Friday, December 30, 2005

Why I love Quebec: The Rocket Side of the River

This essay below is from my other blog Quigley in Exile as an introduction to other material irrelevant to this, but I thought I would include it has a tribute to my friend Barr, who passed away recently. It enters a psychological realm related to the discussion in Exile about yin and yang principles. In a word, all cultures eventually divide into spheres, yin and yang, as for example, the city of Paris is divided into Left Bank and Right Bank. A river runs between them, just as the line runs between the realms in the tai chi as they are different and opposite and one cannot be the other. One of the interesting features of the North American continent is that at the very tippity top of the heavily populated regions, a river runs between the two original Canadian realms, Ontario and Quebec. On the west side of the river in Ontario there is a beautiful statue just above the bank of Queen Victoria, Earth Mother Incarnate and Empress of India. On the other side of the river in Quebec is a statue of Maurice Richard, known to all who have ever followed the game of hockey as The Rocket. The Rocket was the greatest hockey player who ever lived, but his importance transcends hockey. Decades ago, after the French-speaking player was given a penalty by English-speaking officials, a fight broke out at a hockey game in Montreal which turned into a riot, which in turn turned into the Quebecois movement.

The Quebecois movement is generally despised outside of Quebec because it sometimes promotes secession from the confederation of Canada. Other times it doesn’t. This is basically irrelevant to a citizen of New Hampshire like myself, but I live right close to the Canadian border and go there all the time and follow it closely. What I find interesting about the Bloc Quebecois is that it is the only regional group in North America which follows the vision of Thomas Jefferson to federalism. Every American state and every Canadian province follows the Hamiltonian view, in which the states and regions have no identity and submit exclusively to a central government. The Bloc Quebecois demands its own identity and its own democratic independence. It will participate in confederation with Canada, but insists in doing so only on its own terms.

To review: “In the beginning,” writes historian Frank Owsley, “ . . . two men defined fundamental principles of the political philosophy of the two societies, Alexander Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South. The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other State Rights.” (For more, see “Federalist and Unitarians,” on this blog below).

After the Rocket riot, French-speaking Quebec refused to be dictated to by English-speaking Ottawa, and demanded its own identity be kept intact. It demanded that provincial rights came before federal rights. As far as I can see, the only time the Quebecois movement wanted to secede form Canada was when English-speaking Canada slavishly followed in the wake of the United States as secondary Americans and pseudo-Americans, most recently at the end of the Clinton administration when globalization was in full flower. In my experience French Quebec is not anti-American, nor is it particularly anti-Canadian. Indeed, when Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien opposed the United States in its invasion of Iraq, Bernard Landry, the head of the Bloc Quebecois publicly embraced the Canadian government’s position. (A week after the invasion when only 100,000 marched against the Iraq invasion in New York, 200,000 marched in Montreal.) But Quebec will not yield its soul up to either Canada or the United States. This is the model of a free state as Jefferson envisioned a free state to be. (See “Every State a Free State,” on this blog below).

It has taken enormous backbone, innate soul and indigenous character to do this in this day and age when people like George Soros see all people in the world as Americans of a sort, and Laotians are trading even Khrishna for Britney and Indians complain about Americanization, but fall in line just the same. That character came from the Rocket and the game of hockey. Hockey is to Canada what the cult of the Samurai was to 16th Century Japan. It is a character-building sport with a participation mystique which all Canadians participate in. Everything said about Zen Buddhism as it built the Samurai culture of Japan in the 16th century can be said about hockey in Canada today. This essay is about Zen and Samurai and my tough guy friend Barr and it ends with a quote from a woman who happens to be the Chief of Police in Montreal. But she is known throughout Canada for another role and for a great day in Canada and a day that could conceivably one day be considered Canada’s first day. And the next day was even better.