I’m finding the orgy of bons mots for Nicholas Sarkozy following his stump for Canadian federalism a little baffling. Perhaps it shouldn’t be—sovereigntists and federalists have always wanted France to join their team. And now, just as sovereigntists had their moment in the sun thanks to De Gaulle, federalists are finally getting theirs via Sarko. There’s still a problem, though, and that’s that Sarko doesn’t seem to have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about.
Here’s what Sarkozy had to say:
-“This attachment to our culture, to our language, to our historical ties, why should it take the shape of an opposition to anyone else?” («Cet attachement à notre culture, à notre langue, à nos liens, pourquoi devrait-il se définir comme une opposition à qui que ce soit d’autre?»)
-“Do you believe, my friends, that the world, in the unprecedented crisis that it’s going through, needs division, needs hatred? Is it necessary to prove your love for others by hating their neighbours? What a strange idea!” («Croyez-vous, mes amis, que le monde, dans la crise sans précédent qu’il traverse, a besoin de division, a besoin de détestation? Est-ce que pour prouver qu’on aime les autres, on a besoin de détester leurs voisins? Quelle étrange idée!»)
-“Those who don’t understand this haven’t understood that, in the spirit of the Francophonie, in the universal values that shape Quebec and France, there is the rejection of sectarianism, the rejection of division, the rejection of inward-looking isolation, the rejection of this obligation to define one’s identity through a ferocious opposition to the other.” («Ceux qui ne comprennent pas cela, dit-il, je ne crois pas qu’ils nous aiment plus, je crois qu’ils n’ont pas compris que, dans l’essence de la Francophonie, dans les valeurs universelles que nous portons au Québec comme en France, il y a le refus du sectarisme, le refus de la division, le refus de l’enfermement sur soi-même, le refus de cette obligation de définir son identité par opposition féroce à l’autre.»)
Just so we’re clear: Sarkozy appears to be saying that a movement that has actively participated in the political process at every level in this country for the better part of the past 30 years is defined by its “opposition to anyone else”; that a movement that reacted to losing the most important contest in its history by less than 1% of the vote with peaceful resignation is a monument to “division” and “hatred”; that a movement so entrenched in the mainstream politics of Quebec that it can shelve its very raison d’être without any serious repercussions is “sectarian” and “ferocious”.
For all their ills—and there are too many to list here—Quebec sovereigntists aren’t anything like what Sarko imagines them to be. Maddeningly stubborn and prone to bizarre tantrums, yes. But brimming with hatred and ferocity? Hardly. Nor, for that matter, does Sarko appear to have grasped the (generally passive-aggressive) nature of the relationship between sovereigntists and federalists in both Quebec City and Ottawa. And yet, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to point that out in today’s opinion pages.
The Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson sees in Sarkozy’s declaration an opportunity to “get past this embarrassingly parochial matter with the French,” though he suspects “certain nationalists [will] still long for a pat on the head from France.” (I’ll ignore the patently ridiculous headline the paper’s editors saw fit to put at the top of Simpson’s column.) The Star‘s editorial board calls it a “stunning, if oblique, rebuke” to sovereigntists, and praises Sarkozy’s courage to “to talk it up.” And the Post‘s Jonathan Kay muses that “it must seem odd for a Parisian visitor to hear Quebec separatists sound off like cranky, go-it-alone nativists,” suggesting that “this incongruity explains why Sarkozy seemed so exasperated at separatists when he made his comments.”
To his credit, though, at least Kay spells out exactly why he (and likely everyone else) is so enthralled with his “hunky new Euro-hero”: “I love anything that sends Quebec separatists into a spasm of self-righteous indignation.” And that’s true, apparently, no matter how laughable the offending statement might be.
[The image was shamelessly lifted from The Rebel Sell store on Cafe Press]