3.20.2005

even the right is more left

I already know something about Canadian conservatives, from our own RobfromAlberta. If he is a representative sample, they are a more rational breed than their American counterparts.

But this week's Conservative Party convention has taught me a thing or two more. I don't pretend to know much about it, but all the stories I've seen indicate that the party has moved to the center (centre) in order to be more unified.

ALPF was kind enough to send a clip from the Edmonton Sun with the welcome headline "Anti-abortion Fight Fizzles":
The Conservative party abandoned the fight for an abortion law yesterday after four decades of bitter national debate that sparked court challenges, police raids and passionate protest. The historic vote at the party convention left anti-abortion advocates with no mainstream political vehicle for the first time ever as the party opted to stake its fortunes a little closer to the political centre. . . .

One jubilant pro-choice delegate crowed that the decision will instantly make the party a more viable force in the next election campaign - especially with female voters.

"Legislatures have no place in women's bodies," said Nargis Kheran of St. John, N.B., who earlier told the convention crowd women "do not need you to tell us what to do."
I've always thought that pro-choice is the true conservative position on abortion, as it means less government interference in citizens' private lives, supposedly a principal tenet of conservatism. In the US, of course, that's been completely trashed by the religious right. Canada's non-religiosity is a beautiful thing.

17 comments:

RobfromAlberta said...

The mostly-urban, fiscal conservative component of the Canadian right has known for sometime now that abortion was a dead issue. The majority of Canadians were satisfied with the status quo and did not want to revisit the debate. What the party did at the policy convention is formalize what has been practice for decades.

The religious right in Canada is a paper tiger. They lost on capital punishment, they lost on abortion and they are losing on gay marriage. The conservative agenda in Canada today is all about tax relief, increased defense spending and reduced government waste and corruption.

L-girl said...

I'm definitely seeing that re the RR. As an atheist, a Jew and a staunch believer in the separation of religion and state, I look forward to it.

RobfromAlberta said...

Incidentally, we have no equivalent to your foreign-policy-obsessed neoconservatives. The only real difference between conservatives and liberals in Canada with regard to foreign policy is that conservatives prefer to cooperate with our "traditional" allies, the US, the UK and NATO, while the liberals prefer to align their foreign policy with the UN. Both parties support NAFTA.

B. W. Ventril said...

I guess it's a positive thing for Canada that one of the country's few neo-cons, David Frum, had to move to the US to really make it. The bad news is that we're stuck with him here.

And as an atheist, a Jew and a denizen of the South I'm not looking forward to sending my kids to public school (if I ever have any)... Then again, in England I grew up singing Christian hymns and being forced to go to church. In a state school. So even the eroded separation between Church and State here is an improvement on that. But as Britain is largely a nation of agnostics, prayer in school just serves to make people even more indifferent/hostile to religion. In that sense I guess it's a good thing.

Now I confused myself. Sorry!

RobfromAlberta said...

It's interesting that you both identify yourselves as atheists and Jews. I guess being a Jew is as much a cultural description as a religious one. I was raised Catholic, but when I rejected religion, I left that descriptor behind. I suppose that is something a Jewish person can never do.

L-girl said...

Yes, that's exactly right. I found that when I left religion, I still "felt Jewish". It's my ethnicity.

There are many Orthodox Jews who would call this bullshit, but hey, who asked them.

I didn't know David Frum was Canadian. No wonder he left.

B. W. Ventril said...

Well, being Jewish is at least as much an ethnic identification as anything to do with religion. Jews are a people, and Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people. So you can be born Jewish without being religious, or convert to the religion and in doing so join the people (I'm not so sure about the state of converts to Judaism who then become atheists!). Even the most orthodox rabbinical authorities define a Jew simply as someone born of a Jewish mother - religious belief or practice doesn't really enter into it.

L-girl said...

Somehow despite the whole Jewish-mother-right-of-return thing, I've still heard from observant Jews that there's no such thing as a "cultural Jew" or "non-practising Jew". But whatever, it's not like I ask anyone else's permission for how I identify myself.

Were you part of a Jewish community in the UK? Which is more isolated in terms of being Jewish - the American South or where you are from in England? (Or is that too big a question for the comments?!)

