Thackeray “The Virginians”

While Trump endures months and years of unrelenting and unscrupulous attacks, this passage comes inevitably to my mind, and no doubt yours. A young officer is displeased that the Marquis Lafayette is brought into the American army as a major-general. He reproaches Gen. Washington. And Washington replies.

Tis easy to sneer at him (though, believe me, the Marquis has many more merits than you allow him); to my mind it were more generous, as well as more polite, of Harry Warrington to welcome this stranger for the sake of the prodigious benefit our country may draw from him—not to laugh at his peculiarities, but to aid him and help his ignorance by your experience as an old soldier: that is what I would do—that is the part I expected of thee—for it is the generous and manly one, Harry: but you choose to join my enemies, and when I am in trouble you say you will leave me. That is why I have been hurt: that is why I have been cold. I thought I might count on your friendship—and—and you can tell whether I was right or no. I relied on you as on a brother, and you come and tell me you will resign. Be it so! Being embarked in this contest, by God’s will I will see it to an end. You are not the first, Mr. Warrington, has left me on the way.’

 ‘Ah!’ he added, ‘an open enemy I can face readily enough. ‘Tis the secret foe who causes the doubt and anguish! We have sat with more than one at my table to-day, to whom I am obliged to show a face of civility, whose hands I must take when they are offered, though I know they are stabbing my reputation, and are eager to pull me down from my place. You spoke but lately of being humiliated because a junior was set over you in command. What humiliation is yours compared to mine, who have to play the farce of welcome to these traitors; who have to bear the neglect of Congress, and see men who have insulted me promoted in my own army? If I consulted my own feelings as a man, would I continue in this command? You know whether my temper is naturally warm or not, and whether as a private gentleman I should be likely to suffer such slights and outrages as are put upon me daily; but in the advancement of the sacred cause in which we are engaged, we have to endure not only hardship and danger, but calumny and wrong, and may God give us strength to do our duty!’ 

Mr. Harper? Sir? You ARE awake.

The Liberals are running against tax cuts? Some days, the prime minister must need to close the door and just simply have his laugh. (When I saw Trudeau’s remarks about income-splitting, my wife thought I was having a fit.) No matter how valid the criticisms of yesterday’s package might be, there is one ineffaceable image in my mind – the manager of a household comparing a pay stub or tax return with a list of monthly expenses before rounding up the partner and heading out to vote.

The arrogant Mr. Kay has it partly right

“Please get a grip, folks. This is not “war.” It’s one Islamist-inspired lunatic killing one guy and then getting killed in a famous building” While referring to a fallen soldier as ‘one guy’ is singularly infelicitous, and something I suspect he regrets, it is true that the murders of Canadian Forces personnel and the assault on Parliament are not deeply significant. However, we really are in a war with Islamic extremists and their abettors. At the fringes, troubled or variously motivated individuals will commit what security forces sometimes call ‘spectaculars’ – low-risk, high-publicity attacks like the Boston bombings. Unlike the World Trade Center, London and Madrid attacks which required coordination and training, anyone possessed of a firearm, edged weapon or chemistry set and bus fare can commit one of these crimes, make headlines and unfortunately influence behaviours, attitudes and policies. As a civilization at war with barbarism, we must expect  these attacks, maintain our values and keep what Mr. Kay so condescendingly called our ‘grip’. But we must show our citizens that we can and do fight back. Bombing ISIL is not quite pointless, but it does at least show resolve. A review of immigration policy would actually mean something, but we are not yet wounded, frightened and angry enough for meaningful action.

What they see in your mirror

A video service called Flixster aggregates trailers for newly released and impending films. It’s like a testing valve on a sewage system, offering two minute samples of what film-makers think you will like. In effect, it is a picture of who they think you are. In a half hour or so, you can look at the distillation of the efforts of the world’s greatest film-writers, directors, actors and craftspeople. Unfortunately, their genius is mediated by producers and investors, the very last people who should be guiding and controlling the efforts of these artists. Lust and sadism contend with brutality and betrayal to tempt the fickle eye. One flawed gem I glimpsed flickering in the slurry is called “The Humbling”, which degrades the talents of Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and others possibly as gifted as they are. (When I saw it was based on something by Philip Roth, I knew it could not possibly instruct or enlighten, let alone entertain.) Of all the many samples I scented, only one appeared to have any professional integrity or internal consistency, only one appeared to respect its audience and correctly frame the talents of its performers – I commend to you “Dumb and Dumber To”. It appears to be an honest piece of work, posing as nothing more meaningful than the laughter it evokes.

Barack Ebola

“If even one undiagnosed Ebola patient lands in the United States, you may call me George!” All right, all right, there is nothing funny about a killer plague washing across a continent and now across the world on wings of political correctness and governmental ineptitude. And it is unnecessarily cruel to link him to the Reichsmarschall’s discomfiting boast. So why am I laughing? Because it marks one more notch on Barack Obama’s rubber gun of failure? Because it has been so predictable for so long? I wish no person harm, but I do wish some people would act like leaders to lessen harm to others.

Harper Displacement Syndrome

Another day, another wistful story about the possibility of Prime Minister Harper removing himself from the national political scene.  The story opens, “Would the governing Conservatives be better off motoring into Election 2015 without Stephen J. Harper at the wheel?” The answer is, no, not really, of course not, but it then goes on to discuss possible replacements in some fantasy Canada. This genre of Canadian political analysis always reminds me of a four-year-old discussing candy – not really asking for candy, but just telling little stories about it, artlessly listing its advantages and deploring its absence, all the while reading the audience for evidence that something, anything, is eliciting a response. For years, these opinion articles have used a tone of quiet patience with Mr. Harper, pointing out how close he is to electoral disaster and offering ideas that might help him be successful.  Mr. Harper has been Prime Minister for years and may hold that office for years to come, but the mainstream media never has accepted that and never will. The main result has been their decreasing importance, and Mr. Harper’s increasing strength.

MH17: Russia won’t break, West will bend

As far as I can see, this thing is over. Nobody has effectively responded to the atrocity, Malaysia more or less upgraded some Russian-backed thugs to the status of something you could negotiate with and Moscow does not seem to be yielding any ground on the question of responsibility. Without American leadership …. ah, why even pursue that thought? I think this will trickle away and the world will focus on exhorting Israel to be reasonable.

No one is illegal, apparently

Is the Obama administration attempting to provoke a confrontation of some kind, by allowing a complete breakdown of the southern border? What are the victory conditions for such a conflict? I have seen that the California community of Murrieta has successfully deflected busloads of illegal immigrants but they are certainly not headed back to Mexico or Central America any time soon. I have no idea what this is all about but it feels dangerous.

Harper hits homer

The Israel trip tells the world, once again, that it has lost its moral compass.  Like calling the Durban gatherings what they are, anti-Semitic hatefests, Mr. Harper demonstrates that there are rights and there are wrongs, with a clear distinction.  And even when the press jumps on the MP who wanted to be on the shot at the Wailing Wall with the PM, the message gets through – of course the man wanted to be seen with his leader, leading. Thank you, non-Sun media, for making sure his voters saw him trying to do just that.