Stopped Dead In My Tracks

The most disconcerting thing about retirement, folks, is that a retired person (as in retired person “me”) has entirely too much time on his hands to think and reflect on the things that I consider to be important. 

Now, I may be naive, but I am not generally considered to be stupid, at least that’s what I tell myself.  I do realize that my interests – my passions, so to speak – are not shared by the majority.  And I freely admit that my curiosities are many, and for the most part I have been blessed and/or cursed with an attention span that is sometimes at least “in the Goldie Locks zone”.    Not always ‘just right’ I admit, but within acceptable range.  (Try to imagine me laughing here, because there are many who would not agree with me on this.)

And that is about as personal as I can bring myself to be today.

But…as events have unfolded in recent months, a couple of what most people might consider to be small things brought me up short, and as we say back east, smacked me in the gob.  For the uneducated out there, that simply means something, or a series of somethings, caught my attention.  But these ‘things’ caught my attention in such a personal way that I really have had to re-evaluate some of my personal and political beliefs, activities, and positions, which during this time of Covid-19 practically (for all intents and purposes) resulted in a simple decline in blog postings and Facebook rants.   

So, “what happened?” you may ask. 

Well, first things first!  As the world knows, a Presidential election just took place in the United States.  Even the uninterested among us must admit that with Donald Trump sitting in the White House and running for re-election, it was (and still is) hard to ignore his antics and the daily dose of shock opera politics that he has practiced for the past four or five years.  And I admit, as a political junkie who is easily distracted by puppies, motorcycles, rum, wine, a good guitar, and once upon a time, a good cigar, watching Trump operate was strangely addictive.  Yes, as you can guess, my interests and habits are strangely eclectic. 

But believe me, being addicted does not always mean being supportive.

So, I freely admit that I am not at all a fan of The Donald.  Nor am I supportive of his musings, his political strategies, or his use of the “Bully Pulpit” freely granted by most, if not all, institutions and organizations within the United States.  However, I have been vocal regarding Trump’s right to election, and his supporters’ rights in electing him.  Democracy and all that nonsense. 

This “Bully Pulpit” that I refer to often extends well beyond US domestic borders.  The US most always takes a strategic lead in matters of defence with allied partners and trade, taking THE LEADING ROLE while promoting democratic governance and capitalist economics, from which all the western democracies benefit.  And like it or not my Canadian friends, we here in Canada are often the chief beneficiaries of this US leadership.

Anybody who has followed my musings here will no doubt agree that I am generally supportive of the United States and the leadership that country exercises.  However, nothing and nobody, and I mean nothing and nobody, repulses me from a political and personal perspective more than Trump – and, as a spin-off, what has become his Republican Party. 

In my time, I have observed and met some vile people who practice politics as a profession, both at the politician and staff levels, but I have never, ever before seen anything like Trump – an autocrat who runs the greatest democracy in the world but who has “no bottom” while daily proving how low he will and can go in his efforts to destroy anyone or anything standing in opposition to him.    

And I use the words “his Republican Party” with purpose, because Trump has taken a once viable and proud political organization and turned it into a racist, misogynist, extreme right-wing and white only Evangelical Christian, anti-immigrant, white supremist and armed militant movement that is motivated and driven by misinformation and conspiracy theory – all of which are supported by QANON Internet activities – and all developed, directed and disseminated by the great man himself.

Like many of my American friends out there, and certainly like many of my fellow Canadians, I kept asking myself how can we expect a governing political party in the United States (the Republican Party) to effectively govern when half its supporters (voters) refuse to consider anything other than that the earth, and everything on this earth, was created by our maker less than 5,000 ago? 

Or that science and medicine are indeed fiction and that a virus as lethal as Covid-19 is a hoax or a myth?  Or that the media, and anyone else who disagrees with you on any public policy or political matter, is an enemy of the people?  Or that, if you are not ‘white’, your presence in the country is somehow less legitimate than those who buy in to the notion that your suburbs will go to hell if a family of any colour other than white moves in?  Or that Native Americans should go back to where they came from?  Or that practicing Muslims should be ‘registered’, as in a Jewish registry in Germany in the 1930s?  Really?

Yes, I mean, really?  Surely, there simply cannot be that many truly uninformed people living, working and raising families in the greatest and most influential and dominant culture in the world; who enjoy all the benefits of the greatest economy on earth; with the most powerful military in history providing for their protection and promoting/ensuring that American foreign policy is successful; and with the highest standard of living ever achieved in human memory.  I mean, with all of this going for you, who among our American friends would support this kind of outrageous nonsense, right? 

As a political platform, or even as a matter of everyday conversation, this is simply utter madness!  Right?

Well, my friends, I just found out how politically stupid I really am.  Or maybe I should use the term politically naïve.  Or maybe I’m simply both. 

