Thanks to Margaret Atwood for today's piece in the Toronto Star on Harper as a vacuum salesman. As she says, this is fiction, but all too painfully real, done in my favourite style, funny (with fact).
I was talking to a smart, successful (if money is the measure of succes, that is) thirty something guy last week who votes Conservative. He listed all the problems he saw with the other parties and said that he didn't trust the other leaders, said the usual crap about someone being too intellectual and someone else being too socialist (actually, he said "pie in the sky" but meant socialist.) He said there were no alternatives. He said this like he was reading a script from the National Post.
Living in Alberta, I often have to listen to this kind of diatribe, said out loud in public places as though everyone within ear shot agrees. I cleared my throat and disagreed with him in front of the assembled group. I took a chance on diatribing right back. You may be surprised to learn I don't usually do this, at least not outside of the blog. I was civil. I told him that I was concerned that the Conservatives shut down dissent. He said this was about "winning," and I felt myself being pulled into a Charlie Sheen world. I said that democracy is more complicated than winning and losing, that the winners, even though they won, have to represent the losers, the people they most disagree with. I explained how they pulled funding from people they saw as enemies and that this was a problem in a democracy. But in his view, it's okay to kill your opponent, like to do otherwise is weak. Nods of approval from the assembled. Politicians as gladiators.
But that is the way of war, the way of capitalism, not the way of democracy, I said.
I said I was concerned that they prorogued Parliament when things weren't going their way. He said that he felt this was an acceptable tactic. I said it was childish, picking up their toys and going home when friends didn't want to play their games. I said that they have repeatedly called this election is "unnecessary." He said it was, but I reminded him that they were in a minority government that had lost the confidence of the House. I reminded him that they had been found in contempt of Parliament. He said it was about the budget. I said, no, they were in contempt. He didn't understand. I said that they refused to give details about spending. He said that was an excuse. I said, "No. The government was brought down on it." Facts didn't seem to matter.
I said they claimed to be all about accountability, but wouldn't disclose their spending.
He said what about the Liberal scandals? He groused about them being a bunch of criminals. I said that although I will be the first to admit other parties have had scandals, the Conservatives currently have several members and high up mucky mucks embroiled in scandals, under suspicion, investigation or with criminal charges pending because of their scandals. They have cheated on election spending among other things. (I didn't even mention that we are about to learn they hid lots of perks for some MP's ridings in their G8 spending. We don't know the details yet because Sheila Fraser hasn't released the report yet. Let's hope she does it before the election.) Speaking of the G8, they basically suspended the Charter of Rights during the G8, the greatest affront to the rights of Canadians since the FLQ crisis. As far as women go, (not that he cares particularly about women) they have taken women back a generation, defunded status of women, killed the court challenges program (I had to explain what that was) and would end abortion. He said he thought that was fear mongering. I detailed their record. I said they would bring back capital punishment, end gun control, give tax breaks to the wealthiest and to corporations, extend the gap between the rich and the poor and make social welfare a thing of the past.
I said they have changed, are changing and will continue to change the Canada I was proud of, the peacekeeping, globally respected Canada of the past, the one that was so well respected that people from other countries pretended to be Canadian while travelling so that the local folks would be nice to them. Remember that Canada? Remeber when others used to want to wear our little Canadian flag pins? Now we have a country that goes too quickly to war and spends insane amounts of money on fighter jets while cutting back help to veterans. We have a country that does not pay its fair share in global aid, and has gone back to the most colonial of mentalities in the aid it does give (do what we think you should do, global aid recipients, not what you believe you need to do for yourselves). I even talked about how they have stopped collecting accurate data by ending the long form census so that they can fund what fits their ideology (like more prisons) instead of dealing with what is real (our crime rate is unchanging.)
The rich get richer and the poor get children.
He was unconvinced. I said that their base is Evangelical Christian. He said that was intolerant of me to bring that up. Actually, he said I was a bigot. I said it was not intolerant and that I was not a bigot, that I didn't feel Christians were in any way a jeopardized minority but instead that it spoke to the kind of society they were trying to build, their desire to link church and state. I said, "For goodness sakes. They don't believe in evolution." He said Harper does believe in evolution. I said "Yet, he put a guy in charge of science that refuses to say he believes in evolution." A look of concern briefly, ever so briefly, crossed his brow. "EVOLUTION," I said. "How can you vote for people who don't believe in evolution?"
I am frustrated. Our conversation ended with my voice rising and a friend pulling me away.