In Rhodesia a white truck driver passed a group of idle natives and muttered, “They’re lazy brutes.” A few hours later he saw natives heaving two-hundred pound sacks of grain onto a truck, singing in rhythm to their work. “Savages!” he grumbled. “What do you expect?” – Gordon W. Allport
If we believe absurdities we shall commit atrocities. – Voltaire
It may be a truism that has become reductive: Every tragedy offers opportunity to showcase the best and the worst of us.
We have recently been witness to a lot of both. We have seen the faces and heard the voices of hope and reason standing up to the ugly proponents of intolerance, unreason, and violence. Heather Heyer and scores of others, as part of the first group in Charlottesville, Virginia, became victims of the second group. Heyer paid with her life only to have her and the others targeted again by Donald Trump when he attempted to offer a moral equivalency to their behaviour as opponents of racism to that of the white-supremacist neo-Nazis who feed on fear, ignorance, hatred, and victimhood. Heyer, as Trump would have it, was as responsible for her death and the others as responsible for their injuries as the white supremacist supporter who aimed his vehicle at them. His comments, vile and shocking as they were, surely could not have surprised; it was only a question of how low Trump would sink. Well, it appears, there is no sewer that does not appeal to him. A few days later, Barcelona – 14 innocents murdered, terrorists hunted, captured and killed. In both instances, immediately following the tragic and murderous insanity, in Charlottesville and Barcelona and around the world, ordinary citizens, opponents of white supremacist neo-Nazis and terrorism rallied on the side of the angels in massive displays of defiance and grief: the haters and butchers would not intimidate them.
Unfortunately, for those opponents of fascism and white supremacists, there were a few, as there invariably is at such gatherings, set on undermining the hopes of forceful, effective and peaceful support for the victims of Charlottesville and Barcelona. In Quebec City a far-right anti-Islam anti-immigration group, La Meute, had been granted a permit to march August 20th before Quebec’s National Assembly. Gathered at a nearby parking lot, La Meute marchers found themselves outnumbered and confined to the parking lot by anti-fascist protestors. The march did not take place. Even so, La Meute and its supporters were handed a get out of jail card claiming victory in the name of free speech while their anti-fascist opponents, sporting a black eye, reeled, wondering what had happened. Among those opponents of fascism and racists, there mingled a familiar and particularly nasty group of masked, black-clad thugs shouting anti-fascist slogans; but these were not men and women seeking to aid the cause of forceful, effective and peaceful opposition nor were they interested in constructive dialogue. They, apparently all men, were there as thugs, disruptors, more interested in the display of force than in suasion roaming among the peaceful anti-fascist ranks in groups seeking to do damage beating a man for carrying a Patriotes and Quebec flag, throwing plastic chairs at helmeted police, setting a dumpster afire, and targeting members of the media snatching and smashing cameras. These hooligans were hardly on the side of the angels their behaviour more that of agents provocateurs working on behalf of the far right or, as in those good old days of the sixties and seventies, for the police, in hopes of discrediting so-called leftists, i.e., opponents of fascism, though it is doubtful that those brutish elements who show up at every political rally believe in anything but violence and thuggery. If they differ from the imbecilic and ignorant white supremacist racists who must scapegoat, blaming everyone but themselves for their failures, it is difficult to determine. By day’s end, the far-right group and supporters emerged from the parking lot knowing they had carried the day and been granted an opportunity to look good, if such an outcome can be possible of bigots. Even so, the victory was not absolute; one member who had come in support of La Meute appeared on the late news saying something like this: “We’re not racists, we just hate Islam.” Go figure.
There is, nevertheless, almost reason for hope. Those really on the side of the angels appear, for now, to far outnumber the vile, hateful, violence-prone racists and murderers seeking to spread their nihilistic messages. Almost reason for hope. It is not enough to declare oneself as anti-fascist and then act like the thugs you claim to detest; what pride must one possess in deeds that he must mask himself from the public eye?
