Sunday, April 23, 2006

Prime Minister Poodle

With temperatures swinging between the high hot teens and the warm, damp pre-teens (kids today…) there really isn’t much doubt: spring has arrived in all its burgeoning pulchritudinous glory, so I say, chances are summer will absolutely, surely, almost certainly likely follow.
I don’t like to be too definite about these things – global warming warnings aside, things are clearly changing out there. We may have to add a new season if only to acknowledge the truth of the heat.
What’s after summer and before fall? Based on the last few years, hell sounds about right by temperature, but hell being a permanent place rather than a transient season, more imagination is required.
Sahummer? Sort of halfway between summer and Sahara? ehn. But since it’ll be at least a couple of decades before we experience full-on desert conditions, I’m plumping for ‘simmer’: summer, almost at - but just off - the boil. Ask anyone who’s stuck their finger in a pot on the bubble – it’s still plenty hot enough to burn.
So it’s time to welcome warmth. Time to disrobe, peel off and strip down.
Most importantly, it’s time to change shoes. Discard socks, throw off hose – and dive into the blistery pleasures of open-toed shoes, sandals and flip flops. I’ve missed my flip flops.
But there are other flip flops I’ve been missing even more. The brave and the quietly, slowly bold – those of the sober second though – the human flip floppers.
If Canada’s newest leader and America’s current and arguably most destructive, the practice of changing one’s mind – or admitting one’s mistakes (or telling the truth) – will remain dead and buried along with those who have lost their lives at the whim of those who pride themselves on split-second decision making.
Personally, I respect flip floppers. Love ‘em with a passion equaled only by the passion of those with whom I disagree love singularity of thought. All my fears that Canada risked electing a leader who aped the worst of the US president’s qualities are gradually materializing.
Beginning with a cabinet and caucus-wide directive that threatens those who disagree publicly with the PM or diverge from any part of the conservative party line with firing or public humiliation, Steven Harper is the iron fist in the iron glove.
(Fully equipped with, according to some wags, a mid-section masquerading as his very own wrought-iron pot belly stove.)
Disturbingly, some journalists have identified these qualities of absolute control and naked power-wielding as responsible for the early perceived successes of the new government. If ‘success’ means appearing to be united without the boring, though necessary requirement of actually being united is the definition, well, then yes.
But how can that not suck?
And how sad must it be now for all those recently elected Tories, excited as kids at summer camp, rubbing their little hands together and chortling with glee as they imagined what they’d say if the voting public would just give them half a chance. Now they know. Nothing. At least nothing that hasn’t been, scripted, tested, checked, re-checked and sanitized for the convenience of conformity – and all that that implies.
One opinion now, and only one. Top down, single-minded, unchanging, unwavering, unapologetic.
Presidential even.
It’s this that confounds me. The immense pride these leaders take in announcing that unlike their rivals they always make up their minds at warp(ed) speed and once made, never change them. The very act of reconsidering a position or plan based on anything from new information to results is sneered at with the same contempt as is asking for advice, working toward compromise, or even letting experts, (let’s say for example, UN arms inspectors) complete their job and report on their findings.
A little slower decision making, a little more information gathering and possibly even a retreat from an erroneously held position and who knows how many wars could remain un-fought, how many more kids provided with safe affordable daycare, how many policies re-thought and polished. How much better, how much more flexible and unrestricted life could be.
The triumph of the new government is further demonstrated by the perceived success of the recent trips the PM and his erstwhile rival and current Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay took down south.
What’s been billed as a new closer relationship with the US is on closer examination what looks to be an exercise in flat out obsequiousness. Anyone seeing Peter McKay practically blush and flutter his eyelashes at US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (I was blushing at any rate) as he drooled over her career and accomplishments, shamelessly sucking up as he described a friendship so chemically, so karmically simpatico, and as he got precisely nothing (save a condescending smile) on Canada/US border restrictions requiring Canadians to carry either a Passport or some sort of identity card when traveling to the US, must have wondered what the hell price getting a US official to smile at one must cost.
The first installment was no doubt adding Canada’s voice to US calls for sanctions on Iran – despite the fact that such a position appeared to have arisen out of the clear blue sky; no discussion raised in parliament, no consensus building with cabinet, caucus or Canadians.
Even the Prime Minister failed at achieving any of the goals the close, understanding relationship with the US he promised his government would build would bring – his bravest posture was flying in the face of fashion at the walkabout in Mexico.
Not an inch was gained on softwood lumber, not a millimeter moved on border issues.
The tougher stance taken by the former liberal government may not have earned any friends or gained any ground with the Bush administration, but blind obeisance and awe-struck admiration doesn’t seem to be getting the job done either.
Just allowing someone to be your lapdog doesn’t mean you won’t be kicked to the curb or the doghouse just as soon as it suits your master.
And don’t expect it not to hurt – the President is more likely to be wearing pointy-toed steel-tipped cowboy boots than a pair of open, flexible flip flops.

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