Imagine that a national political figure made a controversial statement that was highly offensive to black people and the leader of a black organization was to publicly rebuke him for it. Suppose that you then opened your newspaper one morning, turned to the opinion page, and in a syndicated column were to read that although the politician had stuck his foot in his mouth he was now out of hot water because “Canadians don’t like black people involving themselves, at all, in politics.” Would you find this statement to be offensive? If so, what would you consider to be most offensive about it, that it expresses racist sentiments or that it presumptuously attributes those sentiments to you and your countrymen?
There are many substitutions you can make for the main variable in the above scenario. You could substitute any other racial group other than white Europeans for black people. Or you could substitute women or homosexuals. Run the scenario again with each of these substitutions and you will probably get the same results. Progressive, liberal, and forward thinking people would be appalled to read such remarks in their newspaper and would probably put pressure on the editor to stop running the column.
What if, however, we were to substitute “Christians” for “black people”? Or “religious people” used in such a way that many if not most people would automatically read it as meaning “Christians”.
This, it would appear, is somehow different because we were recently treated to just such a comment and by a progressive, liberal, forward thinking commentator, nonetheless.
The national political figure was Justin Trudeau who, a little over a year ago, was elected leader of the Liberal Party, presumably on the basis of his youth, good looks, and family name. He is the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the lawyer and far left editor, writer and activist from Quebec who entered federal politics in the 1960s as a member of the Liberal Party and succeeded Lester Pearson as leader of the Liberals and Prime Minister. Under his leadership the Liberal Party went from being the party of free trade and continentalism, founded with its lips firmly pressed against Uncle Sam’s rear end, to being the party of socialism, multiculturalism and post-modern moral relativism (in other words a huge redundancy as we already had the NDP for that). Take your pick as to which version of the Liberal Party was most repulsive – it is six of one, half a dozen of the other. In the decade and a half that Pierre Trudeau governed Canada as the head of the Liberal Party he did everything he could to undermine the political, cultural, and social traditions of both English and French Canada, while ruining the country’s economy, saddling us with an enormous debt, and creating a constitutional crisis that long threatened to tear the country apart. The reason I bring all this up is because Trudeau fils is doing an excellent job of making Trudeau père look good by comparison.
The controvers y the young Trudeau provoked a few weeks ago was over abortion. The day before the annual March for Life in Ottawa he announced that future Liberal candidates would be expected to vote the party line with regards to abortion and defined that party line as pro-choice – no legislative restriction on abortion. Needless to say, Trudeau’s stance did not impress the Roman Catholic Church, whose members have traditionally tended to vote Liberal in Canada. Trudeau himself is a member of the Roman Catholic Church and claims, despite his obvious disagreement with the Church on this key ethical issue, to be devout. Catholic leaders have condemned Trudeau’s stance and last week, in an interview with the CBC, the Catholic Bishop of Ottawa described Trudeau’s support for abortion as “scandalous”.
Enter Warren Kinsella. Warren Kinsella is, among other disagreeable things, a lawyer, a punk rocker, a former Liberal Party strategist, and a progressive, forward minded, liberal. He writes a column for the Toronto Sun which is carried by the other papers in the Sun chain, including the Winnipeg Sun. As these papers generally have a right-of-centre, neo-conservative slant, Kinsella’s left-of-centre column tends to stand out.
Last Friday an article by Kinsella entitled “Trudeau leaps blindly into abortion debate” appeared on page 9 of the Winnipeg Sun. In the first half of the column Kinsella praised as reasonable Trudeau’s earlier statement that the party’s position is “we do not reopen (the abortion) debate” but then pointed out that by declaring that future candidates would have to toe the party line Trudeau had done just that. He further observed that Trudeau has dug himself deeper into this hole with his confusing and contradictory attempts to salvage the situation.
Then, however, Kinsella went on to talk about and quote from the Catholic Bishop’s remarks, suggesting that by rebuking Trudeau, the bishop has provided him with a way out of the mess he has made. Here is the reasoning he used to arrive at this conclusion:
“As Stockwell Day learned the hard way, Canadians favour a wall between church and state. And they don’t like the religious involving themselves, at all, in politics.”
It is interesting the different ways in which different people remember certain events. When I think back to the federal election of 2000 in which Stockwell Day led the Canadian Alliance, I do not recall “Canadians” as a whole mocking or attacking Stockwell Day because of his Christian faith. I remember progressive and liberal media elites doing so, especially a certain Liberal Party strategist.
Tories, if and when they are ever true to their own principles, look to their country’s long-rooted traditions and institutions as the foundation of their policies. Progressives look instead to the “will of the people”. Since the people don’t actually have a collective will, unless you count that which is filtered through time and expressed as tradition and which is hence on the side of the Tory rather than the progressive, progressives have to supply the people with one, which inevitably is indistinguishable from the progressive’s own will. Which is why, in this country, one frequently finds progressive writers in an arrogant and condescending tone, telling Canadians what they think.
On almost any issue, Canadians have a wide diversity of ideas. There are those, like myself, who are Tories and support Canada’s traditions and institutions. Then there are those who for some reason or another – perhaps they had a nasty fall when they were children, perhaps they are lacking some important nutrient in their diet, perhaps they have been breathing in too many noxious fumes of one sort or another – are progressive and think more like Kinsella. Of course there are many other viewpoints out there as well. The closest thing to a general consensus among Canadians is that we are not Americans (referring to America in the sense of the country not the continents). Almost everyone agrees about this. Traditional Tories say that we are not Americans with a sense of patriotic pride in our country’s Loyalist heritage and traditions. Neoconservatives agree that we are not Americans but with a sense of regret that we were not part of what they consider to be the great experiment in freedom and democracy shaping the ultimate destiny of the world. Progressives like to say that we are not Americans in the context of telling us what we think, even if what they say we think has less to do with our own country’s traditions and institutions than it does with the United States.
This can be the source of great irony. Note that in the sentences quoted earlier in which the progressive Kinsella tells Canadians what they think, he attributes to them the American concept of a “wall between church and state”. The idea of a “wall between church and state” is not a Canadian idea, nor is it part of our political tradition or constitution. The expression comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. Jefferson was explaining the significance of the First Amendment to the American Constitution. Furthermore, when Jefferson wrote about “the wall of separation between church and state” he was clearly expressing a liberal, democratic fear of the power of the state, not a progressive contempt for religion. This wall, as Jefferson saw it, was to keep Congress out of religion, not to keep religion from having any say in politics.
Kinsella therefore, has not only attributed to Canadians the belief in a political concept that is part of the American tradition rather than our own, he has also transformed that concept into its polar opposite, a fence to keep “the religious” out of politics rather than a defensive wall protecting religion from state intrusion.
We have not yet mined the irony in Kinsella’s remarks to its full depth. The author of The Web of Hate has built a reputation for himself, among his supporters as an expert on bigotry, among his detractors as a jerk who likes to bully his opponents on the right with accusations of bigotry. You can decide for yourself which version is more accurate, but note in doing so, the irony that this same self-appointed expert on bigotry and hatred, who in the federal election of fourteen years ago publicly ridiculed the leader of the Canadian Alliance for his evangelical Christian beliefs, wrote “the religious” rather than “religion”.
Then ask yourselves whether you, as Canadians, feel complimented or insulted at having this progressive sentiment attributed to yourselves.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca