Drinking note

There are at least two tables, within pubs in the Greater Parkdale Area, where, notwithstanding I was once quite welcome, I am not today. Some think this is because of my opinions, which are those of a rightwing fanatic and religious nutjob. But no: it is because I am willing to express them. This is a form of incontinence, one might argue; and like other forms, it may accord with increasing age. Yet I do not think that silence is invariably golden.

To hear me tell it — and whom else were you expecting, gentle reader? — it goes like this. In years past, I would sit quietly and ignore nonsense, especially political nonsense, spoken by my fellow imbibers. I can still do this. Many of the most ludicrous remarks, on any passing issue, are not actually opinions of the speaker. He simply echoes or parrots the views of the media and his own social class. I’ve been absorbing this “background music” for years; why revolt now? The noise is anyway not arguments but gestures.

Say, “Stephen Harper,” and watch the eyeballs roll. Say, “George Bush,” and still, ditto. Say “Richard Nixon,” however, and you don’t get much of a rise any more, for memories out there are short, very short.

(A Czech buddy, in the olden days, once performed this experiment in a pub. “I just love that Richard Nixon!” he declared, in his thick, Slavic accent, loud enough to afflict the Yankee draft-dodgers at the next table, who’d been prattling about Watergate too long. “Gives those liberals heart attacks,” he added. … Some bottle-tossing followed from that, and we were all banned together, so ended up as friends.)

On the other hand say, “Barack Obama,” and they will focus like attentive puppies. Or, “Justin Trudeau” to the ladies, to make them coo.

It is a simple Pavlovian trick, and might be done in reverse in a rightwing bar, except, there are no rightwing bars in big cities.

Yet everyone knows there are rightwing people, even in Greater Parkdale. And they are welcome anywhere they want to buy a pint, the more if they’re buying for the whole table. The one condition is that they must keep their “divisive” opinions to themselves.

My weakness is for retaliation. I will ignore “background music,” but will not sit quietly being needled, when the remarks are addressed specifically to me. I might endure a cuteness or two, from someone perfectly aware of my opinions, but by about the third time I find the Leftoid checking for my pulse, I’m inclined to show it.

This is never expected. If it’s a man, he will generally go pale, silent, stunned. If it’s a woman, she may burst into tears. And yet nothing I said required raising my voice; nor uttering anything factually untrue. It is instead the use of plain language, with which the post-modern cannot cope. Raised as he has been in a bubble, he may never have been contradicted before.

What interests me, as a “sign of the times,” is that the needling is, in every case, both rude and open. It is like the rocks thrown at the Jamarat, in Mecca. It seems not odd, when everyone is doing it. The malice is like that of the Palestinians, directed towards the Jews. It happens every day; everyone expects it. Only when the Jews defend themselves, does outrage suddenly boil over. How dare they respond in such a “disproportionate” way? How dare those Jews strike back, when all we were doing was knifing them?

I mention this by way of qualifying something I wrote yesterday: “His acceptance speech last night was sort-of sweet; it showed him still quite damp behind the ears.”

Perhaps “sort-of sweet” gave the wrong impression. In the speech, our prime minister-elect congratulated himself and his colleagues on what he imagined to be their moral superiority:

“We beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”

The rest of the speech extended this theme: what good people Liberals are; and by easy inference, what bad people the Conservatives they defeated. There was nothing gracious or magnanimous for relief. Yet it sounded so sweet, so innocent, so naively “damp behind the ears.” The young cherub actually does not realize that he is promoting: fear, cynicism, and negative, divisive politics. That he is expressing himself in a passive-aggressive way.

Had Harper won, as he might have had he had the wit to make the campaign shorter, he would, as in the past, have avoided this kind of moral posturing, simply because it is ugly and crass — as it would have appeared, coming from his mouth. He would have spoken well of his opponents, and congratulated them on a good fight. He would not have continued kicking the opponent he had defeated — because he is an adult, and has some decency. For that matter, Martin, Chrétien, Mulroney, Pearson, would not have done it either. (Of the elder Trudeau, one could never be sure.)

Charity and civility alike require that these “innocents” be admonished — in the hope that, eventually, they will acquire the first glimmer of self-knowledge.

To my mind, it is often wrong to let the moment pass. We should prick their bubbles. Stop trying to play “nice” with people who do not play “nice” with us; stop conceding their self-conceits. This might even be a moral imperative: to stop confirming the crazed in their delusions.