A recent article in the Wall Street Journal characterized current events in the US as “an American Jacobin moment”, citing the efforts to tear down historical symbols and alleging that a new and intolerant liberal orthodoxy is sweeping America. Although I don’t buy this right-wing scare-mongering, it is an interesting historical analogy to see dredged up. Jacobin Paris went through a true “bonfire of the statuary”, with royal monuments toppled all across the city. Perhaps the grisliest episode was at the Basilica of Saint-Denis where the bodies of deceased kings and queens, including Louis XIV the Sun King, were disinterred from their sculpted sepulchres and scattered in a mass grave outside the church.
On Sunday, November 9, 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII), visited MacKay Presbyterian Church to unveil two brass plaques honouring the 140 men and one woman who, out of a congregation of 437 members and 137 families, had fought for King and Country in the Great War. On one side of the Sanctuary was the Honour Roll listing all who served; on the opposite wall was a plaque bearing the names of the nineteen who died.
Brigid Grauman was born in Geneva to an Irish mother and American father. She spent her childhood in France, Israel, and Belgium. According to her autobiographical note, this book was “inspired by her quarrelsome and very literary Austro-Hungarian family, many of whom were among the Nazis’ millions victims.”
(JustOttawa’s Note: Peter Best, in authorizing JustOttawa to publish Chapter 1/ Introduction of his book “There is No Difference” asked that his website, thereisnodifference.ca., be noted. He also referred to Jack Major, retired justice of the Canadian Supreme Court who had written to Best, saying “There is No Difference” continues to impress me no doubt because I agree with it.” Major who had personal experience in the Residential School system says that it is a “myth” that native children were “torn from happy, loving homes.” Many were in fact saved from death by malnutrition and tuberculosis. English was mandatory but “how else to equip the student to function off a particular reserve?”.)
I had a memorable little brush with our history the other day. I was a judge in the Winston Churchill Society’s high-school debate final round, held in the splendid new chamber of the Senate, housed for the next decade or so in Ottawa’s old main railway station, while Parliament Hill gets renovated. During a break in the proceedings, who should arrive - on what was supposed to be a private tour of the new facilities - but our Prime Minister from 26 to 16 years ago, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien? We invited him in.