As a Canadian, I tend to regard American politics with the same disdain one reserves for a far off acquaintance who's no longer doing so well. Like when you hear someone from your elementary school fell into a rock quarry and so can't teach Zumba anymore. You sort of go, “Oh, drag! From what I heard, she was really into that! I kind of almost feel bad!”
But recently, a friend pointed out that American politics are closer to our own than any of us Canucks would like to think. Be it commerce, ecology, or international relations, we follow in the steps of our American brothers and often screw it up worse than they have. This concerns me. There are uniquely Canadian things I am quite proud of (gay marriage, health care, the Tim Horton's Maple Cinnamon French Toast Bagel), but it seems we are so desperate for a national identity and so in the pocket of American commerce and culture, that to affect political change here at home, we must venture south of the border.
Dream: Become President of the United States.
Goal: Achievable. My cursory knowledge of the major Republican candidates for President leads me to believe I am superior to them in nearly every way. And I get the sense that people are eying Obama up like one does a new boyfriend. “I thought he'd be different than the last guy, but he's so like him! Why do I always end up with guys like these? Dammit, Colleen, get it together!”
Plan: Present a platform so enticing as to secure not just a late-in-the-race nomination, but a landslide victory. Incorporate the following campaign promises:
Healthcare. How in the world can this still be a thing? As I understand it, under the current system, a sick American might as well blow his nose into hundred dollar bills. Is the underlying goal to bankrupt the sick? To what end? Even if you're the greediest, no-heartiest evil genius, how do you benefit when a sick person must spend exorbitantly to treat himself? Dude gets sick, loses his job and home in pursuit of medical relief, cannot afford to return to health and so dies, so the strongest survive. Besides the fact that such a concept is inherently Darwinian which flies in the face of these blowhard Creationists, it ultimately harms everyone. By not treating that which kills him, the American government implicitly supports either the spread of his illness through contagion, or the pervasiveness of his disease because no scientist is inventing a vaccine because there's no money to pay for it. I'm surprised polio isn't still at thing over there. And all right, maybe I can possibly understand the twisted notion that one must work hard for his paycheque which he can then use to pay for medical bills and so optimum health is the incentive for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and all of that, but seriously, not even kids? A child can't get a job! A child has no bootstraps! You're going to blame child's parents crappy jobs for child's sickness? “Ooooh, sorry, Janie, but your Mom lost her health insurance bennies at Quizno's, so please leave right now and try not to cough on anyone.”
Corporate greed. I lack even a basic understanding of economics, so if the subject of banking starting coming up too often, I'd change to subject by appearing to separate my thumb, or making my pencil look like rubber, or just kiss some hands and shake some babies until the topic was dropped. However, I could enforce this one rule. Company bonuses cannot exceed the funds available to their least wealthy client. So if, for instance, you keep granting loans to some poor sucker drowning in debt, and you realize with overdraft and credit cards, he can only spend eighty dollars before he's completely out of cash, you can give three executives a twenty dollar bonus and spend the remaining twenty on a party sub for the holiday celebration.
Media reform. Pundits can be forgiven slants and opinions, but to call yourself a news program and claim journalistic objectivity in the face of spin or slander should be taken far more seriously. I'm not just ragging on Fox News here, but any nightly program where somebody sits behind a desk and tries to tell us stuff about the world. Let's prioritize, people! For instance, if a bunch of people are imprisoned, beaten, or killed without just cause, maybe push the piece about Beyonce back a half hour. And free speech is a right, but a platform for hatred shouldn't be. I'm so irritated when a guest on a panel show says something racist, homophobic, or sexist and is neither dismissed, nor challenged. Bigotry should not be a considered opinion. “Should gay people be allowed to raise children?” should be given no more discussion time than “Should all tacos be made by a dog?” And, as much as I hate these talking-head shows, let's give an extra half-hour to list every source cited. The O'Reilly Factor will run an impressive ninety minutes under my leadership because he and his guests must read a concise, easily confirmed bibliography to back up each claim made during the broadcast. For every improperly cited source, The O'Reilly Factor or Glenn Beck's running time will be reduced by five minutes. Trust me, they'll be hosting five minute program interstitials by November 10th.
Reproductive rights. I know what a woman wants to do with her own body is a complicated issue but... oh no, wait, when you say it like that, it's not complicated at all. But there are those who will continue to fight tirelessly, most of them men (biiiig presidential eye-roll here), to deny a woman the right to terminate her pregnancy. Lucky for both sides, I have a solution. If you're going to hold a picket sign at a clinic, call your congressman, attend pro-life rallies, etc., you must be able to put your money where your mouth is. You must be willing and able to take and raise the baby of a pregnant woman who is unable to care for it herself. You must fill out a series of forms with your address, phone number, income, all that stuff, and check daily for a baby on your doorstep. If you're unwilling yourself to care for any baby you are fighting hard to protect, turn in your sign and mind your own damn business.
Gay rights. To deny rights to a gay person is to deny human rights and the failure to grant human rights is something American routinely invades other countries for, so we need to let gay Americans marry each other and raise kids lest they bomb themselves. This is an issue curiously still up for debate over there, which disproves the maxim, “You can't fight progress.” That's all these zealots are doing, seems to me, is working overtime to stop the inevitable. There was a time when women were fighting for the vote when enough people said, “I'm wrong, you're right, so it shall be” and it was so. There was a time when black people were fighting for the vote when enough people said, “I'm wrong, you're right, so it shall be” and that was so. Now is the time for the marriage, children and military thing, sorry angry folks. This will entail that political correctness thing that everybody whines about, but last I checked, political correctness seemed no different from manners. Manners took us from coloured to Negro to African American (hopefully it'll just take us to people pretty quick here), so let's mind our p's and q's until “fag” and “dyke” become as antiquated and jarring. Similarly, can we all work a little harder to make sure all homophobia is unacceptable? By which I mean, let's stop allowing phrases like, “I'm just not comfortable with the gay lifestyle” or “I love gays, but do they have to be so _____?” If you're unsure as to whether or not you've just heard something homophobic, replace “gay” with “black.” If it sounds prejudiced, it's prejudiced. As in, “There's a problem in this country when blacks are allowed to serve in the military” or, “Black people can do whatever they want in their own home, but do I have to see them on television all the time?”
Finally, I'd attempt to improve foreign relations by putting a stop to them. When I was a kid, if my brother and I were fighting constantly, my parents would split us up. “If you can't get along,” they would say, “leave each other alone!” I think America has been playing “Quit hitting yourself!” with so many other countries, they need to go sit in the corner and think about what they did. History will reflect some damning things about the Iraq invasion, for instance, but that doesn't seem to be slowing down the upcoming invasion of Iran. Chill out, America! I know you're jealous that so-and-so has better toys than you do, but you've proven you can't get along so just sit on your hands and zip that lip, mister!
I feel like I must re-emphasize that Canada is certainly not immune to these exact same problems. Harper seems to be chipping away at any distinction we once proudly held as a fairer, better place to live. And while I'm painting with broad strokes about America here, I don't dare generalize about Americans. Their politics worry me, but I'd bet their politics worry them, too! It's naïve to think what affects our American brothers and sisters does not affect us in turn, so we ought to work harder to make sure America has a better tomorrow, for all of us. Oh, that's a great line to end on. I'm Big City James and I approve this message.