+PLUS+ Alberta seeks alternative to “elite, east-rising sun that doesn’t represent our values.”
IN A SURPRISE MOVE THAT HAS LED many disillusioned Canadians to reassess their negative opinions of Justin Trudeau, the re-elected prime minister has finally implemented promised electoral reform by taking every opportunity to emphasize how much better the outcome would have been in a proportional representation (PR) model.
The change of heart was prompted by the knowledge that the Conservative Party had received approximately 250,000 more actual votes than the Liberals; however, in Canada’s dreaded, disenfranchising, first-past-the-post system, it’s constituency seats, not votes, that constitute the final tally.
Chrystia Freeland, newly-minted Deputy PM, and managing a specially-created portfolio as Minister of Intergovernmental Relations Which Would Already Be Fine if it Weren’t for Alberta, announced the long-awaited restructuring at a press conference just a couple of weeks after the Liberals formed a minority government.
“The Liberals officially won the most seats and a clear mandate to once again give Canadians that comfortable familiarity they crave: A Person Named Trudeau forging ahead doing the opposite of whatever he promised, or just dropping everything like a hot potato and getting mired in obscure bureaucratic or procedural scandals that no one can figure out and that, frankly, aren’t even remotely exciting,” Freeland explained.
“Today I’m also very pleased to point out that, in a proportional representation model, the Conservatives would have formed the government. Yes, that’s according to the actual popular vote, and boy, are we ever happy for them!”
She continued, “I know that I speak for Justin Trudeau and all the other members of Cabinet when I extend our sincere congratulations to Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives for their thrilling victory had the circumstances been fair and democratic. Way to go, Andy!
“As for the official Elections Canada win that wasn’t really a win, well—what can I say! Phew! Close one! It is what it is!”
The New Democratic Party Leader, Jagmeet Singh also weighed in on the results.
“I’m absolutely over the moon that, under a system that would actually have made people believe it was worth getting out of bed to participate, we would have doubled our seats to fifty-four instead of losing some of the seats we already had!” he said to roars of delight from his supporters.
“Obviously my strategy of seeing what the other dudes’ policies were and then Tweeting that we darn well hoped they were actually going to put those policies into practice—or not put them into practice, depending—or else, worked. Or sometimes the alternative strategy of just re-Tweeting what they said with a “yes siree!” or a “no way!”, which is my preference for the days when I’m just too stressed out to handle this political shit.
“I’m sooooo happy for us if the system were an accurate reflection of the wishes of Canadian citizens and not just a frustrating waste of valuable time that you could have spent on Facebook complaining! Awesome work, team!!”
Former Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who resigned after the Greens’ dismal showing at the polls added, “I’m in shock! Though it didn’t actually happen because of our outdated, irrelevant voting model, the thought that we could have had twenty-two seats instead of three is just… Well, I’m humbled”.
Choking back tears of joy, she added, “These imaginary alternative results have vindicated my firm belief that, even if the candidate were a one-legged armadillo, somebody, somewhere will vote for it, as long as you use the word “green”.
“In this fantasy I also don’t resign as party leader, instead I’m simply added to the “endangered species” Red List. Then I travel back in time to be crowned Prom Queen, my parents can afford dental appointments, and all of Canada is vegan and off drugs ‘cold turkey,’ no pun intended.
“The Greens: Your Life Will Become Unmanageable,”“Just Say No to Global Partying” and “Oh, Yeah, Climate Change, Whatever” were obviously great slogans that totally resonated with voters—in a system that wouldn’t make you feel like your vote was just flushed down the toilet, except that’s not the system we have.”
However, there was one new non-existent result that should give regular Canadian centrist voters pause. Maxime Bernier’s right-wing People’s Party of Canada (PPC), which based its nationalist platform on anti-immigrant sentiment, would have made gains in the new, “this is just to rub your nose in it, not-in-our-lifetimes” PR system, from zero seats to six.
Moderates vastly preferred the actual current result, where the PPC and its leader don’t exist.
When asked for comment, Bernier replied,
« Ploof! That crazy Thunberg girl is responsible. Socialists! Anti-business climate alarmists! Too much government! Over-spending! Immigrant quotas! Just look at her burqa! Enough is enough! Ça c’est fucké, heins ? »
Then Mr Bernier and all his supporters climbed into a Volkswagen van and drove away.
There is disillusionment In alberta post election, as well as the feeling, common to privileged teenagers, that no one cares or understands and that life is meaningless.
Here’s why: Alberta for decades has relied heavily on limitless, highly-priced oil and gas sales to fund their provincial programs.
Most recently, Trudeau sucked up to the petulant province by agreeing to move forward with the Keystone XXL Pipeline, even though this seemed to undercut his own federally-mandated carbon tax, his commitment to the Paris Accord, his returning all his empties to The Beer Store, and any other green initiatives he might think up on the spur of the moment while setting the trash cans outside Rideau Cottage.
But those ornery Albertans were having none of it.
“Trudeau thinks he can soften us up by giving us just one measly environmentally disastrous and insensitive-to-indigenous-culture oil pipeline so we can continue to prop up the world-wide petroleum vector of waste, greed, global warming and corruption, but we see right through his insincere kow-towing!” said Ginger Spill, Head of Communications for the Oil & Gas ♥ You So Much! Club, an industry-sympathetic think tank.
