He Can Trump That

Among my more liberal, left-leaning friends, especially those who reside for some portion of the year in the USA, there is a visceral, shuddering abhorrence for all that Donald Trump represents.  It is almost incomprehensible to these fine people that such a boor could ever have been elected president.

I also have friends who inhabit the right (or right-centre) side of the political spectrum, and many appreciate some of the man’s actions in office—such as tax cuts, immigration reform, and a more robust foreign policy.  Yet they, too, are repelled by his personal character.

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It has occurred to me, however, that I have a lot in common with the self-proclaimed saviour of the free world.  It gives me no satisfaction to admit this, but the commonalities are too numerous to ignore.  Let me list a few of them here.

Like the president, I have never had a sexual encounter with the porn star, Stormy Daniels.  Nor did I ever carry on an extra-marital affair with Karen McDougal, the former Playboy bunny.  And I know he didn’t either because he says so.

Not once, ever, have I grabbed a woman by the…..well, you know.  And neither have I ever chomped on tic-tacs to freshen my mouth before pressing myself against a woman and kissing her without her consent.  The president claims—despite a prior candid conversation with one Billy Bush, taped on a tour bus—that he’s never done those things, either.

He often boasts of the tremendous support he gets from women, and that is true of me, too.  In my case, those women are my mother, my sisters, my wife, my daughters, and some long-standing friends.  The president doesn’t really identify who his are, but it must be true, right?

I’ve never fired a director of the FBI because an investigation about my conduct was a witch hunt and total hoax.  Neither did the president do that, by his own admission.

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I’ve told everyone I know that the tax cuts enacted by the president won’t help me at all financially.  He has said that, too, about himself.

I have never publicly mocked a disabled person.  I never supported the American war in Iraq.  I have never made my income tax returns public.  Never did I mislead or defraud students through a fake, diploma-mill university.  He says he didn’t do any of those, either.

Like the president, until the news media made a big deal of it, I had never heard of WikiLeaks.  Nor did I know anything about David Duke and his KKK affiliation.

Neither have I ever stayed overnight in a Moscow hotel, or been entertained by Russian strippers.  I have never made money from business dealings with Russian interests.  Nor, so he says, has the president.

I have absolutely no pecuniary involvement in any Trump-related business, just like the president, who, as he has himself avowed, completely divested himself of his interests after his election.

None of the following people have ever played a major role in my life—George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Steve Bannon.  Unlike me, the president does admit knowing them, but not to the point where they could exert a significant or lasting impact on his behaviour.

There are so many commonalities between us.

But, as you read through this list, one significant difference might have occurred to you.  Every one of the statements in the list pertaining to me is true.  The statements regarding the president are not.

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He lies.

Which brings me to a final similarity—somewhat embarrassing for me to admit.  I confess that, just like the president, I also tell lies.  These might include falsehoods about my weight, my golf score, my book sales, the number of followers of my blog, that sort of thing.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

The president makes me look like an amateur in this arena, however.  By some estimates, he has told more than three thousand lies since taking office fifteen months ago.  That’s an average of two hundred lies a month, almost seven a day.  Very few people ever hear my fabrications; but the president’s falsehoods are tweeted almost daily, and repeated endlessly by the mainstream media, social media, and self-serving political hacks and special interest groups.

And sadly, many people believe them.

I would characterize myself as an occasional liar—or, to put it more charitably, one who sometimes utters misleading statements, tenders alternative facts, or (in the president’s words), offers truthful hyperbole in lieu of the truth.  Nothing that really matters to anyone but me and my fragile ego.

As I tell my friends, I’m a writer of fiction.  I make stuff up.

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But the president can trump that.  A congenital characteristic is not something inherited, but rather a feature so ingrained, so strong, that we cannot imagine it changing.  The president is, I believe, a congenital liar, one who cannot help himself, one who believes in his own infallibility.  He doesn’t think he’s making stuff up; he just believes whatever he says.  So, if his lips are moving…

The old adage has it that there are lies, and there are damned lies!  Perhaps the same is true of liars.

