Recently I wrote a post about the Ford Family and their Conservative desire to do away with libraries. At one point the mayor’s brother referred to having more libraries than Tim Horton’s coffee shops in his ward: which, in Canada, is a significant statement. We all know how many Tim Horton’s are around, and this paints a memorable visual picture. Unfortunately, it’s simply not true. But I doubt that inconvenient fact matters to Mr. Ford. The number of people impacted emotionally by the statement to turn against libraries (he hopes) would be more than the number who realized that he lied.
Lied?? What? You can’t say that. This is Canada. He didn’t lie. He exaggerated. He was a bit inaccurate. The numbers aren’t thatfar off… only two or three? What is that? 60%? And he was just saying what he saw, even if the numbers don’t quite back him up. Maybe he should have said it “seems” like there are more libraries than Tim Horton’s.
And perhaps that’s correct. But the single word, “seems” says a lot. It tells volumes about Mr. Ford, more than it does about the number of libraries in his ward. To someone who has never darkened a library door, there are certainly more than are needed. To those who see libraries as a waste of money and space, they probably do stick out like a sore thumb: while there are never enough Tim Horton’s to meet the need for coffee. It shows that Mr. Ford thinks more about what he wants than about his constituents need. He has an odd perspective on democracy.
There are a number of similar “exaggerations” from our American cousins. One, of course, is the whole “weapons of mass destruction” fiasco under George Bush. Remember? One person exaggerated numbers here, another was worried about terrorists there. Fear did the rest. Eventually they were invading Iraq. No-one actually called them on it until it was too late. Hopefully the same won’t happen with libraries in Toronto.
I found out about another one just the other day.
I lived in the U.S. for over twenty years; most of my adult life. I worked and paid into the Social Security system for all that time. One of the reasons I wanted to come back to Canada is that, when a person dies, Social Security is not transferred to a same-sex spouse as it is to a heterosexual spouse. (Even in Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal: because Social Security is a federal program). But on top of that, when George Bush was president he harped on the fact that the “Social Security System will be bankrupt by 2042” (The Street, 2005) and unable to pay out benefits. Turns out that this, also,was less than fully correct (Democratic Underground). It is what might be called “rhetorical sleight of hand”. Mr. Bush as early as 1978 was trying to say that Social Security would be bankrupt by 1988. Turns out that like many prophets, ten years can backfire when it doesn’t come to pass. So his next “prediction” was half a century in the future.
What Mr. Bush wanted, of course, was to privatize Social Security. And he was trying to build up the fear in the general populace. It worked in Iraq, didn’t it? And he got away without much criticism. He wanted workers to be able to “invest” in the stock market what would have been their Social Security. Sounds like a great idea… except for the “few” who lose their shirts because of bad investments. That has happened entirely too often of late: the “few” are too many. And, of course, the investors make money nonetheless. So the rich get richer. But it’s better than the government wasting all that money isn’t it? I guess it is… if you really believe government “wastes” any more money than business. And as long as you’re not depending on your social security.
But the point is: it wasn’t true. At worst, money would still be coming in: the system would still be able to supply most benefits. At worst, “most” is a far cry from “none”. And since it is still decades in the future, we really don’t know what will happen. Mr. Bush and his cronies just wanted to scare the rest of us so that we would trust him to “fix” the problem by getting a private company to run a system for profit when right now it’s being run by the government. My trust has to be earned, and is based on experience, not rhetoric. That’s why I never trusted George Bush.
And why I don’t trust the Fords.