Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!
I made a bit of a fool of myself a couple of weeks ago. Over on the Elections Canada blog, I reacted without thinking to a cartoon by John Fewings. He posted a visitor to Idiot’s Anonymous saying, “My name is John. I’m still voting Liberal, and I am an idiot.” Well, I flew into a rage. Question the impact of Liberal policy; question the competence of the Liberal Administration; question why people should vote Liberal, but you are not inherently more entitled to an opinion than anybody else; do not demean individuals’ rights to vote as they please.
Problem was, the cartoon was self deprecating. “My name is John”, by John Fewings. Oops.
But this is a sensitive issue for me. I’m willing to debate policy and implementation until the cows come home, but if I stoop to calling somebody an idiot for thinking as they do (and I admit that I have), then I’ve failed as a debater. In the end, democracy is about making a choice, and the fundimental right of all democracies is that individuals have a right to their own choice. I have an obligation to live with that choice, or leave the jurisdiction. It’s as simple as that.
So, I’ve been a little bit irritated by the second-guessing of the Spanish people’s intentions as signalled by the surprising results of the general election this past Sunday (even though I’ve been doing some second-guessing myself (tip of the hat to Matthew at Living in a Society, although please correct the misprint on my name? Thanks)). Actually, I feel that the debate over the Spanish message is a bit fraught, and most everybody needs to stop and take a deep breath.
Some headlines in the past few days:
My first comment goes to the media: get ahold of yourselves. The CBC, in particular, should be ashamed of its badly worded headline which is not only inaccurate, but makes a serious value judgement that casts George W. Bush in an unnecessarily bad light. Bush did not scold the Spaniards. Diplomatically speaking, he’s done all that a political leader should when facing the natural change of a democratic government. From my reading of his statements, he has not questioned the Spanish people’s right to vote as they have done. He may not have gotten the results that he wanted, but he’s given every indication of living by them.
Donald Rumsfeld, on the other hand, he’s said some unfortunate things about the Spanish people’s democratic decision.
My next comment goes to the Bush Administration: get ahold of yourselves. The Spanish people remain committed to the global War on Terror. They, like France and Canada, have troops in Afghanistan and all indications are that they are going to keep those troops in Afghanistan until the real War on Terror is done. Broadening the definition of the War on Terror to include an invasion of Iraq was your unilateral decision. That decision was debatable, and as democracies, we have a right to disagree with that decision if we chose. The decision of the Spanish people is not a weakening of resolve in the War on Terror; it’s a statement that their definition of the War on Terror is narrower (and, in my personal opinion, more accurate) than yours.
Finally, my comment to the people in the blogosphere and in the media pulling their hair out over the Spanish people’s decision saying, among other things, that the Spanish people are cowards, and that Al Queda won. You really need to get ahold of yourselves. I fear that your statements are fundimentally undemocratic. It’s yet another example of politicizing the issue of terrorism and reducing the intellectual level of the debate. To those people who argue that the terrorists have won, you have now implicitly said that to disagree with you is to be a terrorist. This goes beyond political correctness; we haven’t had such an attempt to stifle legitimate disagreement and dissent since the 1950s.
Spain made a democratic choice. People voted with the same faculties that we normally have, and voter turnout was up, not down. Disagree with the implications arising with the results as you please, but don’t criticize a people’s right to vote as they see fit. That’s democracy for you: it doesn’t always go the way you want it to.
Defending the Indefensible
The Middleman has done it, as has Matthew at Living in a Society, and I’m about to do the same. I feel that the current controversy over the Governor General’s budget is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. The Governor-General has helped to promote Canada throughout the world, and her support of Canadian arts and heritage is very strong. She’s worth the money we’re spending on her. With a national budget of over $170 Billion and scandals over mismanaged AdScam funds and a ballooning gun registry costing us over $2 billion, arguing over $40 million (especially when most of that money seems to have been productively spent) strikes me as a waste of time.
I may have quibbles about the rapid rise in her budget, and her attitude toward same, but suggestions by some that the position be removed go way too far for the savings realized (and I’d be rather ticked off if the loss of the Governor General meant the loss of the Governor General Awards — we fail to recognize Canadian talent enough as it is). I appreciate the fact that our head of state is above politics. Our Governor General has been able to give a focus to relations and to interests that would be tainted if the prime minister involved himself in them.
The question of changing who our head of state is, what responsibilities she faces and the manner in which she’s chosen is not a constitutional can of worms I want opened. If you want to change something about our political system, change the Senate. It’s a bigger waste of money, and it actually wields power in this land.