Cask & Barrel

We The People

I only received this letter posthumously, 10 years after it was written, as part of my Grandfather’s estate as it was sorted through and dispersed by his executor. My dual American-Canadian citizenship has always been something I’ve taken for granted, yet I feel a personally affected by the political events of our Southern neighbours, particularly this presidential term. Although my Grandpa was a staunch conservative, and we disagreed on many partisan issues like climate change and healthcare, I believe our fundamental ideologies  were the same.

June 17, 2007

Dear Kirstyn

It pleased me to be with you as your sponsor when you were sworn as a citizen of the United States of America at the ceremony in Buffalo.

You are an American by circumstance. Too many people take that circumstance lightly while millions the world over would, and have, given everything including their very lives to become Americans. Why is this so?

In the history of mankind many nations have experimented with democracy with varying degrees of success. Winston Churchill noted that democracies are the worst form of government…. except for the alternative.

The U.S.A. has many faults but those faults are open for all to see. None of the experiments have been more open in this regard but none have survived longer. Why should this be?

Democracies will always be “works in progress” and none more so than America. It is a nation of constant change not all of which serve to advance democracy because they are the product of people and people make mistakes. But, in time, the people are able to correct mistakes and the work does progress. I believe this is possible because its founding documents begin with the wonderful words, “We the people…..” thus signifying the people are telling the government what its powers and limitations are.

I hope with the passage of time and life experience you will attach an ever greater importance to your American citizenship and, in your own way, contribute to its progress toward perfection of a democratic system which enobles all individuals. It is a work which will certainly not be completed in my time nor, probably, in yours. Nor will it be easy work but we should take heart from Emmerson’s words when he said. “I progress slowly, but infinitely more surely going up hill than down.”

Thanks to qualities you have inherited from your Mother and Father you have a good mind and disposition to be considerate of others. I believe you accept that, despite their fallibility, people can, and will, learn from their mistakes. On that basis alone I also believe you agree “we the people” have the right to ensure government serves us and that those who would dictate to individuals through any form of central planning be shunned.

Whatever the future holds in store may you always seek for the truth of the matter and know that my love and confidence are with you.


Bill Wightman: A Life Remembered

When I found out my Grandfather, Bill Wightman, had passed away February 28 I was shocked. It wasn’t completely out of the blue; he was nearly 88 years old and had been battling pneumonia for the last few weeks. But anyone that knew him knew he had a lot of living left to do. To me he was a man of great dignity, integrity, and heart. It wasn’t until his passing that I realized how much he meant to so many people outside of our family. For a thorough recollection of his life I refer you to the obituary posted at Ainsworth Funeral Home here. For a more detailed look at the cause nearest to his heart in his later years, there is an excellent article from the Wellington Times available here.

I can’t think of a better way to memorialize him than through his own words. The following is from a letter he gave to me one Christmas, along with the book “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton.

Dearest Kirstyn,

Among other things, this book has been described as thought provoking. I am certain you will find “State of Fear” both thought provoking and a good story.

I hope to live many more years to proudly watch and encourage you. Even if I do not have much longer to go before I die, this book will help you to understand why I have often worked for causes which were unpopular in the minds of many people.

I do not like to see people coerced, therefore I have opposed the coercive aspect of compulsory unionism.

I do not believe politicians, no matter how well they are motivated, can make better decisions than those which individuals should be allowed to make for themselves, therefore I have opposed when it monopolizes such personal matters as health care and education.

I do not like those who use fear rather than fact as a means of motivating people to accept a point of view, therefore I have opposed what has become conventional wisdom whether it related to the “science” of eugenics or, more recently, global warming.

Shakespeare wrote wisely when he had Polonius say to his son, Laertes, “Above all, to thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”. That advice, along with Victor Hugo’s story of redemption, “Les Miserables” and a poem by Leigh Hunt, title “Abou Ben Adhem”, have informed my thinking since I was twelve years old. The poem goes as follows:

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Kirstyn, whatever you decide to do in life you will do it well. Just follow your heart thoughtfully. Not long after you were born your Grandmother, Chow Soon, looked at you and said to me, “There’s a baby who knows she is loved”! Wherever you go, whatever you do, I pray you will always know my love goes with you.

I love you Grandpa.