quiz that helps participants to focus on their values in relation to the referendum questions. 

We have made so many phone calls to rural Valley voters that our ears are tattered remnants hanging off the sides of our heads.

We have staffed information tables while sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs until our behinds are screaming for mercy.

And then, of course, there’s the folding party.

We were under the gun because the flyers folded at the party were intended for distribution the very next day outside polling stations in Cumberland, in Courtenay, in Comox and in Areas A, B, and C. And here’s the amazing part:  Thirty-three of us worked a total of nearly 100 person-hours to hand out the flyers between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day.

Now we’re on a real, non-chemically induced high, but, frankly, we’re still worried about the high percentage of undecided voters.

The referendum ballots are on their way to voters’ mailboxes. Voters will have until Nov. 30 to follow the instructions and send their ballots back to Elections BC. FVCV will continue to get the word out about Pro Rep, but we are getting a bit tired, as you can imagine.

So, I have a big ask:  Will those of you who support Pro Rep, but have had other challenges on your plate, now join our grassroots effort to reach even more people about proportional representation? Come help us cross the finish line with arms held high in the air.

That’s right. I’m asking you to get involved. It’s not too late. We need your help.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends right after you exercise at the Rec Centre or at d’Esterre in Comox. Don’t be afraid to contact Fair Vote Comox Valley at fairvotecomoxvalley@gmail.com and pick up some door hangers that you can distribute in your neighbourhood while you’re taking your dog on her morning constitutional. Don’t be afraid to sign in and let your views be known to all those friends you have on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to tweet those 240 characters in support of Pro Rep.

Don’t let this proportional representation opportunity pass without pitching in. 

Believe me, your efforts will not go unrewarded. You’ll have done a great service by supporting electoral reform and our provincial democracy. 

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She may be reached at pat.carl0808@gmail.com.

The Death of Governing Whiplash

The Death of Governing Whiplash

Imagine legislators working together for long-lasting priorities

By Pat Carl

The other day, I stopped by the grocery store to buy a few things. I took a chance and stood in the express line which also sells lottery tickets. Sometimes the line can move really quickly, but, at other times, because of the lottery tickets, the line can slow down to a crawl.

In this particular case, an older woman, older than me anyway, was cashing in her lottery tickets. The clerk handed her a couple of tens and then five twenties. Although the woman was a winner, I wondered how much she had lost over the years compared to how much she had won.

My father also played the lotteries. I quizzed my mother about that, since she was very tight-fisted in her spending habits, and she said, “Your father is a bit foolish about money. It’s a good thing I’m not.”

I’m like my mother when it comes to the uses of my money, especially my tax dollars. On the one hand, I believe the federal and provincial governments should be spending money to support social programs like housing initiatives and public education, or spending sufficient dollars to keep Canada’s military well fitted with updated equipment and its people well-trained, or spending adequate dollars to maintain infrastructure and to support technological and industrial innovation.

On the other hand, I am a fiscal conservative. I firmly believe that if I can balance my cheque book, make smart investments, and save wisely instead of spending unnecessarily, then so can governments, both federal and provincial.

I know what you’re going to say:  It ain’t as simple as that, Pat.

To my way of thinking though, the main reason it ain’t that simple is because, in Canada, we have two dominant federal parties – the Conservatives and the Liberals – each with different legislative priorities and different spending policies. Sadly, neither of these parties, when in the majority, has a strong incentive to work with the opposition in creating policies with an eye to spending tax dollars with care.

Every so often, Canadians get tired of the legislative priorities and spending policies of one party and throw those guys and gals out of office and replace them with the guys and gals of the other dominant party who often have vastly different legislative priorities and spending policies.

What this type of governance leads to are changes so significant as to make all of us suffer from legislative whiplash which is damned expensive.

And guess who shoulders the burden of that expense?  That’s right – the Canadian taxpayer. 

Now this governance whiplash doesn’t just happen federally. It also happens provincially. Think of how voters in Ontario recently had enough of Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals and decided to spank them thoroughly and send them to their political room for a time out. In doing so, the voters installed Doug Ford and the Progressive (really?) Conservatives in their place.

Get ready, Ontarians, for a severe case of governing whiplash as the PCs and Ford dismantle many of the legislative priorities and spending policies of the Liberals and replace them with their own legislative priorities and spending policies.

Not only does this put the skids on some legislative initiatives that are halfway through development in Ontario, but it’s going to cost lots of taxpayer dollars to do so. All the work and taxpayer dollars put into developing programs while the Liberals were in the majority are essentially wasted.

Let’s not just point the finger at Ontario. BC is not without sin.

For example, the renovation of Metro Vancouver’s Massey Tunnel, long in the Liberal development pipeline during Christy Clark’s reign in Victoria, is now going through an additional review process under John Horgan’s NDP to the tune of an additional 1 million taxpayer dollars. Legislative priority lurch accompanied by expensive tax dollar spending.

But does it have to be this way? Must provinces and territories as well as the federal government change legislative policies and spending priorities so dramatically and so expensively every election cycle?

I don’t think so.

Imagine, if you will, elected officials from one party cooperating with the elected officials of another party in order to develop long-lasting legislative priorities that stand the test of time.

And then imagine, if you will, how many taxpayer dollars are wisely spent if legislative priorities are developed based on the best ideas from all parties.

Wait! We actually don’t have to imagine that. In Canada, minority governments, which needed to form coalitions with other parties in order to govern, came up with quite a number of legislative policies developed with taxpayer dollars wisely spent. 

Think Universal Medicare, the Royal Military College, the Canada Pension Plan, Unemployment Insurance, and our own Supreme Court of Canada. These are social reforms and institutions that define us as Canadians and have garnered Canada great respect internationally.

Want to ensure the death of governing whiplash in BC? Want to ensure your tax dollars are wisely spent based on policies cooperatively conceived and developed in our Legislative Assembly?

Then vote for electoral reform. Vote for proportional representation in this fall’s BC referendum.

Pat Carl is a member of Fair Vote Comox Valley and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at patcarl0808@gmail.com