Remembering the ur-Trudeau

Among the first paradoxes, that I discovered as a teenager, is that the most beautiful girls are not necessarily the goodest. They might not even be the nicest. And some of them don’t even dress well.

Now that gentle reader has anticipated a misogynist rant, let me change the subject, subtly. Consider, instead, my growing realization that, in both of the sexes, there might be some tension between goodness and beauty. Looking in the mirror, I could spot some conflict. For in the most “immasculine” way (not a word, but it is needed), I was trying to tart myself up, to look “cool.” (That was then; today there is no point in trying.)

There is more conflict, for instance, between the “pretty” and the “valuable,” than one is likely to find between the good and the true. For men, too (in the narrower “gendered” sense) were often quite attractive to women, even though they were bad. Verily, the most handsome, outwardly charming, and athletically successful of my near contemporaries, struck me as perhaps the baddest. That he got at least two girls pregnant in high school, then smugly walked away, seemed to be evidence to me, in those days. Was I jealous?

The same that is true of “frat boys,” of the stereotypically worst kind, can also be true of politicians; and on the question of judgement, electorates can sometimes behave like silly girls. This I was learning through my first adventure into politics. In the event of war crimes trials, it will be discovered that, before voting age, I was campaigning for a Liberal named (Joseph Philippe) Pierre (Yves) Elliott Trudeau (initials “PET”). But while I had grown out of that, by the age of sixteen, many of my contemporaries never did grow up. Half a century later, they are capable of voting for his (adjective deleted) son.

Part of my cure was actually meeting the ur-Trudeau — the late father — during a campaign event in the Holiday Inn, at Oakville, Ont. He was short, and getting middle-aged pudgy. His eyes were rather glazed, and dreary. From close up, he was memorably unimpressive. He spoke in glib sound-bites, to no one in particular. He flirted mechanically, with the giggling girls. But he was “telegenic.” The same event I had attended was presented in the evening news, as a triumph of “Trudeaumania.” I noticed all the media cameramen had obeyed the great man’s handlers, and shot low when in his company, to make him look taller.

When he did his thoroughly-rehearsed quick dive, into the hotel swimming pool, the photographers were almost digging themselves, into the poolside concrete, to get the perfectly sycophantic pic.

Were my elder self advising through some temporal wormhole, he would counsel chastity. He would tell my younger self to reserve judgement, about girls and politicians, until coming to riper years. (Even that might not work out.) He would order me never to make commitments, casually.

Note, I would need telling only for myself, for many other lads — perhaps one in twenty in those “bad old days” — already knew that they should not be suckers. By coincidence, all of these had been raised in starchy, Christian homes.

That our world seems currently to be going to Hell — this is called, “progress” — can be explained by this “failure to launch” phenomenon. We have come to a time, that was easily predictable, when a decisive majority of (any) Western electorate think like naughty children. They make decisions that are seriously ill-advised. They are on the take, as it were; but haven’t the fondest clew what they want; or even if it is possible. They accuse those whom they (shallowly) dislike, of crimes they could not possibly have committed, to excuse their own wantonness. And thanks to democracy, the rest of us must share in what follows from their reckless, demeaning choices.