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Politicians & Voters: The Good, the Bad and the Stupid

Less than 50% of people voted in BC’s provincial election. Less than half, which means that everything could have changed had more people voted. I’ve always said, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And really, an apathetic acceptance of whatever is thrown at you is no way to foment change. There are countries where not everyone has the vote or where they’re even losing the right to vote. People should not treat the liberties we have so lightly.

Granted some people are disenfranchised because these days one politician is like another, just in a different suit. What matter be it Liberals or Conservatives or NDP, they will all make the same promises? I’m not saying I believe that completely but it’s obvious some people do. And on top of that, there is the aspect of political campaigning that has got down to name-calling and trying to take down another’s character to change votes, even if it’s obfuscating the truth or the facts.

People are becoming tired of politicians denigrating each other, and it is a very important element in negating voter turnout. This week the federal Conservatives have taken out ads to discredit Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Not ads on what they’re doing, nor on concerns for our country but just another smear campaign against the enemy. That’s money well spent. Politics has gotten down to this. Don’t talk about what you can do but talk about what the other guy is not doing. I’m very tired of that.

Voters also see a lack of charisma in our potential leaders. Where is our Barack Obama? The truth is that there are few completely charismatic leaders. It takes a special blend of hubris and confidence, intelligence and eloquence, theatrics and honesty. I’ve mentioned this before but some notable orators (the one element a charismatic leader must have) have been Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Pierre Trudeau, Barack Obama, Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney, you say? Yes. I don’t like him, never liked him as a PM and I believe he took the Conservatives to overwhelming defeat (and stuck Kim Campbell in as the fall guy/girl). But in recent years as Mulroney has been investigated for the airbus scandal and the Hans Schreiber affair (receiving envelopes of cash and storing them in safety deposit boxes, making them untraceable, which somehow the lawyer side of him just didn’t think looked suspicious), I’ve heard his voice on the radio. The man has a deep and well modulated tone.

I’m sure he was/is a very good lawyer because it is obvious in the way he speaks that he understands the drama of words and how to stress particular words and concepts. Were his tears real or alligator tears this week when he broke down in giving testimony, I don’t know. And I must be careful of what I accuse or Mulroney will make a pre-emptive strike on me too and sue as he did in the airbus scandal. No person is without a range of emotions, nor are they completely good or evil. I’m sure he does care deeply for his family but I also believe he would pull on anything to manipulate a situation, being a good lawyer and all. And his spokesman (publicist for a retired prime minister) was there at the inquiry to jump up and accuse two big bad journalists for making him cry. Poor Brian. Sounds like he’s getting his money’s worth from his publicist.

Without knowing the end of this inquiry I can predict accurately that Mulroney will get off scott-free, whether he is innocent or not. And why, because he is a great speaker and actor. He’s a master manipulator and will use that to his advantage. Besides, it’s his word against Schreiber’s, a guy trying to avoid extradition to Germany (for fraud and bribery) by any means possible, and it’s two men forgetting a lot of things so in the end, conclusions will be…inconclusive even if Mulroney hid his money in safes, didn’t record receiving it and didn’t consult his accountant, even though he claims everything was on the up and up, in receiving those fat cash envelopes. Can I conduct affairs like this and what about tagging him for income tax evasion?

Were voters swayed by his voice to vote for Mulroney when he ran? Yes, just as each of those other men I have mentioned gained popularity at one point because they could put thoughts together well, speak them with conviction and relate to the crowd (and they had great speech writers). So, voters want charisma and drama and maybe not so much honesty.

But voters, as I’ve said before, are fickle and have short memories. They believe the promises too easily, yet also cynically believe nothing at all. Here are two comments I heard in regards to our recent provinicial election. One person said, “They gave me a hip, I have no complaints.” Although it’s been many years since this person received a hip and the government (and the issues) have changed a great deal since then. It was naive to think everything is the same and that even the government is the same so that this person didn’t have to vote. Someone else called into CBC and said they didn’t vote because they were dissatisfied and until every vote counted there was no point in voting. So, why didn’t that guy get out and vote for the single transferable vote, which would have made every vote count?

I can begin to understand why there are dictators. I did put the good into the title but I’m not sure why. What’s good with a situation where people don’t care enough to vote or try to bring about change. Everyone should writer their MLA and MP if they have a concern. Change is never all-sweeping at first but incremental, by very small steps. But voters will continue to be disenfranchised and moreso if they continue not to vote and have no say or concern in what happens. So, what are you going to do about it?

