Yesterday marked the 200th birthday of Canada’s first Prime Minister.
This 4 year old piece on counterweights does a great job of outlining why John A. Macdonald has failed to assume the George Washington of Canada status: http://www.counterweights.ca/2011/01/why-john-a-macdonald-can-never-be-canada%E2%80%99s-george-washington/
The article also provides an interesting comparison between Macdonald and our current ass-hat Prime Minister Harper.
The more I read about Macdonald the more I agree with White that he is "less plausible as a founder of our new republic when it finally arrives, in form and theory as well as practice."
Stephen Marche’s piece in this month’s edition of The Walrus reinforces White’s position: http://thewalrus.ca/old-macdonald/ and closes by recontextulizing Macdonald in a country that has evolved far beyond any foundation for which he is credited:
"The Canada that we want to have is open, tolerant, and, above all, itself. Sir John A. Macdonald would have hated every word in that sentence. He was the father of the country, sure. But he was the father of the country we don’t want to be."
Macdonald’s rampant alcoholism is touched on in select articles, and even Harper’s speech yesterday, is dismissed as little more than him "being human".
I think that glossing over this significant character flaw does the nation a great disservice.
Tristan Hopper’s piece in the National Post serves to illustrate how far a departure Macdonald is from George Washington, or even his U.S. counterpart at the time Ulysses S. Grant:
When the closest comparable figurehead for Canada’s 1st Prime Minister is the 1st President of the Russian Republic vodka soaked Boris Yeltsin it makes one pause to wonder exactly who and what we are celebrating here.
Hopper makes the obvious comparison between Macdonald and Rob Ford citing that "A drunken stupor is believed to have fuelled the most damning telegram of his career, a message demanding more bribe money from railroad contractors, “I must have another ten thousand; will be the last time of calling; do not fail me; answer today.”
But Macdonald’s drunken stupors appear to out Ford even Rob Ford.
It may not exactly be Jamaican patois at Steak Queen but Macdonald was found in his hotel room, with a rug thrown over his nightshirt, ‘practising Hamlet in a looking glass.’
Earlier that same year while in a by-election Macdonald shocked an audience by vomiting on the platform.
But the icing on the cake appears to be the time he passed out drunk tipping a candle over in his hotel room setting it ablaze resulting in waking up to the smell of his own burning flesh. Adam Bunch’s piece goes into more detail: http://torontodreamsproject.blogspot.ca/
Makes one question how historically accurate the action figure featured above is considering it doesn’t include a bottle of booze among the accessories.
I his Ottawa Citizen piece Niigaan Sinclair explores how as Canadians we have been apologizing for Macdonald for decades now, and should stop: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/niigaan-sinclair-stop-apologizing-for-john-a-macdonald
Sinclair brings everything home in his closing statements, which include this quote:
"No one can change history, but we can learn the truth about it. We might even be able to alter what we think a real Canadian is."
Everything I read and watched about yesterday’s celebrations appeared to ratchet up the apologies in an awkward distancing of Canadians from these difficult truths.
A National Post piece from last February flat out refused to take our 1st Prime Minister at face value and offered up 15 things that are lesser known about the man:
Skip down to #11 and we read:
"As a child, he saw his brother killed by a crazed babysitter. When Macdonald was seven, a family servant forced him and his five-year-old brother, James, to guzzle gin before fatally striking James with a cane. The tragic incident forever remained a tight Macdonald family secret."
If we are to accept Macdonald as a Canadian family figure then we have to agree that as a family there are no secrets.
Perhaps raising a glass to this particular founding father would be in bad taste.
Instead of saluting the man himself, a father of the country we don’t want to be, we should be saluting how far we’ve come and where as a nation we are poised to go next.