Because without doubt, I was wrong.  Apparently, seventy-five million people – yes folks, that’s 75,000,000 American adults – six big zeros need to follow the seventy-five to reach that many millions of Americans who worship at the Alter of the Donald. 

We can only assume that this Borg-like collective represents those who can read and/or write, or at least understands what is being said on television.  But God help us all, this is proof positive that there is a lot of crazy living just south of our border.  75,000,000 people voted for this Republican Party, and The Donald. 

That should be recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records as proof The Donald leads the largest Cult in world history.  He would celebrate being in 1st Place.       

And we may indeed consistently need God’s help because, while promoting the most repulsive political agenda, all without the benefit of even a Republican Party Platform, (Trump said a Platform wasn’t necessary because he was going to give America four more years of the same old-same old) the Republicans gained eleven (11) seats in the House of Representatives; it looks like they maintained control of the Senate; they picked up wins in a couple of State legislatures; and they won another Governorship in Montana.  Except for Trump’s personal loss of the Presidency, this latest American election was a noticeably big Republican win.  By any reasonable and objective measure, a huge political win. 

 But again, you may be asking yourselves why I think this matters?  Well, for the politically active conservatives among us, and I recognize that we are becoming fewer and fewer in number, in some ways the Republican Party in the United States has come to occupy a leadership position among conservative political parties and movements throughout the western democratic world.  And please note that I am specifically talking about “conservative political parties and movements”. 

But because of its size and scope, and yes, its history as being a successful political movement, the Republican Party has set a leading example that worldwide conservative political movements have followed.  A First Among Equals, if you will.  And…… if the recent US election produced a significant win for the Republicans, surely conservative parties in other countries will follow the Republican play book in future elections.  There is nothing more motivating in politics than success, and it is standard practice to follow the lead of a successful campaign.  Even if the basis of that successful political campaign was racist in nature.

Plus, if you follow world events at all, you will know that populism is, or has been, on the rise – yet again – for the past twenty years of so.  What has been going on in the United States is really a continuation of what has been happening politically in Europe and elsewhere, with populist and anti-democratic movements gaining power in Poland, Hungary, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, India, the Philippines and to a lesser but still dangerous extent, the United Kingdom with that country’s withdrawal from the European Union. 

Yes, all of this matters. to me, and I think it should matter to you.  And it matters more so if you believe that no person, no town, no city, no province or state, and no country is an island.  If a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, and all that.  Like it or not, we live in an internet world, where information and technology are shared in seconds.  Globalism is the new reality.  The practice of Isolationism is a recipe for decline.  

So, the first thing……

While I was just humming along, completely submerged in all this political drama that was unfolding on the tiny screen via CNN and MSNBC, with me cheering unashamedly for Joe Biden and the Democrats, and pontificating from my righteous and very safe Canadian perch, all while trying to deal with Covid-19 isolation, two members of my family communicated to me in extraordinarily strong terms that they were pretty fed up with my rantings against the tyrant Trump and suggested that it would be more productive if I were to turn my attention towards the tyrant Trudeau.

OK, says I.  Fair enough.  If one is going to write a blog and be silly enough to rant unencumbered on Facebook – and further, be silly enough to put the written word out there, hoping for a little agreement now and then and possibly just a tiny and occasional pat on the back – one must be prepared to accept the musings and critics of his/her readers, even if they are family.  So, no offense taken, but I must admit the sting was more like that of a hornet than a wasp.  Wow! I didn’t see that coming. 

Nevertheless, says I to myself, I will carry on because…….  free speech and all that, and I am an older and experienced political hack, after all.  I can take a little punch to my now substantial gut, right? 

Anyone who has ever practiced politics (and sales for that matter) knows that three out of every ten people you encounter in life simply do not like you, or like what you say, or like what you write.  Whatever!  I can take it, and I will survive.  My two misguided and insular family members must not be globalists, I reason.  They obviously have not been following what has been happening in Poland, Hungary, Russia, Belarus, Turkey and/or the United Kingdom, and any other number of countries in the western democratic world.  But I will carry on, continue to believe if you will, and I will write what I want, how I want and when I want – and the world be damned. 

But then, the second thing happened…

Right out of the blue, but shortly after I had my “Come To The Lord” moment with my two family members, I received another but equally attention-grabbing message from a former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) political colleague, asking me in extremely aggressive language exactly when, and at what point, I had abandoned my conservative political principles. 

Well, hello? Abandoned my conservative political principles? Really?

His accusation was that I consistently attack Trump and the Republicans, but never the Canadian Liberal Party and its leader, Trudeau.  Therefore, I must have abandoned my conservative beliefs, and certainly my conservative friends, because Donald Trump and other conservative leaders throughout the western world represented the totality of, and all that was good, with the new Conservative movement throughout the western hemisphere.  How could I be so blind and hostile?

Now, in my defense here, I would suggest that my family members and former CPC colleague had not read many of my previous blog entries.  This blogging is a wonderful thing, almost freeing in some respects, and great therapy always.  But since I started doing this, I have certainly upset many more of my Liberal friends than I have family and Conservatives. 

