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A man’s dying is more a survivors’ affair than his own. – Thomas Mann

Frank Pelaschuk


There are times when a death is able to reveal another’s true character. The revelation can be positive and salutary offering an opportunity for reflection and assessment of that departed life and its impact; what are we able to learn from that life and what are we able to set aside of our own biases with regard to that life. For those left behind, the death is final occasion to offer a little grace and magnanimity towards one with whom we may have violently disagreed, whose attitudes, beliefs and acts we may have detested. That is not to embrace what we cannot nor to gloss over that which most offends but opportunity to perhaps find a way to understand and find common ground. It cannot always be possible the differences too great, too difficult and too important to allow for a relenting even if only to demonstrate our understanding of the fallibility that affects us all: forgiveness and understanding do not always come or blend easily.

Unfortunately, for doctrinaire survivors, when it comes to foes real or imagined, there is often little need nor desire to seek ways to forgive or understand; the rot of personality is fixed, immured by a worldview parochial to the extreme allowing for no examination of the larger picture because it is unable and unwilling to see it. Because of this blindness, willed and sometimes not, the dogmatic is almost always incapable of pausing even long to reflect upon or even contemplate the possibility that, because a life and belief does not jibe with our own view, there may be something of value to be gleaned or missed. For the doctrinaire, there is abiding aversion to sympathy or generosity for those with whom we disagree unless there is something to be gained; blindness is preferable than admission to the possibility that the one we have loved and desired or hated and shunned may not be all that we have imagined and believed. Facts and truth are ignored, distorted or airbrushed to fit one’s own hopes, understanding, and biases. We are all guilty, some at all times, others more than we would wish and a few, aware and struggling, very seldom because they work at attempting to remove the obstacles that blind and distract. It is our humanity that undoes us and it is our humaneness that saves.

The doctrinaire sees no need for saving; they are imbued with the certitude of their rightness, the goodness of their beliefs. Thus, what they can condemn in one, they are able to embrace from another: it depends what is at stake and who gains.

We saw that with America’s Donald Trump. We saw it with the Conservative campaign last election and we see it now with the surviving remnants of that malefic group now seeking leadership for the next election run. These are not the kind of folk one can possibly admire; we do not concern ourselves with their “goodness” nor do we concern ourselves with their ethics; it is the main chance that draws us together. We all lose in holding such mindsets.

But, win or lose, the doctrinaire is predictable. He is an opportunist who preys upon our fears and pettiness and gullibility: wave a few shiny promises and we are hooked. He may at times even prove flexible when he believes there is gain, but he is seldom flexible or generous in thought: there is always the end goal. Nuances are elusive to such as these; it is all black and white and white neither symbolic of hope or good but rather them vs. us.

Conservatives, whether of the Harper stripe and those survivors of the last election or those pedagogic pundits of puffery and indignation who daily stain almost every section of our dailies, are such as these, gargoyles of meanness, intolerance, spite, and biases always unpleasantly vicious and even more so these past few days when offered the opportunity to flash the claws of their malice and contempt at the haplessly naïve Trudeau who seemed genuinely to believe that Castro, revered and reviled and a friend of his father’s, had earned the right to a few kind words from the leader of a country that had stood fast in friendship with Cuba. That was respect and a sign of civil decency from a young leader of an independent nation and not of sycophancy and servility as the railing conservative mob, spitting blood and bile, would have us believe. Trudeau’s kind words were relatively innocuous, but the reaction from the right was untoward and unseemly, bordering on hysteria offered in ways that were histrionic, dishonest, opportunistic, and without regard for any acknowledgement of the significant role Castro played on the world stage.

That is not to gloss over Castro’s record, for there were terrible and brutal excesses, but rather to point out that there was much the Cuban dictator had accomplished that made the lives of Cubans better. Look at the crowds gathered grieving for the man they lovingly called el commandate; they were not there at the point of a gun. The grief and sense of loss is genuine. This is the man who had led the revolution that ended the status of Cuba as an American puppet state, that ended the gambling paradise controlled by organized crime, that put an end to the Batista dictatorship controlled by criminals, plantation owners, American businesses and the American government. It was the Castro regime that smashed the dictatorship reign of terror that had encouraged the subjugation of workers, that destroyed unions, and that not only imprisoned dissenting unionists, students, scholars and ordinary citizens, but also formed death squads to silence the most vocal among them. For critics of Castro, the decades of oppression and death squads by a dictatorship directed against all citizens and activists critical of the regime, is somehow acceptable, to be forgotten or dismissed as lies by communist sympathizers. For critics of Castro who now rail against the poverty of the tiny island state, for its failure to provide for an open democracy, there is a complete failure to acknowledge the contribution the role the six decade embargo played towards that poverty and towards making it impossible for the Cuban government to offer that democracy. When besieged on all sides, how should a tiny nation have acted against those mercenaries hired by Cuban expats with the sponsorship of the US government who were sent to overthrow the Castro regime in hopes of reinstalling a dictatorship of its own during the Bay of Pigs fiasco? Yes, those involved were put to the firing squad and called “heroes” and “liberators” by ex-plantation owners and the US government while the Cubans called them for what they were, “foreign agents”, “provocateurs” and “criminal invaders”. Since the Bay of Pigs, there have been many other CIA-sponsored coup attempts as well as many, many assassination efforts directed against Castro. How should the Cuban citizens have responded? With kisses and flowers? Castro brought an end to years of dictatorship and, yes, he created his own. But for the citizens, the majority of them, there was no longer requirement they live on their knees. If the socialist experiment failed, it was largely because the American efforts ensured that it failed. That is how America operated throughout the Latin Americas. The US of A could not defeat Cuba or its peoples and that is what drives those fee enterprising exploiters so crazy: It’s not them who are doing the exploiting.

