Friday, February 29, 2008

Informed Dissent

I was pleasantly surprised during a recent political conversation with a co-worker. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's name came up, and the fellow I was talking with made a mild disparaging remark about him. I don't even remember what it was now; just that it was obvious he had some distaste for Harper.

On more than a couple of occasions when this has happened, I've asked the person making that sort of remark exactly what they don't like about Harper. Never before had I gotten a real answer.

Usually I get a reply like, "He's soooo right-wing." When I ask the obvious followup question, for an example of Harper's ultra-rightness, they have nothing substantive. "He's homophobic." Oh, is that why he didn't bother putting up any fight at all on gay 'marriage'? "He's anti-choice." Ahh, that must be why he's reportedly warned all his Members of Parliament that no bills limiting abortion are to be presented.

I once had someone tell me that they didn't like Conservatives (or maybe conservatives) because "they're anti-everything." My reply was, "They're actually anti- the same number of things anyone is, and they're pro- just as many things as they're anti-, because being anti- anything means being pro- its opposite."

I had a heck of a time washing the gray matter out of my hair and clothes after their head exploded trying to parse that.

Once confronted with facts counter to the CBC's talking points and engaged in actual painful thought, Harper's nonfans usually say something like, "Well, he's.....ummm..... he's just scary."

Nice to see that those ridiculous attack ads during the last election actually worked on a few people. Barnum was right, there's lots of profit in treating people like idiots. They'll often live down to it, and reward you with their dollars - or their votes.

Actually, I thought those ads were hilarious. They were so far over the top that I would have expected to trace them to conservatives (note the small "c", it's deliberate) mocking liberal (again, capitalization counts) histrionics. You can read about them here, including transcripts of most of them, but you really won't get the full effect unless you read the text aloud in your lowest, most ominous, watch-out-kids-I'm-the-boogeyman voice.

As a sidebar, as someone who's actually out on the right wing of most issues, I find many of Harper's policies weak and very disappointing. Especially the two issues I noted back in my third paragraph. Those mushy positions may help him get elected, but they certainly don't impress real conservatives (do I need to point out the lack of capitalization every time? No? Good, I'll stop.). He's good on defense, though, and I've liked some of his economic policies. While I'm not a Harper cheerleader, and won't become one unless he spines up a bit on a few core issues, I think we could do a whole lot worse. For instance, the leaders of any of the other major Canadian political parties, who range from useless and benign to full-blown loopy.

Back to the conversation.

After the mild anti-Harper remark, I asked this fellow for a concrete example of what he doesn't like about Harper. My usual, "Can you tell me something he's done that you don't like, or that he hasn't done that you want him to?"

I have to give him full credit - he had two actual, concrete, valid examples. I was duly impressed.

He said that first, Canada's troops should not be in Afghanistan and should be withdrawn immediately. I disagree with that, but it's a legitimate, defensible position. (Although I'd like our troops home as soon as feasible, an immediate total withdrawal would be a death sentence for a whole lot of innocent, peaceable civilians as the savages take advantage of the "force vacuum" and conquer, rape and pillage to their heart's content. Regardless of how the situation reached that point, that's how it is now. If our troops can prevent that, then I would like them to. This also sums up how I feel about the U.S. in Iraq at this point.)

Second, he believes, and doesn't like, that Harper's campaign received financial support from the American Republican party. I don't know if that's true and don't much care, but again, it's a legitimate position at which a thinking person could arrive. My only objection, if this allegation is correct, would be that ideally foreign interests should not be interfering with Canadian elections regardless of the ideological positions of the foreign supporters or the domestic supported. However, since there's probably no way to prevent foreign interests from at least speaking their minds, thereby potentially influencing the electorate, without at least attempting to stomp all over freedom of speech, then we'll have to live with it. Hearing Michael Moore put in his two cents on Canada's election is a small price to pay for preserving our fundamental freedom of expression.

Getting to talk with someone who holds legitimate, thoughtful objections to Stephen Harper's administration was so unusual that I felt it worth writing about. That should tell you something about the normal level of political discourse around these parts.

Enough rambling. Here's another picture of my DVD-ROM drive, disassembled at this point, after a CD-ROM shattered in it (see previous entry).

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