If you are with one person but suspect you may be falling in love with someone else: say nothing.
If you think you are the someone else: say less than nothing.
If you dislike your employer: keep quiet.
If you’re not partial to the food or drinks: refrain, whatever you do, from telling the waiter.
And if you lead a country whose neighbour has selected a reality star as president, then for the love of God, assign an aide to stuff a large woollen sock in your mouth and drag you off stage every time you’re asked to comment on your ally’s descent into a fiery abyss.
Those are among the many things better left unsaid. Until, that is, they’re not.
You can’t maintain a dignified silence in the face of the patently obvious. Not when it involves you. Ignore it, and the obvious will make you play the fool to its straight-talker. “The situation in the States,” as anyone could call it in full confidence of being understood by virtually anyone else, is not only revolutionary, dangerous and tragic – it is, in all its revolution, danger and tragedy, so unabashedly these things, and of such clear consequence beyond the States, that it’s impossible to ignore.
“The situation in Europe,” equally so.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must shut up, we’re told, for the same reason others support isolationism: because sovereignty. States must look out for and stick to themselves. And protecting Canada evidently means doing so quietly.
Months ago, silence was reasonable. But this purportedly isolationist brand of populism is overtaking the Western world in ways too important, and equally too obvious, to ignore. Affirming liberal democratic values and explicitly calling out descents fascism has aligned with protecting our many of our interests.
First, populism isn’t content to merely inspire people to vote. It is, as its proponents like to say, “participatory.” U.S. President Donald Trump’s crowds certainly enjoyed participating in the bashing of minorities. France’s National Front president Marine Le Pen’s followers enjoy a bit of that too. And one of hers allegedly participated in shooting up a Canadian mosque. Far-right populist ideology cannot be contained to one nation’s bad policy.
Second, liberal democracies depend upon us agreeing to certain things. Basic standards of political behaviour, legitimacy of institutions and rule of law only exist if we believe they exist. When one liberal democracy degrades them, all suffer.
And third, liberal democracies tend to peacefully coexist. If liberalism becomes the enemy, liberal states may eventually become the same.
There’s no more waiting and seeing. We have waited, and seen Muslim Canadians shot. Democratic norms become exceptions. Australia, for the love of God, verbally attacked. When your company is going bankrupt and you’re asked to cook the books; when your meat is raw and your wine is corked; when you don’t think you may love someone, you know you do, and so does everyone else; and when bastions of the free world are overtaken by fascists declaring open season on the basic values of their allies, then – then – it’s time to talk.
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