Right-wingers have been having a bit of a time with a brash 22-year-old's Facebook comment, "F**k Canada Day." That raises a number of questions, for me at least.
How many Facebook throwaway lines are coughed up by smart-ass university students? How many of them get noticed? Why did this one get noticed?
Well, Omar Shaban is one of those Canadians with funny names. And he was, until a day or two ago, a Vice-President of the Canadian Arab Federation. The endlessly self-promoting Tarek Fatah, who knows his way around Facebook, pounced on Shaban's entry and sent it around to his media contacts, and the fat was soon in the fire.
The fact that it was a personal opinion didn't matter a damn. There were two strikes against this native-born Canadian from the start: his ethnicity and his public role. On the Web, the line between personal and public can admittedly get blurred, but in this case there was little question that he was acting on his own: the CAF reacted sharply, distancing itself from the comments in no uncertain terms, and a day later it had his resignation.
Didn't matter. The CAF was now the target. "Damage control," sniffs Rod Breakenridge. "To bite the hands of one's benefactor on the most symbolic day of the benefactor's year is a provocation that must not go unchallenged," shrieks the National Post's Barbara Kay. "Love it or leave it," howls the Calgary Herald.
The logic here escapes me, but the racism doesn't. The CAF hasn't exactly been shy about making controversial public utterances in the past. If Shaban had been speaking officially, we would not have witnessed this immediate response. Clearly he was not. But he gave the xenophobes an opening that they simply couldn't ignore. Shaban was no longer one callow youth with flapping lips, but Islamism, jihad, terrorism and birthrates all rolled into one.
Freedom of speech? That's for real Canadians. As far as people like Kay are concerned, the little brownskins should kiss the hand of their "benefactor" and just shut up. As for the aboriginal Canadians that Shaban was on about, many of whom might indeed find sorrow and not joy in Canada Day celebrations, Fatah says that was just a ruse. Why would he give a damn about aboriginals? Nobody else does.
A few years ago I recall being offended by hateful comments made by a gaggle of Islamist comeres on email. Canada was frequently referred to as "this filthy country." Vicious homophobic sentiments were uttered. "We hate Canada," said one sweetheart.
And then someone--Robert McClelland?--pointed out that this sort of thing is common-or-garden on the right side of the blogosphere. And, re-framed that way, he was absolutely right, of course. Squeeze out the ethnic aspect and you've got boring old conservative whinging.
Why aren't the Usual Suspects outraged by this, for example?
"I hate my country. Just in time for Canada Day!"
But that's different. And we all know why.