|I WAS WRONG, IT SEEMS, about Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
In my last entry, I wrote that he was "agnostic", assuming that despite
-- or because of -- his Jesuit upbringing in the rigidly Catholic Quebec
before the "Quiet Revolution", he had shrugged off his faith as peripheral
to the demands of a worldly life and an impeccably logical mind.
Certainly, at no point in his public life, in any of his
speeches or the legislation he enacted, did he refer to any spiritual motivation, any moral imperative not dictated by strict polity, in any rhetoric that relied on religion or religious conviction. Much as he once famously stated that the state had no place in the bedrooms of the nation, it seemed that he also believed that God had no place in the minutes of the House of Commons.
Perhaps he felt that invoking the name of God, or assuming
that he spoke in His name, was not only presumptuous but tasteless. In
any case, during his televised funeral yesterday, at Notre Dame Basilica
in Montreal, one of the commentators mentioned that Trudeau attended weekly
mass at his parish church, and often spent lunch hours praying with the
Benedictine monks near his home. It was a revelation to me.
God was once invoked as a matter of course in parliamentary
politics, usually as the Empire's greatest supporter. In the United States,
the separation of church and state, supposedly guaranteed in the consitution,
has done nothing to keep God and his interests out of the Senate or Congress.
Indeed, if you didn't know better, you'd assume that the Almighty was merely
the most effective of all the lobby groups renting offices off the Mall
and holding lavish lunches and receptions at Washington hotels, using His
connections to help a congressman's kid to get into a good college while
taking a senator on a golf vacation at a nice resort in the Georgia Sea
Islands. In any case, a casual reading of the voting records of everyone
from Strom Thurmond to Al Gore reveals a deity that makes no secret of
where he stands on everything from late-term abortions and education to
the military and foreign policy, even if, like the best lobbyist, he manages
to be impressively bi-partisan most of the time.
God has been absent from much of the governmental activity
of Canada for the past generation or two, perhaps because His presence
is so elusive -- we don't know whether to call him Lord, Great Spirit,
the Creator, Allah, Rama, Buddha or the Life Force, so we politely keep
him out of the conversation, and assume that, like most of the country's
citizens, he regards the activities in Ottawa with only occasionally peevish
That will probably change with the new opposition party
led by Stockwell Day, a prairie fundamentalist who, whenever he was asked
to define his relationship to Trudeau during the official elegies in Ottawa
or in the crowd at Notre Dame in Montreal, never failed to point out that
he never met the man, but had always opposed Mr. Trudeau in deed and spirit.
The most profound thing he could say about the late prime minister on the
floor of the house involved quoting lyrics from "The Rose". In one moment,
the tone of national debate had dropped a few notches with a distinct shudder.
Day apparently believes the earth was created in time
for us to make the dinosaurs extinct through the unfortunate -- but not
illegal -- use of leg-hold traps, and that He might control every aspect
of our lives, but He is certainly oppposed to Big Government, Toronto and
the Liberal party.