Well, I certainly got my fingers slapped for the Listen Up column I wrote last week. The comments came fast and furiously, posted either on Doppler or Facebook. They were better than two to one against the position I was taking. Now that’s okay. What I write is a commentary. I expect people to comment and I expect them to both agree and disagree. I often try to be controversial, just to stir things up and to see what folks are really thinking. Sometimes too, as I did last week, I speak from the heart and damn the consequences. To me, that is what an opinion piece is all about and that is what I will continue to write.
What has surprised me in recent weeks, most especially this past week, is the tenor of many of the comments in response to what I have written. Some commenters sounded like they had not read past the headline, some were downright nasty and some were not fit to print. It has caused me to wonder however, about what has happened to civil discourse in our society, where reasonable people can disagree, even on the most serious issues of the day without tearing each other’s hair out or demeaning their character and often, that of their ancestors!
Here is a case in point, one of my favourite comments that was posted by a young woman in relation to my article last week.
“Hugh Mackenzie should just shut up. You are all rich entitled men. We are done with you assholes. You are all dying or retiring. If you could go faster, that would be better.”
Now, isn’t that nice! As it applies to me, at least one of her accusations is completely untrue. The others are all debatable but in no circumstance am I inclined to shuffle off this mortal coil simply to make people who think like her, feel better. Hurry up and die is simply not in my lexicon.
In fact, I think there is an important place for older men, entitled, grumpy or otherwise, in our society. Surely it is a form of racism or at least ageism to wish that an entire group of human beings just shut up and disappear as quickly as possible. Wishful thinking by some perhaps but it is not going to happen, at least for me.
I still have places to go and things to do. I want to see real reform to District Government in Muskoka. It is too fat and too unaccountable and it spends way too much of your money. There are also too many elected municipal politicians in Muskoka, twice as many as the entire City of Toronto and some of them are double dipping. My strong sense is that their time is up and real change is coming. I intend to be around for that.
I also intend to keep fighting for a fully equipped acute care hospital in Huntsville. When I was considering running for Muskoka District Chair, I had a couple of folks, not from Huntsville, say they could not vote for me because of my position on the Hospital. Funny that, because I fully support the current recommendation of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) which is to maintain two acute care hospitals in Muskoka. However, I believe strongly that one of the hospitals cannot be subordinate to the other in terms of its relevance or the services it offers. If that happens it will only be a matter of time before one of the two hospitals would become redundant as an acute care facility and we all know which one that would be.
My concern is not with the politicians. I believe that both Mayors, Scott Aitchison and Graydon Smith are playing with their cards straight up. I am not nearly as confident however about some members of the MAHC Board and Administration. I believe some of them are bound and determined to build a new hospital in Bracebridge and to direct the majority of available capital funds in that direction. I have no problem with a new hospital in Bracebridge as long as sufficient funds are made available to renovate the Huntsville hospital to the same standards as the Bracebridge site. I intend to stick around long enough to fight for that.
In a discussion I had recently, someone was commenting that for generations, politics was all about the art of compromise and that is how things got done. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Both in politics and in the wider functions of society, we are polarized to the point of dysfunction. Everyone wants everything their own way. There is no middle ground. Consequently, traditional norms break down and chaos is not far away. Compassion for the plight of others is quickly going out the door and offensive and hurtful language is becoming the order of the day.
We can do better than that. We all have an important role to play in building a better society. Even grumpy old men!
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