Listen Up! As a society we need to move past labels and listen and learn from others

Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Labels Can Be Harmful

Sometimes I get tired of labels. As an example, I can’t tell you how many times in political discussions about American politics, people assume I support Donald Trump because I am a Conservative. In fact, just the other day an old friend of mine delivered a Trump campaign sign to my door, he being far from that persuasion. I know it was in jest but all the same, I believe he hoped I would put it on my front lawn. I did not.

Donald Trump is the product of an angry electorate. It is hard to believe however, that otherwise reasonable people, primarily to the right of centre, would propel him into the White House. While Trump appeals to the frustration and dislike of career politicians in the States, his demeanor is anything but stable and his scatter gun and unpredictable approach to important issues make him dangerous. Yes, I am a Conservative but I could never support him. In one respect, I understand what is happening. There is no longer any middle ground in American politics. It is extremism on both the left and the right and people are being forced to decide between the better of two evils. A shame really.

In Canada, political and cultural polarization is more subtle but it is still here. There are still far too many individuals who are so immersed in their own partisan viewpoint, that anyone who thinks otherwise, is quickly labelled. One friend for whom I have great affection and respect, when I mentioned that I had been singing the inclusive version of our National Anthem for years, quipped, “Are you sure you are a Conservative?” Tongue in cheek for sure but still an underlying implication that if you are a Conservative, you do not believe in an inclusive society.

Polarization on important social issues is unproductive and can in fact produce the wrong result. Take the right to die as an example. This has been a very controversial topic and has been brought to a head through legislation proposed by the Government in response to a timeline set by the Supreme Court of Canada. All Parties agreed that it would be a free vote in the House of Commons, but in reality, it was not. Less than a handful of Liberals voted against the Government Bill, fearing I suppose, repercussions down the road. I suspect it would not have been any different if the Conservatives were in power. I cannot help but wonder however, if Party labels were truly thrown aside, as they were by the opposition parties, and all members could really vote their conscience on this issue, if the result would have been quite different?

Another issue that has raised its head of late, is the use of washroom facilities by transgender individuals. On more than one occasion I have been labelled homophobic because I have some honestly held concerns about this. To be clear I am not. I believe we are born wired the way we are and that it is no more possible for a gay person to change their sexual preference than it is for one who is heterosexual. In my lifetime, I have enjoyed and benefited and learned from people in same sex relationships, in my extended family as well as in my business and social life. That however, does not mean that I have to agree with every issue related to the gay community, any more than they have to agree with every issue in mine.

In particular, I have a concern that allowing a person with male genitalia who identifies as a woman, into a female washroom, will provide a platform for male perverts who actually do not identify in that manner, to assault women in a place where they are largely vulnerable and unprotected. There are many who will disagree with my point of view, but to label that a homophobic perspective is just nonsense.

I suspect that we will never move away from labels, but they do get in the way at times. All Conservatives are not right wing bigots and all Liberals are not bleeding heart socialists. All Muslims are not terrorists and all white people are not racists. Those few who are, should be dealt with, but a strong and healthy society in my opinion, evolves from tolerance and respect for other people’s points of view. That does not mean that we have to abandon principles that are important to us. But it does not hurt to listen and to learn from others and there is never an excuse, in my view, for the political bullying and labelling that seems to be creeping so quickly into today’s society.

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  1. Brian Thompson on

    Nicely said Hugh. Like you I am Conservative by nature, but have not allowed that persuasion to dictate my choice at the ballot box. I have voted both Conservative and Liberal in Federal Elections and this last time, voted for Tricia Cowie, not because I was unhappy with Tony Clement as our MP, but because I was very unhappy with the leadership and tone set by his boss and Prime Minister Harper. And in personal meetings with Ms. Cowie, found that we do have a lot in common and share many of the same concerns. In the past I voted for Andy Mitchell, because, in my opinion, he was a very good MP for our riding. I have always supported Norm Miller provincially and would be hard pressed to vote otherwise. I do get frustrated when people simply follow the party line regardless of the position of the candidates and am amazed that Republicans would support Donald Trump simply because at this point in time he is wearing the cloak of the GOP.

  2. Hugh to be a perfect politician today, you don’t have to deliver on what you promise, you have to instead be very adept at explaining just why you can’t possibly deliver due to someone else’s fault. This makes Hillary and Donald perfect choices for their respective parties. Trudeau has already proven that charisma over substance is superior. We were very fortunate during the last economic downturn to have a government that had very strong economic policies in place. This certainly isn’t the case in Ontario or Canada today. Tax everything to the max is today’s answer, combined with greater and greater numbers of public employees. Perhaps legalizing marijuana for those that can afford it will make us all feel better about having less.

  3. Dale Peacock on

    An excellent column Hugh. It should be reprinted in The Star and The Globe & Mail although those who most need to hear the message might not get it anyway.

    I – as you know – was the one who asked you, “Are you sure you’re a Conservative?” It truly WAS tongue in cheek because if I’ve learned anything in the time we’ve known each other it’s that you never fail to surprise me with your wide ranging views.

    But perhaps I’m still making your point in being surprised.

  4. Victoria Lazier on

    Great article Hugh. I agree that we have lost the middle space for intelligent debate. In complex times its more important than ever to respect different views and not polarize the conversation into right and left camps.

  5. Rob Millman on

    Mr. Mackenzie, firstly let me say how much I enjoyed your article: As usual you were forthright in expressing your viewpoint on several matters dear to my heart. It is not an easy course to follow in these parlous times.

    From the title of the article, however, I admit to being surprised at the breadth of the content. I was hoping for a discussion of labelling and consequent stigmatization of people in our society; especially persons with disabilities. As you know, the Mayor has earmarked a significant portion of the proceeds from his golf tournament toward the local inclusion campaign, spearheaded by Community Living. A mention by you would have given it additional impetus; following the inevitable lull, pursuant to that spawned by the community breakfast some weeks ago.

    Terrific thesis, though. As the old saw says: “That’s why we have two ears and only one mouth.”

  6. Clyde Mobbley on

    Perhaps if there is a desire to move past labels and listen and learn Doppler and other local Parry Sound Muskoka media outlets would start giving regular and equal space in their respective media organs to different views and opinions. Truly it is only partisan viewpoints in any consistent meaningful way from the Conservative-Liberal persuasion that finds its way into our local media. Conservative-Liberal views on issues are barely different in substance when it comes power, authority and wealth.
    Want proof, take an honest look at the Justin Trudeau government verses the Steven Harper government. I don’t need four more years to see who’s tune these two dance to, do you?
    How is it possible to change minds or have meaningful conversations to change people’s minds when they are never presented with information that contradicts their beliefs? Well, it isn’t. A fact the Advertising Industry / Main Stream Media, ie corporate propaganda industry has known since the beginning.
    I have to say I agree with Hugh on one point, all Liberals are not bleeding heart socialist. That is impossible to believe unless you know nothing about Liberals and even less about socialism.
    Hugh if you or other Conservatives believe the following “but a strong and healthy society in my opinion, evolves from tolerance and respect for other people’s points of view.” Why isn’t this belief reflected in Doppler and other locally controlled Conservative media by giving regular and equal space in the local market place of ideas to other people’s points of view?
    When was the last time the opinions of Judy Rebick, David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges or Leo Panitch were published in Parry Sound Muskoka?

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