[sigh]

 

Silly-gisms

The current occupant of the White House in Washington has stated on more than one occasion that Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals.  If true, it would logically follow that, if your father was an immigrant from Mexico, he was, unarguably, a rapist and criminal.

This is an example of a faulty, nonsensical syllogism, an illogical construct I like to call a silly-gism.

A bona fide syllogism is defined as a formal argument in logic, comprised of two statements—a major and a minor premise—followed by a conclusion.  If the two statements are true, the conclusion must also be true.  Take this Socratic example: all women are mortal; my sister is a woman; therefore, my sister is mortal.  Or another: all daffodils are flowers; I am holding a daffodil; therefore, I am holding a flower.  Because both premises in each example are indisputably true, both examples are authentic Socratic syllogisms.

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However, if I were to alter that second example—all daffodils are flowers; I am holding a flower; therefore, I am holding a daffodil—the conclusion would not necessarily be true.  The flower I am holding might very well be a rose.

True syllogisms abound in literature, in public discourse, and in everyday conversations.  Alas, so, too, do false ones, the silly-gisms.

Some of these can sound almost logical, given our habit of reading with a non-critical eye.  To wit: all crows are black; the bird in my cage is black; therefore, I have a crow in my cage.  Or this one:  I ride a bicycle; I am a man; therefore, all men ride bicycles.

Silly-gisms are bandied about by all and sundry, particularly on social media, and especially when controversy surrounds them.  The problem, as I see it, is that far too many people fail to distinguish between what is truly logical and what is patently absurd, blindly accepting whatever they read as true.  Individuals who are untrained in critical thinking skills—who are used to being told what to do, say, and think—tend to accept what they hear or read from a source they trust.

Major news organizations report the facts accurately; Breitbart is one such major news organization; therefore, Breitbart is reporting the news accurately.  In this example, only the second premise is demonstrably true, so the conclusion cannot be relied upon.  Nevertheless, it is Breitbart reporting that provides many citizens their news, and it is amazing how many people buy it.

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The same might be said of other news disseminators (CNN, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Toronto Star, et al) —that they pander to their audience’s predilections, aiming their reporting squarely at those who automatically believe anything that matches their preconceived opinions on a subject.  Except that, responsible news organizations deliberately present opposing points of views in their broadcasts and in their pages, striving for fair balance in these op-ed pieces.  The question is, how many viewers and readers actually take the time needed to explore alternative viewpoints?

Given the ubiquitous social media presence in our lives, and given the relative non-regulation of these online sources, it is scarcely surprising that so many of us get our daily dose of news from Facebook or Twitter.  And too often, that news is so unverified, uncorroborated, and unsubstantiated, that it might better be called un-news!

The real problem, as far as I am concerned, is not that these silly-gisms proliferate; rather, it is that they are deliberately broadcast and published by unscrupulous agents seeking to influence the public.  If I am repeatedly told by an automobile company, for example, that beautiful, young women are attracted to men who drive luxury cars, and if that becomes my primary reason for purchasing such a car, I may (more likely, will) be extremely disappointed with the result.  Nevertheless, no lasting harm is being done to anyone but me, and no one else is to blame for my lack of critical reflection before buying.  It is a matter of caveat emptor—the buyer must be wary.

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As the old saying has it:  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

However, when the silly-gisms are widespread and malevolent, maliciously intended to mislead, great harm can be done.  Consider this blast from the past, before the advent of social media:  people elected to high office are above chicanery and corruption; Richard Nixon was elected U.S. president; therefore, Nixon was not a crook.  How did that work out?

But if Nixon were president today, how many people would choose to believe he was above reproach if they read it over and over again on media they trust?  Can anyone doubt that would be the message his acolytes would be spreading?

