Consider this a pre-Canada Day column on pre-Canadians and what became of them. One effect of solemn national origin days is often to obscure any downsides that might've existed then or since. On the U.S.'s first Independence Day, only about a third of colonists were supportive. At Confederation, P.E.I. opted out and support elsewhere was shaky. A stark example is Palestine-Israel. On the Israeli side it's Independence Day; among Palestinians, Catastrophe Day.
Race doesn't exist but it does. The strongest argument against Rachel Dolezal's African-American claims isn't that they're false. Everyone agrees race is a social construct. It's that for most African-Americans, race isn't a lifestyle choice; and it trivializes their often hideous experiences to treat it that way. Yet it's also an identity that people can willingly embrace, after the fact as it were, which can enrich or embitter (or even kill, as in Charleston last week). So there's an element of choice, even in extreme situations.
A teenager who knows me too well says I'm obsessed with endlessly refighting the battle against free trade. That rings pathetically true. And now who wins a small victory over the ancient foe? Them. The U.S.! History is cruel.
It happened last week. President Barack Obama backed the latest in free trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- or TPP. The august Senate backed him. But the House of Representatives, the elected body nearest the people, voted No. It took a savvy, impassioned, grassroots campaign to make that happen and even so, it's not over. Pro-free traders are already attempting a TPP resuscitation. Victories over free trade should be celebrated swiftly. But what explains even that hiccup?
I can imagine Evan Solomon preparing a pitch to the dragons on CBC's beloved Dragons' Den -- beloved by CBC itself. "I traffic in people of great power. That's my world," he says, repeating a line from a recent profile. Then he continues: I leverage these relationships -- make connections -- to orchestrate deals and I take a percentage. No labour or startup costs and the returns are huge. As you guys say, Greed is good. The dragons raise a few doubts over his public role and this biz on the side but they like it. They're in.
Is there any reason to think strikes and the unions which call them will ever reacquire the aura of romance and moral legitimacy they once had? They come and go without glamour. Ontario just experienced another batch of teachers' strikes which were unpopular and duly legislated back. But it could be otherwise.
Vietnam is surely haunting the U.S. in Iraq, as Tony Burman wrote here last week. But something scary and vague is always haunting the U.S.: not just the sellout at Munich, the Berlin Wall, or the battle of Little Big Horn. Maybe it's hauntedness itself. I happened to rewatch Apocalypse Now last week, Coppola's Vietnam epic based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness, about colonialism in Africa. "The horror, the horror," breathes Brando hauntingly at the end. U.S. policy always manages to metaphysicalize itself out of specifics and into abstractions.
"What does Kathleen Wynne think you do with a majority?" moped a friend. "What does she have a majority for? Harper knows what to do with one. He even knew what to do with a minority."
When she ran, Wynne seemed committed to new tolls or taxes -- to expand public transit. Then she backtracked, and decided to sell off parts of Hydro One instead. Why would it matter if you sell one public asset to create another? You're just robbing Peter to pay Paul. To understand why, stroll with me down to the newly "revitalized" Union Station on Front Street.
I wish I could muster more fury over Stephen Harper's attempts to neuter the TV debates leading to next fall's election. His designated irritant, Kory Teneycke, says they'll refuse to appear on traditional "consortium" broadcasts run by the big networks. Instead they'll spread themselves on minor outlets like City. Hence, they say wittily, there'll be more exposure. Maybe they should book one on Tiny Talent Time on channel 11 in Hamilton.
The Prominent Writers Unit of PEN, the international authors group, has been scuffling over whether to honour Charlie Hebdo at their annual elegant fest in New York. The issue is: should Charlie's alleged anti-Muslimism bar them from a "courage" award despite the lethal attack on them, which everyone deplores? Canadian Michael Ondaatje is among those who withdrew as hosts.
I think the problem here is that very prominence, the cult of writers as celebs, turned to expectantly about areas other than their work.