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Ben and Mr. Potato Head; Parliament and Our Legacy

Yesterday, Maggie and I took our four-year old grandson, Ben, to the Children’s Museum at the Museum of Civilization. Mr. Potato Head is in town and staying at the museum so we were off to see what mischief we could get into with him.

The Children’s Museum is a great spot for kids. It is full of things to turn, poke, climb aboard, twist, turn, colour, play and explore. It features kid-style exhibits that represent different countries of the world.

There’s a real bus from Pakistan that the kids can climb aboard and pretend to drive. There’s a small store, a bakery, a kid-size house under renovation complete with tools and tool belt kids can wear and there is a boat.

It’s not much of a boat as boats go; it’s more like a representation of a boat.

It’s about thirty to forty feet long and sort of looks like a Great Lakes freighter if you’re dad had built it for you in your back yard. There’s an open hold in the middle of the deck where there are bags of cargo and there’s a wheel house bridge at the back complete with ship’s wheel, a gear knob and a captain’s hat to be worn. The knob doesn’t do much but the wheel spins. Overall, I thought it was the least impressive of all of the displays – Ben didn’t agree.

He loved it.

The ship was the first place we had to go. Forget Mr. Potato Head, it was the boat we had to rush to see – and we did. Ben ran up the gangplank spun the ship’s wheel, tried to lift some of the ‘cargo’ and then he saw it. It was the perfect thing and he spent the next twenty minutes with it.

It was a mop.

Donning an orange and yellow safety vest he found on the deck, Ben grabbed the mop and proceeded to mop the entire deck, the windows, the lanterns and the cargo bags. He would have mopped some of the other kids if they had stood still.

A mop! That was the big hit of the day. We could have gone to the house wares section of Wal-Mart and he would have had as much fun.

We did eventually get to Mr. Potato Head where Ben climbed in the Spud Sub and sat in the captain’s chair on the Space Spud.

He was fascinated by a glass window on the wall that looked into a small enclosure full of different small objects including golf balls. It was meant to simulate a radioactive chamber and had two holes in the wall under the window. Kids could put their hands through the holes into attached rubber gloves and then manipulate the objects in the chamber.

That wasn’t enough to satisfy Ben. He decided the real challenge was to extract an object from the chamber and somehow – and we have no idea how – managed to get one of the golf balls out of the enclosed chamber and into his pocket.

It was a fun time. There were kids everywhere. It was loud chaos but fun chaos; a place where kids could be kids free to satisfy their curiosity and stretch their imaginations. It was also quite warm and so I stepped outside into the dreary, rainy afternoon to see if I could drop my body temperature back down to 98.6.

No worries there – it was damp and chilly.

The Museum of Civilization is on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and standing outside I could see Canada’s Parliament buildings atop the cliff directly across the river. For a moment I was reminded of the history of that place and the symbolism it represents. It made me feel a sense of renewed pride for a moment but only for a moment.

It is the seat of our government and the heart of our democracy and as I thought about what is happening there now, I felt a sense of melancholy flow over me. So much history has passed through those buildings, so many great leaders but not for a very long time. It saddened me when I thought about how those buildings have been denigrated by politicians and their parties, their strategists, back room boys, opportunists and spin doctors.

When I went back into the Museum and saw all the kids running around and laughing, I felt a sense that we had failed them.

They will soon enough lose their innocence; grow up and become the adults who will pay for our excesses. They are the generation we have saddled with the debt caused by our over-spending and they are the generation who will pay for the erosion of our democracy and rights by a succession of politicians who put political expediency and winning ahead of service, duty and integrity; politicians we elected and supported because they promised us pretty things and appealed to our baser, meanest nature.

Someone told me a while back that the generation just entering the workforce will be the first generation in history to have shorter life spans than their parents. I don’t know if that’s true but I do believe that our generation is the first generation to care less about their children’s future than they do about their own entitlements; bought with borrowed money our children will have to repay.

