A Pattern Emerges
Stephen Harper is not, in the words of Don Corleone, "A man of respect." He fires experts rather than acknowledge their competence, muzzles his own ministers, takes the cheapest of cheap shots, fires off attack ads to "save Canadians" from the threat of another election even when a)no threat of an election exists and b) it's hardly a threat to anyone but him. He's known to be contemptuous of others' ideas and opinions, and only by being close as an oyster has he thus far avoided looking like the nasty, unsympathetic, stringy-souled wretch he is.
In recent weeks, two incidents have occurred which throw a bit of light on the character of the hapless and uncomfortable man currently holding the national rudder.
First was Stephen Harper's crackergate. Catholics were scandalized to observe Mister Harper, at a state funeral for former Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc, caught on video apparently taking a communion wafer (about 0:30) and failing to consume it.
Now this wouldn't be a problem if Harper was not himself an evangelical Protestant Christian, who should reasonably be expected to understand about sacred cows. But moreover, he's the Prime Minister of a country that still divides fairly sharply along the Catholic/Protestant divide.
Harper's spokesperson complicated matters by absolutely insisting that his boss swallowed the cracker. Which certainly doesn't appear to happen in the few seconds during which Harper is obscured by the priest.
As an atheist, and one who expressed some concern over a prior incident, I'm of two minds here:
First: It's a cracker, basically. The priest raising the alarm on this one probably isn't very busy otherwise.
Second, however: This guy's the PM. He's supposed to know better--In fact I'd bet he can hardly have avoided knowing better. It seems disrespectful at a very fundamental level. He could have waved off the priest. I sometimes attend church with my family and never take communion.
Perhaps he thought that slipping it into his pocket was better than being seen by the nation's Catholics refusing to accept it?
But my belief is that it's just part of his disrespect for anyone who isn't him.
Last April, Harper made my country a laughing stock by turning up late for photos at a conference. In fact the first picture at the last G13 (the G8 plus the G5) meeting didn't include him at all.
He repeated the stunt last week, after just about everyone at the G8 meeting criticized him for also being absent on climate change. Canada, under the "leadership" of the Harper Tories, has shamefully neglected, avoided, and ducked its environmental responsibilities.
It's all of a piece: There are the bold and barefaced lies about our environmental policies being sufficient (Harper's plan includes no penalties for excess pollution, resists any scheme to actually, you know, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and is allegedly supposed to produce results starting in 2050--which politically speaking is as close to "never" as dammit).
There's the consistent lack of consideration and respect for other world leaders--Let me rephrase that: "for world leaders".
And the apparent disrespect for Catholic traditions. If you don't share that particular superstition it is surely harmless and innocuous to not take the wafer.
Harper, in terms of establishing meaningful human, international, and intergovernmental relationships, is a washout. Why? Because, it seems, he just doesn't respect anyone who isn't him. Of course, I could simply have called him a Conservative. In Canada these days it seems that that's the shorthand.
I have noticed that where Webster Cook's transgression, and PZ Myers' deliberate desecration of the Host produced death threats and howls of outrage at the "hate crime", particularly from those on the Harperite side of the ideological chasm, the PM's absention of a Host appears to have drawn much milder criticism. I'd like to believe that it's because we're Canadian, and we recognize that, in itself, this is a nothing incident.
As part of Harper's pattern of disrespect, it seems to be more significant.