What Has Happened to my Country?

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George Galloway - What has happened to my country?
by Richard Kastelein - (Publisher, Atlantic Free Press)
Having been an expat for more than 20 years - I have only spent a few years in Canada since 1987 - I missed the countries' transition to conservatism... for the greater part. Stephen Harper, Bush's enfant terrible - and his band of corporate cronies - have always seemed like an overspill of American Conservatism creeping north and I always had enough faith in the sensible people of Canada to control the beast and vote out the selfish, xenophobic, vermin that prey on fear and use it to push their political agenda.

But I knew things had changed when I came home one trip about a decade ago to British Columbia for a visit and dad was reading the Toronto Globe and Mail. Apparently it was the last vestige of progressive rhetoric in the country. It was a paper he would not wipe his ass with ten years earlier. He said there was virtually no progressive mainstream media left in B.C. and he found himself buying a newspaper from the other side of the country just to get away from the incessant pounding of the conservatives in the provincial media. I was surprised.

How things change.

I grew up with Hippie-ish' Left Coast parents... lots of land, lots of peace - There was a wonderful blend of socio-anarchism in my house - enough leftie values to understand the collective and how we had to share as humans and enough anarchy to understand that government should not be telling people what to read, watch, or what to listen too... along with a healthy resistance to idea of collectivism in the form of a 1984 or Brave New World... we lived a kind of golden centre between despotism and anarchy.

I grew up Canadian - and was kinda' proud of it - in a quiet, personal, modest way.

But I really feel shocked today. And ashamed in a way. What has happened to my country?

It appears that Canada’s pro-war, conservative immigration minister, Jason Kenny, has refused George Galloway entry to the country to give a series of speeches.

Banning George Galloway? Wait... from Canada? I thought the nightmare was ending with the exit of Bush.

A commenter at Common Dreams summed up the surge of feelings I had today quite well.

    I am a citizen of a country I don't recognize anymore.
    A country where war criminals are invited to speak and peace activists are barred from speaking.
    A country where the national police execute confused immigrants at the airport.
    A country full of consumers, not citizens.
    A complicit population to the Great Leader's manipulation of Parliament and lawbreaking.
    A country that has become the most belligerent climate change denier on the planet, eager to run interference for the Bush agenda.
    A country that is the world's worst GHG pollution source.
    A country willing to serve up its young men upon the altars of greed and oil.
    A country eager to embrace all the worst of our southern neighbour, lurching toward more violence, more militarism, more surveillance, more police-state thuggery, more of the same failed policies.

I have today seriously reconsidered the idea of moving my Dutch wife and daughters back to Canada. We have been thinking about if for a couple of years - moving from Holland back to the land of my birth... for the fresh air, for the green... for the sheer space that this flat, chock-full, overdeveloped country of the Netherlands just does not have.

But I refuse to move anywhere where conservative values fuel the government and media - those of fear and not curiosity, those of greed and not generosity, those of hate and not love.

Why oh why is my home, my birth home... the abode of my cousins and uncles and aunts and grandparents and nieces and nephews... going backwards!?

I actually feel pain thinking about it.

The rejection of Galloway is a watershed moment for me.

There's a fight that needs to be fought...  I am going to start paying attention to what's happening at 'home' and that I mean Canada. And I am going to ensure that more progressive news and opinion about Canada is carried in Atlantic Free Press.

While everyone around the globe in the progressive movement has been watching in horror eight years of neocon, conservative hell in the USA for eight years, Canada has suffered some kind of coup - media, government... for sure, but I pray not our national psyche.

Let me leave you with Galloway's reaction on the ban in video:

And text from the Guardian today:

    Canada Can't Muzzle Me
    To ban me from the country for my views on Afghanistan is absurd, hypocritical, and in vain
    by George Galloway
    The Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney gazetted in the Sun yesterday morning that I was to be excluded from his country because of my views on Afghanistan. That's the way the rightwing, last-ditch dead-enders of Bushism in Ottawa conduct their business.
    Kenney is quite a card. A quick trawl establishes he's a gay-baiter, gung-ho armchair warrior, with an odd habit of exceeding his immigration brief. Three years ago he attacked the pro-western Lebanese prime minister, Fuad Siniora, for being ungrateful to Canada for its support of Israeli bombardment of his country. Most curiously of all, in 2006 he addressed a rally of the so-called People's Mujahideen of Iran, a Waco-style cult, banned in the European Union as a terrorist organization. On one level being banned by such a man is like being told to sit up straight by the hunchback of Notre Dame or being lectured on due diligence by Conrad Black. On another, for a Scotsman to be excluded from Canada is like being turned away from the family home.
    But what are my views on Afghanistan which the Canadian government does not want its people to hear? I've never been to Afghanistan, nor have I ever met a Taliban, but my first impression into the parliamentary vellum on the subject was more than two decades ago. At the time the fathers of the Taliban were "freedom fighters", paraded at US Republican and British Tory conferences. Who knows, maybe even the Canadian right extolled these god-fearing opponents of communism. I did not, however.
    On the eve of their storming of Kabul I told Margaret Thatcher that she "had opened the gates to the barbarians" and that "a long, dark night would now descend upon the people of Afghanistan". With the same conviction, I say to the Canadian and other NATO governments today that your policy is equally a profound mistake. From time to time and with increased regularity it is a crime. Like the bombardment of wedding parties and even funerals or the presiding over a record opium crop, which under our noses finds its way coursing through the veins of young people from Nova Scotia to Newcastle upon Tyne. But it is worse than a crime, as Tallyrand said, it's a blunder.
    The Afghans have never succumbed to foreign occupation, heaven knows the British empire tried, tried and failed again. Not even Alexander the Great succeeded, and whoever else he is, minister Kenney is no Alexander the Great. Young Canadian soldiers are dying in significant numbers on Afghanistan's plains. Their families are entitled to know how many of us believe this adventure to be similarly doomed and that genuine support for troops - British, Canadian and other - means bringing them home and changing course.
    To ban a five-times elected British MP from addressing public events or keeping appointments with television and radio programs is a serious matter. Kenney's "spokesman" told the Sun, "Galloway's not coming in ... end of story." Alas for him, it's not. Canada remains a free country governed by law and my friends are even now seeking a judicial review. And there are other ways I can address those Canadians who wish to hear me.
    More than half a century ago Paul Robeson, one of the greatest men who ever lived, was forbidden to enter Canada not by Ottawa but by Washington, which had taken away his passport. But he was still able to transfix a vast crowd of Vancouver's mill hands and miners with a 17-minute telephone concert, culminating in a rendition of the Ballad of Joe Hill. Technology has moved on since then. And so from coast to coast, minister Kenney notwithstanding, I will be heard - one way or another.

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