Stephen Harper got to meet Yo-Yo Ma!



Stephen Harper actually got to meet THE GREAT Yo-Yo Ma!!!  What a lucky man!

OK – so my first reaction to this was a little bit atypical:  I am not so good at ‘typical reactions’…  And, my second reaction was:  what a waste of such a good singing voice – why didn’t Steven Harper pick a good song?

Just for his performance, I actually sat through and listened to a WHOLE Beatles song!   I guess there is a first time for everything… and, it DID have Yo-Yo Ma in it!  Even if it WAS a Beatles’ song.

For those not ‘in-the-loop’:  Laureen Harper is the ‘hands-on’ Honorary Chair of the NAC (National Arts Centre) Gala.  This year’s headliner was the legendary Yo-Yo Ma – and the event raised over half-a-million dollars for the National Youth and Education Trust.  And, with Mr. Ma’s help, Mrs. Harper convinced her husband to be a surprise performer at this year’s show!  But, there is a little more going on in the background…

Last year, Mrs. Harper’s husband (our Prime Minister) tried to re-distribute the ‘arts funding’ in two major ways:

As a pre-Olympic preparation thing, he tried to give a greater piece of the overall ‘arts-funding-pie’ to British Columbia.  This earned him the wrath of Quebec artistic elites who claimed that by giving them a smaller piece of the pie, even temporarily, Prime Minister Harper was attempting to murder Quebec culture and that he would singlehandedly destroy it…  Oh, the screeching was unbearable – and it did cost the Conservatives much support in Quebec.  (Frankly, I did not think one single Anglophone was capable of destroying Quebec culture, but the Quebec arts intelligentsia obviously have a higher opinion of Steven Harper!)

Also, he tried to shift a little bit of the funding away from supporting well-established artists and into education programs which would make arts accessible for all kids.

The horror!

Take from the professional leeches (anyone who thinks ‘government grants’ are ‘owed’ to them, because of their ‘calling’ as ‘an artist’ is a professional leech) and give to kids instead!  How will the elites remain elites, if just about everyone will understand art?!?!?  Unthinkable!

Predictably, the elitist and snobby elements from within the arts community (the loud ones – who rely on government grants for a living) started to say some nasty things about Mr. Harper.  He, in turn, lost his temper and said something about taxpayer money going to support ‘a bunch of rich people at galas’ not resonating with ‘real, hardworking people’….

They ate him alive.

The meaning of what he said -and tried to do – was lost in the rhetoric.  That whole ‘taxpayer money going to support’ bit was dropped…and the ‘galas’ part was played up…I mean, why bother with substance when one can get a snappy headline?  And the bit about bringing art education to kids….well, that was interpreted as ‘not supporting the arts’!

And here he was, this past Saturday:  performing, live, on stage with Yo-Yo Ma!

Steven Harper was revealed as a performing artist himself.  And a good one – even if he came across as a little shy….  But then again – how many of us would have the guts to get up and perform live, in front of a few thousand people?

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Harper, for showing one can love art – and still be a ‘real’ person, too!

WHY did the ‘Wafergate’ ever become ‘A Story’?!?!?

In my last post, I voiced the opinion that the whole non-story of ‘what Prime Minister Steven Harper ‘ought to have done’ when, during a Roman Catholic funeral mass, a priest approached him where he was sitting in the front pew of the church and stuck a Communion Wafer into the surprised Prime Minister’s hand’ might have actually increased the PM’s popularity.

Since that post, several people from outside of Canada (some Roman Catholic themselves) expressed a surprise that this would ever become a news event, much less one which dominated headlines for over a week.  Following is my reply (and can be seen in the comments) as to how and why this non-story got the press coverage it did:

The whole ‘broo-ha-ha’ – in my never-humble-opinion – started because the RC church was trying to deflect attention from yet another child molestation scandal within The Church.  The news of the scandal broke the same day as the RC clerics started screeching ‘damn the sinner – he offended our religion!!!!’ against the PM.  I think they wanted to minimize the news coverage of the pedophilia arrests charges laid against some RC priests just then.

The ‘MSM’ news these days has very clear ‘slots’:  this ‘slot’ for ‘human interest’, that one for ‘scandal’, a little bit on ‘business’, and so on.  If The Church succeeded in making the ‘PM snubs Roman Catholics’ THE scandal of the day, then there would be minimal coverage of their own scandal.  The ‘main slot’ would already be filled…  AND – they succeeded!

The news-people do not like this PM – he does not treat them as ‘insiders with special privileges’…. so, they are offended that he thinks they are not better than other people – which they DO think they are!

After all, they have ‘access to power’!!!!  At least, they HAD access to power….. until this ‘newcomer’ PM refused to treat them as royalty.  Who did he think he was?  They were here longer than he – they KNEW ‘the ropes’!  And he refused to bow down to them?!?!?  Let them ‘take him under their wing’ and ‘show him how to get things done’?!?!?  In exchange for ‘inside info’, of course… (and free spots at expensive dinners, and other ‘perks’ they became accustomed to by the previous corrupt government, in exchange for not writing up the worst of the scandals….)

How dare he!!!

As a result, the vast majority (with exceptions, of course) of journalists – especially political ones – feel slighted by him and do their best to snub him back, put him down, make even positive things he does – even the ones they themselves like – surrounded by so many ‘backhanded compliments’ that despite the positive story, they make him look bad.  Or, they try to!

The political opposition – well, they would really, really like something to attack him for.  But… for all his faults (and he has those, of course), deep down, Steven Harper is a very honest man and he expects honest behaviour from his ministers.  So, there is actually very little that he can be attacked for by the opposition politicians!

His opponents have believed that Steven Harper’s support came from the ‘religious right’.  So, they thought any story which could be spun that he is ‘not sensitive’ to religion or religious people would erode his main support base.