“Trudeau knows very well that he simply can’t continue to fob us off with his Ottawa condescension and half-way measures. We want nothing less than total capitulation to our demand that Canada officially renounce carbon reduction efforts, based as they are on the random opinions of a few thousand gas-hating fake scientists. Our soon-to-be-obsolete jobs are at stake, here!”
In fact, Alberta has become so angry at perceived slights from Ottawa that separatist sentiment is at an all-time high, with the province threatening to “repatriate” social services and even migrate its Canada Pension Plan to be administered locally.
Ms. Spill continued, “We don’t need the rest of Canada! We have oil and gas, which will keep us living high on the hog well into the next couple of years! We’re thinking oil and gas burgers, oil and gas high schools, oil and gas country & western radio stations, oil and gas internet, and oil and gas traditional marriages!
“You know what else? We’re sick of you guys shining that bright light on us every morning! We don’t need some elite eastern sunrise, making our eyes hurt and mocking our values, telling us when you think it’s OK to get up, when it’s appropriate to have a shot of corn mash whiskey, or encouraging the gays to sing “You are the Sunshine of My Life” at their gay weddings!
“Screw your leftie, socialist propaganda about taking our hard-earned money and giving it all way to other people and your green-this and green-that boondoggle! We’re gonna stick it to Turdeau and his band of bureaucratic, job-killing Libs.
“From now on, every morning, per our schedule, Jason Kenney will stand at the top of the Calgary Tower, pull down his waders, bend over and spread his butt cheeks. He can do it ass-east, ass-west, ass-north or ass-south ’cause we’re sick of being Mister Nice Guy Co-operative! Whatever comes outta his ass and from wherever is all the sunshine we’ll ever need!
“Now we just gotta work out how to manage the moon at night.”
+PLUS+ No Treatment On the Horizon for “CRUD” (Canadian Refusing to Undermine Democracy)
Justin Trudeau, fresh from his “win” of the Canadian Federal Election, has capitalized on Canadians’ surprisingly laid-back response to his infamous blackface pics by instituting “Blackface Fridays,” the new Parliamentary equivalent of corporate casual days.
“Canadians used their common sense,” he explained, “and perfectly understood that I was in no way acting out like an entitled child of privilege or being utterly tone deaf by smearing on the boot polish and shoving a fake Arabian Nights turban on my head while posing with a bevy of well-stacked babes. They realized it was just a party, dudes! Also that white people called Trudeau can do any old thing they want!”
He continued, “So to help everyone lighten the heck up a bit, I’ve mandated that my entire cabinet go blackface every Friday while Parliament is in session. Anyone who objects will answer to me, get an undeniable pinch on the ass and have to sit in ‘Jody Corner’ for a time out and some well-intended pressure. It’s gonna be awesome!”
The blackface pictures, oddly enough first revealed by TIME Magazine — an American publication with absolutely no connections whatsoever to Rebel Media or any other right-wing influencers like Ezra Levant or anything — came to light by sheer coincidence as the countdown to the Canadian election had begun. This caused several Canadians to shake their heads and react violently by quickly calling up something actually interesting on the internet, like whatever ridiculous flapdoodle Trump tweeted today or the latest episode of “Schitt’s Creek”.
Nonetheless, despite worldwide tut-tutting and general condemnation of the pics, Trudeau won in a landslide loss of the popular vote to the Conservatives, technically termed a “Minority Government.” Even though he clearly lost. Or not. Anyway, he’s Prime Minister, what the heck, eh? Or possibly unofficial Leader of the Opposition, depending entirely on your point of view.
To gauge where Canadians’ heads were at after Trudeau’s historic win-loss, we spoke with random typical voter Franklyn D. Gallagher as he left an Ottawa Tim Hortons with his double double and maple glazed.
“Holy cow, was there an election?” he exclaimed. “Seriously? Damn, cause I woulda voted for that Wilfred Laurier if he was still in the running! Or maybe Lester Pearson! But I nodded off during ‘Don Messer’s Jubilee’ last Boxing Day after Milly forced that extra portion of President’s Choice ‘What the Dickens Figgy Pudding’ on me! I nearly bust a gut!
“Blackface pictures? Well, what are ya gonna do, eh? The rules go, vote for the guy who’s not the Conservative, and/or the Person Called Trudeau, whichever comes first, except in Alberta in which case do the opposite. If Pierre did it there’s gotta be a good reason for it! Sorry, I meant Diefenbaker! He was always one for the youthful shenanigans!”
But Shirley Otowabe, recently expelled from Hull, Québec on pain of death after several whistleblowers called the Laicity Hotline Laicité about her traditional Nigerian costume, had a different take on our partyin’ PM.
“I was scared at first,” she admitted. “How in hell would the Liberals pull off their inevitable win this time? Luckily our first past the post system kicked in to give the Liberals victory, even with a quarter million less votes than the Conservatives! I praise Jesus I live in a country with free and democratic elections as long as Alberta takes it up the ass!
“A quarter million voters!” she repeated, her big golliwog eyes bugging out from her face as she did a traditional ‘jazz hands,’ then regaled us with a chorus of Swanee on her banjo. “Why, Mammy, that’s like all the Maritimes plus the audience at ten Las Vegas Céline Dion concerts! How do they get away with it?” And she sashayed away, trailing her hand along the wrought iron fences and murmuring, “I don’t know nuttin’ about electin’ no Andrew Scheer, uh-huh! It ain’t fittin,’ y’all!” *
*(She didn’t really walk away like that. She walked away normally, just like anyone else. I just said she did the Butterfly McQueen/Gone With the Wind thing because, a) it’s so friggin’ hilarious, right? and b) also I’m white so I knew I could get away with it.)
