In Defense of Reasonableness
What make’s us Canadian? Its an oft asked question. Its unavoidable that whatever it is will be cast in some way relative to our neighbours to the south. But there is a core quality that Canadians have, that permeates our history and explains why we chose to structure our society and our democracy differently than Americans did. The quality is an overriding tendency towards being reasonable rather than emotional or idealistic. Its what makes us great, its what will save us, but we need to defend it.
America is going crazy
This can be taken in many different ways, but here’s how I mean it. The United States is on its way to becoming a failed democracy. Even with the most hopefull and exciting president in a generation the gears of US government cannot be made to move for the perfectly reasonable health care proposals that were put forward last year. These measures were much less ambitious and universal than almost any other western nation, it was a very conservative step forward towards universal health care as these things go. The fact that it was pulled apart as some kind of fascist attempt to enforce a socialist agenda on America is evidence that reasonable discussion has completely collapsed in America. Last night, another setback, Democratic Senate candidate Coakley in Massachusetts lost her bid to win the seat of Ted Kennedy.
A wakeup call for Democrats to not take their voters for granted, sure. But also a wakeup call for anyone who thought the American Voter make their choice based on reason and the big picture. No, democracy in America is about emotion, likability and locally issues. That’s a bad thing in case I’m confusing you. Democrats seem to be unwilling to use the mandate they have been given to act in the public’s interest even if they take some partisan flack for it.
What is lacking is the ability to have a reasonable discussion between the different sides. Discussion appear to happen and then Lieberman changes his mind and demands that another line be dropped from the bill. How can they move forward if they can’t even have the discussion.
Don’t Let It Happen Here
I am a proud Canadian. What am I proud of?
I am proud of my country, and of what the government has achieved over the years in the name of its citizens. I am proud of the Chart of Rights and Freedoms. I am proud of Universal Health Care, our education system. I am proud that until recently Canadians voted in much higher numbers than our neighbour to the south. I am proud we put people before profits and regulate some important industries including the banking industry. I am proud we have enough pragmatism about the free market to say, sometimes, it doesn’t work, and support Canadian art and culture instead. I am proud my tax dollars fund the CBC which does what a publicly funded broadcaster should do, informs and educates the public about the issues of the day. I am proud my country allows gay people to marry and that this came about because our laws said it wouldn’t be fair not to. I am proud that people accepted that even if they didn’t agree. I am proud that our political discourse is not dominated by religious language and proclamations, religion is a personal, protected right that has no place in politics and Canadians recognize that.
I think all these things and more are what make Canada great. We are great because we are a nation of good people, of reasonable people. We understand that not everyone has enough to get by or pay for healthcare so we make it universal. We understand that we are not fully in control, that Nature is always waiting outside, in the cold to take us to our grave. So we remain vigilant and pragmatic. We build a safety net so that others don’t fall, because we would want it there if we fell.
We do what we need to do survive and to keep our community and our country together. We can handle disagreements, even big disagreements remaining unsettled and still work together. We’ve survived for almost 150 years with two languages and cultures fighting for their own place. Yet we continue. What else can we do? I wouldn’t be reasonable not to.
Canada has a parliament, where our elected representatives are meant to sit and debate in a reasonable manner to come to reasonable solutions for our country. There will be grandstanding, there will be intrigue, there will even be corruption. But all this should be kept to a minimum and not impede the progress of our nation. Prorogation happens, parliament need not sit 365 days a year, that is not the point. The point is that reasonableness is giving way to partisan bickering and strategical. The machinery of government is being used not for progress but for hoarding of power and avoidance of oversight.
Where am I going with this? I want Canadians to stand up for reasonableness. We may all argue about what it means to be Canadian but surely that is one quality we can agree on. With poor nations around the world needing help and leadership from those of us lucky enough to be able to help, with the environment collapsing, with our great neighbour losing sight of the very values upon which they were founded it is more important than ever to take a deep breath and remember to say “Can’t we all just be reasonable and work this out?” There are reasonable solutions to all our problems if only we can discuss and work together.
We can do it. We’ve done it before, that’s why this country is so great.
Lets do it again. Come out this saturday and make sure the discussion doesn’t stop before it gets started.