WE HELD A BABY SHOWER here the other day, organized by
K. for our friends Vicki and Greg. It was almost entirely K.'s doing, down
to getting caterers and professional babysitters to take care of the nitty
gritty of feeding thirty people and taking care of their kids, so they
could act like adults for at least a few hours in the middle of the day.
I had to run off to a job early in the morning, so I came
back to a nearly full house and children in the library, playing under
the supervision of two women from the Cristopher Robin Agency. Once I was
sure that they weren't pulling books down from the shelves, I scurried
downstairs and spent a good portion of the party smoking on the front porch
with whomever was taking a break from the no-smoking upstairs.
Everything went well, as far as I could tell -- G. and
V. seemed happy with their haul of soft, brightly-coloured toys and sturdy
little books, and everyone else seemed grateful for the food and hospitality.
Upstairs, the kids spent most of their time playing with paints and chasing
the cats around. At the end, while we were cleaning up, the babysitters
-- one of whom is some kind of Montessori-certified teacher -- thanked
us for being so nice, for thinking of activities and buying supplies ahead
of time (all K.'s work, once again) and letting them eat. We were fairly
shocked at the idea that they're often asked to work at parties like this,
to give out food to the kids, but aren't offered food themselves.
As they were leaving, one of them -- the head of the agency
-- told K. that they'd be happy to work for us anytime. She looked around
the room, at our desks and bookshelves, and said something we'll not soon
"I can see that you're the intelligentsia," -- this said
with a straight face -- "and not just members of the petty bourgeoisie."
K., gobsmacked, thanked her. Then came downstairs to tell
us about it. Much incredulous laughter ensued.
The intelligentsia. I think I'm flattered.
MONTHS AGO, when the U.S. elections were just getting
underway, I made my prediction:"Bush, with a slim majority." I always made
sure I said this with a shake of the head and a grim expression.
Until a few weeks ago, I was certain that I might be wrong,
despite my intuition. At the moment, though, it looks like Bush has the
lead, and it's growing. America, it seems, doesn't like a smart-ass, and
they especially don't like to see the geek picking on one of the campus
good ol' boys. Gore's heaving sighs and pursed-lip rebuttals in the debates
seem to have turned off the great "undecided" part of the polled electorate,
who have shifted their sympathy to the none-too-quick but seemingly likeable
Bush, despite him being a rich boy and all.
It's just like high school, where no one likes a condescending
browner, and no one can think of a bad thing to say about the dim but friendly
rich kid, the one who might not ace tests or shine on the football field,
but gives good parties. Hell, even the teachers pass him out of sympathy
Or at least that's how it looks. The fact is that very
few people watched this year's grimly dull debates, and whatever they know
they've learned through the media, who generally can't cast anything with
a metaphor any more complicated than the high school popularity complex.
I'd hate to think that this simpleminded coverage could become a self-fulfilling
prophecy and end up electing Dubya as the world's most powerful student
council president, but I can't shake the conviction that my prediction
I have a lot of sympathy for voters south of the border
who can't bring themselves to vote Democrat this year even if that's where
their sympathies have always been, who find themselves tortured by an urge
to vote for Nader, even if they're sure that it'll split the vote and guarantee
another Bush in the White House.
After all, up here in Canada, I'm faced with an election
where I can't bring myself to seriously think of voting for the incumbent
Liberal government, the one that shows all the signs of having bloated
itself with pork-barrel, patronage and the arrogant presumption of believing
the press about being Canada's "natural governing party". On the same day
that they announce the election, Liberal members of a caucus looking into
a new report on the party's ethical bankruptcy on the distribution of government
funds decline to show up at a meeting, and deny it quorum.
Now, these kind of stonewalling tactics aren't new in
parliamentary democracies -- Canada's ruling parties have always played
fast and loose with a system that allows them to call elections any time
during a five-year term -- but they indicate a party that's spent too long
in power to be remorseful about anything.
I don't expect my governments to be morally pure and ethically
saint-like -- I'm not an idealist about politics, and understand that the
average politician is an inherently corrupt being incapable of going through
a day without making the kind of compromise we only have to make a few
times in our lives. Still, I expect this kind of deviousness to be accompanied
by at least a modicum of shame, and the knowledge that the electorate isn't
the only machinery that can pluck them from the silk sheets of power like
a baby bird.
Since I still have a basic block about voting Tory, I'm
contemplating a vote for the nearly moribund NDP party, always a lame duck
federal entity. If enough people feel like I do, the inevitable scenario
is a considerable loss for the Liberals, and a substantial gain not for
either the Tories or the NDP, but for the current official opposition,
the new Conservative Alliance party, led by Stockwell Day, a man who thinks
the earth is 6000 years old.
Still, as someone who's valued nonconformity his whole
life, I have to believe that no intelligent person votes as a group. You
make your decision alone, and enter the voting booth alone. It only magnifies
the feeling that your tiny, insignificant voice is to be drowned by the
massed voice of a contrary choir, but I'd hate to vote like a gambler checking
In any case, my choice in the national elections are nothing
compared to the quandry I'm facing when I vote for mayor in the next two
weeks. In a field of non-entities facing our annoying incumbent, the best
choice right now is a drag queen who favours wearing police uniforms.
If only Americans had that choice.