Federal Election, 2019

there’s nothing a Canadian hates more than success


Canadians have this too-diffident attitude. It’s the attitude of an awkward, polite, but secretly superior adolescent who goes “awww, shucks” when company comes for dinner, then next day draws smutty pictures of the dinner guests on a public toilet’s wall.

If we had more sense of our true place in the world, what we do best, uniquely, we’d be more honest and more humble.That’s how I define humility: knowing your place in the world, what you do well and what needs improving; but never falsely modest or showing unearned self-esteem.

We are, said The Atlantic, the world’s most successful and last remaining progressive society and democracy, openly and unashamedly committed to progressive values.

We are, said Churchill, the linchpin of the English-speaking world.

We are the world’s committed peacekeepers and a sanctuary for the dispossessed.

These are huge accomplishments.We should be proud of them and do more of them and build on them.

So why, then, are we always ready to throw it all out when some tin-pot conservative white male with an agenda offers us a twenty-dollar rebate on our taxes?

(Michael de Adder, in the Toronto Star)

You can never stop fighting for what is right, never.

Democracy is not the norm. Freedom is not guaranteed.

Empathy and compassion and reason and equanimity and compromise are delicate, fleeting conditions. They sound simple enough, but they presuppose an active mindset. Our commitment to justice needs to be continually renewed as our understanding evolves. We need the ability to question ourselves and to admit error, to include those we’ve instinctively excluded, to turn our understanding on its head.

You have to question your prejudices, ignore the memes and the simplistic explanations that blame people rather than systems when the people are poor; and call the systems eternal laws when the people are rich.

This is hard work.

And there is no time off, because the freedoms and values we cherish are a tiny moment in macro history, a little experiment just barely showing its first results and waiting for the next iterations that would grow freedom and dignity further and extend their reach.

And for that reason, it’s an experiment that the powerful want to destroy, destroy even the knowledge that the experiment took place, deny its merit, belittle it, call it childish names.

We’ll see later today how committed we are to being a first-rate Canada, or if we settle once again for being a third-rate U.S.A. I’m off to the polls.

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Justin Scandals, Count How Many

skipping rhymes from Gen Z …


…with a nod to the 2019 Canadian Federal Election


I’VE BEEN UNDERCOVER IN MY SAILOR SUIT AND adorable Hudson’s Bay dress shorts (available only in polyester in Québec, due to the current shortage of “pure laine”), chatting about Dr Seuss and reminiscing about The Friendly Giant with unsuspecting school-age Gen Zed-ers as they go about their daily activities.

You remember the drill: Get to school, line up your Venus pencils in careful gradients and start coloring the edges of your maps if you’re a girl, or roll up some paper spitballs and practice farting noises if you’re a boy.

Or, if you’re a gay boy, line up your Venus pencils in careful gradients and watch all the other boys roll spitballs and practice their farting noises before they beat you up after gym class, thus laying the foundation for a truly world-class sexual fetish about a decade later.

Some traditions never change.

My mandate —which I had to give to myself after MacLean’s Magazine was so snarky about the pitch, thanks a bunch, Ms Barbara Lucrezia Borgia Gutenberg Amiel—was to find out how much political savvy these kids had absorbed in this age of 24/7 connectivity, deep fakes, and Hallowe’en nights when your mom and dad insist on driving you door to door so they can keep tabs, mooch your candy and spoil, to the very last iota, the fun of wearing your DIY handsewn Beyoncé costume.

Make no mistake: I was in constant danger of having my cover blown, and there was more than one occasion when I was eyed with suspicion by some chocolate-milk-mustached freckle-faced rascal of a boy, or prim, annoying little girl who’d just had her best party dress splashed with mud by some Grade Eight dude on a Canadian Tire mountain bike.

I tell you, looking authentic while trading prosciutto di Parma and Dijon mustard sliders on artisanal focaccia at lunch break, or fake-crying when it was time for yet another “milk and cookies power-nap,” stretched my humorous-blogger incognito reporting skills, and my already gossamer-thin patience, to the limit and beyond.

But I did net the following cultural gold: Non-traditional skipping rhymes, who knew, and I have to say these kids are the future.

And it’s off I go for another “Ankle-Biter” portion of chicken nuggets and French fries at Pickle Barrel or I’ll start to get cranky around four o’clock, which is typically when my ADHD kicks in.

Now, sit comfortably, close your eyes and travel back to when you and the Internet were young and hopeful together, chalk up the pavement, grab your rope and jump feet first into —

Well, no.

What I mean is—open your eyes so you can read, obviouslythen do all the other, imaginative stuff to do with traveling back in time.

Jeezus. Are you always this high-maintenance?


“OUT IN VICTORIA”

Out in Victoria
Real estate’s a bitch
“Hordes of Asians
Stinking rich

Racist Canadians
Cry, “What cheek!
How many condos
Bought
this week?