Only Jody Wilson-Raybaud, former Attorney General, had any negative comments about the newly-declared Parliamentary tradition. Even though she was still crying after her bullying by “the big boys in senior year,” followed by her week of morning detention which was, like, totally unfair, she bravely agreed to overcome her debilitating social anxiety and speak with us.
We caught up with Wilson-Raybaud as she enjoyed an unpaid coffee break from her job stocking shelves at a pharmacy in British Columbia, which she described to us as “desensitization therapy,” before prefacing her comments with a big, mucus-y sniffle.
“No one is paying any attention to me, or even to the plight of indigenous peoples, least of all Trudeau,” she told us between pitiful sobs. “Just tell me, where are the pics of him in full native feathered headdress and buckskin boots, with some big busty squaws in hot pants knocking back the Ice Wine shooters? Hmmm? I rest my case.”
Her mouth was quivering again and she stared into space, no doubt reliving the terrible trauma of doing a grown-up job. “That big old meanie!!” she wailed, in a veiled reference to Justin Trudeau or possibly some other big, scary man in Cabinet, then collapsed screaming while beating her fists and heels on the floor.
Did Wilson-Raybaud see anything at all postive in Justin’s kinda-sorta-almost victory?
“Well,” she replied, interrupting her tantrum and biting her lower lip as silent tears coursed down her cheeks. “Sales of cleansing and rejuvenating charcoal masks and white lip salve are off the charts. Could someone pass me the Kleenex?”
ARE YOU CANADIAN? DID YOU cast a vote in the recent Federal Election? And did you vote for the party whose leader you actually thought would make the best PM? Did you vote, in other words, according to your conscience, or did you vote strategically?
Though you pelt me with soapstone carvings until I scream for mercy, I must confess that I did the unthinkable.
I voted for the New Democrats. I know, I know. What kind of sick individual would put the nation in jeopardy for such a narcissistic, self-serving whim?
If you’re non-Canadian, I hasten to explain that Canada wasn’t in great peril because my choice was a poor one, or because the New Democratic Party was unfit to govern.
Jagmeet Singh was the party leader with the most progressive platform and who showed the most transparency, intelligence and sensitivity while also being unfraid to stand up for Canadian values. He spoke up whenever Canadians accidentally showed subtle signs of being racist, for example, while campaigning in New Brunswick, when that guy said,
“Where do them wogs get off, running for PM with some goddamned turban on their head? Don’t they know they’re putting themselves in danger if someone throws a bomb at ’em and they’re not wearing a safety helmet? Besides, there’s little bugs runnin’ around under those things! If one a them nig-nogs came canvassin’ at my door, I’d dive under the sofa till they was gone, then spray the whole front porch with RAID!
“Who am I gonna vote for? Is this Alberta? OK, then you know the drill. It’s whoever ain’t the Conservatives and/or the person called Trudeau, whichever comes first! Whoever that is!”
Singh responded with the righteous fire of an Old Testament prophet or, you know, whatever Sikhs have as an equivalent.
“Sometimes when people say hasty, unkind things they don’t really mean,” he retorted in a tentative, barely-audible voice, “my friends get, you know, like, upset. I wouldn’t want to mention any names, and maybe I’m right or maybe I’m wrong, but I’m talking about things said by people that are similar to what someone has said who is maybe standing, or maybe not, pretty close to me. Not to point any fingers or anything. Who am I to judge!”
Watching the results trickle in on polling day, I realized what a close call the election had been. My vote mattered!
Except it didn’t matter for electing the party whose leader I thought was the best, only for not electing the party whose leader I hoped like hell wouldn’t win, but only if I voted for the party whose leader I hated only a little bit less, instead of the one I thought was the best.
Life returned to normal for a time, though I felt strangely ill at ease. Then, about a week after Trudeau’s win-loss, I awoke in the middle of the night drenched with sweat and with my heart pounding. I was wracked with guilt, and worse, I was haunted by dreams in which the Conservative Party had won and Andrew Scheer was mandating school prayer, criminalizing abortion and ordering the womenfolk to attend fittings for the official sensible shoes and calico dresses.
I’d no one to blame but myself. Because of my recklessly voting as though our electoral system worked, I’d contracted a severe case of CRUD: Canadian Refusing to Undermine Democracy.
I realized that by voting my conscience I’d not only put my country in grave jeopardy, I’d cancelled out the votes of my parents, my grandparents, my entire extended family throughout its entire history, Laura Secord, Wayne Gretsky, my friends starting from my first day at kindergarten, plus the original barons who signed the Magna Carta, and every other loyal Canadian who couldn’t hack the thought of Andrew Scheer as PM, and did the right, unselfish thing: Strategically voting for the Liberals.
When I think what might have happened if everyone had voted their conscience, honestly appraising the merits of the various leaders and disregarding our dysfunctional electoral system, I die with shame.
But before I die with shame, I have that sinking feeling you get when you reach the sixty-second floor of your condo building, the elevator doors open, then the cable snaps and the emergency brakes fail, leaving you plunging to your death at the bottom of the shaft, while you realize with horror that your entire life has been totally in vain.
A big gin and tonic helps.
