Yearning for May 3rd - an American's view

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I am not the most up-to-date, knowledgeable person when it comes to politics - in Canada or the U.S. Many of my reasons for not following it closely are detailed in what you’re about to read. Beyond that, I simply don’t have an interest beyond knowing who stands for what and voting for the one I agree with. (Or disagree with the least, which is actually more common.) As a non-citizen in Canada, I am not permitted to vote, which affects my interest level as well. I may over-simplify some of the issues to keep this brief, but just know that I am aware that it’s more complex than I’m stating in certain cases. Chalk up errors to my status of still learning how all of this works in Canada.

On Friday afternoon, Canada’s parliament voted 156 to 145 in favour of a non-confidence motion against the Conservative (minority) government that has been in power for the last five years. This vote has triggered Canada’s fourth federal election in the last 7 years at a cost of roughly $300 million per election. 

Rumours have been going around for weeks about an election coming. But this week you couldn’t miss the glee people had about the government falling to this non-confidence vote. Many Canadians on twitter, which is often where I see news, were expressing their personal opinions about the government and their happiness that an election is going to happen.

While I can understand not wanting an elected official(s) in power that you don’t agree with or you feel has lied, I’m floored at the personal attacks and the joy over having our tax dollars spent once again on an election - the outcome of which is in no way certain! I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs and commentary on who will/won’t win and the various possibilities, but unless there is a huge movement to change a lot of people’s minds, we could very well end up yet another ineffective minority government and even more divisiveness.

Ironically, many people are commenting that they’re dissatisfied with how little Prime Minister Harper’s government has done. That’s all well and good to say, but minority governments are often powerless to do anything because the numbers simply aren’t in their favour. If I remember correctly - and I may not - this would be the 5th election since I moved to Canada just over 10 years ago. That’s an average of one every two years. So I ask, how is any party - minority or majority - supposed to accomplish anything when they rarely agree on how things should be done?

Coming from a primarily two-party system in the U.S., the overwhelming selection of parties to choose from in Canada is just one more thing that baffles me about politics here. Which party do you support? Is it the Liberals? Conservative? Independent? New Democratic Party? Bloc Quebecois - which is mostly from Quebec Ridings? These are just the more widely recognized parties, i.e., they actually hold seats. This vast selection is precisely why we have a minority government in the first place. Here’s an overview of the House of Commons, which shows the number of seats held by each party. It’s easy to see why there is such division and it makes my head ache to think of yet another election that is most definitely not going to make the general public happy.

Politics in the U.S. gets ugly, but the frequency of elections in Canada makes me miss fixed terms that are legislated in the U.S. At least there you have a timeline to work with and it’s possible to accomplish something without the constant threat of an election call hanging over your head at the first wrong move.

Sigh.

Is it May 3rd yet? My head hurts.

Respect and courtesy in politics - impossible or necessary?

Living in Canada, I sometimes feel a bit isolated – or perhaps insulated is a better word – from the various goings on in the U.S. political scene. Mind you, I abhor political posturing and drama, so I tend not to pay attention to all of the talking heads, controversies and rumors. So, even if I lived in the U.S. still I probably wouldn’t know the ins and outs of if all. I’d much rather research on my own to find out what a politician's stance is on issues important to me. Moving to Canada has been an education for sure. The first time I watched discussions in the Canadian House of Commons, I recall likening it to a grade school playground dispute. (Most politicians could do with a time out, in my opinion, regardless of party affiliation or country!) Politics, political issues and political candidates' views seem to bring out the absolute worst in people across the board, though.

The most egregious example of this type of thing happening in the U.S. that I can recall actually happened recently when Representative Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina yelled out "You lie!" during Obama's address to the House of Representatives.

Because I dislike politics and distrust politicians, I can't say with any real accuracy whether or not this type of behavior is the norm in the Congress or Senate in Washington, D.C. I certainly don't remember such blatant disrespect occurring on a regular basis. But it does happen regularly in the House of Commons, regardless of which party is in power.

I was originally starting this post as a commentary on Sarah Palin, but as I got to thinking more about her and what a ridiculous political figure she is, I realized that I didn't want to give her more attention. The one thing about her that does relate to my overall view of politics is that I find it unconscionable that her children have been attacked by the media and comedians. Kids should be off limits, unless they are adults and have a public profile themselves – of course, even then the media needs to stick to the issues and not cross the line into personal attacks. Certainly no political party is immune to their children being attacked; even Chelsea Clinton, as a pre-teen during Bill Clinton's first campaign for presidency, was ridiculed for her looks by media/comedians. This tactic is wholly irrelevant to the concerns of running the government and just plain cruel to anyone at that age and stage of growing up. It is particularly distasteful when you consider that any child attacked that way didn’t have a say in what their parents chose as a profession.

Other public figures, namely celebrities, put their opinions out there and they get heckled for their views. An excellent example of this is Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the co-hosts of ABC's The View, a show built on the premise that we all have different viewpoints to contribute to the general dialogue of life. In terms of politics, Elisabeth is the requisite conservative of the group and she takes a LOT of flak for her opinions. Though I'm conservative, I don't always agree with her, and even when I do, I sometimes get frustrated at the way she presents her case. However, I can respect that she has the guts to continue putting herself out there and facing the inevitable criticism. Of course, she's getting a pay cheque for it and The View gets its ratings, so it's win-win. Elisabeth came to mind because…well, I tend to like reading about babies being born – no matter who the parents are – and decided to look up what Elisabeth recently had (a son) and I came across this video on YouTube from CelebTV. Check out the comments. People hate Elisabeth Hasselbeck simply because her beliefs differ from theirs. It's been removed now, but one commenter actually stated that they wished she'd died in childbirth. She was also called "stupid" and "a whore". These kinds of personal attacks are inexcusable, particularly over differences in beliefs!

It is sad to me that, as far as we continue to progress, we still can't seem to be tolerant of different beliefs/views. I have such a wonderfully diverse range of friends – from conservative to liberal, from Christian to Atheist, from environmentalists to polluters (just kidding). The variety of views I get from my friends and family help me to learn and grow and sometimes shape or re-shape my own beliefs and perspectives. I don't like or dislike people based solely on their beliefs, though how someone presents their beliefs can sometimes be a real turn-off. That's usually related to the individual's overall personality and they'd probably not be a bosom buddy, even if their beliefs were completely different. Different perspectives, beliefs, attitudes, views are both inevitable and enriching if you are willing to look for common ground despite the points of disagreement.

Divergent views should never lead to personal loathing or rude, insulting behaviour. But somehow, politics (and religion) seems to be an area where people think it's okay to ignore basic human decency.

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