Progressive Politics + Silver Tongues

One of the best parts about an opposite political perspective from your own, whether on an individual level or a national party level, is that hypocrisy is never left unchecked. When a guy like Justin Trudeau or Barack Obama sweeps into office, there’s often a honeymoon period where those who voted these leaders in will forego any outright criticism of their behaviour/policies. Sometimes the honeymoon period extends throughout such a leader’s entire time in office. This effect isn’t limited to the handsome-faced identities like an Obama or a Trudeau; even Stephen Harper, George Bush (both of them), Ronald Reagan, and more had their die hard fan clubs. But it’s always necessary to have a counter-balance, or else politics falls too deeply into the cult of personality.
TrudeauWhile reading Tasha Kheiriddin’s piece in the National Post about Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t help but keep repeating to myself: I agree. She sees the hypocrisy of a government – particularly that of its occasionally flamboyant leader – grandstanding on human rights while it seems intent on remaining wilfully blind to the human rights abuses of countries with whom we have trade agreements. It calls to mind an analogy concerning the casual drug use of North American culture: people do a little cocaine on the weekends yet they shake their heads at the cartel violence in South America and lament when it collides with our perceived safe society at home, ignorant to any connection between the two. A very loose analogy, but cognitive dissonance by any another name smells just as dissonant.
Kheiriddin wrote her article on Saudi Arabia and the Trudeau government in May of 2016. She could write it again today only needing to change the fact that the Saudi government is now going to allow women the right to drive (but let’s not kid ourselves, they’ve a long way to go before attaining full and equal rights). Otherwise, the situation remains the same. Intentionally or not, Kheiriddin is actually pushing back against Trudeau’s self-imposed feminism, which is, despite his supposed best intentions, usually similar to white feminism in a way. Our Prime Minister is almost like a nationalist feminist (maybe I’ve invented a term). This illustrates a need for intersectionality, even if Kheiriddin is just trying to stick a thumb in the eye of Trudeau and the Canadian political left. She makes plain that it’s tough for the leader of a nation to claim widespread support of women while, by virtue of trade agreements, our nation effectively subsidises another nation’s subjugation of them. To say human rights cannot effect trade directly calls into question the integrity of our own country’s ethics.
dessin-obama-droneAgain, I stray into loose analogy. The Canadian love affair with Trudeau reminds me of the glossier perspective(s) on Obama. Personally, I believe Obama was great for America, in many ways. However, there are also many areas of conflict where the rosy view of his legacy as President of the United States is tough to reconcile with the facts. For instance, Obama rushed into office undoing various concoctions of the Bush Administration, from beginning the process of shutting down Guantanamo Bay and ending torture tactics by the CIA and various arms of American military, to other directives socially progressive voters hoped would be put to rest post-9/11. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, too. Yet at the same time Obama initiated plenty of drone warfare, some of which killed civilians, and even worse children. Likewise, while he was a positive force at home for Muslims in America, he was busy letting Muslims die in drone strikes on the other side of the world.
Part of the problem is political rhetoric. Although we cannot lay the blame solely on the Obamas and the Trudeaus of the political sphere, whose silver tongues and thoughtful prose reeled in voters with promises of a shift away from old, stale politics. No, a large part of the blame lies with us as voters. In a democratic society, we cannot afford to rest our hopes and our futures on politicians capable of holding our attention simply because they’re saying all the things we’ve hoped to hear. We must be proactive voters, and if we vote leaders in who are satisfied with lip service from sycophants, then we have to be further active in the political process to find ways to force their hand.
women-driveIn closing, I’ll finish with some thoughts, and perhaps anyone interested might have their own thoughts to share.
First, how much progressive policy are we willing to swallow in order to forget all the horror in which our governments take part?
Second, are the subjective gains in Canadian society for women – and that’s not to say they’re gaining much in the way of real, legitimate societal change – worth ignoring the plight of the women in Saudi Arabia, or the countless Muslim women caught in the crossfire of a war they never wanted?
Finally, feminism for the sake of Canadian women only doesn’t equate to real feminism. It’s strange that Trudeau is willing to be combative with the Trump Administration over NAFTA while he’s happy to sing and dance with the Saudis all the while ignoring their numerous human rights abuses. So, is feminism only a relative concept for the Trudeau government depending on what’s economically at stake for our country, or do he and his party genuinely stand for women’s rights across the board? Maybe if Justin does a town hall meeting in St. John’s I’ll have a question to ask him.

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