When Being Canadian Hurts

trying to explain how the coalition looks from here in my way. the message western conservatives think they hear. the message I fear that I hear. some of the assumptions that westerners have who might use the word traitor about national members of the coalition about how our democracy works and what it means to be a separatist.– writing this out has cooled me off, finally

Yesterday I completely lost my head in this Maclean’s thread. I swore at a commenter, in full caps no less. I’ve felt torn up about it all day. The closest thing to swearing at anybody that I can remember was using the word shutup in a rude, joking way and the truly odd thing about this is that I cannot make myself feel sorry. I cannot convince myself that saying what I said angrily was any more damaging than the dispassionate words I was addressing, but that does not fully explain why I don’t feel wrong for having done it. I don’t know what is logical in this and I don’t know what is valid because I have almost never been so upset over anything. The outlines of my thought are backed in a masking red of emotion – to understand the form of anything I have had to shut my eyes and feel my way.

These are explanations and not arguement – an attempt to explain this to you and to me, as Canadians.

Besides not having an emotion of feeling wrong there has been another odd thing about my attitude. I normally stand with a slouch but today it was different. At first I thought it was a physical expression of guilt or wrongness but it was not that. I slouched further and my shoulders were forward as though protecting or holding something inside. I felt as though I was cradling something inside that was hurting, as though some part of my identity had been damaged.

My sense is that I was and am hurting from this trouble we are having in Canada as perhaps a westerner, and a conservative, and as a small town or country person, and – above all – as a Canadian.

A third odd thing – Kate Macmillian, a Saskatchewan blogger, seems thrilled by this mess. I grew up in the town down the road from her and it makes me feel sick. We are both conservative, both westerners, both from small towns. But she has said that she feels more kinship with neighboring American states and all the way to some part of the American eastern coast where she makes road trips to rather than feeling connected straight east towards Toronto. I don’t know if Kate has any Canadian identity – I think she does, latently and buried or reversed by resentments so that she is those other things first. That is our difference. I am Canadian before conservative and Canadian before westerner.

Today was a day that it hurt to be Canadian.

One of the most crucial parts of my identity feels a threat. I believe that my comment was made in the ferocity of desperation – and not to attack but to protect. The one thing I want to say is that I have nothing against the person I acted in this way to, which I hope I gave evidence of in the comments I made after that. I was responding to the claims and innuendo that something was “being done to our country” by the Harper government, that an intentional, deliberate attack on our country’s democracy is under way. Let me be clear that right now I am not arguing the relative truth of this. Why does this version of events inflame me? As a westerner I feel blamed. There was a “fireboming” of some kind of NDP paraphernalia in BC. I sense that anger and violence are being imputed to me as a conservative – explicitly so by another commenter who drew a comparison to the supposed inherent violence of the Republicans across the border. Wherry’s powerful innuendo of the Conservatives creating an air like the blood lust at a boxing match makes the emotion very sharp. But this is not it.

While I feel blamed as a westerner and conservative because this happened in BC I do not share the feeling that the NDP and Liberals are traitors to the country or that the coalition is unconstitutional. I am very angry with Conservative rhetoric, that people are calling this a coup in a literal way, and by the fact that Harper will not give a rhetorical inch. However, if this were an ideological matter – if, as a conservative, I felt I was losing out by this to more progressive ideals, I think that I would both stand by Harper and not feel this desperation at the prospect of losing. It’s a foolish time to put a party into government that has never been there, but democracy is democracy – let them tilt at their windmills if they must. For me, it is not really a matter of the principles our government operates on. Although I think he is the least in the wrong, I want Harper to resign, to give the Conservatives room to make serious concessions, if they haven’t already been made.

My fear seems to be that progressive Canadians really see nothing to this but ideology. It seems impossible to imagine a principle for which the Liberal party of Canada would both put the NDP into government and do so with the Bloc’s signed and conditional support – during an economic crisis in which Canada has been a model of strength and calm. A government headed by the weakest Liberals in our history to replace a strengthened minority with much better regional representation and eleven seats short of a first past the post majority. How could that possibly be? I will tell you the message I am getting as a Canadian westerner. I am getting the message that I am absolutely not you. I can’t believe that after a few years of mild conservativism following over a decade of unchallenged Liberal rule you believe we must now bring back progressive government. But I can understand no other possibility. I am getting the message that a progressive separatist is more Canadian than a conservative Westerner. That ideology is more defining than country. That Scott Reid’s statement that Harper is the most dangerous animal in the Commons and must be killed cannot mean that economic policy is the driver when changing it means the NDP in cabinet and separatists at the table during an economic crisis. No. I am hearing that nothing is more important that getting the hateful, angry, lowbrowed and animal western conservatives out again. Please make me believe otherwise. It’s not so clear to me what is valid about all this. But I have felt all day that a piece of my identity is burning. I have felt all day as though if I were to stand straight my Canadianness would flare up and die. I am feeling such a red and scalding pain.

This is what it is. From my crouched and tense attitude – touched already by this hidden pain – to hear the unalloyed accusation that I, my people – people of my essence – are the ones doing something to the country is searing. It is shards and salt in the wounds of a decade of having ‘da Canadian values’ defined off of me. I made my comment to fight that feeling, to assure myself that I still care deeply about being Canadian, to protect against a killing blow by damning it. I knew today that my desparate instinct was right, that somehow I needed to say those things to stay Canadian. Harper is divisive? Is it such a wonder his conservatives have this cursed churlishness? That they strut like vulnerable game-cocks – Canada’s first opposition party in government? We know well enough that the Canadian establishment tolerates us at the very best. We know that we will be killed the moment our blood is in the air, whatever the circumstance. We know the vicious, thorough stereotypes that we can barely tread up out of. Stephen Harper was wrong to try to cut the funding because he was right to believe that he can never afford quarter. He will be taken down, even if it means the first coalition in living memory at least, during a time of economic crisis, and even yet with separatists at the table. Oh tell me it isn’t just so. I’ve concluded that the assurance I need lies ahead – either in at least one serious offer from the NDP or Liberals to support the Conservatives in return of something like a promise to not cut the public funding or even for Harper’s head – or else in Canadians saying to the coalition parties in the next election that Canadian western conservatives are Us. But I fear that before I see that I will be dead embers inside – that the pain of being Canadian will fade along with my love and sense of being Canadian. It would be so nice and easy to lose it when I am hearing that a progressive Blocquiste is more Canadian than me. If that is so, how can I remain one?

Won’t someone please tell me at least that you don’t understand the message you’re sending.


One Response to “When Being Canadian Hurts”

  1. New Years Introduction « The General Wolfe Says:

    […] with my ability to be empathetic in the thick of things and rational outside of that. It led to this post, which may be brilliant… but also unfair. It’s unfair first to myself, which led to […]

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