There’s a thin line between fight and flight
By Glen Argan
The Catholic Register (Issue of Feb. 26, 2017)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first meeting with the new president of the United States has come and gone. Uneventfully.
That the meeting be uneventful was the dream of the majority of Canada’s newspaper columnists, to say nothing of the government itself. Don’t kick the thin-skinned elephant and provoke his everlasting hostility. Canadian jobs and business interests are at stake.
However, The National Post’s Andrew Coyne would have preferred that Trudeau “spoke up for what is right, even at some cost to Canada’s economic interests,” but he mainly urged Trudeau to speak in consort with other national leaders.
Leah McLaren of the Globe and Mail called the summit “a toe-curling embarrassment for anyone who has taken our prime minister (as I did) at his word on issues like cultural diversity and women’s rights.” She would have preferred Trudeau not “condone Trump’s racist, sexist and fascist tendencies.”
Trudeau, in my opinion, chose the better part of valour by not calling President Donald Trump a fascist at their first meeting. Maybe later, but not now.
There are numerous things to deplore about the Trump presidency. Moreover, when one witnesses evil, he or she should speak against it. However, that does not mean national leaders should loudly protest every injustice in other countries. Some battles should be fought; entering others is more likely to cause harm than to prevent it.
Canada has a few skeletons in its own closet, and we take umbrage when movie stars and other outsiders condemn us for them, even if their words contain more than a grain of truth.
So, applaud the prime minister for being a diplomat on this occasion and for not jabbing the thin-skinned president with a broken stick.
One should not be complicit in evil, but there is so much evil that avoiding all complicity is a full-time job. In a globalized world, it seems every purchase we make involves doing injustice to some people or animals.
Yet, putting a paper bag over one’s head and pretending one is not complicit is no solution. One should inform oneself as well as possible and take actions that limit involvement in evil. That can include writing letters to governments or corporations.
Still, it’s easy to get caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Trudeau recently expressed a desire to phase out oil sands production. I am among the minority of Albertans who think this is a fine idea. However, the majority made their voices heard and Trudeau, fearing his comments would cause the Liberals to lose their smattering of Alberta seats, reversed field.
So, in this case, was the prime minister being diplomatic or just politically expedient?
In my view, he was politically expedient, especially given his commitment to reduce Canada’s contribution to climate change. Add his retraction of his oil sands comments to the government’s approval of more oil pipelines and one has to question this commitment.
Pipelines are said to be a safer means of moving petroleum products than say, rail tankers. I do not question that, but I must add that pipelines involve a massive capital investment which a country or corporation cannot abandon lightly. Building a pipeline means a long-term commitment to producing more greenhouse gas.
So, while I do not see Trudeau as complicit in the misdeeds of the Trump regime, I do judge him to be a significant enabler of climate change. What do you think?
The best recent example I have seen of a public figure walking the thin line between complicity and needlessly antagonizing a purveyor of injustice was New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s prayer at Trump’s inauguration.
Dolan adapted Solomon’s prayer for wisdom at his own inauguration (Wisdom 9.1-11), which included these words: “Even one who is perfect among human beings will be regarded as nothing without the wisdom that comes from you.”
Trump has shown no sign yet of acknowledging God as the author of wisdom, but then Dolan offered a prayer, not a speech. Prayer is an act of hope. Often, prayer is the best way of approaching the double-bind situations in which we ordinary folks find ourselves entwined. Almost always, we can find a way out of our entanglement in evil.
(Argan plans to write a book in the not-too-distant future on moral complicity in both good and evil.)