LAUTENS: Political actors change, but humanity doesn't

It was 80 years ago today. Doesn’t seem like a day over 79. What brought it back was thumbing through a birthday gift by my Aunt Mildred, The Story of the Coronation: King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, 1937.

I rarely speak of beloved Aunt Mildred, but she had two remarkable characteristics you will be advised of in the next two paragraphs:

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She apparently was suspicious of the instrument invented by Alexander Graham Bell, doubtful that it actually worked, because, such was the deafening heartiness of her voice, a call from her required the answerer to hold the telephone an arm’s length from the ear.

And, though her years were 1897-1958 and she lived in the very centre of then-thriving Hamilton, minutes from four first-run theatres, Mildred – no recluse, a pioneer woman office manager (Fuller Brush) – never saw a talking movie.

These, you will concede, are more than you can say about your own aunt. Or perhaps would care to.

But after that long windup, the pitch:

George VI was the unintended king, burdened by a bad stutter and a weak brother, Edward VIII, who – after a constitutional uproar threatening the monarchy – abdicated for love. Very unwise.

Europe shambled toward war in the 1930s. Shoring up the British Empire seemed a good idea. In 1939 George and Elizabeth – the Queen Mother – paid a glittering month-long visit to a mostly adoring Canada, the first by a reigning monarch to any dominion (a perfectly good term, absurdly dropped), and, briefly, the United States. They arrived in Quebec City 80 years ago today.

And on June 7, 1939, a boy aged four and a half stood at the corner of Main and Tisdale Streets in Hamilton, excitedly waiting to see his fairyland notion of a king and queen.

Ta-da, that boy was the undersigned. Ta-da, the real king and queen sped by in seconds, their conveyance not a horse-drawn coach but an open McLaughlin-Buick Phaeton – proudly Canadian, albeit mostly a U.S. Buick.

Two were built. A Victoria woman bought one. In 1972 Vancouver mega-collector Vern Bethel bought it. And, stop press, you read it here first, last summer it was acquired by the outstanding Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alta.

I’ve had troubled musings comparing this year of grace 2019 with fateful 1939, when the Nazi-Soviet neutrality pact in late August primed the starting gun of the Second World War.

It’s a stretch to push analogies too far. Issues change. Strutting political actors change. But humanity doesn’t. Call up Hegel: What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

What would Aunt Mildred shout into the phone?

 • • •

The Next Big Thing in West Vancouver controversy? The Five Creeks flood protection project. A furious Agent 6Cp2H reports: “It seems to be a done deal …  in-camera council meeting, British Properties benefiting … it will wreck the hillside!” About 50 people turned out May 8 at the foot of 31st in protest.

From a town hall post: “It is not an option and it does not require public input. … The District has an obligation to construct and maintain this (because of) provincial and regional requirements. … We know people have concerns, especially about environmental impacts. In fact, this project will protect both the environment and 800 nearby homes.”

 WV taxpayers will pay $6.5 million for the project; British Pacific Properties anything above that.

 • • •

If the above isn’t enough development tension in WV, try Tracie McTavish’s rezoning application for “a small townhouse development” (26 homes) on his personal house and next-door property on Jefferson Avenue, across from Pauline Johnson school. McTavish should know the ropes. He’s executive director of Rennie Marketing Systems. 

 • • •

What’s Pamela Goldsmith-Jones’s next career move? Not one to jump without knowing where she’d land. That she might retire to a quiet life in the country seems absurd.

A private business job for the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country? Perhaps. But a wild guess is that, having served as parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs under Chrystia Freeland, the charming Goldsmith-Jones will be given a diplomatic or international chat-tank role, even by Justin Trudeau before the October election – something like Kim Campbell’s post-prime minister appointment as Canada’s consul general in Los Angeles.

• • •

More life-after-politics: Former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has been appointed ambassador for the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. So what’ll he actually do? Burn a lot of aviation fuel, I imagine.

 • • •

The Court of Public Opinion always dismissed the now-dropped charge against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Didn’t fit. Solid record. Not a dime of personal benefit. All praise for his lawyer Marie Henein in torpedoing the prosecution’s leaky case. Real suspect: Canada’s infamous shipyard politics.

• • •

Many of us have flinched with pity and embarrassment on the bus or street at the visibly developmentally impaired. Jean Vanier not only loved them; the gratitude was all his for what they gave him back. In this hurting world it’s a shining beacon that Vanier worked directly with them through his humbly founded, now international, L’Arche support group.

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