Almost reason for hope. But something is missing. Oh, yes, the great and small and good are out there, arms linked in sorrow and defiance not only to the mad acts but also the mad ravings of someone who heads one of the great democracies in the world. But where are the world leaders when needed most? True, they condemn the mad acts; that is easy enough to do. But what have they to offer regarding the lunatic musings of Trump besides the muted generalized and inoffensive pap of which we hear too much? Where is the loud, loud, loud united condemnation from our world leaders? Oh, there have been a few raised angry voices, predictably from enemies of the US. But what of American allies? Where are the voices of outrage, of resounding condemnation, the pointed fingers and loud, unequivocal denunciations of that most unpresidential of lunatics who, the day after Charlottesville, sought to blame both sides for what happened, then reversed himself and then doubled down only to reverse himself once again? Which Trump can we believe? Unquestionably, the real Trump is the monstrous Trump that refused to condemn those white supremacists that first day and who, while campaigning urged his supporters to punch out those who disrupted his rallies.
Amy B. Wang, of the Washington Post, Aug. 16, provides a few offerings from some of the leaders. The first is by British PM Elizabeth May. “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far right views wherever we hear them.” May, you will note, does not name Trump. And there is this by the European Commission, again without mention of Trump or Charlottesville, “We reject and condemn all forms and manifestations of racism and xenophobia. They are incompatible with the values and principles upon which the E.U. is founded.” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas was more direct: “It is unbearable how Trump is now glossing over the violence of the right-wing hordes from Charlottesville. No one should trivialize anti-Semitism and racism by neo-Nazis.” Martin Shulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, had this to say: “Nazis must be confronted decisively. What Trump is doing is highly incendiary. Those who downplay violence and hate betray the values of the West!”
Shouldn’t there be more? Should not our own Canadian political leaders take a more forceful, more direct stand regarding Trump’s vile moral equivalency?
Well, yes. But they have failed miserably. Of the three major Canadian leaders, only the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair from the get go has stood out in absolute opposition to Trump calling him a “fascist”. For some, that language was extreme. But was it?
In the wake of Charlottesville, Andrew Scheer, newly elected leader of the Conservatives, Jason Kenney, ex-MP, and Brian Jean, former member of the Wildrose Party who, with Kenney, was a guiding force behind the Unite the Right movement in Alberta, suddenly seemed to have discovered that granting interviews to Ezra Levant’s The Rebel, may not be such a good idea after all. The Rebel, a media platform for the far-right anti-Islamic white supremacist media group and the purveyor of “real” fake news since 2015 with the death of Sun News Network, appears to be Canada’s answer to Breitbart and it has been so from day one. One of its stalwarts, Faith Goldy, providing live coverage in Charlottesville when the events leading to Heyer’s death unfolded, seemed in her element offering favourable “reportage” of the neo-Nazi rally and gleefully condemning the left as “intolerant” even as the car drove into the crowd killing Heyer and injuring scores. This was just one of several events that was to offer The Rebel one of its worst weeks with members leaving and/or fired, contributors fleeing and questions regarding financial mismanagement, accusations of dishonestly solicited donations, misuse of viewer and supporter email addresses, charges of blackmail, hush money, and the man himself, Levant offering a pitiably inadequate mea culpa in an attempt to distance himself from the Alt-Right and Faith Goldy, since fired, evidently having gone too far in Charlottesville and for appearing on a podcast by the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi pro-genocide outlet and purveyor of extremist white supremacy and anti-Muslim hate-mongering views while whining about white victimhood. Evidently her sympathetic support of white supremacists raising the issue of “white racial consciousness”, her take on “white genocide” by Muslims, and her concerns regarding the “JQ” or Jewish question were not offensive enough. These are folks with a nasty mindset long known for extremist views warning Canadians of the Great Muslim Takeover Of The World, a conspiracy theory otherwise known as Counter-Jihad. So when Scheer, Jason and Jean seek to distance themselves from The Rebel with claims of being surprised