Tag Archives: Westminster

GRANDCHILDREN, THE DEBATE AND THE CANADIAN CROWN

Evan very upset he couldn't have that "juice."
Evan very upset he couldn’t have that juice.

We’re visiting our daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their family in Indianapolis.   Seven of our grandchildren are with us in the house. Our son’s two girls had to stay behind for basketball try-outs on Sunday.

The 5-hour drive south was stressful, to put it mildly.   Not only did we have to contend with road construction that seriously impacted our speed but we had three young children in the van, one of whom hates traveling and kept asking to go home.   Even after we arrived, he still wanted to go home, asking Grandpa if we could leave late at night just to get away from it all. He must have sensed my stress!

It’s now Friday lunchtime.   Just as I sat down to write, Evan, one of Alix’s twins, rode in a laundry basket down the steep stairs and crashed into the front door.   He’s ok – I’m not sure about the door and the laundry basket has definitely seen better days!  (Not to mention Alix’s heart failure!)

A few moments earlier, our autistic grandson who has a tendency to run away and get lost, knocked on the front door.   We’ve no idea how he got out but at least he came back.   He’s 4.   He’s a late developer – I ran away when I was 3.

Evan is clearly a troublemaker.   I have been sipping whisky in an attempt to kill a sore throat, though it doubles as a coping mechanism with all the activity around me.   I just looked up to find Evan took my whisky bottle over to his mom and asked her to pour him some “juice.”

In spite of the occasional stress of sheer numbers, I still think that the opportunity to have time with grandchildren is a tremendous blessing and we truly enjoy every minute of it.

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We are, of course, in Mike Pence territory. He’s been Governor of Indiana for four years and is highly spoken of by, seemingly, everybody.   He’s done a good job governing the state, which has a financial surplus.

I thought he was treated badly on Monday by his opponent Tim Kaine in the Vice Presidential debate.   Mr. Kaine kept on interrupting Mr. Pence so that he could not get his points across.   Kaine was rude while Pence responded like a gentleman.

Another difference between them was over the issue of abortion. Kaine squirmed and waffled while trying to explain how he supports abortion when his own church, the Church of Rome, is against it.   He said he felt it would be wrong of him to force his own view on women who want abortions.   Mr. Pence, a Protestant and regular church-goer, reaffirmed his total opposition to abortion and said that, as Governor of Indiana, he has been promoting adoption as a means of encouraging women to give birth, rather than have their unborn child murdered.   He reminded viewers that Mrs. Clinton supports partial-birth abortions, allowing women to abort babies when they are close to delivery.   He even quoted Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Mrs. Clinton supposedly takes her Christianity seriously – she’s a Methodist, a church now opposed to abortion.

Kaine and Clinton can only be described as hypocrites, supporting the murder of innocent children, while claiming to both be people of faith.

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This year’s US presidential election cannot be encouraging any country to adopt the American system of government.   Comments heard overseas are along the lines of:   “Out of 330 million people, this is the best you can come up with?”

The ignorance of the rest of the world shown by Gary (“What’s Aleppo?”) Johnson, who is now claiming that knowledge of world affairs is “over-rated,” must be another influencing factor.

So, it’s not surprising that Canadians welcomed Prince William, his wife and two children, to British Columbia and Yukon.   The future King and Queen of Canada, with their son, Prince George, who will succeed his father on the throne 40 or 50 years from now, ensure that Canada’s current system of government will endure for the rest of this century.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy, just like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.   There are also 13 other Commonwealth Realms over which the Queen reigns.   In addition, she is Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth of former British colonies.   The British government has no authority over any of these countries.

Although many people think the 90-year-old Queen doesn’t do anything, the left-wing Independent newspaper in Britain wrote the following on her responsibilities:

“Her schedule is incredibly regimented, with multiple formal proceedings, events and processes she has to adhere to every day.

Meetings with ministers and officials take up a large portion of her day and, like most of us, she spends a big chunk of her time at work.

Morning

The Queen’s working day begins at her desk scanning the daily newspapers.   She then proceeds to go through some of the 300 letters she receives from the general public every day.   Some of these letters the Queen reads and replies to herself, while with others she tells members of her staff how she would like them to be answered.

Her Majesty will then see two of her private secretaries with the daily quota of official papers and documents.   She receives a huge number of correspondences from Government ministers and her representatives in the Commonwealth and foreign countries.   All of these have to be read and, where necessary, approved and signed.

A series of official meetings or ‘audiences’ will often follow.   Each meeting usually lasting 10 to 20 minutes.

If there is an Investiture, a ceremony for the presentation of honors and decorations, it begins at 11.00am and lasts just over an hour.

The Queen will then lunch privately although every couple of months, she and The Duke of Edinburgh will invite a dozen guests from a wide variety of backgrounds to an informal lunch.

If Her Majesty is spending the morning on engagements away from her desk and other commitments, she will visit up to three venues before lunch, either alone or jointly with The Duke of Edinburgh.

Afternoon

In the afternoons, the Queen often goes out on public engagements and prepares for each visit by briefing herself on who she will be meeting and what she will be seeing and doing.   Her Majesty carries out around 430 engagements (including audiences) a year and will regularly go out for the whole day to a particular region or city.

The afternoon draws to an end with a meeting of the Privy Council with several government ministers.

Evening

Early evening can involve the weekly meeting with the Prime Minister, which usually takes place on Wednesdays at 6.30pm.” (Independent, 9/9/15)

She is also available to all Commonwealth leaders.

Prince Charles will inherit the same responsibilities, as will Prince William, then George, in turn.

In contrast to the US, where party politics has seriously damaged the unity of the country, the Queen brings people together in a non-political way.

Western democracies, in the main, have one of three distinctly different forms of democracy.

The US presidential system is one.

