By E.P. Whinters, Guest Columnist.
We are 6 weeks away from the Federal Election and the polls say the results will be different than any past Canadian election; what world that will lead us into is anyone’s guess. What I do know is that in these last six weeks, it seems that bullying has become acceptable. Everywhere you look and read, we will be able to read a litany of name-calling, of insulting, of character attacks. “Everyone has the right to be respected and the responsibility to respect others” (Bullying.org), but they should add “… except in politics. There, you can bully, attack and disrespect all you want, especially if it’s directed to one person in particular.” We should be voting for the party and what the party stands for, but it has become a mud-slinging fest against the leaders, and none of them are innocent. How can we try to teach our children one thing while they see the opposite in the world around them? When they hear it from their parents at home?
In a quick Internet search, there are many articles that lead one to believe that bullying in politics is a growing concern. We demand to eliminate bullying in schools, we are becoming aware of bullying in the workplace and policies are put in place to deal with these incidents. But have an election, a provincial or federal, and somewhere the rules change. How many times have you heard or read about Prime Minister’s “incompetence” or his “failure” or how “his actions have shamed Canada”, Trudeau is insulted for his ignorance, foolish comments (“The budget will balance itself”) and his pretty-boy looks, and Mulcair’s dirty laundry gets aired (his remortgaging of his home how many times? and his irresponsibility towards the French). The fact is that neither of these last two men have made national decisions, so only their character can be attacked, where Harper has made (and been pressured to make) national decisions so his leadership character is called into question. The fact is economies around the globe are disintegrating and countries are in financial crisis and we have floated above most of it until now, until the global oil price bottomed out. My observation suggests that all parties are manipulating our thinking, giving us ½ truths, omitting their part in the last 9 months of Canadian history, avoiding anything that will give Joe Canada the whole picture, and when they point a finger, they ignore and deflect those 3 fingers pointing back at them. And, like lemmings, Joe Canada picks up the war cry and continues the attack, without asking for proof and without realizing they have now stepped into the Bully Ring themselves.
Is this what we want to teach our children? That it’s ok to insult and demean and attack others when it’s a certain arena? That it’s ok to base judgement on others without obtaining the full story? There was an incident in Paris a few months ago, where a publication printed “insulting” (or was that satirical?) cartoons and the target took offense and death came to an office that day. There are countless incidents from schools where students target and insult another (or is that free speech?) and the target takes offense and commits suicide. There are examples from the political arena where supporters of one group are targeted and attacked, verbally and physically, and should we let that go because they support the person that is targeted as ignorant or incompetent? (“They deserve it if they’re going to support him!” I overheard.)
I know of a situation in Calgary where a family posted a Conservative sign. In the wee hours of the morning, they were awakened to the banging on their door from a passing taxi driver. Someone had set fire to the sign and had there not been a passing taxi driver at that moment in time, one who had compassion on his neighbour, regardless of who was voting for whom, the damage could have been devastating, for this family as well as their neighbours. (A beautiful part to this horrible story is that the national campaign advisors as well as PM Harper himself have kept in touch and supported this family through this attack.) Another vandalism story is of a Calgarian woman who had put up a number of Conservative signs on her lawn; one night, they were all removed and replaced with NDP signs. I know of another situation where a woman was caught defacing and destroying signs from a political party that she disagreed with; someone from that party caught her and made a citizen’s arrest for vandalism. I know my social media feeds are filled with something close to hatred for one leader or another. This is only in one city in one province and I can’t believe these are isolated incidences. What is happening? Has this become acceptable? Because the target is the party we hate, does that make this behaviour ok?
On a site about workplace bullying, identifiers include: criticising a person, intimidating a person, persistently or constantly belittling a person’s opinions and spreading malicious rumours, gossip, threatening physical harm or innuendo that is not true. The fact is that what is being spread, for all three parties, their leaders and their supporters, is malicious, it is misleading and it certainly omits the whole picture. The world is in an economically difficult place, a place that we haven’t seen since the Depression, and it might get worse yet. To blame it all on one person and one party, ignoring the fact that 5 of the 9 years were a minority government in which the other two parties pressured the Conservatives to do what they wanted, and now their claim of Canadian destruction is fully due to incompetence and dishonesty of one person? And thus, the Canadian population is justified in vilifying and attacking one person? Where is the honour in that? Where is the compassion in that? Hateful words are turning into hate-filled action.
As written earlier, no one party is above this example. If it was, that party would get my vote. But each party – the NDPs, the Liberals and the Conservatives – is in full swing … against each other. And if I may say, that’s a horrible example to set and an even more horrible example in which to contribute and participate. If we insist on eliminating bullying in schools and in the workplace, we need to insist on eliminating it everywhere else in our society, including our political arena. When you live one way in one area of your life and not in another, it’s called hypocrisy … and if we pressure our government, regardless of which party, to stop something, it needs to be this. We need to stop being hypocrites. Bullying will never end in our youth if we don’t set the example and have it end for adults. Maybe it’s time we send a letter to our MP, and to those vying for MP … sure, use it to make a request for what you think is important in this election, but also include a statement to stop the hateful, hurtful, and mean-spirited attacks that are coming out of their mouths. To borrow from a bullying website: Be the change you want to see; Make bullying stop.