, 11.25.2019 05:28 AM

Why I’m not so critical about Justin Trudeau lately

As regular customers know, I’m a Democrat.  Large “D.”

I work on Democratic Party campaigns as a volunteer.  In 2016, I worked for Hillary in three states, including her Brooklyn headquarters.  I’ve volunteered for Democrats for as long as I can remember.

But I’m also a democrat, small “D.” I believe in democracy.

Saying that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it sort of is.  I come from the punk culture, you see.  The punk movement – defined as it is by anger, and aggression, and DIY, and creativity, and anti-racism – is where I started, and it’s the place where I feel like I can breathe.  It defines me.

Punks despise politics, however.  They think politicians are the scum of the Earth.  And they think democracy is a sham.

Take Gerry Useless, for example.  I met him in 1979 or so, when I brought his band, the Subhumans, to Calgary for the first time.

The Subhumans were intensely political, in a way that other punk bands (particularly North American ones) were afraid to be in the 1970s. In the United States or Canada, it was difficult to advocate for the sort of anarchy and class warfare the Sex Pistols and the Clash sang about. The economic chaos that hit Britain – characterized by massive unemployment, collapsing public services and actual race riots – was not really happening to the same degree in North America.

But the Subhumans and a few others were still unsatisfied with the way things were, and – to their credit – they regularly challenged their audience to press for radical change. For instance, in September 1979, Useless helped initiate Rock Against Radiation, an outdoor concert in Vancouver’s Vanier Park that featured DOA, the Subhumans, the Pointed Sticks and the K-Tels protesting both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. More than three thousand people showed up: the event was a fantastic example of the positive, proselytizing power of punk. Everyone was impressed, but not Gerry Useless.

Gerry Useless wanted more. His patience for societal change – change that was the product of a democratic process – was wearing thin. He wanted to do more than just sing about revolution.  He didn’t believe democracy worked anymore – or even if it ever did.

So he became a terrorist, basically. Useless and some other disaffected Vancouver punk rockers started doing things, and not just talking about things.  They broke into someone’s home and stole a cache of guns. They did lots of robberies, office-trashings and vandalism. When they were in need, they shoplifted; they became good at stealing cars.

Earlier in 1982, Useless and Co. had stolen a half-ton of Toval dynamite from a construction site; later, they located nearly 2,000 pounds of explosives at another remote site owned by the provincial highways department. They targeted the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir hydroelectrical transmission line, near Squamish, in May 1982. Early in the morning of May 31, they blew up four shunt reactors with 400 pounds of the stolen dynamite. The explosion was powerful enough to wake up residents ten kilometers away.

In the Summer and early Fall of 1982, Gerry Useless and his friends selected their next big target – Litton Systems, in Toronto. Litton manufactured the guidance system for U.S. cruise missiles.  The gang brought 550 pounds of explosives across Canada for that one.

In the resulting explosion, they almost killed a man, Terry Chikowski.  The bomb Useless and the others planted at Litton systems split open Chikowski’s back by approximately 14 inches. Four pounds of muscle were blown out of his back. Part of a rib, took. His spleen disintegrated. Four ribs snapped off his spine and four others cracked. A hole was blown in the lower left side of his stomach. His left lung and left kidney collapsed. His diaphragm was split. There were fragments of glass from in his heart.

Half a brick that was embedded in Terry Chikowski’s back, along with a piece of sheet metal. It was sticking out of him like a shark’s fin. Chikowski was in good physical shape before the bomb. Somehow, he survived.

Asked about it afterwards, Gerry Useless and his friends kind of shrugged: “Accidents happen,” they said.  Before long, they’d all go to jail, for a long time.

Why do I relate this long story? Because I knew Gerry Useless – we all did, in the punk scene – and it affected me.  And there are still those, like Jello Biafra, who seem indifferent to what Gerry Useless did.  Not me.

My punk friends will often say I shouldn’t have gotten involved in politics.  They say democracy is flawed, a farce.  They say that you will keep compromising, until you trade away parts of your soul.