Well, the exploiters had their opportunity and they blew it. Under the puppet dictatorship, the literacy rate never rose beyond 60%. With the revolution, it rose to 99.8%. Castro introduced free education; free healthcare, among the best in the world. Right-wing nuts always, always, give a free pass to the depredations of American sponsored dictatorships closing their eyes and mouths when the US governments funds the overthrow of democratic socialists governments as happened with Chile or Nicaragua. And they always, always, find ways to justify trade and handshakes with the bloodiest and must brutal of despots. Yeah, these folks who so loudly condemn the legacy of Castro are honest, all right.

As when the Conservatives suddenly discover Human Rights as an issue of concern when dissing Trudeau for his words on Castro. But where were their voices when Harper happily shook hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is widely suspected of involvement in the 2002 massacre of an estimated 2000 protestors. And where were the voices of those Conservatives as their party under the Harper gang’s initiative worked a deal, finalized by Trudeau, to sell light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes? And what about Harper’s efforts to trade with China, hardly a bastion for Human Rights? Where were these voices of sanity and decency when Harper, and Trudeau, broke UN sanctions and their own country’s regulations regarding trade with Human Rights abusers? And where were those Harper gang members when they campaigned by waging war against two women for wearing niqabs and promised to create a snitch line so Canadians can report the Barbaric Cultural Practices of we know whom? Both the Conservatives and Liberals talk of Human Rights, but, on this, neither has a leg on which to stand.

Even so, the hypocrisy of Conservatives continues to shock with its breathtaking opportunism and shamelessness. Harper, in acknowledging the death of Saudi Arabia’s king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz last year, sent words of condolences just as warm and sympathetic as Trudeau’s regarding Castro. Said Harper, “He also undertook a range of important economic, social, education, health, and infrastructure initiatives in his country…. We join the people of Saudi Arabia in mourning his passing.” This, by Harper, regarding the leader of one of the world’s most repressive regime!

Where the hell were the conservative voices of outrage then?

While I agree Trudeau can be criticized for broken promises and his equivocation regarding Human Rights and business deals, while he can be criticized for the Liberal fundraising access-for-cash efforts with billionaire Chinese businessmen, I find no fault with his moderate words regarding Castro. I do, however, find the criticism of him on this to be churlish and petty, the work of the small, mean, hypocritical minds of politicos, such as Kellie Leitch, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt, and of those pontificating purveyors of punditry, Michael de Tandt, Colby Cosh, Andrew Cohen et al who offer daily nostrums of the same message: progressives are well-meaning but evil, Conservatives are good, right, and perfect – and they’ll cut our taxes!

I am no fan of Trudeau, but I am less of a fan of those who allow their own prejudices to distort and present pictures that suit their agenda and take no account, as with Castro, of why or how Castro and the revolution came to be. But, of course, they are not interested in historical facts or truth, but rather in presenting their own hysterical versions and haven’t the wit or decency to acknowledge such.

How much effort does it take to be fair? Evidently, for such as these, it’s much harder than being a hypocrite.

Trudeau is young; he will grow. He has, unfortunately, succumbed to the allure of power and is too easily distracted by the adoration of his followers. He has brought about the return of the politics of entitlement. We see that in how his ministers abuse their privileges and how the party goes about fundraising. I do not see in Trudeau a man of real substance or character or principle. He appears too heavily invested in the milking of the public perception of himself as fresh, charismatic, accessible, and better than the Harper gang (a small achievement indeed). But, when there are signs of the image going sour, he appears unable to withstand the tide as when facing calls from Ambrose and Raitt and those poltroons of punditry that he not attend the Castro funeral: he cravenly caved in. His schedule will not allow it, is the story. It may even be true. Too bad, he missed another of many opportunities to demonstrate he really was a leader to be noticed.

No, I am no fan of Trudeau but, thus far, he has proven himself better than any and all members of the conservative tribe, particularly Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney: they are sewer rats.

Yeah, for these people, the Post Media pundits of puffery and those remnants of garbage from the Harper days, hypocrisy and fingerpointing is always the easier, preferred route.


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

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