It’s often been said that the politicians in our House of Commons behave like bullies. They get nasty, they yell, they berate, they make offensive comments. Elected officials are bad examples for children, as well as for other adults.
Luckily, we’ve not heard much in the media about Commons heckling these last few months. Sunny ways.…
But do we really want our politicians to behave themselves? What, after all, is a bully? What does it mean to bully?
Linda McQuaig has no doubt: The United States is a bully on the international scene. And Canada, she believes, is an enabler. Her 2007 book, Holding The Bully’s Coat: Canada And The U.S. Empire (filed in Non-Fiction in the Lennoxville Library at 327.71), offers a recent overview of the two countries and where they stand on issues of national, and global, security.
There was a time when Canada stood on its own and made a difference in the world, McQuaig argues. Lester B. Pearson’s work, the United Nations, a ban on land mines – McQuaig gives examples of the good Canada has done on the international scene when it works ethically and independently of the Americans.
The United States, however, believes its own hype, leaning more and more on the ideology of American exceptionalism to justify any outrage, McQuaig argues (although the 1920s-era plan to invade Canada was abandoned). What’s best for the United States is more important than anything – even up to torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The US invasion of Iraq was executed without United Nations approval – “an illegal act of war,” the UN’s secretary general noted.
McQuaig is an entertaining polemicist, and her work is filled with statistics and often interesting arguments. Further, this is a good primer on some recent Canadian history. We should be ashamed to be holding the bully’s coat, she says bluntly.
Of course some bullies don’t care that they are being bullies. Like the well-regarded American president, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who held office from 1901 to 1909.
Author Doris Kearns Goodwin profiles Teddy (and others) in The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, And The Golden Age Of Journalism (2013, filed in the Lennoxville Library in Audio Book and read by Howard Herrmann, about 37 hours on four discs in Mp3 format, meaning older CD players won’t play them, but computers will).
The book profiles a handful of influential people, and the politics and economy of the U.S., from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. The laissez-faire state had allowed gigantic monopolies to behave like little monsters, ruining lives not just for profit, but for obscene profit. And because there were no rules, there was no illegality. The desperate poor lived in filth (if they were lucky enough not to starve to death).
Roosevelt, a child of privilege, slowly began to change his views on laissez-faire capitalism as he actually met the people being destroyed. Roosevelt set into motion the country’s “reform” era: minimum rights for workers, protecting consumers from scammers, and working to end endemic political and corporate corruption.
“The essence of regulation lay in his enterprising use of the bully pulpit – a phrase he himself coined to describe the national platform the presidency provides to shape public sentiment and mobilize action.”
Roosevelt believed in “preaching… to apply an ethical framework through government action to the untrammeled growth of modern America.”
For Roosevelt, being a bully meant offering, and providing, leadership.
Politicians around the world are often portrayed as bullies. But certainly in Canada, those elected to the House of Commons are performing on a stage. Our politicians hoot, heckle, and howl – and then go out together for a drink or three and a few laughs.
There are certainly bullies in the House of Commons — those who seek to viciously wound or impose control for the authoritarian thrill of it. But for many, heckling is a fun and challenging game of wit and smarts.
Sometimes is a bully is a harasser, a goon, perhaps even a murderer. Sometimes, the bully is merely the person with whom you disagree.
— Eleanor Brown, April 22, 2016