One condo
Two condos
Three condos
Four

Mandarin on
A red front door

Five condos
Six condos
Seven condos
Eight

White people want to
Speculate

Cut down trees
And pave the lawn

Now watch Chinese
Tai Chi at dawn!

—Traditional, West Coast.


justin scandals

Justin scandals
Count how many

one for blackface
How embarrassing

TWO for a
Journalist’s
Sexual harassing

three for India
Shoe toes curly
Wearin’ a sari
Lookin’ all girly

{It’s not made up
It’s not made up }

Justin scandals
Count how many

four for Jody
Attorney G
He broke her balls
Over SNC

FIVE for comrade
Castro, Fidel
He eulogized
So we gave him hell

Six is the pipeline
We don’t like
Tell Alberta
To take a hike

Paper Rocks
Scissors Socks

Feminist Faggot
Drama Teacher

Caught in the act
With the son of a preacher

{That’s made up
That’s made up
}

Justin scandals
Count how many

—Ottawa valley, possibly First Nations origins


when will scheer

When will Scheer
Let the news drop

One day, three?
Three weeks, Four?
Six months, a year?

How many abortions
Will he stop?

Rusty coat hanger
Dish soap mild
Jump off the table

And lose that child!

How will Scheer
Let the news drop

Friends of Dorothy
AIDS you’re dead
Three-legged dogs

In a marriage bed!

Will he be swift
Or will he lag

To make it cool
To kill a fag?


We’re now fairly skidding along the reinforced cotton gusset of life, aiming straight for Monday the 21st October, when the citizens of the People’s Republic of Libtardia head to the polls.

Ugh. I get sooooo tense about the “wrong” person getting into power, only made more tense by remembering that Canada has NO TERM LIMITS—that’s right. Andrew Scheer could be crowned PM, serve four years, be reinstated again, and again, and again, until we all died of Scheer tedium, while all the womenfolk were barefoot and pregnant, head to toe in cheerful yet modest calico, baking up huckleberry pies and taking axes to abortion clinics and the menfolk, in full garden gnome facial hair, fracked for oil and studied the prehistoric social code of their choice.

And it’s not just the Conservative Party that gives me what my fantasy step-mom, Dorothy Parker, would have called “the yips.” Yesterday I found out that Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader, has pledged to abolish the Senate if elected, calling it “undemocratic.”

Why do people miss the point about the Senate, every time? Our Senators are appointed, not elected, and now I’m going to do my annoying Socratic bit. Why is it important they are not elected? Correct, because then they have no electorate they are beholden to.

And why is that NOT undemocratic? Because the Senate is the “house of sober second thought.” The Senators—none of them career politicians, but all recommended and appointed as outstanding Canadians who have contributed in significant ways to the community in their respective fields of expertise—give second, non-partisan, readings to legislation, and they have the power to send that legislation back to the House of Commons if they see fit.

Which they did during the reign of terror of Stephen Harper, whose secretiveness and impatience had him trying to bypass even the Commons with his sinister, autocratic agenda. Trust me that the Senate saved us from the worst excesses of that awful, dispiriting regime.

Also, they are allocated proportionally:

The Senate of Canada (FrenchSénat du Canada) is the upper house of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons and the monarch (represented by the governor general). The Senate is modelled after the British House of Lords and consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister.[1] Seats are assigned on a regional basis: four regions—defined as OntarioQuebec, the Maritime provinces, and the Western provinces—each receives 24 seats, with the last nine seats allocated to the remaining portions of the country: six to Newfoundland and Labrador and one each to the three northern territories. Senators may serve until they reach the age of 75.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, October 18). Senate of Canada. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:04, October 19, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Senate_of_Canada&oldid=921902174

That’s two very good reasons, life-or-death reasons, not to abolish the Senate. Democracy is not just a numbers game; it is about human rights and ensuring that minorities are afforded the same protections as the majority.

Jagmeet, your Sikh headgear is to me as beautiful as the gold lamé turban Joan Crawford wore while scrubbing the bathroom tiles, it is the official beanie of multiculturalism, but your policy of abolishing the Senate has filled me with doubt about your judgment and made me tense.

And I’m fed up with all the tension, you know? So I’m going to relax about a lot of things this election. I mean, ever since that morning way back in 2016 when I awoke to people on the street screaming, “Holy fuck, Trump!” I’ve discovered that the worst can happen and we don’t implode. Things are, in fact, working as they should, down in the ol’ United States of Meltdownia.

Common sense is waking up from its gee-d out trance, weeping a little bit with the memory of what it got up to when it was high—how it got hate-banged by Mendacity even though it kept murmuring, “Stop!” and “Why would they make up a story like that?” and Mendacity just kept banging away, banging away, until common sense was lying unconscious in a pool of its own body fluids.

Please. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

The Trump thing has become so bad, even Republicans, die-hard Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, have censured him for withdrawing American troops from North Syria without warning, leaving their Kurdish allies at the mercy of Turkish forces. So even Republicans have come to their senses. They’ve had to.

