I like politicians. Not that I’m a political party member, but I’ve met some: As a university student newspaper reporter I interviewed a few; as a citizen in the community I’ve encountered a few; and I’ve conversed with a few Members of the (state) Legislative Assembly, MLA’s, in their offices.
I was standing at our receptionist’s counter showing a colleague a photocopied report of how our agency was so excellent. When my fellow worker asked, “Why the photocopy?” I said I was planning to show it to my MLA, (senator) a young man of the Sikh religion, Manmeet Bullar. That was yesterday. Today I opened my newspaper to find my MLA on the front page. The weather had been terrible on the Queen Elizabeth II highway, with the RCMP asking people to stay off if they didn’t need to travel. Bullar stopped to help a man who had spun out and rolled. He was standing on the shoulder when a transport truck lost control and struck him. He died in hospital.
I am not surprised Bullar died being of service.
The last time I saw Bullar I sat in his office as he shredded papers. This was just a couple months after his party had been almost totally swept from office, retaining only nine seats. While of course he couldn’t help me political-wise, not being in power, he could still help individual constituents; I watched him make a phone call to someone based on my advice. He could still connect people.
I laughed silently, and said, “You’re still here (in office) because people voted for the man, not the party.” I was not, of course, the only one to have told him that. We all liked Manmeet Bullar, and now he’s gone.
I miss him.
And the winter advances.
Next month someone will surely, once again, tell me that all politicians are bad. I won’t deny that some are idiots. Back when I lived in “downtown north” my MLA was so stupid that once when I went to see him I heard an angry voice from down the hall. It was someone I knew, giving the MLA heck. So I walked home and left my friend a phone message: “You go girl!”
It follows there can be foolish politicians at the federal level, and even in the office of the nation’s chief executive. (I appreciated the exposing of the younger President Bush in Oliver Stone’s movie) The trick is to remember that politics starts at the local level.
Back in the 1970’s I chuckled at the warm fuzzy humor in one of Spider Robinson’s short stories about patrons of Callahan’s saloon. The narrator tells of being at home throwing darts at the face of a famous politician. A few lines later he names the politician as being Richard Nixon. Then he says, “You imagined the same face, right?” At the time I laughed… but I’m not laughing now. For the writer’s young target audience, I suppose “Tricky Dick” would be the only bad politician they had ever known, but—citizenship starts at the local level. (Young dart throwers forget Nixon had a vice president, and a secretary of state) It’s a grave mistake to only vote federally, as I have read that some folks do, “because it’s more important.”
I grew up where people were a tad “citizenship challenged.” Half of our aldermen, as I dimly recall (I was a child) were involved in real estate, with our municipality, the largest in the British Commonwealth, being a “bedroom community.” Some sleepers were so lacking in local spirit they took their children away on Halloween to “trick or treat” in the nearby city, to get more candy from denser housing. Decades later, one of those alderman was the provincial premier: (state governor) He ended up having a “—gate” scandal to his name. My point is he started locally, with local sleepers not understanding the need for wide-awake volunteer citizen-oversight to guide young politicians onto the straight and narrow road. I suppose, as my father thought of the fascists when we bombed them during the war, “People get the government they deserve.”
Never mind that premier. Most of our politicians are good. They realize that while campaign promises are in a special territory, promises in their constituency office are as binding as promises between you and me.
It is a cliché that any large group of people you and I find ourselves in will always contain a wide range of the human condition, from “saints to sinners.” Hence the locker rooms in our finest police stations, prisons and priest dormitories contain locks for the lockers.
In my province the party members are plain people like you and me, well-meaning people who, a few years back, stuck the rest of us with a bland mediocre premier, “Steady Eddy.” He didn’t last long. The folks like you and me, from noble farms and towns and cities, stuck us with their third choice of leader because, in their party leadership votes, they lied. Or, to use a euphemism, they “voted strategically.” Well. Let’s not expect our politicians to be any more saintly than you and me in our general lives. Besides, we crucify our saints.
As I finish writing this, a day later, the tributes for Manmeet Bullar are still coming in. Such a good man. He was the politician I liked the best.