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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Principles, My Dad, and Donald

Principles – “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”  Principles can relate to the rules of personal and moral behaviour as well as be the basis for scientific theorems.

Principal – “the person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group

My dad was a principal with principles.  Elementary that is.  He had thumbnail pictures of all the students in the school pasted onto the wall of his office.  I guess he figured that it was easier to discipline a student if he knew his name.  Or hers.  He was a nice guy. Really soft-spoken.  Teachers used to follow him from school to school.  He didn’t like to stay in one too long. 

Even though he rarely yelled, Dad was a bit of scary guy ‘cause when he said something, he meant it.  He could also make you feel like shit.  That was his real strength.  Unfortunately, his disappointment was worse than if he’d used a whip.  At least, that’s what I think now.  Maybe if he’d actually brought out a whip, I would have preferred the disappointment. 
Dad and his two boys
Back in the days of the Cold War, my dad would say that “any system will work so long as the leaders within that system are principled.”  They had to be in it for the greater good.  They couldn’t be in it for themselves. 

You see my dad was a bit of a communist.  My parents bought a little cabin north of Hinton that had no running water or electricity.  It still doesn’t.  And that’s all he cared about.  He wouldn’t have missed a minute of sleep if he’d lost his beautiful house in Edmonton with the giant yard where he’d throw the baseball with me in the good old days.  He was a complicated guy with simple desires. 

Family at the cabin minus me, the photographer
He loved poetry.  In fact, kids I met in high school remembered my dad reading poetry in the classroom and at school assemblies.  He used to read “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to my brother and I.  I still remember the opening stanza, “By the shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water” and so on.  We never finished it . . .as far I know.  It's 204 pages in paperback and my brother and I were something like six and eight respectively at the time.  My dad was a bit of an idealist.  

He loved the mountains.  As a young man, he was a member of the Alpine Club of Calgary.  Before we owned the cabin, we’d start every summer holiday in Jasper and stay until the weather turned.  Then we’d move onto the Okanagan to enjoy the sun and hangg out on the beach.  Then, we’d go back to the mountains and spend some more time hiking and kayaking before returning home.  I loved it. 
The Family at Lake O'Hara in Banff.  (I took the photo.)
I can’t help but wonder what he’d make of present times, Donald Trump in the U.S. and Jason Kenney here in Alberta.  Neither could be considered me of principles.  Let me give you a couple of examples.  If my dad said he’d build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, then, come hell or high water, that wall would be built.  Likewise, if he’d said he'd prosecute Hillary Clinton, she’d be as good as doing time by the time he got to power. 

He never coached any of the baseball teams I played on.  He figured that if he spent all day dealing with kids, he wasn’t going to waste his spare time dealing with more.  But, somehow, he got convinced to coach a group of older kids when I was in Grade 5 or 6.  Ironically, Dad didn’t entirely approve of competitive sports. 

He’d played them as a kid.  He drove me to innumerable hockey games and practices.  But deep down, he disapproved of competitive sports.  He didn’t a single player from that team he coached.  He’d just rotate them through the games.  Unfortunately, every player couldn't play every game but if he had controlled the league, he would just have created more teams.  I can only imagine the heat from parents and players he took but he couldn’t have cared that much.  It was never a topic of dinner table conversation. 

Me as a rising hockey star
Jason Kenney was fined for inappropriately interfering with the selection of delegates at a riding in Edmonton.  If you don’t remember or don’t recall the event, he rented a hospitality room two doors down the hall from where the vote was taking place.  Jason said that the way he understood the rules, he wasn’t allowed to be near the room.  But, he said, the rules didn’t define near, whether it’s 10 metres or a 100.  Seriously?  If your ex tells you that she doesn’t want you near her, I don’t think there’d be any question that she doesn’t want you at the same dinner party even though you’re sitting at the other end of the table.

My dad liked to lean toward the other extreme when rules were being applied.  In Jason Kenney’s position, he would have made sure he wasn’t in the same city.  Or, at least the same neighbourhood.  He’d never have brought a bunch of young people to a convention with the intention of disrupting the whole process.  For my dad, the political process would be considered more important than any one individual.  People come and go but the system must always be in place.  Otherwise, chaos, he’d say.  If the process needs to be changed, there’s a process for that too.

My dad wasn’t easily ruffled. When I was about ten and my brother was eight, we were caught by a neighbour playing knock-a-door ginger.  The woman phoned my mom telling her to come and pick get us.  My mom said that we could find our own way home.  So, the woman phoned the police.  We were just heading out to the car when my dad showed up with our little brown poodle on a leash.  He apologized to the police that they’d had to make such a ridiculous call.  Then, we walked home.  No lecture, no being grounded, certainly no spanking.  Nothing.  End of story.  We’d learned our lesson. 

The family in front of house minus me plus Grandma

I can only imagine the reaction of a Donald Trump.
  He would have yelled at the cops, threatened to sue the woman, and I don’t know what he would have done to us.  Probably nothing.  We would have been his kids after all.

Hillary Clinton accused Donald of not having paid taxes for the past two decades.  Now, my dad or any person of principles would be ashamed if confronted with such accusations.  Donald didn't flinch.  He doubled down.  Not only has he not paid taxes, he’s smart for not having done so.  Really?  A principled individual would know that our government depends on taxes to provide us with services, our infrastructure, our policing an our defence.  If one person feels they shouldn't pay taxes, that idea should apply to us all.  

If I’m going to guess why any sane person would have voted for Donald, I would say that they believe that, when he becomes president, the gravity of the position will force him to behave according to the principles of conduct befitting the position.  It’s like leaving an alcoholic in charge of the liquor at a party you believe him when he says that no one else knows better when someone else has been drinking too much.  We’ll put our trust in him because he says he won’t be the man he’s always demonstrated himself to be. 

The U.S. election results wouldn't have surprised my dad, the principal with principles.  He had a rather cynical view of mankind. That's the downside of being principled. People disappointed him all the time.  That said, when people got mad at him or accused him of wrong doing he ignored them.  ‘Cause he knew he was right.  

Donald’s won but he’s never going to feel good about it.  He’ll use the presidential office to augment his wealth which he’ll never feel good about.  As Dad would say, a person can never get satisfaction out of things.  So Donald is going to continue his defensive, blasphemous, libellous twitters full of untruths and eventually people will tire of them.  And him.  The question is when and how much damage can be wrought on the American people and their friends, like us Canadians.  Betrayal hurts most.  

In his element