My Concise Oxford Dictionary describes the meaning of the word pensive as “plunged in thought” and “melancholy.”
I confess I never thought of it having such dark, minor-key overtones – more Samuel Barber than Mozart. Not that I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but pensive always struck me as a more easy-going sort of thoughtfulness, as in sitting back in a relaxed sort of way, just staring into the fire after a hard day’s work and letting the mind wander where it will, or not.
It’s that kind of a late evening: the last few days have been way too busy and stressful, what with one thing or another on the personal front. Meanwhile, the news has been full of Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossing the floor of Parliament from the Government to the Opposition side, and then taking a Conservative members arm to help him through a blockade of NDP members trying to do what they could to slow down the business of the House. And then, to make matters worse, he elbowed one female NDP member hard enough to make her flee the house in distress.
How sad it seems, potentially even tragic, that the man who ushered in the Brave New World of “Sunny Ways” in Canadian politics not that long ago has himself seemingly brought it to an end so soon.
But I’m afraid this may be hard for him to recover from on a personal level. The act of crossing the floor in an impulsive act of impatience, irritability and anger betrays a lack of self-control that under the circumstances falls far short of the standard of behaviour expected of Canada’s Prime Minister. It’s hard to imagine former Prime Minister Stephen Harper doing anything like it; and I say that as someone who felt Harper had little respect for Canadian democratic traditions, including Parliament.
I don’t doubt for a moment Trudeau feels deeply regretful and sorry for his behaviour. I can easily see him at home, staring into the fire and being very pensive indeed in the Oxford dictionary meaning of the word, “plunged” in “melancholy” thought.
He knows he let a lot of people down who believed he was a breath of fresh air in Canadian and even global politics, that he meant what he said about a “Sunny Ways” open, consensual approach to government, compared with divisive, autocratic, hate-mongering style of the former Harper government. I am one of those people.
But most of all – and this is what worries me for his sake – I think he must feel he let himself down big time; and that is going to be very, very hard for a man who is apparently more complex than we knew to get over. I wonder if it seems like one of those bad dreams, the proverbial “worst nightmare” when you see yourself naked and exposed for all the world to see; except in this case it’s not a dream, it’s reality, and there’s no waking up from it.
Trudeau will first have to find a way to forgive himself for what happened, and not let it smother his essentially generous, open-hearted personality.
Don’t beat yourself up too much, is my advice to him. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Reach out to the “old hands” among your colleagues for help and advice about making the consensual approach work in Parliament. Show you can take the experience as an opportunity for personal growth that will make you a better Prime Minister as well as person. The willingness and ability to do that is an expression of inner strength.
I for one trust you can and will do that. Do it for Canada and the world, and for yourself.