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COLUMN: Respect isn’t only reserved for those we agree with

'There’s a huge difference in pressing people to do the right thing through consistent, courteous messaging, and instead descending into guttersnipe hectoring by treating fellow citizens as sub-humans, to be targeted by any means necessary.'
Nelson Chris web
Columnist Chris Nelson

Promising to piss off millions of people in a country where revolution and the guillotine are embedded in cultural history is dragging political stupidity up to the very mountaintop.

Pardon my French, so to speak; but that coarse phrase is exactly what the president of la belle France invoked last week in outlining plans for those citizens refusing vaccinations during this increasingly dreary pandemic.

"As for the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And we will continue to do this, to the end,” was how Emmanuel Macron described his government’s strategy to force millions of recalcitrant French folk to get jabbed.

Normally, given this is a Canadian newspaper, the desire to comment upon the silliness of leaders outside our national borders is to be resisted — there are, after all, plenty of daft politicians closer to home on which to ponder and pontificate.

But France’s president provides a window into a disturbing and growing trend by being the latest, and perhaps the most vulgar, example of politicians who increasingly believe they represent only their own supporters when it comes to exercising power. Anyone falling outside that particular cohort is therefore deserving of nothing but ridicule and abuse.

Indeed, we don’t need to peer across the Atlantic to find a suitable Canadian example. Not surprisingly, it’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who effortlessly brings it all back home to our shores.

Word spread throughout the rest of Canada recently regarding an interview Trudeau gave in French to a Quebec TV station a few months back in which he described those refusing vaccination for COVID-19 as "women-haters, racists, and science-deniers" and a blight upon Canada.

Of course, Trudeau added, he wasn’t including Quebecers in this nasty broadside. Oh no, they’d done their part in getting vaccinated: it was other Canadians who should be blamed. (Anyone else suspect Albertans were lurking in his unspoken thoughts?)

Look, this isn’t to side with those still unvaccinated — while doing so no longer protects that much from catching this latest variant, it certainly gives strong protection from ending up in the hospital, ICU, or the morgue and therefore helps support an entire health-care system under massive strain.

So yes, there are times when community safety trumps individual liberty, though trying to legislate our way through such a moral minefield is a nightmare task Solomon himself would have found daunting.

But there’s a huge difference in pressing people to do the right thing through consistent, courteous messaging, and instead descending into guttersnipe hectoring by treating fellow citizens as sub-humans, to be targeted by any means necessary.

Let’s face it: those who still have not rolled up their sleeves aren’t suddenly going to step forward because someone in power called them racist or misogynist. 

Which is why Alberta Premier Jason Kenney should be applauded for immediately ruling out mandated vaccinations in our province, after the federal health minister raised the issue last week.

It is one thing to make life easier for the vaccinated, thereby pushing others to follow, but another entirely to make refusal an illegal act.

This pandemic will end someday, but if we follow the Trudeau and Macron demagoguery and separate Albertans into competing, angry groups such damage might never be repaired.

Look outside our borders once more: not to France but southward instead. When Hillary Clinton labeled fellow Americans as a basket of deplorables in her 2016 presidential campaign where did that lead?

Respect isn’t only reserved for those we agree with.

Chris Nelson is a long-time journalist. His columns on Alberta politics run monthly in The Gazette.