Thursday, July 20, 2006

That's just the kind of thing Hitler/Bush would say!

One of the candidates for the upcoming mayoral election in Ottawa has announced a plan to increase the number of police on the streets of Ottawa, and particularly to do some cleaning in the downtown Byward Market (the Byward Market is a great area of little shops, fresh produce, stores that hoped a century ago and good dining. Unfortunately it has also become a hangout for drug dealers and punks. It’s still a big draw in this city, but something needs to be done). Anyway, the local press jumped on this story with a quote from someone who is critical of this candidate, who said, “We don’t need a Bush inspired war on crime.”

Well, there you have it. It’s bad because it is the kind of thing George Bush would do. Now for years this kind of faulty argument was based on Hitler. You could win an argument by saying, “That’s just the kind of thing Hitler would have done.” Yes, it sounds silly now, but there was a time when comparing your opponent to Hitler would actually win an argument for you. But we smartened up. We got to the point where the average man on the street could see through such an argument, and as soon as you heard the comparison to Hitler, you knew the other guy had a thread-bare argument.

Fast forward to 2006. In the eyes of many Canadians, George Bush has 3 strikes against him. He’s politically conservative, he’s fighting an unpopular overseas war, and he’s American. And so we see the old Hitler comparison once again brought out, dusted off and given new life. But this time it isn’t a comparison to Hitler that provides the killer argument; it’s the comparison to George Bush. Unbelievably, this pathetic argumentative technique actually works in the minds of many. No matter what the topic, just claim that it’s the kind of thing George Bush would do and your argument is already won.

Thankfully there are people who know better. Even among those who disagree with Bush’s policies, there are those who are intelligent enough to recognize the weakness of this technique. And some of the people who oppose Bush have too much integrity to use such a technique of argumentative manipulation. Of course there are still many on the political left who will stoop to using this technique. While it disgusts me, it doesn’t scare me. What scares me is that there are people on the political left who actually think a comparison with Bush proves something. Well I guess it does; it proves how dumb they are.

Canadians seem to struggle with a national identity crisis. This is nothing new; it’s been happening for years. Too often our national identity is defined by what we are not (i.e. we are not American and we are not British). Perhaps the bit of self-identification that sticks best in our memories is that Canadians are “unarmed Americans with health care.” Of course that isn’t enough to build a compelling national identity on. And it ignores the fact that guns are quite common in many areas of this country (having grown up in Northern Ontario, having guns around doesn’t seem odd to me). So what else could we build a national identity on? The fact that some Canadians don’t like George Bush? Of course not. As Canadians we must act based upon our national convictions, not upon whether George Bush would approve or disapprove of our actions. When we hear people make the dreaded comparison with Bush, it's time for us to start calling them on it. It adds nothing to the argument of whether this is a direction which is right and proper for Canada to follow.

Now a side note. Canadians are somewhat schizophrenic with regards to our southern neighbours. A little anti-American rhetoric seems to go down well at election time. In fact, the Liberal Party has made an art form of it. And ignoring the visceral responses of the ignorant masses, maybe Canadians can sometimes see America’s weaknesses in ways America is unable to. But on the other hand, we love Americans. When we meet American tourists and visitors, it brings a genuine smile to our faces. And we love visiting America. Nowhere else in the world do Canadians feel more comfortable than in visiting the United States. If any Americans read this posting, try to remember that any anti-American comments you hear from Canada are not deep seated; they’re just the product of a little schizophrenia.


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