It is a silly game, really, which we all delight in, that all politicians are not to be trusted. And that we (the non-politicians) are all somewhat better than all of them (the current politicians) because we lead moral, honest lives, and they do not.
The problem with this narrative (we are good, they are bad) particularly on our Island, is that every politician is very close to each and every one of us. Indeed, when you analyze who is elected on P.E.I. - federally, provincially, municipally, etc., etc. -we are all related, or somewhat related, or otherwise close to so many of our elected officials.
So as soon as we determine "they" are dishonest, and "we" are morally superior, we have a problem. Because this means our friends, and cousins, and inlaws, and on-and-on, are simply degenerates (At least relative to the rest of us.)
It is an interesting philosophical problem. Especially since we, as Islanders, are often consumed with the arbitrary aspiration of the idea that "I am pals with the sister-in-law of the Minister of the Whatsit, so therefore I can get her to get me what I need." (Or put another way, maybe many of us are hypocrites.)
Which is why the Senator Duffy controversy is so fascinating. For it seems he is one Island politician who very few of us are willing to defend, and cow-tow to, despite his generational-Islandness.
For these days it seems likely you can't walk into an Island coffee shop, or cornerstore, or livingroom, or even the sauna at The Spa without people cracking disdainful jokes about the formerly loved Duffster. Even our media has universally given him a severe, and enthusiastic, beating.
(And, more darkly, many of us enjoy making veiled references to his weight, revealing that prejudice against body-type is still happily enjoyed by our culture. Shame on all of us for that one, including CBC 's Rex Murphy, who couldn't resist referencing the senator's eating possibilities when he avoided reporters by escaping through a Halifax kitchen.)
Perhaps we no longer perceive Senator Duffy as really one of us, despite his deep roots and Islandwide relatives. Or worse, perhaps we think he has confirmed the old adage that P.E.I. is like a pot of lobsters, "Once one tries to climb out, the rest pull him back in."
But more to the point, and the moral point, is that maybe we should all have simple standards, and plain old principles. One example: We all seem to accept Conservative stalwart, the minister of defence, Peter Mackay, as a somewhat respectable, and possibly revered, career federal politician. The big question really is, why?
For Mr. Mackay advanced his career by a blatant betrayal, and flat-out lie, that probably few of us would have allowed from our own children. In May of 2003, Mr. MacKay signed an agreement with Progressive Conservative Party leadership competitor David Orchard that he would never, ever, merge the then Progressive Conservative Party with Stephen Harper's then Alliance Party (He signed his name to these simple words, "No merger.")
Beginning the day after his signature, Peter MacKay began the process to do exactly that. What's worse, Mackay denied the agreement even existed days after he signed it.
So maybe we are right to feel superior to these shenanigans. But only if we are confident that we hold ourselves to non-arbitrary standards. We promote fairness and honesty, as values as least, to our children. It is what we believe, it seems, as a culture. So why is it that we give some leaders, like Mr. MacKay, and other politicians, who are close to us, a pass?
Is it because we have no problem with moral transgressions with those who are close to us? As long as they don't commit the social crime of arrogance (as Senator Duffy somehow seems to have done)?
The point may be simply this: We only require of our politicians that they are welcoming to our shifting needs, and not any higher moral standard.
Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at email@example.com