One day, after whatever provocation it was that sent my 11 year-old self into blind rage, I tackled him in a field. Straddling him as he lay upon the damp earth, wanting nothing more than to pummel him out of existence, my already-developed sense of mercy limited me to a screaming excoriation instead.
"You lie, you lie, you lie!" I howled, as I threatened pre-adolescent carnage.
Like many - perhaps most - children, I had an intense love for "fairness" and an equally-intense hatred for lies and hypocrasy.
My love of justice - of fairness - and preference for truth over lies, for giving the other fellow his due, influences my politics and philosophy to this day. I grew up inculcated with western ideals of freedom, democracy and justice. To me, the Second World War lay in my immediate psychological past, a just war, against the clear evil of Hitler's facism and zenophobia - the Allies had not only been victorious, but their victory had been right, despite questionable actions such as the firebombing of German and Japanese cities, not to mention the dropping of 2 atomic bombs.
I also began to follow the news during the time of the Watergate scandal in the United States and during the winding down of that countries military attrocities in Vietname, Cambodia and Laos, a pointless war that took the lives of nearly 60,000 American soldiers and literrally millions of people in those three, small countries.
My outrage about that carnage was, and remains, heightened precisely because the US is supposed to be on my side. I believe in western values, among which is the belief that imperialism is wrong, an attavistic evil which the human race must outgrow. If it sometimes seems I am harder on, say, the crimes and misdemeanors of Israel or the United States, it is because "we" are supposed to be the good guys. The west is supposed to be virtuous, fighting only in self-defence.
And so it is that my political beliefs are inseperable from my sense of morality and my sense of justice. Dispassionate analysis of what goes on is one thing, but if you ask what it is I believe in, it is this: that my side be also the righteous side.
Which brings me to the recent death of former US President Gerald R. Ford and the bizarre orgy of appropation with which our chattering classes have seen fit to mark his passing.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
- George Santayana
With the blind irony of history, Mr. Ford shuffled from this mortal coil within days of the one-time US ally, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Hussein's many crimes are well-known and need not be repeated here, except to note he was convicted only of one of his relatively minor crimes (if the murder of over 100 people can be considered in any way minor), and hastily executed before he could be tried for any of his more embarassing sins, which might have indicted his one-time western partners as at the very least, aiders and abettors in an unprovoked war against Iran or the use of poison gas on citizens of his own country.
Our chattering classes, our arbiters of public morality and realpolitik alike, have been muted about the haste with which Mr. Hussein was dispatched, but behind the tepid tut-tutting over the dubious quality of the procedings of Iraqi justice system, was an almost palpable relief that further trials and the possible uncomfortable truths such procedings might have revealed in a way that wouldn't permit them to be ignored, no matter that they are in no way secrets to anyone who reads the inside pages of a decent newspaper.
Mr. Ford, on the other hand, is being lauded as a hero, as an icon of bravery, though he served less than a single term as president of the United States of America.
And just what action was it that has seen Mr. Ford post-humously declared a great president? What act of moral courage was it that has seen the unelected President acclaimed by Professor Emeritus of law Ian Hunter in the Globe and Mail for his "quality of forgiveness"?
Quite simply, it was because Ford, "only a month after taking office", issued "a full pardon for any crimes that may have been committed by his predecessor, Richard Nixon.
As president, Nixon extended the Vietnam War long after he knew it was lost. He broke American law and its constitution with impunity, spying on his own citizens and even stooped to petty burglary of Democratic Party operatives at the hotel that gave the scandal its name.
Professor Hunter quotes Ford himself in justifying the pardon of an acknowledged criminal. "But, said Mr. Ford, 'someone must put an end to Watergate,' and then he acted."
Professor Hunter avoids the obvious question of why an end had to be put to Watergate, preferring instead to mount a fatuous exploration of "forgiveness", claiming without presenting any evidence for the contention that the US, "and, thereby, the world" benefitted from this allegedly courageous act on behalf of his long-time friend.
Of course, the truth is that Ford's odious pardon permitted the United States to avoid the full truth of Nixon's mendacious presidency. More important, it ensured the country's elite - most of whom had been fully complicit in the war against a small south-east country that had divided their own country and sent 60,000 of its "boys" to their deaths need never face up to their own involvement in that crime.
By issue his pardon, Gerald R. Ford ensured the long, self-satisfied sleep of American public opinion could be resumed, while the oligarchic imperialism to the military-industrial complex could continue to corrupt the body-politic of a republic that more and more resembles a facist junta than it does the beautiful dream of government of the people, by the people, for the people.
In his first substantive act as President, Gerald R. Ford took the path of pusillanimous expediency over the hard road of genuine courage. Loyal to his class, in death, Ford's class returns the favour with double-speak that might shock even George Orwell for its craven self-interest dressed up in the shiny robes of justice and forgiveness.