and unhappy with the direction it has taken, serious doubts occur; can they be believed or trusted? Hardly. From the start, The Rebel has been espousing the same filthy bilge. When it suited his needs, as during his Conservative leadership bid, Scheer and other Conservatives, have had no difficulty citing The Rebel as a source and in granting interviews clearly untroubled then by The Rebel’s vicious anti-Muslim stance and its assertions of “white genocide”. Can anyone in the Conservative camp claim to be surprised and be honest about the direction of The Rebel, which has never sugar-coated their vile, extreme views especially when at least one campaign manager for Scheer during his leadership bid was on the editorial board of The Rebel? These are rats abandoning a stinking, sinking ship. It is not the loathsome opinions that disturb Scheer, Kenney or Jean but the sudden unwanted harsh glare of bad press threatening The Rebel and themselves by extension. Surprised? Levant has been peddling his hateful drivel for years and yet, remarkably, very few, if any, voices from the Conservative party have ever confronted his vile grab bag of cant. For those interested, I highly recommend Inside Rebel Media by Richard Warnica in the National (http://nationalpost.com/features/inside-ezra-levants-rebel-media).
THE PHONY PM
But where, oh where, is Justin Trudeau in all this? Well, not surprisingly, the big talking phony is mute. Hardly a peep. Oh, yes, he’s loud on the big and symbolic as last weekend marching happily in the Gay Pride parade; that’s how he got elected. I’ll make Human Rights a priority. I’m a feminist. 2015 was the last ever first-past-the-post election. Loud, smug, self-reverential, self-serving blarney. However, when it comes to proving himself, to standing up and being counted, really counted, on the big issues, Trudeau has shown himself a man particularly nimble at escaping the close scrutiny and utter contempt of the public simply by remaining silent. He reminds me of a line: Everybody should believe in something; I believe I’ll have another drink. That about sums up Trudeau, a man who knows his priorities and that’s looking after number one.
My view of him is not a result of disgruntlement born of bitter disappointment, a Trudeau fan lashing out at him for failing to honour so many of his grand promises. I never believed in the Trudeau or his promise in the first place but I was willing to wait and see. It didn’t take long to determine what manner of man he is: he is just a prettier and softer version of Harper but unlike Harper, less honest about who and what he is. Yes, the world loves him. That sunny, sunny smile to go with his sunny, sunny ways. And when it comes to sympathy, no one, absolutely no one oozes it quite like our boy, brows furrowed, eyelids working, lips slightly pulled down and, lest we don’t quite get it, right hand over left breast, fingers tapping, tapping, signalling that it is all there, in his heart, that he oozes, just oozes, sincerity and comprehension of one’s pain. And, if that’s not enough, just wait, he’ll pull out a handkerchief and dab at the corner of his eye. You won’t miss it. The camera will find it, that single tear as Trudeau delicately dabs it away. The world may be moved by such a heartfelt display but I’m not buying it. It’s an act, it’s as real as Trudeau’s feminism.
But the signs of what he is were there very early into his term and I have written of them many times. There were, of course, the many worrisome fundraisers attended by Trudeau and his ministers raising the spectre of conflict of interests; he lied and then did a turnabout when he claimed no one sought to do business with him at these affairs. While campaigning he had made Human Rights a priority but almost immediately turned his back on that by signing off on the $15 billion trade deal with Human Rights abuser Saudi Arabia ignoring warnings that the Canadian made light-armoured vehicles could be retrofitted with weapons and used against Saudi citizens. Recently, some videos came to light purportedly showing exactly that. Chrystia Freeland, international trade minister, found that very troubling if true. Not a peep from Trudeau. And, of course, we can all recall his craven undermining of the electoral reform committee when, shortly at its formation, he grumbled that Canadians no longer considered it a priority. But this was after he sought to stack the committee to get the outcome he desired: a ranked ballot system. When that didn’t work out he had his minster, too cowardly to do it himself, kill reform offering a miserable, absolutely false lie as justification for doing so (it could lead to extremists taking control of government) when most Western democracies enjoy a robust and healthy form of Proportional Representation. He is not only a liar he is a revisionist sneak. He is certainly not a man to be trusted.
