globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail/globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

  This site      Tips

  

  The Web Google

  





  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology


Read and Win Contest


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

  Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...



Services
  Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    
Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
1919-2000


With the passing of a man, the birth of a myth
By JEFFREY SIMPSON
Wednesday, October 4, 2000

A nation buried Pierre Trudeau yesterday and gave birth to a myth.

All nations need myths. They are tales told by members of one generation to another, then passed on to future generations to become what Abraham Lincoln called a nation's "mystic chords of memory."

Myths are not history, but versions of it. They are not rounded portraits of what actually happened, but tales of triumph and tragedy that emerge over time, with lessons extracted by those who learn them.

Myths require a determined effort of amnesia about all the details that get in the way of the main outlines of the story. Critics may recall those details, even highlight them, but they fade in the public's mind before those main outlines.

So it will be for Pierre Trudeau.

Adversaries of his in public life never failed to highlight the details; indeed, in the outpouring of contemporary affection it is inconvenient to remember that twice in his political career, in 1972 and 1979, voters outside Quebec resoundingly rebuked him. When Mr. Trudeau departed public life in 1984, he knew he could not be re-elected.

Myths, however, usually centre on individuals of daring and courage who, against considerable odds, recorded accomplishments that touched contemporaries and are therefore worth retelling to future generations.

So it will be for Pierre Trudeau.

Much of what he did, or tried to do, has disappeared from Canadian life, and historians will record all these efforts. But myths will brush these disappointments aside, and focus instead on what he did accomplish and what legacy he left his country.

That he loved his country did not necessarily set him apart from other patriots, but rather how he loved it. He loved it in both languages and in its immense entirety. He loved it for what it was but, more important, for what it could become.

Myths are about dreams, some achieved, some broken. Myths can be as much about failure as success, but what counts in a myth is that an individual tried and, in the trying, inspired others.

So it will be for Pierre Trudeau.

He embraced the complexity of Canada and tried to persuade his fellow citizens to treat that complexity as an asset, rather than a frustration. It was never an easy sell in a country of regional resentments, linguistic tensions and vast geographic space. Other prime ministers had governed by trying to broker these differences, but he tried to synthesize them into a larger, coherent whole, often with polarizing rather than unifying results.

But as time has passed since he left public life, and Canadians have been better able to compare him with his predecessors and his successors, a certain appreciation has set in for what he attempted, even among those who liked neither his methods, nor the results.

He could be rough and insulting and infuriating. He was never one to let an argument die easily. But through his exertions, physical and intellectual, he tested himself and asked of his fellow citizens that they try to test themselves as individuals, and as members of the common weal. That will be, one suspects, his most enduring legacy, the one that will most shape the enfolding myth of his public life.

For all his sometimes trying methods, he did attempt to summon, again as Lincoln said, the "better angels of our nature." Those around whom myths form are not made of ordinary stuff, even if, as necessarily flawed human beings, there are elements of the ordinary about them.

So it will be for Pierre Trudeau.

He had personal and political flaws, but he also had characteristics of discipline and courage, and a set of ideas that through all the years never varied.

Those ideas were contested in his time, as they will be in the future, but they were rooted in the history of this country and in the intellectual traditions of the West, and never in our time has a Canadian articulated them more eloquently or defended them more passionately than he did.

Those ideas were large, and they, too, will shape the myth because myths are only about large ideas that are worth remembering long after those who articulated them have passed. Ultimately, those ideas transcend all the details that myths forget, and leave behind for future generations a legacy that passes into legend.

So it will be for Pierre Trudeau.

Requiescat in pace.


7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Michael Posner
Ethnic laugh lines
Jeffrey Simpson
Health care: Do we know better than everyone else?

Paul Knox
The rise of anti-anti-Americanism




space

Editorial Cartoon




Click here for the Editorial Cartoon






Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page
[an error occurred while processing this directive]