Well, when I say “come to their senses,” I don’t mean actually come to their senses in the sense of caring about economic inequality, or racism, or women having access to effective birth control or safe abortion, or anyone having any sort of affordable healthcare, or anything that would indicate they had, you know, come to their senses.

They just got interrupted as they were preparing to make themselves look all butch in northern Syria, then remembered that Trump has the current events knowledge of a grade-school student who’s been in a vegetative state for the past eight years and yelled at him for making them look bad in front of the Ukraine.

That kind of coming to your senses.

Anyway, if Scheer is elected, it will be bad, but probably not nearly as bad as down south. And if it’s really bad, we’ll get rid of him. Chillax, Canadians!

I’ve grown tired of acting like everyone who votes for the PC’s is a piece of ignorant trash and their vote doesn’t count, almost that they’re not “real Canadians.”

Andrew Scheer is the legitimate idiot leader of a legitimate asshole irrelevant political party run by old white guys, and if you want to vote for him, you have every right to.

Really! You do!

This is a free country and a democracy and you get to vote for anyone you want. Go ahead! Throw away everything we’ve gained in the past four years, including the envy of most of the world because we are the only remaining unashamedly progressive nation, anywhere!

Go ahead! Make their envious heads shake, just because you can’t stand that Justin is from our most famous political dynasty, that his father was Pierre and he’s already in the history books, whereas Scheer and Jason Kenney and Faith Goldy are just sad losers, blinded by bigotry and incapable of coherent thinking, who will just be footnotes, if that.

You’re pissed off that Justin is getting accolades from the United States, whose butt cheeks now have Scheer-shaped indentations, and you’re extra jealous that Justin is prettier than all of you put together, even in blackface, though we do wish he would cool it with the costume parties.

So there, fellow progressives! What are you scared of? That you’ll have to do a little participating? Protest a bit? Make your voice heard?

Thing is, just between you and me, it goes in cycles, if you haven’t noticed. We’re probably due for a change for the worse, now that the Atlantic Monthly has called us “the most successful progressive government in the world,” now that child poverty is lower than it has ever been, economic growth is up and, well, Trudeau has Canadian values, and kept ninety-five percent of his promises.

So naturally we’ll throw him out and vote in the doltish, aww-shucks, thin-lipped Christian who wants a tax rebate in every pot and a finger in every womb.

He’ll slash the services we want, we’ll go, “Oh my GOODNESS, but I didn’t think you meant THAT!” and we’ll protest and complain and rail against the stupid PC’s that we voted for when we could have continued to be the envy of the world and continued the progress. There’s a concept!

But no. We’ll buy the stupid rhetoric of the old disgruntled white guys, a.k.a. str8-tards, and for some reason we’ll forget that being Prime Minister is not like being the CEO of a company: In fact, it is a public office where you’re supposed to make decisions in the public interest, not for profit. You’re supposed to listen to the people who elected you, but also listen to the people who didn’t elect you, because you’re PM of everyone.

Balance the budget! Of course, but at the expense of…? It’s a fake goal, a chimera. It SOUNDS good, like something you should do. But it’s not the only thing you should do, and it’s ultimately not the purpose of government. Sure, be responsible, be prudent, be transparent…but if that’s the limit of your vision, go be an accountant. What kind of society do you want to grow? What future do you want for the next generation? Will pinching pennies now achieve that future?

Don’t take a rebate cheque for a couple hundred bucks that will evaporate from your hands over the course of a weekend, and lose child care, or reduced waiting times at the hospital, or pharmacare or decent roads, or decent schools. Real long-lasting change for the public good—that is the real purpose of government.

Don’t be short-sighted, Think what you’re doing. And in the end, if you vote for Scheer? All power to you. I’m not the guy who gets to say you’re wrong.

Now, Maxime Bernier, that’s another story. If you vote for Maxime Bernier, you’re a bona fide piece of shit on a stick in a coulis of snot and I despise having even to stand on the same continent as you, lest I accidentally inhale a single molecule of oxygen that could have brushed up against your alveoli, you pathetic white supremacist moron.

Seriously. You have to draw the line somewhere.


Someone in the NDP said something stupid or shitty or wrong in 2012, and I say: “Fiddlesticks and fuddle-duddle! Who gives a flying Tesla!”

The rest of the world gets its fifteen minutes of fame; Canadian party leaders, in the run up to the election, have to have their fifteen minutes of shame. Racist shame, or misogynist shame or sex shame or whatever.

I’m not down with racism or misogyny or abuse, but honestly, Murgatroyd! I don’t think I would exactly come off as St Teresa of Avila were my every word and every act to be examined from my teen years to now.

I think I might have had a few moments, or even months, of shame and I would be apologizing so much my eyes would be bulging out of my head on stalks, like a praying mantis in her startle pose, so grievously involved would my apologizing be.

I would have to scare off reporters from The Sun by opening my moth wings whose markings look like the head of a John Kenneth Galbraith. I can only do that once, right after I emerge from my chrysalis, so I honestly would prefer to save it up for real emergencies.

