On the one hand, keeping British MP and scattershot socialist gadfly George Galloway out of Canada only promoted his cause. The man could harangue his way to the head of a bank queue, never mind the media storm his blocked access has generated.
On the other hand, it's put lefties in the position of having to publicly defend him once again. So, a bit of a draw there.
Officially, border services were just doing their job - no interference, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. But the MP turfed from the British Labour party for his anti-Iraq war statements was allowed entry two years ago.
Unless bottom-rung border guards are keeping cheat sheets on Commonwealth MPs' views on the Holy Land, this smells political. All the more so given that Kenney's spokesperson, Alykhan Velshi, pronounced Galloway an "infandous street-corner Cromwell." Eat that, anyone with a nearby copy of the Shorter OED!
The party that protected "average Canadians" from art now justifies border interference with references to 17th-century rebels and $10 synonyms for "odious." The Harperites are certainly running down their time at the national open mic.
Galloway mused for the press on March 20 that "wars abroad will end up consuming the very liberties that make us who we are." Given his experience, any Canadian speaking out against the Afghanistan war might have to address charges of "sympathy for the Taliban," Velshi's accusation against the Brit MP.
What Galloway said on the BBC was "I don't know about you, but I have no enemies in Afghanistan. The Taliban are not the enemy for me."
Of course, there's Galloway's customary hyperbole to take into account, but think about it. Many Canadians profoundly dislike the Taliban but still say we have no business warring with them. Does that mean we're soft on them?
Ironically, the Tories claim they're punishing Galloway in part for his apparent support of Hamas. Hamas was elected in a fair contest that Canada pushed for, by people who might very much like to unblock their borders - average Palestinians.
The MP was accused of giving money to Hamas, which he has admitted doing, in the course of defying the Israeli blockade of Gaza by bringing in cars full of supplies for civilians - along with Tony Blair's sister-in-law, I might add. Sort of like the Canadians crossing into Gaza March 8 carrying gift baskets for Gazan women.
Sure, Galloway's full of bombast and cringe-worthy overstatement. But he's also said he doesn't support Hamas but rather the war-devastated Gazans, declaring , "If I had a vote in the Palestinian elections, it would not go to Hamas."
On the day the Galloway issue hit the Canadian media, the doc Slingshot Hip Hop played at the Bloor. In it, Arab rappers living in Israel or occupied Gaza complain that they couldn't pile into a car and perform with others cut off by the wall. They needed a visa for a trip of 15 miles - less than the length of the Bloor-Danforth subway - and still might be turned back at a checkpoint.
As someone who discovered his membership in the nation of poetry while performing spoken word at gatherings across the U.S. and Canada, I find the contrast with Palestinian artists unsettling. Is it the curse of our atomized society that I must sometimes leave home to find my people - or a blessing that I'm able to? What if I used my freedom to push for theirs?
When the powerful use our borders to define what we are, they also inadvertently help us understand what we are not: insular. And almost certainly, somewhere within the territory of us, we're still hopeful about connecting to the outside.