Rick Salutin

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Rick Salutin is a Canadian novelist, playwright and critic. He is a strong advocate of left wing causes and writes a regular column in the Globe and Mail.
Columnists

Joseph Boyden controversy sheds light on community and belonging

Photo: Peter Wolf/flickr

I found Joseph Boyden's interview Wednesday on CBC -- in a word rarely called for -- unctuous. He surfaced three weeks after saying he wouldn't deal with questions about his Indigeneity publicly but only in a "speaking circle." This after filling what he calls "airtime" for 10 years on every form of media.

Now he's back out there on CBC and in the Globe, though solely with "acceptable" interviewers. APTN, which started all this with a cautious, respectful piece by Jorge Barrera on Boyden's claims, called it a "PR push."

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Columnists

Justin Trudeau may be the last neoliberal standing

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

Let's be clear on why Trump won. (Won the Electoral College, not the election. A strong enough majority of Americans voted against him.) It wasn't because of racism, fear of immigrants or misogyny. White supremacists and Confederate flag buffs didn't do it -- though they backed him.

He won because he carried four states in the rust belt, where factories once guaranteed people decent lives and which Democrats had always taken for granted. Hillary didn't even campaign there. Without them, Trump loses. In those states, the issue was hatred of free trade, largely in the form of NAFTA. It's now so despised that the term, free, is absent. People refer disgustedly merely to "trade deals."

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Joke news provides hope among stories on 'fake news'

Image: Flickr/BagoGames

This was the year of fake news, as I keep reading. But so were most years preceding it. In 1897 newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst sent ace illustrator Frederic Remington to Cuba to cover a revolutionary war against its Spanish rulers. Remington wrote to Hearst that he found no revolution and there would be no war. "You furnish the pictures," wrote Hearst, "and I'll furnish the war." War duly followed, and the sorry saga of Cuba-U.S. relations, still ongoing.

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Columnists

Culture is the last great British export

Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton/Library and Archives Canada/flickr

I hated myself for loving The Crown -- the Netflix series -- so ardently that I devoured the first 10 hours as soon as they went online. I've always been revolted in a morally smug way by anything in popular culture that suggests some lives count more than others. That goes particularly for celebrity coverage. It leads people to undervalue their own lives and overestimate the merits of being famous. There are people who sound more intimate with media figures than with their own family -- as if they know them better.

Besides, what Dickens said about the endless law suit in Bleak House should've applied to The Crown: "It is a slow, expensive, British, constitutional kind of thing."

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Slowly but surely, Kathleen Wynne reveals herself to be a standard issue Liberal

Photo: Canada 2020/flickr

I still think she's salvageable, said someone normally NDP but who's given up on provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath. She meant Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. It's hard to recall the hopes Wynne once inspired and how fresh she seemed. Let's refresh our memories.

When she ran for Liberal leadership in 2013, she'd be asked, portentously, if she really thought someone like her could succeed in Ontario politics. What you mean, she'd say brightly, is: Can a lesbian from Toronto become premier? The way she put it made you think: Perhaps. It was bracing and confident.

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Failure of democracy has many root causes

Image: Prachatai/flickr

The failure of democracy? An academic study published last summer, which is rather suddenly being hailed in places like the New York Times, claims "an entire global generation has lost faith in democracy." Citizens "have grown jaded." This applies to youth especially, who call elections "unimportant" and say "a democratic political system" is a "bad" way to run things.

But is it really so? Young Americans who enthused over Bernie Sanders in the primaries, skipped the election because it wasn't democratic enough. People in Greece, Spain or Italy, left old parties and built new ones for similar reasons.

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The threat of Trump isn't Trump

Photo: Mark Taylor/flickr

It will be an odd experience: the Trump years. On election night I thought the main task would be deciding what to do about them -- and in less than a day, young (mostly) people were in the streets across the U.S. protesting. Hallelujah. But it's also going to require a lot of thinking about what's going on. We'll need to think our way, as well as act, through the experience because otherwise it will be overwhelmingly upsetting and nobody will get any decent sleep.

In this task, I'm indebted to a Globe and Mail editorial about Trump's newly appointed "chief strategist" titled, "Steve Bannon isn't the problem, Donald Trump is." It helped because it made me realize that I think Donald Trump isn't the problem, Steve Bannon is.

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U.S. presidential debacle rekindles electoral reform debate

Photo: Sony200boy/flickr

Electoral reform never seems to quite fall off the agenda. The presidential debacle in the U.S. -- Clinton won the popular vote but Trump will be president, just like Gore and Bush in 2000 -- has rekindled the debate down there.

Since we're supposed to already have democracy, it always comes as a surprise to realize we aren't there yet.

You'd think we were stuck in the Britain of the mid-1800s, the heyday of Chartism. It was a mighty mass movement of working people whose lives and communities had been shattered by, among other things, free trade! Their solution wasn't a Marxist overthrow of "the ruling class" but extending the vote to all (meaning, at the time, all men) rather than only the rich.

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Building a mass anti-Trump movement to bring democracy back into politics

Photo: Gregg Brekke/flickr

How impressive were those protests across the U.S. on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Trump won? And he hasn't even deported anyone yet. Imagine what will happen when he does.

I say this not just as someone moved by any political activity that looks beyond casting a vote. Impressive because they have already answered a question that hung in the air once the result was known: What kind of opposition or resistance makes sense for the Trump years ahead?

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U.S. voters prepare for agonizing choice on election day

Photo: Bill B/flickr

Given the choice between a crook and a sleaze, you'd normally think people would opt for the crook. Crooks can be très charmant, like Cary Grant in It Takes a Thief or, more recently, Matt Bomer in White Collar.

Crooks can be virtuous, like Robin Hood, which may be how Clinton sees herself: Bill and I cut corners so we can win power and use it to do good. Why is she the crook here, although Trump, too, has a long record of crookedness and there are obvious crossovers by both? Because she's the one named by the U.S.'s number 1 cop: the big G-man himself. The FBI targets crime, not sleaze.

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