I say this: “I won’t win every argument.  I won’t win every debate.  I think that democracy – however imperfect it is – encourages compromise, and conciliation, and change. Democracy is way better than what Gerry Useless did.”

Which brings us back to Fall 2019.  To me, a lawyer, obstruction of justice is disqualifying.  To me, a man who aspires to be a better man, groping a woman is disqualifying. To me, to someone who has aggressively opposed racism since my punk days, wearing blackface should also disqualify you from public office.  Any public office.  Full stop.

But millions of Canadians considered all of that, and they didn’t like it, but they decided to give the wrongdoer another chance.  They decided to forgive him.

So, I have a choice: keep slamming my fists against the wall, knowing that it will change nothing.  Or, consider that – if I’m a democrat – I have to accept a different outcome, this time.  I have to defer to the judgment of others, however wrong I think they might be.  The judgment of the many, not of the one.

That’s what it means to be a democrat, to me.  It’s also a way to avoid what happened to Gerry Useless.

It’s a way to remain sane in an insane world.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Paul Proderick says:

    Great read Warren!

  2. Hugh says:

    I can begrudgingly agree, but will still maintain a watchful eye.
    On a somewhat related note, I’m glad that I read the entire piece (as opposed to some folks responding on Twitter) as I had assumed that you were referring to Gerald Butts and his associates in the PMO rather than the Punk group.

  3. Pamela Ingold says:

    Great read. Must google Gary Useless now…

  4. Brian says:

    Hi Warren, I have a question.

    You consider yourself a Democrat. Which is fine. It’s no secret that you lean left and that’s cool. You can also be extremely outspoken and with that; I disagree about as often as I agree with you.

    There’s evidence against Trudeau. It’s literally laid out in “black and white.” He’s crooked, he’s a liar, he’s allegedly suppressed stories about his involvement with students; his former roomate and teaching colleague is a child porn afficianado and from the B-roll footage of election night with his wife beside him on a sofa “watching the results come in,” there was little doubt of the contempt she displayed for her husband. The body language was unmistakable. I’ve spoken to people who are life long Liberals and have worked for his father. They saw it clearly too and the fact that he and his wife are seldom seen together is something that I question. This is not why I write though…

    Here’s the question: (We know you dislike Trump.)

    What happens or could you describe what you might do if The Clinton’s and their foundation are found to be “bad actors” in US and global politics by engaging in bribery and bilking public coffers to line their pockets?

    What happens to your democratic leanings if Bill is actually found out to be a paedo like Prince Andrew is being scrutinised for? (Who was at Epstein’s more often? Bill or Andrew and why has Clinton been given a pass? (You’re a lawyer and democrat yet you stand firm and haven’t reported word one about the Clinton/Epstein connection.)

    What happens if Hillary (which we know) attacks her husbands victims and essentially apologises for his alleged rape of Juanita Broderick as she has done in the past? Remember what she did to Monica Lewinsky?

    What happens if the democrats are found by John Durham to have intentionally undermined the 2016 US election and Obama and Clinton and Biden and Rice and Pelosi and Kerry and Brennan and Clapper and yadda, yadda, yadda were all in on it?

    Are you going to support the party or an investigation? Would you support the courts first or the party? Would you accept the findings if any of those listed above if the Democrat party were found to have made attempts to undermine the Republic?

    I mean, the fact is: The Democrats are against The Republic and have been since the Civil War. There were a few that had better ideas—I mean JFK is one but he came from a family known for criminal enterprise—His family bought an election and people were killed (including himself,) threatened, there was mob interaction, Hollywood influence pedaling and so much more….

    Anyway; there’s a lot there. Be great to know if your as much of a punk as you claim. Are you enough of a punk to stick your thumb in the eye of the horrible side of left and keep it there, especially if they’re given due process and found guilty of sedition or treason or rape or paedophilia or murder or stealing from the citizenry? (I personally don’t think you would be willing to turn your back on nor destroy Liberals or Democrats for anything—Trudeau and his policies and the fact that they’ve sworn not to speak of “PM Groper Bigot Racist Pig” and his misdeeds in the same way; The Clinton’s and Obama’s have been lionized and protected by the left in America.