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BC Election Day

I’ve been fairly quiet about the election. Although I’ve paid some attention to it and the usual, unfortunate name calling that’s happened, I haven’t said much, because I know which way I’ll be voting.

The NDP and Liberals are neck in neck and it will be anybody’s game. The Green party could possibly take a seat or two and there is a possibility, though slim of a minority government. Still, there will be enough representation of both sides to balance things, I hope.

Politics is much like the boxing ring. You put your gloves on and go out there and pummel your opponent as close as you can to a pulp. Then afterwards, you stand before the cameras and clasp your opponent on the shoulder, shake hands and say nice things about fighting style. Just like politics.

So Campbell bashes James and James bashes Campbell. It would be nice to see less of this and more of what is going to happen. But politicians are known for hollow campaign promises anyway. We can thank Gordon Campbell for tearing up hospital worker and teacher’s contracts (teachers don’t even have a contract right now).

We can thank him for raising the cost of our universal free medicare. Only Alberta and BC pay for what the rest of the country gets for free and Campbell more than doubled that cost while at the same time removing some services. Podiatrists and optometrists are no longer covered because gee, I guess it’s only old people who have foot and eye problems and as one of Campbell’s cronies once said, they’re a special interest group. Campbell took massage, chiropractic and physiotherapy off of the list. We used to get 10-12 visits each a year. Now, only if you’re on subsidized assistance will you get 10 combined visits. Because, obviously it’s much better to go and pay money to pharmaceutical companies rather than heal the person permanently.

If you’re big business, you’ll love Campbell. He’ll cut things like teachers rights and tear up contracts of the little people but he’ll make sure he arranges that money he’s saved to go to business. Because big business always needs help. I could go on, rant, rage, but there is no point. I’ve never trusted Campbell and I will not start now.

Someone ludicrously said he looked like a premier whereas Carol James didn’t. How ridiculous is that? That comment was one step away from being sexist. She doesn’t look like a premier because she’s a woman? Doesn’t wear a suit? What? But then, there is one thing I know. No matter how fickle a politician is the voters are just as fickle. Okay, fickle isn’t the right word but short term amnesiac memory is. Voters forget so quickly and only remember all the candy that is tossed out right before an election. Many are just like kids, believing the campaign rhetoric.

At least one hopes a politician will fulfill some of their promises. But the one thing that BC voters do; if they do remember the bad stuff and are unhappy, then they will willingly change their spots. Easily influenced? Yes. But unlike Alberta that will vote Conservative no matter what is done to them, British Columbians are willing to try on a new shoe. Did I just contradict myself? Perhaps.

But one other thing I’m voting for is the STV. It may or may not work but proportional representation does sound appealing and we won’t know if we don’t try. So, don’t forget, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

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BC Politics: Faux Pas and Scandals

Here we go again with the dirt, and dragging each candidate through the mud. Ray Lam is the latest victim of the scourge that happens before every campaign. And since BC is gearing up to the provincial election on May 12, and because Campbell’s Conservatives in Liberal clothing have a race for their money, they’re digging deep. Of course, this goes for any side; mudslinging is becoming far too common.

So Ray Lam is the latest victim, who somehow had Facebook photos that he thought were on privacy settings that no one could really see. The media is calling them “racy” photos and I suppose these are to a degree though no actual flesh is seen. Lam has his hand on one woman’s breast and in another a man and a woman have their fingers hooked in his underwear and are peeking in or pulling them down a bit.

When I run for office I will proudly admit to and display all my naughty photos off the bat. I don’t think there are any but one person’s naughty is another person’s tame. What I hate the most is the hypocritical prudery. Many people will claim to be open-minded (heck, what does Liberal stand for in the Liberal party) but will get all bent out of shape over some innocent antic. So some people were partying and went skinny dipping, or flashed the camera, or mooned a car,  or streaked through a field, or wore a giant penis costume for Hallowe’en.

And my opinion: so what? It’s obviously consensual on all people’s parts. There is no violence. There are no underage people. Some people get together and pull some pranks. It’s hardly out of the realm of human behaviour and pretty harmless. Whose morality runs the show?

What bugs me most is that people profess to be open-minded as long as it serves them (just what does liberal stand for in the Liberal party?) yet become indignant about supposed misdemeanours as long as the spotlight isn’t on them. Did I hear correctly that the Liberal member who outed this guy’s photos was asking for an apology? It should be the other way around and the Liberal member should be apologizing to Ray Lam for the untoward attention and a pretty banal thing. In fact, it matters not which party outs the other. If it’s just photos like this, who really cares?

