Column Day. This week I talk about why it makes me nervous that my oldest son has started reading the newspaper. There’s a whole lot of bad behaviour out there that I don’t want him to pick up–especially from our leaders.
If you’re a Haligonian, you know we’re stuck in the middle of a long and ugly transit strike. Dozens have people have already written thousands of words on it so I won’t rehash the details. (Though if haven’t read it yet, you really should take the time to read this OpenFile story. It’s the definitive breakdown of the real issues.)
The thing that vexes me most is just how terribly the two parties have behaved. Honestly, it reminds me of my two oldest kids fighting. The Mastermind knows how to push the Whirlwind’s buttons with his words, then the Whirlwind explodes and does something not very well thought-out that lands him in trouble and ends with both of them yelling and crying.
Hence, the city sends out inflammatory press releases about the bus drivers “holding the city hostage”, and the union leader responds by picketing buses for the disabled and blocking snowplows in the one of the most poorly conceived public-relations strategies of all time.
Meanwhile, the two sides haven’t sat at the negotiating table together in FOUR WEEKS. They’re two busy peeing on each other’s shoes in public to actually try to work out a deal. It’s maddening for the 55,000 of us who used to ride the bus on a regular basis. And they’ve poisoned the air so much that it’s hard to imagine how they’ll ever reach a conclusion without a third party stepping in.
I talk about politics in my column and I won’t get into the details again here, but the point I’m trying to make is that we’re telling our kids one thing and doing the exact opposite. If you follow politics above or below the Canadian border (and let’s be honest, we’ve reached a point where we can’t claim the moral high ground over our American neighbours) the message our elected representatives and candidates are sending is “anything goes.”
You can call people names, you can insinuate things that are kinda-sorta-not-quite-true, you can bend the rules to try to suppress those who don’t support you. It’s the kind of stuff we punish our kids for, but we tolerate it in our leadership candidates and our elections campaigns. Sure, we wring our hands and work up enough indignation to write nasty things in the newspaper comment forums, but we don’t seem to care enough to demand better.
Our system is broken. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m dead-set on living like there’s a better way than this, and raising my kids to believe the same. We shouldn’t be letting fear, bullying and divisiveness rule the day in the public arena.
*By the way, I lifted that photo off the Interwebs. It’s not hanging up somewhere in our house, in case you’re wondering.