On the Eve of Election

As we wind up our current election, I’m OK with the federal leaders not having talked about some of their constitutional responsibilities: Banking, employment insurance, and the post office come to mind. I’m not OK with the crickets on some of their other responsibilities: national defence and foreign affairs and trade come to mind.

But I’m not just “not OK,” I’m outright dismayed by the tone taken by politicians: too often it’s been disrespectful of anyone who disagrees with them. Not one of them is exempt.

We don’t respect Conservatives, no.
– Jagmeet Singh in press conference, 18 Oct 2019

But our tone concerns me, too. This excerpt from “An election theme emerges – we demand the government give us stuff, now” catches my disquiet.

“When it [CBC’s The National] turns its attention to a federal election you’d think the question preoccupying it would be: what’s best for the good of us all? Yet the clearest theme to emerge from two nights of “carefully selected” citizens interviewing Justin Trudeau on Monday and Andrew Scheer on Tuesday was “me, me, me, me.” What are you and your party going to do, sir, not for the good of the country, but for me and my particular concern?

After several decades of politicians pandering to the interest groups they have divided us all into perhaps it’s not surprising that we do all now act, not so much as Canadians, but as representatives of our group or region, whatever it may be, and that we respond to the serial panderers by demanding whatever favours we think we can get out of them.”
William Watson, Financial Post, 03 October 2019

As I consider potential favours available from the next federal government — from any government — I’m reminded of one of John Robson’s proposed plain-language questions for politicians:

How large, of all that human hearts endure,
is that part that laws and governments can cure?

It’s not just a question for politicians: It’s a question for all of us. Here’s one answer.

Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run.
The daily work — that goes on, it adds up.
It goes into the ground, into crops, into children’s bellies and their bright eyes.
Good things don’t get lost.

The speaker? Hallie Noline, an American agronomy volunteer in Nicaragua during the 1980s: a character we know only through her letters to her sister, Codi, in Barbara Kingsolver‘s wonderful book, Animal Dreams. Hallie is, eventually, murdered by the American-funded contras.

Canada does not resemble Nicaragua in the 1980s, but Hallie’s words speak to me on this eve, not of destruction (nothing even remotely so dramatic no matter what the partisans say), but of our federal election.

Codi, here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it.

I, too, want something so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. In the world. In this nation. In my community. In my home. In my heart. But most of that is not the purview of government: It’s my work.

And so this is what I hope for tomorrow and for all the tomorrows after that: I hope that Hallie is right.

The daily work — that goes on, it adds up.
Good things don’t get lost.


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10 Responses to On the Eve of Election

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Right on, Isabel.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – My old friend used to separate ratty children in her play room, saying, “You sit there and you sit there until you can play nicely together.” Now what makes me think of that?

  2. It is to weep, Isabel. Thank you for putting my sorrow into words. Thank you for the words of Haillie Noline, which I unknowingly echoed last night to one of your readers, “You will be left with plenty to write about and I will be left with plenty to disregard as I continue to plow a straight furrow against all odds. ‘Brighten the corner where you are’ may eventually bring the changes we seek to make.”

    Thanks, also, for “The Real Cost of Trudeau’s Brownface,” which expresses my views on what must be acknowledged as a political nightmare for Trudeau in this Age of Ignorance. His father was more prone to educate the public or flaunt public opinion by turns. Justin Trudeau strives for a different kind of social conscience but doubtless has the pulse of these times in ways I certainly do not.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes, I guess we could all do our bit of brightening. Certainly happier-making than following this election, or any election.

  3. Ian Hepher says:

    Thank you Isabel.

  4. Wade says:

    Isabel, after reading the headline I was breathlessly waiting for a reference to Barry Maguire’s 1964 song On the Eve of Destruction. Which is where we may be headed with a Bloc surge, a Liberal minority government, propped up by an eloquently led but ridiculous NDP. Presto Ergo, no TMX, no pipeline, ever, and a decimated energy and natural resource sector.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Wade – Well, there was a passing reference . . . 🙂 IMHO it’s never as Fabulous or as Awful as we think it’s going to be. Certainly, in this case, I hope not!

  5. Lorna Shapiro says:

    Yes, I add my thanks.

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