Tag Archives: the one time I talk about politics

The lesser of three weasels

I love my country. I love that I can vote without fear of anything worse than a hand cramp. I don’t particularly care for the options right now. Rants, mostly, with the standard “in my humble opinion” disclaimer attached.

Door Number One: Running a simplistic, reductive, fear-mongering campaign, appealing to the worst instincts of people, and trying to tell us how bad the other options are while ignoring their own considerable warts. Despite being racist, sexist, lying dictators who have demonstrated little in the way of compassion or integrity in how they run the country (to say nothing of their frightening aversion to science and new information), this party is somehow the default party of choice for those of a religious inkling, which confuses me to no end. They’re trumpeting an economic record that can charitably be described as mediocre, and found a budget surplus by taking from social programs right before an election- HOW CONVEEEEEEEEEENIENT and also terrible.

Door Number Two: Selling themselves on a platform of “real change for Ottawa”, something that sounds super great, but requires actual things that can be done to change the government, and more than a pretty face and pretty words. And while promoting hope and change, let’s ignore this party’s own laundry list of corruption and scandals that got them voted out in the early 00s, or the fact that the current leader is a legacy child of one of the most overrated prime ministers in history with very little in the way of his own accomplishments. When your economic plan is “tax the rich more and spend more money than we have”, that won’t earn you much more than an eye roll.

Door Number Three: Riding an unsustainable wave from a fickle voting province to a seat at the table with the big kids has done little to improve their knowledge of how things work. Business is good, folks, and the sooner you learn that, the sooner you’ll be able to improve on a governing track record at the provincial level that can universally be described as awful. The side effect of depending on a fickle province is a leader and policies that drift in the wind, trying desperately to cling to momentum that won’t last because the principles change depending on who’s voting for you. “Taxing business” is a wonderful idea that forgets that you need businesses that will stay in countries with said taxes. People love the idea of more programs until we discover we have to pay for it. No wonder the track record with their governments has been awful.

I still don’t know who I’m voting for. But I feel a little better now.

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Bullet time

Was trying to avoid getting into the always testy “gun control” debate, and ended up debating it with a Facebook friend- the amount of insanity/soapboxing flooding my feed on the subject just broke me. Some of this is copied from comments I’ve made, though the ending changes. As usual, my thoughts wander along the spectrum before settling in. I’ve read some great ideas on it already which influenced my thinking.

I go back and forth a little, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the spectrum of thinking that’s out there.

*****

I think the proper use of guns calls for a more nuanced conversation than people on either side of the debate are capable of having right now in the wake of the shooting. I don’t see escalation as helping, but at the same time, “gun control” needs to be done right.

Firstly: No one’s banning guns. No one is talking about this except for people who are worried about them being banned. That said, for those calling for regulation: you can’t create an entire infrastructure for monitoring and controlling the sale of firearms out of whole cloth. That takes time, and resources, and careful thought.

The wonderfully optimistic solution has it like driving cars: get trained properly, take a test, government monitors firearms/ammunition sold, and you pay insurance for each one you have. Sounds like a good start to me, but that’s an awful lot of infrastructure to put in place, and is going to cost money. Is it possible or reasonable? Maybe, but be prepared for it to take a while. Search for anything regarding the “long gun registry” in Canada for how this can go wrong, and cost way more money than anyone thinks.

The inclination after something emotional like this is to action (or reaction, as the case may be here), and that’s correct. We need to encourage that. But we also need to realize change doesn’t happen over night, especially if we’re looking to change a system that’s existed since the formation of a country.

It says in the constitution that Americans have the right to bear arms. Alright. The constitution also supported slavery, and the idea that women were inferior to men.

Slavery and men being superior were part of the cultural context of the time, sure. So let’s look at that context. Part of the reason the right to bear arms was in the constitution was that America had just completed a long war with Britain, and didn’t have a standing army. This isn’t the case now. The US of A has arguably the most powerful army in the world, and is a part of NATO. Canada and Britain are their two biggest allies, and we’re not invading any time soon. We’re pretty harmless. And it’s not on private citizens to police crime- that’s asking for trouble. That’s why a police force exists.

I’m a Canadian, so my tendency is towards compromise and peace. But I’m a realist. There’s bad things in the world, unspeakable things. But I think that regulating guns discourages the bad in the world rather than encourages it. If someone wants to have a gun, they should prove they can use a gun responsibly. Be educated. Respect the weapon. The numbers bear out that gun-related deaths are much, much higher in the United States than other countries. To quote a good friend, “This isn’t rocket surgery”. There’s a good, collaborative solution to be found here, and I think that if people would take a deep breath, they might be able to find it.

The proper application of kumbaya

I don’t tend to talk about politics on here. Partially because I don’t believe I’m informed enough to get in on the debate with any gravity, partially because I like preserving the illusion that I’m a man of mystery, and partially more because once someone gets a political label slapped on them, it’s hard to shake.