Trudeau once said, “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” This goes for the parties and extracurricular activities as well. As long as a candidate or a politician is not stomping animals, playing with minors, beating people, shooting opponents, stealing, taking kickbacks and bribes, lying or otherwise breaking the law, then there shouldn’t be a problem in their personal life, which should stay personal. Yes a public figure like a politician should be held to high moral standards, but only in the aspect of the law. Oh, but I forgot, one must look innocent and angelic while running for office.

Once you get in you can break the law and stay in office. Like Port Coquitlam mayor Scott Young who was convicted of two accounts of assault and breaching conditions. He stayed in office against protests of his constituents. Or let’s see, Ralph Klein, ex premier of Alberta who swore at homeless people and threw money at them. Well, not exactly against the law because homeless people have no rights and never charged him. Or, oh yeah, Gordon Campbell, convicted of a drunk driving offence in Hawaii but too arrogant to step down or barely apologize.

So, other people must step down from political careers on allegations often later found to be false and unsubstantiated, and candidates have to step down for some silly photos. If the public cares, and I’m not sure we do, then it’s a sad state when we get our knickers in a twist over the minor and harmless infractions, yet offenders of the big ones get rewarded with longer time in office. If we look at honesty, then Lam is more honest for not denying this than Campbell was when he tore up hospital worker contracts.

I wish the media and the politicians would stick to the business of politics and not stick their noses in everyone’s personal business. No one is perfect and people do silly things. We should not all be punished for it and if it’s not against the law, then don’t expect godlike behaviour from mere mortals.

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A Case of Indulgence

This was the last of the Fearsmag articles that I wrote. I thought of putting it out tomorrow but I could be nursing a hangover, or more likely sleeping in. That’s one of my indulgences.

In whatever stage of abstinence or feeding our appetites that we managed to survive through the holiday season, we now suffer the aftermath. A new year has begun and in many cultures it becomes a time of reckoning, of cleaning our mental houses, of taking stock and changing or honing up on our past year’s progress.

Often January is a time of making too many promises and setting stakes too high. You might say it’s the time of atonement, whether you’re religious or not, for our past sins, be it laziness, overindulgence, taking on too much, doing too little, not changing, lacking stability, clinging to the past or not planning the future. We try to set past abuses or mistakes right with New Year’s resolutions. If we can whitewash the slate, perhaps we can start fresh and ignore all that’s gone before.

Or not.

Not too many years ago, I decided to stop making resolutions. After all, why set yourself up for a fall? We resolve to make these changes in our lives, often drastic ones, and wonder why we then fail to change. In January, because there’s no planning for holidays, we’re broke from spending too much and have already saturated our flesh with sugar, alcohol, salt and fat; we heroically battle our faults. Start a new year, start a new plan, start right.

And time, which is really just a big wound-up clock that we imagine, unwinds the wheel of the year as well as our plans, which fizzle by March if not earlier.

I guess I learned the lesson. Don’t overindulge through the holidays, then you won’t have to diet yourself down to the right size again. Of course, many people control themselves throughout the year and feel that this is the one time to let loose, to balance the scales even if those scales can be tipped to one side rather quickly and it takes the whole year to get back there again. To indulge or not—the fear to let go, to take the plunge.

We have set ourselves a tricky quest in this new century, as in the old. We want to have it all but we don’t want to wallow in it. Gourmet chocolate shops, delectable world-select coffee bars, elite watering holes holding alcohol from every exotic locale, and the finest clothes made of wondrous fabrics not seen since the Egyptians wove cotton, abound in many countries. We surround ourselves with splendor, covet what we don’t have and continue to search for the most expensive, exquisite or unique of today’s fads.

Well, what’s wrong with having the best, of rewarding ourselves for what we’ve accomplished? Nothing, but those that have too much, who can acquire whatever they desire, who have sailed to the highest pinnacle and hover there, are watched by the heaving millions with envy, jealousy and ridicule.

Like Icarus and his fateful flight toward the sun, we view movie stars, singers, politicians, the famous, the rich and the powerful as those who try for godhood and will fall back to the earth. And like scavenging vultures, we wait to pull them down or help them on their descent. Each and every person wants what is rightfully theirs, perhaps more than a fair share and will seek it out. All of us would like to indulge. Those that do are loved at first. We hold them like beacons in the darkness of our obscurity. They shine as examples of what can be done, of what-ifs made real and that some people can have it all. Yet, if they stay too long in the flame, we burn them with our scorn. We hold their lives up to that oh-so-bright light and examine every pore, every crack, every flaw.

