22 April 2013

Some free advice #nlpoli

The Premier’s daughter tweeted this comment last Wednesday night.

the grandkids

Few people consider the impact that political life has on the families of politicians and political staffers.  Steve Paikin’s book The Dark Side deals with it, as SRBP noted in 2006.

That tweet is a reminder of that.

Here’s some advice for the Premier’s daughter from an old political hand.

Tell your children the truth:  what other people say about their grandmother doesn’t matter..  They should be very proud of her for the years of hard work she has given to her community and to the province.  They should be even more proud of her now for the very tough job she has.

Tell them not to pay any attention to what others say about their grandmother.  They should just give her extra hugs and kisses every time they see her because that is going to help her get through these tough days and nights.

If you want to go a step further, tell them that we live in a wonderful country where people can speak their minds about politicians, even if what some people say is hurtful and mean. Reassure them that not everyone feels that way about her.  Even people who may be angry today and say mean things can still respect people. 

Even those of us who say critical things of what your mother does still respect her, her commitment, and her good intentions.

And when they are in bed, you and your mom need to regain some of the perspective that you’ve obviously lost as well.  In the past week, you and your mother have politicized your family in a way they didn’t ask for and certainly wouldn’t want.

Every premier and his family has faced threats.  Some were every bit as bad as what has been said recently.  Some were much worse. Much worse.  To the extent they could, each of those premiers kept their families out of the media spotlight.  You might be feeling pretty lonely and beleaguered at the moment but others have gone through it.  Take some comfort in that.

Here’s the thing, though:

The people saying these truly nasty things are a few isolated wingnuts.  When you start tweeting about them and your mother starts talking about them in scrums you are not high-lighting how bad the people are who are saying these vile things.

We get that.

We do.

We don’t need to hear about your eight-year-old’s comment and then have you tell us that it is despicable.  We know it is.

When you drag your children into the public spotlight and talk about the impact the threats are having on your children, all you are doing is feeding the nut-jobs.  They know now that they are getting to you.  The nut-jobs may well multiply.  It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You complain and your complaints spawn more or encourage more radical comments.

Right now, the family is probably freaked out.  Frankly, that’s what your tweet and your mother’s comments say loud and clear. You didn’t sign on for this stuff and you are right.  The  confusion of simple dissent with an endorsement of murder, though,  tells me that your heads are anywhere but in a rational place. The fact that the Premier’s Office senior staff and senior members of cabinet confuse the same things makes everything that much worse. It suggests that a whole bunch of people have lost their perspective. 

These are tough times.  You can’t fire this many people and not have a backlash.  No matter what you think you signed on for in the beginning, when you are in the Big Job, you also get to take the verbal attacks as much as the praise.  Every single political leader in a democracy everywhere in the world knows that and, sadly, has learned the truth of it.

You don’t have to put up with actual violence.  That’s what the police are there to prevent.  Some of the best police officers in the country serve with both the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the people on the Premier’s security detail are among the best of them.

But the online comments? 

Simplest thing to do is not read them. And for heaven’s sake do not show them to the kids.  Not that you did, mind you.  It is hard to control what your children see and do these days but the younger they are the easier it is.  Everyone might get through this a bit more readily if they just turned off the news and went somewhere else on the Internet besides places where people make comments about politics. 

There are difficult times. 

No doubt.

Just don’t fuel the crazies.

Hug your children instead

And as much as you can, keep them out of the picture.