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Russell Wangersky: What’s left after snowflakes melt

Broken parking meter surfaces from St. John’s snow, March 16.
Broken parking meter surfaces from St. John’s snow, March 16.

It was pure white when it first fell. But it was, like many things, just an illusion. Now, with the freeze-and-thaw of March, the snowbanks have gone dirty brown and are coughing up every little hidden bit of filth they’ve been hiding for months.

Russell Wangersky

Garbage bags that didn’t reach the truck and weren’t brought back from the curb, dog feces no one bothered to pick up, empty dropped drink bottles, small windrows of sodden junk mail around super-mailboxes, broken parking meters: it’s like a sudden open window into our hidden and dark misbehaviours.

And the snow’s not the only thing that’s melting.

It’s probably no secret from my past columns that my politics don’t tilt to the right. I’ve been called pretty much everything that anyone even the slightest bit left-wing has been called, and sometimes, those comments are true. (Well, I’ve been called lots of things.)

I’m a believer in human rights, but also in personal responsibility. I think we have a responsibility as a society to help the less fortunate. I also believe that governments have to be fiscally responsible, and that passing debt on to our kids is not only unsustainable, but unethical. So, A little bit all over the map, but probably more soft-left than soft-right.

But watching the left respond to the success of right-wing thinking — especially right-wing xenophobic and sexist thinking — has suddenly given me pause.

Why? Because even for the left, it’s looking like the high ground is vanishing.

It’s surfacing in cheap personal attacks, body shaming, public slurs — lies, and while not necessarily intending to lie, grasping onto and immediately believing the first negative thing said about someone on the other side of the spectrum.

During the women’s march on Washington, a Nebraska state senator retweeted an insulting comment that had been posted by conservative radio personality Larry Elder.

Elder had written about the appearance of three women carrying signs protesting Donald Trump’s treatment of women, saying “Ladies, I think you are safe.”


When you can’t argue a point, deride someone for their personal appearance.

So imagine my surprise to find insulting pictures of provincial Finance Minister Cathy Bennett — who has already complained about Internet harassment — not only posted widely, but when the issue of body-shaming was raised, defended as being legitimate because of the results of Bennett’s budget on the province.

In other words, if we don’t agree with your direction, any mode of attack becomes legitimate.

Well, no. Believing you are right about an issue doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for your actions. Your ends don’t justify the means, however much you want them to.

Not only there: I’ve seen suggestions from the deep left that there’s a need to have some sort of extra-judicial actions because of the reaction to the verdict in the Snelgrove sexual assault case — suggestions like making a board range of complaints to government agencies to torment Snelgrove with other investigations, like, believe it or not, faked Child, Youth and Family Services complaints.

It’s the same kind of muddying the water that sees a U.S. president manufacturing wiretap stories to divert people’s attention from other issues.

This is not the way to go, people.

If we’re all going to roll around in the gutter with the melting snow, we’re all going to end up smelling the same.

By taking the same routes, the left is only legitimizing the behaviour of the wildest edge of the right. Deciding to cheat doesn’t stop opponents who are already cheating, it just makes cheating the new normal. And then, when those attacks are used against you, you can hardly complain.

I can understand the frustrations involved. Watching what’s happening to the south of us with the Trump administration, and seeing copycats in the Conservative party somehow getting support for the most hateful of policies is enough to make anyone want to lash out.

There is a group of people on the right wing side of the spectrum that likes to describe the super-left as “snowflakes.” The beauty of snowflakes is that they can pile up to the point that they can stop anything.

But there’s another side as well.

Snow melts — and that show is rarely pretty.


Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at — Twitter: @Wangersky.

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