Like most students on campus, I'm too young to fully understand Pierre Elliott Trudeau. But I live in a Canada that he envisioned. Thanks to him, I have twice the reading material when looking at cereal boxes.
I vaguely remember social studies classes in high school concerning the FLQ crisis and the repatriation of the Canadian constitution. So to fill this gap, I turned to the media. Two sentiments dominated the landscape: "Trudeau was the greatest PM ever" and "Thank God he's dead."
All media outlets were filled with quotes from politicians, people on the street and Trudeau's family. The image of Trudeau pirouetting behind the Queen flashed everywhere. It was even rumoured Peter Mansbridge was not allowed to attend the Olympics in case Trudeau died. Everyone had incredibly well planned retrospectives. It is creepy to think network executives and newspaper editors were planning for Trudeau's death weeks in advance.
Both Calgary dailies carried supplements but the one thing that separated them from the rest of the pack was their shabby treatment of a dead man.
The Calgary Sun's Friday cover had the prerequisite rose and a small picture of Trudeau. But the real insult to him was the apparent black body bag the rose was resting on and the headline "P.E.T. R.I.P." Not wanting to be topped by the Sun, the Calgary Herald's Monday editorial cartoon had the simple caption, "P.E.T. N.E.P. R.I.P."
Most articles wrote warmly about Trudeau but whenever the words "National Energy Program" appeared, the tone quickly sank to one of disrespect.
In many respects Trudeau's death mirrors the frenzy over Princess Diana's. People are grieving and attributing wonderful ideals and morals to the man. But the one difference is the treatment of controversial ideas. Diana's affairs and problems were put in perspective-- attributed to a difficult marriage. Criticisms of Trudeau simply demonstrate the immaturity of the western media.
We are taught never to talk ill of the dead, yet both Calgary newspapers went out of their way to prove that westerners are still hoppin' mad about how Trudeau screwed the West. But most people interviewed on the street remember other things about Trudeau, like his use of the expression "fuddle duddle" or the FLQ crisis.
It must be easier to insult a man like Trudeau when he is dead. After all, he once responded to being called an asshole by U.S. President Richard Nixon by saying he had been called worse names by better people.