Not “idiots”

Americans are not “idiots.” Despite all the rantings of Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish about “the coalition of the idiots,” our neighbours to the south are far from mentally challenged. In fact, Americans are downright clever. They didn’t get to the top of the world heap by being “idiots.”

On the other hand, they do some rather stupid things at times, just like any other government or human being across the globe. Stupidity is not reserved for any single nation or individual — we’re all guilty of it at one time or another. But, it’s the wiser among us who are able to learn a lesson from past stupid mistakes and go forward with confidence in knowing that the same stupid error won’t be repeated.

Parrish is guilty of her own stupid errors and seems to be incapable of learning from the past. It was she who earlier called the Bush administration “bastards.”

“The last one was really a stupid thing to say,” she told the news agency Reuters as reported by CNN. “Bastards is an inappropriate word. Idiots is a term people use in everyday conversation.”

Granted, we can occasionally refer to a neighbour who tosses the baby out with the bath water as an “idiot,” but our neighbours are not Members of Parliament, and we’re not saying it into a microphone. Parrish should know better and should have learned from the past, but she didn’t and she has once again enraged the people next door.

She has even refused to apologize for her negative remark, although Prime Minister Paul Martin has urged her to do so. “There is no room in this debate for that kind of language,” he told reporters. “You’re going to get very strongly held views but let me tell you those strongly held views have got to be expressed in language that is acceptable.”

“That’s Mr. Martin’s opinion,” she countered. “No, I’m not going to apologize.”

It is apparent that Parrish speaks as harshly as she does because of her ideological baggage. She and a smattering of other MPs and officials make a career of American bashing and expect not to suffer the consequences. Although she has not been punished by being removed from the Liberal caucus, she should be prepared to exercise a little more discretion in the future. Parrish has to realize that if she proceeds as she has been, she will  eventually be called to task. Remember the example of former PM Jean Chretien’s top spokesperson, Francoise Ducros, who called U.S. President George W. Bush a moron. She was forced to resign for that lapse. 

Parrish doesn’t like the Bush administration, a view that may be held by a majority of Canadians, but that doesn’t mean that she has the public right to resort to name-calling when it comes to disagreeing with American government policy. Canadian farmers, trying to get the American border reopened to live cattle, probably cringed when informed of her comment. Cattle ranchers can be forgiven for not seeing it as an “influence friends” moment. 

Whether or not the missile defence strategy is a wise course of action is not relevant. What is relevant is that the Bush administration already eyes Canada with grave disapproval and Parrish’s comments does nothing to change their opinion. Eventually, the Canadian government will make up its mind on the issue of  missile defence, and if it’s wrong in the minds of Canadian voters, the Liberals will be punished at the ballot box. Until then, the public debate on the issue should at least appear to be discussed in a civil manner — that’s traditionally been the Canadian way. When we disagree with someone, we don’t call them “bastards, morons” or “idiots” to their face  through the media and expect to get away with it without further consequences.

President Bush has done some rather stupid things, such as fudging intelligence reports to justify the war in Iraq and giving a tax break to the top one per cent of America’s richest people and then calling it a benefit to all Americans. But he’s not alone in doing stupid things in the good old U.S. of A. President Lyndon Johnson cooked up a phony attack on two U.S. destroyers to justify expanding the war in Vietnam, embroiling the nation in one of its greatest military disasters of all time and killing over 55,000 Americans in the process. It also distracted Johnson from his “War on Poverty,” a war that at least had a chance of victory, but was instead defeated by the need to pump billions and billions of dollars into Vietnam as the conflict escalated out of control. 

The urge to periodically flex their muscles seems to do funny things to American presidents. Sometimes they don’t make overly wise decisions, but  that is their choice. We can agree to disagree with civility and then try to get them to come around to another course of action. If you want someone to respect your opinion, you don’t go around calling them an “idiot.” Accuse them of suffering a momentary, though correctable, lapse in judgement, but never, ever resort to calling them an “idiot” and expect that they will eventually be forgiving. That’s not how things are done in the world of real politics.