Saturday, September 27, 2008

The White Knight Runs Amok

It was broad daylight when I heard the news on the radio, but I was nonetheless tempted to pinch myself good and hard to make sure that I wasn't in Wonderland. For a minute, I thought that my ears had fooled me as they often do, because I couldn't believe that Stephane Dion had actually scrapped Lesley Hughes under an accusation of anti-Semitism.

In Lewis Carroll's weird and backward land, cardboard playing cards and flowers walk and talk, and the land itself is a chessboard of divided fields -- quite a lot like Manitoba, actually. The chess pieces move in their prescribed paths across the board, while other characters unrelated to the game wander through, intent on their own errands, quite a lot like the world of politics, actually.

In that "children's story" which gives much more to adults than to the kiddies, the savage Red Queen ran around with only one prescription -- "off with their heads!" -- and that prescription applied to almost everyone for almost any transgression. But in a twist that Wonderlands Wonderland itself, the man calling for Lesley Hughes head, Stephane Dion, is no Red Queen. He's an almost archetypal White Knight, far more likely to fall off his horse while thinking of another brilliant plan or invention. In Wonderland, the White Knight is kindly, thoughtful and protective. In the real world I have to wonder what on earth Dion was thinking.

Out east, maybe Lesley is an unknown, but back here in Manitoba, Lesley Hughes is a well-known Winnipeg journalist, teacher and perennial social activist, and this has been the case for as long as I've known her name -- thirty years at least. She has spoken and written with passion on these topics, whether poverty, racial prejudice, wrongful conviction and all the others, for all this time, without ever wavering from her fierce protectiveness.

To my irritation, I could not find the original article that was supposed to be her downfall. I would be very grateful to anyone who could get me a link. Looking at the news today, they traced back to so-called accusation five years or more to an obscure church newsletter which is quoted and referenced, but not linked to. The quote was read in its entirety on air on the CBC yesterday (Friday) afternoon, but only once that I heard it. Judging from that quote, it sounded as though her alleged anti-Semitism consisted of her quoting a German source -- not originating the thought herself. Without access to the rest of the article, it's difficult to speak about this except in reference to Ms. Hughes history and other work. Nonetheless, the disconnect between the two is so severe that I can't believe the accusation.

What is even more peculiar is that the verbal transgressions of the Canadian right wing (at least, those allowed to speak) has been so flagrant and so egregious that that mocking website The Canadian Cynic never goes more than a few hours without a well deserved bout of mockery. The natural opinions of the Harperites have been effectively smothered over the past five years of Harper's Conservative party, only occasionally breaking out like an especially large pimple with not nearly enough foundation to cover it.

Harper himself has spent God knows how much money and attention in this election cycle trying to paint himself as a cuddly Father Knows Best, with mixed results. And yet his chilliness and the plethora of Conservative faux pas’s doesn't seem to have as much effect as a single possible misstatement written about the same time that Peter MacKay was lying to David Orchard and thereby lying the foundations of Harper's Conservative party. It is as though a cup of pure mud is preferable to a cup of milk with a tiny nubbin of mud in it.

Dion may have made the politically correct decision here; without seeing the original document I can’t tell. But I can tell you his political street cred has lost a lot of its punch as far as I am concerned. He still has one huge advantage – he is better than the Harper Conservatives. But hell, so’s Gilles Duceppe, and he’s a separatist.


A final word about the whole 9/11 truther phenomenon. Like so many people around the world, I also stood in my bare feet and bathrobe watching the towers in real time as the two airliners took them down. At that point, George Bush had been in office in his first term for only seven months. And yet, as I watched the destruction, unable yet to feel the full horror of what was happening, one thought floated to the surface of my mind -- "What a stroke of luck for that son of a bitch." And part of me wondered and still wonders how much of it was luck, how much was neglect and how much was intentional.

I've read some of the arguments, and I do consider it very unlikely that the Bush administration intentionally took down the towers, or otherwise cooperated in the destruction. Mainly, I don't think that they are competent enough to do that without it being known and I don't think such a terrible secret could have been contained. I reject the idea that the towers were somehow mined in order to make doubly certain of their total destruction. I don't think anyone, even the bombers, foresaw that.

But here is what remains after all these years: it is still thinkable to many non-crazy adults that the Bush administration might have done such a thing if they had believed they could get away with it. If you can judge by its results, the falling of the towers was a Reichstag event in the USA, leading to extraordinary powers to the president and widespread suspension of civil liberties, (though the original Reichstag got more bang for its buck – one building burned and no-one died.)

In watching the current (US) election, always at the back of my mind is the expectation that sometime in the next month we will see another burning of the Reichstag, in some form or other. So far as I know, no one’s running a book on it yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

No comments: