Rex Murphy, National Post, June 16, 2020
First of all on this sunlit morning, I’d like to offer a hearty salute to the newly freeborn citizens of the barely week-old Republic of the CHAZians.
We in the outside world view the infant state and its infant citizens with pride, they having by their wiles and courage finally liberated themselves from the demonic oppression and cruel discrimination of notoriously fascist Seattle, a principality known to all as veering to the right of North Korea. It was like Tibet under communist rule, except with better lattes and a higher soy content per person.
The new state is still fragile. But they have set up barriers, which certain nasty Trumpians (I might be one) are calling a wall. And there is some pushback from the folks who actually own homes or businesses and think they live there.
“Hey, we’ll tame them,” said one budding Che Guevara. And though the first five-day agricultural plan was a bit of a downer — some homeless guys “occupied” one of the seed plots — things are looking up: the pizza place is still, intermittently, functioning, and they are ordering out to other “states” for non-gluten crusts.
But hey, the cause is good, and that’s all that counts.
In fact that motto, “the cause is good,” seems to be a licence for all sorts of strange and even dangerous behaviours. I copied an observation — I regret not making a note of the source — very relevant to our new times: “To those in the grip of ideological fervour, ordinary laws by which public order is maintained mean nothing. They feel privileged to do as they please, licenced by faith in the unquestionable justice of their cause.”
I’d say there’s good evidence of that in the couple of dozen cities that have seen looting and rioting conducted side-by-side with protest. It is like the outrage over George Floyd’s killing and other terrible crimes (the perpetrators, all four, are under criminal charge and the brutal episode has been condemned by 99 per cent of all who have heard of it) constitutes a passport to vandalize, rob and burn businesses (some with Black owners) that have no connection whatsoever with the initial horror.
The protest gives a kind of cover for those who despise “the system,” as they call democracy, to act out with violent and threatening behaviours, presumably in the hope of unsettling that system. All protest isn’t protest.
I doubt very much that the guys who drove their $400,000 Rolls-Royce to the high-end shopping district of New York (it’s on Twitter) to grab the loot from Prada or Louis Vuitton, were high on “social justice” vibes or stuck for the price of a cheeseburger.
The cause is real for some, but it is a great excusatory blanket for others.
Another comment that comes from the New York Post also underlines a very disturbing point about modern protest: “Something horrifying is happening to the American moral sense — the plain evidence of one’s own eyes in the form of wanton destruction is overlooked in favour of offering some kind of generalized support for the ‘cause.’ ”
I think there’s great justice in the ancient idea that those who perform a crime are punished for the crime, condemned for the crime. When some small food vendor who worked for 40 years (a case from New York), sleeping above his shop, has to wake up after it has been plundered and set on fire, and by morning has nothing left for his years of labour, I do not see how that falls under “justice” or “protest.” We should weep at such scenes, weep in pity for the owner and in anger at the villains.
As for the line that destroying property is not “violence,” as a few liberated professors are arguing, sometimes property is life, as in when you spend 40 years of your life to have the property that lets you live your life. They didn’t burn a shop. They burned 40 years of that man’s life. Is that not itself violence?
We are in strange and potentially dangerous times, especially when we give tacit — or in the case of the mayor of Seattle and the governor of Washington, explicit — approval to street vandals. Protesters think they are licenced to do anything.
Over in London, and this is a real test case, they want to tear down the statue of Winston Churchill. The correct and moderate response to that civic blasphemy is a vigorous, “Who in the hell do you think you are?”
If the woke mind — the present eruptions seem very much to be more a generalized woke mobilization than the ostensible protest over police — feels itself qualified to pass judgment of condemnation on Churchill, it has passed into regions of moral arrogance and transcendental righteousness truly frightening to contemplate. Who are these people who think they are the arbiters and declarers of who shall pass in their new kingdom, and who shall not? Who are they to excommunicate from proper honour one of the greatest heroes of all Western civilization?
We’d all be wearing black with lightning bolts on our sleeves if Winston Churchill — old, white and male — had not possessed the stamina, the courage, the determination and the oratory to take on Hitler when the whole world looked ready to crouch to the tyrant’s will. Churchill took no knee.
This is the statue the protesters have demeaned, the statue that has had to be boarded up to protect against woke protest, the same of which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rightly has spoken: “It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violent protesters.”
If current mores, and current leaders, give so much as a breath of consideration to ripping down a statue of Churchill, if those same leaders do not simply mock the arrogant pretensions of those same protesters, we should all simply give up and go home.
All it takes to resist this madness is spine. Make your motto standing up, not kneeling down. We, meaning citizens of democracies, should not, by passive response or supine submission to those who violate its codes, watch our democratic standards and codes be tossed aside whenever some bunch declares a “cause.”
We should also, with the strongest determination, not give in to the shouts to shut down those people who make counter-arguments to the woke missionaries. So-called cancel culture. The little Maos or the radical left, the masked bullies of Antifa and extreme elements of Black Lives Matter think they have the right to excommunicate all views that offend their oversensitive, busybody nostrils. Don’t yield by silence or by refusing to tell them simply to go away with their nonsense.
CBC, with its inveterate cowardice towards political correctness, humiliated a long-time veteran last week, Wendy Mesley. I know enough about CBC to know a “weak knee” is the first and only qualification for membership in upper management.
Finally, on the matter of my own minor turmoil about Canada. The editors judged the column was poorly edited.
I disagree with their judgment, yet have no problem with them holding it, and publishing it. I had no problem with a column criticizing mine appearing in the Post soon after.
My view, however, is that the edit was fine, the piece said what I wanted it to say and therefore all and any flack, such as there be, comes home to me, and me only.
Finally, as there seems to be a tad of curiosity on this point, I stand by the column. I will not apologize for it; nor apologize for any part of it, word, comma or space between words. I will even stand for the semicolons.
And for those who wish to jump on it — feel free, knock yourself out, as a friend of mine puts it. I’ll even set up a trampoline to give a little extra height on the jumps, and provide cushions for those (likely many) who miss their bounce.