Politicize the Fort Mac fire? Yes, PLEASE.


Alanis Obomsawin, more relevant now than ever.

So, I hear all kinds of rumblings to the effect that we “shouldn’t politicize” the forest fires in and around Fort McMurray, Alberta. That it’s “insensitive” to the people of the town, who have been forced to scatter in whichever way the wind wasn’t blowing. That it’s “not the right time” to talk about petrochemical pollution, man-made global warming, climate change, and yadda yadda. That it smacks of I-told-you-so. That environmentalists shouldn’t be smug, or claim this is in any way “karma”. That it’s not helping. That they’re not helping. Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.

I also hear the same lip-flap from the chattering classes in the US every time there’s another mass shooting. It’s never the right time to talk about gun violence there, even when it’s taken yet another dozen victims in the space of an hour. And of course, it’s never the right time to talk about gun control, because the precious, sacred Second Amendment, and blah blah blabbity blah blah.

Same shit, different outhouse. And yet the assholes generating it are all the same. They’re the right wing noise machine, and they’re politicizing tragedy all the time, while vehemently denying their opponents the right to do the same. And while they’re busy babbling, nothing useful gets done. Nothing that would help to prevent more tragedies of the same kind. And certainly nothing that would draw the appropriate connections between cause and effect.

Of course these same right-wing babblers are more than happy to talk about their “thoughts and prayers”, or what heroes the first responders are. They’re always so quick to claim the high ground, and shove off anyone who doesn’t mouth the same pious platitudes, from the same page of the same dusty hymnal. They’ll even laud the efforts of the charitable, while slamming the federal and provincial governments (Liberal and NDP, respectively) for “not being there”. Never mind that Rachel Notley, like the fire crews at Fort Mac, has been running on too little sleep, and has even missed much of her family’s Mother’s Day plans. Never mind that Ottawa is matching donations to the Red Cross, and Justin Trudeau, in contrast to his predecessor, has wisely avoided photo ops because he doesn’t want to interrupt the firefighters’ work. No, the babblers must babble, or else we might start talking about them and how they contributed to the tragedy that is currently unfolding.

So. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

Let’s talk about how their stupid old Cold War mindset is keeping the Russians from helping us with the largest cargo planes (modified into water bombers!) in the world.

Let’s talk about how knee-jerk conservatism is fueling this fire by way of climate-change denial (which is idiotic at the best of times, and downright tragic now).

Let’s talk about how their short-sighted oilpatch politics and pipeline boosterism have made the tar sands an open sore, and a downright flammable one.

Let’s talk about how their boomtown mentality doesn’t allow leeway for oil busts…or disastrous wildfires.

And let’s acknowledge that Rachel Notley, despite her detractors’ incessant naysaying over the past year, has proved more than competent, and that Alberta is doing better, not worse, under her rule. And that if Ralph Klein were still alive, he’d be drunkenly waltzing into an evacuee shelter flinging money around and telling the displaced people to get jobs.

Let’s also acknowledge that while he’s not out there gladhanding the busy firefighters, Justin Trudeau is also not hiding in a broom closet while his MPs are improvising spears made out of flagpoles.

Let’s acknowledge that we can politicize what’s going on in Fort Mac without harming the people who’ve had to flee their homes. That politicizing this fire is what could save the town from another such catastrophe when this one is over.

And above all, let’s acknowledge that it’s stupid to refrain from making a catastrophe a political issue. When the Montréal Massacre happened, it was promptly “politicized” for the public good, and the long-gun registry was the result. No one but a minority of gun-obsessed ideologues thought it was a good idea to let senseless deaths keep piling up because “politicizing” a tragedy and rewriting the law was so tacky and mean and insensitive to the victims. “Politicizing” tragedies is how we prevent further ones in the future.

And there is nothing shameful about that.

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