Reasons to mourn

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Lorne Eckersley

Lorne Eckersley

I was a little disappointed to learn that my working theory that it was the election of Donald Trump that killed Leonard Cohen was incorrect. While news of Cohen’s death only became public on Thursday he had died prior to the election.

Like many, I was startled by Trump’s victory, but it did look like Hilary Clinton’s campaign momentum took a huge hit with the screwball announcement by FBI director James Comey about a week earlier that an investigation had come across more emails from her private email server.

It was a decidedly odd tactic, given that there was no apparent evidence that the emails included anything pertinent to the aptly named Anthony Wiener investigation, or that they revealed classified information. But hey, Comey is, according to reports, a lifelong Republican, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Ironically, the whole mess poses a bit of a conundrum for the president-elect. Trump had earlier in his campaign suggested that Comey would have to go, possibly for no more reason than he was a President Obama appointee. But now Trump can’t help but realize that Comey’s inexplicable behavior certainly did not hurt Trump’s successful bid for the presidency.

In the days following Trump’s election, only one person I spoke to locally had anything positive to say (though, to be fair, I didn’t actually raise the subject in discussions with people who think that any Republican, no matter how bad, is better than any Democrat, no matter how good).

“It might not be as bad as we think,” he said. High praise, indeed. And it might not, of course. I think Trump poses a threat to the planet like no one since Hitler. So he has plenty of room not to make my worst fears come true.

At best, though, he is going to do his damnedest to upend what many of us believe have been years of progress when it comes to things like women’s rights and the environment. Shortly after the election, I commented that those two issues would soon become the two most hated words in the Republican lexicon, replacing “Clinton” and “Obama”.

His promise to appoint an anti-abortion judge to the Supreme Court means women can look forward to a move backward to the pre-Roe v Wade era. Good thing an astonishing proportion of females voted for this man whose own attitudes toward women goes back to an earlier millennium, though, because otherwise they might be facing a revocation of voting rights, too.

Of bigger concern to Canada, though, is Trump’s promise to encourage the use of coal for electrical generation, and his commitment to make the US self-sufficient in energy by exploiting its huge (which is now, apparently, pronounced “youge”) reserves. He hasn’t indicated Canada might be part of his energy plan, so Alberta’s hopes for a quick economic recovery might be dashed, and south-pointing pipelines might become a non-issue. Regardless, we can count on a commitment to put Americans back to work is going to take precedence over environmental considerations every single time. Breathe easier because there is not another Clinton in the White House if you must, but prepare yourself for a tougher slog in getting clean air into your lungs.

In general, I plan to take the Not My Monkey, Not My Circus route when it comes to US politics, mostly out of a concern for my own psychological well-being.

I am less sanguine, though, at the loss of Leonard Cohen. I share the sentiments expressed on Page 2 in Chris Brauer’s column, though being (much) older, my history with Cohen goes much further back.

I began to form my own opinions about music when I started junior high. My seventh grade classmates were popular music enthusiasts, so I moved from sharing my parents’ tastes (Big Band and Country and Western, primarily) toward Top 40 stuff. Each day in class would discuss the previous evening’s Top 20 countdown on CKXL radio. That was 1967 and the variety of music that made the charts was quite wonderful. I was smitten when I heard Leonard Cohen’s first hit, Suzanne. It was such an evocative song—who didn’t want to share his experience of being fed tea and oranges that come all the way from China? Who didn’t want to know this Suzanne, who would touch your perfect body with her mind, all the while wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters?

Two of my life’s greatest thrills came from seeing Cohen perform in Calgary and Edmonton when he made his touring comeback several years ago. It was magical to sit among a crowd of truly adoring fans. The voice might have become even more gravelly, but it suited his lyrics. His band was incredibly good, the song selection was perfect and the arrangements were wonderful. Most of all, it was seeing a man truly comfortable with who he was as he entered the late stages of life (he described his earlier self, at the age of 60, as being “just a kid with a crazy dream”) that put the experience over the top. Humble, gracious and filled with gratitude, he would drop to one or both knees as one sign of expression, and doff his oh-so-dapper fedora as another.

If this was what getting old could be like, count me in, I thought. Taking in the reality that Leonard Cohen has left us, though, is proving to be an entirely different experience.