It’s impossible to watch Egypt demonstrating, Tunisia cleaning house, Saudi Arabia desperately ribing, Jordan firing cabinet ministers, Algeria shooting citizens in the streets, and Muammar Gaddafi bombing his own people without thinking about the human condition and this idea of democracy and freedom.
The United States, of course, is big on freedom which generally translates to its freedom to do what it wants and not so much freedom for others to do what they want, but let’s not quibble.
Empires are empires and they seek to sustain themselves.
As people die around the world in the name of freedom and democracy, let’s take a moment to look at our own.
We actually have one. It is failing.
Our current government features a minister of the Crown who lied to Parliament and is allowed and encouraged to stay in power by the prime minister.
It includes senior members of the Tory party who have been charged (including two senators) with finding ways to avoid the laws of the land on spending during elections.
It has been chastised by the Speaker of the House for being in contempt of Parliament for withholding important information on the costs of its crime legislation, and admonished by the parliamentary budget officer for underestimating the cost of its multi-billion dollar purchase of F 35 jets by 70 per cent.
The Liberals before them sank in the stench of the sponsorship scandal and Quebec, and of course, former prime minister Brian Mulroney was found to be taking money under the table in brown paper bags from a German hustler representing among others Airbus.
More depressing in some ways than the corruption and dishonesty, which is a worldwide phenomenon, is the careening Canadian political culture.
On the one hand, attack ads that have nothing to do with policy demean the public space and alienate the entire process.
On the other, the government of the day wastes taxpayers’ money with ads promoting ridiculous small-time tax breaks and benefits that have nothing to do with policy.
Is this what people died for in the Second World War? Is this is the ideal many young citizens around the world are fighting for in the streets and squares of their cities?
The thing about Canada, more pronounced in major cities than rural areas, is that we are the world.
The breadth and success of our immigration strategies are extraordinary.
When Greece is aflame with riots, there is a Canadian contingent wired into the issues, taking sides, even demonstrating in our squares and public places to express a point of view.
When a Tamil boat arrives on the West Coast, there is a community to fight for their rights or shun their fleeing countrymen.
When Egypt is in crisis, we find Canadian students of Egyptian origin in the streets of Cairo bringing western sentiments and know-how to the proceedings.
Of course, they are being interviewed by Canadian journalists.
In Ukraine, we find Canadians in government, NGOs and businesses rebuilding the country.
When the Dalia Lama comes to Toronto, he can fill the Rogers Centre.
And so it goes from Iran to Iraq, from Somalia to Algeria, from South Africa to Vietnam from Hong Kong to Beijing.
In 1954 a young girl escaped with her family from Latvia as the Russians invaded.
She came to Canada, where she earned a BA and MA in psychology from the University of Toronto and a PhD in psychology at McGill.
She raised her children in Canada, and when the Russians tried to extinguish the Latvian uprising in 1998, she followed her son back to her homeland.
When Vaira Vike-Freiberga next visited Canada, she was the president of Latvia.
She became known as the Iron lady of Latvia. When asked why she got her nickname she said, “I cannot be intimidated and I cannot be bought.”
I wish she would make one more career move and come home to run for prime minister of this country.
We fall short of our promise. We should be ashamed of the fruit of our freedom and natural riches.
We do better exporting a notion than living it, and it is beginning to show.