Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quick Hits:

Victoria's mayor tells Ontario it plans to seep removed Sir John A. Macdonald statue:

I find this topic very difficult to approach. Every statue ever erected immortalizes a flawed human being. By today's standards, virtually every human being alive in the 1800s was a monster.

Our first (and third) Prime Minister doesn't quite have the stature in Canada that George Washington has in America -- there's no province or city named 'Macdonald', for one thing. But he does cast a long shadow over the country he helped to found. And like any shadow, it has its dark spots. Every achievement can be viewed through a different lens: he oversaw the completion of the Canadian National Railway (where people of Chinese descent were treated like pack animals and many died). He was instrumental in Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and Manitoba joining Confederation; what he bribed B.C. with (a railway) led to a colossal political scandal that prompted Macdonald's resignation, and that's nothing to how he subdued Manitoba--with thousands of combat troops and attendant bloodshed, including the hanging of M├ętis leader Louis Riel.

Macdonald was the architect of the residential school system. It's frightening how many Canadians remain ignorant of the terrors and the tortures so many indigenous people were forced to endure, not to mention how the effects of such inhumane treatment echo down the generations. To this day we smugly tell ourselves we're not racist like Americans are. No, we're not. We're arguably worse. How many people of colour in the United States live under boil water advisories that last decades? How many children were ripped from their parents and their cultures to be "educated" hundreds of miles away? We've done this and much, much more. Even now, serial killers are able to prey upon indigenous women with impunity -- "they're just Indians, after all." It's sickening, and it's even more sickening how the tiny, tiny steps we are finally making as a country towards reconciliation meet with so much dissent.

One of these steps is pulling down the statues of the oppressors.

And I get it. I really do. No Jew living in Berlin wants to commute past a statue of Adolf Hitler every day, you know?

On the one hand, it's laudable that we're assessing our history, and that we're enough ashamed of certain parts of it that we're eager to make them didn't happen. On the other hand...what is it we say on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year? "Lest we forget..."

Take these statues down, and the people who see us doing it will know why and applaud us for doing it. But what about two or three generations from now? Will our grandchildren ever truly appreciate how far our attitudes have evolved, without having a clue what they once were?

I don't know the answer to this question, and I'm suspicious of anyone who claims they do.


How about we talk about immigation?

Maxime Bernier has done some questionable things in his time, such as leaving classified documents in his girlfriend's apartment. I bet he didn't expect the firestorm he caused Monday, though.

Canada has always been a diverse country and this is part of who we are. I love this Canada. 

But there is a difference between recognizing diversity and pushing for ever more of it. Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist.
--tweeted by @MaximeBernier, 10:14 a.m., 8/13/2018

I really like Scott Gilmore's take on this: it boils down to "obvious troll is obvious, don't feed the trolls." Multiculturalism is a core value in Canada...we are, to my knowledge, unique among nations in that we don't force immigrants to assimilate to some overarching Canadian 'identity'. Our identity is all identities....provided that they agree with our social norms (there's no 'honour' in killing your daughter for dating someone of a different faith).
There's only one problem: the politics of exclusion and division that are so rampant in America are not just creeping but galloping northward. And this kind of thing plays right into them.

We should be able to have a reasoned talk, like adults, about immigration. We can't; anything that isn't enthusiastic support of any and all immigration is instantly branded racist and xenophobic, and as I keep saying, name-calling doesn't do much to change someone's view.

Which is why I'd like to see Bernier's full tweet (see linked article) debated in the House, calmly pro and con. Suppress your urge for invective and tell me exactly what is wrong with

Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.

My take: Like Scott Gilmore, I don't see this as any kind of problem--there are always one-off incidents, but for the most part our country seems a paragon of peace, "ghettos" or not. I am also on record as saying we need VASTLY more immigrants than we currently take in -- somebody's going to have to be around to take care of you in your old age, and our birthrate won't do the job.

But I'm willing to listen. I want to hear people who feel otherwise defend their view.

How many people know this happened here?

A news photographer was attacked in Toronto for doing his job...and there's been almost no coverage of it. Robyn Urback here makes a very good point: if the cameraman was from the Toronto Star, attacked while covering an alt-right rally, it'd be national news. But because Stan Behal works for the Toronto SUN, an unabashedly conservative media outlet, and the attacker was "antifa" (i.e., on 'our' side)...there's been barely a peep.

"The Sun's critics will insist this scenario is different in that the Toronto Sun stokes political division." 

And the Star doesn't? That paper once ran an editorial criticizing Mike Harris in its FOOD section. I read the Star more than most other papers and even I will tell you there are more liberal views aired in the SUN than there are conservative views in the Star. You can rightly say that any "news"paper featuring a portrait of Sindee, 19, who loves dancing, shopping, and anal sex is a farce, and I won't give you an argument. But the Toronto Star's mission statement -- "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted"--sometimes goes past the boundaries of farce itself. "Car accident? How can we write this story from a homeless differently abled  lesbian transgendered person's point of view?"

It's not okay to attack journalists. It's not okay to attack anyone.


Which leads me to this next story.

One of the things that has made online comment sections insanely toxic in the last few years is "whataboutism". Some political figure says or does something objectionable, and the immediate response is "what about when [previous political figure on the 'wrong' side] said/did the same thing?"

This is how we defend wrongdoing, now. I'd love to see this tried in court. "Your Honour, my client admits that he did in fact rob the bank, but what about all those other people who robbed banks?" After the judge stops laughing, which might actually be in the same calendar year, she'd inform counsel that "all those other people", the ones that were caught, like his sad-sack client, anyway--did jail time. Because wrong is wrong no matter who does it. You don't get to excuse behaviour you hate in someone you like. Rob Ford's fake news is just as damaging as Bob Rae's.

And yes, I just engaged in my own act of "whataboutism" above. The difference is that I decry both biases. "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" makes a fine motto, just not for a news-gathering organization. And the SUN -- which to its credit has never pretended to be anything other than conservative -- would do well to stop characterizing its opponents as enemies of all that is Good and Right.

Related to this is the "shoot the messenger" fallacy -- that anything published in the SUN or the Star, as befits your political views, is AUTOMATICALLY rejected. This is especially prevalent in the United States, but increasingly common here, too. It's scary how many people who won't believe anything unless it's in a source they agree with already.

The world is coming apart at the seams...and people are actively tearing it. We need to start sewing.

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