Categories for Musings

My latest: never again

The High Aryan Warrior Priest of Canada stirred.

“Jesus wasn’t a Jew,” he said, without blinking.

It’s a sunny, warm spring 1986. I’m a reporter for the Calgary Herald, now a Postmedia newspaper. Along with award-winning Herald photographer Larry MacDougal, I’m in the Caroline, Alberta kitchen of Terry Long, the then-recently-anointed leader of the neo-Nazi group called the Aryan Nations.

Larry and I have spent hours with Long, listening to him describe Jews as “the spawn of Satan,” non-whites as “mud people,” and Adolf Hitler as “Elijah the Prophet.” Seriously. With a straight face.

When the interview was done, and Long’s words were safely preserved in my tape recorder, I decided to challenge him.

“Mr. Long, Jesus was always Jewish and a rabbi,” I said to him, as Larry looked at me, wide-eyed. “And the Holocaust is a notorious historical fact.”

Long didn’t haul out one of his many firearms and shoot us, as Larry later told me he expected. Instead, Long almost seemed bemused by what I was saying.

He went into his family’s cluttered living room and returned with a “bible,” one published by the Aryan Nations. In it, he patiently explained, Jesus Christ was in no way Jewish. And the Holocaust did not happen, in any way, shape or form, he added.

“There’s proof,” he said. In other words, if historical facts don’t conform to your prejudices, then simply conjure up new proofs. Write your own bible, create your own history.

That’s what Terry Long did — and Jim Keegstra, and Ernst Zundel, and every other Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi leader I ever interviewed, too. They denied, dismissed and debated the Holocaust, to whitewash the crimes of Hitler and his regime.

And they created a Jesus Christ who wasn’t ever a Jew. Because the Messiah couldn’t be the “spawn of Satan,” then.

That’s what the experts blandly call historical revisionism. And it is underway in this country, right now. But not about Christ or the Holocaust.

It’s about what really happened inside those so-called residential schools. And what is buried in unmarked graves behind them.

Denying Indigenous children and babies are found in those graves — or, if they are in those graves, that they all died of natural causes. No crimes were committed, in other words.

That’s historical revisionism — in the current context, it’s denial of what is almost certainly cultural or literal genocide. It’s a disturbing trend, and this writer has seen it growing in recent days.

On social media, in comments underneath columns like this one, alongside articles about the increasing number of unmarked graves being discovered: The deniers are out there, patiently denying history. They’re relentless.

Is it to whitewash the sins of Sir John A. Macdonald? To excuse the Liberals, whose party was in power for most of the years in which residential schools operated? To subtly (and not so subtly) express contempt for the pain of the Indigenous community?

The reasons vary. The methodologies, too. But the effect is the same: To deny history. To sanitize the misdeeds and the crimes of the past.

It needs to stop. The residential schools existed. More than 100,000 Indigenous children were forced into them. Thousands died. And some — hundreds? thousands? — did not die of natural causes. (Why bury them in unmarked graves, then, if not to hide wrongdoing?)

Debate is good. Dissent is good. But denying terrible misdeeds — when there is proof of those misdeeds — is a terrible, terrible thing to do.

To both the living and the dead.

— Warren Kinsella was a Special Ministerial Representative for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs

Dear deniers

My latest: Trudeau will win – because of us

Is Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party going to win the coming election?

Yes, probably. But not because of him, really. He’s likely going to win because of us.

Yes, us. Ten reasons.

1. Midstream horses. The pandemic has been the most disruptive event of our lifetimes — politically, economically, culturally, personally. During a crisis of this magnitude, nobody likes to change horses midstream.

2. Incumbency matters. When you have power, you have the edge: The media pay more attention to you; you have money to spend; you make consequential decisions. Your challengers have none of that. Incumbents always have the upper hand. That’s particularly the case since COVID hit.

3. Scandals are irrelevant. Justin Trudeau has had more scandals than any prime minister in more than a generation. But it doesn’t matter. The media and political people squawk about scandals too often, so the public tune it out. Until you are led away in an orange pants suit and handcuffs, they just don’t care.

4. Editorials are irrelevant. We in the media can write editorial endorsements until the cows come home. But what we want voters to do doesn’t matter — plenty of studies show that voters are not swayed by editorials. At all.

5. Voters are their own editors.People receive most of their political information from social media. That gives them the ability to choose what and when they want to see and read. And they tend to only follow sources who correspond to their own biases and opinions.

6. Low information. We live in an era of low-information voters: They are too busy with trying to make a living, raise their kids, and pay the bills. They don’t have time to worry about what the media and politicians worry about. They just need to know the basics. Trudeau gives them that.

7. Hope trumps fear. After the pandemic, after what we’ve gone through, people don’t want to hear any more bad news. They only want to hear good news. Trudeau is exceptionally good about focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative.

8. Ideas count. Voters don’t want to hear why the other guy is bad. They want to hear what you will do, and when you will do it. During the pandemic, Trudeau has been using the public service to come up with ideas. His Conservative opponents have come up with none.

9. Optics matter. Did you know that Erin O’Toole is actually younger than Justin Trudeau? I’ll bet you didn’t know that. How you look and sound on a voter’s TV or computer screen matters more than what you say. That’s depressing, but it’s reality.

10. People are happier than they were. The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, people are increasingly getting their second dose of vaccine. They feel pretty good. And Justin Trudeau knows it.

As depressing as it may be, Trudeau is likely to win again.

And we are the reason. Not him.

— Warren Kinsella was special assistant to Jean Chretien

Orange crushed?