Michael Jackson is no longer a rising star. His comet is falling and he receives as much ridicule as adoration, not for his music but for his life that, like any one of ours, cannot stand the polished gleam of godhood for long. Let’s face it, people are hypocrites. It’s all right if I have it, if my loved ones and friends have it, but if others have it and I have to watch for too long, well that’s just not right. Just like the dog that’s done his business in the wrong spot, eventually he gets his nose rubbed in it. Those who have and indulge end up rubbing our noses in it. Not the same as the dog. It’s not necessarily intentional, but many people see this material flaunting as the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. And perhaps there are the unspoken messages that we really don’t like to hear: Could I have done more? Am I doing anything with my life? Will I amount to anything? Does anything I do matter? Will I be remembered after I die? Why have I failed when others have succeeded?

So it is that to indulge, in more than one culture or religion, is seen as a sin, a luring to the dark side, a vice. Indulgence in itself is not necessarily bad. You can indulge someone, let him or her cry, or rant or be a little crazy once in a while. It makes you look magnanimous, open-minded, loving. Having a little chocolate or getting looped or dancing the dawn into being is okay, once in a while. But do it all the time and you become a pig, a dilettante, a bohemian, a hedonist, a self-centered creature. The names abound.

In the end, our indulgences are our own but it’s our society that really let’s us know what’s not right and what is considered overindulgence. So, don’t make a resolution, until you’re ready to, whether it’s January 1st, March 19th or November 23rd. In the end, it matters only to you, and society, your friends or other forces like your body will tell you when to change. Indulge a little but don’t parade it in front of others. And before you indulge, ask yourself, with just a little fear lacing your veins, am I ready for what it will do to me and how others will see me?

Happy New Year. May your indulgences keep you healthy.

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Sex and Politics

As long as there have been people, there has been sex, obviously. But as long as there have been more than two people having to get along in a group, there have been politics. And I’m betting that as long as there have been politics, sex has often been involved.

Sex has been exchanged for power for millennia. Look at the Egyptians. They married brothers and sisters to keep the bloodline pure and royal. All in the family. And throughout the middle ages brides of nobles and royalty were locked into marriage contracts with other rulers so that borders could be expanded, loyalty could be guaranteed and tithes could be exchanged. For the little people, the peasants, they got to arrange their own marriages in most cases.

I’m sure there were illicit affairs happening in the 19th century. After all, the Italian Renaissance of several centuries before was known for the nobles being married to one woman and having several mistresses along the way. Even the Borgia popes had mistresses. Sexually transmitted diseases, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc. were widely known and spread. In fact, I believe it was syphilis that was called the Neapolitan disease because it was rumored that Italian sailors went to foreign ports, brought back the disease and spread it through the known world in seven years.

Along came the 20th century, North America. JFK was purported to have had an affair with Marilyn Monroe and also with other women. He wasn’t the first, nor the last. Then came the famous Cinton-Lewinsky affair. Or maybe it was just a blowjob. I don’t know if she inhaled or not. Millions of dollars was wasted of the taxpayers’ money to find out if Clinton had sex with Monica. (And what kind of freak keeps a semen crusty dress anyways? That is particularly disgusting.) Polls showed that really, the public didn’t care.

Truth is, human nature/culture often includes affairs outside of marriages, whether known about or not. People joked that the Europeans wondered what was wrong with US presidents if they didn’t have a mistress. (I’m not sure if women were allowed equal on-the-side benefits or not, but I doubt it.) That Europe rolled their eyes at all the “scandal” of presidential love affairs. The Italians would know; they’ve been doing it for centuries.

When it comes down to it, what does it matter who a person sleeps with, as far as politics are concerned? Affairs should be between the politician, their spouse and any other directly related parties. It should not include the public or the media. The nation should keep its nose out of the politicians’ bedrooms. The only exception would be if state secrets were being divulged to any lovers. Maxine Bernier, Canada’s “past” foreign affairs minister had a girlfriend where he left his important papers laying about. Whether she stole them or he was just careless, in either case he was dealing with important state papers.

But over the years, at various levels, political officials have lost their jobs because they were with prostitutes or had affairs. And really, I don’t care what they do on the side as long as they do their jobs well. Not one person could stand up to scrutiny that dug into all corners of their lives. And then it comes down to, who judges and on what grounds? Sex and power. Sometimes sex is used to gain information. And sometimes it’s used to be with the powerful and famous. But I’m all for seeing how all our politicians do in politics and n leaving their bedroom antics alone.

