We live in an interesting time, and not always for the best reasons. Let’s face it, 2019 has been a crazy year and 2020 doesn’t promise to be much better. We live in a time where we’re not seeing the best of us as humane people on a regular basis and let’s face it, things are getting very tense. I won’t deny it, the tone and mood of the discourse in our country right now is something that has been weighing on my mind a fair bit lately. It’s not been good at all, and it does make me wonder where it will all lead.
That feeling has been confirmed for me lately with a couple things I saw in the news over the past week. The first story comes from home, one that should make a lot of people stand up and notice:
Now for most Canadians who watch our politics, I doubt that this story is shocking to them. We know that in this age of social media we’ve seen more and more vitriol and down right ignorance thrown at our elected officials. And in that we’ve seen women and people from minority groups get the worst of it. Having worked on the Hill for a decade, I saw a lot of it and it sadly became a part of the daily work. To an extent I was lucky to be in a Parliament Hill office because you were not easily accessible to people off the street. I always felt worse for my colleagues working in constituency offices because they were easily accessible to the public and would get people coming in off the street with awful things thrown at them, verbally and otherwise.
We all had the panic buttons installed under our desks, which I have to admit at the time I didn’t think much of. But by the time I left the Hill, I was grateful to have it there. I saw the emails and heard the voicemail messages left for my various bosses. I saw the threats, the racist comments, the ignorance and down right vitriol. I forwarded enough of them to the authorities over my years to be familiar with the process, a process I don’t think that anyone should ever become familiar with.
And despite all that, I know I had it better than many because I knew that others in our caucus and other parties had it far worse. So when I read that story from the CBC, part of me was glad that this is being seen by the public because they really should see this. But another part of me wondered how much worse things might get before it changes. And that made me think back to a piece I heard on CNN last week as I was making my daily drive into the city, something that I think we should all heed:
The second half of that “reality check” is something that we should really pay attention to. While that may be from the United States and we can say that we are in a better position as a country than that, I think we’ve all seen too many examples of late about how our world is much smaller than it used to be when it comes to these matters. With all of the issues that we are facing as a country and the rise of tensions that we’ve seen during and after the Federal election, I think we can easily see how the sentiments that are raised in that video can be seen in Canada, if they aren’t already. We all can easily picture moments and people who have expressed similar sentiments about those who they disagree with politically, so it’s not that big a leap to make.
We should take that video, the stats they raise and the sentiments we’re seeing just to our South with some serious reflection, and that comes from all sides of the political spectrum. We all need to take a deep breath, take a step back and try to find ways to not only lower the temperature on our political discourse but also try to find solutions that help to move us forward, together. People are angry out there right now and the solution to the problems creating that anger is not more anger.
We need our political leaders to take their collective feet off the accelerator and try to calm things. Frankly, we need them to start to be the adults in the room, can the insults, slurs, attacks and actually come to the table with some practical ideas to move us forward. Being in a minority government, you’d think that should be easier to accomplish in this moment but I’m still waiting to see any indications from various leaders that they can do this. They need to recognize the seriousness of the moment which we find ourselves in and act accordingly. Rhetoric isn’t going to get this done.
Simply put, our leaders need to lead and set the example. We’ll see what they do as they meet with the Prime Minister over the next week and what comes in the days afterwards. Personally I want to be hopeful that they will rise to the occasion and will realize the seriousness of this moment. 2019 has been rough and we’ll have a much better idea of how 2020 will go after we see how our leaders act over the next few weeks.