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Letter: Lessons from Timothy McVeigh, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Symons Medal from Confederation Centre of the Arts. Trudeau received the Symons Medal and offered his thoughts on the current state of Canadian Confederation in a public ceremony at Confederation Centre on Nov. 23, 2017.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nov. 23, 2017. — Louise Vessey photo

Timothy McVeigh, a libertarian (belief in small government and more individual liberty) was a disgruntled, angry young man who believed big government did not represent the needs and ideas of the average citizen. The horrors of his ghastly bombing of the Oklahoma state building and killing and maiming almost 1,000 people boggle the mind; 19 innocent children were unrepentantly slaughtered in a daycare in the building on that horrifying day in 1994.

A feeling of disconnect with governments seems to be sweeping the world. Some argue that Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency based on his ability to appeal to disconnected citizens disgruntled with big government. The Republican Party touts itself as the champion of small government and individual liberty. Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” and downsize a “bloated big government” resonated with a middle class who believe big government is not working for them.

If we are to stop the steady slide toward greater polarization in Canadian politics caused by this hugging, crying prime minister, we need to hear all voices.

The Pew Research Centre, a U.S. think-tank, reports that in recent decades, there has been a decrease in common ground between U.S. political parties. Ideological overlap between the parties has diminished. Republican thinking has shifted right and Democrats have shifted more to the left. We watch with horror the consequences of this polarization almost daily, south of the border.

Sadly, Canada is not exempt. We see right-wing, anti-immigration demonstrations in the street, and left-wing counter-demonstrations. Both seem willing to employ violent means to make their point. Common ground and the ability to hear opposing voices seem to be slipping away.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it quite clear campaigning for the last election that he did not want Liberal party nominations from people who didn’t support the party line on issues like abortion, gay rights, immigration, women’s issues. While his thrust toward reform is commendable, his assertion that he would tolerate no dissent, that there would be no open discussion, that there was no need to hear opposing voices, was scary.

If we are to stop the steady slide toward greater polarization in Canadian politics caused by this hugging, crying prime minister, we need to hear all voices. We need to talk to, listen to and work with people who have different views of the world from our own. If people are not heard, they feel disconnected, left out, lost and afraid. They become polarized.

Trudeau’s latest move to take away the rights of Canadians if they do not share his ideologies is quite polarizing, and scary! How is it possible that the criteria for any government service, like a government grant for summer employment, is based on the beliefs of these citizens applying for the grant? Rex Murphy in the National Post said, “the prime minister in lordly fashion riffs in town halls and cabinet rooms what is right for everyone else to believe and what is not.”

I remember as a high school student hearing the famous quotation often attributed, erroneously it seems, to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Even then, I was moved by the fierce affirmation of freedom of expression and human rights expressed in this amazing statement. One can hardly imagine that Trudeau’s education didn’t ever bring him face to face with this quotation.

It appears, though, he’s learned from George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” in which the Thought Police of the state discover and punish thought crime — personal and political thoughts unapproved by the party.

Once the state begins to chip away at citizens’ individual rights, it’s time to be scared! No matter one’s view on abortion, gay rights, immigration or women’s issues, we’d all better oppose this government on this issue! Who knows what could be next? Where’s our national outrage?

“I raise my hand in peace,

I never bow to the laws of the thought police.” — Neil Young, “Living With War”

Gotta go. There’s a knock at the door. I believe it’s the thought police, jackboots and all. Wearing the familiar grey uniform of the authoritarian state. And there’s a big, red “L” on the lapel.

Ronald Sheppard

St. John’s

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