Friday, June 13, 2008
Old Canada vs New Canada
In particular, I really like her take on the struggle in the next election between "Old America" and "New America." Much of what she talks about is absolutely relevant to Canada, or at least I think it is. In fact, if you replace "America" with "Canada" and change the necessary political figures (i.e. Bill Clinton = Jean Chretien), its a pretty good snapshot of where we are in the country.
In fact, there are some real parallels between the Presidental contest and our expected election. That's not to say I see Dion as anything close in ability to Barack Obama (except maybe in some of his policy solutions), but they do have that same background - elite education, take a "cerebral/measured" approach to issues, are more the "sensitive, thinking" types.
Versus Harper, who spent years in the system, working towards his goal, often at odds with his own Party and who is a bit of a brawler. Someone who knows what Tim Hortons coffee tastes like and is comfortable at the hockey game with a Labatt Blue and his son.
On to the brilliance of Ms. Noonan:
2008 will also prove in part to be a decisive political contest between the Old America and the New America. Between the thing we were, and the thing we have been becoming for 40 years or so. (I'm not referring here to age. Some young Americans have Old America heads and souls; some old people are all for the New.)
Mr. McCain is the Old America, of course; Mr. Obama the New.
In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should.
In the New America, love of country is a decision. It's one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.
Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.
The Old America had big families. You married and had children. Life happened to you. You didn't decide, it decided. Now it's all on you. Old America, when life didn't work out: "Luck of the draw!" New America when life doesn't work: "I made bad choices!" Old America: "I had faith, and trust." New America: "You had limited autonomy!"
Old America: "We've been here three generations." New America: "You're still here?"
Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it. Old America: Politics is a duty. New America: Politics is life.
The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. The New: I'll sue.
Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like "personal honor," of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.
Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.
Both Old and New America honor sacrifice, but in the Old America it was more essential, more needed for survival both personally (don't buy today, save for tomorrow) and in larger ways.
The Old and New define sacrifice differently. An Old America opinion: Abjuring a life as a corporate lawyer and choosing instead community organizing, a job that does not pay you in money but will, if you have political ambitions, provide a base and help you win office, is not precisely a sacrifice. Political office will pay you in power and fame, which will be followed in time by money (see Clinton, Bill). This has more to do with timing than sacrifice. In fact, it's less a sacrifice than a strategy.
A New America answer: He didn't become a rich lawyer like everyone else—and that was a sacrifice! Old America: Five years in a cage—that's a sacrifice!
In the Old America, high value was put on education, but character trumped it. That's how Lincoln got elected: Honest Abe had no formal schooling.
In Mr. McCain's world, a Harvard Ph.D. is a very good thing, but it won't help you endure five years in Vietnam. It may be a comfort or an inspiration, but it won't see you through. Only character, and faith, can do that. And they are very Old America.
Old America: candidates for office wear ties. New America: Not if they're women. Old America: There's a place for formality, even the Beatles wore jackets!
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