Saturday, September 25, 2010

Passing on the Left

Tommy and Irma Douglas. Photo taken by Frank Lennon/Toronto Star Nov. 4, 1965. Also published 19691018 with caption: Tommy Douglas makes a triumphant entrance into a Maple Leaf Gardens rally during his 1965 rally. the New Democratic party leader will be 65 Monday.

The first politician I was ever aware of, ever met, was Tommy Douglas. My dad worked for the railroad and was on strike. It was an ugly one. The company hired scabs and roaming gangs of thugs. Union workers carried guns because they feared for the lives of the men on the line and their own families.

Tommy came around and told them not to be afraid, to be strong, because they were in the right. He barely came up to my dad's shoulders but he was the bravest man in the room.

Not long after, he became the Premier of Saskatchewan and took on the Medical establishment by creating Medicare. Doctors struck. Hospitals closed. Mothers with sickly kids like me were terrified. But Tommy had the courage of his convictions. He knew his cause was right. He stuck to his beliefs and his principles and he won.

Lately, I've been wondering why the Left in this country doesn't act like Tommy Douglas anymore.

Tommy was long gone before I was old enough to vote. But because of his courage and class and character, the first ballot I cast was for his party. The next two or three were as well.

But somewhere after that the Left seemed to change. Standing up for specific beliefs and fighting with reasoned conviction seemed to take a back seat to something else.

Today, while I understand and personally embrace a lot of what the Left says it stands for, I can't imagine myself ever voting for a party on the Left again. And I think I'm finally beginning to understand why.

I don't think they know what they stand for anymore. I don't see many of them adhering to guiding principles. And mostly, they seem to be constantly afraid.

Before Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister, much of what I heard in criticism of him was "He scares me." He's now been Canada's leader longer than three recent Prime Ministers (Joe Clark, Kim Campbell and Paul Martin) put together. But still the refrain from Left leaning friends remains "He scares me."

Has he hurt them personally? No.

Has he torpedoed their standard of living, curtailed their freedoms, launched unjust wars, stolen from the public purse? Not so far as I can tell.

But somehow he still "scares" them. He's still waiting to unleash some terrifying "secret agenda".

Since I don't have a vote in Toronto, I don't have a dog in the current hunt for the election of the city's next Mayor. But an avowed enemy of the Left, Rob Ford, seems to have a comfortable lead a month before the vote.

In the last 24 hours I've had 35 messages from friends who live in Toronto, seeking my support for various campaigns to stop Rob Ford, to find an "anybody but Rob" candidate because "He scares me".

Scares them because…?

Nobody articulates that. Somehow being scared is enough.

Like Harper, Ford is also the butt of jokes about his physical appearance and lack of social skills. With Harper it's his stuck in place hair, choice of sweaters and preference for boring policy debates. Rob Ford is dumpy, loud and dresses like a clown.

But if the Left is deathly afraid of these guys, how come they're not at all afraid of making fun of them?

If these guys are so capable of psychopathic mayhem then cracking wise is on a par with being in a Brooklyn bar with "Two-Gun" Tommy DeSimone (the character Joe Pesci played in "Goodfellas") and telling him to go home and get his shine box.

You begin to wonder if the expression of constant dread is actually a way of avoiding articulating logical concerns. Concerns that could be used to educate, confront or debate those holding an opposing position.

Maybe continuously making fun of somebody's physical appearance reveals that those on the Left don't really believe all the politically correct and high-minded sentiments they insist they hold close to their hearts.

Did everybody just forget what happened to Brian Mulroney for making fun of Jean Chretien's paralysis.

And since when did Body Mass Index determine somebody's competence? Are you incapable of leadership because your tie and jacket clash? Is being brash and boisterous proof that you have no empathy?

Imagine any of the things being said about Rob Ford or Stephen Harper being said if they were black or women. You know, the way those "racist", "misogynist" bastards on the Right talk about Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.

The level of discourse has me wondering if those on the Left are in any way "better" than those they vilify.

If I walked into a leather bar tonight and called somebody a fudge-packer, I'd rightly get my ass kicked.

But if I believe the Tweets from all those on the Left who adore Stephen Colbert, if I call the same guy a Corn-packer he'll laugh, buy me a beer and ask if I want to oil up and wear a Speedo on his Pride Week float.

