The Media Zone

How the media make sense and nonsense of the world.

When the Going Gets Tough, Liberals Cross Borders

Canada is the reliable mistress of left wing malcontents like me.

 

canadian border
“Screw this. My daughter and I are moving to Canada,” a friend from the great state of Louisiana howled, after she read a Reuters news story by Stephanie Simon that conservative Republican Governor Bobby Jindal had launched a “bold” (or outrageous) experiment: privatizing public education. 

Louisiana is preparing to shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to use as vouchers to pay private industry and parochial schools to educate children. Thousands will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools including small, Bible-based church schools.

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My friend’s resolve stiffened when she read that some of these voucher schools use social studies texts which warn that liberals undermine global prosperity and that others use Bible-based biology texts refuting evolution.  “We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," one church school principal cooed. 

That resolve reached maximum stiffness after Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White approved the voucher schools curricula and specific texts and announced “To me, it's a moral outrage that the government would say, 'We know what's best for your child.’ Who are we to tell parents we know better?"  

Precisely!  That would be like relying on the FDA, the CDC or the AMA for medical advice.

Koch Industries owns Wiscinsin
I was on the phone, talking with another friend, right after it was official that Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker trounced the recall gambit.   As we spoke, my friend began Googling the legal hurdles she might encounter in immigrating to Canada.  To her, the manner of Walker’s victory was a most ominous omen.  The recall race was steroid-infused with millions of advertising dollars from outside of Wisconsin, all made possible by Koch Industries, Karl Rove’s SuperPAC, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  She muttered into a Google page, “Really, is this how democracy dies?”

Like Bill Clinton would say, “I felt her pain.”

So many people I know, at one time or another, for one reason or another, but usually because of the specter of authoritarian shifts in governance, longingly look North to Escapeland ( aka Canada).

Ah, Canada, that reliable mistress of left wing malcontents who occasionally pay a visit, spend a few nights, leave a couple of hundred bucks on the night stand, but otherwise ignore her completely when their marriage to America is experiencing fat times --  say, like 2008 and Obama’s election (how quickly fat turned lean).

For me, the flight-to-Canada, liberal knee-jerk response began with Viet Nam. 1965. My roommate Lefty and I were in grad school. One afternoon, he came bursting into our Manhattan railroad apartment kitchen, wide-eyed, waving an envelope, panting and ranting “We’ve got to move to Canada.” Caught up in the fervid fever I yelled, “Why? What happened?”

Lefty collapsed into a kitchen chair and gasped, “I got a draft notice.” And he shook the envelope in the air and moaned, “How did I get a fucking draft notice when I have a fucking student deferment?

He paced, then stopped and looked at me.

We gotta get out, Stu.  We're not going to fight in this bullshit war.  For what?  For fucking what?  Because Johnson can't say 'I fucked up'?  Better to keep killing?  Better guys getting maimed?  Hell no, I'm going to my bank and withdraw my savings and open an account in Canada before it's too late.  We gotta go.  Johnson may close the borders very soon."

As Lefty ranted on, several things suddenly dawned on me which immediately calmed the hysteria that filled the kitchen … for me at least: One, I hadn’t gotten a draft notice, two, Lefty was routinely an hysteric, and three, Lefty and I both lived paycheck to paycheck. There were no bank savings.

Anyway, Lefty got out of the draft (I’m not sure exactly how) and I never received a notice. But Canada has lingered as a possibility. I think the last time I threatened to move was if Sarah Palin became Vice President -- a heartbeat away and all that.

Oh, Canada…

But where, I wonder, do malcontented right wingers fantasize going? England, Argentina, Texas, if it secedes? Oh, wait, I know. They don’t leave. They don’t even fantasize about running away to safe harbors (other than about harbors for depositing their taxable income off shore). They stay to fight the liberals, the Socialists, the Progressives and the Obamas. They stay to obstruct, to subvert, to start think tanks and to make long range plans to "take back" the government.  

Beyond that they excel at what Paul Krugman calls post-truth politics, where what’s important is how rhetoric and allegations sound, how they rouse the troops, not the truth of the political bombast. Think “birther,” think Trump; think what Stephen Colbert called truthiness (“if it’s not true, it should be, so let’s say it is.”)

From the looks of it, staying and fighting is a better strategy than headin’ North. And let’s be honest, how does one really escape the American shadow and footprint?

America’s political system is broke. It has to be fixed. I cling to the belief that the great American social experiment still has life in it if we keep our eye on whose minding the lab and don’t leave the outcome to people who think science is the devil’s playground and that government regulation belongs in the bedroom, not in the board room.

As for Canada, amiable Mistress of the North, thanks for being there. You’re a great place to visit, really, but … I came to the dance with Miss America.

 

 

 

Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D., is Senior Editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and Emeritus Professor of Media Psychology at Cal State, Los Angeles.

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