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh—they’ve all had their moment in the shadow. Can we just agree that everyone says shit sometimes, especially politicians, accept their apologies and move on? Because it’s not about your mistake, it’s how you acknowledge and handle your mistake.

Now, if you’re Trump, you write a letter to the Turkish President that is so bizarre, the White House staff think it’s a spoof.

That is how Trump handles mistakes: by committing an even bigger and more juicy mistake to attempt to draw focus away from the original mistake.

Which, of course, is nonsense. Trump is blithely unaware of having made any mistakes, ever. Even his telephone call to the President of Ukraine was “perfect;” he really has no concept of good and bad, right or wrong. He is entirely without moral direction. If he did it, it’s OK.

Good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust: These are concepts that have no meaning for a sociopath or even a narcissistic personality, because they require an awareness of how our actions might affect others.

Meaningful work, priorities, duties, happiness, success, even our life’s purpose: Once you start thinking about other people, everything unravels.

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Canada, whatever you do:

VOTE

in the Federal Election

MONDAY

October 21st

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Some pics of {dis}interest from the innerweb…

…though I may have mixed up the captions. Hey, I’m 64, so kindly ease up on your running victory laps around me as you hold aloft your Pulitzer Prize for Too-Clever-By-Half. And, sorry, but have we met?

Anyway, I’m extremely upset right now, so please at least pay attention so I can milk this for sympathy.

Seriously, hyper-criticism victim here. Apparently the general consensus is that my posts are too verbose, my hair too buzzed, my nipples too blowsy and my family jewels in need of a bit of a buff—

—and I suppose you’d all collapse on your fainting mats were I to ask for a couple of volunteers and a jar of Vaseline from Dollarama? Cause I’m well-nigh barreling through my sunset decades, and this is no time to stint on the luxuries! Oh, boy, let me tell ya!

Feedback you never asked for. That’s what you get for saying, “Hi, how’s it going?” in response to that three AM text from a number you don’t recognize, the text that says, “Sup, dude?”

Well, THIS is “‘sup, dude.” And if your question is pithy, then I am pithy in reply. If you move your left arm, I move mine. Annoying, isn’t it?

So sue me, the picture captions are gemischt, but, like a tribulation of Trumptweets, they make at least as much sense as the originals, which is not really.

So bite down hard on these perky beauties, Murgatroyd McGraw, and drain what’s left of my colostrum while I ponder the scandals that are Conservative Party Prime Ministerial prospect Andrew Scheer’s 1. lack of certification for real estate sales; and 2. his dual citizenship.

Did you take the precaution of sitting down or did you syncope from the shock, ripping from its moorings, as you plummeted to the parquet, that new “Last Supper” wall hanging you won at the United Church charity bridge tournament? Oh, I am sorry, and my bad for preparing you like that, which was not at all.

Canadian scandals, admit it, fall damply on the spirit. They are the lead apron that god-the-dentist drapes over your chest just when you think you might manage a fleeting, sponge-y hard-on, and bloody grateful for it, thank you very much.

But no. God is the bucket of ice water, the early morning detention in the dead of winter, the asshole who won’t call you “she/her” when you ask, because they know better than you do, which is why they’re an asshole.

When what you most crave, when the one sacrament that will save your life, is vanilla ice cream from the dairy bar, Mr Ten Commandments is there like a shot, serving you up raw Brussels sprouts alongside the liver and onions.

Jahweh, you’re such a kidder, also your pale-faced hippie good-for-nothing offspring, who I keep wanting to call “Jason.”

Well, in all fairness, he does look like a Jason.

We crave juicy scandal, but our hearts are not in it. Like a catalog full of mail-order child brides on their respective wedding nights, we go through the motions. This is Canada, it behooves us to recall, not the United States of Craptardery.

Mercy Pelosi, no! Thanks to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Canada has…

…the most successful progressive government in the world …

Atlantic Monthly, Oct 3, 2019,
byline: Stephen Marche

… and, according to independent review, Justin has kept ninety-two percent of his campaign promises, more than any Canadian government in thirty-five years (ibid.)

but will he piss on a hooker then get his lawyer to send her a huge bribe then deny getting his lawyer to send her a huge bribe and then the lawyer goes to prison?

Oh, no, not Mr. Goody-Goody girly drama teacher! He’s too ethical, transparent, sincere.

His “scandal” was asking, sorry, pressuring, the Attorney General, Little Orphan Jody, whether it might not be better to fine SNC-Lavalin, whose unethical execs had already done time for their crimes, using a law originally tabled by the Conservative Party that would allow for remediation and avoid further criminal prosecutions, thus saving the jobs of thousands of innocent workers.

Section Nine of the Conflict of Interest Act prohibits public office holders from using their position to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further their own private interests or those of their relatives or friends, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.

The review of Trudeau’s actions by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion merely showed that a remediation agreement would be to the financial benefit of the company.

