It was a wonderful day as the sun smiled upon Calgary last Sunday. I stood outside MacEwan Hall enjoying the sun with a Palestinian friend of mine in the most unlikely of places; smack in the middle of hundreds of pro-war protestors.
Proudly waving their red, white and blue, demonstrators came to show their support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. As things warmed up, demonstrators began chanting "Regime change in Ottawa! Regime change in Ottawa!" This was followed by an absurd lady shouting "freedom fries, not French fries!" and even more surprisingly, people actually joined in on the childish chant.
Now remember, these are not immature or overly-idealistic twenty-something lefties; these are largely middle aged, self-proclaimed educated folk.
As the event moved inside to the new ballroom in MacEwan Hall, me and a few other observers decided to have a seat at the back and enjoy the show. Before I mention anything else, I wish to give credit to all the good folks at the event for being courteous to us. Being the only coloured persons there, we were quite visibly the only ones that did not stand up or clap during the entire event. It would have been easy for emotional participants to point us out and take some anger out on us--something that did not happen.
Ezra Levant, a Calgary Sun columnist, lawyer and former Alliance leadership candidate, introduced and hosted the event. Ezra, as you might well know, is the wonderful columnist who derided the Palestinian students at the U of C as radicals and extremists because they invited a Rabbi to speak. While Ezra might mind Palestinian extremism, he demonstrated on Sunday that he has little problem with the American variety. Throughout the event, Jean Chretien, the democratically elected leader of this nation, was disparaged merrily. Fair enough. But then came the insults hurled at the French. Speakers proclaimed that Chretien was serving the French and pandering to anti-Americanism in Quebec; assumingly the idea is that French Canadians are not Canadian and their views should not matter.
Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I could not help but feel I was in the midst of very deluded and uninformed people. Constantly the ideas of "liberty" and "democracy" were evoked while at the same time speakers called for "regime change in Ottawa." The contradiction is quite obvious and in my view almost treasonous. All too often war-mongers try to incite us by exploiting the memories of the thousands of young men who perished defending our freedom. When citizens of Canada clamour for our nation's democratically elected government to be overthrown through military force, they are in essence spitting in the face of those very men who died for our freedom.
The noble principles of democracy and liberty are to these pro-war demonstrators what the noble principles of Islam are to supporters of Osama Bin Laden. Yes, I'm equating the two, moral equivalency and all. As a Muslim I couldn't help but see the parallels between militaristic extremism and Islamic extremism. Both camps invoke noble principles, both camps incite people to violence and both camps provide little or no explanation as to why their noble principles are consistent with their violence.
Are cruise missiles, Abrams battle tanks, army checkpoints, puppet governments, or Chevron and BP going to bring about democracy? Not one of the speakers dared to actually explain how this "liberation" of Iraq is exactly going to work, especially considering the U.S. track record of "liberating" Third World countries. But then again, debate and reason aren't exactly the hallmarks of the war party. Not that it ever mattered anyway.
The yelps of "heehaw!" and "booya!" were reminder enough that the desire for war is as intelligent as the desires of a mob at the Roman Coliseum. They want war, period. In this case, democracy and liberty are just convenient excuses.