I also have attacks of CRUD when I wake up in the night needing to pee, or just basically at any time when I forget about my disability and stop moving.
But I’ve learned my lesson. I promise: I’ll never, ever, vote according to my conscience again.
Because cynicism — about politicians, about elections, about voting, about democracy in general, about getting involved, about even the value of striving for equality, fairness and justice for all citizens — is as Canadian as beaver tails.
Don Cherry: Don’t feel sorry for this outdated relic of a dumber, whiter, less inclusive time
To kick off today’s in-depth exploration of the obvious, let me ask you a question: Who gives a flying fuck about a miserable, bigoted, old white guy sportscaster with bad taste in clothing and worse taste in philosophy?
As it happens, I’m the first one hundred people who reply: Not me, Murgatroyd McGraw. Look—pockets empty. Not a single fuck left to give. But it is Christmas season coming. Ask me again on Boxing Day. Or, better yet, Epiphany!
For those of you not privy to, or interested in, the finer points of Canada’s sports world and its personalities, let it be known that Don Cherry worked—the past tense is deliberate— for decades as a sportscaster for Sportsnet, a subsidiary of Rogers Media. He was and is known for his ridiculously garish suits, his supposed dudely brilliance in the area of hockey coaching, playing and announcing, and his tough, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is 80-year-old heterosexual male bluster, which is just as tedious and backward and unapologetically, ear-splittingly raucous as you might expect.
Unfortunately, on Remembrance Day, Mr Cherry removed the puck from his mouth, became confused, and inserted both his feet instead.
Live on Sportsnet, Mr Cherry offered his opinion that “immigrants” were not buying enough red poppies and wearing them to honor the fallen, an opinion completely lacking in any factual basis.
“You people, you like our country, you like our milk and honey, you could at least spend a couple of bucks on a poppy and wear it.”
— Don Cherry
Let’s unpack this:
You people. You people who are immigrants, you people who are physically different, you people who aren’t white, you people with your funny clothes and accents, you people who are taking over, you people who want hand-outs, you people who are lazy, when you’re not you people taking all the jobs, you people who aren’t Christians, you people who aren’t real Canadians.
It’s astonishing how much hurt, hatred and damage can be packed into two little words. It’s shameful that someone can have missed the point so completely and thought it would be acceptable to make such a demeaning, patronizing, divisive and, yes, racist comment live on national television.
Rogers Media issued a statement apologizing for Cherry’s remarks, then fired his saggy white ass.
Predictably, middle-aged white guys are up in arms—well, actually, they’re in their La-Z-Boy recliners swilling Labatt’s 50—because Don Cherry got fired for stating his opinion. Freedom of speech!
But how was his freedom of speech curtailed? He said exactly what he wanted to say. Or is what you want to protect really freedom of speech without repercussions?
In the end, as I say ad nauseum, there is no such thing as complete freedom of speech, or of anything, for that matter; every freedom must be balanced with others’ freedoms, considering the common good. Freedoms come with adult responsibilities not to cause harm to individuals or to society.
But go ahead, Don, say whatever the hell you like, in private. I just don’t understand why you’re so damn proud of it.
And while I’m on this particular rant, let me take this opportunity to bemoan the hegemony of professional sports. (Sportsarchy?)
Hockey may be your national identity, fellow Canadian, but it ain’t mine. Please note that there are at least several of us who are not knuckle-dragging homophobes with no front teeth.
Sports is supposed to be the great leveler, a way for citizens to bond and feel a common cause. The whole gung-ho, well-rounded, wave your team’s flag and get shit-faced pro sports boondoggle reminds me of those Fascist parades with girls spinning Swedish medicine balls and precocious boys with way too much muscular development for their age. As Noam Chomsky has suggested, it’s a way to keep us occupied with something useless but addictive, anything that stops us thinking deeply about our world and fills up the time we’d be better off using for activism.
As excited as everyone is for me to be a “joiner,” I have always sashayed to the beat of my own drummer, or karaoke machine, depending on the night of the week. We don’t need to reduce everything to the highest common factor and dumb everything down until we’re spitting out our broken incisors and talking like Donald Trump, who’s made President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, into a massive, developmentally-challenged fifteen-year-old’s macaroni picture that you stick on the fridge door.
In Canada, we have other pursuits besides holy hockey. For winter sports, climb onto a circular aluminum toboggan and swirl down the hill behind the primary school, right out into the oncoming traffic. Personally, I’m hot for skating with my ankles bent inward at a forty-five degree angle, and stopping myself by slamming into the cold, wet walls of the ice rink, or a concrete arch, if I’m in Nathan Phillips Square.
And culture, forever underfunded and relegated to “the elites,” is on our radar, too. Curl up with Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian saga, a bottle of Seconal and some razor blades, or watch something by David Cronenberg involving people with new orifices growing out of their necks, a nasty sex virus and a posse of wise-cracking, animatronic bugs.
Sometimes I play the piano of an evening. And, trust me, no one was telling Beethoven, “You should get out more, Ludwig. You’ll never find your beloved—immortal, hanging on for dear life, or even prone to occasional nasty chest colds—sitting at home scratching out these—watchamacallilt, symphonies. Honestly, you really think Napoleon is gonna listen to this shit for an hour? My crazy Komponisten! Go out, live a little! Be a joiner!Fancy a Jagermeister jello shot?What? Oh, you mean I have to write that all down…?
