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LOEWEN: Okanagan Uber Alles?

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
July 23, 2014 - 7:39 AM

Politically-speaking, the Okanagan Valley is one of the “safest” ultra-conservative regions in Canada. Enlist as a political candidate a dog with a Conservative Party of Canada or a B.C. Liberal sign around its neck, and the pooch will be invariably barking happily towards the backbenches of the nearest parliament or legislature come election time.

Even those somewhat less-qualified than the maligned dogs do well here. Much-missed for his comedy-producing presence, Stockwell Day, is an example of this. When the time came for Mr. Day to assume a seat in the nation’s House Of Commons, the Okanagan was hand-picked as the riding in which he could do no wrong. And his handlers were right: MP Jim Hart graciously stepped aside for Mr. Day, and good old Stocky washed up on our shores for his first press conference on a freaking Seadoo donning a wetsuit. It was one of the great moments in our recent political past.

The fact that Stockwell Day had a somewhat dubious past in Alberta politics, and a rigid adherence to the most fundamentalist of Christian theologies was not enough to deter the local electorate from solidifying the man’s legacy as a Bible-thumping Canadian parliamentarian with a blind adherence to Israeli foreign policy that continues federally to this day in the guise of the current Stephen Harper-centred prime minister’s office.

Which is why it is not entirely surprising that anti-semitic graffiti has appeared as recently as Monday morning on a couple Canada Post community mailboxes in West Kelowna.

It was a gorgeous Okanagan morning on Monday. The temperatures were a seasonal 29 degrees, the hills lay verdant with vibrant grape vines doing their thing, locals and tourists alike were happily shopping at a busy Paynters’ Market fruit stand when, a short distance away, I was assaulted by the presence of “Jude” and a Star Of David spray-painted across the mailboxes. And another “Jude”-defaced mailbox lay in ambush just around the next corner on Elliott Road.

Now I would never suggest that the Okanagan Valley is a particularly natural breeding ground for cryptofascists or Nazi-sympathisers. But I also don’t believe that the appearance of this particular case of anti-semitic graffiti is the work of pranky kids. After all, most kids wouldn’t know much about the German spelling of Jew; and the hate messages didn’t appear randomly on the side of a billboard or a building, but on Government Of Canada property. This puts it into the league of State-directed animus.

And it is an ideology that many can easily slip into. In a time when “big government” is seen as odious and representing the interests of anyone but the likes of you and me, many folks check out of the political process altogether. They begin to look elsewhere for simple answers to the admittedly complex issues that beg for cautious disentanglement and even more cautious diplomacy.

Instead, some folks want to believe that world Jewry is a pariah, that they control the media, the banks and world government. It’s the oldest hate in the book, and somewhat ironic to find it here in our much-loved Valley that doesn’t even have enough Jews populating it to produce a decent smoked meat sandwich for the masses or a kasha knish.

But there it is for all to see. And it’s an awful thing to witness. Seeing it immediately reminded me of Jewish businesses and synagogues marked for looting and destruction all over Germany on that awful day called “Kristallnacht” which saw so many ordinary citizens ganging up on an assimilated minority, killing innocent people and destroying their properties.

For whatever reason, our federal government has become one of Israel’s most bellicose allies; and I am not here to debate the rights and wrongs of the Harper position. Some have conjectured that the Conservative Party of Canada has a warped theological understanding of these “End Times” and Israel’s role in the coming Apocalypse. Less theologically-bound citizens would like to see more talking and less violence in the West Bank these days; and Stephen Harper, as one of PM Netanyahu’s closest foreign allies, has a unique opportunity to advise caution to his Israeli friend and to plead for putting down the guns and the rockets and to return to the diplomatic chore of making peace once and for all.

We all need to take a deep breath and start to examine more deeply the fissures that reveal the World’s political and economic imbalances, instead of knee-jerk reacting with displays of ill-informed hate. Sometimes it’s better to bite your tongue and pull your finger off the trigger, to get down to the difficult task of thinking through a conflict. Our very future depends on it.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
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