Let’s start with Carolyn Parrish’s appearance on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. She was handed a Bush doll, told to kiss it — yuck — then throw it on the floor, stomp it like an angry brat, and flash a maniacal grin as the camera panned back to her face. Many serious grownups in Ottawa, like Liberal MP Roger Gallaway, found this “pathetic” and “a perverse joke.” The Prime Minister said he did not “share her sense of humour,” and expelled her from the Liberal caucus since he cannot “tolerate behaviour that demeans and disrespects others.”

I remind them all of Jon Stewart, when told The Daily Show had become the main news source for many young viewers. “Bulletin!” he snarled at the camera, “it’s not a real news show!” Bulletin: This Hour Has 22 Minutes is satire. Carolyn Parrish was parodying herself, not George Bush, as she patiently explained to the press, ex-teacher that she is. Politicians who don’t get this should take a course on something like, Making Distinctions as an Adult. It brings to mind a six-year-old I know, who was shown a news clipping this week about a Winnipeg peace group that denounced the Lego set Bionicles because they’re warriors and “promote violence” among kids. He said he disagreed. When asked why, he harrumphed, “Because they’re toys!”

The matter of childishness has pervaded this dispute in revealing ways. Roger Gallaway said he would “expect more from infants.” Conservative House Leader John Reynolds said the Parrish TV bit set a bad example for children, and “somebody like [her] needs real help.” They all fretted over how she might act when George Bush visits the House at month’s end. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said MPs should “behave like adults.” Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan clucked, “I don’t know about you, but my mother brought me up to believe that when we had visitors we always treated our visitors in a polite, respectful way.”

Hmm, verrry interrresting. Many of these people seem to have childish behaviour on their minds. Why could that possibly be? Well, have you glanced at Question Period lately? There is no more infantilized group of adults in the land. Look at them sitting sheepishly behind their little desks, arranged for the camera as background to their leader or his ministers, dutifully clapping, whomping their desks, and yucking it up over the feeblest personal putdowns or substitutes for wit, because it is their job to do so mindlessly. Does an occasional glimmer of embarrassment cross their faces? No way to tell, it’s gone too fast.

Some are people of accomplishment, I know it for a fact. But you’d never guess it then and there. Anyone who has attended Question Period in person, including the guards who admonish high school kids in the galleries to behave nicely, have shaken their heads over it and the way the (real) kids gawk unbelievingly at our hallowed parliamentary infantilism. These people have a stake in deflecting the thought of childishness elsewhere.

As for their media analogues, here is Rex Murphy on CBC-TV talking about the “kindergarten approach” of Carolyn Parrish to U.S.-Canada relations. She has worked up a “vaudeville act” in “increasingly ridiculous venues” such as 22 Minutes that belongs to “the classroom showoff, the needy clown, attention-getting by means of insult and crude display . . . juvenile, smug and vulgar.” It leaves me a bit flabbergasted since his entire commentary is nothing except name-calling, as in — recess? If you don’t believe me, here’s how it ends, and I’m not pulling it out of context, it has no context: “And one last note: A lot of people who think George Bush is the stupid party ought to visit a mirror.” What age were you when you last heard that one?

At the least, I would argue that by taking a strong stand on a crucial issue — America’s hapless response to terror — which reflects the views in her riding and in most of the country, Carolyn Parrish has behaved in a far more adult way than our, ahem, pathetic barking parliamentarians or their equivalent media scolds. Somebody, or possibly everybody, with the possible exception of Carolyn Parrish, should grow up.


Rick Salutin

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 Toronto Star.