I never thought this day would come
I have been a political junkie since I was about twelve years old, when I stepped off of a North Toronto bus, which I had mistakenly taken, and into the campaign headquarters of a man who would soon become Finance Minister of Canada. Since then, I have worked for and with countless politicians, mostly Conservatives, a number of Liberals, and at the municipal level people with no visible party affiliation. I enjoyed those days of cut and thrust debate and witty rejoinders. Yet, with all of that, there was always civility and respect. Sometimes I believed we actually accomplished something.
It never occurred to me that a time would come when I was fed up, indeed disgusted with politics on all sides of the political spectrum, including the media, but I am coming very close to that. Politics, of course, is a blood sport, but there were time-honoured rules for politicians and for the media. In recent years, those rules have gone out the window. Criticism and rigid accountability have always been part of the game, but overt disrespect, outright lying and the politics of hate have, in my opinion, consumed what was once an honorable and productive profession that actually served the people that elected them.
The media, in part, is responsible for some of this, because if some (not all) of them see fit to promote discord, advocate ridicule and encourage divisionism, why would elected politicians not feel free to do the same? It is behaviour that has effectively been legitimized.
All of this caught my attention because of a terrible article written in the Toronto Star on Saturday by Heather Mallick, When Ivanka ‘sort of’ showed up at the G20. Even by Toronto Star standards, it was sick. Clearly, she doesn’t like the Trump family. For the record I, too, do not like Donald Trump and I have reason to know, as he was once a client of mine. I do believe he is a bully and that he lacks good character and that there is not a Presidential bone in his body.
But this article, about his daughter Ivanka accompanying her father to the G-20 Conference in Japan, was way off the mark. It was personal, it was vindictive and, in my view, it lacked credible substantiation. One needs to read it in its entirety to see how evil it really is, but here are a few quotes.
“Melina, [Trump’s wife] detests her husband, as in he revolts her, his presence peels her nerves like a carrot, she radiates electric dislike at him. She surrounds herself with a Donald wall, that actually works.” Really? Could be, I guess. But how does she really know this and what is the real purpose of writing about it?
And then there is this. Mallick as much as implies that there could be a sexual aspect to Trump’s relationship with his daughter, Ivanka. First, she says: “Oh is it not the superstructure of the whole Trump domestic arrangement so eerily fraught, [sounds like Shakespeare]far beyond the capacity of American Family Therapists Inc. to take on?”
Now, I do not know who American Family Therapists (AFT) are. I googled them; I could not find them. I wonder if they are real. But if they are real, how does this stuff get in a newspaper and what does it accomplish in the absence of facts?
Jared (Ivanka’s husband): “Do you think my father-in-law is inappropriately drawn to my wife?”
AFT: “Do you think your father-in law is inappropriately drawn to your wife?”
Jared: “He wants me to move to Tel Aviv…”
AFT: “ …Do you think it sounds normal Jared?
I do not know how much of this is pure hopeful fiction and how much of this is based on actual confirmed fact, although I have my own opinion on that. What I do believe is that it is a hateful, ignorant and spiteful column written for no other reason than to demean the character of Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump. John Hondrich should fire Heather Mallick for that. Sadly, the odds are that he will not.
At this juncture, I can hear our beloved Publisher asking, ‘So what exactly is your point, Hugh?’
My point is this. Although she was writing about the Trumps, Heather Mallick is a Canadian journalist, writing in a Canadian newspaper. If she can write this kind of trash about people in public life in America, what is to stop her and others like her from writing similar trash about Canadian politicians, especially those that don’t fit their partisan bias?
A lack of tolerance, a lack of respect and the vilification of people and political parties with opposing views has already seriously crept in to the Canadian and civic scene. There is no room for compromise. It is now a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics. It is even difficult today for elected folks from opposing political parties to go and have a beer together. To me, that is a shame.
We are now on the cusp of a Federal election. All signs point to a no-holds-barred, mud-slinging, character-bashing campaign, short on real policies and long on populism. What I will be looking for, however, as small as they might be, are signs of respect for Canadians, respect for people with different views and a willingness to find a middle ground to issues of serious importance to our country, regardless of where they come from. It puts me in mind of political leaders like Bill Davis, Bob Rae, Paul Martin, Brian Mulroney and, yes, even Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Not much of that around anymore.
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