by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
First, a Rumination About Being on the Losing Side
This past election has so many implications, most of which have been amply addressed. One not fully explored is what to do, as a person of strong conviction before the election, now that my side (the No Majority for Harper side) lost the contest.
A letter to the Globe and Mail said boldly, in response to Heather Mallick (mourning the loss to our country of its liberal foundations), “Stop whining. You didn’t get what you wanted and you can’t take it. Don’t be a sore loser” (not a direct quote).
This launched my thoughts on what being a ‘sore loser’ is about and how not to be one because I retain the school yard code that doesn’t like them, and what’s the alternative when you’re a loser and sore about it.
Question: Did the Right – and all the other losers – feel the same way in the years when they couldn’t get elected and seemed vanquished? Probably. And eventually they got even. There’s one avenue: get up, dust yourself off, and get really smart about getting even.
The Moral Component
Part of the pain of losing may be just the bitter stab of defeat. We lost. Much as my husband feels when the Canadiens fall out of the playoffs. Depressed!
But a political loss is also about losing something you’ve identified as right and good, which the Other side doesn’t see the same way. For instance, one such ‘good’ might be the extending by Canada of some humanity and generousity of spirit toward a child soldier, Omar Khadar, who was subjected to years of torture and imprisonment by another country while he grew to be an adult and we watched. The Party that won expresses no intention to demonstrate such humanity. Thus some principle is violated and some hope has died with it. There seems a moral component to this.
Not unlike when a fine old building is torn down to make way for a concrete box, or when fields of green are torn up and the soil hauled away to make way for oversized houses in rows. Political loss feels like it’s going down that track. Societal loss.
The Other side has its disappointments too. Why do people fail to take responsibility for their actions and leave their mess for others to clean up? That’s when liberalism has gone too far. It’s a moral travesty. This Omar Khadar business – the young man broke the law and has to pay for it and that’s all there is to it. We’re not responsible.
Does our Brain Chemistry Plunk Us on One or Another Side?
In the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente (Are Your Politics Hard-Wired? April 16, 2011) discussed the theory that the brain is hard-wired toward a liberal or conservative response to and interpretation of experience. The former is open to new viewpoints and experiences: the latter is naturally wary of it. Difference excites interest in one group, provokes caution in the other. Hence our lining up politically behind leaders and parties that promise (a) opening up to new ideas and visions, versus (b) hi-lighting fears and promising to fence in the danger and increase security.
Now I’ve no idea if this simple notion holds up to scientific scrutiny. But let’s pretend it does.
If brain chemistry urges me toward a political side in addition to me weighing and choosing between the merits of the ’sides’, we can see that Party allegiances are more complicated than right and wrong. We go for what our mind AND emotions find comfortable. A significant dividing line is how my brain reacts to the world. Regardless of whether one party is more correct than another, I’ll be drawn toward the one that comforts my need for caution or openness.
So what the heck do we do about that? Suggestion: get familiar with how I’m responding, so at least I know what my brain is urging me toward or away from. Let the mind work a little harder at figuring out what I really think matters and who moves this society closer to that.
Couple of Fundamentals
Back to the question of the moral responsibility of the losing side. Options: back off now that the Right (my Wrong) is in the ascendent? Or find ways to express my disagreement with the government of Toronto and Canada to anyone who will listen? Pick certain issues, stay informed, and try keeping the topic in the air, the paper, the magazines, cyberspace?
Ted Schmidt, among others, has done the latter. He has remained loyal and committed to the issues looming for him, bringing up the plight of the Palestinians in meetings, congregations, on the internet – even when booed at the synagogue where he was invited to speak. We don’t all have that stamina.
But drawing from the examples of heroes in the social justice struggle, Three Things are perhaps our moral duty, whatever side we think we’re on.
- Don’t stay silent in the face of decisions and directions that seem WRONG, from whatever side.
- Don’t assume your side is always right. Just can’t be so.
- Realize there are many sides and some, so far not identified, might open us up to a fresh perspective and new ideas, and some might indeed keep us a little safer.
What do you think??