Friday, January 09, 2015

Happy Birthday, John A

I've been to a few John A birthday dinners in the last few years, and they were fun when they were all history and politics nerds. I decided to pass on the huge one this year in Toronto as it grew more and more hagiographical, more intensely committed to the absurd notion that John A was an all-powerful lone leader like some kind of 19th century Stephen Harper, or that he conceived of and invented Canada all on his own.

But I've nothing against noting the 200th birthday of a significant figure in Canadian history. I'm gobsmacked by the puerile silliness of Stephen Marche's piece in the current Walrus, where everything the writer dislikes about 21th century Canada becomes a reason to demonize John A Macdonald. Marche is a good writer most of the time, but something makes journalists' minds turn to mush when they write about history as these crude cartoonish versions of complex realities..

Of course Macdonald was dedicated to the British imperial tie, was hard on First Nations and on Chinese immigrants, and so on. He was a politician. He got elected and re-elected on those policies, even when he didn't much believe in them.  We can abhor the policies, but in doing so we should abhor what our ancestors and forbears stood for and demanded, not the politician who did what they demanded.

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