27 May 2007

Politically Correct, the Canadian Way

Seems like everything is bad for us now, the food we eat, the urban air we breathe, the water we drink (or don’t drink). We have rules about eating pounds of vegetables daily. Food packaging must be labelled so we waste even more shopping time, squinting helplessly at levels of trans fats and all the other fats we didn’t want to know about. Debates rage on about the negative impact on our psyches from pervasive influences like popular music and violent television or movies. Big Brother alerts us against our self-indulgent ways, even if he contradicts Himself about the benefits of consuming eggs or a glass of wine. But whoa. This is supposed to be about political correctness.

Luckily—in this overwhelming information age—we have the PC language police to tell us what’s what. "Sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt us." The day of the healthy old schoolyard retort is over. We are directed to walk about on tiptoes not to offend anyone with a mere word. Every historic place name in the United States with the word "squaw" has been re-named. Pundits outdo themselves in creating euphemisms for words and phrases deemed harmful to someone. Left alone, the passage of time and cultural changes usually allow such words to wax and wane quite naturally on their own. No, we can speed up the process by revising history.

So what was one of the most threatening things we Canadians could be exposed to? Drinking copious amounts of dubious "spring" water from a plastic bottle? Watching "Trailer Park Boys"? Not exactly. Step forward, former Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc—a highly unsung hero in the political correctness movement. During his tenure (1995-1999), the Hon. M. LeBlanc wished to save millions of Canadians from a slice of blatant public pornography. He strongly proposed emasculating the proud heraldic lion, an ancient symbol incorporated into the sovereignty of Canada. The lion’s claws were deemed violent instruments, and the wisp of his identifying male appendage too provocative. Not to mention the suggestive lolling tongue (Mick Jagger, take a bow). Whatever were those filthy mediaeval heralds thinking? Or the Queen herself when she approved the official GG flag in 1981?

We will never know what panicky discussions this proposal might have caused chez Rideau Hall, the centre of the Canadian Heraldic Authority (and also the GG’s home). I did have confidence that cooler heads would prevail and tradition would triumph. It’s not easy to tell on the original image, but we can see his claws and tongue are still intact. Let’s hope some social pendulums are swinging back to reality.

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