Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

12/5/2005

There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t

File under: Righteous Indignation, I Read The News Today, Oh Boy, Semitism. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 6:21 pm.

You’ve probably heard of this one by now, if not this year then any of the last ten: Christmas is under attack! And I for one am having trouble choosing sides, because I can’t decide whose position is more compelling. Do I ally myself with the devout Christians who get the vapours whenever someone wishes them a sectarian Happy Holiday? Or should I instead join forces with the sensitive secularists who opt instead to pay due respect to those other religions that celebrate their tree-based holidays by engaging in a frenzy of consumerism in the days weeks leading up to December 25th? These, it appears, are our only choices in this war; “ignore this holiday and the accompanying propaganda entirely” isn’t on the table, which means that just like in a real war, the bulk of the casualties in this one are innocent civilians. As a vegetarian infidel whose family never ever celebrated Christmas, it might seem that I’m predisposed to being more sympathetic to the hippie heathens, but damned if I wouldn’t rather listen to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album on repeat than be subjected to rallying cries like this one here:

“At Rideau Hall, we will be putting up a holiday tree as we find it reflects the traditions of many cultures, and it is inclusive,” Rideau Hall spokeswoman Lucie Brosseau said.

Jesus wept. Not the Christian Jesus, mind you - the other Jesus, the inclusive one who represents the traditions of many cultures.

I assure you that the “we” that finds the history of all traditions great and small to be reflected in the magical Holiday Tree does not include any real-life Jews, Hindus, or Muslims, regardless of what the persecuted Christians may have you believe. And that’s the really mind-numbing aspect of this: the unfounded assumption that people who don’t celebrate Christmas are in fact on board with these inane gestures to pretend that Christmas by another name is somehow a whole ‘nother holiday. No, I would bet hard cash that the “we” that Brosseau references is a subset of earnestly sensitive, yet oh-so-ignorant semi-lapsed Christians who don’t believe in God or Jesus anymore, but who still celebrate Christmas because doesn’t everyone celebrate Christmas? I mean, some people may call Christmas something weird like “Chanukah” or “Diwali” or (God help us) “Ramadan”, but it’s basically the same thing, right? This “we” are the ones who puzzle over whether to put up Christmas trees in deference to their more traditional families and neighbours, or whether they should instead put up more inclusive holiday trees; it never occurs to them that they don’t need to put up trees, period, and that in fact most people in the world - and some even in this very country - don’t. And that some of those people don’t think that the end of December is sacred in any way - or, at least, they don’t think it’s more sacred than other months.

These are the folks who think that nomenclature is the single thing standing between an intolerant Christian society and an enlightened, multicultural one. There’s not a practising Jew in this country, I promise, for whom the generic, inclusive holiday tree - not to be confused with the nigh-identical Christmas tree - brings to mind the story of the Maccabees’ triumph against the Greeks. I assume that followers of religions that don’t even share part of a Bible with Christians aren’t going to be thinking inclusive, tree-inspired religious thoughts just because someone says they should. The holiday tree’s not a Jewish icon, and to pretend that it is - to tell a group of people who don’t adhere to your religion which icons are involved in theirs - that, in my view, is far more offensive than simply displaying bona-fide religious symbols in public. And that’s what pisses me off the most about this war: not the idiotic assumption that saying Happy Holidays constitutes persecution of Christians, but rather the idiotic idea that a few function calls of Replace(”Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”) somehow amount to a genuine understanding of, and respect for, cultural diversity.

So while I’m certainly an opponent of this war, I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of partisan rage over it. Because what do we have? - we have one side insisting that Christmas music and Christmas greetings be ubiquitous…and the other accepting the ubiquity of Christmas iconography and culture but changing a few words here and there; not even thinking about how we have Christmas Day as a statutory holiday rather than a floater - those non-Christians can use their own personal leave time to celebrate their little holidays, after all; and unironically making a point of mentioning Chanukah - the single least important Jewish holiday - whenever they mention Christmas. And both sides fancy themselves martyrs.

It’s almost enough to turn one into a pacifist.

9/15/2005

Let’s reject Sharia, but treat women like second-class citizens anyway

I know I have a lot of non-Canadian readers whose exposure to Ontario news is limited to what they read on this blog, so after last week, many of them might have been left with the impression that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty isn’t an absolute tool. And even though TD&M isn’t a political blog, I really can’t allow that assumption to stand. Because, see, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is an absolute tool, despite some lapses of character a few weeks ago.

The background is this: in 1991, Ontario started allowing various flavours of faith-based arbitration - a system of religiously-based civil courts, superceded by Ontario civil law, which members of various religions could voluntarily enter to settle disputes. Since then Ontario has had a number of such courts, including the Jewish Bet Dins, and a Catholic system that had the power the annul marriages. And this system was so successfully integrated into the civil justice system that hardly anyone in Ontario even knew it existed, let alone complained about it.

