By Sally Barnes
I am not a gloom and doomer but I must say that it becomes increasingly difficult to be optimistic these days as we grieve the loss of a much-loved Sovereign and follow events in a world gone quite mad.
Drought and floods. Fuel and food shortages. Community violence at home and war abroad. Politics and politicians that defy imagination and undermine the stability of democracy itself.
A columnist this week described the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada as having about as much charisma as a cornered squirrel. There is definitely something about this over-zealous young fella Pierre Poilievre that is hard to like.
It’s not a mean and hungry look as much as it’s the high school kid who smirks at knowing all the answers. He’s too smart by half. He keeps weird and wooly company and will stop at nothing to get where he’s going.
The angry, cynical, and marginalized are drawn to the new CPC leader like a magnet—as well as legions of those who are simply desperate to find anyone who will catch the public fancy and replace the current occupant of the Prime Minister’s office.
Many of the leadership candidates and their supporters swept away by the Poilievre wave have vowed to jump on board for the good of the party and the country. Other Tories have picked up their marbles and headed home.
Some disappointed Conservatives—who preferred the more moderate and stable candidates like Jean Charest and Scott Aitchison—may postpone tearing up their membership cards until the dust settles.
If it looks like Poilievre can win a federal election, they may be content to wipe the crow feathers off their yaps and pray that their new leader will mellow and forget some of the whack-doodle policies and conspiracy theories he referenced during the leadership race.
Meanwhile, across the pond, the good people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are deeply immersed in grief at the loss of our much-loved Queen Elizabeth II. I am among those who have spent endless hours addicted to media coverage of the marathon period of mourning, ritual and ceremony that preceded and includes the funeral.
As they say, no one does ceremony like the Brits. And God bless them for that. So many of us find comfort in the traditions in which our own heritage is rooted.
For a week now, the Queen’s death and reminder of the outstanding service and devotion of this remarkable world leader has overshadowed some of the usual news of bad events and bad people.
Queen Elizabeth II is not alone in attracting the adulation and emotion of throngs. We have witnessed exuberant public reaction on a grand scale to events of sporting, political and entertainment nature on a fairly regular basis.
The difference between the crowds who have turned out for the Queen and those who went bizarro when the Blue Jays won the World Series twice in a row and who turned our cities into cauldrons of hysteria at the height of Trudeaumania in the 60s can be summed up in one word: love.
There is celebrity worship, there is the sheer joy of winning at politics and sport—and then there is simply love and respect for someone who has given her whole life to public service.
The mourning activities have provided an element of voyeurism—especially for young people not old enough to appreciate the Queen’s longevity and service and enthralled by the glamour and celebrity of the younger members of the Royal Family like William and Kate and Harry and Meghan, the so-called “fabulous four.”
But for the most part, the crowds who lined up for hours (in some cases days) to pay their respects were there to show they loved and respected Queen Elizabeth II and wanted to show their appreciation for a life well and dutifully lived.
The marvel was that for the most part the media and public treated the occasion with the prominence and reverence it deserved—commenting on the Queen’s attributes and accomplishments that made so many love and respect her while avoiding for the most part the politics and family situations that developed from time to time and made the House of Windsor seem downright ordinary.
The new king, Charles III, has been warmly received and with his wife Camilla showed that even bone-weary and under pressure they could work a hall and a crowd with great warmth, dignity and grace.
It is only normal that some are unsure about the King Charles’s ability to fill the very big shoes left by his mother.
When he lost his temper for a few moments in Ireland when a pen spurted ink while he was signing a document, some media outlets provided a light moment that was viewed by many, including myself, as a needed light moment in so many days of perfect timing of perfectly orchestrated rituals and proceedings.
Cynics may interpret his reaction as a sign that Charles has inherited his father’s impatience and lacks his mother’s stoicism and infallible dignity.
I prefer to see it as a man 73 years old who stood vigil for hours at his mother’s deathbed, at her last breath assumed one of the toughest jobs in the world, immediately moved effortlessly among Scotland, Ireland and England giving speeches, meeting dignitaries, signing documents and greeting endless throngs of well-wishers with no time to grieve privately.
And so he showed a momentary glimpse of fatigue and impatience. So be it. How human—like the rest of us.
Some of his critics have set a low bar for expectations of his reign while here in Canada the thousands who look to Pierre Poilievre as a champion of extremism have high expectations that he will deliver what they demand of him.
We can only hope that King Charles III will have learned well from his saintly mother and will be remembered for loyally following in her footsteps and earning the love of his people.
And we can only hope that Pierre Poilievre’s angry and cynical followers are disappointed when their man realizes his duty is to all the good people and the wellbeing of Canada if he should reach his goal of becoming their next prime minister.
Let us pray.
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s publisher, Hugh Mackenzie, and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com.
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