Only today matters, apparently - Keith Roulston editorial
Since I’m an old guy with a limited time left on this earth, you’d think I’d be absorbed in the present, yet I find myself depressed by the human propensity to forget the near past and live for the moment.
Apparently, for instance, the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, but as I write this, a little research shows that 16 people died yesterday and more than 1,000 were reported to have contracted the disease in Ontario. Yet, when Jill and I went grocery shopping the other day, far fewer customers and staff wore masks than didn’t. We felt a little out of place, yet we were concerned enough about our health to keep the masks.
Meanwhile, conservative commentators have been attacking our federal government over the size of the deficit in the past couple of years, conveniently forgetting the emergency of the pandemic and the need for extraordinary spending to support businesses that had to close their doors and protect people who could no longer work. Listening to critics, it’s as if the COVID-19 crisis didn’t exist.
If anything’s worse, it’s the situation south of the border. Recent polls suggest President Joe Biden is hugely unpopular and people are likely to vote for the Republicans in the mid-term elections this fall. Voters seem to entirely forget that Republican leaders twisted themselves into pretzels: first condemning the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump who swallowed his propaganda that the election was stolen from him, then arguing that there was no real insurrection at all and the Jan. 6 investigation is just a Democratic Party political stunt.
People today are so upset by the rise in the price of food and gas they’re willing to overlook that Trump-supporting Republican legislators have passed extraordinary laws that will make it harder for the sort of people more likely to vote for the Democrats to vote, and easier to throw out their ballots if they do vote. The price of gas matters more than democracy, apparently.
Part of the reason the cost of living has gone up, of course, is not only the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 fights, but the market interruptions caused by the war in Ukraine. The price of gas, for instance, has risen partly because Europe depended on Russia for much of its petroleum supply and cutting off this revenue for Russia has created a shortage for the rest of the world.
One can hardly blame Ukrainian leaders for worrying that people in the U.S., Canada, Germany and other NATO countries will get tired of the sacrifices they make and turn against governments that support the little country that was attacked by its gigantic, undemocratic neighbour. Already some prominent U.S. leaders like Trump and Senator Rand Paul, who recently held up a vote on a support package to Ukraine, feel Americans should support Russia.
Then, closer to home, there’s the fight over the Conservative Party leadership. Pierre Poilievre, the race’s leader, recently attacked the policies of the Bank of Canada and pledged to replace bank governor Tiff Macklem if he becomes Prime Minister. The trouble is there is a long-held policy of all political parties that the government should not interfere in the bank’s functioning.
Over in Europe, sanity narrowly prevailed as the majority of voters in France supported the moderate Emmanuel Macron, over Marine Le Pen, past supporter of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in the recent presidential election. Meanwhile, of course, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, who has become infamous for his anti-democratic manoeuvres, has threatened to prevent the efforts of ultra-democratic Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
It’s enough to resurrect Winston Churchill’s famous comment that “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” Sometimes, to support democracy, it takes the utmost in good faith that the common man and woman actually know ow to choose who will govern us. And yet, as Churchill said, you only have to look at countries like Russia, where the common people have turned over the decision-making to a dictator, to see the importance of democratic choice.
But democracy depends on a public that makes an effort to make the right choice. To make a wise choice we need to make the effort to learn before we go into the voting poll. It’s ironic that we have more information and opinion thrown at us today than at any time in history. Too many people choose the comfort of only listening to the people they agree with, and not listening to a wide variety of news.
We’re coming up to a test of democracy in Ontario with the provincial election. Get out and vote – and think about who you support.