“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933.
Rick Norlock is about to leave the building. He won’t be running in the next federal election to represent what is now Northumberland-Peterborough South. A combination of relief and nostalgia has descended upon the riding. As I sort through my stack of Rick Norlock constituency updates, I’m seized by an unexpected emptiness, a feeling that doesn’t feel right. A feeling that despite the fact that Mr. Norlock’s message was unwavering throughout his tenure, I never got the message.
How can that be? After all, unlike many of Rick Norlock’s dedicated supporters, I actually read the hundreds of lurid missives with which he blanketed the riding in his eight years as our representative in Ottawa.
Mr. Norlock is the undisputed King Of The Mail-Outs, a human Gestetner Machine dedicated to cranking out just one message: Fear.
Hence my emptiness. After all these years of being told I should be afraid -afraid of tattoo’d junkies in the basement, afraid of terrorism, Liberals, the NDP and everything else that goes bump in the night- I’m not afraid. Somehow I missed the message. Somehow even the pictures of doe-eyed waifs whose only protection from skulking internet predators was the Conservative Party’s ‘Tough On Crime’ mantra escaped me. Which is to say I’m not nearly as afraid of all the things I’m supposed to be afraid of as the Conservative Party is afraid of statistics.
Violent crime, according to what’s left of Statistics Canada, is on the decline. But Statistics Canada failed to take into account something called ‘unreported crime’ -crime that we all know is out there because the government says it’s out there and because Rick Norlock never said it wasn’t out there which, obviously, lends great credence to its existence.
Unreported crime is like the mirror image of reported crime that never happened but got reported anyway. The only difference being unreported crime doesn’t require that a crime actually took place -just the firm belief -backed by non-existent statistics- that a crime just might have taken place but that nobody paid any attention or bothered calling the police.
But, according to the Conservatives, all we need to know is that it happened. How we know it happened isn’t important.
And that’s the whole thing about fear. Fear sells better if we don’t know what we’re afraid of. Fear of fear itself. To the people of Northumberland-Quinte West, fear sold like hotcakes. We couldn’t get enough. Rick Norlock was the account exec and never a day went by when he didn’t pitch some new peril, something else to be worried about that only Rick Norlock and his blizzard of taxpayer-funded advertising could save us from.
Maybe Rick Norlock was right all along. Thinking only of myself (and no, I’m not a Conservative) I can say with certainty that I have not been the victim of a violent crime since a bully -probably a Conservative- stole my lunch money in Grade 3, a crime I am embarrassed to say went unreported. Thus, the logical extrapolation is that my life has been crime free since around the time of another Conservative, John Diefenbaker. Maybe all this Tough On Crime stuff cuts both ways. Maybe it scares the bejesus out of tattoo’d junkies at the same time it makes the rest of us feel both safe and scared.
Barack Obama got elected in his first term partly because he wrote a book called The Audacity Of Hope. Audacity? In Northumberland during Mr. Norlock’s time in office, Hope wasn’t about audacity -it was about effrontery. The Effrontery Of Hope as opposed to the Reality Of Fear.
That’s why there’s this sense of bittersweet nostalgia as the Norlock era comes to a close. We’ve become so used to cowering beneath the covers listening for the sound of a broken window or a smell of a pervert’s hot breath on our necks or the postman delivering more Norlock flyers, that we’re going to miss the oneness of it all, a sense of community that binds us all together in the fear we’ve come to take for granted as a part of life in Northumberland.