The endlessly entertaining and thought-provoking (sometimes thoughtlessness provoking) American political forum has engaged me in a dance of the moth to the flame. Obama, Clinton, Jon Stewart, Sotomayor and, yes, even Cheney, Hannity, Taitz, Palin and Beck stir my passion almost to the exclusion of political events here, in Canada. My 77 year old mother, rarely casts an acknowledging glance toward Canadian political news which, nevertheless, still insipidly insists on determining so much of her life – such does it bore and embarrass her. Whenever the subject manages to rear its rheumatic head, she harrumphs and declares it “Mickey Mouse”. Not even in Afghanistan or Iran, where elections are generally considered to be fodder for masters of fraud, does the populace consider the meat of the matter to be of such animated rodent origins. What gives in Canada?
I grew up in a country that charmed me without indoctrination. I loved the low-key progressiveness that made us distinct without any ensuing breast-thumping or narcissism. We were still willing to believe that there was plenty of room for improvement – we hadn’t arrived yet. This is what continued to drive us as a government, a people and a member of the world community. Lester B. Pearson personified the heights of our aspirations on the world stage when he was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the inception of peacekeeping forces (although, I must say, I’ve always considered “peacekeeping force” to be somewhat of an oxymoron – how can peace be forced?). Canada’s objective wasn’t to dominate world politics, it was, rather, to contribute to its continuing evolution towards universal freedom and equality. Pearson’s dedication was followed by the charisma of Pierre Trudeau’s inexorable march towards a “just society” and catalyzed by the repatriation of our constitution. Even that, though, wasn’t hailed with foot-stomping patriotism as much as with a sigh of relief.
We abolished the death penalty, we contributed massively to international aid and development, we opened our doors to refugees and immigrants, we enacted legislation to improve equality of indigenous Canadians and women, we heralded in universal health care and we legalized same sex marriage. This was a country that stood up for the oppressed, didn’t close the door on other world leaders simply because of differing political philosophies and honoured the true meaning of “citizen”. That is not to say that we didn’t have a long trek ahead of us in tackling many other issues on a domestic level. Despite our short-comings our direction was still clearly on the forward side of history. We had a leader in Jean Chretien, willing to risk the wrath of our largest trading partner, by refusing to participate in a war he deemed illegal and meritless. I stood up and cheered to be a Canadian then!
Today, we allow our citizens to languish in foreign, sub-human prisons around the world if they don’t meet the government’s idea of what is politically acceptable. We have a leader who, given half a chance, would overturn the hard-fought, same-sex marriage legislation and who dwells somewhere in the house of “gaga” when it comes to climate change. No longer do we discreetly take on the role of leadership when it comes to peace-keeping, environmental protection or international dialogue. No longer do we stand up for the wrongfully accused and oppressed. No longer do we automatically oppose a death sentence when a Canadian citizen in a foreign land is on the receiving end. No longer do we oppose torture and extreme rendition. In fact, no longer do we even accord a person with a Canadian passport the benefit of the doubt when it comes to citizenship. In sum: NO LONGER do we engage the people of Canada in a government that they can be proud of.
Perhaps these are the reasons why my mother considers this government to be Mickey Mouse. Alas, I am so sorry to inform her, this is not likely to change any time soon. We are going to be relegated to this Disneyland parliament until the three left of centre parties (four if you count The Green Party) are able to find some unity. The present governing party has a minority of the votes but by dictates of our system they are handed the mantle of domination.
I cringe when confronted with the negative ads of the governing party. As responsible leaders it is their task to educate not indoctrinate. It is their responsibility to flush out the issues, to defend their positions through discourse and logic rather than through sneering messages aimed at discrediting the opposition, messages that would even make high school kids blush.
I have lost my pride in the government of Canada. I maintain my hope in the people. Eventually, maybe not this next election, but soon, the people will rise up in that quiet Canadian way and kick their asses out of office. We will re-discover our roots which will nourish the progress which became stagnant with the advent of this government. That will be the day when my mother will find her lost interest and I my lost passion. I may even turn off MSNBC.