But if this was wrong and improper, then every government hand out, every subsidy or tax break or exemption from regulations that benefited any company, would be improper. Are all of these benefits suddenly not in the public interest?

The ethics commissioner misinterpreted his own act and jurisdiction. We’ll never make world-class if we keep this up!

Americans, now they know how to do craziness, fakery, scandal. We do “no certification for your real estate license” and stop there.

Not Americans. They won’t even get out of bed until they can sell you a subprime mortgage you can’t afford on a cheaply built condo that’s not up to code, foreclose on it, then rent it out, except not to black people, without a license.

We demand proof that Scheer is a shifty two-faced liar, that’s to say his actual documents proving he has dual citizenship, or his lack of documents proving he isn’t certified to sell real estate. Then, if you can believe anyone could be such worthless white trash, we believe the proof.

Yawn!

Stateside, you just have to start a rumor that Obama’s not American and/or is a Muslim and, despite proof after proof that he is and that he’s not, they refuse to believe the proof. Add to this a few million Facebook users trapped in their alternative-reality bubbles, and those lies go viral faster than an anti-vaxxer’s five-year-old.

Obama was near crucified by a total fabrication, yet up here in The People’s Republic of Snowflakia this eleventh-hour factual revelation—

—that Scheer is ‘Murican AND Canadian, that is to say, the potential leader of our Loyalist after-hours club pretending to be a nation isn’t unequivocally native to these here parts—

—this notion barely ripples the foam on our Tim Horton cappuccinos {and make mine a “doppio-doppio,” eh, Signorina! Prego!}

As Bob Rae, former NDP leader, all but expressed it, rabbity incisors flashing: “Hey, nobody’s perfect!” Bob should know, having inflicted on Ontario, back in the 1990’s, a unique version of socialism that looked an awful lot like several imperfect years of neoliberal austerity.

Where, I ask you, were all those trips to Florida and welfare handouts and gourmet food banks we’d heard so much about? Where were the perqs for being poor?

And where, for that matter, are my pants? Anyone—?


Back by popular demand¹, your favorite² game³

“Oh, dear, did I mix up the captions, ROTFL?”

¹ Popular demand / ² favorite: As described by randomly-sampled cohort (N=5) of 8 to 10-year-olds (“Miss Smedley’s class”) after promising to do their homework for a month, or, actually, just giving them the cash equivalent. Results are accurate ± 3% when compared to other students who’ve been bribed to pump up my stats.

³ “Game:” Not really a game, more like the results of a game. Your participation is limited to surveying the results and laughing at the absurd mismatch between the caption and the image. That’s the joke, right? It’s not really more profound than that, I mean, like there’s not really anything to “get”, OK?

Jeezus. Are you always this high-maintenance?



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We Sincerely Hope Our Election Won’t Disturb Your Sleep …

plus: Facebook is the idiot-maker.


Carolyn Strom, R.N.: Self-made victim of the Facebook justice system.

IT BEING MY BIRTHDAY COMING UP and all, I treated myself, as one does, to a little bit of narcissistic self-analysis, in the form of the Myers-Briggs personality test.

The Myers-Briggs personality test is perfect for when you’ve gotten tired of astrology or palm-reading, want a little more cachet, but don’t want to burden yourself with anything too accurate or scientific. Lighten up, Mr J. Robert Oppenheimer!

Myers-Briggs is the real deal, having been concocted by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the spare time they could find between un-moulding the jellied ambrosia salads for the church social and retying each other’s corsets, and based on tinkering with the poetic but utterly unscientific, even dotty, theories of Carl Jung.

 Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers

Myers-Briggs is routinely referred to as pseudoscience, has poor predictability, poor repeatability (you can easily get a different result if you try again), it doesn’t account for neuroses or any personality disorders, and basically it’s just a load of old codswallop that’s maybe fun to administer to your friends when you have your Monopoly nights.

In the end I self-diagnosed as an extraverted introvert, meaning I’m constantly on a knife edge of confident self-doubt. I don’t quite know why I fall into this two-headed, comic-tragic, hi-lo self-esteem upward-downward spiral. I realize that everyone is unique, everyone has value and everyone’s story is different, which is why I should never compare myself to anyone and goddamnit how come he has over one hundred thousand followers of his blog while I have just over two hundred after five years?!

But that’s typical of an extraverted introvert with a knickerbocker twist. I’m the kind of guy who writes a kick-ass book, then fails to publicize it, which means I’ve sold three copies in the year since I bore down in a bathtub full of warm gin and tonic and Lamaze’d it into being.

Meanwhile I keep re-reading it, which means I keep nit-picking, and of course there’s no longer any hope of responding to my own humor in a spontaneous way. The whole project feels limp, deflated, like the balloons the day after your birthday party.

My birthday party, for which I intend to knock back a gin cooler or three from the liquor store and practise the Beethoven Opus 126 Bagatelles, will be this Saturday, September 21st. I’m going to be sixty-four years old. You may, in your imagination, kiss my gnarly hand and tell me how much I don’t look it, then slowly withdraw, because, and I know you can take the truth, you’re not on the list. Actually, no one is—just this once I’d like to experience an important milestone that isn’t all mucked up with guests.

