Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Political History of Joel - Part 1

In the beginning...

Just kidding! Okay, I just got back a few days ago from the Alberta Federation of Labour's week-long school where I was asked by a number of people about how I got to where I am today in politics. I think something we in the political world need to do more is to tell our stories. There are so many people who I think don't understand how personal it can be for many of us. Not all of us were born into political life.

Anyway, on with the story (sorry, it's a long one - I'll do it in two parts):

The furthest I can trace back any significant interest I had in politics is September 11, 2001. I was just beginning my last year of high school. I was on the school bus on my way into Lloydminster from my family's acreage 5 miles north of the city when I heard on the radio that the World Trade Centre in New York had been hit by an airplane. I had no idea at the time what a World Trade Centre was. I got to school where my first class happened to be Mrs. Lang's history class. We watched the towers fall over and over for the full hour. I kept hearing the reporter on the television talking about al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and a bunch of other people I had never heard of. I did not understand why anyone from as far away as Afghanistan would want to do something like this to people far, far away in the United States. But I didn't like not knowing. I always got good marks in school. I prided myself in being informed, but I had no explanation for this. So I figured I should find out.

It took me a couple of years, but I slowly began reading books borrowed from the Lloydminster Public Library and purchased at the local bookstore, as well as watching online documentaries and reading the news. My search for insight into 9/11 got my deeply interested in the US political system, so that's where I directed my energies. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, I was appalled. I was thoroughly impressed that Jean Chretien had decided Canada would not participate in the invasion, much to the chagrin of the conservative twins: Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day.

I don't think I really understood much of the early reading I did, but a popular documentary came out in 2003 that explained 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq in terms I understood quite easily. I had watched the trailer for Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 a number of times and couldn't wait for an opportunity to see it. However, I doubted it would come to Lloydminster. I was playing bass guitar at a bible camp near Prince Albert, SK, that summer, and after the week was over, the other band members and I drove into Prince Albert to go to a movie theatre. I don't recall what movie everyone else wanted to see, but I remember that they went to see it and I went by myself to see Fahrenheit 9/11. It was everything I had hoped for and piqued my interest even more than before.

The next major political event I can remember is the 2004 US Presidential election. I didn't know much about John Kerry, but I knew I preferred him to George W. Bush. And it was for this reason that I was shocked to hear from the pastor of my church at the time that he had been talking to one of his preacher friends in the United States who told him the country would be set back 20 years if they elected John Kerry instead of re-electing Bush. That made me start questioning my religious beliefs, but that's a story for another day. I didn't think there was any way the American people could re-elect such a terrible President as Bush. I guess I was wrong.

It was sometime shortly after that I began reading and listening to materials from Noam Chomsky. The first book I ever bought of his was Profit Over People. Flipping through the book now, I think most of what I read in the book went straight over my head. But the interviews with him I listened to, particularly one he did in 2002 with Evan Solomon on CBC, were much more palatable because they catered to people as ignorant as I was. The CBC interview that I was listening to over and over talked about the criminality of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, as well as a big chunk on what US support for the Israeli government was doing to the Palestinians. It was the first I ever really heard about that issue, but it has been one close to my heart ever since.

I don't remember the 2006 Canadian federal election very well, but I do remember being interested in the Liberal Party choosing a new leader to run against the terrible Prime Minister we had just elected. I couldn't believe we elected the man who wanted us to invade Iraq. I wanted to do my part to see the next election turned out differently. In the lead-up to the Liberal leadership convention, I purchased my first party membership to the Liberal Party of Canada. I didn't realize at the time the obstacles placed in the way of most of the party membership actually choosing who the leader is, but I was just happy to feel "included" in some way. It was at that convention Stephane Dion became the Liberal leader.


To be continued...


  1. This is very interesting Joel! Thank you for writing this, and I look forward to part two!

  2. Joel, I am so happy you've started to tell this story. Would you consider including a suggested reading list for the little guys like me looking to be better informed?

    I can see it now: the blockbuster movie about this blog/your life = 'The Social Network' of 2020!