For years, dogs have been jumping off the Overtoun Bridge in Dumbarton, Scotland. By one count, 600 dogs have leapt into the gorge below.
Some 50 of them have jumped to their deaths. There is no obvious reason for this canine suicide.
“Some say there are rational explanations involving the terrain and the scents of mammals in the animals that may drive the dogs into a frenzy,” reports The New York Times. “Other explanations take on a more paranormal tone.”
This crazed, mysterious behaviour now has a copy-cat effect. Those looking for a similarly baffling human parallel should look to events in Ottawa this spring.
To foreigners, our current melodrama is madness, a kind of derangement syndrome. “Are you nuts?” asks a visiting friend from London. The poor man – a leading international lawyer – is staggered by the circus in Canada’s Parliament. He sees us as a country of stability, sobriety and moderation.
To him it seems much ado about nothing: no money, no sex, no criminality. Expecting John Profumo – the sex-and-spy scandal that unseated the British Conservatives in 1964 – he finds the laments of Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould. On the Richter scale of impropriety, this one is a tremor.
Forgive him; he’s British. Brexit is sad, self-inflicted and making Britain irrelevant in the world. But that debate goes to the heart of national character. A bumper sticker casts the result of the 2016 referendum in terms of Jane Austen: “Pride and Prejudice 52%; Sense and Sensibility 48%.”
To the rest of the world, Canada’s “crisis” is not existential. To our allies, our debate is parochial and petty. Worse, in a world of unrest where Canada’s progressiveness matters, it is self-indulgent.
In France, Emmanuel Macron battles the yellow vests. Anarchists and nihilists smash things up on Saturdays before breaking for brunch.
In Germany, Angela Merkel struggles to hold together a grand coalition while her country faces a succession question. The right rises, exploiting the refugee influx.
In the United States, Donald Trump declares an unprecedented national emergency, threatens to close the southern border and denies obstructing justice, which is yet to be shown. Meanwhile, he struts and swears on public platforms.
In Turkey and Hungary, authoritarianism reigns. In Israel, the indicted prime minister makes alliances with racists. In Italy, the right rises.
In Canada, though, we’re lost in our sordid little scream. Saint Jane denies “a power play” as she gives interviews, there to slip in the stiletto once again; Saint Jody records a conversation with an unknowing public servant. With every move, they weaken their government and strengthen the Conservatives, unmoved by women’s rights and Indigenous affairs.
Commentators have lost a sense of balance, seeing evil in ineptitude. The Conservatives, who denounced Wilson-Raybould last fall, now trumpet her virtue. Her loyalists ignore her lethargy as justice minister who left Stephen Harper’s policies in place and who wanted an outsider as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The obvious choice was Rosalie Abella – a woman, an immigrant, a Jew, the senior member of the high court and one of the great jurists of her generation.
My, my, we are on hard on ourselves. To critics, we cannot do anything right at home, where we have full employment, social peace and national unity unseen in a generation. A recent report card by an esteemed professor of international affairs and three graduate students at Carleton University gives the government’s gestural foreign policy a “C-” but overlooks two signal achievements: The successful re-negotiation of NAFTA and the admission of 58,000 Syrian refugees. In Canada, what good are laurels if you can’t recognize them?
Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer, the prime minister-in-waiting, shows his peculiar ignorance. He ignores Muslims in his first statement after the mass shootings in New Zealand and continues to support Brexit, which could have catastrophic consequences for Canada.
The chorus of harpies cares little about Scheer or Brexit or the grave dangers to Canada from climate change, as a shocking new report shows. Or that democracy is fading. Or that racism is rising.
In Canada, we are the dogs of Dumbarton, leaping into the abyss.
By Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019