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Here is a silly-gism from the current president:  Our country used to be great; it is broken now, so badly that no one knows what to do; therefore, only I can fix it!

Only I can fix it!  How many times have we heard that mantra from his followers, and from media outlets that support him?  More importantly, how many of his country-men and -women believe it?  Do they have evidence to support his claim?  Do they even seek it?  Or, like lemmings to the sea, do they blindly follow the leader?

Here is another example:  governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; in the last presidential election, the people consented to be governed by this man; therefore, he has the mandate to fix it any way he sees fit.

Syllogism or silly-gism?  Time will tell, I suppose.

In the meantime, it behooves us all to try not to believe everything we are told.  For there is increasingly the distinct possibility that the people can, indeed, be fooled all the time.

 

A Pompous Ass? Me?

Across the span of almost fifty years, I still recall the awful moment when I learned I was a pompous ass.  I wasn’t told directly, nor in those words, but rather through an overheard remark from one early-twenties lady to another—both of whom I had earnestly been trying to impress.

The actual statement, I believe, was, “You know he’s full of shit, right?”

Had I not stopped unexpectedly just after leaving their company, bending out of view to tie a shoelace, I might never have known.

surely not

There I was, a handsome young man (if I may say), gainfully-employed, socially-acceptable—though, perhaps, a tad taken with my own opinion—hearing for the first time that my efforts to ingratiate myself in their favour were unappreciated.

Even worse, mocked.

Surely not! I raged.

It took me some time to digest that unwelcome revelation; in fact, my first instinct was to reject it.  Further attempts to win over the winsome duo proved fruitless, however, and that fact finally forced me to re-examine my approach.

Whatever I eventually changed must have been enough, thankfully, for I have been happily married for fifty years to a lovely lady who apparently did not share the opinion of the others.

I mention this episode now, not because it still bothers me—for I have long-since accepted that, sometimes, I am indeed full of shit—but because I have been watching a relatively-new actor on the world’s political stage strut his stuff.  And I wonder what those two young ladies would have thought of him.

There are words that come to mind:  charlatan, popinjay, imposter, fraud, narcissist.  None of which would matter in the slightest if they were applied to me.  Alas, I am writing of the president of the United States of America, and whoever occupies that office does matter.

He, in my opinion, is a pompous ass.  And it pains me to think I might ever have been regarded in that same light.

He poses theatrically when the mood strikes, tiny eyes narrowed to what he must assume is a steely gaze, lips pursed, chin thrust forward aggressively.  And he holds the pose for as long as his attention span will allow—seconds only, but enough to engrave it on the public consciousness when repeated often enough.

He reminds me of nothing so much as a fascist leader of the 1930’s who affected such Caesar-like poses.

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He boasts openly of a callous, abusive approach to women who are not significant to him, except insofar as they might mollify his carnal desires.  He grabs them at will, and….wait for it….according to him, they like it!

What are we to make of this mountebank?

More importantly, what do other world leaders make of him?  At a recent gathering of G7 leaders, as he was pontificating over a statement about his country’s changing stance on the Paris climate change accord, those leaders were seen rolling their eyes and smirking at his buffoonery.  Openly.

Did he even notice?

At a recent Arab-Islamic-American summit in Saudi Arabia, he was feted in a manner which he must surely have deemed his due.  Among the kings, emirs, and sultans of fifty nations, he primped and preened like a man to the manor born.

But how do those eminences really regard him?  As a competent and effective leader, their equal in diplomatic affairs?  As a trusted ally?  Or as an easily-duped patsy, susceptible to flattery and fawning, and groomed now to help them accomplish their own geopolitical and economic goals?

We shall see in due course.  But his colleagues on the world stage remind me very much of the lovely young ladies who gutted me so expertly those many years ago.

A pompous ass?  The president of the United States of America?

Surely not!

The Right to Be Wrong

Among the inalienable rights we enjoy in democratic societies is the right to be wrong.  We have an unfettered right to make a choice about our fundamental values, our publicly-stated opinions, and our actions—and to express these choices.