The “Westminster” (British system) is another.   This is just as democratic.   People elect their representatives to parliament.   The dominant party’s leader becomes the prime minister.   The Queen remains outside of politics, but contributes greatly to political stability and national unity.

The third option is a mix of the two, with a parliamentary form of government and a prime minister but, instead of a monarch, there is an appointed figurehead president, with similar powers to the British monarch.   The Germans, Italians and Irish have this form of government.   A serious weakness was shown with this system in 1934, when the German president died suddenly and the new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, simply abolished the office and had himself proclaimed “Fuhrer.”   This could not happen in a constitutional monarchy – when the Queen dies, automatically Charles becomes King.

Although some people in Canada would like to see the tie with the Crown abolished when the Queen dies, Canadian John Fraser summed up their arguments this way:   “Queen Elizabeth has done a great job for Canada; therefore let’s make sure there is no monarchy when she dies.”  (“The Secret of the Crown,” John Fraser, 2012)   The reasoning really doesn’t make sense.

Fraser points out that Canada is one of the most successful countries in the world, thanks partly to its political system, which includes a major role for the Crown.   The country’s birth owes its origin to the Crown and the people’s allegiance to it. Even the current Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is committed to maintaining the tie with the Crown – indeed, he invited William and Kate to Canada, along with their two children.   Next year, Prince Charles and his wife will be in Canada to join in celebrations for the 150th anniversary of confederation.

 

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THE PASSAGE OF TIME

Aubren watching the clock strike.
Aubren watching the clock strike.

We’re still moving.

Although the move has gone smoothly, we’re still adjusting to a new home and can’t seem to find anything when we need it.   Or it’s still at the old house!

One little thing has made quite a difference.

In 2002, our youngest daughter bought an “antique grandfather clock” from England that was a limited edition clock to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.   The clock bears a commemorative plate on the front.   Of course, it’s not really an antique as it’s only 14 years old, but it looks like an antique.   Finally, we have a good place for it and it’s now chiming every 15 minutes from 7am to 10pm.

Our eldest grandson loves it.

Wherever he is in his “new house” he runs to the clock when it starts chiming and is fascinated by it.   He then comes running back to me pointing in the direction of the clock and repeating enthusiastically “Hickory Dickory Dock.”   (Long-time readers will remember his love of the old nursery rhyme.)   I’m taking the opportunity to teach him time using the clock.   Every hour you hear the number of strokes denoting the passage of time.   The chimes are “Westminster” chimes, just like Big Ben.

Although, to be exact, not like Big Ben, which, after 150 years, has now been silenced for extensive repairs.  I don’t know what the BBC will do.  When we lived in Ghana, we heard the chimes of Big Ben every day on the BBC World Service, the most listened to radio service in the world.   In a period of turmoil, it conveyed a sense of stability, normalcy and even sanity.  But it’s now too old to continue – until it’s fully repaired.

Our clock and London’s famous clock are reminders of the passage of time.

No two days are exactly alike in this world.   Every fifteen minutes, there’s likely to be some change.   I wonder what the world of our grandchildren will be like when they are 65?

This year we are seeing some changes that may turn out to be very significant.

On Sunday, Austrians gave the right-wing Freedom Party the most votes in the first round of the Austrian presidential election. Now, the president of Austria does not have executive powers.   His responsibilities are more ceremonial, similar to what the Queen has in the United Kingdom.   However, he can dissolve parliament and call an election.   If he does, we may find his party wins and controls parliament.   Europe is moving to the right as the people reject the traditional centrist parties that have governed for seven decades. It’s similar to the 1930’s with a rising nationalism, xenophobia and economic stagnation all contributory factors.

Arguably, the same phenomenon is taking place in the United States with Donald Trump.

We see it in a number of different countries.  In the United Kingdom, a referendum is to take place in a few weeks on the country’s continued membership of the European Union.   We should not confuse this with the euro-zone – Britain has an exemption on this issue regardless of the outcome of the vote.   The EU itself is the issue in June. The EU has a great deal of support, but many want to put “Britain First,” the name of one of the anti-EU parties on the political right.

In hindsight, it was a big mistake for Britain to enter the Union in 1973.  But after more than 40 years of marriage, divorce is not going to be easy.   In the short-term the outcome may not make much of a difference.  The EU is evolving into something more akin to the Holy Roman Empire than the United States, with no two members seemingly alike.  Whatever the outcome of the June 23rd vote, the UK will have to come to terms with a German-dominated potential superpower on its doorstep.

So will the US.   Donald Trump gave a major speech yesterday calling for a radical reappraisal of US foreign policy.   He promised to put “America First,” the name of a movement in the 1930’s to keep America out of Europe’s rising conflict.

It’s been 25 years since the fall of communism but the US continues to spend billions each year defending long-time allies against Russia, China and North Korea.   There is growing resentment amongst American voters who feel that the US has to spend more than its fair share, at a time when Americans are experiencing a fall in their standard of living.

There could be significant changes if Trump wins the election in November.

At the same time, there could be significant changes in Europe regardless of who wins the US election.

King Solomon wrote 3,000 years ago:

“That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Future historians may label this period in time as “the rise of nationalism.”   But it’s nothing new.   We’ve been there before.   The post-World War II international set-up is increasingly falling apart.   Within the next few months we could see some real changes.

In Daniel 2:21 the ancient prophet says of God:

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   America, like Britain before it, has had its period of pre-eminence.   A withdrawal from much of the world would inevitably diminish America’s international standing – the president would no longer be “the Leader of the Free World.”

It would be time for another superpower to fill the vacuum.

Like our grandfather clock, our grandchildren are likely to see these changes and feel the impact as their world dramatically changes.   They will need to remember the words of Jesus Christ to pray fervently for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10).