Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our Mouseland

Ever get the feeling we're a nation of mice ruled by cats?

The question is unquestionably pertinent to the times we live in, but I am hardly the first to ask it. It was far more famously posed by the late, great Canadian statesman Tommy Douglas. Douglas was no ordinary politician. The CBC, Canada’s national television network, named him “The Greatest Canadian” in 2004, based on a viewer survey. Yet he is known by few if any Americans despite being grandfather to the Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland.

Douglas was elected to Canada’s House of Commons in 1935 and served with distinction there for nine years. He then left federal politics to become Premier of Saskatchewan in 1944. One of the many highlights of his time as Premier came near the end of his 17-year tenure when his administration established the continent’s first universal health care program in Saskatchewan. Word of the success of the province’s medicare program spread like wildfire and quickly got the attention of the federal government, which in 1966 created a national health care program modeled after Saskatchewan’s.

Douglas was beloved as much for his homespun gift of gab as for his formidable accomplishments in the political arena. He was a master storyteller, and his speeches often took the form of fables. He was especially fond of telling his audiences a fable called “Mouseland.” He spoke of a nation of mice governed by cats. The masses either chose black or white cats as their leaders, but never their own mice. The laws of the land were always good ones – for cats.

We’ve become well acquainted with Tommy Douglas’s Mouseland. An American royalty has control of our government. Us mice keep choosing cats to rule us. Sometimes red ones, sometimes blue. But regardless of their color, the laws they write and the programs they establish are all good ones – for cats.

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