Monday, July 29, 2013

On enemies lists, and what our mothers would say

The brouhaha over the revelation that the Prime Minister’s Office prepared enemies lists has died down somewhat, although former Harper cabinet minister Monte Solberg weighed back in this weekend with a rather weak defense of the government you and I both pay for making enemies lists of its own citizens:

The point is there is a very good reason for keeping track of the people who will do anything to destroy your government. You keep track of them because they will do anything to destroy your government.

I could talk about how he exaggerates the animus of the government’s opponents, how he was part of a government that took the demonization and isolation of those with legitimate policy-based disagreements to a new extreme, how treating someone as an enemy inevitably makes them one, and so on and so on.

But you know what, who cares? As I read his column, and as he stated his argument, I pictured what I’m sure everybody’s mother, including Monte’s and certainly mine, said to squabbling siblings: I don’t care who started it, I’m going to finish it!

To varying degrees, yes, political opponents have been attacking, unfairly or otherwise, each other since time immemorial. Our political system is, by its very nature, adversarial. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It allows (in theory) differing viewpoints to be explored and debated, hopefully making for better public policy. 

It hasn’t worked like that for some time. I have an opinion about when that started, though I suspect it differs from Monte’s.

It doesn’t matter though. I don’t care who started it. At some point, everyone needs to remember that we’re all people with differing deeply-held views that want to build a better country. And it should probably happen before a government categorizes its own citizens, not as opponents, but as enemies.

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