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Lighten up, Doug Ford! Thanks to Margaret Atwood, at least you'll get a footnote

Margaret Atwood, on the Calgary Herald picket line

Lighten up, Doug Ford! It's good to be given a sound public thrashing by Margaret Atwood. It's proof that your hitherto meaningless existence has been recognized!

After all, Atwood is an author of historical stature, the sort of person journalists describe as an icon without even bothering to look up the word. In other words, she's someone who, unlike you, history will remember as more than a footnote.

So you should treat the talking-to you've just received from her as a blessing, a gift from the Gods, proof that you are not merely a gnat, no matter what the rest of us may think.

Let's pause here for a little background: For Western Canadian readers who may have missed it, Ford is a Toronto city councillor of a particularly odious neo-Con stripe and also the brother of that unfortunate city's mayor, Rob Ford.

The Ford Brothers are the sort of people who make the folks who surround Prime Minister Stephen Harper seem like nature's gentlemen. Alas, somehow they managed to get elected, and now they are busy wreaking havoc in one of Canada's nicest cities -- up to now, anyway.

As the sort of person whose supporters find their lips getting tired when they read, Doug Ford has lately been on a campaign to close public libraries. Atwood, who can be quite prickly herself, got up an effort to stop him, which by all accounts has been rather successful, with more than a quarter million people sending Tweets to support her.

This in turn got Ford's back up, and he responded with this stunning Tweeted riposte: "Well, good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don't even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn't have a clue who she is." Well, duh! Of course you wouldn't!

Brother Rob Ford, by the way, has also been in the news, accused of flipping "the bird" and mouthing obscenities at a woman who scolded him for talking on his cellular phone while driving. He blew it off as a misunderstanding, also in a Tweet, but let's stick with Doug Ford and Atwood and their Tweeted and re-Tweeted fuddle-duddle battle for the time being.

Getting back to you, Doug: When the bug spray has settled down after the next Toronto municipal election, history will likely not have much to say about you. Atwood, on the other hand, is someone whom history will remember. But a public slapdown by Atwood means that at least you might get a mention in a good book or something of the sort that would be kept in a library.

Anyway, as cranky as it makes you feel right now, I can personally attest that the sting will pass away in time. You see, I too have received a good crack across the knuckles, metaphorically speaking, from Atwood for a mistake less horrifying than wanting to close public libraries, but nevertheless deeply humiliating.

The circumstances were as follows: During Atwood's visit to the Calgary Herald picket line some years ago, a matter that oddly enough came up in another context in this blog just days ago, I took it upon myself to tell her how much I had enjoyed the Robber Bride, which had been published not too long before.

Alas for me, I referred to a memorable character in that novel as Xena (as in the warrior princess), not as Zenia (as I really ought to have remembered).

Atwood regarded me with an icy stare, corrected me sharply in a voice that may be fairly likened to a hiss, and promptly decamped to discuss matters with a picketer of more literary alertness. Perhaps if she were to Tweet about it today, she would say it was all a misunderstanding … but, to her credit, I doubt it.

At that moment, Doug, my mortification was profound! But as time has passed, I have come to see this little vignette as verification of my humble existence.

Indeed, in retrospect, I think I would have forgiven her if she'd knocked out a tooth! I don't expect you to try reading one of her books, but you really ought to man up and get over it. You'll be a better man for it!

Remember, Doug, as Oscar Wilde so famously said, "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." (And if you don't know who Oscar Wilde is, ask a reference librarian.)

+ + +

NOTE: Sometimes the speed and accuracy of my predictions is frightening. (Then again, might as well just say it, there was the time I forecasted a Barb Higgins victory in the Calgary municipal election.)

Just the other day, in this space, I observed that since all six Alberta Tory leadership candidates were unanimous in their view that there must be no provincial support for a downtown arena in Edmonton, we could safely draw the conclusion that "as soon as the leader is selected, the provincial election past, and the eternal Alberta Conservatives safely restored to power, provincial taxpayers will be ponying up for a new Edmonton arena."

The Edmonton Journal reported yesterday that "Premier Ed Stelmach signalled … money from a provincial infrastructure fund might help pay for Edmonton's downtown arena."

The deal will be done even before the leader is chosen, saving whoever wins the embarrassment of, as they used to say, having to publicly change horses in mid-stream.

This post also appears in David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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