Have you ever known something terrible was about to happen to someone before they had a clue what was awaiting them? Maybe a co-worker was about to be fired and was completely oblivious while you knew the smile on their face was about to turn to tears.
It’s sort of like watching a train wreck in slow motion and it’s a highly unpleasant experience.
That’s the best way I can find to describe how I felt late last week as I watched newly elected MP, Ryan Cleary, being interviewed on the local evening news.
In a nutshell, my heart went out to the guy.
Don’t get me wrong, after many years of journalistic experience I’m sure Cleary isn’t completely blind to the ways of politics and he’s certainly no shrinking violet. Knowing something on a cerebral level and actually crawling inside the beast are not the same thing however.
During the interview, Cleary answered questions about his first impressions of Ottawa. It wasn’t his answers that hit home with me but the excitement in his voice and gleam in his eye that left such a lasting impression. One only had to listen to him speak to sense the fire in his belly for tackling issues close to his heart and of such importance to the province.
I can’t say I know the man on a personal level but I’ve spoken with Ryan several times over the years, via email and phone (our few attempts to meet in person never having been successful). I’ve also been the recipient of his generosity when, on several occasions, he saw fit to publish some of my commentaries in the original “The Independent” newspaper (perhaps that’s what killed the publication, you never know).
First impressions often tell you a lot about a person and my first impression of Ryan Cleary was recognition of his depth of character. Simply put, Cleary is a man who truly cares about the issues affecting Newfoundland and Labrador.
That impression hasn’t changed one iota in the ensuing years and remains strong today.
It’s a rare thing for me to believe a politician is actually on a mission, other than to feather his own nest, but in this particular case I honestly believe it.
Unfortunately, Ottawa’s political bubble has very little tolerance for anyone who hopes to change the status quo in the slightest way.
From my outsider’s perspective, but after years of nurturing a clearly unhealthy curiosity for the body politic, I see Ottawa as a place so rife with political wrangling, bureaucratic red tape, roadblocks, shady deals, hidden power brokers and political expediency that anyone unlucky enough to possess honest ambition to fight for what’s right is sure to be ostracized, if not completely crushed.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do, but I expect that four years from now we’ll see a far different Ryan Cleary. In fact I believe we’ll see a man who is all but unrecognizable other than in physical appearance.
I’m sure Cleary’s principles will remain intact, even Ottawa can’t easily destroy a lifetime of entrenched character, but I expect the spark will have died in his eyes and his passion to fight so hard for his principles will be buried so deeply he won’t be the same man he is today.
My heart hopes he can win his battles and truly turn Ottawa upside down, rattle some cages if you like, heaven knows they need it. My head says he’s far more likely to return as a jaded and disillusioned shell of his former self. That would be the saddest result of all, not just for the man but for the province.
Perhaps the only hope Cleary has of limiting permanent damage to his well being is to fall back on his past career and natural instincts. When his time tilting at windmills begins to leave the scars it surely will, perhaps he’ll accept that he cannot change the world alone. This may lead him to focus on a far more pragmatic calling – bringing blazing and eye popping light into the bureaucratic darkness.
As an investigative journalist with unquestioned passion, conviction and a strong sense of social justice Cleary’s time on the inside of Canada’s political system may indeed influence Ottawa in the long run, even if that influence doesn’t come in the traditional sense or in the way he expects it will today.
We can only hope.
Footnote: A copy of this commentary was provided to Ryan Cleary prior to publication. His response was as follows:
Thanks Myles … interesting read.
You’re right about me being on a mission. I’m up here to make a change, to make a difference, to change the NL world.
I know it won’t be easy … I know it will be a monumental undertaking … but my shoulder will be to the wheel. And if I don’t succeed … well, at least I will have tried my damndest. At that point it would be time to change tack, but I certainly won’t be defeated. If anything, I’d be more determined than ever.
I wouldn’t change a word of your piece.
Keep it in your files for 2015.
Read more of the author’s blog at Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador