One nation united in logical impairment

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When the Great Rending of Canadian culture occurred is hard to say, exactly. It’s easy to locate the momentous event in one of the terms of office enjoyed by Stephen Harper and crew of grumpy old men and women. They helped it along, of course, but they didn’t start the tear in the tissue of society.

At some point, years before the Great Recession exposed the nasty truth for all to see – the rich really do get richer, and the poor really do get poorer – we began to separate into two camps, a process that lazy mainstream media was all to happy to enable with facile headlines and preposterous sound bites.

On one side of the moat sauntered the educated elites, the vile progressives, the evil socialists – the loathsome Liberal establishment.

On the other bank stood the underschooled commoners, the conspiracy theorists, the science-doubting bootstrappers – the reactionary Conservative outliers.

These might have remained only convenient stereotypes to feed late-night standup comics their gag lines. But, somewhere along the line, we began to believe the characterizations about ourselves.

And while some of us pranced around displaying our Keynesian colours, spouting good-government bromides, a goodly number of us actually became the blunt-nosed, opinionated hardliners we were said to be. Indeed, suddenly, we were proud to count ourselves among such company.

On the subject of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford – now stripped of many of his official powers, though his Conservative bonafides reportedly go all the way to the Prime Minister’s Office – a reader recently wrote to The Globe and Mail.

“There is a coup at city hall in Toronto, no different than in some Middle Eastern country, except they stopped before there was bloodshed,” he observed. “They have done a marvellous job of character assassination on Mayor Rob Ford. Meanwhile, in your front-page index, you reported that ‘no one in Ottawa has offered an apology – or an explanation – for the apparent disappearance of $3.1 billion that had been allocated for anti-terrorism projects.’ Well, maybe Rob Ford should become prime minister.”

Another reader, writing in a different publication, suggested that Mr. Ford’s crack smoking, public drunkenness and violent outbursts were all tolerable as long as he continued to put the boots to the true enemies of the people: liberals.

The ironies, in all of this, abound, too numerous to count. But Globe columnist Jeffrey Simpson did his level best the other day when he wrote, “You can see the contradictions everywhere in the Conservative/conservative world. Conservatives who support Mr. Ford are the ‘tough on crime’ voters of the kind also targeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. You would logically assume therefore that a mayor who confesses to having broken laws – smoking crack cocaine, for example – would be just the sort of public person the Conservatives/conservatives would revile. Apparently not.”

This syndrome of systematic logic-impairment, however, extends far beyond the gates of fair TO.

No real thinking is required (in fact, none is preferable) of the jerky-kneed, law-and-order type who likes the cut of Mr. Harper’s jib as he pilots his penal reform agenda through society.

Actual crime in the streets may be at an all-time low, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon our plans to send more people to jail for increasingly minor offences (such as possession of marijuana) over the next several years.

Actual prisons in this country face what Correctional Services Canada now calls “imminent” threats related to “the risk and implications of serious failure of physical infrastructure, critical to life safety, security, operations, and occupant health.” Again, though, that doesn’t mean we should spend the billion-or-so bucks to upgrade them.

Let the bad guys suffer. Who cares if we turn them into very type of people we find we must keep locked behind bars at the extraordinary expense of the one thing we truly care about: our personal bank accounts?

Where is the moderate middle when you need one?

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