We bear a burden for holding this right, however, in that we are expected to (and can often be made to) accept responsibility for the consequences of our choices.

This notion has become more significant for me recently, as I watch in horrified fascination the shenanigans of the so-called ‘leader of the free world’, and his enablers, in the great republic to the south of us.

The circumstance of being wrong is a subjective concept.  How do we know, how can we determine absolutely, when someone is wrong?  Is there a conclusive test?  Do we always know right away, or does it sometimes take a long time to figure it out?

In fact, there are societal norms in place to govern our interactions and behaviours; but most of them evolve over time, as each succeeding generation shapes the world to its liking.  An action considered wrong for my Victorian grandmother (like appearing on the beach in a two-piece bathing suit) would certainly not be condemned today.

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The norms come into existence in one of two ways.  They are legislated for our common good by duly-elected representatives, or they are adopted by people at large as benchmarks for social intercourse.  Regardless of their source, they become truly effective only when they enjoy a high degree of acceptance among those for whom they are intended.  It has been called governance with the consent of the governed.

An example of the legislative method is the imposition of speed limits for vehicles on publicly-owned roadways; it is clearly wrong to exceed the posted limits.  An example of the adoptive method is the attitude towards smoking, particularly around other people; even in jurisdictions where smoking is not yet illegal, it is definitely frowned-upon to subject others to second-hand smoke.

Of course, in neither form, legislated or adopted, do our societal norms enjoy universal approval.  There are countless scofflaws in the general population who pay only lip-service at best to those they consider trivial.  Have you, for instance, ever exceeded a posted speed limit?  I confess I have.  And there are people who, despite both the social opprobrium and scientific evidence attesting to the effects of smoking, who still choose to light up.

More importantly, and more dangerously, we have fringe groups among us who vigorously, sometimes violently, oppose those norms they disagree with.  If that were not the case, abortion clinics would not be bombed; temples, mosques, and churches would not be defaced with hateful graffiti; and people would not be denigrated and harassed because of skin-colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Thankfully, such violent actions are widely considered wrong in a democratic society.  And, wherever possible, punished.

In the distant past, Isaac Newton famously hypothesized that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Known as Newton’s Third Law of Motion, it pertained to the physics of interactions between two opposing forces.

We might think of the relationship between behaviour and consequences in a similar, though not identical, manner.  The first begets the second.  If I drop a crystal goblet on a tile floor, for instance, the goblet shatters; if I stroll through an afternoon shower sans umbrella, my clothing becomes soaked; if I bite down on my tongue while chewing, I experience pain.  Such natural consequences are the result of the behaviours immediately preceding them.

Logical consequences are different, but no less substantial.  If I drop that crystal goblet while examining it in the store, I will almost certainly have to pay for it.  If I speed through a residential neighbourhood (even if I am fortunate not to strike a pedestrian), I may be cited by a traffic cop, leading to the payment of a substantial fine.  Logical consequences are imposed as a result of our behaviours by outside authorities empowered to do so.

All of which brings me back to my dismay at the disarray I witness almost daily in the USA.  People elected to govern on behalf of the people who elected them behave, instead, in their own selfish interests.  They make decisions, not on the basis of how a particular matter might benefit their constituents or their country, but on whether it will improve their chances for re-election.  They take positions, not representing those who voted for them, but the moneyed interests who finance their pursuits.

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They spend their time, not enacting legislation to benefit all citizens, but fighting their partisan, internecine battles in a sadly-ritualistic dance to the death.

And at the forefront, a bombastic, narcissistic showman, ignorant in the ways of leadership, determined above all to have his way.  To win!

Can the great republic be wrong in the fateful choice it made just six months ago?  And if so, what will be the consequences for the nation, and for the rest of the world?