I never wanted a label. I wanted to learn, to grow, to know what I was talking about, to educate myself on what was what without slant or bias. I didn’t want to get bogged down in left-vs-right, single-minded-with-blinders-on, my-viewpoint-is-better-than-yours-and-how-dare-you-think otherwise horsecrap I see over and over and over in political discussions. There is, from my viewpoint, an incredible slant towards closemindedness in politics, and that’s a real, genuine shame. I’m as guilty of that as anyone.

So, the disclaimer: I don’t claim to know everything. I just know what I think, and feel.

***

My work buddy Mat got the wheels stirring, several weeks ago. It was during the municipal elections in Calgary, when there was a definite ideological shift going on, and very defined camps for the mayoral candidates.

He asked straightforward, and respectfully, in the way that he does, about my politics. It was genuine, open curiosity, with no malice or rancor. He wondered what I believed, where I stood politically. As well and long as we knew each other, it had never come up- again, I don’t talk politics often. It just doesn’t happen. He never really had either, though the topic had come up peripherally on different occasions. I had some idea as to how he leaned.

It was, as so many of our discussions are, thoughtful, and well expressed by both of us. It didn’t surprise me that we disagreed on some things, and were in lockstep on others.

‘Why can’t we do this?’ I thought. ‘Why can’t this be the rule, rather than the exception?’ An actual exchange of ideas and viewpoints, sometimes disagreeing, but on occasion, meeting in the middle, and finding consensus.

Naive? Sure. But don’t we deserve the effort, at least? The appearance of collaborative politics?

*****

I hate it when people use the “you had to be here to understand” line, as if people without experience weren’t smart enough to figure out it.

Living in Calgary for the past twelve years (and a few years on a prior stint before), though, you saw the difference. You understood it, and why the frustration was so palpable. People out west were sick and tired of having elections decided before their votes were counted, of being ignored by a mostly Liberal government over the 90s and early aughts (and possibly before, though that’s only what I remember). Alberta was an economic stronghold- and, for the most part, a Reform/Conservative fortress of voting.

Politics in Canada is very regionally biased. Out West, it tends to be more Conservative, and in the east, more Liberal/NDP. Quebec has it’s own party (for reasons that still elude me), the Bloc Quebecois, who focus more on that region’s needs. At one point, their aims were separatist, though I believe the realities of what that would entail (like, actual work on their part) have softened that particular stance.

In a way, that’s why the politics are so regionally biased: if you’ve grown up in one city/province, wouldn’t you be influenced by the culture there? How could you avoid the reality of your situation and how everyone around you voting and thinking a particular way?

But I refuse to accept our regional bias as inevitable. I refuse to accept apathy as inevitable. And I challenge you to do the same.

*****

There is a decided lack of big picture thinking in the federal leadership at the moment. ANY political leadership, if we’re being honest. This shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

With the regional blocs, there needs to be a shift in how government runs- and, additionally, a shift in how we think. I feel like that’s starting for me. I was a good Alberta boy for a long time, though I don’t think I was ever copacetic about Stephen Harper’s turn in the big chair. After initial jubilation at the Conservatives finally displacing the supposedly corrupt Liberals, I remember my first taste of “our team” in charge sitting uneasy with me.

‘Wait,’ I thought. ‘We were supposed to be different. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.’ Naive, to be sure, but there are few more powerful forces than hope. Witness the meteoric rise of Barack Obama in the last US election- he offered hope, to a country that clung to it like a drowning man to a life preserver. And, much like myself with Harper, people were stung when they realized that it is never as easy as they think it is, and that Obama couldn’t change the world overnight.

The reality is a study of conflicts, and often less extreme. It’s never as good or as awful as we think. Obama wasn’t going to change the world, but nor was he going to be the end of days. Stephen Harper wasn’t going to heal years of western alienation overnight, but nor is he some kind of power-mad dictator bent on making Canadians fear for their lives.

The big picture is bigger than we all are. If we’re going to continue to elect minority governments in Canada, they need to work together. WE need to work together, to show ’em how it’s done.

So here’s my challenge: Exercise your privilege to vote, bought and paid for by men generations ago, and do so with the gravity that this privilege deserves. Know the issues that are important to you, and be educated on what your candidate and party stand for. Let your thinking be challenged sometimes- you can learn a lot. Don’t be a slave to party politics, as so many are. Ask yourself why you’re voting for a candidate, and not why you’re NOT voting for someone else.

As a cynical man in a cynical society, it won’t be easy for me to do that. I get caught up in the emotion, in wanting to be right, and in needing to label people and parties easily, so I can file them away in particular parts of my mind. But there’s another part of me that wants to have that discussion, with Mat, and with others, where we can agree AND disagree, but find that middle ground that we share, something great and special and unique.

Is that naive, to want something great, from something so complex as our government? Sure. It’ll definitely take a while to get there. But shouldn’t we try for it anyway?