You can, it’s said, take the measure of a person by their words and deeds.
Lately, a lot has been said and written about the words and deeds of former prime minister Stephen Harper, who finally bid a belated adieu to Canadians in an antiseptic, cliché-laced videotaped address on Friday.
With a few notable exceptions, these post-mortem reflections littering the corporate media landscape about Harper’s words and deeds have been — with some minor caveats — predictably laudatory, if not effusive.
During nostalgic moments like these, it’s considered unbecoming in suddenly sensitive reactionary circles to do anything other than pen pieces of sanitized hagiography about a prominent politician who has left the scene abruptly and involuntarily.
At first, I was reluctant to contribute much beyond an unflattering tweet or two to commemorate Harper’s trajectory from the prime minister’s office into, no doubt, the lucrative offices of his so-called consultancy business.
The new, globe-trotting cash-man and his toadies, inside and outside the Ottawa press corps, are, I find, largely banal and forgettable.
I had a change of heart after having endured a prominent Harper acolyte droning on in a valedictory column about his patron’s “positive” legacy that, taken together, has apparently left Canada “peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, well run, free, the envy of the world.”
A tribute befitting a Hallmark card
While digesting Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson’s icky Hallmark-card-like ode, my mood shifted from irritation, to exasperation and finally determination to rebut his Alice in Wonderland revisionism.
Not surprisingly, in his gooey love letter masquerading as a column, Ibbitson forgot to mention Harper’s words and deeds about the signature event that undeniably reflects the foul measure of this little man.
It’s also emblematic of how this mephitic politician intended deliberately during his tenure as prime minister to reshape, or more accurately, to disfigure Canada to mirror his insular, myopic, xenophobic, and cruel image.
Recall the summer of 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — another politician, coincidently, described by former members of his caucus as a dangerous demagogue and hypocrite fixated on retaining power whatever the human consequences — decided to teach besieged Palestinians in Gaza another sharp, violent lesson.
Netanyahu’s military invasion lasted 50 days. Here are the ghastly numbers that invasion ultimately produced:
- Palestinians killed: 2,139
- Palestinian children killed: 490
- Palestinians wounded: 11,000
- Palestinian children wounded: 3,000
- Gaza residents displaced: Up to 500,000
- Homes destroyed in Gaza: 20,000
- Israeli soldiers killed: 64
- Israeli civilians killed: 6
- Israeli children killed: 1
These figures confirm that the Israeli invasion was a seven-week-long turkey shoot orchestrated from the land, sea and air. Many of its victims were children.
At the time, Harper’s response to the disproportionate human carnage was all Harper: Please proceed, he said, in effect. If you bleeding hearts want to blame somebody for all those dead, damaged and orphaned kids, blame Hamas. Those Palestinians asked for it.
And they sure got a stinging taste of it day after day.
No welcome for the wounded
In Harper’s geopolitical calculus, Palestinians didn’t count then, and they certainly don’t count now. Ibbitson and the other court jesters know this. But they remained silent then, just as they remain silent now.
Instead, the establishment men and women in Ottawa write columns and books insisting that Harper isn’t a cruel man, he’s just misunderstood by millions of irrational Canadians blinded by their sometimes petty, often deranged, animus towards this avatar of steely, unflinching governance.
Harper is a Borg-like bureaucrat who became a Borg-like prime minister. He is also cruel — whether myopic Ibbitson and company are prepared to admit this or not.
That cruelty extends, in particular, to denying visas to 100 of the thousands of wounded Gazan children who could and should have received medical treatment in Canada.
Harper said no time and again, despite the entreaties of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor and widowed father who lost three daughters and a niece when his home was shattered by Israeli tank shells in 2009.
Harper refused to meet Dr. Abuelaish, an obstetrician who for years tended to Israeli, as well as Palestinian, mothers and helped deliver their babies.
Today, Canada is his home. It’s where Dr. Abuelaish carries on his life’s work preaching love over hate, understanding over misunderstanding, bridges over walls, and peace over war.
Dr. Abuelaish tried hard to get those Gazan children here. He convinced doctors, nurses, hospitals, unions, premiers and lots of other Canadians to volunteer their time, expertise, and homes to help. It would have cost Canada very little.
A blind eye to the suffering of children
All Harper had to do was give the children and their surviving family temporary visas to come here. Canada has done it many times before with other suffering kids from other parts of the world.
Still, Harper said no. To justify his refusal, Harper’s PR people and their surrogates in the neo-con press smeared those injured children and their families.
Letting those kids in might mean, they wrote, letting a bunch of terrorists into Canada by stealth and, anyway, shipping those kids here would just be a Liberal feel-good publicity stunt. They’re better off staying home with what remains of their kin in Gaza.
Of course, we’ll never know those kids’ names, ages, and faces. We’ll never see their fear and pain ebbing. We’ll never see their relief in knowing they were in a safe place, cared for by people who wanted to help them mend. We’ll never see their joy when they got better. And we’ll never bid them goodbye when they were ready to go back home.
They, and we, will never experience any of that decency, generosity, and humanity because of the obdurate cruelty of one man: Stephen Harper.
Ibbitson has, it appears, forgotten all of this dark, not so distant history. His amnesia is convenient since it allows him to skirt the truth about the measure of a man who, by his callous word and ugly deed, deserves our contempt, not our approbation.
Je me souviens.