As he proved when he refused to support his many declarations of himself a feminist while pointing to the makeup of his cabinet as proof. It’s no such thing. When offered the opportunity (twice at least) to condemn Trump’s misogynistic statements which came to light during Trump’s campaign, Trudeau stated that everyone knew he was a “feminist” and that it wasn’t Canada’s business to comment on the internal affairs of another country. He said that twice. Which makes him a coward twice, at least. His supporters claimed he was practicing diplomacy and they applauded his tact and prudence. You don’t want to rile Donald Trump especially with NAFTA negotiations hovering in the background. Remember, Trudeau boasted about his feminism and campaigned, in part, on Human Rights. He failed the test on both counts but not for the last time. For Trudeau, as for Harper, the health and well being of BIG BUSINESS is paramount. Human Rights and feminism, well, when push comes to shove they’ll take second place. As apparently does his promise to be different and better. Not only did Trudeau accept a free helicopter ride from the Aga Khan during Christmas holidays, a family friend whose foundation has received over $310 million from Canadians, he took along friends with him. One of his closest advisors, Gerald Butts, is also a life-long friend of Trudeau. It is said he is also a personal friend of Trump’s. Now that’s okay but should he be advising Trudeau on anything regarding Trump? As well, another friend of Butts, Rana Sarkar, has been appointed as consul general in San Francisco at almost double the usual salary. Several concerns arise from this. Why such a high salary? Butts tweeted that it was for the sacrifice Sarkar has made by leaving the private sector! Hey, what? If Sarkar finds it a sacrifice he should consider returning to the private sector rather than suffering on the public dime. Too, I’d be curious to know the role Butts and/or Trudeau played in the hiring and in determining Sarkar’s pay package. As well, why did Butts fail to remind Canadians that Sarkar had lost a bid for a Liberal seat in 2011 and that he had lost a nomination battle in 2015? Sounds like a loser rather than a winner getting rewarded, doesn’t it? But the Liberals have a long history of rewarding their friends, haven’t they?
To me, Trudeau’s biggest failing is that of a man of principle. When it comes to talk, his backbone is in his mouth. As with feminism, when offered an opportunity to respond to Trump’s outrageous comments following the Charlottesville tragedy, he failed to deliver. Instead, he offered this pitiably inadequate tweet: “We condemn it (racists violence and hate) in all its forms & send support to the victims in Charlottesville.” That is it. This is a world leader who spouts all the nice words but when it comes to actually, to actually backing them up, falls far too short. That is the weak-kneed response of a man unwilling or unable to take a principled stand. Or maybe he just doesn’t believe in anything but what’s in it for him.
I expect better of our prime minister. Trudeau is not it. He has proven himself to possess fluid ethics. He is dishonest, as when he lied regarding the Saudi trade deal saying his hands were tied and when he disregards his own mandate regarding conflict of interest. He has broken many, far too many promises with the flimsiest of pretexts and often with outright lies, most notably when walking away from electoral reform. He says he is a feminist. Saying so doesn’t make it so. He is deceitful, smug, and self-aggrandizing. He is an opportunist, who is more interested in the health and welfare of BIG BUSINESS than in the Human Rights he made claim to as a priority. He is all about the symbolic and grand gestures, a showman who will only do the safe leaving risks to his ministers and others. He is a contemptible showboat who appears at all the grand and mostly safe events that have wide appeal but when it comes to really standing up at times that matter, he has proven himself too small, too shallow, and too venal to earn respect least of all mine.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin