Hello there everyone, it’s been a while…. Since March 25th to be precise, but yes, a while. I’ve taken some downtime from this space over the past few months, to focus on some professional changes in my life, spend some time with family and try to recharge the batteries. And now that Labour Day has passed and the unofficial end of summer has hit us, it feels appropriate that now be the time to come back and start writing again.
In this time off, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I’ve done with this space since starting it and how I participate in the political discourse. In short, I’ve always been more focused on getting results than scoring political points. That’s something that’s just continued to grow stronger in me as I’ve gotten older, and I guess I don’t have as much patience for the political point scoring crap that I used to. And in the current political environment, it’s hard to find much other than that when you look.
My ethos for this blog (and my approach to politics overall) is right in the masthead of it, in the form of an old quote from former Saskatchewan Premier and Federal NDP Leader Tommy Douglas; “The best way to defend democracy is to make it work”. To me that defense and protection comes in two forms; actually making government work for the people and actually trying to make it work. It seems right now that both are in very short supply.
Mitch Heimpel wrote a piece in The Line late last week that points to the poisonous tone and tenor of our current political circumstances. He pointed to how we got here, how all side share some blame and the effect that it’s having on our country and the relative strength of our democracy. There is a lot in it that I agree with, although reading it brought up something I’ve personally been struggling with getting my head around for the past few months.
I agree that all parties share some of the blame regarding how we got to where we are today. All parties, big and small, have had their moments when they have torqued the rhetoric or push the envelope for their particular gain, for whatever reason. For me, to say that is not controversial. What gets controversial for me is to suggest that because all have blame, all have equal blame and that all parties share the same burden in fixing things. That is something I cannot agree with because of where we are today.
The analogy that seems to fit best to me takes me back to my teaching days, with two kids on the playground. The first kid calls the second one a “nerd”, in an attempt to insult the second. In response, the second kid responds by grabbing the first by the neck, throwing him to the ground and punching him repeatedly. In this circumstance, do both kids have culpability? Yeah, both did something wrong. But do both deserve the same level of blame? Well no, because while the first kids’ insults were wrong and should be punished, they aren’t on the same level of wrong as the second kid who responded with a physical assault. That second kid crossed a bright red line that the first didn’t, and that needs to be recognized and factored into things.
To me, that is where I feel that things are at right now, where things have progressed to. We’ve gone beyond amped up political rhetoric into the unacceptable. We’ve seen people repeated cross those bright red lines that we have in a democratic society, and when having that pointed out, we’ve seen those same people try to justify it like that second child in the analogy above. “But you did that, so of course I did this!”
This is where my struggle comes in, because we’re now at a point where pointing out simple, verifiable facts gets this response. People get called “divisive” by those doing those things, essentially for simply calling a spade a spade. You’re seeing it happen stateside now, where honest to goodness fascists and people who are still trying to overthrow a democratically elected government are called that, and then act as if those words are somehow worse than their actions. Like the act of calling someone who tried to invade the US Capital an “insurrectionist” is worse than the insurrection itself. That’s crazy to me, yet here we are.
Former American President Ronald Reagan (not someone I think I’ve ever quoted here) once pointed out that democracy isn’t a given. He said that “we didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” How can we protect and defend the very fact of democracy if we give into those who get irate when we point out their undemocratic ways? They count on the silence of the majority to succeed, so it’s understandable that we can’t give them that silence. It doesn’t need to be in a combative tone or manner, but it does need to be said. So going forward in this space, I’m going to continue to speak up because it’s not a given that we’ll always have that ability to. I’ll continue to do it in a respectful and constructive way, but the truth it will continue to be, no matter how uncomfortable that may be for some who choose to stray from our democratic norms. I hope we can lower the temperature of this fever in our democracy because Lord knows we need it now more than ever.