There’s a huge machine rumbling through life in this country. It’s the size of a Zamboni and it cleans up everything that is unusual, successful, amusing, daring or odd and disappears it.
I call it the Dullchecker but you call it what you will. The Ponderosa. Boratron. Uniformer. Humdrummer. And these are just the ones I’ve trademarked. The Pedestrian. The Stalemaster. OK, I’ll stop. Accu-Drone. I’ve stopped.
The machine lops off the heads of every Canadian who sticks their head above the parapet, it deplores the famous, hisses at the attractive, hates the gifted, and god forbid anyone should make a lighthearted remark.
How do you know you’ve run into Dullcheck? Is it boring? Check. Bulbous and grey? Check. Does it drone/mansplain and send you off to refresh your drink which is water? Check. Does it make a hern ... hern ... hern noise?
Dullcheckers have been circling the ice ever since the Harper government was sent off. We endured a decade where public life was a dank landscape where mere obedience was valued, intelligence was downplayed, and women, by god, they dressed modestly. I have dresses like that. They’re like desks. They have modesty panels.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech in Davos included the words “crackles” and “sparkling,” which is not interesting in itself — he was describing, respectively, Silicon Valley and Canada’s University of Waterloo — but journalists mentioned this. Are we so numbed that we’re startled when the PM uses lively words?
I write this because the wagon-trainers of the hard right are reacting to this new era with scorn and spite. The Boremasters say Davos is not an event where Canada can attract investment and tourism, but a party zone for the rich. But the rich will ravage any place they choose. Isn’t the PM in Davos to win jobs for the rest of us? Isn’t that his job?
I see things differently. I watched the video of Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau so moved at a public ceremony that she spontaneously sang a love song she had written to her small daughter. “I see from the corner of your eye/The day that we will say goodbye,” she sang, and I was flattened.
Falling in romantic love is an animal experience; it only occurs to you later that you have locked eyes across a room with the person who will watch you die. This insight came to me via a furious Angie Jordan on 30 Rock. “Baby, I’m gonna be with you to the very end. I’m gonna watch you die, Tracy Jordan.”
But this applies to children too. You never think that the tiny person who gives you a single maple leaf for your birthday (children are poor) will watch you die. My children know where the will is, I’m hoping to die quickly in a hellacious accident without fuss, but I teared up.
This was not the general reaction among pundits. They mocked Grégoire-Trudeau’s spontaneity, singing, and open emotion, as they have mocked her beauty, as they have mocked female cabinet ministers for wearing clothing while powerful, as they have mocked Trudeau for not looking like Stephen Harper.
Listen, Drabmeisters, Canadians don’t have to look like filing cabinets with Prussian hair to fit into public life. They can speak several languages and know how to mix a drink, it’s no crime. Many Trudeau staffers are Québécois; they’re more chic; they care about that and good for them.
Then came more for Dullcheckers to hate. Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef named a panel to vet applications for the Senate. No party bagmen in the Conservative style, please.
Conservative Senate Leader Claude Carignan’s office complained that two panel members had been scholars at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and therefore “had clear links to the prime minister.” (No, Huguette Labelle was a mentor and the other, Dawn Lavell Harvard, had been a scholar.) They were too fancy to appoint “ordinary” Canadians to the Senate.
But their crime was that they had stood out.
I have talked to young Trudeau Scholars, and they described their nail-biting Foundation interviews. They came through. These are the Rhodes Scholars of Canada without a Cecil Rhodes founder soaked in racism and misogyny. Does Carignan want appointees who’ve never met anyone, never left the house?
That’s the Drabgrinder moving down the ice, smoothing the national surface. Under Harper it mashed anyone with passion and personality, especially in the cities where people are morally lax and visit art galleries.
And then the Drabgrinder met the new federal government. It slowed, stalled, made a hern ... hern ... hern noise and stopped.
In this country now, it is once again legal to be interesting. So step up, let’s hear from you.