I like to think of myself as politically neutral. I try to empathize with all sides of an issue, my vote is up for grabs by the party with the best platform, and I never endorse any one candidate because I figure they’ll inevitably make an ass of themselves at some point.
Yesterday I got a call from a pollster charged with the task of calculating the statistics of where Canadians stand on their government. This was the sort of poll that ends up being quoted in the media as grave-sounding news anchors tell us what percentage of the public approves of the war in Afghanistan, who the leading candidate in the Liberal leadership race is, and whether the majority of the country thinks Stephen Harper is a boring poopy-head or a pasty-faced gargoyle.
I always like to answer telephone polls regardless of how much time they eat up. Since most people actually have something better to do, are gainfully employed, or realize life is too short to spend this much time on the phone with someone who’s sunk almost to the level of a telemarketer, poll results tend to be hopelessly tainted and nowhere close to reflecting an actual, reasonable majority. Instead, they skew in favour of the opinions and attitudes of the insane, the unemployable, the desperately lonely, and the flatly sociopathic. As one of those elite few, I felt it was my duty to mislead the poor idiots in charge of the country with the sort of answers that would help them alter the world to better suit my personal, greedy needs.
As I answered a seemingly endless series of multiple choice questions with answers like “somewhat agree,” “almost never,” “Green Party,” and “because I think he’s a dick,” I came to realize something. I’m one of those evil leftists Canadian pinkos the brave American Republicans are trying to save the world from. I’m part of the problem. Bill O’Reilly would want my nuts cut off as part of his eugenics project. Donald Rumsfeld would have me sent to Guantanamo to be interrogated by a pair of pliers and a water board. Ann Coulter would pass on having dinner with me, even if I were paying.
I’m embarrassed, I really am. I knew my politics were kinda sorta liberal – “liberal” being just about the worst thing you can call someone south of the 49th these days, ranking somewhere between “Clinton” and “pedophile” – but I had aspired to be more centrist. I’d even ordered my very own copies of The Way Things Ought to Be and Let Freedom Ring to help compensate and nudge me back towards the middle. I guess it didn’t work.
I blame my education. When shopping around for a university, I ultimately ended up going to Concordia in Montreal. Not because I thought it was the best school for me. But because it was only a city bus ride away and I couldn’t afford to go anywhere better with the paltry money I was making at summer jobs. I remember, in a guide to Canadian universities published around that time, there was a chart of the political leanings for every higher-education institution in the country. Some where left wing, some were right wing, some were pretty middle of the road. Concordia was listed as “off-the-map left.” And they weren’t kidding. Every day there I felt a tad discriminated against because I wasn’t a mixed-race pagan lesbian communist.
I went into the journalism program. But in an effort to remain politically neutral, I made a concerted effort to stay as ignorant of politics and current events as humanly possible. I never read a newspaper, never watched a television news show. Occasionally we’d have a pop quiz on what was going on in the world and I’d be utterly unable to answer any of the questions. So I’d make up outrageous fictional answers for comedic effect. The head of the department never found my answers particularly amusing for some reason. I think he maybe took his job seriously or some crazy shit like that.
Only after I’d safely faked my way through the program and received my not-worth-the-paper-it’s-printed-on B.A. did I become interested in current events. Now I spend much of the day with various news media outlets acting as background noise in my office, keeping me up to date about the latest insult tossed across the floor of the House of Commons and the body count total in Iraq (Just a little more than 22,000 K.I.A. to go before you top Viet Nam, guys! You can do it!).
But I can’t deny it any longer. Maybe I absorbed it through osmosis in university, or maybe it’s just the by-product of being a media savvy, informed Canadian who’s never watched Fox News. I’m a liberal. Not necessarily a supporter of the Liberal Party, but a liberal nevertheless. There’s only one last resort for me. I must follow the lead of my leftist brothers and sisters down south. Rather than be branded by the terrible “L” word (no, not that one), I must fall back on that greatest of all crutches. Semantics.
No, I’m not one of those filthy, traitorous, troop-hating, tree-hugging, gun-control-supporting, pro-choice-choosing, gay-marriage-attending, marihuana-legalizing godless liberal scum suckers. Not me!
I’m a libertarian.