Some reflections on the Simkin Centre and saying good riddance to the narcissist-in-chief

Bernie newBy BERNIE BELLAN

The Simkin Centre has certainly been on the minds of many readers of this paper over the past few weeks - in both a very positive way when it comes to hearing about the huge donation given to that institution totally out of the blue, but also in a much more worrying way as we learn of a number of incidents of COVID there, and the sad news of two deaths of residents from COVID.

 

The first death of a resident from COVID came on October 24th, while the second death came October 31st.
Given the terrible situation in Manitoba at this time it is no surprise that the Simkin Centre, despite its staff having taken all necessary precautions to safeguard against a COVID outbreak, was also victim to a virus that is especially hard to guard against in health care facilities. With so many readers having a close connection to the Simkin Centre, either at present or at some point in the past, any mention of COVID at that personal care home resonates in a way that hearing the news in other PCH’s doesn’t.
Naturally, we’re all deeply concerned by what’s happening – and what makes it all the more difficult is knowing how increasingly difficult it’s been for all personal care homes in the province to deal with the ever mounting financial burdens they’re facing without any increase in funding from the province. I usually shy away from criticizing either the provincial or federal government within the pages of this paper, since there’s plenty of that for all to read or hear in the “mainstream media” – but the freeze in funding for PCH’s that first started under the former NDP government is an absolute travesty.

That’s why it was such welcome news to read of an unexpected gift of $725,000 from the Myer and Corrine Geller Trust to the Sharon Home/Simkin Centre. That money couldn’t have come at a more urgent time, although admittedly a good portion of the money will not be put to immediate use. (According to the report issued by the Simkin Centre about the donation, 70% of the money will be put into a reserve fund to be managed by the Jewish Foundation.)
You might be wondering why I was so determined to try and crack the mystery why someone who had left Winnipeg over 70 years ago would want to leave such a substantial donation to our Jewish personal care home. Frankly, I enjoy a challenge and this particular story presented a challenge of a sort about which I don’t ever recall reading.
Although there is no absolute way in which anyone could prove that Myer Geller wanted to give a substantial donation to the Sharon Home because his mother had been a resident there – short of hearing directly from a relative who might be able to corroborate that hypothesis, as I argue in my article on page one, that is the most likely scenario based on the evidence I have been able to put together (with the help of others to a certain extent).
And, if it is true that Myer Geller’s mother, Sarah, was a resident of the Sharon Home, what could be a more loving gesture of devotion from a son or daughter to a parent to thank the facility that took care of that parent in his or her final days? If Myer Geller’s magnanimous donation might also lead others who have a parent at the Simkin Centre to want to do something similar, there couldn’t be a greater expression of appreciation for the tremendous work that staff - and volunteers, do there, day in and day out.

As we all continue to endure what is emerging as a ferocious battle against an unrelentingly dangerous virus, it’s easier for some of us than it is for others.
For myself, I spend a good portion of my days now holed up in my very comfortable rec room – which has now become the office of The Jewish Post & News. While I’m certainly working harder than I ever expected to be doing at this stage of my life, I have to admit that producing this newspaper to a very large extent relieves me of having to worry about what to do with my time. I don’t know how many books one can read or how many TV shows one can watch without going stir crazy. I also have a dog who, while spoiled rotten, forces me to get outside for walks on a regular basis – so, all in all, I consider myself very lucky.
One thing that I’ve avoided doing for the most part though, is spending any time on Facebook. Other than posting occasionally to our JewishPostandNews Facebook page – when I want to alert followers of our page to an interesting story on our website, for the most part I simply don’t look at Facebook.
If anything, the terrible reputation that social media have developed for being purveyors of the worst sort of misinformation has quite repelled me from being the least bit interested in looking at any forms of social media – other than Bartley Kives’s Twitter feed, which I find hugely informative.

Now that the US election is over – and we are likely to be relieved of the burden of the incessant BS emanating from the current occupant of the White House, maybe, just maybe, we can wake up every day without having to hear or read about the latest unbelievable lie uttered or tweeted by Donald F. Trump, although the liklihood is that Trump will never stop wanting to be the absolute centre of attention - which is what his entire career has always been.
While I’ve gone out of my way to try and present as estimable a defense of Trump as a capable president as one can muster by allowing others to write opinion pieces glorifying the narcissist-in-chief, I can’t help but think back to the end of the Nixon era, when another lying commander-in-chief left the White House in disgrace.
At the time I was a devout fan of Dick Cavett, whose talk show remains unequaled in terms of the erudite level of discourse it brought to late-night TV. Cavett, who it was later revealed, was on Nixon’s “enemies list” – marked for severe retribution, had a wonderful turn of phrase when it came to constantly referring to Nixon as the “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Watergate scandal. No doubt, he got under Nixon’s skin more than anyone else in the media for continuing to use that term night in and night out.

Now, while late-night TV hosts have had a four-year field day roasting the consummate con artist that is really all that Trump is, for many of us the hope is that Trump will indeed face indictments on a whole range of charges once he leaves (or is marched out) of office.
At the very least he should be indicted on the same charges of campaign finance transgressions that led to his former lackey lawyer Michael Cohen going to jail.
Yes, I know there have been some good things that have been accomplished during his presidency – although they are very few and far between, and that Israel now has established diplomatic relations with more Arab countries than ever before, but how on earth can otherwise rational and intelligent people continue to give Trump a pass for everything else that he’s done?
Never mind the disastrous manner in which his administration has handled the COVID situation (George W. Bush was also hugely incompetent when it came to dealing with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so it’s not surprising that another Republican president would also dismiss the warnings of scientists and other professionals within his own administration that disaster was afoot unless he took precautions early), Trump is very much responsible for the savagely crude level of discourse that is so much associated with social media these days.

Yet, it’s not just the Trumpers who have led me to avoid Facebook as much as it is possible to do so at a time when social media are by far the most popular means by which most people derive their information, it’s also the voices on the left who have repelled me.
When I read Prof. Mira Sucharov’s memoir, “Borders and Belonging”, about which I write on page , I was struck by the degree to which an academic puts their career in jeopardy by attempting to provide balance when it comes to discussing certain subjects, among which one of the most incendiary is Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.
Mira has been subjected to vitriolic scorn from both sides of the debate – and it has certainly taken its psychological toll, as well as an apparent physical one, on her, for daring to toe an even handed approach to that issue.
As someone who has also been subject to vicious denunciations from some of the more extreme right wing defenders of Israel within our community, I can relate to Mira’s quandary, although to be quite honest, I’ve never been involved in the kind of nasty cross-fighting that goes on in the academic world, and which she’s encountered on a regular basis.
We all have one overriding concern these days – and that’s to get through the pandemic while retaining both our physical and psychological equilibrium. To the extent that Trump was responsible for the deterioration of that equilibrium on so many counts, I say thank goodness we’re almost rid of him, even though it’s apparent that his presence will haunt us always. I say