"We have found one of the two Franklin ships," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week with what seemed like genuine excitement and, given all the years I really hoped this would happen, how small do I have to be to be bothered that this discovery was made on Mr. Harper's watch?
Pretty small. I am that small. I am tiny. I am two inches tall.
No. I am smaller. Arctic lichen is a forest for me because, I realized, upon hearing the news of this historic development, I am so tiny that I am not sure I would want Stephen Harper to find Sir John Franklin even if Sir John Franklin were still alive.
I am so petty that part of me might want Mr. Harper to miss him, maybe by two snow drifts or something. Perhaps I would want my Prime Minister's line of sight blocked by a lonely but conveniently (possibly strategically) situated cairn.
The trick is to choose rocks that have a slight tilt inward to give your cairn stability, remove all traces of sedimentary rock from your gloves and then tag yourself in a downtown Toronto restaurant at the time the cairn appeared – suggesting that you were never there. Later, offer the far side of your lonely, sturdy cairn to any roaming explorers to use as shelter while they eat shoes.
I am not happy to realize I am this partisan, that I am part of the polarization of polar exploration that I know runs counter to the spirit of these endeavours, these pre-flight moon landings.
I am not proud that part of me hopes our Prime Minister would be distracted while taking a selfie with a particularly comely polar bear or something, and not see poor Franklin still forging on.
What kind of person would want our Prime Minister to wander right by the long-sought legendary explorer while he was on his last legs (not his own but legs he is eating – crew legs) and dropping silk handkerchiefs, silver forks, engraved toast racks, the odd novel and other high-class whatnot taken from the ship?
Because that's what the Franklin people did. It was like the expedition left half the sale merchandise from an Indigo bookshop scattered in the Arctic, and people have been combing the ice for this memorabilia ever since. Every knickknack that has been found has captured my attention, as it has the world's, and now we have a whole ship. This is it! Clues to vital aspects of our national identity are interred in that ship. So many questions could be answered here. Most important: What kind of a Canadian is trivial enough to care that this historic discovery was made in part due to the effort of a Prime Minister for whom she did not vote?
That question is already answered and the ship is still 11 metres underwater. Go, science! It's me – I am everything that is wrong with politics, possibly with humanity today.
Mystery solved. I am so ashamed.
Stephen Harper, who has devoted resources and formed private-sector partnerships to carry out this search, who promised last year in a Throne Speech that played like the longest Stan Rogers song ever written, to "discover the fate" of the expedition, has forever made himself part of the story.
Hundreds of years from now, the Inuit will have oral traditions about Stephen Harper and his crew roaming the shores, searching for something – and no one will believe them.
"There seems to be confusion among the indigenous population," a future expert will say. "They tell tales of a white man, a very white man, whom they claim was looking for something. They say the man spoke often of 'strong and stable' things, and no one really knew what he meant. Legend has it he kept a constant eye on the north, fearful of encroaching Russians, but that he mostly seemed to fear a drama teacher with three children and very nice hair.
"We find all this implausible, and believe the 'Harper' figure to be mythical, the kind of bogeyman found in many folkloric traditions."
There! See? I did it. I took a cheap shot at Stephen Harper, and all he did was possibly the one and only thing that I, too, would do if I were prime minister, and that is find Franklin. Hello, I am a monster.
A very petty monster.
I may not be history's greatest monster, but I possibly am the greatest pop-history-reading monster.
I am sorry, Prime Minister. Sincerely – nice one.