Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Crossroads

 Dan Gardner, in  today's The Ottawa Citizen, writes that "what we saw last week was much more profound than politics:"

Jack Layton was energetic and engaged. He was fully alive. Even his opponents had to grant that. We saw him bounce back from surgery and cancer treatment to fight a historic election campaign. It was inspiring. His opponents had to grant that, too.

Then he died. It was as sudden as if he'd been shot - and just when he had become the leader of the official opposition, the reward for a very long struggle.

We were reminded that even for the gifted and the vital, life can be unjust and far too brief. We were reminded that our existence is unavoidably tragic. We were reminded we are mortal.

However, Gardner writes, last week will not change our politics. It is still a bloodsport. The proof is in the methods Stephen Harper employed to win the last three elections. They represent what Sean Connery, in The Untouchables, called "the Chicago way:"

Remember "Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography?" That's politics the Chicago way. Harper has been doing it ever since, insinuating that a Liberal MP's family member was involved with terrorists, calling the coalition a "coup," lying about the Constitution, stonewalling the House of Commons. It's not a coincidence that the first government in British parliamentary history to be found in contempt of Parliament was Stephen Harper's.

And don't forget the attack ads. Viciously personal, sustained, and launched in the relative civility between election campaigns, they marked a new low in Canadian politics. They were also devastatingly effective.

Stephen Harper has won three elections in a row, each with a larger share of the popular vote than the last, and each against politicians who wouldn't, or couldn't, do politics the Chicago way.

My sense is that we are at a watershed. We have gotten used to Stephen Harper's vision. It owes a lot to Thomas Hobbes. Jack Layton gave Canadians a view of the promised land. Like Martin Luther King, he said, "I  may not get their with you. But we as a people will get to the promised land."

A Utopian vision. Perhaps. But look at the alternative.We are at a crossroad. -- we can choose the Old World or a New World.


Anonymous said...

So much horrible stuff comes out of Chicago. The 'Chicago School' of economics, the 'Chicago School' of education, the 'Chicago way' of politics. It gave us Obama whose Hope & Change is, in hindsight, little more than a friendly branding of the continuation of Bush policies sprinkled with a few blatant lies like renegotiating NAFTA. So much rightism from a nominally democrat area of the US.

Owen Gray said...

Carl Sandburg immortalized the "city of the big shoulders" as a gateway to a new and prosperous land.

Mayor Daley would say things haven't changed. But Al Capone knew they had. That new wealth was based on corruption -- pervasive corruption.

The question, George Bernard Shaw wrote, is this: when we see things as they are, do we ask why, or why not?