“We hope and pray for peer kindness.” This was the headline of the Letters section in Monday’s Ottawa Citizen. Peer kindness and mutual respect are traits Canadian adults try to in instill in our young people. This is one part of the important response to contemporary tragedies such as the deaths by suicide of both Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd. The media and countless public figures have appropriately condemned the bullying and cruelty that precipitated these deaths.
Though the context is quite different, I was reminded of the tactics of bullies when I saw the first of the attack ads against Justin Trudeau. These videos have been prepared by and paid for by the political party that currently leads our country. Perhaps it is a stretch to compare attack ads to the bullying behaviour of high school students. But neither is right.
Bullying is never acceptable. It should not be tolerated in any home, any school or any community. The deliberate mistreatment through word or action by any part of our society directed at any other individual or group ought to be strongly denounced. For that reason, I am disturbed by the spiteful advertising campaign that the Conservative Party of Canada has so quickly launched against Justin Trudeau. The message is a personal attack. It is taunting. The scenes are taken out of context and the insinuations are inaccurate.
I understand the argument that “Attack ads work.” But at what cost? Negative ads may work for short-term political gain. But the consequence can be long-term social pain. The Conservative Party of Canada may find that these attack ads will influence voters to think twice about Justin Trudeau. In that sense “they work.” But we need to calculate the serious adverse effects on society. Here are a few of the negative consequences.
- People become cynical about politics and politicians. Cynicism leads to disengagement.
- A person’s character is unfairly assaulted. Real people and their families get hurt.
- Good people will be less inclined to participate in public service.
- Energy and resources are diverted away from addressing the serious matters that affect our society.
- What would you add to this list?
Negative campaigning and the politics of shaming are damaging forces in society. Canadians must speak out against all forms of bullying. I want to be led by people who choose creativity over destruction; who choose charity over derision; who choose hard work over pettiness. I want our country to be led by people who inspire me to be a better person – and who show me how.