Monday, December 28, 2009

"Shaming us all"

An excellent column by Janice Kennedy on the KAIROS defunding which captures the ugly coat that the Harper government is wearing as a result of its smear of KAIROS as anti-Semitic: "Shaming us all." Worth a read today. For example, there's this explanation of exactly why it is so unacceptable for a Canadian cabinet minister to be speaking in such terms in the context of defunding KAIROS:
Anti-Semitic. He effectively called KAIROS anti-Semitic.

The charge is horrific. For people of good will who are not Jewish, the very idea of being or appearing anti-Semitic is chilling. I speak personally. We have seen the result of anti-Semitism at its most horrendous in film, literature, the powerful testimonials of those who lived and died during the Holocaust. We have heard our Jewish friends and neighbours, and we understand without question the need for both the concept and state of Israel, as well as the worldwide duty of vigilance. "Never again" is the understandably passionate cry of every heart that is Jewish -- but it also has a resounding resonance, a powerful resonance, in hearts that are not.

Anti-Semitism, in short, is a crime against humanity, something loathsome that emerges from the hatred and wilful ignorance of shrivelled souls and the lowest of the low. To label persons or groups anti-Semitic is to condemn them, rightly, to contempt. And a minister of the Crown has just done that to a Christian humanitarian group.
The fact that we have a government that is quite comfortable in taking such a heinous charge and freely levelling it at political opponents and now international humanitarian groups is a phenomenon. We've not had a government in recent memory that has so enthusiastically embraced the rhetorical sword as feverishly as this one, pushing our discourse to new limits all the time. The audacity of the Conservative government in making such charges deserves ongoing focus, as they've started to get now. They need to be called on it, as Kennedy does here.

The second aspect of the column worth noting, Kennedy cites the work that KAIROS does that is going to be undercut now:
What is sad here, besides the Harperites' unconscionable and politically motivated mudslinging, is the damage to both the reputation KAIROS has built up so powerfully over the years, and its role as a champion of responsible global citizenship.

In Sudan, where its humanitarian work focuses on developing livelihoods for the community; in Indonesia, where it investigates human rights violations and military atrocities; in Colombia, where its community development work is a bulwark against kidnappings and assassinations; in the Congo, where it is involved in the fight against rape as a weapon of war -- in so many places, in so many ways, KAIROS does the good, honourable and difficult thing.

Any well-meaning Canadian -- left, right, centre -- should feel a justifiable sense of shame that our government, in our name, has so ill-used an organization that walks the walk, fights the fight and does all those other things for which most of us lack the time, inclination and stomach.
That message may have infiltrated the Conservative political consciousness, as demonstrated by Jason Kenney's initial effort at damage control that came on Christmas Eve, denying he'd said what everyone is nevertheless under the impression that he did indeed say. That was a sign that the Conservative brain trust knows they went too far, an effort to belatedly get the story back to CIDA cutbacks.

Anyway, just wanted to call attention to this column, someone else who gets it about this government, always worth noting.