* With apologies to Ryan and Joël, proud Albertans, proud progressives, and braver men than I.
I guess being lucky enough to sit on an ocean's worth of the planet's second most expensive natural resource doesn't make Albertans different enough from the rest of us, for it seems they always feel the need to deepen, to sharpen and, finally, to revel in their difference.
Sure, this is often entertaining. Sometimes, though, it’s just embarrassing--for everyone involved. Like an aged uncle who ruins a wedding reception by stripping down to his briefs and attempting the macarena after too many rum and cokes, our Albertan brothers and sisters just don't seem to know when to stop.
Here's my case, in three exhibits.
George W. Bush chooses Calgary as the venue for his inaugural exercise in public rehabilitation, signalling to the world his belief that Alberta is the last planetary redoubt of support for an American ex-president loathed in his own country and thus chronically deprived of even the most meagre domestic media platform from which to dribble his preposterous apologetics.
Albertans happily confirm this belief by sending over a thousand of their business élite to the event. The crowd gives Bush a sympathetic hearing--with one of them opining that the plutocrat cum war criminal "came across as a pretty good human being". The anti-Bush protest, a pitifully small affair, is left up to people with names like "Splits the Sky"--moving me to the anguished conclusion that, in Alberta, even the sane people are cracked.
Most Canadians know Mayerthorpe as the scene of the most tragic catastrophe in our nation's policing history since the Battle of Duck Lake. Quite a few Albertans, though, seem to view Mayerthorpe as the scene of a terrible miscarriage of justice. According to these amateur clerks-at-the-law, two men who materially aided the cold-blooded slaughter of four young Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables are entirely innocent "scapegoats" whose indictment was an arbitrary act of official vindictiveness and who've had a "huge toll" taken from them since their arrest (more toll, we assume, than was taken from the murdered officers).
Most Canadians feel that Omar Khadr has a right to be tried by his peers (i.e. other Canadians). Many Albertans disagree, though: along with the always-interesting folks in British Columbia, Albertans are quite eager for Khadr to stay just where he is, facing a jester's assizes that even his U.S. Navy lawyer considers an absurd affront to international law and American values.
Presumably, Albertans' main objection is that Canada would provide Khadr with a fair trial--one operating according to post-Magna Carta norms--whereas the American process would provide a more gratifying fast-track to the noose, electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad or injection room regardless of pettifogging, pre-9/11 niceties like the distinction between "guilt" and "innocence".
So, let's review, shall we? When it comes to giving the benefit of the doubt to two of their own who committed the slight ethical lapse of shuttling a heavily armed known criminal to the scene of a multiple cop-killing, Albertans are all heart, begging the Crown to give the poor guys a break.
When the man personally responsible for triggering one of the century's worst bloodbaths arrives to prattle on about his ignominiously failed presidency, Albertans roll out the red carpet and wax sentimental about what a "decent" chap he is.
When a fifteen year old is captured, tortured and dragged into a kangaroo court for allegedly committing a murder for which the evidence is threadbare at best, Albertans gleefully watch him rot and cheer on his torment.
Thus, the norms underpinning Albertan "justice" can be divined through the following deeply held beliefs: accessories to a multiple cop killing are victims of a vengeful Crown and must be freed immediately; an American president who orchestrated the massacre of tens of thousands must have his ass kissed, and a Canadian kid (ethnically Arab, provocatively) must be punished, perhaps capitally, for most probably not killing a single soldier.
These are precisely the facts I shall have in mind next time a representative of God-fearin' Albertan righteousness lectures the rest of us about our bleeding-heart, soft-on-crime "decadence". I know decadence when I see it, and, right now, it is home, home on the range.