Friday, November 13, 2015

"Just watch me"

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, held that same position from 1968 until 1984.  P.E.T. was famous for a line he delivered when asked how far he'd go in imposing martial law and suspending civil liberties to deal with a terrorist threat from an extremist organization (the FLQ) during what was called The October Crisis in 1970.   His answer was, "Just watch me."
Recently, I googled that now famous quote, to hear it in in context.  I never doubted that the decision to invoke the War Measures Act was justified; and so it was a surprise to me to hear Pierre Trudeau make several statements that I'm not comfortable with.
The video of that impromptu interview:    (6 minutes)
1) Trudeau said, "If it hasn't affected you, personally, yet ... then why should you be concerned?" What is that?  Is than an appeal to look away when an injustice is being done to someone else?  Actually, I think it's more an appeal to the "normalcy bias", which is a rationalization people use to deal with threats or disasters; the flawed logic being that if something hasn't happened yet, there's no reason to believe that it will. Trudeau was basically appealing to this state of mind, I believe.  Pay no attention, he was saying, to that man behind the curtain.
2) Trudeau said "Is it your position that we should give in to the FLQ?  Your position seems to be that we should call off the police and let the FLQ abduct anybody."  That's the logical fallacy of a false dichotomy or false dilemma.  If you don't support the imposition of martial law, he was implying, then you obviously sympathize with terrorists.  That faulty logic would haunt me in the run up to the Iraq War.  If you weren't for that invasion, remember, you were on the side of the terrorists. Remember?

3) Finally, Trudeau tries to denigrate the young reporter who expressed concern for a free society as a "bleeding heart."  The young CBC reporter (Ted Ralfe), who was just 32 at the time, had expressed his own opinion that "This is about choices.  My choice is to live in a society that is free and democratic," and one of the things, he said, that we have to give up for that choice is the absolute safety and security of a police state. He had a valid point ... the choice he perceived, between the abandonment of liberty in the pursuit of security is another that's become a recurrent one.  Personally, I think he was expressing a courage that says, "no, I'm not willing to yield my liberty for the promise of safety."  I agree with him, now more than ever before in my entire life.  I'm not afraid of ISIS, or Russia, or whoever they hold up before as an "imminent threat" to our safety.  ISIS has never harmed me; or anyone I know or care about, or anyone I will ever know or care about. It won't happen.  It's such a remote possibility, it isn't even worth worrying about.  I do know, however, know that my liberty, my natural rights as a human being, are being threatened, and have been attacked.  That's a real concern; and an immediate concern.  That young man was absolutely right to make liberty the more important concern to Canadians.  While the War Measures Act was in effect, 465 Canadians were arrested and held without charge. 
Canadians have often reminded me of the elder Trudeau's imposition of martial law, in which Canadians were arrested, without charges, and denied legal recourse.  It was Pierre E. Trudeau who began concentrating power in the Prime Minister's Office.  Unlike Americans, though, Canadians are not willing to allow the use of a perpetual state of war and "emergency wartime" measures to justify the imposition of a permanent police/security/surveillance state. 

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