Friday, 22 April 2011

My Obama Spring: Regime Change in Canada

I love the CBC, and still I have to admit, the CBC does as much to divide as to unite Canadians.

I remember my enthusiasm when the new news channel was announced, thinking they would do the obvious thing-- allow people of all regions to hear the local news of people of all regions, surely the most efficient and simplest, cheapest way of filling in all those hours. Thus, I could know what's what for my friends and family in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and my friends in the North, Nova Scotia & Alberta, and the regions that I hadn't visited yet...

Alas, through force of the mesmeric effect of US television & politics on the people (some of the people) of CBC, coupled with tigthening budgets, and an excellent expression of the ongoing effects of US cultural domination on the rest of the world, what they've given me is 24-hour access to four headlines, repeated ad naseum, by Ontario pundits who do not know how much earlier the spring arrives on Lulu island than it does in Toronto. One to four of those four headlines is guaranteed to be about Obama, the US, or an American on drugs (as if we haven't enough of our own to talk about).

So, something new under the sun: the pundits are expressing amazement with Jack Layton's popularity in Quebec. Well, I have to say I have a lot in common with the people of Quebec, as a child of prairie French Catholicism, and I am culturally starved for the movies and dramas that reflect a francophonie that is far wider than that one province-nation.  In the last election I only wanted to vote for Giles Duceppe, and wasn't allowed to because I live in British Columbia.  This time around, it is our Obama-- Jack Layton-- who is speaking to me. He is the only one who has a solid vision built slowly and refined over fifty years-- as many years as I have myself lived, as many years as First Nations people have had the right to vote without losing legal identity as First Nations (status)-- and while the CBC is surprised, I am not: Canadians are more than ready to rise & shine.

We don't want to wait for clean water, human rights, or secure Canada-centric programming on public tv, programming that is not strained so thoroughly through an Anglo lens, but is wide open to all Canada's regions and communities, all of the nations within nations, and all the wide swathe of confluent humanity.

We don't want a government that survives by dividing and terrifying people, obfuscating reality with platitudes & placation, increasing the wealth of the wealthiest and supporting the wrong roads of the world-- all wealth to the bankers! pay the auto-workers & starve the fishermen, foresters, sealers & farmers!  We don't want a prime minister who emulates Putin & tries to rip-off Lennon, while making big gestures of apology and remaining recalcitrant in basic human rights for all the people of Canada, including the occasional child soldier sent off to Guantanamo. We don't want to keep watching the cynical buy-outs of some communities, and the silent disdain of many others-- i should send half my lost teeth to Ottawa, as a memento to the Harper Conservatives, and the other half to Gordon Campbell to drop into the drinks he enjoys on Hawaiian roads.*

Jack Layton, I think, understands the deep insult to the Tamils of Sri Lanka, and of Canada, to have Canada stand aside for the vanquishing, then sneer-- media & politicos alike-- at the refugees women and children and men, using the boatload of refugees not to bolster the very problematic reputation of "Canada the Good," but to whip up terror and insecurity at home: I have a young friend who watched the arrival of young Tamils in a BC prison, touched by observing the first amazing encounter of young men and snow.

There is a wider reality to Canada that needs to be honoured. We are people first. Everything else is a complex second, and it is only a problem if we decide to allow it to be so.

Here is a great interview that comes from the Canada that I know, and from the CBC: consider spending 20 minutes listening to the Canada known by Paul Seesequasis, which is a lot more familliar to most of us than the political commentaries that are proscribed to only two founding nations (both European), religions (both Euro+Christian), languages (both west European-descent) in Canada, and that nary the twain shall meet: the Canadians comfortable and even thriving in truth & plurality don't get a whole lot of airtime, it seems to me.

To listen: Paul Seesequasis, The Next Chapter

Image & quote from

Canada the Wicked is an international embarassment. Canada the Good is the other side of the same (precisely the same) collective character. APTN News is an amazing discovery for long time Canadians who've never heard the news from indigenous perspectives, despite generations of open-minded pleasantries, probably much moreso than for new Canadians from everywhere. 

The Obama Spring had a wide effect in the hearts of Canadians, even my late father wished him well. (That shouldn't have surprised me, and it did.)  Here is my favourite Obama-related video:

Do Canadians really need the news filtered through a Canadian-relevance lens, or can we hear the metaphors of the world, singing ourselves toward a better understanding of ourselves?

Now, listen again to the words of a Somali-Canadian poet, and imagine how the tale he tells captures the feelings of a barefoot cast-off mixed-blood girl in the prairie grass, in rural Manitoba, mid-1970s:

K'naan on Q performing Wavin' Flag: 
video removed

She grew up to be a voter, travelling a different path from all those vying for leadership of the country today, but she knows who she trusts & she knows what's important, immediately. This video, gift of the CBC & Qtv, is another gift from Ontario, and if you have a lot of time, and are looking for a cultural studies topic to write your next book or thesis on, analyze the versions of the song, from the heart (i-thou, this version), to the one from Canada for Haiti, to the one from K'naan via Fifa World Cup, to the one for all the latter day buffalo soldiers... the world is wide, wonderful, wicked, and scary sometimes.

History is both fierce & tremendous: it is under your feet, you are walking history into being.

Go vote.

*For my wish list from politicos, see Conversation BC 
For more about the last voting day, see Thankful~2008 
For more about Canadian media, visit Kai Nagata, "Why I quit my job"

With thanks to the contributors of Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out who shared song & story in Vancouver last night, and to the women and men of music, humour, and word, who shared at the most recent Red Jam Slam, also in Vancouver last night. Special thanks to Andrea Thompson for coming to the coast & to the Rhizome Cafe for providing their steadfast home-away-from-home safe zone, and to Gunargie O'Sullivan, Patsy Burnsyerwagon & Patrika McEvoy, and all the other mothers of the world.


Joanne Arnott said...

I did set out to Richmond City Hall, and cast my vote for Dale Jackaman, NDP. My other choices were Alice Wong, Conservative incumbent, Joe Peschisolido, a one-time Reform member who was elected Conservative and then crossed the floor (once elected) to the Liberal side of the floor, underlining how inter-changeable these parties are, Michael Wolfe, a young Green party candidate who I enjoyed some conversation with in 2008, and Dale Jackaman.

Unlike any other local candidate, Dale has been actively pursuing the political well-being of this region for some forty years, has consistently run under the NDP banner in the last four elections (three federal, one provincial), is a strong proponent of human rights and actively works to maintain separation between church/faith and state, and is a proponent of free speech, even for government scientists and other employees. I am absolutely sure that Dale & I would not see eye-to-eye on every issue, and, he is by far the better choice for this specific region.

Dale Jackaman said...

Thank you! I am also glad that someone notices.


Joanne Arnott said...

It's all in the public record, Dale-- anyone who wants to look beneath the spin can do what I did, and find out for themselves.