At this time of year, before the ritual devouring of roasted meats and orange pies, it's traditional to give thanks for the bounty in our lives. This could be as simple as, "Thank God we're all still talking after last year's Thanksgiving," or, "I am deeply grateful that this tofurkey gave its life so we could eat," or it could be more profound. I'm sharing my reflections here, so that I can get to the pie faster.
I am grateful, first, that the federal government has recognized the trustworthiness and integrity of the national media. Why else would the Conservative Party attempt to sneak a provision into its omnibus bill allowing use of newspaper and broadcast reports in its political ads? They need our stories – okay, to attack their enemies, but you can't have everything. Finally, after years of refusing to speak to reporters, stonewalling their requests and fundraising over threats of liberal "media elites," the Conservatives admit that they need our product. "You wouldn't believe what the Press Gallery just did in Ottawa," one such fundraising letter began. Um, is the answer, "Give us fodder to take down our rivals?" They like us! They really like us.
I give thanks every time I turn to CPAC when the House is sitting, to watch my favourite surrealist program, Question Period. If you're not watching it, you should. It's bonkers. Question Period is a reality show, but it appears to be unscripted, apart from a series of non sequiturs that might have been written by Luis Bunuel. The characters are all very shouty, except for the ones who cry. Sometimes, people are voted off the island. The man in charge wears a robe and an expression of mild panic and says cryptic things like, "That is why it's called Question Period and not answer period." If you're looking for something weird and disturbing and you can't wait two years for David Lynch to bring back Twin Peaks, this is your show.
I am grateful that the sole cultural institution we're worried about losing is a doughnut store. Also, that the doughnut store offers credit cards. This may have solved our 150-year-long quest for identity. Are we the peacekeeping country? The irresponsible resource powerhouse? No, we're the country with the double-maple-glazed credit card. This is strangely comforting.
I give thanks for a Toronto mayoral election in which the debates come along much more frequently than the streetcars (and generally contain more brawling).
I am grateful for the country's public-health researchers, although sometimes it's hard to hear them through the tape they've had placed over their mouths. It was wonderful to see the report recommending the legalization of marijuana released this week by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. As a way of restricting pot's use and curbing the public-health consequences, the drug should be legalized and subject to strict regulations, the report found. It notes that "despite the prohibition of cannabis, more than one-third of young adults are users, and our current approach exacerbates the harms."
Legalization and enforcement would actually allow for better control of the negative consequences associated with the drug. In other words, the CAMH report pretty much agrees with current public-health thinking around the world, and with recommendations that have been around (and ignored) in this country for 40 years. Policy makers will likely follow the findings in the report when expert advice trumps political strategy, which should be around the fifth of never.
I feel blessed that we are the kind of country where a whip-wielding dominatrix can be invited to testify before the most exalted public office in the land, then get kicked out for being too mean.
Looking across the border, I was glad to hear Microsoft's CEO tell a group of professional women that they should not ask for higher salaries. This way, when my e-mail correspondents accuse me of being "paranoid" about feminist issues and "making it all up," I can point to the comments made by Microsoft's Satya Nadella, who told a conference this week that it's "good karma" for female employees to avoid asking for more money. (I would take a new car over good karma any day, in case anyone wants to give me a raise.) Did I mention that he said this out loud at a conference on women in technology? If I were Mr. Nadella, I would start giving thanks, loudly, to all the women who work with me, and I'd probably start throwing cash around, too. Just to be on the safe side.
Most of all, I am grateful to be here, in Canada, where dominatrices and doughnut-eaters mingle freely to the sounds of coyotes and Nickelback, which are sometimes indistinguishable. A country where I can write as many sarcastic things as I like about the government without being parted from my fingernails by a man in a hood. There are many people in many countries who could not say the same. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.