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JUSTIN TRUDEAU: MAN OF DESTINY?

This time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. – Lewis Carroll

Frank A. Pelaschuk

You can tell a lot about a person by how well he handles defeat. But it is how well he handles victory that can, at times, be more revealing of his character. We had a good glimpse of this with Justin Trudeau. It wasn’t pretty.

Trudeau likes to talk about himself as “authentic”. And we saw how authentic at the by-election victory party in the Montreal riding of Bourassa. I have no doubt that was the real person we were seeing and hearing. Instead of taking the opportunity to congratulate his opponents, he could not rise above the partisan fray even in the face of victory, seizing the moment, instead, to sidestep magnanimity to wag his finger and rail against the NDP for running a negative campaign. This is no way to win new friends; the response was petty, churlish, and ungenerous, hardly the behaviour one expects of a leader, especially a leader who has had a good night. Instead of reaching out in an attempt to mend fences, his immediate instincts were to tear them down. For Trudeau, bonhomie is a mask for public viewing; incivility is the real thing. That type of behaviour signifies an aspect of Trudeau that is unpleasant and suggests a closer kinship to Stephen Harper, the most ungenerous, most petty, most unworthy and ignoble of any public official, than some would have imagined. The truth is, no election campaign is completely positive; sniping and fabrications and cheap shots are part of the package; they are not new, not good, should be, and can be, avoided, but they are a fact. Some one of character might have allowed the opportunity to snipe pass. It’s too easy to be mean and small; Trudeau opted for the easy.

The hectoring was bad enough; it was disingenuous and hypocritical, the NDP and Tories no doubt having stories of their own about how the Liberals ran their campaign. But for some in the NDP, the most hurtful aspect of Trudeau’s mean-spirited victory speech was the appropriation of parts of Jack Layton’s final communication written on his deathbed. It’s allowable, but in the context of his victory, it was merely shabby, using Layton’s words to club the party for which he gave his all; a rubbing of salt into NDP wounds.

Trudeau says he admired Jack Layton. But there was none of that at all, that night. He knew exactly what he was doing and later said he had no regrets. It was obvious he had a clear understanding that many Canadians from all walks of life had grown to love and embrace Layton if not his politics. It was to that emotional memory that Trudeau was attempting to hitch his wagon and his star. It was unseemly and very tawdry.

Many still remember that final, famous message, a message full of love, generosity, humaneness, and optimism that Layton left for us. It was this love for Layton that prompted Trudeau, this cheap, withered offshoot of liberalism, to adopt those words and exploit them as a rallying victory cry for the Liberal Party; Trudeau was attempting to feed off the reflected glory of a dead man. He was standing in Layton’s light and diminished himself in the doing. What he did was not admiration nor admirable; it was the opportunism of cynicism. Trudeau knows this; Layton’s words, especially their meaning, are simply too large for him. Trudeau knows that, too, is true, as do most who admired Layton. Trudeau has no philosophy and, as of yet, has no vision. So why not steal another man’s words and meld them to suit your own needs. They sound good. And they are good. The thing is, Jack Layton, exemplified the best of the NDP philosophy, his final words reflecting more accurately the values of the NDP than the “economic diplomacy” of the Harper Conservatives or the fuzzy, picayune glamour of the Trudeau Liberals. In truth, judging from the public response, the words Layton wrote apparently reflect the hunger, if not the values, of many Canadians.

It is easy to quote words that are eloquent and full of meaning. It is also easy to take their meaning and distort them. It is believing them and living them that is the trick. If it is true that people believed in the words of Jack Layton or, at the least, wish them to be true, then Justin Trudeau is not the man who will ever live up to the promise or the hope of that vision. The Liberal party has long ago lost its way. Trudeau is no modern day Moses; his appeal may be broad, but it is limited; an empty box, wrapped nicely, offers nothing but an empty promise.

