Revanchist Review

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Peace and Order - Canadian Style

Two news stories caught my eye today.

In the first, two desperadoes try to outrun the cops to the border but fail in a hail of bullets. Sounds like the Wild West doesn’t it? Perhaps Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? No it was gunfight at the Peace Arch border crossing yesterday and Canadians can be thankful the Americans were equipped to do their job. The state patrol and the US customs officers combined to capture the two on US soil.

It is easy to understand why any American desperado, wanted for murder in California, would risk almost anything to get across the border into Canada. Once out of range of the US police officers, they wouldn't be troubled by Canadian border guards since our feckless government has chosen not to arm them. Canadians could only have ducked for cover and hoped that the RCMP would eventually track the killers down. And once they did, we would have put them in jail, perhaps have denied them bail, fed them well, paid for the best criminal lawyers to fight their extradition to the US for years; all at great cost to the Canadian taxpayer. Eventually they would have been turned over to the Americans, but only after extorting a promise from the US prosecutor’s office not to seek the death penalty.

I hate guns, but since criminals are going to use them, our peace officers including border guards need to be able to defend themselves. I disagree with capital punishment, but the citizens of many US states have voted to use it, and Canada should respect their choice and not act as a haven for criminals seeking protection from the consequence of laws they freely chose to break.

In the second news story, two rich Toronto teenagers are street racing in their respective parents’ cars, a Mercedes and a BMW. On the seat of one of the cars is a video game in which the players race cars through city streets crashing into each other and into other vehicles. It is apparently one of the best selling video games on the market.

Real life intervenes and the cars crash into a cab, killing the cab driver Mr. Khan. Mr. Khan was 3 days away from becoming a Canadian citizen and was looking forward to being able to sponsor his family to join him from Pakistan.
This is but another painful reminder of flaws in the glass of Canadian society and our affluent Western culture.

Too many parents don’t care enough to know what their children are doing in their rooms equipped with TV’s and computers. Too many parents don’t care enough to stop and think about the wisdom of tossing the keys to their powerful cars to their teenage children.

Neither of these young men was seriously injured in the crash. For now they are in jail, but soon they will be free on bail posted by their wealthy parents. What will the courts do with them? Will there be a sentence that might serve as a meaningful deterrent to other young men and their parents? Don't hold your breath.

All is not well in the “true North strong and free".

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Post Election Reflections

“Opinions have their own neighbourhoods; some despise each other across the narrowest of alleys” – Elias Canetti

If I told my neighbours, we must love one another – I would die of shame. Or else they would kill me. D.J. Enright

It has been a remarkable eight weeks. I can only hope to live another 20 years so I can look back on it with my by then middle aged sons, and reflect on what the January 23, 2006 election meant for Canada. Will this be a tipping point for Canada? Have we just taken the first step toward reversing the tide of rampant liberalism and post-modernism, or is it just rest station on the way to continued antinomianism?

I cried when I listened to Stephen Harper’s speech tonight. That should be enough for some of you to hit the delete button. Or as Canetti forecast, you might simply glare at me across the alley separating our opinions.

I cried in response to the elegance of its message and delivery. I cried in response to its acknowledgment of our history and the sacrifice of those who preceded us. I cried in response to his invocation of a collective memory, which if reflected upon, should unite us. I cried when he spoke of aspiring to a spirit of hope, and not one of fear. My tears may have had something to do with the fact I was tired after 14 hours of volunteering as a poll captain at two polling stations, all in support of a losing candidate. And you should know that I am prone to becoming stuck in the lachrymose mode after I have had a few glasses of wine. I cry at certain hymns on Sunday, and I cry when I tell jokes.

I had watched Mr. Martin bid his farewell to Canadians, dignified and gracious, in sharp contrast to his performance on the hustings, and befitting the real man once he had shed the political skin. I wasn’t moved or touched, but I was respectful of his seeming conviction. I had also watched Mr. Layton, and had grown increasingly aggravated as he droned on, hogging the stage for what seemed like 30 minutes and thus assuring that most Canadians East of the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border would have gone to bed before Mr. Harper was able to deliver his victory speech. I worked my way through the bellicose stage during Layton’s speech.