    Are you a democrat first or a lawyer first?

  5. joe says:

    I contrast the treatment the whistleblower received from democrats in the USA, with the treatment JWR received from the Liberals in Canada.

  6. Chris Haines says:

    Amazing column. We can all be a bit useless at times. This is a good reminder. Thank you.

  7. the real Sean says:

    Sorry, can’t agree. Justin Trudeau and the tiny, sleaze infested group around him are the very worst the Liberal Party will ever have to offer. Their level of corruption is without precedence among Liberal Governments and approaching the very worst in the history of Canada. Canadians didn’t forgive anything, which is why they lost by 240,000 votes.

  8. PAM LEVY says:

    I get that our views can change and soften. I still think that Justin is creepy and dangerous. Oh and I forgot to include corrupt.

  9. Robert White says:

    Back in 79 all the musicians I played with were Fine Arts artists with no penchant whatsoever for any sort of violence or law breaking unless it was Municipal Law for noise.

    Useless was a criminal using Punk Rock as a front for domestic terrorism. If he attempted that sort of thing anywhere in or around Ottawa he would find CSIS & RCMP plus two other police forces tracking his every move for the remainder of his risk taking life.

    Punk was an art form of pissing off authority & authoritarians without the tally of record keeping that would follow one for the rest of time.

    In 1979 the RCMP & CSIS were still covertly following James Laxer thinking he was a covert Communist with sympathy for that form of rule.

    Useless was useless.

    RW

  10. Debbie Sinclair says:

    Choosing to be a Democrat as a way to avoid ending up a terrorist ? Warren try setting the bar higher. To say you accept things that are wrong because it will not change a thing is sad. Keep up the good fight and never give up hope for a better world. I think in Canada democracy is slipping away very quickly. Today if you express your opinion the Libs or Dems want to shut you down and scream hate speech, bigotry …no longer can it be called a disagreement. There is no room for debate..it simply will not be tolerated. No matter your stand on ethical issues such as abortion or assisted death every Canadian is entitled to protection of Freedom of Conscience. Global news posted an article about a bioethicist from Queen’s University who wants new rules enforced banning all nurses and doctors entering the medical field unless they sign an agreement to kill babies and to perform euthanasia even if it is morally repulsive and against their religious beliefs. Who made him God? Our grandchildren will be raised under a totalitarian government with limited career paths as they are rejected and told they to move on. It is actually frightening to believe Freedom of Conscience would not be protected under the Charter. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with a solution. One only needs to call Telehealth to ask for the nearest doctor for specific needs. But again this will not satisfy the “no toleration” rule. To say Canada is all inclusive is an illusion, a lie. Take a few minutes to read the article. https://globalnews.ca/news/6183548/medical-school-applicants-abortion-assisted-death-conscientious-objectors/

  11. Gilbert says:

    I think we should refer to Justin Trudeau as blackbody, not blackface.

  12. Gavin Bamber says:

    The Squamish 5 … for those who want to look up this terrorist group. Members were Ann Hansen, Brent Taylor, Juliet Caroline Belmas, Doug Stewart and Gerry Hannah (Gerry Useless)

  13. lyn says:

    We are not a post-national state as Justin likes to think. We are Canadians with shared values…respect for the rule of law, equality, fairness & tolerance, peace, diversity, freedom of speech, patriotism the right to debate. Canadians are accepting people this is why we have multiculturalism. It is Justin Trudeau and Butts trying to change what the Liberals stand for by going far left this is NOT the Liberal party I once was part of…it has been taken over by the Laurentian Elites lead by Justin/Butts. Just a wee bit of something I read about. The Liberals propose to remove the warning female genital mutilation and so called honour killing from our citizenship guide. Justin has broken the law so many times now, it seem to be common place with him. We need you Warren to keep Justin’s feet to the fire you know the law than we lay people. The Liberal Party as we knew it has been stolen…Canada does have VALUES!!

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