My son, who is now old enough to scan headlines as he digs through the newspaper looking for the comics, has questions about the federal election – questions I’d rather not answer as I believe that kids should learn to love the world and that saving it is the job of grown-ups.
But as every parent knows, that is not an acceptable answer to a curious 10-year-old. In my search for the words to explain why what a woman wears is suddenly a threat to national security, I find myself falling back on Star Wars metaphors. It’s a language we share.
And despite of my desire to believe that contemporary Canadian politics is more nuanced than a make-believe galaxy far, far away, I have to admit that Darth Vader himself would be impressed by how Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have tapped into the dark side to rescue their electoral fortunes. Fear, I tell him, is one route to power.
Right now, our Prime Minister is whipping up fear against Muslims, but in the past Irish Catholics, Japanese-Canadians, and Sikhs have been the targets. The important thing for the fear-mongers is that the group be readily identifiable and not have much power, so the politician can credibly promise to be able to protect their supporters against this manufactured threat.
Fear doesn’t generally result in great decisions, but if all you really want is power, it works. And as long as you can focus that fear on something relatively simple to deal with (like banning niqabs), then you don’t have to talk about solutions to complicated problems like climate change or social inequality.
He may be only 10 years old, but the boy can spot a bully and it angers him that the news keeps saying that a party could win the election by being bullies.
So I remind him of Yoda’s most important lesson: fear and hatred are not stronger than a path built on compassion and interconnectedness. And I tell him that a Rebel Alliance of artists, workers and activists did emerge during this ugly election to start building that slower but stronger path.
Fittingly, the rebels’ founding document, the Leap Manifesto, was subtitled “a call for a Canada based on caring for the Earth and one another.”
It puts forward a vision of how it is possible for Canada to fight against climate change, deliver meaningful justice to First Nations, create better jobs and address economic and racial inequalities.
Not everyone was a fan, I tell him. Many treated the document as, at best, a dangerous distraction from the important business of analyzing the latest poll results.
Yet, over 25,000 people signed on to the Leap Manifesto in the first week. And we’ll be building on that post-election – no matter who wins.
If he asks, I’ll let him sign. I can’t promise him a light sabre, only a new hope.