Letters from Green Island

March 21 08

Our own Obama?!? Look around!!

Dear Mr Hepburn,
Re: Longing for an Obama of our own

(original story also copied at the end of this letter)

Why don't Canadians have an Obama, you ask? Well, I'm surprised, as a senior writer in the Canadian media, you would be so puzzled. Let me help enlighten you. The simple answer is, we don't have an Obama at this time, because Obama's are entirely media creations, and the Canadian media, for whatever reason, have decided that Canada isn't going to have an Obama at this time.

You say that there are many issues in Canada requiring leadership at this time - "...We have troops dying in Afghanistan; our environment is deteriorating; our cities are crumbling; poverty is rampant; our medicare system is under siege..."

Hmmm, perhaps you've been hiding under a rock, but there is a Canadian leader of a Canadian political party who has been talking, and quite eloquently, even written a book about one of the most important of them, about solutions for these problems for several years now - solutions that are actually in line with what most Canadians think, according to all polls. The man is very intelligent, very camera-presentable, very well known in Canada, and, as I noted, has a position on all of these issues that a majority of Canadians agree with. Odd you don't even mention his name here, isn't it?

The thing is, if the Canadian media actually wanted to make an Obama out of Jack Layton, you could and would do so. Instead of continually writing him off as 'just another damned socialist' and marginalizing him, he'd be getting front page coverage every day, with praise for his ideas from editorial pages and columnists, great photo ops, interviews with his parents and family and friends about what a great guy he was and how he really loves to help people, interviews with 'ordinary' Canadians who 'never met the guy!' but by golly they sure thought he deserved a chance, interviews with visitors to Canada saying all kinds of laudatory things, and etc and etc and etc - the selling job you all do so well of anyone you want to make a personality. You're no stranger to this sort of thing - for the last year Harper has been getting great coverage and Dion has been getting lousy coverage - some of us observe these things and have noted the many, many pictures of Harper looking cool and in control, and the many many pictures of Dion looking flustered and lost, and etc with general story POV. Coincidental? I hardly think so. The Canadian media doing their very best to create the Canadian narrative? Now that sounds about right.

Or (back to Layton), rather than building him up as 'Canada's visionary Obama yea yea yea!!!', and making sure everyone knew that he and the NDP were really the party of Canadians, and their policies were the policies most Canadians agreed with, and he was the Great Shining Hope for Canadians etc etc - you could shove him into the margins by doing more or less what you have been doing all along - ignoring him as much as possible, giving him and his ideas and the party itself no more than the most nominal coverage, giving your readers the impression that he and the NDP aren't really serious players here, go away folks, little amusement, Canada's a free country so people like Layton and the NDP are allowed to have their fun and talk about their outdated socialist ideas but there's really nothing here to pay any attention to, and etc and etc - and now back to our REAL coverage, what the 'serious' players, the Libs and Cons, the 'only *real* choices!, are up to today yea!! Oh, look at that loser Dion again!! And how about this picture of Harper looking oh-so-leader-looking!! on the front page!!

You say that ".. Currently, we have a disengaged and disinterested electorate.." - well, why would that be? Might it be because you are trying to push corporate politicians, corporate parties and corporate policies on the public, things which they have had altogether enough of the last 20 years and do NOT particularly want any more of - more 'free trade', more corporate rule and lower corporate taxes, more reduced government services and more privatisation, smaller government, more Afghanistan, closer ties to the US, and etc and etc - the very things Layton opposes, and most Canadians oppose - but their rulers want. And the mainstream media speaks for the rulers, and not most Canadians. So what do Canadians do? You tell them not to vote for the damned dangerous tired-idea, past-their-prime, Luddite socialists, and they still have enough training, and trust from years gone by when the media was much more responsible and trustworthy, to listen to the media and take some guidance therefrom, so although the NDP speaks for most Canadians in every major policy option facing the country today, without the support, indeed with the active opposition, of most of the media, they're hesitant to vote for them - but they're not willing to vote for parties and politicians which have been lying to them for so long, and doing things they don't want done either, and they no longer have any trust in - so they just stop voting.

