OH thinks I should be writing a column on Stephen Harper. “Talk about grist for your mill!” she exclaims.
“He was made for satirists like yourself. He just begs to have the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune embedded in his buttocks. What’s wrong with you, going soft in your old age?”
“First of all,” I said defensively, “I didn’t know how to spell it.”
“You don’t know how to spell what — buttocks? Scoundrel? Sleeveen? Miscreant?”
(My computer just spelled it “sleeving,” same as they do in the States.)
“Grist,” I said. “I thought it was g-r-i-s.”
“You’re trying to change the subject,” she said. “What about this Harper man?”
Sounds like the title of an awful movie I saw some years ago: “Wicker Man.” That fellow came to a bad end. “Harper Man” — hmmm. Guess not.
“Your readers are waiting to hear from you,” she went on.
“So, who am I, Ryan Cleary? Not all of my readers feel as we do about that absolute numbskull we have for a prime minister,” I said. “Some would be mightily offended if I began doing that again.”
I reminded her of the man who approached me at a funeral a few days ago. He seemed like a very nice man, and complimented me on my writing.
Then he said, “I used to read all your columns, you know.”
Used to? What happened, I asked him, expecting to hear something like, “I lost part of my sight,” or, “We don’t take the paper anymore,” or, “Our paper carrier quit.”
But nothing of the sort happened. I wasn’t at all prepared for what he said.
“I read them,” he said, “until you started writing dirty.”
Dirty? I was writing dirty? Hadn’t this man ever read “Fifty Shades of Gray”? I don’t write anything dirty, for heaven’s sake, or anyone else’s sake.
Again, I asked him what he meant.
“You started writing dirty,” he said, “when you started criticizing Prime Minister Harper.”
I didn’t say much because it was the funeral of a friend. But I mentally put it down as a backhanded compliment.
Stephen Harper is an outstanding human being for all the wrong reasons. I’ve grown tired of listing my problems with him as prime minister. Everything from the day he shook hands with his two little children as they left for school to his stated belief in capital punishment to his well-documented attempts to keep this province from its promised $2 billion (which pitted him against a much stronger adversary, Danny Williams) to his stripping of Atlantic Canada social institutions and human safety offices and programs.
My sainted mother, in her 80s at the time, gave voice to the question that was on everyone’s mind. If this man is such a cold fish as a father, how does he manage other situations where some degree of emotional involvement is called for?
“I wonder,” she said to me, (my mother, the wife of my clergyman-father), “what happens when he gets in bed with his wife? Do they shake hands?”
This wasn’t the kind of conversation I was used to having with my mother, and I was a mite uncomfortable with it.
Didn’t bother her at all. As far as she was concerned, this was a political discussion which impacted directly on the kind of man we had selected as our prime minister.
“I wonder,” she went on, “how he got those children in the first place.”
“I don’t think I want to have a conversation with you about the birds and the bees, Mom.”
“I doubt that the birds and the bees were involved,” she retorted.
Harper has shown no emotional awareness of the impact some of his policies are having on Atlantic Canada.
The closing of the coast guard offices in St. John’s, the withdrawal of funds for the operation of offices having to do with women’s issues, a similar problem with Veterans Affairs, the new rules having to do with employment insurance and the impact of that on seasonal workers are just some examples.
Over the last few weeks, however, the shenanigans centred around Mike (Duff) Duffy and several other senators have lifted the Prime Minister’s Office, and the prime minister with it, to a whole new level of suspicion of wrong-doing.
His protestations of not knowing what was going on reminds one of Richard Nixon’s claim of innocence in the Watergate affair. Finally, the weight of evidence against Nixon was so heavy that he had no choice but to admit everything and consequently had to quit before he was given the boot.
Harper’s former chief of staff is now being investigated for conduct unbecoming anyone, let alone the person closest to the prime minister.
Even seasoned reporters trying their best to be neutral are having a hard time believing he could be totally unaware of what was going on under his nose.
It seems obvious to the world that Harper not only knows everything that happens within 2,000 kilometres of his office, but directs it all, as well.
Quite apart from that, he’s responsible from a legal point of view for all of it. Even the commentators on the CBC news program “The National” have had problems in maintaining a balanced view.
In all fairness, one tries hard to separate the person from the politician in these things. Making fun of or criticizing Prime Minister Harper is one thing. Ridiculing the man is another.
But in this case, the person and the politician seem to be melded into one and the same. Trying to draw the wool over people’s eyes once too often will do that.
One other thing: some high-office misdoings seem to find forgiveness in the electorate — J.F.K. and Bill Clinton, for example.
But one thing the voters will not forgive is a leader who is also a crook.
Does Harper have a Watergate-type scandal to his credit?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.