One of the keys to being a critical thinker is the willingness to consider alternate points of view instead of being wedded to one idelogical position. In order to sharpen my own thinking and expose myself to perspectives other than those advanced in mainstream media, I have always enjoyed the work of Canadian writer Linda McQuaig. What follows is my review of her latest book.
Holding the Bully’s Coat – Linda McQuaig
Whether holding forth on the global economy, the excesses of capitalism, government deficits or the U.S. invasion of Iraq, author Linda McQuaig never disappoints. Her willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, especially that which is promulgated in the mainstream media, is always guaranteed to provide the reader with new insights and rich material to allow him or her to critically examine previously-held beliefs. Whether or not one agrees with the things she asserts, this is her greatest strength as a writer.
Her latest book, Holding the Bully’s Coat, reflects this strength as she examines in both an historical and contemporary context, Canada’s relationship with the United States. She argues that by aligning the country too closely with the policies of the United States, our political, military, and economic elites are sacrificing Canada’s international reputation (one she acknowledges as being exaggerated) and our role as a middle power, as well as jeopardizing our independence as a nation.
McQuaig deals with a number of issues that will have occurred to thinking Canadians over the years, including how our reputation for peacekeeping and compromise is being unjustly denigrated by the right wing; how the United States’ penchant for exceptionalism has essentially made it a law unto itself as it chooses to flout international law, the United Nations, the World Court, the Geneva Conventions’ prohibition on torture, and any other potential restriction on its dominance; the destabilizing effect of the U.S. opposition to nuclear disarmament; and its military’s refusal to abandon Cold War thinking, having simply substituted Islamic extremism for “the Red Menace.”
While the above description may make this book sound like an anti-American rant, it is not. Rather, McQuaig shows, through copious examples and careful analysis, how the citizens of both Canada and the United States are being ill-served by those in power who are quite willing to mislead and manipulate their respective peoples. Indeed, some of her harshest criticism is reserved for the Canadian government, both the current Conservative one and the previous Liberal one, and its often uncritical deference to American policies of very questionable merit.
The book will be offensive to those who think the motives and policies of the United States (and Canada, for that matter) should never be questioned. It will, however, be appreciated by those who want to go beyond media rhetoric and think deeply about issues of importance. It will also appeal to those humble enough never to have subscribed to the jingoistic notion, “My country, right or wrong,” a very dangerous mantra for the people of any free society to adopt.