I met some lovely people over the past week as I volunteered for the local Conservative candidate. A couple with whom I shared a scrutineer’s table during the advanced polls intrigued me as they passed the time on a word game. I love word games. They were scrutineers for the NDP. We began to chat. It turns out we are neighbours. They aren’t the type to kill me, so it is more likely I would die of shame if I told them I loved them. They won’t likely read this blog so I will have to tell them the next time we meet by the post box on the corner.

Politically there exists an immense chasm between my new neighbours and me, but they seem like lovely people. Jack Layton would hold them up as ordinary working Canadians to whom he is devoted. My question of Jack is how devoted will he be to me, just as hard working and living only a stone’s throw away from his supporters? We both even drive a Subaru. I used to have an unkempt beard like my new neighbour, and I once had long hair like his, when I had hair. How will Jack reconcile the deep differences that exist between my neighbours and me on social and economic issues that seem quite incapable of living together?

It is a strange and enigmatic country in which we live. The shared values espoused by Liberal and NDP politicians remain recondite to all but pockets of homogeneous urban dwellers in Canada’s three largest cities who rallied round Liberal candidates like a musk-ox circle. (Sound of ruler slapping knuckles!!) I stand guilty as accused of my first hyperbolism. There are of course Canadians outside those great cities that voted Liberal and NDP, but it is a remarkable result to see the Conservatives shut out of the urban centre of these three great cities.

In place of the East/West divide, we now have a shadowy and potentially dangerous alleyway dividing highly concentrated cities from the rest of Canada. It is quite remarkable, given the overwhelming consensus countrywide of the need for change, that the Liberals managed to win over 100 seats. The outcome brings to mind the joke about how to make a Canadian apologize? Kick him again!

As the prelude to Shutz’s St. Matthew’s Passion takes me to a higher and more sublime place as I prepare for bed ( a more glorious 52 seconds of musical splendour I am incapable of imagining), my prayer is that we might have a period of political stability during which truthfulness might reign. A period during which politicians might acknowledge that “ordinary Canadians” are not all necessarily attracted to the political message of one political party, that Canadian values of the majority are not necessarily Liberal or liberal values - a period during which candid and intelligent discourse might occur between Canadians, at the rural mailbox, on the Go-Train, in the rugby clubhouse, and the bridge club.

Hopeless optimist and romantic that I am I look for good in this result, and as a pathway to that end, I offer the words of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow:

For a long time then I seemed to live by a slender thread of faith, spun out from within me. From this single thread I spun strands that joined me to the good things of the world. And then I spun more threads and joined all the strands together, making a life. When it was complete, or nearly so, it was shapely and beautiful in the light of day.”

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chicken Little's Last Gasp

Mindful of the words of Robert Musil's "Man Without Qualities" that "a man can't be angry at his own time without suffering some damage", I have trained myself to be saddened and not angered by the maliciousness of the Liberal attempts to smear Mr. Harper and his supporters, and by the apparent gullibility of a sector of the Canadian public that fails to recognize the lies for what they are.

Led by Prime Minister Chicken Little's cries of alarm that Stephen Harper would politicize the courts, and that Canada would become an extreme right wing country under his leadership, a cacophony of chatter erupts that would be laughable were the implications not so serious for our country.

Mr. Harper did not stray off message, he merely stated the obvious that even if granted a majority, the Conservatives would be subject to the checks and balances of a judiciary, a civil service and a Senate, each of which have been populated almost exclusively by Liberal governments. He made no attack against the independence of the judiciary, but merely affirmed what any right thinking person knows, that Liberal governments appoint senior judges who more closely share their values.

Liberals like to delude themselves and others into believing that since Liberals have dominated government, their values are those of the majority of Canadians. Since Liberals have historically been elected to majorities in parliament with as little as 38% of the popular vote, this is a hollow and dangerous assumption to make.

Surely, it would be a sign of health for Canada if the next Supreme Court judicial appointment was given to a qualified jurist who saw his or her role to be one of interpreting and not making law. Such a jurist would have experience prior to appointment consisting of years of service on the bench, and not that of a quasi-bureaucrat such as the recent appointee Rosie Abella who spent more time off the bench than on it after her first appointment as a Family Court judge in Ontario.

But like so many topics in the state of our nation during these times, they cannot even be raised without the level of debate sinking to the lowest common denominator and too often the cheerleader for the gutter quality of the debate has been our own Prime Minister. The Conservative policy platform would position the party to the left of the Democrats in the US, yet P.M. Chicken Little shrieks from his perch that a Harper led Conservative party would be the most extreme right-wing government Canada has ever seen, and he approves fear-mongering ads about soldiers with guns in the streets of Canadian cities.

