I'll bet the value of all my past and future subsidies to dentists that I was the only stand-up comic doing material about Afghanistan and the militarization of the universe way before all this.
A while ago I decided that the Taliban was the perfect role model for America. You know -- extreme and arbitrary power, none of that socialist infrastructure, because it just costs the government money, and a complete public ban on women, privately enforced by male relatives.
I used to do shows and talk politics, but I gave it up. I was told people don't like to think when they go out. So just when do they "like" to think? You mean those aren't big-screen TVs flickering in every condo window? They're brains lighting up with ideas? Uh-oh. Soon, thinking will be on the list of banned terrorist activities. Better shut it down.
I can't say I've ever seen much evidence of uncontrolled, rampant thinking in this world. Heck, I used to get called a genius for showing off more than the accepted 5 per cent of my brain power, a risky practice in this society, where might is right.
Lately, I've been honoured to be taking my nightly pastis with a humble Franco-Algerian thinker whose editorials were published anonymously in occupied France. After the war he used his Nobel-Prize-winning name -- Albert Camus.
Virtually every line rings with truth and the courage to defend it. In his volume Resistance, Rebellion And Death, someone who read it before me has underlined in pencil: "Freedom is the concern of the oppressed, and her natural protectors have always come from among the oppressed."
He also wrote that "police states have never been suspected of opening schools of law in the cellars where they interrogate their subjects. So when they oppress and exploit, they are merely doing their job, and whoever blindly entrusts them with the care of freedom has no right to be surprised when she is immediately dishonoured." Camus reiterates the folly of deferring a just society to some post-crisis future: "Barbarism is never temporary."
He is also clear about the responsibility of artists to be clear. What do Canadian artists say? Here's what Barenaked Ladies' man Steven Page said publically about the televised Music Without Borders Afghan Aid concert: "This is about coming together whether you believe that dropping bombs on Afghanistan is the right thing or the wrong thing. This is about human rights. It's not a war protest concert."
His ass is well covered with regard to those stateside gigs. No wonder Mel gave them the keys to the city. No chance they'll go locking the suburb-dwelling cops out of Toronto during the night. Barenaked drummer Tyler Steward credits Canada with "a proud tradition of humanitarianism." That's why Coronation Street was bumped -- so Chretien could eagerly wave off Canada's symbolic support of the bombing of the poorest people on earth. A naval sail-past, just like in the good old second world war.
In my head, I see another picture of boats in Halifax harbour. It's ugly but true -- it was on TV. When the tall ships were in port a couple of summers ago, informed protestors tried to discourage tourists from boarding the Chilean boat.
It's well documented that under Pinochet the ship was used as a floating torture chamber. (And tell me, which Washington-based defenders of moral justice decided to off democratically elected Salvador Allende in order to install the general?)
So what was the reaction of proud humanitarian Canadians to this request to honour the raped and mutilated Chilean citizens?
They pushed those scraggly protestors out of the way and told them they should be ashamed.
They say North Americans are waking up.
Sure. Is it to turn in their strange-looking neighbours or to share a meal with them?
As my beloved long-lost friend from Mexico City, Francisco, once said, "Fear is a bad companion."