And yes, folks, I do have quite a few Liberal friends.  They are often amused when they grant me permission to join them, but it all makes for great St. Patrick’s Day parties, memorable fishing trips, and the odd backyard BBQ, not to mention marching unencumbered and without concern in a musical marching band comprised of well-lubricated seniors, such as myself .  Now, there’s a topic for a future blog.

But, I can tell you, being the lone Tory in my social circle provides for a sometimes lonely but often amusing existence.  Regardless, as a gesture of good will, I tolerate and love them all the same.  Upper Canadians are an odd lot, you know.  But I digress, yet again.

Now, back to the matter at hand.  My CPC friend was being a little extreme, I admit, but in politics you tend to meet a few people like this.  True believers!  Some people simply leave logic (and a good education) behind and just BELIEVE.  For some, but only some, who are politically active, it is easier to just believe – get that political religion, you know? – than it is to reason, but who am I to judge?  Much to my relief, I know that this behaviour is not unique to Conservatives.  Extreme political thought is found both on the right and the left.  Now, believe me in this!  It’s true. 

Well, now I’m really thinking.  This blogging thing is not for the faint of heart!  Not only family members upset at me now.  Now I have political friends, both Conservative and Liberal, coming at me, as well.   

Well now, I muse, have I indeed abandoned my conservative principles?  Are my political principles even really “conservative” anymore?  Or has modern day “accepted conservative political thought” really evolved into something other than what political scientists and other academics consider to be traditional conservative values and positions? 

Sorry folks, I know that’s a mouthful, but for someone like me, still operating within the “Goldie Lock’s Zone”, it’s a legitimate question.  I recently had a PoliSci professor ask me that very question in a graduate course, and I was again reminded that political thought, like religion and religious thought I suppose, is constantly evolving to meet the needs of those it serves.  Another topic for another time, but again, a legitimate question.   

While I was chewing on these life altering questions, I came across a third thing that much to my pleasant surprise was, well……. pleasantly surprising. 

And that was an incredibly positive message from another political friend, by and large agreeing with my musings, while expressing his own opinion that while generally supportive of the Conservatives, he was becoming more and more concerned, if not outright uncomfortable with the language being used by our current and former political colleagues here in Canada, and elsewhere.  Were we in Canada being “exposed and infected” by rhetoric being used elsewhere?

Well now, this blogging thing is starting to look up again, says I.  Can I take the emotional ups and downs that go along with all this public exposure?  I mean, my readership might soon reach one….. well, who knows how far it can go?  Of course, says I to me.  If people don’t like what I put out there, they can always ‘unfriend’ me.  We’ll soon find out how lonely it can get here in Cyberland, eh?

So, all of this to say…. today’s contribution to my portfolio raises many questions for me that I’ll try to answer in future blogs.  I am feeling good, I’m even feeling empowered.  I’m once again about to rant and roar like the true Newfoundlander I am, hahaha.

As conservatives, and as a conservative movement, how in the name of all that’s holy did we get here?  Are conservatives, and the conservative movement, really ‘off the rails?’  Like many of you out there, I fear I already know the answer to that question.

Is anti-democratic and autocratic populism really on the rise in the western democratic world, and why should we, all the way up here in the True North, be concerned? 

Can the United States, with Biden’s election as President, turn the political tide back towards institutionalist norms?  Has democracy been rescued by Trump’s defeat, and/or is it really possible that the United States can tumble down a rocky road towards autocracy? 

And most importantly, for me personally at least, and my two family members and my two political friends who successfully stopped me dead in my tracks for different reasons….  I must ask if populism is on the rise here in Canada as well.  Canada, and especially Western Canada, has a long and rich history of populism and populist thought, and Ontario and Quebec are no strangers to populist or quasi-populist movements.  Is the Conservative movement in Canada destined to follow what we see in the US?  Again, I suspect that we already have many of our answers to those questions as well.      

So, all in all, I’d say things are looking up, for sure.  But I may have to return to sneaking a puff every now and then, just to make my mind crystal clear if I want to undertake this majestic endeavour.  And no, silly, I don’t mean a return to puffing on the evil weed.  Cigarettes went away a long time ago, and cigars have not touched these lips for two years past. 

Now that my Liberal friends have come through for us and delivered on just about the only promise they made and kept from the 2015 Federal election campaign, letting us seniors relive our youth in technicolour, maybe I’ll make a trip to that little store down the street.  Yes, for sure!  The one with no windows.  And even in my old age, I’ll make sure that I don’t get mixed up with that Adult Only store next door, because that on has no windows either. 

And don’t ask me how I know that.  I was merely asking for a friend.

My Lord, what a wonderful country we live in.  Maybe being a Liberal would have been more fun after all. 

More to follow, as they say……………..

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