I have a confession to make. While my ideals are quite thoroughly lefty in every way, there's one way I don't fit in with my ideological soulmates: I'm not really wired for outrage. There are a few exceptions--a few sore points that will always make me screaming mad--but for the most part, my gut reaction to something worthy of outrage (and believe me, there's plenty!) is to think: all right, so how can we rearrange things so that we can best live with this very suboptimal situation? If I actually want to spur myself into taking action, I have to forcibly short-circuit that gut response and cut straight to dispassionately evaluating what can realistically be done and what can't. It makes me a pretty lousy activist, though it has the advantage of keeping my blood pressure down.
This tendency is, of course, compounded by my background. This is because nine times out of ten, when something worthy of outrage happens in Canada, it's still worse in the U.S., and despite the fact that my life is quite firmly anchored here now, my brain can't help but make the comparisons. Take my Stephen Harper and Hillary Clinton post. I really do think Harper and his party have been terrible for Canada, and if they ever were to get a majority government, things would be even worse. But in the U.S., the party proposing policies along those same lines is the leftmost party, and in Canada, there are three national parties to the left of Stephen Harper's Conservatives. And even after more than a year of gagging their crazies and controlling their messaging in order to show people that they're really just misunderstood moderates, the Conservatives still only have 33% of Canadians excited about what they want to do for the country. That makes it exceedingly difficult for me to take on a "oh, woe is us, Canadians have it so bad right now" mentality, you know?
So when L-girl from We Move to Canada pointed her readers at this Toronto Star article talking about how the Conservatives had done focus groups across the country trying to figure out what they were doing wrong on the messaging for the war in Afghanistan, she was outraged. And she's right--it is pretty outrageous that the Conservatives would look at the war as something to sell to Canadians. But when I read that article, what I notice most is this part:
The report lists "vocabulary/terms/phrases/concepts to reinforce" the message that the government is right about its commitment to the war in Afghanistan. They include "rebuilding," "restoring," "reconstruction," "hope," "opportunity" and "enhancing the lives of women and children."Basically, if you want Canadians to believe that a war is worth fighting, you have to convince them that Canada is helping the people of that country on their own terms. When you start making it sound like Canada is imposing its own values on those people, Canadians find it distasteful. This forces Harper and his crew to adopt language--and sometimes even stances--that don't reflect their values in order to win over even thirty-three measly percent of the Canadian people.
Words and phrases to avoid include: "freedom, democracy, liberty – in combination this phrase comes across as sounding too American."
Strategic Counsel also advised that the government "avoid developing a line of argumentation too strongly based on values. While the value of human rights is strongly supported, there is a risk of appearing to be imposing Canadian values. Again, this is not seen to be the 'Canadian way.'"
I can't help it, I just find that delightful. In fact, it kind of makes me want to hug my whole damn adopted country. Forgive me?