Jack Layton, good and generous as he was, was but one man. But his vision was a shared vision, an inheritance from the CCF, J.S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, Ed Broadbent, and the men and women of the past and present who make possible the NDP vision of today. Jack Layton was a part of that vision. He believed in it and he lived it and, because he did, he was able to put those words on paper. But he knew he wasn’t the only one; it was not a one-man show. He shared the vision with countless others and they made him possible just as he made the vision and the possibility real. He was not alone; they were not alone. Dying and in death, he did not abandon them nor they him. But he, as do most of the NDP, wanted more for those others, those who felt marginalized, excluded, of value only when their votes were needed. He knew that too many deserved more and better and were all too often left behind. He, and his beloved NDP, wanted and want to change that. He knew that as they struggled to feed themselves and their families they also struggled with hope and ideas, inchoate and raw, perhaps a little unfocused; they just needed a little guidance, a nudge and reasons for hope. As leader of the NDP, Layton was prepared to do that. He knew they needed to be reached and moved, but not with high-minded words and empty promises, but with the recognition of the truth of their own desires, an acknowledgement that their doubts, fears, needs and concerns were real, were heard and needed attending to. His final words are a reflection of the legacy of those who actually lived and live those words.

The NDP is not perfect; nothing is except, perhaps, Justin Trudeau’s hairdo. Nevertheless, it is the party of hope, not of fear. Usurper Trudeau may look a better package than Mulcair, and he may appropriate Layton’s words, but if that is all the Liberals have, than why not go with Justin Bieber who could probably earn a few more votes from the young and scatterbrained? And to anyone doubting the substance and experience of Thomas Mulcair, I suggest they tune into Question Period in the House. He is by far the most effective weapon against the Harper gang.

True, he is no Jack Layton. He is his own person, a man of substance, knowledge and integrity and he stands alone with others in a shared, honest, and positive vision. Even so, substance apparently accounts for little with the public: it’s either tax cuts or glamour. The limited versus the limited. That Harper, for all his missteps, for all the scandals, for all the corruption, is still ahead of Mulcair in the polls is astounding. Notwithstanding reality, the myth of Conservatives as better money managers somehow still lives! Will someone please ring a bell.

What does it take to rouse those public members who are in thrall of Trudeau or who still support Harper and his knavish thugs? What does it take to rouse the public from its hellish version of life, its narcissistic, zombielike pursuit of self and self-interest with its fixation on glitz, sham, and shallowness to the exclusion of all else, resembling life of some sort, suggestive of movement and doing but, in the end, as sentient as a grain of dust?

Harper is a pox. Trudeau is a terrible joke. Both are bad for Canada. Watch Harper. Judge for yourself. But, the next time you tune in to Question Period in the House, look at Justin Trudeau. Watch what happens when he poses his questions to the Conservatives. If he thinks it a particularly good question, and he often does, he will become a little taller, smiling smugly as he slowly scans the House and gallery when done reading from his cheat sheet. You will notice the slight pause, the curl of his lips, and then, as if satisfied, the abrupt nod as he returns to his seat. He appears to be waiting for applause and asking of the world: Am I not beautiful? Am I not clever? It could be though, that those are the words he tells himself, the abrupt nod signalling a happy concurrence with himself.

Yes, one can occasionally learn much from how well an individual handles his victories. Authentic? In Trudeau’s case, it is chimera, as substantial as a shimmering ephemeron. A puff of wind, poof! nothing there.

That’s all we need. More straw men, more magical thinking, more nothing. And you are to blame. Instead of demanding more and better, you accept less and that is exactly what you are getting with Harper. Trudeau will be no different.

Poof! Nothing there.

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

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About Frank A. Pelaschuk

I am the author of two works of fiction reviewed by Brian Porter, author of Lonely Together and The Atlas Proxies. He called the novel, Serpent in the Garden, "A convincing, seductive tale of coming home to the enemy". Of Ambiguities of Love in Six Stories, he wrote, “Moving, intelligent, and thoughtful storytelling." Both works are available on Amazon as soft cover or e-book where the full reviews also appear.

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