This is a sad spectacle of a man and a party so desperate to cling to power and privilege as to willingly spread falsehood and malicious innuendo in the hopes of frightening Canadians to cast their votes out of fear and prejudice and not out of reasoned consideration of the facts. It was sad to see him on television today, pausing, his face constricting suggesting an inner struggle of conscience, but ultimately unable to resist the temptation he spread the lie that under Stephen Harper “women would lose their right to choose.”

After a campaign in which the national press for the first time in decades displayed a relatively unbiased and even disposition toward the policies and candidates of the Conservatives, we now begin to see the rot underlying some of the attitudes of the 5th column, creep into its reporting.

Musil also wrote "the problem of civilization can be solved only by the heart." Canada needs a change and polls suggest that roughly 2/3rd of Canadians accept that premise. A change of heart must precede a change of government, and one can only hope, for the good of the country, that enough Canadians will see through the lies and fear-mongering of the frenzied last 48 hours of campaigning by the Liberals, and elect a Conservative government that has promised positive change and accountability.

To fail to do so will be a sad day for Canadians. We will have failed to prune and tend to our garden and the unsightly mess we are left to live in will not be healthy or pleasing to the senses.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Heart Breaking Stuff

It takes a lot of love my friend, it takes a lot of love these days, to keep your heart from breaking, to push on to the end. David Gray, songwriter

Election campaigns are trials of the spirit, trials to test our tolerance and our love of humanity. Every day of an election campaign gives birth to countless opportunities for the demonstration of Grace, since like Flannery O’Connor, I believe that moments when you know Grace has been offered and accepted, are prepared for us by the intensity of evil that precedes them. O’Connor captures this intensity through the words and actions of her character Mr. Head in one of her short stories. “Mr. Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew there were no words in the world that could name it. He understood that it grew out of agony, which is denied to any man and which is given in strange ways to children. He understood it was all a man could carry into death to give his Maker and he suddenly burned with shame that he had so little of it to take with him.”

Mr. Head had just denied his relationship to his grandson, out of fear and embarrassment. Mr. Head had failed his grandson, momentarily abandoning him to the frightening circumstances of an angry crowd, and while he finally rescued his grandchild, he immediately felt the pain and shame of his denial. Yet his grandson forgave him and only then did Mr. Head feel the action of mercy – that freely given mercy given to us though we know ourselves to be unworthy, and which we call Grace.

Election campaigns surely produce daily examples of denial and abandonment – mostly of principles and of the truth, but occasionally of the most fundamental good sense and judgment as human beings. These are occasions for people to feel shame, at least for those who still believe in it as an emotion and a benchmark for the morality of our behaviour.

I witnessed one of those moments today as I watched a CBC afternoon public affairs program. The hosts had representatives of the three major parties on to discuss the “issue du jour”, which happened to be tax reductions. John Duffy a high-ranking Liberal advisor to Paul Martin represented the Liberals. He is the fellow who approved of the “beer and popcorn” line and minutes after it was uttered by his colleague defended him and sought to reinforce the image of the recklessness of the Conservatives in giving financial relief directly to parents of pre-school children.

Today’s debate focused on what the cost of the various tax cuts announced by the parties might be. As the Conservative spokeswoman was concluding her remarks, the hosts announced that time was short and Duffy would have the last word. It was then that a most astonishing thing occurred. Duffy pulled out what he described as a “Liberal poster drawn by my daughter”. Duffy added, displaying the squiggly lined crayon drawing, that “she is very concerned about what the outcome of this election might mean for her”. A child older than 6 years of age could not have made the crayon drawing displayed by Duffy. It most closely resembles the pre-school finger painting works of our sons, which adorn quiet contemplative corners of our house. Yet here was this senior political advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, contending that his young daughter is concerned about the outcome of the election.

Is it possible that Mr. Duffy in the moments following this action might, like Mr. Head, have begun “to feel the depth of his denial”. Can there be a much lower standard set for political behaviour than this – to offer your child’s innocent poster as a statement of concern should her Daddy’s party lose the election?

Sadly, it seems much more likely that Mr. Duffy is one of those who don’t know what Grace is and wouldn’t recognize it when he sees it.

This is heartbreaking stuff and like David Gray I feel it takes a lot of love to push on to the end of this campaign.