Seriously, it does – we have hot weather, hot rhetoric, hot politics, hot tempers – but thankfully, not always in the same place at the same time.
When I think ‘hot days in July’ I first recall 1968, riots/protests/politics in the United States, and watching safely from a distance in Canada, our only connection being that great Gordon Lightfoot song …
We smugly thought, back then, we didn’t have political protests in our streets or racial divides in Canada, but that’s a far less comfortable posture for any Canadian to defend today.
Politics is alive and well in Canada this July – nationally and here in Alberta too, where courageous people have tossed their hats and their donors’ money into the proverbial ring, adding bushels of incendiary words into the maelstrom of social media. Their largely futile displays of hubris and bravado – often without the support of facts, law, and reality on their sides, campaign-by-hurling-excrement at each other without demonstrating leadership qualities tempered with intellect and grace, but that’s summer politicking just about everywhere.
All but one of the horses in each of those races will be disappointed, and all those disappointed candidates will have few words beyond profuse thanks to their dedicated workers and supporters who’ve spoken for them, about them, and in support of them – because that’s a gut-punch you don’t forget.
I’ve been through a couple of those.
And, while I never regretted those associations or the legacy of connections made, the gut-punch leaves an indelible memory. There is also the recollection of how I felt governments would have been run much better if ‘my guy had won’, because they would have. But, in the final analysis, governments run on laws, regulations, policies, and dedicated civil servants. Politics runs on heat and air, which seems more abundant across Alberta and Canada this July.
In tennis, the champions usually win because they had the fewest unforced errors. That’s true in politics sometimes, but more often, the loudest bullhorn atop the best funded soap-box gets to the front of the pack by being the most outrageous.
I prefer the sharpest minds to come out on top, people with a track record of solid accomplishments, artful problem-solving skills, and team-leading talent – someone we want to know, like, and trust. But too many votes are decided whilst our most worthy citizens are not in those races. Pity, that high office and serving citizens isn’t a solemn gathering of the brightest minds. Instead, these races look like poorly produced TV game shows.
Suppose the ‘wrong’ person gets in. In that case, we could then all vote with our feet and move to a different jurisdiction. That’s an easy threat to make, but for 99.9% of people who threaten, most never leave, and their disaffection fades fast along with each week’s breaking-news headlines because those headlines give way to the next scandal-du-jour.
And politicians know that.
They also believe that voter memories are short. Politicos realize social media can distort any half-truth in a thousand partisan ways, and they crave the power. And therein lies the rub, the problem, because we don’t want them to seek office for power, nor do we admire their thirst for it.
We want someone’s steady hands on the tiller, steering our governments through choppy waters; we want them to have some vision, some mission, and some commitment to our greater good.
We tend to see that infrequently, but we know it when we see it manifest.
Albertans saw it in Aberhart and in Manning, but not in Strome. We saw it in Lougheed, in Klein, and briefly in Prentice, and to the surprise of many, we saw it in Notley – but not in the others in recent decades.
In Ottawa, in those corridors of power in the cathedral of our government, where our fathers of confederation got so much right that we now see as wrong (because we are still fixing big things), where those same fathers of confederation worked, negotiated, and legislated so much for our country, we are insufficiently grateful for, but that’s likely not clear for many Canadians.
We underappreciate our standing in the world because we are known for and envied for our freedoms, our generosity and welcoming nature, our kindness, our ingenuity, our near-limitless resources and wide open spaces.
We’re revered in the Netherlands, Cypress, Rwanda, and countless other lands where Canadian flags and soldiers in UN blue hats meant fairness and courage. At Dieppe, Dunkirk, at the UN, and throughout our short history, there have been far more good works than bad, far more statesmanship than subterfuge. We freely walk in our streets and live freely in our homes – we can thank generals, statesmen, prime ministers, and our supreme court – but we can also thank our trading partners and allies.
We are many nations within one. We are rarely of one mind and often disunited, yet we resist separation or division of this place, we are attached/connected, sometimes arm-in-arm, from coast to coast to coast, the second largest country on the planet with an endless indefensible coastline; a nation of regions, provinces, territories – or to quote failed Prime Minister Joe Clark, “we are a community of communities.”
We have Canada Post, the CBC, national railroads, medicare, the best peace-keeping military on earth, a history of alliances and defending friends on foreign soil we can all be proud of beyond measure.
We have Bobby Gimby and the Canada song, Expos in 1967 and 1986, we have provincial rights and resources, and we have civil/citizen rights too. And treasured poets like Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ian Tyson, David Foster, Alanis Morissette, Leonard Cohen, Gord Downey, K.D. Lang, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado, Stompin’ Tom, and Raffi. And Margaret Atwood, Robert W. Service, W.O. Mitchell, Michael Ondaatje, Irving Layton, John McCrae, Pauline Johnson, E.J. Pratt, Shane Koyczan, and thousands of other scribes like me. And speaking of 100% Canadian treasures – let’s not forget Maud Lewis, the Group of 7 + Tom Thomson, Krieghoff, Norval Morrisseau, Dale Auger, Emily Carr, and thousands more – with brushes and knives, no rollers involved.
But with those citizen rights come citizen responsibilities.
We cherish some and ignore some too.
We have a generally proud history, but we must collectively own up to a shameful underbelly within many institutions connected with our country’s treatment of indigenous Canadians. Sadly, apologies and settlements are like pasting band aids on massive deep wounds. While moving on seems widely supported, few agree on how-to, nor can they describe a path to resolution.
We have lacrosse, hockey, and football – we have athletes who compete for Canada at every high level who rightfully earn their share of time on the podium. We have brilliant scholars past and present, Nobel laureates, and so many products invented or discovered here in Canada: the zipper, the ringer washing machine, basketball, insulin, the telephone, the pager, the paint roller, wireless radio, peanut butter, and the Robertson screw to name only very few.
Canada is a strange brew, more like a stew, the longer it simmers and the more ingredients we add, the more people we add, we get a deeper, richer flavour in our society, and we get more of Canada.
This holiday weekend - in Alberta, it’s called Heritage Day. A time to remember that everybody here came from somewhere else or is descended from someone who did, and together we get along more than we don’t; we create great things, small things, large things, we take of ourselves, and we take care of each other.
It gets hot in July.
I like it hot and dry …
P.S.: one other question, given the recent revelations of the scandal-du-summer at Hockey Canada – is there any solution that makes sense than ending it and letting community hockey organizers around the country to re-start with something new, ethical, and including NONE of the current staff or board of Hockey Canada?