When I was a little girl I believed I lived in a world of moral absolutes. There was right and there was wrong. There were Catholics and Protestants. Cops and robbers. The Freeworld and Commie bastards. I was taught to respect authority and trust in the principles of a good government that would always do the right thing. I had a child’s confidence that life’s decisions were simple. You picked good or evil and if you always picked good, everything would turn out fine.
As I grew and experienced a world beyond the swing set in my chain-linked backyard, I learned that things were not always as simple. The world was not a place of moral absolutes and sometimes what we thought was right, later proved to be quite wrong and the trust we had placed in our government and leaders was sometimes misplaced.
Take for example the Avro Arrow. Most Canadians know of this story of pride and betrayal. During the height of the Cold War Canada had developed the world’s fastest interceptor but on the verge of success, the project was scrapped throwing thousands out of work. Some say the Arrow project could have been completed for the cost of the project’s cancellation fees.
As a teen the Vietnam War was served up in clips and sound bites each evening on the nightly news. Like most Canadians I felt a certain smugness that we harboured draft dodgers in opposition to the war. Later we learned how Canada was not only complicit in the bombing of North Vietnam but that our own government had endeavoured to hide this information from us. Canada’s secret war: Vietnam
Earlier this week the Supreme Court of Canada heard the government’s arguement about the necessity of maintaining security certificates to protect national security. These procedings come on the heels of the American news reports of the suicide of three Guantanamo Bay detainees.
All of this brings to mind the 2004 movie Strip Search which examines this issue of individual rights versus national security through the story of two individuals and two governments. The very thought that you could be snatched up off the street for the suspicion of being a threat and imprisoned for years without ever knowing what evidence was being held against you is frightening. In Canada they say they can only do this to foreign nationals and not Canadian citizens but when the basic premise of due process is being trampled, that’s small consolation.
If we, in the West, are supposed to be the beacons of democracy and freedom is it not hypocracy to abandon these principles when it becomes inconvenient?
These days we are told that we live in a different world. A more complicated world. A world where we often must choose the lesser of two evils. Perhaps this is simply an excuse. Perhaps we are too lazy, too greedy, too scared, or too self-righteous to take the time to really figure out what’s wrong.