But most of all, I love to spend time at the Canadian Opera Company, where at any given performance you’ll find more combat, gore and hysterical screaming than you could shake a Zamboni at, but nothing aimed at your head that’s more dangerous than a high E-flat.
And there, resplendent in Balcony Three, and Canadian as all-get-out in my bow tie and loafers, I’ll stay.
I never thought I’d be in a position to complain about an entire generation being too concerned with getting things right. And I never envisaged the possiblity that this same generation, raised with LCD crystal displays for eyes and a 404 Not Found error message where their emotional intelligence should be, would feel empowered to talk back so sassy to their elders.
I’m interested in the mindset of perfectionism, seeing that this behavior is supposed to be the Achilles heel of Virgo, my astrological sign, and stop putting your hand over your mouth when you titter, I’m not fooled.
Over the past five to 10 years, Young People (which is everyone at least one year younger than me, just so we’re on the same page) sacrificed an entire country, the United States of America, on the altar of “if I can’t have Bernie, I don’t want nobody, baby” and during the same time Republicans, determined to thwart Obama’s every proposal, refused to engage the primary engines of democracy, namely, compromise and consensus. Frankly, I’ve begun to despise the entire concept of insisting on the most perfect manifestation of your ideals, up to and including the end whose bitterness is a foregone conclusion.
Here’s an example I stumbled on recently, in an online rag with a definite tilt to the far left called “Common Dreams.” It’s a short read, if you care to, is entitled
and takes for its premise: “if Barack Obama truly cared about endorsing a progressive economic leader, or even a leader of colour just like him, he could have chosen Jagmeet Singh of the left-wing New Democratic Party. But he didn’t.”
(The link above opens a new tab. Of course it does! Jeezus. Who do you think this is, ol’ Grampa Wilkinson with the rosy-apple cheeks and his Princess telephone from 1971?)
Ah, to be young and dewy-eyed again! If it ain’t one hundred percent perfect, goes the sentiment, then we’ll take our votes (endorsement, goodwill, high fives or whatever benefit would have been forthcoming) and go home.
According to this mindset, for Obama to endorse Trudeau can only mean one thing: they’re part of an international cabal of the one percent (how much is Bernie Sanders worth, again?); and Trudeau’s lifting out of poverty of 300,000 children is just slight of hand to distract us from his….? What? Helping Hillary at the pizza parlour?
I’m as dumbstruck and angry as you about corruption and economic inequality—just ask Canada Revenue Agency—but good reporting, even good opinions, don’t result from taking a holier-than-thou stance then cramming the facts into it like an ugly sister’s foot into a glass slipper.
I dunno, is it possible that Obama holds progressive views, Justin holds progressive views, they’re great friends and Barack truly believed he was the best choice for Canadian Prime Minister (not that we vote directly for the prime minister, we vote for a party, as I keep reminding everyone in my snippy, know-it-all way)?
What’s Obama supposed to do? Endorse everyone so they won’t be hurt, like mom buying all the kids the same Christmas toy?
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party and a political novice, appears to be a man of great integrity, and demonstrated real leadership and finesse throughout his campaign, especially the way he handed Blackface-gate.
However, the idea of Barack Obama endorsing Jagmeet made me choke on my maple-glazed donut. It would be like Barack Obama endorsing Marianne Williamson for President, or doing a commercial for the Segway: utterly bizarre, laughable, a pity endorsement.
The New Democrats have never held power federally. Ever. Not in my entire lifetime and before and beyond. And Jagmeet Singh is a promising progressive voice, but with almost no experience. Normally we endorse a product that we’ve used and that we know works. Kind of thing?
Canadians definitely know how our dysfunctional first-past-the-post electoral system works, i.e. with results weirdly disconnected from the actual numerical vote count and with most of the parties ending up with few or no seats in Parliament. Is it any wonder that many voters feel that their participation was a waste of effort? In Ontario, after a year enduring the awful oppression of Conservative premier Doug Ford’s “balanced budget” (translation: cuts to essential services), we weren’t about to let the Conservatives and their dissembling leader, Andrew Scheer, anywhere near the driver’s seat.
We voted strategically, holding our noses about the blackface pictures, for the Liberal Party. This past federal election was, for Canadians, desperately important. We had endured the Harper years, like Trump years currently, just quieter, and we needed to send a message about keeping our progressive image and values. We barely succeeded.
I’m also sorry to see yet another tiresome iteration of the Conservative baloney about SNC-Lavalin, our lame Canadian attempt at a scandal that would be user-friendly, not involve sex or drugs and get everyone to bed by ten PM after making hot chocolate, watching Peter Mansbridge, then brushing and flossing.
In this particular scandal involving the corrupt dealings with Middle Eastern clients of a Canadian firm, the Ethics Commissioner misinterpreted his own legislation to the extent that, were his interpretation followed to its logical conclusion, every tax break and every other incentive to any corporation would have to be judged a breach of ethics.
Then there was the “pressure.” The choice was: litigation or remediation (hefty fines). The legislation allowing remediation was tabled by the CONSERVATIVES. The execs at SNC had already done their time, and there was nothing to be gained by litigation except the probable loss of 9,000 jobs. That was the issue that caused Trudeau to “pressure” the Attorney General, Little Orphan Jody.
Imagine the blow-back if the company had folded due to the litigation. “Did no one see this coming?” everyone would have shouted. Well… yes. Justin. Can you say, “can’t win this one”?
