Wanderings – Dr. Fever and strong medicine

Howard Hesseman as Johnny Fever on ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ (Photofest via The Hollywood Reporter)

Growing up, one of my favourite shows to watch after school was WKRP in Cincinnati, and my favourite character was Johnny Fever – Dr. Johnny Fever.

The pilot episode of WKRP saw a sleepy 50,000 watt AM radio station flip from elevator music to rock. A record needle scrawled across a sleepy record, Howard Hesseman as Johnny Fever rolled into his monologue, boldly proclaiming the station’s rock format. Part of his speech has always stuck with me, “Give it to me straight, Doctor, I can take it!”

The straight goods, strong medicine, authenticity – all metaphors for the truth. The truth hurts, but it helps. This is something that has resonated with me for a while, this need for the straight goods or strong medicine. It’s something we don’t get from our current political climate – and that worries me.

Everything right now is a crisis. The housing crisis; economic crisis; affordability crisis; health care crisis; education crisis; climate crisis; and the crisis crisis. Chicken Little called, his crisis has fallen.

There are a lot of faux crises out there as well. Crisis is the buzz word of the year. And our politicians are not helping with this.

Tone deaf politicians go off to their party retreats or festivals and return unaware of what people are dealing with. They issue statements that they are planning to plan to do something to address a crisis.

Even supposedly tuned-in politicians who have figured out people’s angst and uncertainty emerge from their conventions and policy wonk-fests with 20 second sound bites of simplistic jingoism to secure votes without saying what they mean.

Regardless of party or jurisdiction, the politicians running the show, or laying in wait to run the show, are proving how disconnected they are.

Federally, the Liberals have just had their retreat of MPs before Parliament resumes; and the Conservatives have just had their policy convention. In both cases, a lot of words are used to say very little. I think the Liberals still don’t understand many of the bread-and-butter issues people face right now with inflation, housing prices, and food insecurity.

The Conservatives polling numbers show that that party is connecting with more Canadians. I think that is because the party is doing a good job at identifying the problems more and more people face. However, little effort is given to explaining how they can actually fix the problem(s). The other parties continue to act like broken clocks, right twice a day.

The situation is mirrored provincially, with the only difference being the party colours. The Progressive Conservative government continues on its housing kick, forgetting that people have to be able to afford the houses being built.

The NDP can identify issues day-in and day-out, but offer few practical or affordable solutions. The provincial Liberals are still trying to figure who will get the keys to the caucus minivan, and have little useful criticism to contribute.

What all these politicians, parties, and the underlings that run it all are missing is – I think – that we just want the straight goods, like the fictional TV doctor said.

I had a water heater issue a week ago. The electrical breaker kept tripping. The tank had a small leak which was dripping on the thermostat – hence the breaker tripping. After a service call, new water heater, and a bill later, I had hot water again – problem solved. There were no platitudes or jingos involved; no dithering or name calling (although some blue language may have been said when I discovered the problem.) The problem was identified, a solution enacted, and it was resolved.

This may read as overly simplistic, but that is what we all need to deal with these “crises” swirling around us. Take a problem like food insecurity, be forthright in what the solution is, and then if in government – enact that solution. If not in government, put your solution out there and if an election comes around, people can vote for that plan instead.

There is a worrying number of politicians and political-types treating the rest of the population like fragile idiots who can’t handle the truth of a situation. This worries me because instead of getting good policy or solutions, we’ll continue to receive more of the same pejorative mush that has already been on the menu.

As the fictional doctor said, “Give it to me straight Doctor, I can take it!” I think we all can.

Originally published in the September 13, 2023 print edition of the Morrisburg Leader.