Voices June 14, 2019
Putting politics ahead of principles
Justin Trudeau must be having second thoughts today about the wisdom of lecturing U.S. Vice President Michael Pence on abortion.
The Canadian Prime Minister took advantage of his recent meeting with the visiting American politician by brashly expressing his “significant amount of concern” about U.S. “anti-choice” laws being passed.
Pence handled it with class, essentially telling Canada to render unto Trudeau what is Trudeau’s and don’t worry about their southern neighbour.
The same southern neighbour Trudeau is now approaching on bended knee as he asks the U.S. for help freeing two Canadians being held in China.
When Trudeau meets with President Donald Trump at the White House next week, the jailed Canadians are expected to be high on his agenda. Presumably he’ll leave American “anti-choice” laws off the table.
Trudeau has a way of letting his cockiness push prudence to the side. Two years ago he had a private meeting with Pope Francis and asked him to apologize for Catholic residential school abuses, which seemed brazen considering he was also hoping the Pope would come to Canada to meet with Indigenous peoples.
Last week Trudeau responded to the release of the Missing Women’s report with circumspection, initially. Within 24 hours he had accepted its accusation that Canada had committed genocide against Indigenous peoples from colonial times to now.
Days later, after the Organization of American States expressed “deepest consternation” and proposed investigating the report’s findings, Trudeau was qualifying his stance again, saying he actually preferred the term “cultural genocide.”
It’s difficult to know precisely what Trudeau believes because for him everything seems to be shrouded in political cynicism.
We see it to a degree in most politicians who bury their personal beliefs behind politically opportunistic slogans. That appears to be the case with politicians one might expect more from, such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Despite being pro-life Catholics, both have let their pro-life beliefs be eclipsed by politically expedient talking points about having no plans to re-open the abortion debate.
To some degree this is understandable. Any politician who wears their religious or moral beliefs on their sleeve these days, at least in Canada, will soon find they’re spending most of their time fighting off pitchforks and torches from radical progressives and media.
Sadly, it has come to this. All belief, discussion, and action must be “weaponized.” Principles, if they still exist, are secondary to scoring political victories. Shakespeare said above all to thine own self be true, but flaying your opponent in a Twitter war is where it’s at today.
G.K. Chesterton, a journalist and a Catholic, made an observation a century ago about 20th-century journalism that today applies to public debate at large.
“What we observe about the whole current culture of journalism and general discussion is that people do not know how to begin to think. Not only is their thinking at third and fourth hand, but it always starts about three-quarters of the way through the process. Men do not know where their own thoughts came from. They do not know what their own words imply.”
Chesterton’s words are as relevant today. He was stating that newspapers no longer offered a forum for actual debate. “There can be a disturbance, but there cannot be a discussion. There are no more rules of argument, nothing to argue about. That would require plaintiffs and defendants to appear before some tribunal and give evidence according to some tests of truth.”
In a nutshell, he was saying the modern world was “living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.”
Progressive movements may have enshrined values such as tolerance, justice, fairness, and compassion, but too often they’re giving mere lip service to terms they have appropriated and no longer understand.
There are “two marks of modern moral ideals, Chesterton said. “First, they were borrowed or snatched out of ancient or medieval hands. Second, they wither very quickly in modern hands.”
The values the world holds dear today didn’t arise from a political convention. They had their origin thousands of years ago. Society needs to be reminded of its Christian lineage, and what those truths really mean.
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