My political nature was given to me by my parents. I grew up in a house where lively political discussion was a part of every family function, and the theme of many discussions at my family’s dinner table.
From my father I learned passionate, fact based argument. Many times while railing against Brian Mulroney I was encouraged (or told) by my father to listen, learn, and research what it was about his policies that made me dislike him, not to parrot what was being said by the adults. Heady stuff for an 11 year old. It is because of him that I started watching the nightly news so one day I could show my father up and best him in battle of political wills. Yes, 11 year old Neil spite watched the news to better learn current world and political events to beat his Dad.
From my mother, I learned the compassion and the values that helped shape my very liberal worldview. I learned from my Mother the ability to look at issues from a human perspective, to set aside preconceived notions and prejudices and find the heart of the matter. It isn’t gay marriage, it is love. It isn’t abortion – it is about women’s reproductive choice. It isn’t about the economy or homelessness – it is about basic human rights and values. My mother gave me my lifelong love of reading, and encouraged my search for knowledge by getting me newspapers like The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail – it was like finding a new universe for a preteen from Northern Ontario.
I do not talk enough about the influence that my Mother had on me, how she remains a voice of reason for me, a sounding board, but that is for another post.
My Mom was a Trudeaumanic, and a lifelong fan of PET. I remember when Bob Rae was elected as Ontario Premier, the happiness my parents felt knowing that someone their age, who represented their values and generation was finally in power. It was their turn. I watched the hope turn to worry and dismay as Mike Harris took over. I am so completely a product of their passions, political anxieties, hopes, dreams, and fears.
It is because of these things that I feel embarrassed for my conduct during a phone call the other night. I completely missed the point of what someone was trying to say. Its not the first time, and won’t be the last – it was more to the degree that I missed the point that bothered me.
My Mother told me that she thought Justin Trudeau was in trouble and I reacted poorly – I went into a rant about many things without saying anything. Its like I had an “I smell burned toast” moment. I didn’t catch the point of what my Mother was trying to say until much later, and what I should have said.
I should have said that on social media – conservatives scream the loudest, and that most people who do not understand the issues almost always default to fear, especially on social media. I should have said to not be concerned about the idiots out there who parrot Ontario Proud posts and childish memes about Justin Trudeau. I should have said that with proper messaging, the Carbon Tax is a winning issue for the Liberals, and that the race baiting and dog-whistling to the lowest common denominator by Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party will come back to haunt them the way it did Stephen Harper.
I should have said that right now, all the attention is on the Trudeau government, and when the campaign starts the focus changes to leadership and ideas, and how the Conservative Party of Canada lack both. That Andrew Scheer will be exposed for the faux populist neo-con pretender that I know him to be.
That is the failing of political wonks like myself. Those who immerse themselves in raw polling data, deeper policy issues, and try to see the micro-trends that push public opinion. Sometimes I can be guilty of being too analytical and not understanding the emotional aspect of politics that others feel. If I had shut up and listened to what my Mother was saying, I would have understood that she was expressing anxiety over the immigration based populist trends seen elsewhere, that she was expressing her concern that it could occur nationally, and that she was giving her opinion that the Trudeau Government has to improve it’s messaging. All valid points. She didn’t need to get a lecture in polling trends for millennials, and an analysis on micro-trends for working class Canadians. It is like I broke every rule taught to me by my parents when it came to family and political discussions. I realized that I need to reconnect with the human aspect of the issues, and of politics in general.
It leads me to wonder about the political influence I have on my children. I am the type of person who can rant periodically (I know, it’s hard to believe), especially about politics. It is something 23, 16, and now SDIL (step-daughter in law) have seen on many occasions. I think they have always seen the rants for what they are, which is the blowing off of political steam. I hope they have also seen the analytical side, the fact based argument, the research, and the passion, and the conviction of fighting for you beliefs that my parents passed down to me.
Funny story/Sidebar. The night of the 2015 election, 23 said to me “I hope we don’t have a repeat of the Merlot massacre from the 2011 election.” After working for the Liberal Party in the lead up to the 2011 election, I sat watching the election results, drinking bottle after bottle of Merlot after Stephen Harper had won his majority. It was a moment of intense personal devastation for me and I was given the space to get drunk and mutter horrible things about both Harper and Michael Ignatieff. The sun came up the next morning, and we had a funny tale to tell involving red wine and politics.
I do not want to be a “TV movie about a failed child star” political parent where I overpower the political instincts of my children or indoctrinate them, although I think I may have pushed them into the left side of the spectrum (if they weren’t already there) with my political activism. They have always been political, I hope to have been a positive influence on them.
My wife has always been very political astute, she is also Franco-Ontarian, as is 23 and 16. This issue with Doug Ford cancelling the French language university, and The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner that she had such high hopes for, pushed her into overt activism. It also pushed 16 into activism, and I accompanied them both to their first political protest this weekend.
It was such a proud moment for me. It showed me that not only did we do an okay job, but also that the kids would be alright. That Doug Ford had created a generation of young Franco-Ontarians that will be voting age next time, and will not be supporting him.
I also learned that I am not too old to be taught a lesson by my Mother, that I was raised better, and to reconnect with the political values that were passed onto me by my parents.
So Mom, if you could please put in a good word with Santa to get me back on the nice list, that would be appreciated.
Also, thank you for encouraging me to seek a life of knowledge, logic, and reason (even if I always don’t apply that reason and logic to my life). I only hope that I can have the same positive influence on my children as you had on me.