We will leave to those children an unsustainable and broken health care system, an unbelievable level of government debt, failed environmental policies and a political process that has demeaned and undermined good governance.

It’s a legacy built on greed, a selfish sense of entitlement and blind support for those who are eroding our values, our political institutions and our democracy.

It is a legacy that is almost criminal.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Randy

    On this, Bear, I completely agree with you. I have often said that we are leaving
    a disappointing legacy to our heirs, compared to what was left to us.
    Friends of mine comment that we have built this country for our children, to which
    I say that we have used their money to build it to our satisfaction. We have built
    an incredible debt for them to re-pay, and as you say, the health care system
    cannot continue as is. The Canada Pension Plan will become unaffordable, with
    the needed contributions becoming too onerous for them to pay. Yet any changes
    that are contemplated to it or the health care system to make it last beyond our
    generation are met with howls of greedy protests from baby boomers who say
    they deserve to get what they paid into it. Which combining the health care
    benefits and CPP, OAS and GST rebates, most of them have received the
    money they paid in by the time they are 68 years of age or younger, depending
    on the situation.
    I find it very frustrating with the “worry about me and the hell with my kids”
    attitude that the baby boomer generation has. We are destroying democracy in
    this country, people will not vote, instead joining special interest groups and
    protesting to get what they want. Governments listen to erroneous polls and
    unelected back room officials, forming policy according them. We have
    squandered everything handed to us with selfish attitude and greed. We
    have left our children and grand-children a mess that will not be easy to
    clean up. In the meantime, we will continue to use the system to our
    satisfaction and proclaim what a wonderful job we did.

    • MaggiesBear

      And that my friend is precisely what happens when we refuse to criticize those we support and instead defend their self-serving actions while we criticize the opposition for the same duplicity.

      • Randy

        I agree we should criticize who we support when they deserve it.
        And they are doing much to deserve it. I am afraid that if we
        continue down the path we are on, our children and grand-children
        will look at our democratic institutions as being unable to help or
        guide them in their lives and they will regard them as irrelevant.
        When that happens, democracy dies. That will be OUR legacy.
        Thanks for the forum to express ideas and to comment on others.

        • MaggiesBear

          I’m glad you see it as a forum and hope you and others will continue to share and debate your ideas here.

  • Gerry

    We seem to be on similar paths – except we don’t have access to the advantages of a major urban center like a museum. We also don’t have the disadvantages either but it ain’t an even trade-off. Our focus is not on street proofing our grandkids as much as education system proofing them and their parents. Both of us at various times have worked in the education system and as parents have also experienced the tripe that passes for educational insight. We got our kids through the post-secondary system with their capacity for self-reflective awareness and BS detectors intact so now we worry about and work with the next generation.

    But the point you raise about what we are handing off to not just our grandchildren but also our children is brutally true. It is brutal because we are getting the most out of the system and the way it is managed it is all downhill from here. It did not have to be. Once the basic Tommy Douglas paradigm of ensuring that a farmer who broke his arm could get it cared for got morphed into sex change operations for criminals as part of the health care system we simply have gone too far in burdening the next generation with the costs of our ‘generosity’. No one seems to want to make hard decisions and when they do it is sloppy and messy because they leave it too late. I am watching the situation in the US with some apprehension as at some point it will disintegrate. Bertrand Russell (a philosopher I am not a great fan of) observed that change is inevitable; progress is moral. I think we are in for a whole lot of change and very little progress. And in some way while that sounds depressed it is also based on the recognition of history as the story of man’s spiraling capacity for great evil as well as great achievement and the latter is what pulls us ever upward. But each leap forward seems built on the ashes of that which went before so maybe the Phoenix legend is truer than we thought.

    • MaggiesBear

      That was really well stated Gerry and I agree with all of it.

      • Gerry

        Not a good representation but it is the view out of my family room window. I share it only to also share my source of serenity. Iphone does not capture the light on the mountains nor the sky but you get the idea.

        • MaggiesBear

          Was there supposed to be a link or a photo attached?

          • Gerry

            there was but I messed up

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