At the Auschwitz Museum last week, Justin Trudeau wrote the following in the book of remembrance: “Tolerance is never sufficient. Humanity must learn to love our differences.”
While the CBC reported that his visit to the evil center of the Holocaust operation was private, I assume his words were intended to contribute to our thinking about how to be more civilized.
They convey the same intimate, awkward portentousness of Neil Armstrong’s utterances when he stepped onto the moon. And that’s appropriate: the Holocaust continues to force us to think harder than any of the relics of the space race.
Trudeau’s gravitas isn’t my problem.
Now that I’ve had that recommended “consultation muffin,” my sugar count is as high as GQ’s regard for the virtues of our new prime minister. Still, while my timing is way ahead of the zeitgeist, I’d like to throw out a few teensy misgivings about what he wrote so carefully.
Justin Trudeau’s proposition that tolerance needs to be bolstered by “love for our differences” is just not smart. And the task of being smarter about humanity, to my mind, is the imperative of remembrance.
Canadians quite openly believe that they are more tolerant than, well, all their neighbors. But we also agree that tolerance is not enough when thinking about the safety of minorities. So, yes, his first sentence can be endorsed by all of us.
However, long ago, certainly in the West, we accepted that “love” is not reliable; it’s not what drives powerful institutions, and it’s not the business of politics.
“Love” is hard to find, but cheap in public discourse. Remember, bishops instructed the faithful to love the heretics; they were burning on stakes in public squares.
“Black lives matter!” isn’t looking for love, but justice—equal treatment that can be seen, measured, and rigorously enforced in courts.
We can celebrate—and advertise—our diversity in Canada because minorities are safe here. They are safe because tolerance, consistent with universal liberal values, has been codified into our laws and enshrined in our Constitution.
It’s ironic that Justin Trudeau, proud spokesman for Charter Canadian liberalism, would invoke a sentiment to secure social justice.
His family and party get to brag about our enshrined Charter of Rights because Pierre Trudeau, and his indispensable conservative allies, rejected tradition and sentiment as adequate guarantors of minority rights in Canada.
Their opponents didn’t claim to be defending a less liberal society. They claimed that British Common Law and our liberal-minded self-regard, our love of our differences, was enough.
They lost the argument.