Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cross-Examining Vice-Royalty

In Friday's National Post, David Frum takes a break from ending evil to
complain that Ms. Jean and M. Lafond were non-responsive in their statement
proclaiming they are "proud Canadians."

He's quite right, of course. Nowhere do they deny having had separatist
beliefs. Nowhere do they state what their current politics are. It is the
kind of opening testimony that makes a cross-examiner squirm with impatient

But Frum makes a category error when he complains about this. Lafond and
Jean are not politicians. They are vice-royalty. It is inappropriate to
cross-examine them, not because they could never have embarrassing views,
but because we have all agreed to accept them as symbols of unity.

Frum's previous employer shows why this is useful. Americans have no
individual embodiment of their country, other than the President. The
President therefore inevitaby becomes the symbol of unity when calamity
strikes, as it did four years ago. But the President is also a politician.
The combination is dangerous, and when exploited, divisive.

By showing deference to royalty or vice-royalty, we open up psychic space to
treat politicians with appropriate skepticism. No mere politician can embody
the nation, and no mere politician should be allowed to avoid
cross-examination, as Bush has so effectively done.