Treason, n. 1. a crime that undermines the offender's government. 2. subversiveness, traitorousness (disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior). 3. treachery, betrayal, perfidy (an act of deliberate betrayal).
To be accused of treason is no laughing matter. Nor should it be the stuff of cheap polemics. But the t-word has now entered the yokel lexicon: a new riff on the old demonization game.
Consider my frequent commenter Roger Smith of Burnaby, BC, who socks here as "Peter O'Donnell," "Jolly Old Saint Knickerless," and even "Yokel with Pitchfork 427903." In response to those of us concerned that fellow-citizen Omar Khadr is facing a squad of kangaroos in Gitmo after our own government successfully fought to deny him his Charter rights, this individual had the following to say:
In the moral sphere, you seek complicity with the recent murders of American aid workers under the spurious (if outrageous) charge of spreading Christianity, when you sign up to support Omar Khadr. I think such public declarations of support for Al Qaeda and the Taliban amount to treason, given that we are engaged in a war against them. It's really only because the war is contained and not likely to be lost on our soil that these normal laws do not apply, or shall I say, are not being applied. But the government of Canada would be quite within its legal rights to arrest the lot of you for treason.
Then there's Maria Nunes, aka Dodo, who at this point truly sets the blogospheric benchmark for thick. Refusal to watch an anti-Islamic video at her place and then tell everybody you know about it, she says, "is treasonous....at least in my books." (Dodo has books? Who knew?)
One doesn't have to be a flag-waving patriot to take offence at this drivel. But it's not just a matter of being offended: as citizens, we cannot allow this sort of thing to stand. Those old enough to remember Joe McCarthy wrapping his pudgy body in the American flag will know what I mean: all sorts of organizations like AWARE sprang up; citizens were set upon by others in a rising crescendo of hysteria possibly satirized by The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers ("Search the house for pods"). People lost their businesses and careers, were denounced, shunned and ruined. A mere accusation was enough.
It's no surprise that elements on the Right are now trying to rehabilitate McCarthy. Witch-hunting is fine sport, just so long as you don't run the danger of being hunted yourself. It's classic power-tripping, and it isn't a video-game: real people get hurt in this exercise of sado-politics, and we can't let it happen again. Being falsely accused of treason is obviously defamatory, and there are civil remedies, but this may not be sufficient to thwart a growing political lynch mob.
Thus far, even the Harper government has managed to avoid an overly-casual use of the t-word. But as the PM continues to primp his base, there is no guarantee that this sort of thing won't find its way into Tory talking-points, especially if the practice spreads. We need to nip this in the bud, pronto, or it's back to the future: "I am not now, and have never been, a member or supporter of al-Qaeda."
Decent citizens of this country, proud Canadians all, should rightly ask: Who is subverting the rule of law by proposing to abolish the presumption of innocence and establish guilt without trial based upon religion and/or race? Who is truly guilty of undermining Canadian values and institutions by so doing? Who, in short, are the real traitors among us? And what are we going to do about it?