Things like that have me believing that being on the Left these days does not mean having the courage of your convictions or principles you won't disdain that embodied Tommy Douglas, Harvey Milk or Martin Luther King.

It seems to mean that you don't hold many real convictions at all.

If you did, how could you set them aside, deep-sixing a candidate who believes in something as deeply as you do to favor somebody who can beat the guy you hate but won't bring about any of the change you wanted?

Either the lesser of two evils is still evil or you don't really care that much about stopping evil in the first place.

Would you think as highly of Martin Luther King if he'd settled for riding in the middle of the bus?  Would Tommy Douglas still be our Greatest Canadian if healthcare was only free until you were 21 or got a job?

Would you still respect and look for affirmation from a newspaper proven to be manipulating the truth? How could you expect anybody to trust you or take you seriously next time if you're so willing to toss your values aside to succeed this time?

Maybe you guys on the Left need to take a hard look at what you really believe in and what makes your concerns about your opponents more real than potentially irrational.

Maybe it's time to make a list of what it is you clearly want your city or your country to be, what it should stand for and what it should never stoop to doing just to win, or to be in charge or whatever it is that most matters to you.

Until I'm convinced you're more concerned with those things than what's fashionable or accepted among your peers, I'm passing on the Left.


Rusty James said...

Nothing, as you prolly know, scares me.

But what makes me proud (and I hope someday I'll be a whole bunch prouder) is my local Liberal MP, Marc Garneau.

Yeah, THAT guy. The former astronaut.

And what are his policies? What has he brought to the house of common-sense, if that's what its called?

He's introduced a private member's bill calling for the creation of a national Children's Commissioner.

Independent from government, its job would be to monitor government and champion the voices and rights of children.

Sounds like a good guy to me.*

And what this country needs is whole buncha nicer people running it. Leaders.

*THAT, and he looks normal too. Nothing scary about this guy.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so you won't go for the left because they don't have the courage of their convictions.

So, are you voting for the right or not voting at all? I would still rather vote for people who have the convictions I do, even if they don't always manage to hold to them, then vote for people who completely disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

Jim: the Left has been pretty much emasculated (if that isn't too politically incorrect...I guess I should say emasculated/efemulated) since the Web was invented.

Think about it: all that anonymous online politicking by those who would compare getting flamed a bit to being hauled into Dachau. Seriously, if you get the least bit angry on line, you run the risk of someone acting like they're the second coming of Ann Frank. Their persecution complex is that advanced.

If Ford does win(and while I support the idea, and relish the heartburn he is causing the left, my vote is with Thompson), the vacancy rate here in Toronto will soar.

I mean, first we got rid of all those Americans who went home after the Bush years when Obama won (did Tim Robbins even make an effort?).

If Ford wins, I'll personally help everyone who whines about leaving Toronto pack and move.

scream said...

Rusty: I'm curious to know, what rights are Canadian children currently deprived of - other than decent public education, that is?

Rusty James said...

Well, Mr or Mrs, Scream, as the parent of a special needs child I can list a number of 'needs' that are mandated by our government but not given.

More day care places for kids with special needs, for example; timely service (before the child reaches the age of 4, let's say) provided by speech, and motor professionals; more doctors, nurses, and social workers.

I think a child advocate could do a lot to address the specific needs of kids and their parents - the rich, the poor, the sick, and the healthy.

And did I mention Mr. Marc Garneau went to space?

'Cuz he did.

scream said...

Rusty, I have a friend with a profoundly autistic child and am very aware of the lack of support for children with special needs. It's sickening, actually. What I wonder is, can't Garneau and others do the necessary advocacy work in parliament without creating a whole new bloated, beaurocracy that is sure to be as wasteful as most others?

Without belittling the plight of special needs families, there are many many Canadians who suffer catastrophic health issues. I read on the CBC today that 85% of Canadian cancer patients simply can't afford the drugs necessary to keep them alive. When it comes to health care, there are many injustices in our country. I just don't think more government is the answer. I believe the answer lies in re-prioritizing where tax dollars go.

PS: I hope your child is happy, well and thrives as much as possible.

rabbit said...

Academic elites have always played a major role in the left.

But over the course of the last few decades, progressive academics have become mired in postmodernism, relativism, and impenetrable theorizing.

This has robbed the left of its vigor and courage. How can one be brave in defense of a politics that doubts the very existence of "truth"?