Revanchist Review

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oh, Canada! The Road to Nowhere.

Author Martin Amis was only 5’2” tall in his teens when for a time he dated a girl who was 6’1”. “We had an unspoken agreement,” says Amis. “We never stood upright at the same time. And we never went out. Apart from that it was a normal relationship.”

I thought of Amis' creative social compact when I heard the news of Henry Morgentaler's recommmended appointment as a member of the Order of Canada. It seemed to me that Canadian society and Henry Morgentaler, like Amis and his tall friend, had for 20 years successfully maintained as normal what was a fundamentally strange relationship. Dullness being a spice for Canadians, this relationship would likely have survived until the grim reaper beckoned home his aging acolyte.

But it came to pass that a selection committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Queen of Solipsism herself, chose Canada Day as the appropriate occasion on which to inform the nation that its aging millionaire abortionist had for too long been forced to suffer the fate of having his high moral stature as the protector of women's rights insufficiently honoured.

Queen Beverly and her committee of soi-disant arbiters of Canadian excellence, as all good solipsists do, threw all previous conventions aside and pompously asserted (though apparently not unanimously) it was now time to bring an end to this quaint social compact. The Governor General accepted the recommendation with unbridled glee, an other occasion upon which she might break yet another societal barrier and gush forth new regal platitudes avowing how enlightened Canadians are.

For the writers who pen the words describing the valued contributions of each of the new inductees, it brought new meaning to the creative process as they had to write about Morgentaler's accomplishments without once saying what it was he really did. If irony weren't such a foreign concept to Canadians, some of us might have found that ironic.

So without prior warning, it came as a surprise to Canadians when they headed out to their Canada Day celebrations to find on their collective arm not some fresh and winsome creature, but rather some looming Miss Havisham-like character vengefully intent on reminding them of how she has been jilted and reviled for all these years.

Letter editors' desks were soon piled high with the predictable mixture of invective and encomia. Editorials broke along expected divides with the Globe and Mail painting Morgentaler as the suffering servant, and the National Post questioning how such a polarizing figure and practitioner of a procedure that even in its most benign characterization debases life, should stand as one to be honoured as an example of the best of what it means to be a Canadian. Buzz Hargrove oozed with pride at having his name stand along side that of the good doctor, proto-feminists reminded us of all the women saved from the back alley butchers and the pro-abortionist segment that bases its acceptance of abortion on the appearance of the fetus was quick to trot out the "it looks like a mouse, so what's the big deal" argument.

Few seem willing to question whether there may be a fatal flaw in a society and culture that accepts as right and normal the termination of one in three pregnancies by abortion at the rate of 100,000 annually.

Remarkably few recipients of the Order of Canada chose to publicly renounce their award, proving once again that Canadians are either hopelessly vain, or terminally indifferent. The shrug has become our rallying salute.

It seems to have occurred to few that it is embarassing for Canadians to assert that we are a law abiding, democratic, inclusive, tolerant nation while at the same time we celebrate a twenty year absence of any law to govern the destruction of a fetus.

We Canadians are fast approaching the point where we will have forgotten how to think at all about matters that are fundamental to our humanity. In Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road a father and his son wander for years in post-apocalyptic America, the father holding stubbornly onto the hope that there will still be a future worth living for his son, while all that surrounds him suggests otherwise.

The father recounts that "there were times when he sat watching the boy sleep that he would begin to sob uncontrollably, but it wasn't about death. He wasn't sure what it was about but he thought it was about beauty or about goodness, things that he'd no longer any way to think about at all."

There is much about our times that lead me to see many parallels between McCarthy's bleak, ashen, post-apocalyptic vision and our own times. Of course they bear no resemblance on the surface. I am privileged to write this while I gaze at a crystalline sky, verdant woods and a salubrious sea, and Canada continues to offer up a myriad of similar natural wonders. It is the state of our souls that elicits my grief and you don't need to be religious to relate to my concept of the soul. I believe that deep in each man and woman is the knowledge that something knows of his or her existence.

If I am right, and each of us was to focus our thoughts on the image of 100,000 fetuses being destroyed each year in this country, one in every three pregnancies terminated by abortion, how could we not sob at the loss of beauty and goodness?

How can a nation as privileged, enlightened, compassionate and purportedly inclusive as ours, have concluded that it is of no consequence to anyone but the pregnant woman what should become of that human organism within her womb? In determining whether it should live or die, how did we conclude that nothing need be considered but the present circumstances of the woman in whom society has vested the inalienable right to determine the life or death of that fetus.

That this should be a horrible proposition to some and a cause for celebration for others is evidence of the chasm that exists between the weltanschauungs of too many Canadians.

To those who have no faith in God and the saving nature of Grace, there is much to suggest that by honouring men like Morgentaler our society is headed for a destination envisioned by another of McCarthy's characters in The Road. This exchange between the father of the little boy, and an ancient sojourner may point to our future. The role of the old man seems to have been written for Morgentaler.

(Old man) Things will be better when everybody's gone.
They will?
Sure they will.
Better for who?
Sure. We'll all be better off. We'll all breathe easier.
That's good to know.
Yes it is. When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too. He'll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He'll say: Where did everybody go? And that's how it will be. What's wrong with that?

For those with faith and the hope of Grace, we turn to the words of Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote "evil grows and bears fruit, which is understandable because it has logic and probability on its side, and also, of course, strength. The resistance of tiny kernels of good, to which no one grants the power of causing far reaching consequences, is entirely mysterious."

More than ever it seems this is the time for us to spread tiny kernels of good in the face of growing evil. We could start by voicing our objection to the honouring of Henry Morgentaler's legacy of death.