If Stephen Harper came to visit

If I could invite Stephen Harper into my home, I would. I would serve him my special coffee I brought back from Vietnam and probably make Gooey Walnut Rolls, or a Guinness Chocolate Cake, or maybe even my mom’s delicious Rhubarb Squares if the season were right. I would ensure the house was clean, floors vacuumed, everything put away, and I would for sure hide all of my socialist reading material in my office and in the bathroom.

Before he came, I would work really hard at composing myself, perhaps I would even have a good cry or emotional rant or, maybe just write a super scathing blog post so that I could get my shit together. I would then carefully and thoughtfully make a ‘to do’ list of all the topics I wanted to cover with him, and I would probably even make sub-topics, just to ensure I covered everything and came well prepared for the event.

I would begin by welcoming him into my home, and ensure that he could tell I was a hospitable person. I would maybe even ask how the drive out here was, and if he’d rather be in Calgary, his old stomping grounds (also showing that I have taken an interest in his life). We would sit down, I would scurry about getting the cake and coffee ready, I’d set everything out using my best serving dishes and color coordinated napkins and plates. I’d ask which Starbucks mug he’d like and say that he could choose his country of choice, or, color of choice – it would be up to him. However, after all the hustle and bustle of coming to my home for coffee and conversation, I’d be pretty quick to get down to brass tacks.

My first topic of conversation might go like this. “How’s the coffee? I know you have an affinity for things dark brown in liquid form. Good thing it’s not oil, because we wouldn’t be able to drink that AND if wouldn’t taste very good.” He may or may not walk out at this point, but, if he stayed, I’d go on. I’d ask if he’d ever been to Attawapiskat, if he’d ever felt uncomfortable with the water he was drinking, or if he’d ever experienced fear about the food that was going into his body. I’d talk about my family history and how my dad had to give up farming, I’d ask if he’d ever been fearful for his job, or if his parents had ever felt this way. Given that is was just Easter, maybe I might mention that when I was small my mom used to put all of our Easter eggs in one basket, and how it would have been way more fun had they been spread out. I’d suggest that him and my mom have so many similarities and maybe it’s just a generational thing?

Maybe I’d go on to talk about myself, tell him that I’m a social scientist, or trying to be one, anyway. I’d ask if he hates social scientists as well, or if it was just the regular old scientists that he seems to hold in low regard.

Perhaps I’d go on to talk talk about my time in South Korea, and the amazing experiences I had there. During the conversation I’d present an anecdote about how Koreans seem to have this strong affinity for robots, maybe even an obsession, and then, inquiringly ask, “have you spent a lot of time there, too?”

But, on to the more important things – family. I’d ask him if he secretly hates his daughter, if he wants to make things difficult for her and her friends. Would he rather her just stay at home and raise his grandchildren (maybe get the ball rolling for that now already what with all the incentives for women to stay at home, and shutting down all sorts of offices that are specifically designed to make sure that women, including his daughter, are treated equally to men).

To lighten things up a bit, we’d go on to swap travel stories. I’d regale him in stories of hiking through Laoatian rice villages, bartering for packages of Oreos in Vietnam and snorkeling with vegetarian sharks in the Perhentian Islands.  I’d tell him the heartbreaking stories of small children begging in the streets of Phenom Phen, the enraging stories of medicinal con-men tricking unwitting Cambodians that they were getting malaria medication, and the heartbreaking dreams of a young Laotian tour guide whose ultimate goal in life was to buy a Ford Taurus. Then I’d say, “nah, you’ve probably never been outside an all-inclusive resort, or walled in, protected tourist group. I wouldn’t expect that you’d come face to face with global poverty or seen the huge divide between the haves and have nots in the world, right? Because then you wouldn’t be slowly shutting down all those groups who have, and who care and want to change that.”

And finally, I’d ask if I could give him a brief run down of things that I’ve been learning. “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” is the medium I’d use to relate the crazy, useless theories they come up with in the Arts department (that don’t create jobs) to help him understand. I’d ask him which Canadians his action plan would help, and challenge him to think of all the people he’s left out. I’d ask him to reflect on whose best interests it is to pollute, destroy, and kill the environment and freshwater sources and forests and basically the source of the very thing that keeps us alive. I’d ask if he’d ever heard of the term ‘power’ and how it is a pretty important concept. I’d ask ‘whose realities count’ when you are making budget cuts and creating offices of religious freedom. I’d ask him if he’s making Canada a better place to live for rich, white men or for all people, everywhere.

At this point in time I would either be very angry and silent, or perhaps in tears. The waves of disappointment, anger, fear, and maybe even panic would probably be written all over my face. Then, I’d compose myself, and politely ask if he’d like seconds.

Jennifer Braun lives in Edmonton and is a contributor for The Spectator Tribune.

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