What Happens To Us When We Turn Ten?
The air is being filled with post-mortems, lessons learned from this extraordinary result, the Conservative majority, the reversal of fortunes, for now at least, of the NDP and Liberals, the disappearance of the Bloc and Quebecers’ decision to opt for a progressive, federalist party. Now is probably too soon for meaningful reflection.
The Anybody But Conservative voices will probably not want to hear any talk about silver linings. Just the same, there are some: Quebec dropping the Bloc and providing an unprecedented opportunity for progressive voices in Quebec and the rest of Canada to join forces, the possible progress that enhanced Aboriginal participation could bring, and the enduring benefits of a new generation of impressive and engaged citizens exemplified by Leadnow.
The Conservatives will be in no mood to hear about the challenges and responsibilities that come with majority. Just the same, of course, there are some, not least the need to bring Canadians together, especially given how polarised we have become, and to govern for us all, across the diversity of our interests, values, ideologies and lifestyle choices, and for the long-term health of Canada even as we seem so preoccupied with what is happening right now.
The NDP will not want to spoil their celebration by considering how much harder it may be to influence the agenda in the short-term. Just the same, it will be, especially on issues such as inequality, the environment, aid, education and the arts, except perhaps through greater devolution which, ironically, could simply make a federal social democratic party increasingly irrelevant. And quite a lot is riding on the NDP.
The Greens will not want to hear anything that might diminish their joy at having, finally and deservedly, a Parliamentary voice even as environment and climate change are a harder sell than ever and electoral reform, so vital to their prospects, no easier.
And the Liberals will need time to heal and deal with their internal divisions and difficult choices.
Progressives of the centre and to the left have a lot to ponder. The temptation will be to point fingers at this party or that, this person or that – and of course some of this is necessary – but the best thing is to start with ourselves. The energy of some young leaders stemmed the horrible decline in voting but the massive turnout never materialized. We were either too satisfied or too indifferent. The politics of personal smear continued and intensified – and we just didn’t seem to get mad enough. Some defended the garbage as just part of the tough business of politics. There has to be a better way. We ought to get mad. We lost wonderful people from every party – and I do wonder why wonderful people would ever choose to run for any party in this climate of personal smears and negativity. And too many of us put party ahead of purpose and fought for party standing more than for Canada, and that cannot be the way forward.
In the midst of all this I watched revellers in U.S. cities chanting and waving their fists celebrating the assassination and disposal of Osama Bin Laden, and the only somewhat milder Twitter celebrations here in Canada. At the same time I was listening to a CBC interview of a woman who had lost her husband on 9/11 who had explained to her nine-year-old son that Osama Bin Laden had been shot in the head. The son, she reported, was worried, wondered why that had happened, asked why there had been no trial. This boy who had lost his father was worried about rule of law while most of us were acting out our hate, anger and vengeance. What happens to us when we turn ten?
Whatever else yesterday might mean, it is a reminder that we have an obligation to get involved, to stay involved, and to fight for the things we believe in, even when they may be hard sells, to reject the politics of cynicism and smear and wedge and hate and narrow partisanship, to rediscover the will to vote but more than this, for the long term, to participate with others across region and party in pursuit of our best sense of the public good, led by the youth for sure but including those of us of more advanced years.