"He was the first person I invited to visit me when I was president of the United States," said Mr. Carter. "He gave me a lot of very sound advice on international affairs because I had never served in Washington before." (National Post, October 4, 2000)What did I tell you—all bad ideas originate in Canada! Jimmy Carter was an honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau's state funeral. Another one was ... Fidel Castro. It figures.
Pierre Trudeau was a man of the left. Indeed, when the secret history of his era is finally written, it will probably emerge that his connections were much farther left than any establishment journalist can currently conceptualize.
But for Americans, his contemporary significance is not his notorious career-long softness on the now-extinct Soviet Union. That already seems a quaint period piece. Trudeau's significance is much more immediate: he was one of the first known cases of the modern elite plague—pathological anti-nationalism.
Because Trudeau spoke accentless English, he is invariably analyzed in terms of English-speaking political culture. This is totally wrong. He was a product of the peculiar politics of Quebec, Canada's French-majority province. He grew up when Quebec was absolutely dominated by a puritanical Roman Catholic Church and the conservative, nationalist, authoritarian government of long-time Premier Maurice Duplessis. And he hated it—not merely as a man of the left but probably also because of his unorthodox personal life, persistently rumored to include bisexuality; and even perhaps because he was himself part-Anglo. (He bore the middle name of "Elliott," a fact that Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque would use against him during Quebec's 1980 referendum on separation.) All of which gave Trudeau a reflexive aversion to nationalism not commonly found in members of a majority ethnic group.
From the 1950s on, Trudeau campaigned relentlessly against Quebec nationalism. He called it "the new treason of the intellectuals." He said: "The glue of nationalism must become as obsolete as the theory of the divine right of kings." He argued that Canadian federalism, precisely because it could not be the exclusive political expression of either English or French but must be "pluralist," could be "a brilliant prototype for the molding of tomorrow's civilization." (Shades of Ben Wattenberg's non-ethnic "Universal Nation.") Suggesting his deeper concerns, he wrote: "A nationalistic government is by nature intolerant, discriminatory and when all is said and done, totalitarian."
And, perhaps most famously: "... in the advanced societies ... where the road to progress lies in the direction of international integration, nationalism will have to be discarded as a rustic and clumsy tool."
Sound familiar? "I think the nation-state is finished. I think [Kenichi] Ohmae [the prophet of economic regionalism popular among businessmen] is right."—R. Bartley, Editor, The Wall Street Journal.
It was all pretty silly, of course. It led to ridiculous policies like official bilingualism, the attempt to run the federal government in English and French, although few English Canadians speak French and absolutely no French Canadians—Québécois—give a hoot what the federal government does outside Quebec.
But then, Trudeau was pretty silly. His much-vaunted intellect was a myth, his academic writings banal. He traveled all round the world in his youth, yet did "not recognize differences either of color, or of race, or of culture," wrote his biographer, Richard Gwyn. "No-one who knows Trudeau can recall him ever indulging in the mildest of cultural stereotyping." (Tell that to Steve Sailer!) Gwyn felt this was evidence of an open mind. But it actually revealed a closed, even empty, one. Heart, not head, constituted Trudeau's (quite real) claim to greatness.
As part of this anti-nationalism, Canada's shift to massive, non-traditional immigration, complete with government-financed "multiculturalism," took effect under Trudeau. Of course, it was accelerated by his Bush-clone "conservative" successor Brian Mulroney, apparently at the behest of business lobbies. (Sound familiar again?) But it is now being rightly celebrated as a Trudeau legacy. Here's a typical piece of propaganda from Roy MacGregor in the October 2 National Post:
Jimmy and Audrey Chang drove through the early-morning fog to get here [Ottawa] from Toronto and pay their respects to the man Jimmy Chang calls "the Father of Modern Canada." They stood, as so many stood, weeping openly as they read the notes on the flowers that piled high throughout the day in the rim of the Centennial Flame fountain.It would be wrong to claim that the rampant disease of elite anti-nationalism began with Trudeau in the Quebec of the 1940s, just as, about the same time, some unknown event in Africa apparently caused the AIDS virus to jump the species barrier. But he is clinical evidence of its aberrant cause.
Jimmy Chang, an engineer, came to Canada in 1968, the year Pierre Trudeau became Prime Minister. "My hero," said Chang. His wife, Audrey, who teaches English to new Canadians, had set the video recorder back home to capture all the proceedings so that, as the years go by, she can play it back to her students and show them what this new country that they have come to is all about.
"It all comes from him," said Jimmy Chang, still wiping away the tears. "Who we are. The way we behave both domestically and internationally. All because of him."