Then of course, as soon as Trudeau shows any backbone and demotes her in a carefully-calibrated-to-be-obvious cabinet shuffle, it turns out it’s the wrong kind of backbone. He fired a woman! He must not be feminist after all! He fired a member of the Indigenous community! He’s racist!
Please. I’m as feminist and as supportive of Indigenous rights as it’s possible for a white male oppressor to be, and I’ll happily state that Jody Wilson-Raybould was incompetent and not up to the pressures of her appointment. If anything, Trudeau erred on the side of over-confidence in appointing her.
I’m disappointed with Trudeau’s having made empty promises; but to use what fell off the table to utterly discount his other significant achievements is unbalanced, unfair and maybe just the tiniest bit immature.
Remember this: Justin deliberately ran a deficit.
For a few decades, “austerity” (but only for the middle class) has been touted around the world like a regifted Christmas sweater and foisted on one unwilling citizenry after another. I nearly wept for joy when Justin declared that he was going to spend some money to take care of infrastructure and to stimulate the economy, and when he declared that running a deficit was OK.
To be OK with a deficit flouted economic dogma. To be OK with a deficit and even smile about it was just unseemly. To spend like a good old-fashioned Keynesian economist while all the world worships the golden calf of Milton Friedman was a big mud in yer eye to the austerity drones.
Everyone who fails to keep a promise isn’t part of a sinister cabal or just pretending to be progressive.
World leaders, if you haven’t noticed, have fairly full schedules, which includes responsibilities to all citizens.They also have to have, up to a point, rather stinky diplomatic relations with autocrats, which does not constitute condoning their actions, necessarily; and they must engage in other imperfect, messy, reality-based activities that nonetheless have concrete and positive results, such as promoting human rights both at home and abroad.
My heart sincerely goes out to Young People, who’ve been taught from birth to expect instant connections and even faster results, who’ve lost the art of subtle thinking in direct proportion to their disdain for reading and therefore history, which means re-inventing the wheel, with no benefit of context or any notion of degree, countless times in a day.
Young People have been saddled with moral, spiritual and geophysical debts of every kind just as the last of us boomers are preparing to leave spaceship earth, waving farewell with our angel wings and mouthing, “Good luck, suckers!”
We fucked up. Everything. Our fragile, wounded planet. The climate. How we raise children. Sex. The way we grow lima beans. Justice. Relationships. Choosing VHS instead of Betamax. Everything.
I know this. I literally tear up when I see the frustration and anger, above all, the lost innocence of the next generation as they realize, at way too young an age to fully understand its enormity, the grand larceny we’ve committed in the name of greed and profit.
And the white male oligarchs of greed and profit have no remorse. They react in outrage at outspoken Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old climate activist from Sweden, seeing in her nothing but teenage rebellion and lack of respect, when they should be begging for her forgiveness. She is the sad avatar of her generation, children forced prematurely into adulthood as they struggle to salvage something from the wreckage in order to live. They are the new chimney sweeps.
Nothing is perfect. Insults are not political argument. There are shades of grey for the same reason that there are emergency generators and the cloud. You need a Plan B. You need to keep what works and throw out what is not working. You can’t, and you don’t need to, throw out everything.
What works, what lubricates the gears of democracy?
Compromise. Consensus. Slow, gradual, incremental change is how liberalism works (unless your country will be underwater in ten years. That merits a bit more speed). Consider how France descended into the Terror through rigid ideology that renamed the very months of the year and enforced its codes with the guillotine, and compare how England, stodgy and tradition-bound, established liberalism and true freedom through a slowly evolving concept of precedent and the inviolable rule of law.
The neoliberalism we hate is an ideology, not an economic theory. There is no such thing as a democratic ideology, because ideologies are rigid boxes. Neoliberalism is profoundly undemocratic.
LET ME STATE THIS RIGHT OFF THE BAT: Revenge porn is sexual assault. And Katie Hill, the thirty-two-year-old Democratic representative for California’s 25th District who has resigned over nude photos of her leaked by her ex, has been violated as completely as if she’d been raped.
Though you be in sunny Des Moines and I in Toronto, I can hear you think, “Nonsense. Katie Hill suffered embarrassment, but not the physical horror of rape.” And I agree with you.
Nonetheless, psychological horror is as real as physical, and can scar someone irrevocably. Violation is not confined to the physical. Assault is legally described as “the least of touching without consent,” and can also include a threat, if the person under threat believes that the threat is real and imminent. This removes any mitigating idea of degree, that below a certain threshold it’s not assault.
What is being defended here is the integrity of body and mind. To rape is to annihilate a woman’s ownership and control of their own body, to render them powerless, to break them. Rape is negation.
Rape means a woman having to process the contradictory ideas that she is both a victim (weak), but in ways subtle and overt, also the perpetrator, because she “brought it on herself.” In rape, a woman becomes the specific target of generalized male powerlessness turned to rage.
Women enrage men, because heterosexual men are eternally in competition with each other on every level; sexual conquest is a primary way for a man to “win” the competition. In the sexual realm it appears at first that women call the shots, picking and choosing from the roster of strutting competitors.
But male identity is a fragile construct that needs constant shoring up. Men live in a constant state of sexual anxiety, and as they jockey for their place in the pecking order, humiliation is a constant threat. One humiliation too many, and a poorly socialized male with a wounded ego can react with aggression against its perceived cause.
A humiliated male is a dangerous beast.
