Lessons from South of the Border

By Grant T. Smith

lessonsI do not want to talk about pipelines!


That is not true. Pipelines are very much on my mind. What I really do not want to engage in is a one-sided conversation because the factions are so firmly entrenched that the dialogue is hardly different than shouting.


I do not want to talk about free trade!


That is not true. Building a better world is a central theme for me. As nations working together, it is possible for us to work to improve wages, to improve the free flow of goods and to generate positive change. But the discourse and the dialogue, again has grown to shouts; has grown to rhetoric that stops conversation instead of it encouraging it.


I wrote the first line of this article. I stopped.


I thought, “What do I want to write about?”


I typed, “I do want to write an article about the lack of civil discourse.”


I looked at that line and considered that an article about civility is for another time. Then I realized I was already writing and the article was underway.


Instead of talking of pipelines or free trade, today I choose to talk about an example of a person who rose above the sound and fury.


Over the last couple of years I became a fan of John McCain (29 August 1936 – 25 August 2018) as I watched his work in the United States Senate.  I watched his efforts and I learned about his strides to work with colleagues on the other side of the aisle. I learned that he had almost chosen a Democrat to be his running mate when he ran for the presidency, before choosing Sarah Palin.  McCain continually worked with his opponents to build a more perfect union.


I watched his funeral service from Washington; some of the most influential minds of our time marched to the podium, Henry Kissinger, Joe Lieberman and two past presidents (one Democrat and one Republican). I listened as each of the speakers worked to reach across the great divide and try to encourage relaxing of rhetoric and an opening of minds.


John McCain became more personal for me over the last year as I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix on business a few times. Arizona was the state that McCain represented and he held a special place in the hearts of the people of Phoenix. Some of those people have become my friends. To them I send my sympathy in this time of loss.


We, in Canada, have generally had a more civil discourse than the one that exists south of the border, but our rhetoric also has grown and the brief silences are too often and too quickly filled with noise. I am no less guilty of this then the idiot I disagree with (see how I did that). I shall endeavour to walk a higher path. It should not be that the brief candle ends up signifying nothing.


Farewell Senator John McCain.

* I wish to receive full credit for resisting the urge to put a Sarah Palin joke here.