We have an inalienable right to be wrong, it is true.  But never in my memory have the potential consequences of being wrong been so enormous.  I want to cry out—

How can you be so stupid?  Fix this!  More important than your right to be wrong is your duty to be right!

And, helpless to affect matters, I continue to watch.

 

 

So, Who Won?

In all the history of warfare between nations, one of the adversaries has almost always been declared the winner.  In the Peloponnesian War, it was Sparta; in the Punic Wars, Rome; in the Norman Conquest, William of Normandy; in the War of the Roses, Edward VII of the House of Tudor; in the American War of Independence, the newly-formed USA; and in both the First and Second World Wars, Britain, France, the USA, and their allies.

On more than one occasion, ‘though, armed conflict has ceased with no winner declared.  In 1953, for example, an armistice brought fighting to an end between North and South Korea.  No peace treaty was ever signed; a demilitarized zone was created to separate the two countries.  Hostilities ceased, but a mutual hostility has continued to this day.

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That struggle on the Korean peninsula was not the only war fought between north and south armies.  Almost a century earlier, the USA endured its Civil War; southern forces, the rebels, opened hostilities with an assault on Fort Sumter in 1861, and ended the fighting with a formal surrender at Appomattox in 1865.  In this war, the northern forces defending the union were the winners.

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(In a strange twist, and unlike almost any other conflict, where defeated leaders have been vilified by the victors, heroes from both sides in this war have been venerated by succeeding generations—Lincoln and Grant from the North, Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the South.)

The official history of these wars, and every other war, has been written by the victors.  And any attempt to counter their accounts has generally been ineffective in supplanting the approved versions.  We know who won because the winners told us.

It’s worth considering, however, if future wars will similarly boast clear winners and definite losers.  Or will everyone lose?

The world is presently on tenterhooks, wondering where the simmering tensions between North Korea and the USA will take us.  Whenever one side in a conflict is headed by a preening, egotistical, autocratic, and impulsive leader, we have a right to worry.  But in this case, both sides are thus afflicted, and both, to some extent, have (or are feared to have) access to nuclear weapons.

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It is an irony of diplomacy among nations that treaties and accords are signed by various and sundry allies in an effort to keep the peace.  But it is those same mutual-defence agreements that pull nations into war when one of the signatories is attacked from outside.  Secure in our North American fortress, Canada has never gone to war because she was attacked, but because she was bound to defend her allies who were.

There are no exact, universally agreed-upon figures, but in the First World War, almost 31 million military personnel from all nations were killed in action.  In the Second World War, nearly 25 million were killed.  In the Korean conflict, almost 1.2 million military personnel were killed.

Ask those deceased veterans who won the wars.

Civilian casualties are another matter.  Almost 7 million lost their lives in WWI, nearly 55 million in WWII, and 2.7 million during the Korean conflict.

Ask those poor souls who won the wars.

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In the next war, if there is one—perhaps pitting the USA and its allies against North Korea and its allies—one can only imagine what the death tolls might be.  The current population of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is approximately 25 million.  The city is well within the range of North Korean bombardment.  The population of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, is close to 4 million, and it, too, lies within range of enemy attack.

Imagine the horror of a nuclear strike against either city, or a chemical or biologic-pathogen attack.  Imagine the carnage that would follow.  Strike would be followed by counter-strike, the targets would multiply, and any nation that dared join the fray would leave itself open to similar attacks.

If past examples are anything to go by, such hostilities might well lead to a world-wide conflagration, where even western-hemisphere nations would be affected.  It might not last long, but it would almost surely be the most deadly conflict of all time.  And as we know, the hangover from nuclear detonations or man-made epidemics would alter living conditions on the entire planet, perhaps threatening everyone still alive to witness it.

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One might imagine (if one had a macabre sense of humour) a cluster of cockroaches amidst the ruins, perhaps the only survivors.  After surveying the desecration, one might turn to the others with a quizzical expression.

“So, who won?”

