What stories are central to our political passion?


In my federal voting life, I have voted only for the Liberal party.

When I suggested that as the opening sentence for my next column, my two eldest granddaughters, 18 and 20, immediately began guessing at the percentage of readership that would immediately write me off, or condemn me to the fiery depths.

As I look and listen at what political discourse has become, maybe it’s time to risk that condemnation. In Canada we sort through the apoplectic rhetoric and actions that grew out of differing opinions about managing a pandemic, and now in Europe folks are dying or being displaced because we haven’t learned the lessons of solving differing views respectfully.

So I’ll give it a go.

I’m a first generation Canadian born citizen. My people have not yet celebrated a hundred years here. My mother frequently reminded us that her father taught his children to vote Liberal, as gratitude for the policies of William Lyon Mackenzie King’s government that allowed the doors to remain open just long enough for my people to squeak in. Our families represented a culture and language (German) that was somewhat threatening in the late twenties, and a religion (Mennonite) that asked for unusual accommodation. I think it has worked well for both parties.

That Liberal bias, however, got a little more complicated in the late sixties, when Pierre Trudeau arrived on the scene. My father’s family culture had no idea what to do with “jaunty,” it was probably interpreted as “acting smart,” not a good thing. One of the lessons from the family immigration was keeping your head down, never drawing attention to yourself. “Acting smart” was strongly discouraged. However, I was a rebelling teenager at that moment, so PET became a hero. I attended university in a denim vest with “Fuddle Duddle” scrawled across my back. Google it.

As exploration of faith became a more significant part of my life, political reality was tossed into that thinking. And big L liberalism came out looking pretty good. A significant part of my understanding of spirituality is that of inclusion, welcoming the alien, the widow, the leper, folks on the edge. Beyond my family’s experience, and that of my Doukhobor friend, there is a readiness to open doors and wallets when global neighbours are in need. Certainly there are difficult stories within the Indigenous history, stories in which nobody comes out clean, but steps toward reconciliation and justice are, in my experience, mostly connected to centrist governing. Equally, if progressive reform is to happen in the justice system, keeping us all safer and saner, it has/will come from the center. Same sex inclusion touches our family directly.

Here in the west, elections are like beating my head against a wall. I discover the name of my candidate as I unfold my ballot, a candidate typically parachuted in from the university. Few resources are spent here. I get that.

What of our leader, Justin Trudeau? The vitriol thrown his way is confounding. He is one person, making the best decisions he can. All of our political governments have had an unprecedented and difficult slog these past years. While decisions made were not always the ones I might make, who am I to arrogantly assume that I’m smarter, more morally astute, that I or my group alone is aware of facts that should dictate the next decision? If the national press interpreted my every step and word in order to sell copy, it could be gruesome.

This is my story. I challenge you to tell yours. What stories are central to your political passion? Are there spiritual imperatives that point toward a political expression? What has been life giving to you as you watch our country move in ways that feel holy and good? I suggest God isn’t found in any one expression. That’s what makes it fun and challenging. Can we talk about, write about, listen to, our political passions in a way that respects, honours, builds up? Can we listen to learn, not to argue?

“Make your tents large! Spread out! Think big!” That’s a Biblical challenge.

Let’s talk, and listen. I’m open to respectful and hopeful conversation. Maybe even conversion.