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US Election: Hope for a New America

Well, like everyone else, I’m weighing in on the recent US election of the president elect and hopeful, Barack Obama. There is more than one factor that makes him the new hope. He will be the first black president with a very non-American sounding name. He is relatively young, the same age as Clinton when he took office. Only Roosevelt and Kennedy were younger. He inherits one of the worst messes in recent history from the worst president. Really, anyone who did half a job better than Bush would probably shine. You could almost say he’s the messiah to Bush’s anti-christ but let’s not bring religion into it. There’s been enough already.

But it’s a tough job ahead. The US economy, and world economy is a mess, Bush has brought the world too close to World War III, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing divisive views and is as tumultuous as the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war lasted through several presidencies. Interestingly enough it was escalated by Democrats Kennedy and Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon was not only the one to remove troops in Vietnam but brought about some thawing of the Cold War.

This time it’s reversed and Republican Bush brought troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. Will Obama remove them? Although Iraq was the misguided invasion of a deluded president, Afghanistan is a different story. Albeit Bush invaded for his “war against terror” and “axis of evil” blatherings, the fact that Afghanistan was under a fundamentalist, totalitarian regime that subjugated its citizens, especially women, could not be denied. The world needed to help. And yes, the World Trade Center was decimated by a terrorist attack…by Saudi Arabians, the country studiously ignored because they can be a bigger bully than the US.

But back to presidents and chaos. There have been charismatic leaders in the past. John F. Kennedy was one. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister from 1968-79 and 1980-84. He was immensely popular, young and avant garde, coining the term “fuddle duddle,” which was a euphemism for what he was presumed to have actually said. And although Martin Luther King never ran for president, at a time when blacks were still considered second class citizens, he too galvanized a nation. Had he lived longer, he might have run as president but like Kennedy he was assassinated.

What these four men (Kennedy, King, Trudeau, Obama) have in common is youth. This is not the youth of age though they were all in their 30’s or 40’s when coming to prominence, but a youthful demeanor and way of thinking. Trudeau and Kennedy made mistakes but after they were leaders their legacies lived on. Trudeau’s influence colored politics for many years after he retired.

The other common thread is that these men were all great orators. Obama speaks well, bringing passion and belief to his words. The background speechwriters should be given accolades for the skills they put into such famous speeches. Obama also has something that was lacking in the McCain/Palin campaign: integrity. When others stooped to trying to mar his name, he did not fall to the same low standards. When it was discovered that Palin had a pregnant, teenage daughter, Obama replied, “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits.” When was the last time we saw any politician stop slinging dirt at the others? That alone would have gained my vote, had he run here.

Obama has a heavy burden on his shoulders. If he cannot affect the change that is so desperately needed and clean up some of Bush’s mess, then people will leave him. But if anyone can, he is the man to do it. Of mixed heritage, he represents the world of today. He’s intelligent in a way Bush is too dull to even dream of and he will hopefully keep a level head.

Charisma goes a long way and people will forgive a lot of sins because of it. Being young enough to remember there are young people bridges the generation gap and it showed in the number of younger people who voted for Obama. Being intelligent can make a difference but it is wisdom and the use of knowledge that can bring the greatest, beneficial change.

We’ll have to see if Barack Obama can bring change. All we have to do is keep him alive long enough. Here’s hoping he relies on more than the fallible CIA to keep him safe. (Speaking of which, at the college where I work in Canada, the IT guy checked an IP address that was trying to break through Finance’s firewall. It was the CIA. The next day that same IP address showed as unregistered.)

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Arts, Culture and Politics

Stephen Harper made a statement that Canadians didn’t want to pay for artists to stand around at galas, which didn’t relate to the ordinary person. Here’s his lovely open-minded comment:

I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people … at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.

So let’s see, ordinary people. Hmm, he’s saying artists aren’t ordinary. So who is: police, cashiers, neurosurgeons, unemployed street people? Just, who, Mr. Harper, is ordinary and who isn’t? We “artists,” writers, musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, singers, actors, etc. aren’t ordinary. Hell, we float down from the clouds, perform our works and then go back to gilded halls of champions. We don’t need to buy food, pay rent, sleep or socialize. We’re aliens I guess, living in our special niches high on the rocks.

He even mentioned taxpayers. No body told me, that as an extraordinary artist person that I can actually not pay taxes. I’ll apply for that right away since I’m a taxpayer and an artist but I therefore can’t be ordinary. Oh and I go to galas every week, in my head maybe. Galas, puhleeze, Mr. Harper, get your facts straight and stop making sweeping generalizations. As a taxpayer, an ordinary person I very much want to see the culture of my country and not a carbon copy of the US’s culture. I want to have Canadian individuality.

