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Compared to God ...

Opinion — Context is everything.
ROb opinion 2000-1333

Compared to God... 


 It’s vital.In a trained journalist’s line of work, it always has been.

With today’s growing  ‘he-said’ / ‘she-said’ / 'I-think-so-I-know' ‘random-survey-result-said'...  world of self-harvested information, context is even more important.

But on Saturday night— when my always-on news-brain was trying to take some time off — I caught the headline of a CBC article about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney using a “God-quote” at Saturday’s UCP special general meeting.

" 'Kenney pleads for UCP members 'not to compare him to the Almighty, but the alternative' '  shone the quote on a news notification that flashed on the screen as our family was trying to watch the new DUNE movie.

My first thought was — this DUNE movie is very confusing … and sandy.

My second thought was of music legend John Lennon comparing the Beatles to Jesus.

But Kenney said ‘not'  to compare him to the Almighty.  Right?  I guess NOT asking to be compared to a legend is OK.  I mean, I can’t recall how many times I’ve had to tell people not to compare me to artist Daphne Odjig as I’m doodling a swirling-colourful interpretation of a beautiful moment with my wife and kids onto a restaurant napkin, or not to say I’m like Cameron Crowe after I write a witty, well-rounded, front-lobe stimulating column in the Lakeland This Week.

My third thought … sorry for the excursion — was that I’d heard the quote before, most recently at a local function. I also think US President Joe Biden has been linked to the phrase over the last two decades. And Google keeps telling me that someone at a 2009 Senate of Canada discussion from a standing committee on banking, trade and commerce also said it. I’m also pretty sure it’s been around since the first caveman or woman campaigned to be the leader of Rockville-by-the-Lava. 

But this isn’t about Kenney not competing with the big-guy, or John Lennon … or cave-people voting; it’s about context.

When did someone say it, why did they say it, what else were they saying, where did it happen, and who was there to hear it?  Those are all the parts of context— that I thought were —  until this weekend — cemented to something said or done at the same place and time.

You see, the last time I heard the quote — it was from Kenney — at a leadership rally at the Fat Unicorn Tap House in Lac La Biche three weeks ago — and he properly attributed the two-liner to another Canadian political leader, prefaced the comment with enough padding so no one in the room thought it was puffy or sanctimonious, and gave enough back-story about the fearful return of the NDP that it made sense. So I and about 50 other people who were at Kenney’s rally know the context in which those words were meant.

“Can I just say this? I’m not a perfect leader. I’ve made my mistakes. I ask you to compare me not to the Almighty, but to the alternative — that’s for Stephen Harper fans,” he said with the laugh of a man who has just delivered a well-received joke to a small crowd. He made the funny in Lac La Biche three weeks ago, part of an anecdotal explanation of the headway he’s made in cross-border discussions for the provincial industrial sector.

It was harmless … and in context … then.

But now, written out again, popped into the weekend news swirl by the CBC and picked up by others, the very same words, when taken without context, seem damming, obnoxious, foolish … anti-Christian?  Was it intentionally-done? Did they leave out some context? Was the headline meant to start a quasi-religious chasm? I’d hope not. After-all, remember — we journalists are trained to work within the world of context and objectivity. Knowing what I know from Kenney’s recent visit, it does seem that the words and the speaker have been painted without context in this latest headline frenzy. And like my fellow artist Daphne, I know that context is as important to the final product as colour, setting and emotion.

Look, I’m no fan of Kenney’s — (although admittedly, I don’t have a clue what he’s like personally, what his favourite TV show is, if he likes crib, poker or Settlers of Catan, or if he can drive a stick-shift) — but knowing full-well that the man shouldn’t be drawn out and persecuted for a bare-bones offering without background, makes me want to defend him … and more importantly defend the importance of context.

If Kenney loses this leadership review or race — no big deal. But if the reverence of context as a part of the information process is lost or twisted … you may as well buy my latest painting — since you like the lines blurred.

If you think Kenney is pretentious and entitled due to the latest broadcast of his quote, you are free to think that way. If you realize that words without context can mean anything, you are smart … and you should explain the plot of DUNE to me.



Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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