The Eyes Have It

“All my men!  Here now!  All-l-l my men!”

The cry would ring out across the schoolyard, almost every recess or lunch-break, and hordes of eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old boys would scamper to a grove of elm trees adjacent to the playground.

The boy they rallied around was an object of ridicule among my friends, we grade-eight boys playing soccer and baseball.  We had no time for his foolishness.

A classmate of ours, he called himself Marvellous Marv, without a shred of embarrassment.  We called him Starvin’ Marvin, and not because he didn’t have enough to eat.  He was porcine, in fact, taller than I, but physically uncoordinated, and somehow out-of-place wherever he was.  The girls we sought to impress thought he was icky.

Once gathered, his acolytes would listen to whatever he was telling them there in the shade of the trees.  And then, at his signal, they would swarm across the soccer pitch, across the ball diamond, sixty or seventy strong, yelling like banshees.  They never accosted any of us—we were older and bigger, after all—and they never stopped, even when we’d trip as many of them as we could, angry at the interruption to our games.  They simply picked themselves up and kept running, rendezvousing eventually back in the trees where he awaited them.  Never once did he accompany them on their wild raids.

Marvin’s voice had deepened sooner than most of ours, so his clarion call to his much-younger followers was quite distinct.  But his eyes, not his voice, were his most distinctive feature, squeezed between plump cheeks and eyebrows, squinting pig-like at everything and everyone.  We used to wonder why his younger acolytes continually obeyed him, but I think it was probably the impact of his eyes.  Although unafraid of him personally, even we were unsettled when he’d stare at one us in class, as he often did.  There was a disturbing aspect to his eyes, as if the brain behind them were somehow untethered from our reality.

Today, as I contemplate influential people we’ve come to know in our society—political, military, entertainment, criminal—I try to understand what it is that makes them attractive to many of their peers.  Lots of easy reasons spring to mind: a compelling message, brute force, overarching talent, a pathological audacity, a promise to make us great again.  None of these, however, would be sufficient on its own if we did not become convinced that the person, him- or herself, is authentic.  Conviction is key.

And it’s in the eyes we find that messianic fervor, that zealous certitude, that passionate persuasion that ensnares us.  That conviction.

Consider the gazes cast upon us by some historic influencers, for better or worse, during the past century—

manson1   rasputin2

 

Evil or brilliant?

loren1   bardot1

Safe or dangerous?

trump1   ali2

 

 

Mad or conniving?

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Stone-cold or warm and loving?

newman3     churchill1

Visionary or murderous?

When I see their full faces revealed, I’m drawn to the eyes of these people, even if just in photographs.  In person, I imagine, I would be transfixed.  But I don’t know if I could ascertain their true character or purpose by simply returning their steady stare.  I could easily be fooled.

It’s been said that a person’s eyes are windows into the soul; deep wells from which we are often compelled to drink; pools of mystery into which we sometimes plunge, occasionally in spite of our better judgment.  Our eyes may be sorrowful, laughing, blazing, blank, wide, squinty, even Irish—and, for the most part, unremarkable.

Not so for those who aspire to lead us, and for many who have in the past—whether in war or peace, good times or bad, for good or evil.  More often than not, they captivate us with their remarkable, magnetic eyes.  We can easily be misled, and have been in that same past, because we misread the message those eyes convey.

The eyes portrayed in this piece are, left to right, top to bottom:  Charles Manson, Grigorii Rasputin, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump, Pierre Trudeau, Golda Meir, Paul Newman, and Winston Churchill.   Some we venerate, some we abhor.

But all have influenced us, and others continue to—in part because, despite our best intentions, we cannot help being drawn into those compelling eyes.

The eyes have it.

 

 

 

 

The Quality of a Nation

According to St. Augustine, a nation is an association of reasonable beings united in a peaceful sharing of the things they cherish; therefore, to determine the quality of a nation, you must consider what those things are.