The only “galas” I’ve ever gone to have been those I’ve paid for and usually at conventions. Granted I’m a small peas writer and not a big name singer or actor but all of those people have worked hard and long to get where they’re going. Should we never have a gala to recognize the best in their fields? Is this is what Harper is suggesting? Just how many galas are there? I bet there are fewer than the ones the politicians attend especially when they’re doing fundraising for their campaigns.

Art and culture consists of far more than watching TV, Mr. Harper. It involves plays, concerts, art for walls and halls and front lawns of government buildings. It involves things to read and things to look at, a break for the “ordinary person” from the dreariness or just plain hard work of a job. It provides entertainment and humor, and a release of tension. It provokes joy and sorrow with deeper thoughts and discourse into our everyday life. The pen is mightier than the sword for a reason.

Speaking of swords and other sports, if you subsidize athletes, artists of the body as much as dancers are, then why not subsidize the arts? It all falls under entertainment.  Many regimes through history have tried to muzzle their artists. The governments fear what the art may point fingers at. China is an example of some of the muzzling being done. But I’d say that Harper’s gang is trying to muzzle any arts they disapprove of and doesn’t represent the views they want put forward.

I have to go now and put on my subsidized ball gown so I can go to another subsidized artists’ gala that all those ordinary people are going to watch on TV but not care about. But one last point to Stephen Harper: perhaps if you didn’t slash funding to the arts and censor it, then you might have got a truly original speech all those years ago as opposed to having to use the Australian prime minister’s recycled speech. plagiarized

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Politics: Freedom to Choose

Originally this was published in the online magazine called Fearsmag.com. The magazine didn’t last long due to the withdrawal of funds by the benefactor during the dot.com crunch. I was an editorial writer and took a look at different fears to write about each month. This was the December column for 2000 but it’s appropriate now.

Christmas or politics? Christmas? Politics? Agh, the indecision nearly froze my fingers on the keyboards, sort of like choosing which candidate to vote for. Well, I decided that Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/your favorite winter festivity happens once a year but this unique political picture forming in Canada and the US happens but once.

            I’m not going to go into great detail on the buffoonery, the conniving, the shiftiness, the lying or even the successes of the candidates. I’m going to dig around in that really nasty cesspit of the fears we have about our politics.

            On the lighter side, we are lucky; we all have the right to vote and with some degree of democracy, with all its requisite odors and flavors per country. That’s good. I’ve had nightmares about a future where we were all enslaved, fighting for our rights and freedom from aliens or dictators and bigots. Freedom fighting has been a popular theme ever since our ancestors climbed out of the trees and pretended they were civilized. Freedom is the integral right of the individual, though ask a handful of people on the street and what freedom actually means will be quite different from one to the other. UPN’s new show Freedom is just about that; the US president is shot and the good guys fight the military regime that’s restored order to a rioting USA.

            Now I’m Canadian but close enough to the border that half my friends are from the USA. I’ve heard enough about the politics to get an idea of what people think, at least the West Coast. Freedom in the US election meant choosing between two leaders with as much personality and flavor as cold spaghetti without the sauce. Clinton, even if he was careless enough to let his private predilections fall under the White House spotlight, has lots of personality. Many people told me they were afraid of the old world, right wing, knee jerk politics that Bush represented. Some even said old Bush senior had at least been a statesman but Jr. hasn’t lived up to that image. He represents to many a redneck, narrow-minded conservatism.

            Well if you don’t want Bush you have well, er, um Gore, (Gore actually became stronger and better known after the election.) not exactly someone of scintillating mien. Many people liked what Nadar stood for but were afraid that if they cast their votes for his determination to launder the old political baggage that they would be tossing their vote away and letting Bush in. There you see the freedom to choose but fearing to choose what your heart says is right.

            And what bigger fear could we have than that our democracy is but a sham, that computers are being fixed with ballot tallies, that authorities are delaying folks long enough that the polls close, that ballots are confusing, that information is leaked to media sources before it should. It would make a great conspiracy movie or perhaps, it’s the truth.

            Now let’s look at the other half of the coin. (I know little of Mexican politics but have heard that el presidente Fox is somewhat right of center.) Here in Canada our election just happened. The ruling party, the Liberals spent eight years in office and curbed the National debt, but at the expense of human welfare and lives. There have been issues like the APEC rally and the loss of freedom of speech and civil liberties. The Bloc Quebecois only cares for one province and not at all for the rest of Canada, yet because of population alone always stands a chance of being the government. I fear that if the Bloc won, Canada would be a country no more.

