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.)

One comment

  • Fight or flight (thin line)

    in my opinion there is a massive gap between the philosophy of fight, and flight. One is being dominated by fear, and doing nothing but escaping, and the other is recognizing fear, but overcoming your fear while forging ahead to accomplish what is right.

    What good would it have done for Trudeau to be more vocal to President Trump. (The tail trying to wag the dog.) Our past PM Harper stood up on the world stage and told Putin to “get out of the Ukraine”. All to no avail. In my opinion Trudeau does not have 10% of the influence or credibility that Harper had. He does have better hair than Putin though. This appears to be the most important part of his appeal.

    You took Trudeau (Mr Sunny Ways,Sunny Days) at his word on some issues? Interesting concept. Does not do as promised. Strange. Trudeau and valor in the same sentence? Hmmmmm. Standard performance for politicians. Today I will do this, tomorrow I will do something else instead. Except for Trump of course, but then he is not a politician. Voted in by 60 million people. “Catholics and deplorables,” according to the Clinton opposition. Do they have the Catholics pegged correctly? At least they do not categorize us as Catholic deplorables…. You know, I think that they do. He is doing what he said he would do when he ran for President. Strange concept. Anyway, he has funny hair. The opposition has the US people so worried about how Trump may take advantage of them that they have forgiven and forgotten all the other Presidents who sold the people out for big business interests, and foreign governments. Wait now, these Presidents did speak quite nicely to the people as they were lining their own pockets. Nice people. Bill Clinton especially loved the people, certain people anyway, apparantly all that he could….. Why did the Obama government give Iran $150 Billion dollars?

    “Trump has shown no sign yet of acknowledging God”. Trump says, “Christians are under siege”, he signs off his talks with “God bless the American people, God bless America”. Is anybody listening?

    Trump is neither a great man, nor an inferior man by what his opposition, or detractors, say that he will do, or by what they say he will not do. He should be judged on what he accomplishes. THIS IS THE ONLY FAIR WAY! One should be judged by ones accomplishments rather than by ones mistakes. At least in my Christian World. I am starting to feel a little lonely here. Is anyone out there? Less than 100 days in office!!! Give him a break.

    “Pipelines are a safer means of moving petroleum”. This may not be the case. Ask the North Battleford people who were without water for a few days, last July, because of a pipeline breach. Would we not be better off if we took all those billions of dollars and fortified our exiting method of transfer of petroleum? Thicker tankers perhaps, when they become obsolete they can be smelted down and re-used. What do we do with the pipelines? I know, I know. Jobs, jobs, jobs. How much of the Earth can we spoil making jobs? Then those jobs go to Asia anyway. Trump wants the pipeline to use American steel. He says that no other US government has ever included such a clause for other ventures. Who got paid off in those instances? Does anybody care?

    By the way we, the Canadian people, will pay for these pipelines. If anyone thinks that the oil companies, or the US, will pay, please get to the back of the bus.

    Lougheed told us 30 years ago that we should diversify. We have to diversify when things are going well, when we have the money, but we get complacent. When we hit the financial wall is not the time to diversify, too late, no money, no enthusiasm, no stomach for risk taking.

    I say again, please ease up on Cardinal Dolan. There were six religious leaders there, including a Rabbi and a group of Protestant preachers. None of them could be instrumental in changing US policy. Why pressure them? Let us give them support for being in the forefront advocating peace and hope. Do you expect them to bring hell and damnation upon the new president? Another opportunity for Christians to denigrate Christians.

    Here is an old fable about the spiritual seeker who travels to the village to speak to the wise man. He says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind, and enthusiastic, and then I have this mean-spirited, angry, jealous, and negative dog, and they fight all the time. I don’t know who is going to win” The wise man thinks for a moment and responds, “I know who is going to win. The one you feed the most.”

    Let us focus on what is right in our lives. Let us think about praising others instead of criticizing. Close your eyes, smell the sweetness of life, breath deeply. Let peace into our hearts, have faith in a better future. We are Christians, and we love God in whom we Trust.

    And don’t vote for Trudeau again……

    Our hearts have to be open to be Christian, and our minds must be open in order to prevent us from getting sucked in.

    Marvin D. Bloski

    A suggestion for your next topic (re lgbt)
    CNN’s Chris Cuomo says that if 12-year-old girls are uncomfortable seeing penises in locker rooms from biological males who identify as women, that the young girls are “the problem” and are being intolerant.


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