Since the – let’s just call it an ‘incursion’ – into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, CNN and MSNBC have been awfulising it as “the end of the American experiment in democracy”, while Fox has been downplaying it as no more threatening than the seizure last summer of a few square blocks of downtown Portland by Black Lives Matter.

I have no opinion on the matter, mainly because I don’t care. On this side of the 49th we’re too civil to be so uncivil. And besides, our three parties are so indistinguishable that if one stole the election no one would notice. In fact the greatest thing about living in Canada is that I don’t have to know – and in fact I don’t – the name of our current President. We don’t have a President, you say? Well, that just proves my point!

But apparently all is not so well south of the border. The stench of fascism we detected wafting over the border looks like it’s been tamped down, at least for now. It just doesn’t have the majority support it enjoyed in Italy and Germany back in the 20’s and 30’s. Trump’s minions will continue to fight the good fight, no doubt. But ultimately the forces of sober second thought arrayed against them will prevail. And the prospect of reigniting the aggrieved on the right, of which there may be as many as 74 million, will keep the only slightly more numerous aggrieved on the left from overplaying their hand.

How long will it take before I can, without anxiety, book a flight across the Pond routed through an American airport? I’m giving it about two years. By then the pandemic will be over, the economy will have recovered … And though black lives still won’t matter, I’m white enough that I think I can survive a two-hour layover at JFK.

What have we all learned from this experience? I’m guessing not much. As it was in Europe in the 20’s and 30’s, this choice in America between good government and populism has been entirely orthogonal to the more traditional choice between left and right. Donald Trump was no Republican. So the fight for the soul of the Party will be just that: conservatism versus populism. I’m not a conservative, but were I an American, for me it would be a no-brainer. 

I have no idea what’s meant in America by “a more perfect union”, but I’m guessing it has less to do with prosperity than justice. And by that measure I’d be looking to the new administration for two things: police reform and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Why the latter? Because you can always boast being a just society if you export all your injustices off-shore. Or, in the case of Israel, to the other side of the fence. 

Obama and Biden promised to shut Guantanamo down twelve years ago. At least Trump was honest, if only about wanting to keep it open. This makes all three of them war criminals. But I’m not sure that adding hypocrisy to that charge will give Biden much pause. Still, those are my two measures. What’re yours?

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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2 replies

  1. why don’t you like fascism? I thought you were one? idgi


  2. I think “a more perfect Union” simply means the creation of a single united federation of states, not 13, not two competing federations of free and slave states, and not a loose grouping of several smaller blocs. All these ideas were on the table, literally, at the Constitutional Conventions, to figure out what no-longer-British America would look like after the British sailed away. Ultimately the Federalist view prevailed and the Union was made perfect, or whole….except Vermont stayed out.

    Forming a more perfect Union is an end in itself, along with the other ends: Justice, Tranquility, common defence, general Welfare (=prosperity?), and the Blessings of Liberty. I don’t read it as the more perfect Union being the means to Justice or any of the other ends, or to any one of them having precedence over any of the others. The means to all these ends is the Constitution itself.

    (Here I’m referring to the Preamble of the Constitution, not Barack Obama’s speech, where “perfect” seems to be used in its modern sense. Which is fair. The authors of the Preamble were using it in the sense of their times.)

    Regardless of President Obama’s good intentions, the U.S. Congress clearly thought that in the case of the Guantanamo prison, “common defence” trumped “Justice” . The UN and the human-rights NGOs and even domestic liberals could go pound sand. John LeCarre has a CIA agent character in one of his novels refer to the killing of Americans as “original sin, baby!” No quarter, no forgiveness. Probably no more complicated than that, when all the legal talk is done. I don’t think the U.S. has ever claimed to be a “just society” — that was Trudeau I here. They won’t harass you at JFK. But they won’t miss you either.


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