Sunday, April 28, 2019

Looking for Stateswomen and Statesmen

Statesman -noun, a person who is experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs. a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.

I am pretty sure my family always voted Conservative but other than my uncle’s occasional rants about  Bill Davis’ provincial Conservative party (Davis was Premier of Ontario from 1971-1985), I remember little political discourse in our family. My dad once told me that Protestants voted Conservative and Catholics voted Liberal, but he kept his own choices a secret away from the ballot box. 

I have voted for every main party at one time or another in federal and provincial elections and have never identified strongly and consistently with any party. My leaning is “left centrist”, but after careful consideration, I try to vote for who I think would be the best local candidate and who would make the best leader. In the past I expected that my local MP or MPP would present their personal values as well as the concerns of their constituents in the legislature. Today, our representatives must vote along party lines, even if they do not agree with a policy, or be booted out of caucus. In my opinion, that is not how democracy should work.

My grandma always said that if a married couple never had a disagreement that one of them had to be stupid. She observed that intelligent people will have different viewpoints and opinions. How boring life would be if we all agreed on everything and had nothing to debate. We look at things from different personal, generational and cultural points of view. Differences of opinion and conflicts happen in the home, work place, schools, churches, as well as in the political arena. 

A couple of years ago I faced a work place conflict that escalated to the point where management became involved. A meeting was called and while I was confident that there was no wrong-doing on my part, the situation was very stressful. I read the book Crucial Conversations- Tools for Talking when the Stakes are High and took notes on how to approach the problem. I had to put myself in my co-worker’s shoes and step away from any defensive anger to come to a resolution. It was important to present some positive solutions without attacking the character of the other person. The meeting went far better than I could have imagined the issue was resolved. (I highly recommend this book!)

It is disheartening to see the polarization of social, economic and political ideology in many countries today. Angry accusations and personal attacks are the norm and people feel they need to put others down in order to promote themselves. We are bombarded with opinions and rumours online and it takes time to research and contemplate an issue from various angles. I believe most people are moderate and reasonable, but the voices at both ends of the political spectrum can be very, very loud. People will take sides on highly polarized issues, refusing to listen to each other or debate in a civil manner.

Will Durant, historian, philosopher and co-author of The Story of Civilization wrote, 

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.” 

Observing the turmoil in Great Britain, United States and other western countries, one can see how internal fighting is destructive to a nation’s socio-economic strengths and freedoms. Canada, as a large and diverse nation is not immune from partisan politics. No leader or party is perfect but I have hope that as a nation, in this election year, we can put aside vindictive and hateful rhetoric and negotiate respectful solutions for the present and future. That being said, I will not vote for any person or party, or follow anyone on social media who promotes personal attacks. But I welcome a good debate and love to participate in lively discussions about a variety of issues that we may never agree on completely.