Fast forward a decade and change, when the Canadian Islamic Congress started floating the possibility of introducing Sharia courts as a means of settling disputes among Muslims who wanted their own faith-based system. Suddenly, faith-based courts were in the news - and many of the most vocal, most articulate opponents of the proposed Ontario sharia courts were Muslim women themselves, many of whom were refugees who had escaped from Sharia-style “justice” overseas.

At the centre of this debate was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who had the power to accept or reject the Sharia courts.

I watched with detached interest to see how this would be resolved. In Canada, multiculturalism is valued to the point that no elected official, even one as duplicitous as McGuinty, would publicly make a statement that could be construed as valuing one religion over another.

And, sure enough, this played out in a quintessentially Canadian way, with a heaping serving of self-righteousness and sexism on the side.

Earlier this week, after weathering dozens of protests across Canada and public statements against sharia, McGuinty scrapped the proposed courts - along with the other religious courts that had existed for a decade and a half without problems.

McGuinty insisted Sunday his government wasn’t taking away rights from Christian and Jewish groups because it was afraid to give similar rights to Muslims after claims that Shariah law was, at its heart, unfair to women.

In other words, even though he’s following the advice of the anti-Sharia protesters by scrapping the plans for those courts, it’s not like he’s, God forbid, listening to them. Despite the fact that, well, every single one of the Sharia protests was led and supported by people who were concerned that Sharia was, at its heart, unfair to women - don’t worry, that’s not why McGuinty is rejecting the idea! He’s not concerned with that girly stuff! It’s not like he’s a feminist or anything!

Why is he rejecting the Sharia courts?

“The debate over Shariah law has caused us to ask a pretty fundamental question: Can religious arbitration be part of a cohesive multicultural society? It’s become apparent to me that it cannot,” he told The Canadian Press.”

Except that, well, that was never the question. At least not until McGuinty asked and answered it all in one fell swoop, causing defenders of the already-existing faith-based courts to wake up, rub their eyes, and wonder if they slept in an extra few days because when they went to sleep, no one was even talking about their courts.

But worry not! McGuinty does take women’s concerns into consideration when making decisions:

The premier said his wife, Terri, had not raised the sharia law issue with him during the lengthy debate, but noted the 17 women in his Liberal caucus urged him to reject the idea.

His wife. For weeks he completely ignored the concerns of seventeen elected members of his caucus, but if only his wife, an elementary school teacher, had broached the subject with him, maybe he’d have changed his mind. And those seventeen caucus members weren’t wondering whether religious abitration could be part of a cohesive multicultural society - they were objecting to the sharia courts on the grounds that they were discriminatory. Which is just a side issue to that “pretty fundamental question”. If that. (Thanks to wolfangel for highlighting that gem.)

I’ve got plenty of other thoughts on this issue - in short, I think that this “all or nothing” approach to religious arbitration is a cop-out, and doesn’t recognize the fact that many aspects of religion, can, and should, be evaluated on their own merits, and the divide between Religious Practices and A Secular Society is an artificial one, and anyone who disagrees with me can put their money where their mouth is by dipping into their own holiday time to take Christmas off, and don’t even try to tell me that Christmas is a secular holiday - but really, I think this is quite enough for now.

In the meantime, we can all commend Dalton McGuinty for his devotion to equality, and to one law for all. Previously, many Canadians were concerned that Muslim women would not be respected as equals in the Sharia courts, and that their concerns would be dismissed. McGuinty, however, has assured us by his actions that the concerns of all women, including those in his own caucus, would be dismissed equally.

7/9/2005

My country, timid and unsure

Meanwhile, back in the homeland, we have apparently learned the finer points of how to convict loathesome pieces of shit for hate speech by studying the materials used to prepare debutantes for matriculation from the nation’s top finishing schools. Really, we’re just that polite: witness [part of] Judge Marty Irwin’s explanation for convicting David Ahenakew of hate speech and stripping him of his membership in the Order of Canada:

[Irwin] noted that, rather than being “timid, unsure or rattled,” Ahenakew’s demeanour “bordered on self-confidence to the point of arrogance.”

Sure, Mr. Ahenakew, you openly and publicly declared that Hitler was just helping rid his neighbourhood of the “Jewish disease” when he “fried six million of those guys”, and you appear to have appointed yourself the official spokesperson for the updated edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and for that we’ll take back your medal and fine you a thousand bucks, but - self-confidence? Arrogance? Failure to be rattled by criticism? Heavens above, that’s just unCanadian!