An editorial from the Prince George Citizen:
“I’d like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves.“
Wouldn’t we all?
Doesn’t everyone need a hug?
Can’t love conquer all?
There are some politicians who think so. Even in an era of Scandal and House of Cards on TV and the real-life Oval Office Oaf of reality TV fame, there are at least two politicians who think love trumps racism, political divides and even Trump himself.
In Canada, the new federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, has clearly seized the love platform.
“Yes to love!” he tweeted last week. “During a time when it feels like divisive politics are on the rise around the world, it’s inspiring to see an act of courage for something so beautiful. Congrats, Australia #MarriageEquality.”
In case you missed it, Australians approved same-sex marriage in a national referendum Wednesday.
Singh’s rise to win the leadership campaign to replace Tom Mulcair hinged on four minutes in September, that was captured on video and quickly went viral.
Immediately after he was introduced at an event in Brampton, Ont., a woman raced to the front and started screaming in his face that he was trying to impose Shariah law, an Islamic concept for a religious state government in the Qur’an. Although many Muslim men wear turbans, so do Sikhs, a completely different religious faith that Singh belongs to.
Several male and female volunteers tried to intervene to steer the woman away but she held her ground and kept shouting racial and religious slurs so Singh kept talking into the microphone.
“We welcome you, we love you, we support you,” he said, completely staying cool. “We all believe in your rights. We’re not intimidated by hatred.”
Finally, the woman stormed out of the hall.
Singh earned national attention and praise for simultaneously standing up to the irate female heckler while also defusing the situation. He demonstrated the reality that every parent instinctively knows: that the power of love is both gentle and rock-solid, both patient and unyielding.
At just 38, his charisma and populist message of Canadian unity, regardless of gender, skin colour or whether we’re old stock or new stock Canadians (as, unfortunately, Stephen Harper once phrased it) is striking a chord and not just among young, urban voters. Older, white voters, even those in rural Canada where the sight of a Sikh man wearing a turban is a rare thing, are curious about this photogenic, intelligent man with the sharp suits and the smooth voice.
In every way, he can claim to represent a fresh, modern political agenda, beyond the nepotism of a second-generation Trudeau or the Harper lite Andrew Scheer. Trudeau can try to argue that he represents a changing liberal Canada and Scheer can insist he’s the young voice of the kinder Canadian conservativism. Singh, by stark contrast, embodies change and the new Canada, as well as a departure from same-old, same-old politics where prime ministers alternate between men of French or Anglo-Saxon descent.
Singh speaks both English and French fluently (as well as Hindi and Punjabi).
For those who would like something a little familiar in their top political leaders, he’s a lawyer.
Yet, his core message is of love and strength, of social responsibility and individual rights, of a common faith in what it means to be a Canadian that is rooted in diversity and modernity.
Meanwhile, the American equivalent of Singh is hoping his message of love will also carry him to the White House in 2020. Although he hasn’t declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president, there seems little doubt of Booker’s ambition to be the second black man to move from junior U.S. senator to President of the United States. Booker’s update on Barack Obama’s “audacity of hope” is “the conspiracy of love.” The only thing the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, says he hates is hate. He calls his effort to bridge political and racial divides in America a conspiracy because it can only succeed by former enemies conspiring against the short-term selfish interests of their tribe and for the good of the country.
It is too early to say whether either man will be successful with their counterintuitive political messages but they will have to sell the love to make it catch on with a cynical electorate.
There is a way to do that and it was last done in 1971, also during a time of heightened political discord and racial conflict.
Remember the verse quoted at the top?
It was followed by this memorable chorus:
“I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
That’s the real thing.“
During the height of Richard Nixon and Vietnam and the Cold War, when the American republic seemed in jeopardy of tearing itself apart once more, a marketing campaign went against the grain, offering love and harmony as a way to sell Coca-Cola.
Can love and harmony elect a prime minister and a president? In the next three years, both Canadians and Americans are going to find out.