I think that they miscalculated!

Most religious people – including Roman Catholics – shared YOUR reaction.  The attack has backfired on BOTH the RC church AND the PM’s opponents!

Still, this was not really ‘about’ the Communion Host:  it was cheap politicking!  And that, I suspect, is ‘universal’….

‘Communion scandal’ improves Harper’s image

Perhaps this is obvious to everyone, perhaps it has been written about and I have missed it…

Did the ‘Communion scandal‘ actually improved Prime Minister Harper‘s image?  Is that, at least partially, why the polls are saying his popularity is up by 7 points (as per Angus Reid poll, reported on CFRA today)?

Let me explain my reasoning…

Steven Harper is a lot of things:  an awesome economist (and, in these turbulent times, most of us prefer to have an economist rather than a lawyer or an academic without any experience outside the College campus.).  That is a big plus for Mr. Harper.

But, his political opponents have always successfully exploited the fact that, for ever, Steven Harper will be associated (in the minds of most urban Canadians, especially those in Ontario and Quebec) with the ‘Evangelical’ taint his Reform Party past brings.  Rightly or wrongly, the Reform Party could not shake the kind of ‘Sarah Palin-type- thingy’ (please excuse the technical jargon…):  right on so many things, but, kind of scary when it comes to ‘faith issues’….

In some places, politicians are ‘expected’ to be ‘religious’:  it ‘proves’ to the ‘little people’ that they are ‘humble’ and ‘pious’….  This is still true of ‘US conservatives’ – at least, this is more true of them than any other Western ‘group’.

Why these ought to be good qualities in a political leader, I don’t know!

As a matter of fact, I seriously question whether people who are willing to put religious faith above facts and reason – and, especially above the will of voters – ought to be in any positions of power whatsoever.  After all, I would like the laws governing my country to be reasonable – not faith based!

Here, it is important to note that this ‘faith’ could be religious or ideological – it does not make an iota of difference in the practical impact of ‘faith-based’ laws on our society!

Though Canadians are very poor in recognizing ‘ideological faith, we are very sensitive to ‘religious faith’. Therefore, any suggestions that a politician might be so religious as to obey the tenets of his religion over the will of his constituents when drafting laws and policies harms that politician.  It makes it very unlikely that he/she would get a majority, because the large urban areas will not take what they perceive as that big a risk.

And, more and more Canadians are aware of just how many religious leaders abuse their power.  This is not specific to any one faith – one could easily find examples of abuse from just about every religious sect.  Rather, more and more people suspect that the fault lies in allowing any man or woman to exercise power over another, using spirituality as the ultimate weapon:  obey, submit, behave this way and believe this dogma – or you will suffer eternal torture…

That is why most organized religions in Canada are loosing members:  dogmatization of spirituality is becoming more and more unacceptable to urbanized, mainstream Canadians!  And that includes Canadians of all political bends…

When the Roman Catholic Church said that priests ought to deny ‘Communion’ to any politician who does not vote to ban abortion, there was a serious backlash against the Roman Catholic Church.  This was widely understood to be ‘spiritual blackmail’ of the politician:  threatening him/her with eternal damnation of his’her soul UNLESS he/she placed the Papist dogma above the will of their constituents!

The ‘little ‘l’ liberal’ Canadians are loath of any erosion in the ‘secularity’ of our laws: they will never support a politician whom they suspect of having a religious agenda!

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are more and more ‘non-religious’ ‘little ‘c’ conservatives.  People who do support many core conservative values, but who are very uncomfortable with the ‘religious’ component of today’s Conservative movement.  Very, very, very uncomfortable!

Just remember John Tory!

Steven Harper – with all his good and bad points – had a problem shaking the ‘religious’ image of the old Reform Party.  And his political opponents exploited it very, very skilfully.

Now, to this ‘Communion scandal’:

Some Roman Catholic Cleric attacked Steven Harper for his conduct during a Catholic funeral mass which Steven Harper attended.  It would appear that the priest walked up to the people sitting in on the benches in the church.  Steven Harper offered him a hand for a handshake – that is what politicians do, they shake hands as a symbol of greeting or acceptance or a number of other things.

The priest, instead of shaking the offered hand, stuck a communion wafer in it.

Now, the PM was ‘damned if he did/damned if he did not’ do just about anything.

Had he rejected the wafer and tried to give it back to the priest, he would be committing a grave offense:  he would be ‘rejecting Jesus himself’!

Had he tried to minimize damage by pocketing the damned thing and giving it back to the priest later, he would create horrible offense:  one does not ‘stick Jesus in a pocket’!

And, had he committed ritual cannibalism and eaten the ‘literal flesh of Christ’ – as Roman Catholics believe they are doing when they consume a Communion Wafer – he would be giving great offense because non-Roman Catholic Christians are not allowed the salvation which eating the flesh of a dead guy is supposed to bring, according to the RC dogma.

The PM took the latest option.  And, was immediately attacked for not being a fine young cannibal!  A bunch of RC clerics attacked him, for ‘offending their faith’ – while not saying a peep about the latest child sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church became public that day!

Steven Harper’s political opponents – seeing an opening to attack – made the most of the story.  The one about the PM accepting a communion wafer – not the one about more RC priest pedophiles.  They ‘shouted it from the rooftops’!  They got it into all kinds of papers, so no Canadian could remain unaware that Steven Harper is insensitive to religion!

Wait a minute!

Steven Harper was trying to shake the ‘he’s too easily influenced by religion’ image – especially among the urban folk.  And now, his opponents are announcing to everyone that Steven Harper is not religious enough???

What an effective way to allay those fears of people who liked him, but worried he might be a religious freak!  He’s just a normal guy, after all!

No wonder that Steven Harper’s popularity went up!