Ah well, no point in me going on much further, the points are obvious enough, and the Star is never going to print a letter like this.

You might long for an Obama, Mr Hepburn - but there's a lot of us out here longing for a decent Canadian media, supporting Canada for Canadians rather than trying to get us all to become corporate American worker bees loving corporate American tweedledee-dum politicians.


Longing for an Obama of our own
Mar 20, 2008 04:30 AM
Bob Hepburn

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Why doesn't Canada have its own version of Barack Obama?

Many Canadians have been asking that question ever since Obama launched his presidential campaign complete with his spell-binding speeches, his slogan of "Yes We Can," and his promise of real change in America.

That question became more obvious after listening to Obama, who is trying to become the first black U.S. president, deliver a bold and passionate speech on Tuesday that confronted head-on the deep racial divisions that have long existed in the United States.

In the speech, which he gave in a bid to address a campaign uproar sparked by controversial comments by his former pastor, Obama talked of anger that persists among black Americans, of the resentments of white Americans, of how America is stuck in "a racial stalemate."

It was the type of speech you never hear from Canadian politicians tough, poignant and addressing a serious issue that touches the lives of every citizen and that far too many people, politicians included, want to ignore or dismiss.

Can you imagine Stephen Harper weighing in passionately on the debate raging in Quebec over "reasonable accommodation" of immigrants moving to that province?

Even in America, rarely does a candidate such as Obama come along, one with a real chance of winning and who can energize politics, who can inspire a generation of new voters, who can allow a nation to believe, maybe naively, that change for the better is possible.

In my years as the Star's Washington correspondent, I never saw such a candidate. Jesse Jackson came close, but he had no hope of winning. Ronald Reagan had a folksy charm, but little else other than a desire to cut down the role of government. Michael Dukakis? The first George Bush?

What makes Obama so different?

And why isn't there a Canadian equivalent?

Obama clearly has the ability to inspire people in a way no Canadian leader has done since Pierre Trudeau. He is seen almost as a rock star, able to fill arenas with 20,000 madly cheering supporters, as Trudeau did in the late 1960s.

Everywhere he goes, Obama sells himself as a change agent. He is pushing progressive policies, promoting health care, rebuilding cities, jobs, getting American troops out of Iraq. He is influencing people around the world.

But his biggest asset is his ability to mobilize and motivate young Americans. This election season, young adults are much more actively involved in the U.S primary elections, and they are choosing Obama over Hillary Clinton, herself an attractive candidate, by margins ranging up to four-to-one.

To fight Obamamania, Clinton supporters portray Obama as a great orator who looks and sounds good, but is all style, no substance.

In sharp contrast to Obama, Canadian political leaders are seen as uncharismatic. And too often Canadians dismiss U.S. politics as too celebrity- and money-driven, where stars and cash count more than principles and policies.

Yet we need our own Obama.

We need someone who can excite the public. Currently, we have a disengaged and disinterested electorate. This disinterest is reflected in the abysmally low voter turnout in federal and provincial elections.

At the same time, though, we face huge national and local issues.

We have troops dying in Afghanistan; our environment is deteriorating; our cities are crumbling; poverty is rampant; our medicare system is under siege.

But voters see our present national leaders as lacking. Harper is viewed as cold, almost as if he preferred to read his technical briefing books rather than meet with people. St?phane Dion is seen as dedicated, but aloof and rigid.

Obama may not win the presidency or even the Democratic nomination. Not everyone in America is swept up in Obamamania and Clinton is a formidable opponent. There is also the issue of whether America is ready to elect either a black or a woman as president.

But he has brought hope and energy to American politics.

Hopefully that energy, especially among younger voters, will eventually flow north into our politics.

Bring on Obamamania right here in Canada!
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