The English language owes many expressions to the picturesque, sad and sometimes funny world of politics in the southern United States.
One of the most evocative of these is wool hat. A frequent simile is red neck. Sometimes the word is cracker.
They are all employed to identify a special kind of voter and a special kind of political candidate. One who is decently ignorant and decently proud of being so. Who is secure in a special and unchallengeable vision of God; who is certain that anyone who has a different vision is gravely in error or bound for Hell, and probably both. Who is suspicious of book learning, terrified of communism and full of benevolent but guarded thoughts about how to keep inferior races in their place for their own good. Who snaps his scarlet galluses, twangs his pearl-inlaid guitar and proclaims the eternal truth that airy thoughts and fine ideals can never be a substitute for plenty of co'n bread an' chitlin's.
By and large, Canadian politics has been happily and remarkably free of the influence of the wool hat. Like all people, we let prejudice and pomposity play too large a part in our national attitudes and actions. But to some considerable degreg, at least, we do chart our political courses according to what we conceive to be the political issues. Religion, race and bigotry do, lamentably, get mixed up in our elections, but they are seldom the chief or only issues.
It is precisely because of this that many people of no fixed political leaning—and this includes Maclean's—have been dismayed by some recent Utterances in parliament by members of the Social Credit party. Social Credit governs two of Canada’s most dynamic provinces. In federal politics its modest strength is growing, and may well grow greater before it grows less. Those who try to dismiss it as the eccentric relic of William Aberhart and the funny money of the 1930s have lost touch with reality.
For Social Credit has become a major political force in Canada. With that status it has incurred the obligation to behave with sobriety and responsibility.
Of its willingness to do this the party itself has raised some doubts. In the recent Ottawa xle.hakis over the Canada Council, Social Credit %,scd a number of extremely valid lasóme necessary warnings.
; claims, observations Social Credit bespoke -ability nor a respect
for reason; bespoke very little, indeed, but a willingness to rely as a method of persuasion on ostentatious piety, unalloyed materialism, superstition, suspicion, isolationism and fear.
One Social Credit member boasted proudly that he did not understand art and was “not very well steeped in culture.” Then, having established his credentials, he delivered a long lecture on art and culture, serene in the conviction that his ignorance made him an oracle.
Another Social Credit member, trying to make the Canada Council appear synonymous with UNESCO, saw in the whole enterprise a plot to “undermine” religion and “establish in the mind of the growing child that God did not create this world.” He inveighed, without one shred of evidence that had any relevance, against subversion, perversion and communism. Various Social Credit members spoke in glowing terms of attacks on UNESCO by the American Legion, the American Mercury, vigilante committees in California and Texas, and of Senator Pat McCarran, reverently described as being “famous all over the world for his investigations.”
“Why,” one of the more emotional Social Créditas asked, “do they want to destroy faith in God?” He answered: “Because the one
thing that binds all Christians together is belief in the Bible, and if belief in the Bible can be destroyed, then once more the solidarity of religion will be destroyed.”
And so on. The notion that it is sometimes as well to nourish the mind as to nourish the body was held by some Social Crediters to be not merely mistaken but wicked and sinister. Lor speaking in favor of “spiritual development and intellectual world brotherhood” Prime Minister St. Laurent was attacked with as much asperity as though he had proposed to spend public funds for the support of the man-eating shark. The leader of the Social Credit party spoke feelingly of the healthy cultural state of the American Negro and the Canadian Eskimo. No one ever thought of subsidizing either, and just think of the lovely songs of Stephen Foster!
Above everything else the political life of this country needs vigorous, intelligent opposition to governments which almost everywhere are growing too strong for anyone’s good, including their own.
But we do not need the psychology or the demagogy of the wool hat. the red neck, and the cracker. The Social Credit party can do itself and the country a great service by giving this point some serious study.
".imited. Horaee T. Hunter, Chairman of the Board. Floyd S. Chalmers,
president and Managing Director. Thomas H. How.se, Vice-President and Advertising Otlices: 4SI University Avenue, Toronto 2, Canada. Pub2, Canada. U. S. A.: Maclean-Hunter Publishing Corporation. 522 Fifth •-Hunter limited. 125 Strand, London, W.C.2. Single copies 15c. Subears $5.00. 3 years $7.00. 5 years $10.00. All other countries $6.00 per Jt Olliee Department. Ottawa. Contents copyright, 1957 by Madear.'eters and names in fiction stories appearing in Maclean’s are without permission. Manuscripts submitted to Maclean’s must be iutlicient postage for their return. The publishers will exercise every ble for the loss of any manuscript, drawing or photograph.
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