The only invitee is my five-year-old self, who’s always here anyway, gazing out through these astonished eyes the way a fish trapped in its goldfish bowl gazes at the shimmering, wavy world beyond.

I feel the inside of my crusty iguana-skin, I stomp my webbed feet and I wonder what happened to the pale, milky-cool velvet integument of my childhood. I still reach out with the arms of a five-year-old, still love like one, still break down like one.

I once loved someone so much that when they left me, I literally thought I would die. I cried for a day and a night, for a week, for six months, for a year; I cried until I flipped inside out and stood like a long-forgotten martyr flayed for a lost cause, my heart and guts and liver and every internal organ that could feel pain dangling, glistening red and purple, from my bloodied trunk. I was stunned, slaughtered and butchered in the abattoir of love, and yet I didn’t die.

I didn’t die.

But I never slept in my bedroom again.

I’m persistent despite the odds; I’m lichen on a tree stump, moss on stone; insistently unlovely. I have grim determination, which means I’m handy to have around when you need someone to open that pickle jar.

What’s up with me at sixty-four? I’m shocked as the ghosts of my lost friends start to crowd around me at night, whispering that it’s OK and they’ll see me soon. I listen to Beethoven’s last five string quartets, his final confession and urgent advice to the future; mankind’s only necessary music.

My parents are dead, I’m estranged from my siblings, I’m currently sharing my one-bedroom apartment with three charming renegades, the tax people have garnished my monthly government pension and, all in all, life is way more interesting than I had any right to expect.


We’re approaching the day when the Canadian Federal Election limps across the unavoidably advancing finish line—oh, sweet Jeezus, no, I don’t know the date though it may have something to do with Canadian Thanksgiving or it may not.

How the election campaign begins is: we simply flip the switch to “on” and sit back. No primaries, no ticker-tape, no accusations of rape, or mass shootings or failed space launches. Just FLIP, ping! and we’re good. You’d have to have the compound eyes of a deer tick to notice any change.

“Hey, what was that tiny pinging noise?”
“That’s the Canadian Federal Election starting!”
“Are you trying to be funny?”
“I wish.”

This non-startiness is because we’ve spurned the American M.O., which is: de-educate your citizens, yell at the black people, make up stupid shit and Tweet about it, enlist foreign powers to destabilize the country by exacerbating social tensions, make up some more stupid shit, declare your press enemies of the people, declare your closest allies enemies of the Prez, discipline the weather agency for contradicting you, show contempt for the judiciary, yell at the Mexicans, stack the Supreme Court, then give everyone permission to donate as many billions of dollars as they want to buy the election for the candidate of their choice, which all makes for lousy democracy but superlative theatre.

Democracy… Theatre… Democracy… Theatre

You can see how easy it might be to get conflicted about this.

Of course, this means that Canada, with its geeky rules about political donations (they’re limited to $1,500 per person, and labour unions and corporations can’t contribute) must be socialist, at which epithet I chortle heartily even as I struggle to hoist my liver-spotted, chain-laden arms to the keyboard.

Ayn Rand, who conservatives worldwide keep mistaking for Milton Friedman, would have said we’ve “sold our rights for free healthcare!”

Ms. Rand was scarred by her experience with the Bolsheviks, so we can forgive her confusing authoritarian state capitalism, i.e. “communism,” with citizens voting for a benefit to which they willingly contribute their tax dollars, which they all love, and which results in happier, healthier participants in the consumer economy.

Take that, crazy-novel lady, and here’s a shout-out to your awkwardly named characters: Dagny Taggart, Ragnar Danneskjöld, Wesley Mouch, Howard Roark and Gail Wynand (a man). Rand may have had a certain vision and a dollop of sheer audacity, but her ear was pure tin.


I’ve been in total avoidance mode about, well, any of the alternatives to Justin Trudeau, frankly. But it’s time to man up and think about— UGH— Maxime Bernier, our very own Québec-grown authoritarian-nationalist white supremacist-misogynist candidate, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada. (We don’t, by the way, elect the Prime Minister; we vote for the party of our choice, whose leader then becomes PM.)

We are in the tradition of liberalism up here, which, like the development of common law, is a slow, dare I say, conservative process. We don’t throw everything out and start fresh. We don’t talk revolt or tyranny. We don’t nail everything down. We like nuance, interpretation, shades of grey. It takes us a century to ask for our own flag, even longer to repatriate the constitution.

We’re a pack of earnest Boy Scouts and Girl Guides who’ve finally achieved every merit badge, chanting our so-boring-it’s-woke mantra “peace, order and good government” with the self-conscious superiority of kids cleaning their plates of Brussels sprouts.

