Headlines in major papers are often a useful signpost into a culture. They often point to what the public calls a major scandal, a blow-up of a public building, as happened unfortunately in Oslo, Norway, just down the street from the offices of the Nobel Peace Prize, followed a couple of hours later by shots fired at the children of Labour Party members at a children's summer camp, where a man dressed as a policeman began shooting children as if they were fish in a swimming pool.
Another headline in several North American papers this weekend, points to the impasses between House Speaker John Beohner (R) and President Obama, who have become the two opposing voices in the debt/deficit reduction politics in Washington.
However, sometimes it is the smaller signs that will never be featured on the front page of a major daily that demands attention for their sheer vacuity. Living on the border between the U.S. and Canada, (on the Canadian side) and riding a ferry each morning to and from work on one of the "Thousand Islands," I am privy to some American tourists who are taking the same ride. Their cars are parked for roughly twenty plus minutes for the brief ride, and in July many passengers wander the decks just to catch the breeze.
This week, two SUV's, one from Arizona the other from Oregon, proudly displayed stickers on their rear doors. The Arizona Ford Escape's political statement read: "I'll keep the the guns, the money and my freedom...you keep the change!" Immediately I thought of Congresswoman Jeffords who was shot while holding a meet-and-greet in Arizona, and wondered just what danger lurked with this influx of obviously rich and obviously Republican tourists coming into Canada. I wanted to approach the driver and tell him how much his sticker offended me, and I would hope most Canadians, but thought better of engaging in any kind of open conflict with one so power-driven. Does he anticipate a robbery some time soon? And does he wish to warn his potential intruder...about the terms he will accept in the exchange?
And then the Ford Flex from Oregon bore a different sticker. It read: "Fire Nancy Pelosi!"
Another Republican, obviously, proudly declaring her disdain, even contempt, for the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives, formerly Speaker of that august chamber.
And I realized the depth, even if it costs only a few dollars to puchase such graffiti to stick to the rear of a car, of the political animosity that has become 'normal' in the U.S.
I smile when I read a letter to the editor from a Canadian, 'selected' as he put it, to complete the long-form census, now virtually discontinued by the federal government of Stephen Harper, because it was considered 'invasive' even though there were barely a few dozen complaints. He wrote in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail that he did not believe he had the time or the inclination to fill the form out, given its treatment by the government. That kind of personal political power I really admire.
Currently there is a spate of letters in Toronto papers throwing legitimate political darts at another neo-con, the current mayor, who sees a gravy train flowing down most streets and through the offices of city hall, and has declared war on "the gravy". He is threatening to "buy out" about one third of city workers and cut city services, "without raising taxes" (that word that only the right wing can utter, but never beside the word "raise". So it is easy to see that the Republican venom washes from Washington north across the border into Canada, and, like a poison virus, has launced itself in the vocabulary of Canadian political leaders (Mayor Ford who enthusiastically endorsed the current Prime Minister) and the Harper-PM himself.
And, everyone knows that those on the left do not traditionally purchase those acid bumper stickers, nor do we purchase, or seek to purchase more guns, more jets, more prisons...in lieu of comprehensive crime prevention and rehabilitation programs. And so no one is likely to see bumper stickers on liberal cars that read: "Beohner for Dog Catcher," or "Ford for Foot-Patrol Cop" or "Raising Taxes is fun 'cause it risks the coronaries of all neo-cons!"
Instead, we are more likely to watch a growing chorus of new "Obama/Biden for 2012" stickers appearing on all cars whose drivers would be a delight to invite for a drink.