Don’t try to win this one. Either she was too sexual and therefore an irresistable temptation (a whore), or she was not sexual enough and therefore distant and cold, a rejection ( a bitch). There is no change of women’s behavior that will create safety for women because women aren’t the problem and never have been, except in men’s minds.
Katie Hill, in other words, was asking for it.
It boggles my mind, already heavily into boggled mode as the impeachment circus enters the Big Top, that nude pictures of Katie Hill should even be an issue, especially when there is a US President who enumerates his nauseating sexual “conquests” with nothing less than full macho (insecure) locker-room pride and whose advice to “grab ’em by the pussy” remains his most eloquent, or at least most famous, contribution to modern political discourse.
This gives an extra edge to that bitter joke: “What’s the definition of a slut? A woman with the morals of man.”
Women are still judged by a supposedly exalted standard based on the assumption that men get to control, in fact, own, women. They’re judged on virginal innocence and “purity,” especially in North America, where Puritan mores are deeply embedded in our culture.
You must forgive a man his little dalliances (abuse, rape?), goes the idea, because that’s just the way men are; but the unavoidable conclusion is that women are still men’s property, and who wants damaged, or even used, goods?
Women are pilloried when they presume to enter public life. The trope of the dumb blonde emphasizes the role of women as decorative, not useful. You can be pretty or smart, preferably the former, and never both. Incompetence, acceptable if feigned but preferably real, removes any threat a woman might pose to a man’s fragile ego; it’s another infantilizing way to be innocent.
When women refuse to stay in their place, they’re swiftly punished. They’re told to keep their mouths shut, for the sound of a woman’s public voice is always deemed to be intolerable: “strident,” “shrill;” always piercing and unpleasant when she is usurping public space. It’s too much like a harping mother, that original castrator.
Women who insist on being competent pay for that trespass. They’re ugly, they’re lesbian, or, for example, in Michelle Obama’s or Amal Clooney’s case, the rumor begins to circulate online that they’re actually men who’ve had sex reassignment surgery, and their husbands gay, because how could a real woman be so strong ,confident, intelligent and successful? How could a real man tolerate being married to such a woman? (Apparently, not at all, though the assessment ‘real man’ is entirely in the mind of the troll.)
I never stop mentioning, so I might as well continue, my shock at seeing a particular meme of Hilary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. It had been posted by a young male Sanders supporter and pictured her speaking into a cell phone, with the caption, “Shut the bitch up.”
It doesn’t matter what you think of Clinton’s campaign or policies, because obviously that’s not what shut the bitch up is about. It’s about the outrage of a man that arises from the idea of a woman occupying a man’s rightful place.
Forty years of feminism, I thought, seem to have been for nothing. Powerful women are still “bitches” (a female dog, literally; compare “subhuman” and “infestation”) and that imperative to shut them up carried a not-so-subtle undercurrent of violence, because how, exactly, does one shut the bitch up when apparently she has no interest in doing so of her own accord?
I see this happening right now, all over again, with Elizabeth Warren. The Twitter and YouTube trolls are lined up at their computer keyboards like the elves in Santa’s workshop, chipping away at her credibility and character. Who’s she compared to? Narcissistic, unelectable Bernie Sanders, another old white entitled male, because anyone but a woman, although it’s framed as “there’s no money for her policies” i.e. “socialist.” And Bernie isn’t?
She stands head and shoulders above the other Democratic candidates (and I’m gay, if I thought Pete was better I’d damn well want to say so), she’s done her time in the trenches and she’s fierce in speaking truth to power.
That’s the problem.
In a just world, Katie Hill’s ex-husband would be charged for the vicious act of sending these images without her consent, the public would be outraged by his violation of her privacy, and a woman would enter relationships with the same freedom as a man, without it affecting her career prospects or being judged “sinful.”
For make no mistake, workplace ethics and power differentials be damned: this is about sin, and Katie Hill is wearing the scarlet letter with more eyes fixed upon her than Hawthorne could ever have imagined possible. Mike Pence must be singing hallelujah.
In a just world, consensual sex between adults would be seen as natural, normal and good, and unworthy of comment, so that the very idea of shame in this context wouldn’t even arise. Ditto our frail, marvelous, imperfect human bodies. We’d have nothing to hide.
With the Canadian Federal Election over and the shenanigans down south reaching a point that is stretching even my credulity, I find it’s time to gather myself together and get back, at least temporarily, to the original intent of this blog.
Namely, to generate a whole cartload, a veritable eighteen-wheeler container-truck-full, of me-directed attention.
Clowns, like me, are attention hogs. Something was missing early on. Maybe my mother left me on the soft, nurturing shoulder of Highway 401, outside Pickering Nuclear Power Station, and I took it personally. Or maybe instead of her nipple—and I experience an ugh-y shudder of Oedipal horror as I type the word—or the sexless, 1950’s Frankenstein substitute, pacifier and bottle, she offered me a drag on her Craven “A” King Size.
Already hungry for attention, it’s just possible I accepted. After all, I’d been smoking half a pack a day since conception.
Something was missing, but I was only a kid and hadn’t yet grasped what was supposed to be there in the first place. At any given moment, my father was away, as a traveling salesman needs must be, and, on reflection, my mother spent more time in bed than seemed strictly necessary.
Something was off-kilter. A screw was loose. When my father was due to return from a trip, my mother would hiss, “Hide the knives!” which created an atmosphere of morbid suspense around his arrival that was as thrilling as it was mystifying. I never saw my father wield a knife unless there was a dead turkey on the dining table.
