Toronto
2 min

Contagious madness

Since Sep 11, 2001 the insecure cronies of a woefully incompetent, underqualified and arguably unelected American president have resorted to all manner of dirty tricks in a conspiracy to solidify political power and hoard personal wealth for a select Republican few.

They have rarely even attempted to cover their footprints, preferring instead to explain away their manipulations as evils necessary in pursuit of their war on terror. They have relentlessly fanned the flames of irrational fear: that danger lurks under every veil, that queer people and godlessness are to blame for every calamity of nature, that extramarital sex is the most direct path to misery and that the streets are crawling with men looking to screw the prepubescent.

While Canadians debated same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana possession and the elimination — or at least modernization — of sexual morality laws, the Americans searched for weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there, slept through a hurricane that destroyed one of their cities and bellied up to the trough of consumerism for the sake of consumption, all while consumer debt and their nation’s trade deficit ballooned perilously out of control.

I hoped that, with the election of a new American president next year, the madness would pass and the Canadian zeitgeist would dodge most of the fallout from the values shift that has characterized the Bush administration.

Even after Stephen Harper — a man at least as conservative and repressed as his American counterpart but disconcertingly more ambitious, calculating and intelligent — won a minority government last year, I consoled myself in the naive belief that the fundamentals of our society remained intact and would stay that way. Canadians, I rationalized, cast their votes against the Liberal Party in 2006 rather than for Harper and his Conservatives. This government would be a short experiment in minority rule, I reasoned, and once voters realized who was at the helm, the course would be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

But the infectious fear-fuelled values shift that has done such damage in the United States has taken a toll here at home and the Conservative Party has seized on it as an opportunity.

The Canadian mainstream has gone from talk of liberalizing or eliminating sexual morality laws to raising the “age of protection.” The bizarre “reasonable accommodation” fiasco in the virtually all-white, all-francophone community of Herouxville would not have warranted serious examination in the national discourse two years ago. The absurd kerfuffle over the teeny-tiny minority of women who might wish to wear burkas or niqabs to the ballot box is plainly an exercise in political manoeuvering that would not have happened in Canada two years ago. The suggestion that racially segregated education might prevent as many young black men from shooting each other in Toronto would have been laughable back when Canadian soldiers were ambassadors for peace rather than conquistadors in the war on terror.

That cultural relativism is a legitimate rationale for brutal violence and oppression, that the Canadian government should not be responsible for the safety of those it delivers to foreign authorities and that capital punishment might not really be so bad after all were all unthinkable just two short years ago.

It’s a Conservative mind fuck engineered to legitimize a terrifying new Canadian normal, one the media is enabling.

As the country teeters on the cusp of a federal election that is Harper’s to lose the prime minister continues to demonstrate a willingness to appeal to fear of the unknown, fear of the different and fear of the other.

We, as queer people, are part of the archetypal other.

If Harper is successful in forming a majority government — if Canadians allow him to succeed — it can only bode ill for us homos. This is especially true for those of us who don’t wish to be absorbed into the homogeneous multitude of heterosexist orthodoxy.

I hope and urge that, unlike our American cousins, we keep our eyes wide open and our wits about us as the Conservatives gather momentum.