            Then there’s the Conservative party, which used to be strong and either the governing party or the official opposition. After Brian Mulroney’s heavy-handed bludgeoning of the country the Conservatives dive-bombed all but out of sight. Like the proverbial phoenix, they’ve been trying to resurrect themselves from the scathing ashes that many remember and which gave us the hated GST (goods & services tax or better known as the gouge and screw tax). However, this phoenix is still small with but a few feathers and not a contender.

            The NDP (New Democratic Party) could stand a chance if they had a stronger leader and weren’t willing to completely blow the national budget with wholesale spending. Then there’s the Reform party, renamed the Canadian Alliance party. (The Reform nee Alliance party congealed back into the Conservative party, like  a phoenix, but containing more right-wing thinkers.)  They booted their founding leader Preston Manning out just a few months ago and put in the younger stronger Stockwell Day. Day and his party have stuck their feet in their mouths in the past, stating they’re not so far right wing that if they were a bird it would never get off the ground. (Day would have been a scary combination with Bush.) They’re not racist, yet one member once said it was all right to have colored people work in your store—just have them go to the back if it offended anyone. They won’t use a religious-political agenda but they’re all for “family values” which means no gay rights, no women’s rights. I’m sure they believe a woman’s rightful place is in the home. They want tougher criminal laws. Granted our justice system is flawed, but should we really take a DNA sample from everyone charged with a crime, whether found guilty or not?

            Many parties, yet the mindset on both sides of the border has been who to vote for, no one’s particularly good, and some are downright scary. Here’s my nightmare—that Bush should get in and that Stockwell Day should win here. Two extreme right wing leaders, two powerful and large countries, most of North America, a lot of guns, and a lot of “free” people. If you ever read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (or saw the movie) it’s a fear I find still too close to my future.

            Well, Canada went to the polls and, like the US, feared the worst and cast their votes. The US has Bush (still being determined) and we voted in the lesser of the two evils and have the Liberals yet again. At least it’s not my worst nightmare.

            Whatever we voted many of us our still stuck with the fear, the gnawing small fear that, like an insidious worm, eats away at us from the inside. Our biggest fear is that our government isn’t working, that our politicians are lying to us. Do our voices and our votes even make a difference or are they just a drop in a vast ocean of indifference? We fear we have no choice in what we see. There is no good alternative and if it’s actually presented, we fear to choose it because not enough others will and we’ll then end up with a worse evil.

            We are afraid of the darkness of our democracy, the loss for everyone to choose his or her own path, to move about freely, to say what we think. But what if it doesn’t matter? What if the handful of the powerful and those who control the country’s wealth let everyone think their vote counts for change or upholding values when in fact it’s all hollow? What if those powers that be, “they” just do what they want–what they have always done because they “know” the masses don’t know enough about governing a country or the political process itself? Therefore, they will guide us and our country and our policies whether we like it or not. What if freedom of speech means only speaking in a place at a time when they want you to but not if it causes too much thought, too much questioning?

            Remember Desert Storm? I was in New York around the time the troops were coming back. A ticker tape parade and all the fixings for heroes. But there were those who disagreed on the military policies. Bus shelters with pro posters had graffiti scrawled in indelible ink on the glass. They were scrubbed and cleaned, or replaced before the troops arrived. In New York? A park in the lower east side, near where I was staying had police tape and sawhorses up so that people couldn’t gather and speak out against the military’s activity. (Shades of Beijing.) Gatherings had been planned but the police banned them. That was freedom of speech.

            True freedom means never bowing down, never giving in to the dark, the evil, the bigoted and the judgmental. Yes, one must work within a society but freedom means being heard and continuing to be heard, to shout, to scream and to keep screaming until other voices join in and those voices are heard. Becoming complacent about the freedom to choose is when it can be taken from you.

 

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Politicians, Pot and Prohibition

In the last week two NDP candidates have had to step down because there were pictures/videos of them smoking pot. And another candidate once upon a time skinny dipped in front of teenagers. There were never any charges laid, none of the teenagers or parents ever complained, and RCMP cleared him of wrongdoing. Yet he’s had to resign from running. Something that people need to understand about the West Coast and the island communities is that it’s not abnormal for people to be free an easy. To get your knickers in a twist over someone skinny-dipping is a little over the top. The politicians are really desperate if that’s all they can find. I certainly would rather have someone dipping into the drink nude than have them scam the country of a few million or outright lying.

