Sunday, January 23, 2005

Memories of War

On February 28, 2003, I wrote:

The casualties of war are also at home. Do you remember the Cold War, Nuclear Attack drills at school, bomb shelters, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or Vietnam? I do.

Do you remember the awful way the American public treated their own soldiers returning from Vietnam and the heartbreak of finding out years later that they died or were wounded because of huge government lies? I do.

Have you talked with the homeless men who are Vietnam vets? Ask how their government has treated them for the sacrifices they made. Have you faced the wrong end of a loaded rifle pointed at you in anger or had a buddy ripped apart by a shell that missed you? George W. Bush certainly has not either.

Have you had the experience of killing a man, face-to-face, with a bullet or a knife or taking his head off with a garrote. Have you done multiple assassinations or been part of a Tiger squad and then spent the next 20 years in the priesthood trying to find forgiveness? My friend has and it will haunt him forever.

If any of these things were within your own personal experience, you would not be anxious to go to war, or send someone else's kid there. Sometimes we have no choice but to go to war. But those situations are mercifully extremely rare. Why do you think that the Vets from any war rarely talk about their experiences? The pain and the guilt never go away.

A war in Iraq will have huge casualties in the U.S.A. and other countries, for years to come. Are they acceptable losses?

Now my eldest son is in Baghdad, Iraq in the middle of a war. His Blog is at .

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tyranny of the majority

It is hardly fair when one lamb and ten wolves sit down to decide what will be for dinner.

The greatest flaw in Democracy is the risk of tyranny of the majority over minority rights. Just because a numeric majority voted for something does not make it morally right. It simply makes their will enforceable.

We see this being enacted all the time, particularly in religious debates exercising political pressure over the rights of others who are not of that religion or any religion and whose followers will never be affected by the legislation. It happens in many countries. Such public debates have included issues of birth control, abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment, racial equality, First Nations' treaty rights, etc.

In Canada, the First Nations were systematically suppressed, culturally disenfranchised and their children sent to Residential Schools where they endured incredible abuse, enforced by the white majority. In the U.S.A., the white majority were able to enforce the enslavement of the black and aboriginal minorities, and they currently permit their leaders to wage a pre-emptive war in Iraq. That has placed one of my children in harm's way. The majority in Germany chose Adolf Hitler and supported the deaths of millions of Jews and others in World War II. It doesn't make it moral or right. It simply makes it enforceable. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz called it "Might is right".?

Personally, I really like a minority government. It forces moderation and compromise that consider all the people, not just the political ideology of the current party in power. Ideology is replaced by the need to politically survive. I may vote for a particular party, but it doesn't mean I trust them. It simply means I see them as the lesser of a bunch of evils. I don't trust anyone who seeks power.

I certainly see the tyranny of the majority over the minority in dealing with disability issues. Those with major disabilities, visible and invisible, are kept at a subsistence existence below the poverty level. Many are imprisoned or homeless. There is little political will by the majority to care for our most vulnerable. As a result, we lack diagnostic and treatment facilities, rehab facilities, special education funding, proper social service supports and a humane justice system.

"I did not speak up
The Nazis came for the Communists, and I did not speak up because I was not Communist.
They came for the Jews and I didn't speak up for I was not a Jew.
They came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist.
They came for the Catholics and I was Protestant so I didn't speak up.
Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Pastor Martin Niemoller (d.1984)

One of the greatest achievements in Canadian history has been the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the supreme law of the land.
“(Human rights legislation) is often the final refuge of the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised.” - Supreme Court of Canada in Zurich Insurance Co. v. Ontario Human Rights Commission, infra note 46, at para. 18.

Politicians of the moment can enact legislation, most of it being part of the ideological platform of the majority party in power. Fortunately, the legislation must be measured against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure the rights of all, including minorities, are respected. The Charter acts as a check and balance over the tyranny of the majority.