Confederation: A Miracle Worth Celebrating

We Canadians don’t get worked up over Canada Day.

The French are stirred whenever “La Marseillaise” is played. The Brits stand up anytime they hear “God Save the Queen.” Nobody outdoes the Americans for red-white-and-blue extravagance on the Fourth of July. And Aussies get excited every time someone opens a fridge.

But Canadians?

We throw on a red-and-white T-shirt, and grill some food, and remember hockey gold medals, and maybe see what’s on TV from Parliament Hill…. No big deal. Nice to have a summer day off.

We could, however, celebrate Confederation as a political miracle.

In 1867, two communities decided to form a country together.

Yes, they had each mistreated native peoples, and 150 years later, we have a lot left to do on that account. Yes, they would go on to be hard on immigrants. And yes, they would mistrust and insult each other, almost to the breaking point.

But after a century and a half, we’re still here. And that is, historically speaking, amazing.

For by 1867, English people and French people had spent a thousand years trying to conquer or exterminate each other. And the defeat of the French emperor Napoleon at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington and his Prussian allies was within the living memory of many Canadians at the time of Confederation.

Yet here was John A. Macdonald, the Scottish immigrant and pride of Kingston, Ontario, joining hands and fortunes with George-Étienne Cartier to work with the leaders of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—provinces with their own troubled histories of French-English relations—to form a new country.

More astounding still was the fact that Confederation also brought together Protestant and Catholic Christians who for half a millennium had been trying to convert or excommunicate each other all over Europe and out into the New World.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Anti-Americanism: Insecurity? Paranoia? Racism?

As we near our 150th birthday as a country, Canadians find it easy to be a little bit smug.

Our usual points of reference—Britain, the USA, and France—are in political disarray, while our Prime Minister is handsome, glib, and cool atop a majority government that steams along, for better or worse.

In fact, particularly when it comes to the States, we’re riding high. There’s nothing like anti-Americanism to give normally tepid Canadian patriotism a charge, and Mr. Trump and his GOP colleagues savaging/saving health care, immigration law, and various forms of decency down there give us daily jolts.

I used to think anti-Americanism was the core of our putative Canadian inferiority complex—you know, the mouse-and-the-elephant thing—stemming from the rise of American global dominance during and after the Second World War.

But anti-Americanism goes ‘way back: to the founding of our country.

And there were good reasons for it.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Are There Any (Real) Liberals Left?

The story of the resignation of the UK’s Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party is easily interpreted as an indictment of liberal politics.

That’s how he himself interprets it.

The relentless questioning of his personal views on wedge issues such as the morality of homosexuality and abortion, despite his avowed support for liberal policies on these matters, forced him, he says, to conclude that no one with anything like his orthodox Christian beliefs could lead a party in Britain these days—even one explicitly devoted to liberalism and democracy.

“We are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society,” he claimed.

The story points up a fundamental plurality in the very definition of “liberal,” a complexity that is as important in North America as it is in Britain.

Liberalism #1 is a commitment to freedom—hence its etymological roots in the Latin liber, or “free.” Liberalism in this sense champions the maximum freedom for individuals that is possible within the requirements of a cohesive and orderly society.

Liberalism #1 recognizes that human beings are flawed, but also capable of reasoning through difficulties, negotiating about disagreements, and cooperating despite differences in a necessary framework of law and legitimate authority.

Liberalism #1 is a perpetual conversation, an interaction of various interests and concerns worked out fluidly within an agreed-upon polity for the common good as each generation sees it.

Liberalism #2, however, is a rigid commitment to a set of values that will tolerate no deviance. Liberalism #2 insists on a woman’s complete freedom to choose regarding abortion; the full affirmation of diverse sexual identities and practices among consenting adults; the insistence that race, gender, and class are key categories affecting most, if not all, human interactions and always implicating white, male privilege at the expense of all others; and so on.

Those who hold to Liberalism #2 typically believe that their convictions are simply entailed by Liberalism #1: The only way to optimize freedom for everyone (#1) is to campaign for proper rehabilitative attitudes (#2).

The paradoxes, if not internal contradictions, of such a view, however, show up all over the place.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]