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The Time For National Healing Is Upon Us

10/28/2015 05:32 EDT | Updated 10/28/2016 05:12 EDT
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"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people," Mahatma Gandhi stated, and if that's true Canada could be in for a difficult time. The reason? Without putting too much of a point on it, there are so many people hurt and bruised at present due to this past election that it won't be an easy thing to move forward.

I spent last weekend reading through some media articles containing comments from NDP and Conservative supporters that veered between vitriolic to just plain sad, and then back again. I went from being sympathetic, to startled, then to worried. Liberals should understand such a reality; it was only four years previous that they endured the deep sense of loss and the natural tendency to lash out that always comes with pivotal political losses. People most often put everything into political campaigns, and in any contest where only one party can emerge the ultimate victor, the taste of bitter defeat can be devastating, as it is at present.

One of the great problems with the "winner take all" nature of politics is the duality of euphoria and umbrage that occurs in the same moment. Even most of the successful MPs don't get half of the votes cast in their riding -- a reality that creates as much division as it does decision.

There is no doubt about it: the recent Liberal win was one of significant proportions. But the tensions and tremors that have proved to be difficult aspects of our history have emerged again with a certain ominous tone. Divisions between East and West are suddenly confronting us once more, and the various distinctions within Quebec still defy easy solutions.

Justin Trudeau is showing some welcoming signs of understanding these complexities, but it will take more than an intellectual awareness of our country's great challenges. Somehow he must include all Canadians in his grand welcome to a new era. It can no longer merely remain some kind of large red tent, but a multi-coloured one that includes citizens and organizations of all stripes -- a herculean task.

Alfred North Whitehead provided some insight for just such a moment as this: "True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason." And yet as I watch Trudeau make his initial moves of inclusiveness I am more reminded of Norwegian politician Jens Stoltenberg's observation:

"When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people."

Actions such as these have hardly been characteristic of our recent political past, and the lack of them in our national interactions has left rents and tears in our Canadian fabric that will take some time to heal. It can never be accomplished by forcing a mandate down everyone's throats. It is better to call all people, all sectors, and, yes, all political parties, to a shared noble calling that becomes a sum total greater than all the parts.

The very scope of Trudeau's victory last week has, by the very nature of politics itself, left deep divisions that could form a cancer to our future prosperity and inclusiveness if not managed correctly. Trudeau's first great act mustn't be to trumpet victory, but to declare a truce concerning the rancor and dysfunction of the past number of years, whether or not it's accepted. He would do well to follow the counsel of Vaclav Havel, who inherited his own unique version of a divided and angst-filled nation. "I feel the dormant goodwill in people needs to be stirred. They need to hear that it makes sense to behave decently or to help others, to place common interests above their own, to respect the elementary rules of human coexistence."

That's it. No true political progress can be achieved without Havel's timely intervention, no mandate successful without mediation. Such might not be the way of modern politics, but it remains the only path to healthy nationhood. The time for national healing is upon us -- an opportunity that could go down as one of Justin Trudeau's greatest legacies.

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