The Man I Was - IV


Ten years ago this month, our three-bedroom townhouse used only one of those bedrooms as a bedroom. The master bedroom held our office, which became our bedroom when we needed to partake of the air conditioning at night (as we didn’t have central air, we used a window unit, and we placed our window unit in our office to help keep our desktop computers cool and limit the number of crashes, we hoped. We were still dealing with Windows Millennium, after all). The smallest bedroom was supposedly a writing office for Erin, but in practise became a storage room. Today, the master bedroom is indeed functioning as a master bedroom (with a decent bed, finally), Vivian has the second bedroom and Nora the third. The storage mess has moved to our garage.

Ten years ago this month, I spent a lot of time blogging about the final months of Jean Chretien’s term as prime minister. When Chretien started casting about for a project that could establish his ‘legacy’, I felt that the prime minister, and the Liberals he led, had reached a dangerous stage in their development. I mean, here was a party that had presided over a massive turnaround in our finances, had overseen a significant uptick in our economic outlook, the development of new markets and altogether a reasonable record that they could brag about.

And yet, Jean Chretien wanted to put his name on things. Like widening the Trans Canada Highway to four lanes across the nation. It was a critical change, in my opinion. No longer was this about doing things that were for the good of the nation; the self-aggrandizing of the Liberal brand became part and parcel with it. Was Chretien hearing Paul Martin’s footsteps? Or did the Liberals think that, with the conservative vote in disarray thanks to the leadership of Stockwell Day and the continued split between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives, that they were basically unbeatable and could take a victory lap.

Certainly, there was more than a whiff of arrogance in all of that bravado and, in spite of the decent record the Liberals had achieved up to that point, I had a suspicion that they were setting themselves up for a fall. And I figured that this was potentially dangerous. After all, it had happened before, when Robert Bourassa let his arrogance get the better of him in 1976, thinking that Quebeckers would never elect a separatist government to power. Whoops, look what happened. And, indeed, whoops, look what happened today.

In 2012, Chretien looks a bit better in hindsight. Back in 2002, we weren’t gutting the long-form census, abandoning evidenced-based government policy, and pursuing the sort of partisan patronage that Canadians rather pointedly voted against both in 2004 and 2006. And while the Liberals deservedly continue to have the albatross of Adscam placed around their necks, the Conservatives have rapidly reached the sort of financial misappropriations that they accused the Liberals of doing back when they were in opposition (gazebos in Muskoka? Helicopter trips from the cottage? The billion-dollar G20 boondoggle?). It’s not until this current government that we started questioning the fairness and lack of bias within the process itself, and Canada’s democracy as a whole is the worse for it.

But we cannot absolve Chretien from blame. Far from it. While I stand by my harsh assessment of this government, let us not forget it was Liberal arrogance that got us here.

Ten years ago this month, I travelled as far west as I’d ever done, taking a car and driving all the way to Pierre, South Dakota with Erin and my sister-in-law Wendy. There, we spent the better part of a week exploring the remarkable landscape of the high prairie, and visiting the Black Hills. We ate a pizza-plate sized platter of nachos (called “No Way Out Nachos”) at a restaurant in Deadwood owned by Kevin Costner. I had a soda at the Wall Drug Store. We climbed the highest mountain between the Rockies and the Alps, and [I watched my sister-in-law sit and paint with an intensity that took my breath away.

It would be ten years before I travelled further west, or climbed higher (albeit with the help of a cable car).

Ten years ago this month, I received the most encouraging response yet in my attempt to have an original novel published. Sadly, it didn’t pan out, but I did receive good advice on how to rewrite the book that would become The Unwritten Girl and be published four years later. This month, I finally have an American agent who will help me get Icarus Down ready for submission to publishers in the United States, which is just as exciting, if not more so.

And ten years ago this month, I was still reacting to whackadoodle Christians convinced that the End Times were upon us. My own views on my faith have shifted a bit, but my views on God and the silliness of a grand, predestined, God-ordained apocalypse have not, and I still believe that those Christians or people of other faiths who are cheering on the end of the world have gotten their faith completely wrong. If God is love, then God does not want us to fail, and an apocalypse would be seen as that, in my opinion.

Well, talk about the End Times appears to have faded a bit, now that we’re 12 years after the fears of Y2K and other millennial angst. These days, if the world does end, more than likely it will be seen as the Mayans’ fault. Though, here and now I think most of us realize that’s pretty silly. Our extremely hot summer and our nearly non-existent winter now have more than 70% of Americans convinced of the existence of global warming, but the dialogue is not about the end of the world. Maybe, just maybe, the human race is realizing that we’ve left ourselves a bit of a mess, and while there’s a lot of work ahead to clean things up, it’s work that we will roll up our sleeves and take on. I believe God would smile if we could do that.

My latest Kitchener Post column is now available, here.

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