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Rex Murphy

Whining seal hunt twaddle Add to ...

"It's archaic and horrible and I want it to stop."

I know exactly how Sarah McLachlan (for these are her words on the subject of the seal hunt) feels. I have felt precisely the same, down to the very syllables, if I may put it that way, whenever I have fallen within ear-hurt of a folk music concert. Lord, years ago, how common they were, whining on about - well, I'm not going to start the list. They whined on about everything. That's what folk singers did. They whined. Three chords on an out-of-tune flat-top guitar and whine.

They looked serious, so serious - and sad, so sad - and they whined. I remember distinctly, over and over again, whenever the mischiefs of fate decreed that I be dragged to a folk music concert, or lived too close to some of the poor addicts of the form, whenever Dylan or Donovan (oh God, still the memory - Donovan) held the car radio hostage or the dreaded triple-headed Demogorgon Peter, Paul and Mary blistered the eardrums and sank my soul - I remember my piercing outcry: "It's archaic and horrible and I want it to stop."

No one listened to me, of course. Why should they? Who was I, after all, to call a halt to such a tidal wave of whining twaddle? Others, obviously but inexplicably, liked it. C'est la vie.

I was sick of John (Steel-Drivin' Man) Henry, sick of This Land is Your Land , and sick to the very heart every time some dopey-eyed, long-haired sad sack, guitar in hand, came out on some television variety show to bleat about Michael rowing that damn boat ashore. And what else, precisely, was he going to do with it? All boats, eventually, having been rowed out from shore, are rowed back to it.

It was all so archaic and horrible and, Lord, did I want it to stop. But it didn't, and I never really expected it would or, for that matter, should. Other people liked this stuff and, it is dimly possible, still do. So my feelings on the matter have no special standing, and I sure as hell wouldn't take advantage of some public occasion - say, a Canada Day celebration - to elevate my private taste to public protest, hijack a moment of the nation's birthday to bleat about a "personal" cause.

Sarah McLachlan, obviously, is not as much of a fan of diversity as I am. She came to Canada Day wearing a PETA T-shirt. Whatever else PETA is, most sensible people will agree it is tasteless, vulgar and vile. It has had some of the very crudest and most insensitive exercises in the history of so-called protest, of which I will cite only "the Holocaust on your plate" campaign, which, in my judgment, reached the level of a blasphemy against the memory of the six million Jewish people exterminated in Hitler's death camps.

How crude that was you may easily measure for yourself: It featured a picture of a starving man in a concentration camp next to the picture of a starving cow. I wrote "crude" just now, but that word is far too feeble to convey the abject, garish viciousness of such a juxtaposition. A PETA T-shirt, as this example demonstrates, is not the banner of a serious moral sensibility.

Once again, Ms. McLachlan's own words on the seal hunt this Canada Day are far more descriptive of PETA's outrages than anything she is protesting. "Perverse and sick" is how she described the hunt. Well, I'm not so sure. Exploiting the memory of six million dead for cheap publicity, putting a "cow" in any equivalence with history's greatest crime, that is "perverse and sick."

Actually, I think putting on a PETA T-shirt might be one signal that you've surrendered any moral leverage you may vaguely possess to lecture anyone about anything. And calling the traditional lifeline of some of Canada's northern aboriginals "perverse and sick" might suggest the person doing the calling is less familiar with the concepts of tolerance and diversity than most would hope. As does slandering those on the East Coast who have found the hunt a needed resource for more than a century and a half.

But Ms. McLachlan does have Pamela Anderson in her corner - and what is time and native culture against that bulwark? A queen of soft-core porn and PETA: There's an alliance.

Ms. McLachlan could learn a lot on this issue from a far more worthy source. Our own Governor-General, who, by her gesture of respect to the hunt a near month ago, showed more class and understanding than PETA and its camera-hungry devotees - on Canada Day or any other - can ever hope to approach.

And, yeah, pushing the cause on Canada Day was just tacky.

Rex Murphy is a commentator with The National and host of CBC Radio's Cross-Country Checkup .

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