First off, I apologize for my sporadic posting and lack of insight during the convention, but I found blogging to be a bit of a distraction. Anyways, a few thoughts on the convention.
Given this was my first convention, I really have no basis in comparison, in terms of mood or substance. However, and I believe this a non-partisan observation, it is fairly inspiring to see so many people actively involved in our political process. This convention seemed quite a healthy exercise, maybe not in terms of big picture policy, but with the exchange of ideas and perspectives, mostly through idle conversation. My pre-conception was a gathering of "backroom" types and "elites", but I came way with a visual of mostly ordinary people, made up of every race, ethnicity and regional background. I was also thoroughly impressed with how approachable and down to earth all of our elected representatives are, there was no "air" to anyone and that was refreshing. If the Liberals are some supposed amalgamation of arrogance, entitlement and detached operatives, I didn't see it. What I saw was engaged Canadians, within an inclusive entity. Every once in awhile, you need to dispense with the cynicism (hello in there media class!) and appreciate an organic expression of democracy.
A few highlights:
-IMO, Canada's national embarrassment is how we have mistreated aboriginals, how we have failed to deal with root causes, how we just passively accept obvious problems, mostly lip service and avoidance. I was quite impressed with the opening remarks from Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation, even moreso when I realized we were standing on his peoples traditional land. After a great speech, it occurred to me, that despite the Liberal failures on this file, there was a great deal of goodwill extended, Chief Campbell addressed us as friends, which was an interesting perspective. Later, we heard the Nisgha performing traditional songs. This was a moment for me, because the lack of familiarity brought something spontaneous. At one point, there was a extended pause in the very rhythmic presentation. We Liberals rose to applaud, but the song then continued. What could have been slightly awkward turned into applause morphing in unison with the drumbeat. I loved every second of it.
-I attended the Dion tribute, and put up a small sum to help him pay off his debt. It was very well attended, and it was great to see Dion feel some love. Dion is such an honorable man, everything about him oozes integrity. I also listened to his speech and the great video that preceded his appearance. I thought the proceeding were a microcosm of his reign. While I watched the video tribute, it rekindled some of my conviction that Dion would have made a great Prime Minister, a man of ideas, forward thinking and principled. When Dion spoke, I confess to yawning several times after the halfway point, which also reaffirmed my former resignation that despite his strengths, there was always something lacking in his leadership, the ability to inspire. When the speech was over, any sense of "regret" had pretty much evaporated.
-Having media accreditation was a pretty cool gig and it's also a testament to the direction of the party, that they gave us grassroots bloggers, with no real status in the party, access and a level of respect. What I found noteworthy, was watching the "real" media and how they conducted themselves. I witnessed a couple of hissy fits (won't name names) over god knows what, but the real contrast came from watching the disconnect between reality and "spin". Now, we normally think "spin" is the domain of partisans, but in reality, everyone has their own agenda and I found the too clever distortions of the proceedings to be disappointing. I read one column that said "many Liberals are calling this the Seinfeld Convention", but the REALITY is those words were never uttered a Liberal, the characterization was a media frame, so the idiocy of the reference was striking. Another broadcast made mention that the convention wasn't media friendly because it lacked a "story", which was really a testament to media failure. I guess people getting along, joined by common purpose and genuine optimism, due to improved fortunes doesn't sell copy but really that's more a "story" about the messenger. Acrimony, angst and backroom nonsense, that's what they crave. I come away with one clear thesis, the media, in it's current state and focus is PART of the problem with our political discourse, not part of the solution. The Liberals need to reform, so too other parties, but for cripes sake, it's time for some introspection from the media class. Small.
-Somewhat related, but I had an epiphany of sorts while at the convention. I won't say who, but I was taken aside by a pundit, who was actually quite nice, pleasant and respectful. One limitation or pitfall with this medium, or maybe more accurately, one failing or "glitch" on my part- the way in which we tend to dehumanize, the way we argue as though in the lion's den, the lack of decorum. I confess, over recent months, I've allowed myself to get dragged down into the gutter, less high signal, less tolerant. I won't rationalize or justify, but said pundit wondered why I had been so venomous in my criticisms, beyond just a philosophical argument. After I got over my initial surprise that my musings actually mattered, or where read, I felt somewhat embarrassed at my behavior. I apologized for my past attacks. Coming home on the plane, I actually considered giving up blogging or commenting, because it can be a nasty affair and there is a real disconnect with how I act in the "real" world and this online one. Anyways, I was confronted with my own hypocrisy for acting like the low rent characters that I can't stand within this medium.
-I heard Ignatieff speak three or four times, do a couple scrums, so I feel I have a better sense of the man. Again, this speaks to inherent cynicism, but I think the detractors need to cut Ignatieff some slack. Policy differences aside, not to mention a penchant for platitudes, Ignatieff is a serious person with genuine desires for the country. This isn't a ego gratification exercise for Ignatieff, although it's also true that EVERY politician has a sense of SELF. Ignatieff cares about our country, rather than fixating on the details, I was struck by the inflexion in his voice, the passion and the resolve.
-If I don't smell beer for a week, it will be too soon :)