There’s more to pol­i­tics than raz­zle-daz­zle

Sim­ply know­ing a name is no rea­son for check­ing off a bal­lot

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages

We have a funny is­sue with fame. Panache has be­come panacea. We seem to have de­vel­oped a pen­chant for think­ing that, be­cause some­one’s good at tele­vi­sion or real es­tate or self-pro­mo­tion, they’ll sud­denly be a great fit for pol­i­tics.

That, sim­ply be­cause they’ve built star power, they’ll nec­es­sar­ily be the right ones to set govern­ment straight or drain the swamp, even though more ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cians, peo­ple who know what they are do­ing, have failed at the ex­actly same task.

Well, I’ve been to the swamp. And it’s not that easy. (By way of ex­pla­na­tion, watch­ing Kevin O’Leary as a tele­vi­sion pun­dit at the Con­ser­va­tive Party lead­er­ship con­ven­tion this week­end, I breathed a huge sigh of re­lief that he dropped out of the race be­fore the votes were cast.)

But back to the swamp. I found my way down­hill from the high­way, through the al­ways-op­por­tunis­tic alder and then into the scrub spruce and larch and strag­gly birch, look­ing for a brook that, given the shape of the val­ley, should have wound from south­west to north­east. It’s a nar­row brook, but with enough wa­ter to oc­ca­sion­ally fill into a long steady, the kind of pools where small, fast trout hang. The to­pog­ra­phy of the val­ley was sim­ple: there was re­ally only one line the brook could take, and I’d been along a part of the brook be­fore, decades ago, so I knew at least where it was com­ing from.

In fact, I’d thought that I knew most of it, even where I was go­ing – I hadn’t reck­oned on the new ex­panse of swamp, or the huge amount of wa­ter I sud­denly found in the val­ley.

I hadn’t known about the beavers.

There’s a big beaver lodge now, but I’m not sure there are any beavers left; there are still path­ways pounded down to the wa­ter, but no fresh tracks, and the chewed stumps are greyed with age. There’s no sign of new cuts, and there’s no way the beaver wouldn’t have been out for fresh for­age by now. The top of the lodge is still hard-packed mud and wo­ven branches; it hasn’t started to come apart.

It’s wind­less down in the val­ley, and there’s no sign of any­thing – ex­cept the oc­ca­sional trout – break­ing the sur­face or mov­ing un­der­neath. Around the edges, the raised wa­ter has built float­ing bog, a treach­er­ous place to stand, the wa­ter fill­ing in on top of the blan­ket of mosses and wa­ter plants as you stand there, the bog-smell of sul­fur bub­bling up and catch­ing in your nose.

At the foot of the pond, the dam is long and cres­cent-shaped and fail­ing in at least four places; there’s the main branch of the stream run­ning in its old course, and three fresh new branches that each even­tu­ally wend their way into the main course again, and the re­com­bined stream bends around a fat grey boul­der, a rock the size of a trans­port truck cab, and once you’re past it, you can see the trees fall­ing away and an­other pond ap­pears, more and more with ev­ery step.

The beaver had come to a larch in the midst of their dam con­struc­tion, and sim­ply left it stand­ing. The change in the wa­ter ta­ble around its roots killed the tree stone dead, leav­ing it as a larchshaped grey snag, stand­ing like a chan­nel warn­ing at the wa­ter’s edge. I’ve seen the swamp; I’ve seen the dam.

I’m good at some of the things I do.

Does that make me a shoo-in for a job at ei­ther swamp-drain­ing or dam-build­ing?

Of course it doesn’t. Be­ing good at one thing doesn’t mean be­ing good at an­other.

And sim­ply know­ing a name is no rea­son for check­ing off a bal­lot. It’s democ­racy, not fameoc­racy.

“Be­ing good at one thing doesn’t mean be­ing good at an­other.”

Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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