Ford Nation

I’m on a little plane, flying south from New Brunswick, in eastern Canada. The airplanes will become progressively bigger before shrinking again for the London-Lisbon leg, by which time I reckon I’ll be pretty fed up with air travel.

For the second time in my life, I’ve been on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, home to the highest tides in the world―a mere fifty feet.

Canada is a pretty relaxed place, with pleasant, friendly people, and an unparalleled vastness. Even the U.S.border post, and the little aerodrome which pompously announces itself as Bangor International Airport, seem imbued by this sense of peace.

Military badges in Bangor. Close scrutiny helps you understand the power of the U.S. armed forces.

Military badges in Bangor. Close scrutiny helps you understand the power of the U.S. armed forces.

The TSA, famously rude at every other U.S. airport I know, seem to have drunk the Canadian Kool-Aid, and waved me through security with a smile―I even got a yellow card, a kind of homeland dispensation from the pope, that released me from removing my shoes. No papal indulgences were required.

In bizarre contrast to this bucolic bliss, Toronto has been flummoxed by the most recent antics of its mayor, Robert Bruce Ford. Mayor Ford is in every sense larger than life; if you watch the news (or American comedy shows), you’ll know he’s broken every law in politics: this includes alcoholic stupor, smoking crack, and vodka at the wheel―mixed with gatorade, which in my view is a cardinal sin.

Ford’s latest act of defiance included knocking over a fellow councilman during a meeting scheduled to strip him of power―forced action because Rob will not resign.

The mayor believes he’s done nothing untoward, and that an apology is more than sufficient. The city’s administration disagrees, and has responded by severely curtailing Ford’s powers, transferring them to the deputy mayor.

I sat down to dinner on Wednesday with the mayor of Saint Andrews, and you couldn’t wish for sharper contrast. Mayor Stan Choptiany is a reflective and cultivated man, who felt that after retirement he should make a contribution to his community.

He delighted me with tales of Portugal, which he has visited regularly in recent years, in the classic Canadian winter quest for the sun. By way of Florida, which he detested, then Costa Rica, he finally ended up in the Terra Santa, the promised land.

The good mayor explained he’s concerned with sea level rise―he ordered a risk assessment for the town, and begun to discuss with citizens what parts of Saint Andrews might be most affected. According to his plans, some of the housing will be relocated in good time. The ark will not be necessary.

Meanwhile, the bad mayor was doing imitations of a drunken driver to insult a fellow councillor, and blowing kisses to insult another.

Mayor Rob is convinced that the Ford Nation, as he calls them, will come to the rescue in the next election―his electoral base is the blue collar core of Toronto, the people who are most easily convinced by demagogues.

The Bay of Fundy, adjacent to Saint Andrews, separates Canada from Maine. Bodies of water that form a border are always the home of smugglers―in this case the chosen product was booze. Back in the wicked times of prohibition, this was where old Joe Kennedy trafficked.

Once in a few decades, an albino lobster appears on the Canadian coast. appears.

Once in a few decades, an albino lobster shows up on the Canadian coast. Somehow, it reflects the peace and quiet of the Maritimes.

The Maritimes are home to a plentiful heritage of Irish and Scots, evident in the love for music and in their pronunciation of the word ‘out’. Unsurprising then that Kennedy used the conduit from the old country to channel bootleg alcohol to the United States.

Not only was Kennedy a crook in the great American tradition, but he was a farsighted man, who understood the connection between politics and crime at least as well as the Sicilian Mafia. As an Irishman, he knew that money, luck, and connections might catapult one of his kids into the highest office of the land.

The lucky boy was Joe Kennedy Jr., but due to his untimely death, the task fell to Jack. The Kennedy curse wiped out old Joe’s dynastic hopes, with the killings of John and Robert―currently the U.S. remembers fifty years since John Kennedy died in Dallas, and celebrates it with a salesfest of epic proportions, touting  books, movies, and any other paraphernalia that the avid consumer will buy. As P.T. Barnum once said, never understimate the stupidity of the American public.

Canada is perhaps the only remaining member of the Commonwealth that welcomes Britain with open arms―although the queen has finally vanished from the banknotes.

After the revolutionary war, the defeated English headed north to Canada. Groups of loyalists made their way across the water to St. Andrews. With them they brought their houses from the American side.

I probably stayed in such a home last night, one of several that were dismantled and floated across, to be rebuilt in Canada—built when? 1812.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

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