There are all kinds of regular indicators this time of the year that we’re only a spit away from that evening when — if you have the level of plausibility of a six-year-old or if you’ve never grown up, and embrace a Peter Pan personality — an obese man with a white beard lands on billions of homes in a sled hauled by a dozen reindeer, rewards the nice and ignores the naughty.
(I’ve often wondered whether the old timer, S. Claus is an environmentalist with a social conscience, and carries a zillion poop bags to clean up what must be unbelievable amounts of pretty disgusting loads deposited by Rudolph and his buds on rooftops and thereabouts. Or does he just arrogantly profess: “Leave it where it rests, b’ys, cause we’re the ‘Claus Gang’ and they all love us — we can do nothing wrong.”)
And there are signs telling us we’re mighty close to that day, Dec. 25, when millions upon millions of die-hard believers celebrate the birth of an apparently profoundly blessed little fella, conceived without even a whiff of raunchy sex between consenting adults. He was the son of God, we’re led to believe by those whose faith in these matters is unbreakable; in fact, it turned out the Father’s plan was to have his No. 1 boy, his only offspring, we presume, eventually die a slow, tortuous, incredibly nasty death, for our sins (it would have been centuries later that I had even started to tabulate a record of sinful acts). He had done his thing, had saved the world, or so we’re told by the faithful followers and their literature, that, following through on Dad’s orders, had been crucified to death. (And to imagine: I once thought my dad was cruel because he wouldn’t allow me and my brother to stay up and watch “The Deputy” on what the old man emphasized was a “school night.”)
So, whether you believe the story of the man the size of Rob Ford squeezing through chimneys into living rooms worldwide to leave miniature cop cars and toy guns and 40-ouncers under the trees, and taking a second or two for a hit
of rum (or a line of something stronger, if he’s truly Ford-like); or if you believe the yarn about the son of God launching in a stable in Bethlehem his mighty ambitious campaign to, well, to save all of mankind (how’s he done so far, by the way?); or if you believe in both, or if you believe in neither, you can’t deny that the signs are everywhere that The Day is almost upon us. (It’s a day that reappears in the form of a Visa bill for months on end, the price in many homes for that latest, enormously expensive, head-smashing, crotch-kicking video game for a member of this peaceful generation now in our midst.)
The signs themselves? Well, a couple come quickly to mind. Christmas music, especially the bland instrumental type, is everywhere: in the elevator, the bathroom, the rink, the alleyways, the shed, the backyards, the bar, even in the woods; you can’t escape the damn stuff. Now, I love Christmas music as much as any soul: my family and I had an amazing evening recently when we saw “Our Divas Do Christmas” at the Arts and Culture Centre. It was mesmerizing and flat-out grand, another incredible illustration of the phenomenal talent existing in a province with the population of a medium-sized Canadian city. Having said that, I’d like to be able to choose when and where I listen to the sounds of Christmas. And to hold the head of the “The Little Drummer Boy” under water in the the Waterford River, if given the chance, until he gurgles the last la-la-la-la.
Then there’s that signal we’ve come to rely on in recent years for letting us know of the upcoming festive season, encompassing everything from peaceful dinners to family rackets where dessert is eaten at the lockup.
And I’m talking, of course, about the CBC Turkey Telethon, a time when dead, frozen turkeys get more air time on “Here and Now” than Debbie and Jonathan (not as much as that weather guy, Snoddon, mind you). But I’m not going there anymore, to Mother Corp craze (for now, at least). No more ranting about the CBC crowd collecting gobblers to suck up to their viewers and listeners, setting themselves up as benefactors of the down and trodden. (Do any of these journalistic stars actually get down off their pedestals and visit the home of
an underprivileged family during Christmas — there are plenty of them — and perhaps cook up a turkey dinner, with all the fixings?).
Anyway, what do I know? The radio current affairs shows are at the top of the ratings meter, so perhaps the average Joe and Jill love the charity work the CBC is doing. Maybe news and charities should mix; forget about journalistic principles and ethics — it’s all about the ratings, is it not?
Back to the point
Anyway, my main point here today — though it’s taken me a while to get here — is that those regular signs that Xmas is right around the corner have been joined by what is now turning into a yearly event at Confederation Building Hill. “Kathy the Premier’s Muskrat Show,” coming soon to a barn in a Tory stronghold of your choosing. Please bring your own baskets and cards and, of course, your own rats.
You might recall the shindig last December, when a bunch of smiling Tory politicians, backed up by a choir and a chosen audience of cheerleaders, took over much of the supper-hour newscasts to tell the province (the few scattered rich among us, and the very many impoverished among us) that Muskrat Falls was the best thing for all of us since Vienna Sausages hit the shelves.
Muskrat Falls was wrapped, figuratively, of course, in the Newfoundland flag that night. It was a pink, white and green evening, a message of patriotism, delivered from the government that naysayers and Antichrists — or even those asking perfectly legitimate questions with perfectly sound motives about Muskrat Falls — were traitors, dirty mainlanders in disguise. Go back where you came from, was the underlying message.
So you thought that was a one-shot deal last December. Forget it. It looks as if the Tories might do their own version of “A Christmas Carol” each and every year, with a different Muskrat theme (maybe one year, Allan Hawco can play Tiny Tim, and have him head and eyes into a greasy piece of muskrat, hair and all, rarely coming up for air, the rat caught fresh in a trap on the bank of the Exploits; of course, we could turn it into an absolute horror show when Hawco realizes the muskrat he’s been devouring, even without salt, is actually his old buddy, Alan Doyle: “I did think for a minute that the long hair looked familiar,” he could moan. “Oh, God, I’ve eaten the other iconic Alan.”
Anyway, they were all there this year, on Tuesday night, Premier Dunderdale and company, the premier with a smile that appeared to be frozen onto her face, trying to monopolize the supper hour programs once again by scheduling the release of their latest news on Muskrat Falls — the formal thumbs-up on the federal loan guarantee — at exactly six o’clock. (To its credit, the “Here and Now” producers began their show with another news item, went briefly to a hit of Dunderdale, got some perspective from reporter David Cochrane, and returned to the newscast). I understand NTV took a similar route, and if it did, hats off to that station as well. It would have been so easy, too easy, for both networks to get sucked into this public relations exercise, and not be able to utilize their normal, healthy and necessary editing and vetting authority.
Not that Dunderdale would give a hoot about such matters; she’s a politician and wanted to milk this for all it was worth. But I believe the public sees these events as classless and would prefer a normal press conference, mid-afternoon, with none of the bells and whistles.
In any case, Dunderdale desperately needed something, anything, to smile about. The coals have already been delivered by Santa to her home in the form of a byelection loss and the Liberals continuing to climb in the polls.
So stay tuned a year from now. Will there be another Muskrat announcement in December of 2014?
Will Dunderdale be there with a big, fat smile on her puss?
Will Dunderdale be there at all?
Or will she have been eased out to pension pasture by that time, or been convinced to get down on her knees, hold her breath, bury her principles and dip her head into the Senate trough?
We'll just have to read the signs.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.