We are not republicans, up here in the cold-as-a witch’s-penumbra north. We are loyalists, which means we rebel by not rebelling; we are not a country in our own right, with a distinctive identity. We are whatever the revolutionaries were before they revolted. We are “not the United States.”

Because we did not rebel but remained a colony of the British Empire, we are more in tune with those who want another country’s protection. We understand what it means to take the high road and be the adult in the room, to know that we have every right to be isolationist and look to our own first, but to decide not to exercise that right.

The last guy who cared very much about any of this was Pierre, Justin’s dad. When Canada was about to unravel he gripped that idea with both hands and he held us together by the force of his will and by his arrogant belief that we should get what we needed, not what we wanted. He would not let us disintegrate because he could not let the idea of Canada die.

That kind of certainty is rare. Mainly we are full of self-doubt, unlike our British forebears with their five-hundred years of lawns hand-rolled by Capability Brown and tarnished, inherited silver services for twenty. The least little remark from a snarky American who hasn’t read the playbill about how we’re coolest on the block can send us, by which I mean me, into a tizzy of defensiveness.

Why, just this week on Twitter a creature called “Diana Death” (@TheeDianaDeath), a self-styled “rock musician and politically incorrect humorist”, invited herself to an exchange and told me that Americans “don’t give a scintilla of shit about your cheesey Charter;” and how could I respond except to point out:

“Diana, take it from a gay guy: You have the wrong kind of tits for that outfit.”

But getting back, reluctantly, to Maxime Bernier and the election: Maxime is the sweet, or angry, or reasonable, or vicious, face of the People’s Party of Canada.

Now I ask you—does that not sound promising? There couldn’t be anything ironic about having “people” (or “democratic” or “republic”) in the name of a political party, right? And anyway, everyone has to have a “People’s Party” these days, darling! Don’t be left behind! Don’t be caught flaunting some tatty, worn out, twentieth-century human rights thing; brown shirts are the new navy blue of conservatism worldwide!

It’s People’s Parties, and For the People, common people and right-thinking people and particularly white people. Good honest, hard-working people! Not rapists or gang members or illegals or invasions or infestations!

People—! People who need people! ♫ are the most right-wing people—in the world—!

Maxime’s for people, except when people are teenagers, female and refuse to shut up about climate change. He thinks it’s good politicking to bring out big ammunition to crush Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old girl from Sweden who’s so fired up about this disaster, she’s traveled the world on a yacht (zero carbon profile!) to raise awareness. Bernier thereby demonstrates what teams of researchers in Sweden, studying climate-change denial (yes, it’s an actual subject for academic study now) have found: That there’s a direct correlation between climate denial and being a white-supremacist misogynist male, that there are guys who believe the planet was given by a white, WASP god to white, WASP men to abuse and dominate the same way they abused and dominated their womenfolk.

These are the guys who are threatened that their place in the sun has been taken over by a new generation terrified and angry about this chaos that’s been dumped in their laps.

(Click to view larger version.)

This is Bernier’s EIGHT-PART Tweet diatribe against a 16-year-old climate activist.

It’s a shameful outburst, uncontrolled and gratuitously nasty. He revels, like all abusers, in his power over those he perceives as weaker than him. It arouses revulsion in me, the same revulsion that I felt in Grade Six when our Principal whipped, with a barber’s huge black razor strop, the hands of a fellow classmate, a girl, who endured this torture and returned to her desk shaking uncontrollably, convulsed with sobs, her spastic fingers telegraphing an indecipherable message of confusion, betrayal and grief.

Many Canadians, noticing that he’s polling at only three percent, don’t take Bernier seriously, but I do. I remember how little we took Trump seriously. Do you?

And if that doesn’t make your ovaries descend, think of this: It doesn’t matter if Bernier’s party, the party of white supremacy and “pure laine,” falls into the ditch. He will have done his work, which is to make racism a topic, to normalize the discussion and make us ponder whether there might not be “good people on both sides,” that is to say, good racists.

And now it sounds like a legitimate comment when we say it’s the Chinese buying up all the condos; though no one is ever able to explain to me what the problem is with Chinese people buying condos, even all of the condos, as opposed to white people buying condos. The problem, apparently, is self-evident to everyone but me.

I’m being precious, of course, because we all know very well that the problem with “Chinese people buying all the condos” is that the Chinese people are all Chinese.

We do things our own way up here: In ‘Murica ya got yer slavery, up here we have the Canadian tradition, dating back to the eighteenth century, of head taxing Asians, throwing them in internment camps and working them to death, literally, laying track for our glorious Canadian Pacific Railway so our superiority can gleam from sea to shining sea.

But there I go, standing on the wall and screaming at wooden horses again. The body politic are like boulder-headed teenagers: You long to save them from the fatal mistakes of your youth, but they’re too busy buzzing their hair into Mohawks and hiking up their tartan schoolgirl skirts to listen to your desperately uncool warnings.

Every generation thinks they’ve nailed it, and we dinosaurs have to sit back and endure their predictable screams of outrage as we watch them climb those stairs to the attic room and open the very door, the only door, they were forbidden to open. It’s almost not worth the pleasure of saying “I told you so.”