He wrote this in a monumental work of Christian philosophy, entitled The City of God, in the fifth century AD.  Fifteen-hundred years later, in 1951, the Canada Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters & Sciences used it as a preface to their report to parliament.

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The recent triumph of Donald Trump in the US presidential election was one of two things that got me to wondering what a list of those qualities might be—not so much for the USA as for my own country.  What are the values that Canada, as a nation, truly cherishes?

The political opponents of the American president-elect have cast his ascension to power in the darkest terms, quite a difference to the sunny ways seemingly endorsed in our own federal election a year or so ago.  Words like racist, misogynist, bully, and xenophobic, used in reference to Trump by his foes, offer a stark contrast to words such as enthusiastic, transparent, optimistic, and leader, which have been applied to our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, by his supporters.

On the flip-side, Trump’s supporters have described him as strong, forceful, down-to-earth, and no pushover.  Trudeau’s detractors have used words and phrases like boyish, emotional, and not man enough in their descriptions.

Of course, political opinions, like beauty, are mostly in the eye of the beholders, and care should be taken not to believe everything one reads or hears about either of these gentlemen.  Still, the fact that both were elected to their country’s highest office by their respective citizens might say something about what is cherished by each nation.  At least at present, and by a sufficient number of those who voted.

But the critical thing about nationhood is that, despite these opposing viewpoints, each nation as a whole must accept and adhere to a basic set of values if it is to survive.

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The second thing that prompted my curiosity about the qualities Canada might cherish was the proposal by a presumptive political-party leader, Kellie Leitch, to vigorously pre-screen potential immigrants for any trace of “anti-Canadian values”.  If they fail to measure up to the standard she will presumably establish, she will bar them from entry.

It makes sense, of course, to ban terrorists and criminals; it also makes sense to admit people with skills and training Canada needs, and people who are fleeing for their lives from oppressive regimes.  In fact, our current immigration practices and procedures do both of these things quite well.

But what are the values Leitch is looking for?  She has stated that the test will screen for anti-Canadian views that include intolerance toward other religions, cultures, and sexual orientations; violent and/or misogynist behaviour; and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms.

I wonder, though, how she might define such concepts as intolerance (Sorry, but I will not eat poutine!) or personal freedoms (Okay, okay…I won’t pee on the golf course!).  Could it be so simple and light-hearted?

Likely not.  For example, if I were a prospective immigrant of a particular faith, say Catholic, would I be banned for not endorsing the notion of same-sex marriage?  If I were to vigorously protest the environmental policies of the federal government (perhaps a government she might be leading), thereby exercising  free speech, would I be expelled?  If I chose to wear a niqab during my citizenship swearing-in, would I be rudely escorted from the room?  And the country?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted as part of the Constitution Act in 1982, pretty much lays out in its thirty-four sections the entitlements and responsibilities conferred upon, and expected of, every citizen.  By its very existence, it establishes many of the values our nation cherishes; for example:

  • the right to life, liberty and security of the person…
  • [equality] before and under the law and…the right to the equal protection and equal benefit  of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability…
  • [these rights] shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada…
  • [these rights] are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

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In effect, this means all citizens enjoy the right to cherish, and act in accordance with, whatever they believe—with the proviso that they must not harm anyone else.  No one, it seems to me, including a politically-motivated Kellie Leitch, can judge any of us on a set of arbitrarily-established Canadian values.

Perhaps John Stuart Mill said it best, in his 1859 essay, On Liberty, where he attempted to identify standards for the relationship between a nation’s authority and its citizens’ liberty:

          The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself…

          Secondly, that for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishment, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.

If we were to accept the guidance offered in these two foundational sources, I don’t believe we would need a test to suss out anti-Canadian values.  To the contrary, our co-existence would exemplify those values, and allow us to live united in a peaceful sharing of the things we cherish.

And we would be proud of the quality of our nation, upholding it for all to see—from sea to sea to sea.