Tag Archives: terrorism

Jagmeet Singh’s Charm Offensive

His nice words don’t quite square with nasty realities

✎  Wayne K. Spear | October 5, 2017 ◈ Politics

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HE HEADLINES trumpeting Jagmeet Singh’s NDP leadership win each conformed to one of two themes. Either his victory as a “non-white” candidate was unprecedented, or it could be credited to the very-much-precedented appeal of charisma, GQ-worthy style, and handsomeness. The American papers in particular didn’t fail to notice that another Trudeau had arrived on the scene, ending the Prime Minister’s cornering of the charm market. Nor does the ringing of familiar bells end there. Kesh and kara aside, the new NDP leader is political boilerplate: a lawyer from Scarborough who speaks (cautiously) in both official languages and who celebrates Canada’s diversity and wholesomeness in, no doubt, focused-group-tested terms.

Jagmeet SinghCanada’s newest GQ leader

But, of course, he isn’t just another politician. He’s Sikh, and he is now leader of a federal political party, and as such he’s nullified a barrier to political office we should be glad to see nullified. The Charisma War can now begin, and how discouraging this prospect must be for the Conservative leader, Mr. Scheer, whose New York Times headline said: “Canada’s Conservatives Choose Andrew Scheer as Their New Leader.” In the meantime we all know how these battles are going to be fought, and that is with the ammunition of buttery words shot at the hardworking families of the middle class. Gone are the days when a political party might actually have something to fight for or about, such as proletariat revolution or tooth-and-claw capitalism. It’s three parties for the middle class, comrade. So who do you think has the nicest suit?

There are still things in this world for which and over which people fight and kill and die. The recent history of the Indian and Pakistan Punjab, birthplace of Jagmeet Singh’s parents, comes to mind. Since the British withdrawal from the region in the 1940s, the Punjab and Kashmir regions have been among the world’s most dangerous and volatile. The sectarian hatreds of two nuclear states and their diverse internal populations have engendered horrific violence, and while it may be true that none of this registers with the average Canadian, some of the old-world baggage has found its way to places like Brampton and Surrey and Vancouver. Canadians ought to care about that, more than they do.

There was a time when obscure causes like an independent Sikh state of Khalistan (obscure from a Canadian perspective) made headlines from Halifax to Vancouver. On June 23, 1985, Sikh terrorists associated with Babbar Khalsa put a bomb on Air India Flight 182 as well as on a plane bound for Japan—the latter detonated at the Japanese airport, killing the baggage handlers—one member of Babbar Khalsa having vowed that “we will not rest” until they had killed 50,000 Hindus. There are Sikh nationalists who to this day celebrate as a martyr the man behind this crime, the largest-ever mass murder of Canadian citizens, Talwinder Singh Babbar.

What has this to do with Jagmeet Singh? Nothing, really. But at the prospect of questions about Khalistan and Sikh extremism and the “martyrdom” of Talwinder Singh Babbar, the charming bespoke Jagmeet Singh fade into the curtains to be replaced by a cagey and defensive and lawyerly Jagmeet Singh? Why does he demand that all questions along these lines be submitted in advance and all transcriptions of his answers vetted prior to publication? Probably all the reasons one asks for these things: to prepare an answer, to avoid surprises, to make the best possible impression.

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 10.52.32 AMA headline from Sikh Siyasat News

To his credit, Jagmeet Singh appeared on the October 2nd episode of Power and Politics despite Terry Milewski’s refusal to grant Singh’s terms. There, Milewski asked, “Do you think that some Canadian Sikhs go too far when they honour Talwinder Singh Babbar as a martyr of the Sikh nation?” Singh argued, falsely in my view, that Sikhs and Hindus co-exist “in peace and harmony, and we need to celebrate that.” (I ask you: how on earth can you square this idea with the Flight 182 bombing?) Pressed further, he said:

So, it is so unacceptable that violence that was committed—the heinous massacre that was committed—is something that Sikhs, Muslim, Hindus all denounced, the violence as perpetrated against innocent Canadian lives, is something we all denounce. I regularly denounce it on the anniversary. It’s something that we all collectively are opposed to. There is no question about this, that innocent lives were killed and it is completely unacceptable and needs to be denounced as a terrorist act.

He never answered the question, “Do you think that some Canadian Sikhs go too far when they honour Talwinder Singh Babbar as a martyr of the Sikh nation?” But he did answer two questions that Terry Milewski didn’t ask. Again I am reminded of Trudeau.