Perhaps my mother was sending a coded signal that she didn’t want any more children, or, for that matter, sex, and thought “hide the knives!” got the Freudian point across more subtly than “Step away from the penis, George.”
Occasionally, when summer thunder drew close and beat its head on the storm windows, I would awaken, startled, to see my mother in my bedroom doorway, her hair incandescent, like the corona of an eclipsed sun. Her nightgown billowed around her and terror’s sheet lightning would crackle across the surface of my body.
Once, when I had a childhood fever, I awoke to the sight of a wolf lying at the foot of my bed. Then I awoke again, in reality, dredged up by the struggle to cry out that produced only macabre silence. The bedclothes were cold and wet, as if someone had thrown a bucket of water onto me.
The fever had broken, and instantly I forgot what fever was, could not conceive of it. My convalescence felt light. Every physical indignity, everything clenched and cramped and muddy, was now breathing like a newborn, fragrant, limpid. I felt as though I had been forgiven for something vicious and irrevocable I had done in a previous life, then forgotten.
One day when I was twenty-six the malaise descended upon me once again like a hot wool blanket, burning sand sifted through my joints and vesicles weeping yellow serum erupted over the entire surface of my body; I understood for the first time what it meant to want to die if that was the only possible release. I was convinced I had syphilis and my lover, frantic with worry, drove me to his private doctor, who took one look and diagnosed chicken pox—
—whenever fever came again I couldn’t imagine what it had felt like not to be hot, foul, aching and full of bodily grief. Sickness became my temporary occupation and demanded full commitment.
Later, when I fell in love again, love was a lot like having a fever and then not having one.
I’m a clown first of all because I’m hungry for attention and they didn’t know what to make of me, this kid who liked music, sat and listened, transfixed, to the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah and the Roman Carnival Overture on old 33 rpm records; this kid who preferred sitting with the girls reading books and spending his remaining time alone; this shy kid who spoke like he’d been to elocution classes, with a vaguely British accent.
Being the clown told them what to make of me. I was someone who was there to entertain, to keep their brains fizzing with fun and sunshine, and I discovered that to entertain, to not be taken seriously and to keep them guessing, was power.
A clown is a distancing persona, very handy for fending off the tentacles of need. I’m never happier than when avoiding intimacy, because what most people call intimacy I call manipulation, co-dependence, guerrilla warfare and vampirism.
I’m a clown, we’re clowns, because we’ve decided to direct laughter at life rather than wallowing in its sorrow. Sorrow takes care of itself, insinuates itself into all available space, settles into the cracks and crevices like the black soot in the Toronto air that settles onto my window ledges. If you’re lazy, which I am, you do your best to normalize it, and after a while stop seeing how infested your life has become with mundane sorrow.
But if you have character, which I do, you’ll eventually experience one of those inconvenient sunny mornings when the shafts of gawd-light illuminate every single speck of black soot, giving each fusty dust mote a three-dimensional, Rembrandt-y heft, and you’ll sigh, roll up your sleeves and borrow someone’s vacuum cleaner.
Sorrow is the black soot of life, laughter the vacuum cleaner. Sorrow will happen anyway, but being a clown requires positive action: The exercise of intelligence, which I have, the near-involuntary urge, rising almost to lust, for making imaginative and unseemly connections, that’s to say, wit; and the desire to flaunt one’s personal style.
Laughter defies authority and will not be the square peg in the square hole. It refuses to follow the rules. You can’t have a dictatorship if the people are laughing.
A clown’s life trajectory requires courage: “Will anyone but me get this? Will they find it funny or just gross, or incomprehensible, or shallow or petty? Do I deserve the attention I’m apparently seeking?”
On the surface this is merely a continual demand for validation and a maddening exercise in narcissistic self-doubt, but the thirst for attention makes us courageous, a synonym for shameless or idiotic, take your pick.
Because to be a clown, to be funny, you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself, even thrive on it. It’s a very specific kind of foolishness: The foolishness you’re willing to take on, never the kind that is imposed on you.
But most of all, clowns become clowns because we have decided to laugh at ourselves—reduce ourselves to the butt of an amusing story about our stupidity or credulity or incompetence—before you get a chance to.
We instinctively know that there’s nothing more truly humiliating or bathetic than pomposity when it encounters a blank stare, nothing riskier than taking yourself seriously without a truly world-class problem to justify your brittle superior smile and dead, inward-directed eyes.
We take ourselves seriously because we are young and we think that no one has ever had this experience before, ever. Our love affair, our accident, our illness or our insight into why the moon and stars behave the way they do, we encounter each of these with the gobsmacked gaze of an infant staring at her handful of mushy carrots or squealing with terrified delight as the family dog licks her face.
Once you realize that there are no new experiences, no new ways of being in love, of being loved, of being out of love, of rejecting love because it is love (“you say I’m terrific but your taste was always rotten,” and thank you, Stephen Sondheim); of hurting oneself or hurting to the limits of destruction the person we love the most;
Once we realize that there are no original ideas, not one, not one single example of any idea you have now or have had or will have, that is original; when we realize that cavewomen and men were telling each other knock-knock jokes and why did the pterodactyl cross the road? back in the whatever-cene era, once you realize this, around the age of sixty-four, which I am, and stop taking your ideas, your problems and your life so goddamned seriously—you will be liberated.