B. W. Ventril said...

Way too big a question for comments (so feel free to email me for more gruesome details!). But the short answer, nope, I wasn't really part of a Jewish community in the UK thanks to the strange idiosyncrasies of my upbringing (you know, child of Sartrean existentialists, etc). And at the time I was pretty sure I was the only Jew in my entire city, family excluded. It actually turns out that there was a fairly vibrant Jewish community in Larger Nearby City, but not something we would have gotten involved with.

As for the South, it's actually kind of awesome here (in its defense, Southern lefties are way better than northern lefties... Molly Ivins has a whole thing about this). There are bags of Southern Jews, from old communities to relocatees. Though, true to my family tradition, I'm not too involved with either at a community level.

Being Jewish in the UK is very different though as there are way, way fewer Jews. And in many places Orthodoxy is the only game in town, though there are also Liberal and Reform synagogues (the divisions are a bit different there). But Golders Green in London is totally Jewish.

L-girl said...

Interesting! That's so great that you enjoy living in the South. Being a native Northerner, I have that age-old prejudice against the South, and have to remind myself that some of my favorite people in NYC (progressives all) are originally from Alabama, North Carolina, and other places south of the M/D line.

I'm not part of a Jewish community here either, because it's not important to me - and Jews are hardly a minority in this area. I've always wondered if I lived in a place with a much smaller Jewish population, if it would suddenly become more important to me.

B. W. Ventril said...

Well, I'm oddly defensive about the South, I guess as it's the only place in the US that I've lived in. Sure, there's no social contract here, but when people from Boston decry the South as racist... (I won't finish that sentence!) I think there is something specific and wonderful about Southern dissent... in a sense Southern lefties are ahead because they know how bad it can get. And I'm sick of the red state/blue state thing, as 'red' states tend to have many, many majority blue counties (often also where African Americans make up most of the population). My county voted 87% for Kerry (not that Kerry is a leftist).

As for being Jewish... Well, there's probably more pressure here to be religiously affiliated. It's probably not much harder to be a religious Jew, but harder to be a Jewish atheist. In that New York and Israel are probably the only two places where you can *really* sustain a secular Jewish identity across generations. Because the South is so much more religious and atheists are that much rarer, religious expressions of being Jewish are about the only way to do specifically Jewish things. Whereas in New York you have all those delis and Hassidic electronics stores!

L-girl said...

The red state-blue state thing is ridiculous. At least one-third of every state voted the opposite of its supposed color. Upstate New York is as red as it gets. Huge parts of Florida are blue. Etc. etc.

Of course there's tons of racism in the North. Martin Luther King Jr said the worst citizen opposition he ever encountered was in Cicero IL, then an all-white suburb of Chicago. My experiences in rural Mississippi and parts of Alabama confirmed all my stereotypes - but it's not so different from upper New York State!

Re secular Jewish identity, I have to say I haven't seen it sustained over generations (personally). I was raised with reform Judaism as a fairly central part of my life - Hebrew school, Bat Mitzvah'd, weekly synagogue, etc. And though I ditched it all, I'm very glad I had it. Having chosen not to have kids, I don't have to make any decisions about that.

That's a good point about religious affiliation. Our pal Lieberman was fine with the general public because he presents himself as pious and "of faith". It's the areligious that don't stand a chance.

RobfromAlberta said...

L-girl, you may or may not be aware of this, but the largest Jewish community in Canada is in Montreal (over 100,000). The community has deep roots as the first Jews arrived in the 18th century. Mordechai Richler and Leonard Cohen are both Montreal Jews.

L-girl said...

Cool. I did know Montreal had a large Jewish population, but I didn't realize it was that large. (I think I knew that about Leonard Cohen.)

There is apparently a distant branch of my family who are Canadian Jews. Who knows, maybe I will end up re-connecting with them.

B. W. Ventril said...

The Jewish side of my family is from Montreal. And be warned - Montreal bagels are very different from New York bagels (and much tastier!).

RobfromAlberta said...

Mmmmmmm, Montreal bagels....-drool-

L-girl said...

Oh yes?? I'll put that on my must-do list. Too bad I didn't know last month when we were up there.

A side note: NYC being what it is, there is little agreement on what constitutes an authentic NY bagel. My favorite bagel place is owned by Puerto Ricans!