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Reconnecting with my western brethren

August 9th,2023 | Opinion

I’m heading into enemy territory – sort of.

I’ll be spending this coming weekend in my old stomping grounds in Calgary, where climate deniers are hailed as heroes, anti-drag protestors are celebrated and where “F*&k Trudeau” flags are as popular as poutine is in Quebec.

I’ll be getting together with a suite of old high school pals – some of whom I have not seen since, well, high school – and it’s a guarantee that our political and social views no longer align.

But, guess what? Who cares?

I’m not going back to Alberta to try to persuade the radical righties to come over to the echo chambers on the left. I’m not going to document all the flags of hatred I see or judge protesters who recently voiced opposition against drag performers reading to children.

I’m going to Alberta to celebrate my best friend’s 40th birthday – to reconnect with the guy who became my inspiration to do something great with my life. And although we no longer see eye-to-eye on the political spectrum, we are both willing to put our differences aside, so we can still foster that amazing friendship that began over 20 years ago.

Maybe it’s time we all try to do the same.

Political polarization is at an all-time high in Canada, and it’s clear that Canadians are picking sides. A new report by investigative journalist Justin Ling argues that the polarization we have seen in the U.S. and other nations has arrived in Canada in the form of “mass protest, feedback loops, identity politics-driven public discourse, partisan sorting, performance politics and a loss of diversity in viewpoints.” He argues that polarization in Canada is defined as “increasing disengagement and unproductive bitterness.”

Of the 1,500 youth polled for the report entitled, “Far and Widening: The Rise of Polarization in Canada,” ideological polarization ranked as their number one fear of the future, eclipsing climate, health and economic concerns.

The report found the need for young Canadians to engage with one another “to ensure they understand one another and see themselves – their anxieties and priorities – addressed in our political discourse.”

I can speak from experience when I say I lost some friends during our coverage of the so-called freedom convoy – people who maybe felt they weren’t being heard or taken seriously during a time of political and civil unrest. I’ve begun reaching out to those I’ve drifted away from to see if there’s anything worth saving. And if I strip it all down to the sole reason we were friends in the first place, there likely will be a lot worth saving. Maybe it’s time we all re-engage with each other, so we all feel heard and represented in the big world we live in.

I won’t be picking any sides when I’m in Cowtown. I’ll be reconnecting face-to-face with some of the people who helped shape the person I’ve become today. I will listen, offer my point of view and then crack a cold one and celebrate the one thing we all have in common – our human nature.

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