Canada, Fortis et Liber

David Warren: An unexpected event, whether or not it’s a miracle, emerges in a world of right and wrong, of beauty and vileness, of truth and lying. Truck drivers may master it.

“The true north strong and free” comes from one of the (several) English-language recensions of Canada’s official patriotic song. The French original was a Catholic hymn, adopted as a (French-Canadian) nationalist anthem, designed as an alternative to “God Save the Queen” and, ahem, “The Maple Leaf Forever.”

Phrases from the lyrics, which include “glorious and free,” “with glowing hearts,” and “we stand on guard for thee” were baked into our apple heads as schoolchildren, and put into polite Protestant Latin in the form, “vigilamus pro te,” etc.

We are a notoriously law-abiding people, still proficient at singing national anthems. Indeed, when the sound system cut out at the beginning of a Toronto Maple Leafs’ game recently, the whole crowd cut in to sing the rest of the American anthem to cover for the soloist. It was one of those moments.

Another thousand or so moments have been supplied along the route and at the destinations of Canada’s remarkable Freedom Convoy, a migration of big and little trucks “from sea to sea.” (This is also a Canadian slogan.) You may have read about this in newspapers or on websites in the many countries where people have, perhaps for the first time, been waving Canadian flags in support. I was especially impressed by a “me too” truck parade in Bolivia.

The spirit of the thing – a national protest against lockdowns, vaccine passports, face masks, and miscellaneous “mandates” – has not been perfectly shared, however. Our prime minister, the pretty-boy Justin Trudeau, thinks we’re waving Nazi flags and committing other horrors against his medicalization program, which as everywhere else has been going on for two years. His own caucus in Parliament is beginning to walk away from him.

Too, it must be said, the old Canada remains. A certain number of Canadians have not rallied to the Liberal Party, but continue to show caution and what I would call willful obedience to their public health officers.

They have been frustrated by the million demonstrators, who have shown a high degree of logistical wisdom. This includes non-violence. They have consistently refused to take the bait from men wishing to excuse a “crackdown.” Their signs are often rude, but the display of public etiquette and the existence of legal rights have left the smug Left somewhat floating in space.

As in the United States, the mass media is on the side of the Left and only began to admit there was a protest when it had grown to an immense size. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is still trying to libel and slander the truckers, but their contempt has boomeranged; ditto the other networks, which are all government-subsidized.

It is, to my mind, a victory of philosophy over history. Freedom has again taken sides with philosophy, as it were.

History takes some time to gather, and changes with the seasons. While there are many who expect history to absolve them, or prove their case, it will never do that – even when the evidence is sifted to a predetermined end. Events, and the interpretation of events, suffer revision after revision.

An exception might be made for very broad historical arguments, for instance, that the Nazi or Communist regimes or the institution of slavery were exceptionally evil, though even these must be qualified with exceptions to exceptions. The world changes, and there will always be a new generation of “Commies,” and slave-hunters don’t give up.

My “iron law of paradox,” or “paradoxical law of irony,” holds that the world is large, that it was made with room for God and for the angels, and that the most provocatively holy things (to look at matters from the demonic angle) may happen in the least likely times and places. Examples may be found in the religious revivals that happen whenever religion is suppressed.

The same might be said for miracles: that they are unlikely to happen where everyone is expecting them, whether they imagine themselves to be praying or not. They are unlikely to happen anywhere, unless they do. The life of Christ came to illustrate this paradox.

Others happen before our living eyes. We may witness, for instance, the metamorphosis of a dragonfly, from larva to winged adult directly. When the snow melts – itself miraculous. This may be coming to a pond near you. I do not understand how any witness can fail to see this symbol, or its ability to present a rhyme for the Resurrection.

But most of us seem to sleep through such small, unambiguously miraculous events, which don’t count as miracles because they are so common. Nor can we keep track of things that are miraculous, on a larger scale.

The philosophical question, “Have you noticed that you are alive?” is answered, truly (in the old-fashioned sense of “loyal”); or ignored where truth is ignored.

Philosophy seeks answers that do not change, as opposed to the mere “trends” that are sought in historical studies. Philosophy can, when it is ambitious, tell us that slavery is wrong, along with murder and a few other “crimes.” Where it succeeds, it can tell what is so.

The prestige of philosophy, and by extension philosophers, even when they dabble in sophistry, is a commonplace of the higher civilizations.

By contrast, those who ask if persons or events are “on the right side of history” may mean many things by it, but all of them are false. The “philosopher of history” suffers a terrible disadvantage. He thinks he can control what is impossible to control.

The sudden, unexpected event, whether or not we call it a miracle, is engendered in a world of right and wrong, of beauty and vileness, of truth and lying. Truck drivers may master it.

Robert Royal’s Following Which Science?

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky’s A Pastor on the Vaccines


David Warren

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at:

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EDITORS NOTE: This The Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. © 2022 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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