Dear Mr. God, It’s Me Charlie

Dear Mr God I am Charlie

In many places around this world, I would be killed just for posting this dumb letter

THIS IS SLIGHTLY weird for me. I don’t believe that you exist, so it’s like writing a letter to Santa, except I’ve never seen you at the mall or on a can of Coca-Cola or falling down drunk on 53th Street during a Santacon pub crawl (fun!). So maybe you’re not like Santa, or maybe you are—in which case, Dear Mr. God, I will be good this year and I’d like $250,000 and a few award-winning articles in a prestigious publication of your choosing, please and thank-you.

I don’t know if you’ve been listening in on the conversations, but a lot of people are talking about you. Not directly about you. More like about people who bring up your name a lot. Some of the talk is about whether or not it’s okay to make fun of the people who claim to believe in you, and who say they will defend your reputation from offence and ridicule and criticism. In fact, some of your keenest followers object to seeing depictions of you at all. A small percentage of them appear to think it’s okay to kill people who do or say things they (you?) deem improper or objectionable, because they are doing it for you.

Now, I know what it’s like to have followers. I’m on Twitter and I have, like, tens of them. (My handle is @waynekspear, btw, if you and the baby Jesus & anyone else want to, you know.) Like you, I don’t expect to be held responsible for the behavior of my followers. Some of them probably have bed-head and can’t even parallel park or order a proper deli sandwich. Odds are that at least one of my social media followers has feet that smell like cheese. I bet some of them don’t floss. My point is that I will be very embarrassed if one of them ever decides to start a feet-cheese anti-flossing religion in my name.

Okay, so that’s the male-bonding portion of this letter. It’s amazing how quickly I sort of eased into it. See how I’m just chillin with you, like you totally exist?

I gather you’re all about the Truth, and the truth as I see it is that I’m tired of all the killing and bigotry and hatred that people commit, for whatever reasons. I’m equally sick and tired of discussions and debates about: whether or not you exist, what it is exactly that you want from us, your rules for our lives, who speaks on your behalf, and which of your many books is the right one to read. I get it. I’ve written more than one book, too, and the answer to the question “Wayne, which of your books is the right one to read?” is, obviously, get all of them. You’re just doing what any author does, which is building a good product funnel. Heck, you invented that.

So, I’m tired. Many of the people who believe in you, most of them in fact, are just fine by me. They live in peace with their neighbors. They live simple decent lives. Some of them smell nice. Then there are the people who are destroying everything. They’ve made it a nightmare to get on an airplane. They’ve made it likely that civil war and mass murder and persecution will flourish for as far into the future as we can imagine. They’ve ruined entire countries like Syria and Iraq and Pakistan, and they aim to ruin more. They hate music and education and science and books and irony and sex and wine and movies and fun and even cartoons. They love death and war and terror. I mean, that’s not funny at all.

The arguments about whether or not they are “really” believers, killing and hating despite your words, or even because of them, bores me. But what really tires me more than anything are the people—the people!—who find all sort of reasons why it’s the fault of the people who got killed. If only they didn’t make fun of religion! If only they didn’t criticize! If only they didn’t stop being all racist and phobic! Seems it’s everyone’s fault except the people who did the actual killing. Man, you people are even less clever than the killers themselves.

Because, in my view, you are a made-up thing—like the idea that there are unicorns and fairies, or that Sarah Palin “writes” books—I’m not doing this to ask or tell you anything. You don’t exist. There is no evidence for you at all, except inside people’s brains and in the books those brains have made. Homo sapien brains and nervous systems make some people pretty certain you are real, and that’s fine. I can’t prove you don’t, and I’m not interested in even trying.

Here’s the reason I wrote this: in many places around this world, I would be killed just for posting this dumb letter. I think that is wrong and stupid and sick, and I hope everyone out there agrees with me. But I know they don’t all agree with me, and the evidence is in every newspaper, every day. So, Houston, we have a problem.

Anyway, I hope I was able to make you laugh. I like to laugh. Some people, not so much. I can be silly. Some people, not so much. I admit I don’t know the truth about a lot of things. Some people, not so much. So I’m going to make fun of the some people, not because I think they will laugh (they won’t) but because I have chosen Team Fun, Laughter, and Life. [Insert fart joke here.]

Find me on Twitter. Check out my latest book.

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How Ethnocentrism Blinded the War’s Critics to the People of Iraq

president_bush

SCANNING THIS WEEK’S renewal of the Bush and Blair trials, I wondered: do I alone notice the toxic ethnocentrism lurking in the belief that the world’s political disasters are the result of, and response to, America’s policies and actions?

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