Years ago, when I was a skinny, skittish young cub reporter, I found myself kicking a chair and cursing at some outrageous stupidity committed by a politician. A long time has gone by. I no longer remember who I was angry at or the nature of his transgression.
But I do remember, as clearly as the day it happened, a wizened old city editor beckoning me over to his desk. Moving a couple of ashtrays aside so he could set down his coffee, he leaned over, his yellow teeth shining in the green light of the primitive video display monitor, placed his right hand on my shoulder, and uttered these words, which I recount here exactly as he told them to me:
“Embrace the crooked MP, bonehead mayor, the greedy Indian chief, the smug and profligate premier, my son. Let them roam in packs across the land.
“The crooked politician will provide all.
“The crooked MP gives our children straight teeth. He digs our swimming pool. He fills our mutual funds and RRSPs.
“He puts clothes on our backs. Food on our tables. Gas in our cars. The crooked MP makes the car itself and fixes it when it breaks.
“The bonehead mayor gives us trips to Jamaica and puts new roofs on our cottages. She makes us bookcases and fills them with books. She pays the hydro and phone bill.
“Someday, she will buy you an iPhone 5, whatever that is, and pay your monthly cell phone bill.
“The greedy Indian chief provides for us even in the most lean of times. He fills our pages when there is nothing but weather stories and tracts about the meaning of Santa.
“The smug premier makes our suits. He crafts nice watches. He feeds our pets, fixes our appliances, cleans our carpets. He makes donations to charities in our name, gives toonies to panhandlers, and buys General Tao’s Chicken and delivers it to our homes when we are too tired to cook.
“So be careful what you wish for, my son. Do not hunt these great and generous creatures to extinction. Embrace them, nurture them. Let them run free to do their work.
“Just do not love them.”