We now head west, for the next plate of canapés in my tasting menu of annoyance will be served in the cloakroom: that ever-so-flat, barely-remembered Cinderella of Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan. But first I have to stop for a little joke, OK? Bear with me.


An American couple have just collected their luggage at the airport and are figuring out where to go next, when they spot another couple, both dressed in heavy winter overcoats, tuques, gloves, snow boots, scarves, the full get-up.

The American wife says to her husband, “Oh, Harry, look at those inneresting people! Do you think they’re Canadians? I’m gonna go find out!”

She walks over to the couple who are all decked out in their winter clothes, and she says, “Excuse me, but would ya’ll mind tellin’ me where you’re from?”

The startled winterized guy looks at his winterized companion, then back at the American woman. The two of them say to her, in perfect unison, “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!”

The American woman, taken aback, returns to her husband’s side.

“So,” he says to her. “Did y’all find out anything? Where are they from?”

“I dunno,” says the wife. “They didn’t speak any English!”


So it seems that in Saskatchewan a Registered Nurse made a complaint on Facebook about the allegedly poor treatment her grandfather received while in palliative care. Here’s a little of what she wrote:

“It is evident that not everyone is ‘up to speed’ on how to approach end of life care … or how to help maintain an aging senior’s dignity (among other things!)… To those who made Grandpa’s last year’s [sic] less than desirable, please do better next time!” 

Now, this seems fairly innocuous, right? Not to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, several of whose members launched a complaint.The nurse, Carolyn Strom, was brought before the SRNA’s Tribunal accused of violating their code of conduct for social media and bringing the nursing profession into disrepute by her remarks.

Strom was fined $1,000 and asked to pay the $25,000 cost of bringing her to the Tribunal. A Court of Appeal reaffirmed this decision (courts are reluctant to contradict the decisions of self-monitoring professional bodies). Strom, who has been dealing with this fallout since 2015, is due this week for a final appeal.

You can read more about the case » starting here.

I feel that I need to justify my fascination with this rather obscure case. I can only tell you that freedom of speech, and other rights, become very interesting when they come into conflict with others’ rights. How are we to decide whose rights get precedence?

Let’s think about this. Ms Strom took her complaint and aired it in public. On Facebook. What is it about this crass social media platform that is so seductive? It’s ugly in design, puerile in attitude, its algorithms can’t tell the difference between art, news and spam, it’s run by an entitled brat who sells our data to private companies and feigns surprise when it’s revealed that mysterious PR firms are rewriting reality in order to subvert democratic elections, and yet where do we run to?

We literally don’t seem to care how sinful it all is; I say “sinful” as only an atheist can say it, as a crime against the natural and good. Facebook makes idiots of us all, every time we use it.

Carolyn Strom made an idiot of herself when she broadcast her complaint on Facebook. She was seduced by the irresistible urge to give shade, to take her grief about her grandfather and neutralize it, turn it into a brisk efficient trip to customer service.

Because here’s the deal: by all accounts, Ms Strom did not once, ever, voice her complaints to the nurses at the facility during her apparently infrequent visits. We’re in the realm of guilty until proven innocent, trial by public opinion.

The nurses, unnamed by Strom but for all practical purposes easily identifiable by anyone who cared to make the effort, have been accused—but which of them and of what? They have no way to defend themselves against what is just insinuation. Every one of them is now under the shadow of this vague complaint, competent and “incompetent” alike.

Bad enough for a member of the public to complain this way, in a transparent, at least to us, attempt to obtain sympathy for her relative’s death. For a member of the nursing profession to do so, knowing full well that her actions were in defiance of professional standards and procedures she was bound to uphold, is unfair, unjust, and just plain tacky.

Welcome to social media, where everyone’s the star of their own monodrama, where we’re stuck in a twilight world of my side and your side, but rarely the point in the middle where the truth lives, messy and shaded with grey and letting no one off the hook.

Communication is a hard slog. Voicing your complaint to a real person, in the flesh, in real time, you can hear your self-justifications and convenient white lies fall flat in the dead space between you and them. Seeing someone’s skeptical face, experiencing their lack of investment in your innocence, is bracing as well as humbling. Unless you’ve truly been horribly abused with no provocation, you’ll feel like a kid who’s lying about who broke the window with the baseball. You’ll feel that most public of emotions, shame.

Far easier to sing your aria in an echo-chamber to a hand-picked audience of sympathizers, who’ll co-opt your story and take up your “cause.” Then you can all tut-tut together. Why solve the problem when it gives back so generously?

I have noticed over the years that some people crave negative experiences, even gladly paying for a fancy version that will impress the neighbours. Strom’s bill, at $26,000, with the luxury extras of a self-critical essay and a mandatory course in ethics, makes this the Rolls Royce of disappointment.


So, Merry Birthday to me, god bless us every one, vote anything but Conservative and don’t take any wooden nickels.

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