But that’s the lesser issue. There is the oh so horrible aspects of marijuana. Granted it was pretty stupid letting yourself ever be filmed if you have aspirations in politics but smoking pot is pretty much so minor that it doesn’t amount to even a crime. Being filmed driving under the influence of anything is a little more serious.

But let’s look at this. Pothead politicians. Hmm. When a person is high on pot, they tend to sit around, maybe eat, maybe sleep. People on pot are never seen as being zippy and really, how much crime is contributed to just potheads? I’m not talking grow ops or dealing but just plain ole smoking. Compare it to drinking. Drinking alcohol and buying/distributing it is legal. A person drunk can cause way more damage, possibly get in fights, and then drive cars. Our premier Gordon Campbell was caught and fined for drunken driving in Hawaii and he certainly thumbed his nose at everyone and didn’t step down. So why should someone who smokes pot, or swims naked do so when they’re not even in the government yet?

This comes down to the decriminalization of marijuana. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is… Why? I wish I really knew. There are illegal grow ops everywhere, the Hell’s Angels and other criminal organizations are involved in it and make millions every year. If it was decriminalized and regulated like alcohol was, then the government would actually make money on it, like it does on alcohol. When prohibition was in effect, more in the US than Canada, criminals raked in the money and not only that, became better established. We all have images of Bonnie and Clyde times (though they were bank robbers) and moonshine.

In Vancouver, with all the crime we have (home & car break-ins) you never hear that some crazy pothead was doing it or that potheads are living on the street. No, it’s crack and crystal meth and heroin that puts people on the street, and leads them to prostitution and burglary. Legalizing marijuana would actually make it far more controllable. I’m not even sure who is against it, some conservatives obviously that feel that it’s what, the devil’s tool, undermining our youth? I just don’t know but the harms of pot are far less than alcohol and people aren’t killed in car accidents by multitudes of pot smokers. Sure there may be some accidents but the majority are alcohol induced. Better the devil you know.

As far as I can see it, some guy running in politics who confesses to having smoked pot seems such a minor misdemeanour compared to a drunk driving premier. (But then Campbell was in good company with the equally drunken Klein–actually Klein was much more an expert at drinking and only cursed beggars and threw money at them.) It would be better for our resources if police could concentrate on serious crimes and just think, the proceeds of selling marijuana could go to fighting other drug crimes.

I think we have a very skewed society where true perpetrators of crimes and politicians who break promises and rip up emplyment contracts (Campbell) can stay in power (including the mayor of PoCo charged with violence and yet won’t step down) and some skinny dipper has to give up running. It makes me even more dubious that anything can ever change in this country because the old crusty suits still run the show in outmoded ways. Do I find a broken campaign promise worse than a guy smoking pot? Yes. I certainly wouldn’t care if he did smoke pot. And like past US president Clinton, these guys should have said that they didn’t inhale.

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Politics: Is This What We Can Expect?

This was recently reposted from Craigslist to one of the writing sites I’m on:

Reply to: gigs-834027754@craigslist.org
<mailto:gigs-834027754@craigslist.org?subject=Republican

%20Blogger%20Needed%20%28Anywhere%29> [?<http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/replying_to_posts> ]
Date: 2008-09-09, 12:47PM CDT

College News site is looking for a Republican political blogger for its site. You need to have some experience in the Republican movement (College Groups, Org. acceptable).

You will be required to post a daily basis until the election. Compensation is $35 a week.

Please reply with your credentials and a possible mini-post.

* Location: Anywhere
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: $35

PostingID: 834027754

Excuse me? Credentials? For the whopping sum of $35 for a week’s daily posts! Say it’s just five days. That’s $7 per post. Wow. Can I just call that slave labor instead? But then, maybe this is the sign of the times. If the Republicans do win they’ll just be popping babies sitting at home barefoot, in the kitchen, fixin’ their man some vittles and posting a nice little bog piece every day.

Maybe Senator Palin could fit this into her schedule since she thinks VP won’t be a very hard job.

But I have to say I guffawed when I saw this Craigslist post as one of the most ludicrous writer jobs ever. It’s not worth the effort to write for someone for that cost. Might buy you a big Mac and fries but that’s about it.

Maybe this College News site (sic) thought Republican writers wouldn’t notice the lack of real money, and do it for love of country and dumbasses. Credentials, puhleeze. I’m sure the quality will be stellar for $7 a pop. A great part of the unofficial campaign and really makes me want to vote Republican.

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