A Black Stripe on the Stars

Allan Fotheringham May 23 1988

A Black Stripe on the Stars

Allan Fotheringham May 23 1988

A Black Stripe on the Stars


Allan Fotheringham

It is not easy for the mouse to be in bed with the elephant. You hardly get any sleep, for one thing. You’re afraid to doze off. It’s not easy living next to America, the world leader in everything that’s worth leading in. Canada has been called a decaffeinated United States because everything arrives here watered-down. America sets the fads and styles and fashions, and they eventually reappear here. We are a hand-me-down society, somewhat like the younger brother who continually gets the clothes that don’t quite fit.

How grateful, then, to finally hit upon a situation where we are No. 1.

How satisfying it is to know we lead in one field and have been pioneers long in advance. Now it is the Americans who are scrambling to keep up, who are embarrassed to find they are dragging in one important area.

I speak, of course, of the area in which world leaders stir and analyse entrails, consult Ouija boards and study the alignment of the planets.

The Americans are agog with the revelations that Nancy Reagan’s socialite astrologer-friend in San Francisco controlled the schedule and operations and summit meetings of the most powerful man on the globe.

This is piffle. This is nothing. Canadians are the true experts in this field. For decades we were run by a kinky little cutie who talked only to his dog, communed with his dead mother and built a retreat decorated by stray bits of stone and masonry that he brought back from Europe. I mean, this guy was weird.

And did it hurt the country? Of course not. All Mackenzie King did was to cause riots between Canadian soldiers from Quebec whom he had promised not to send overseas and other Canadian soldiers, so as to save the nation. And here we are with a completely united and peaceful country. Is anyone in Quebec discontent? Of course not. Is any province still niggling about language rights? Of course

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

not. We are all prosperous, except those who are unemployed, and we all love each other, except if you’re from the West, or Quebec, or the Maritimes, or Newfoundland, and as long as you don’t mention Ottawa or Toronto. Mackenzie King did it all. He was a genius.

The Americans could learn from us. At least the White House dabbling in the zodiac did not include retrieving doxies from the pavement for the purpose of “saving” them. Donald Brittain’s brilliant recent documentary on King educated a whole new generation

of Canadians who didn’t know the little man was more than slightly offcentre and didn’t play with a full deck. Ronald Reagan may be lazy and slightly dotty, but he has never as far as we know tried to bring people back from the dead.

Donald Regan, the former marine who became a millionaire as boss of Merrill Lynch on Wall Street and broke the story of the White House horoscope, is mad as hell at Nancy because her astrologer-friend kept fouling up Regan’s schedule for the President. That’s nothing. How does he think Mackenzie King’s cabinet ministers felt when the conduct of the war and the supervision of the nation were dependent on long consultations with his pet dog and conversations with Mother, who had long since gone upward to the planets?

The Americans, with their usual speed, get these things out early. Canadians didn’t know at the time that their prime minister, while a prissy

little bachelor, was one step removed from a teacup reader. His efforts to “reform” strumpets and tarts picked up off the streets of steamy Ottawa and taken home for a little nighttime rehabilitation were harmless compared to his beliefs in the supernatural and his stubborn insistence on talking with the dead.

American pundits complain about Reagan’s casual disregard for detail. They should be glad he is not a fussbudget like King, who maintained such detailed diaries that we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was slightly crazy. Better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought dumb, goes the old saying, than open it and remove all doubt. A Reagan who can’t write his own letters is safer in history than a Mackenzie King who prattled on in his revealing diaries.

Granted, King wasn’t exactly instrumental in world affairs at the time. But Canada was a Middle Power (wherever did that phrase go?) with King sitting there cozily beside Churchill and Roosevelt at those wartime conferences. Did they know he went home and played with tarot cards? Were they aware a spook who talked to ghosts was sitting in on their deliberations? Who knows. He wasn’t important enough to figure in Churchill’s writings, and FDR left us nothing to delve into.

Suffice to say that we are willing to help the Americans. Put aside the differences we have with the cultural bully (that now dictates our film policy, among other things). Forget all the troubles the mouse has with the elephant. Put aside the resentments over being fed Hee Haw and Vanna White and an American NHL president who should be in Little League. Banish from the mind acid rain.

Let us be magnanimous. These are our friends. They are confused and chagrined at being caught out—that their boss has been in the hands of a goofball in San Francisco. Let us extend the olive branch. Let us say: “If you are confused about your leadership, come and talk to us. We’re Canadians. We’re experts in this field.”