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Kevin Vickers' attack on a non-violent protester in Dublin didn't remind me in the least of his heroic roll-and-shoot in the House of Commons.
The man protesting the commemoration of British soldiers who died in Dublin during the Easter Rising in 1916 was no Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He was more like my friend Bill Clennett, also non-violent, who was viciously assaulted by the then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, for raising his voice in a public park.
In both cases, the cultural capital possessed by the attackers was sufficient, not only to confer impunity, but to mark their victims as somehow deserving of this abuse. Chrétien was no hero that day, but a common thug; and Vickers wasn't much better, although at least he didn't try to throttle his victim.
Nora Loreto and Michael Stewart have said most of what needs to be said about this disgraceful incident. But I find myself wondering what on earth the Irish government thinks it was doing in the first place.
Honouring occupation troops who gunned down civilians on the streets of Dublin a century ago was an odd, even surreal exercise, rather like the Algerians inviting France to Algiers to participate in joint mourning for the French Foreign Legionnaires who fell during the War of Independence.
Or, to be somewhat more emotive, the French and German armed forces organizing a commemoration of the Third Reich soldiers who were killed by the French Resistance -- in the name, of course, of rapprochement.
What's next -- a monument to the Black and Tans?
But set the political issues aside. Some people like it when leaders step out of their roles and act "human" -- even if that means behaving like lumpen street bullies. That's part of the Trump appeal -- the anti-politician who "says what everyone thinks," and actively promotes violence against dissenters at his rallies.
That same low impulse is in full swing when a PM beats up a person exercising his rights to free expression, and ditto a Canadian Ambassador, emerging from a cloud of diplomatic protocol to do the same.
The victims are annoying to many. Disruptive. No sense of occasion. So they got what they deserved. The vicarious thrill that the vulgar enjoy when a brave few challenge approved narratives and get manhandled for it is, at bottom, a profoundly anti-democratic, even fascist, impulse.
Vickers crossed too many lines with his impulsive, macho performance in Dublin. He should be recalled --whatever the Irish government says or doesn't. Those who rightly deplore Justin Trudeau's recent antics in the House (although these pale in comparison) should try to be consistent in the application of their principles.
As Canadians, we need to draw the line at gratuitous physical violence, not have our elites model it and hence help, surreptitiously, to make brutishness respectable.
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