Treason and patriotism in Canada and the current-day world (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
It may be noticed that, as the processes of late modernity increasingly envelop the planet, many traditional ideas, notions, and concepts, are undergoing radical revision. Certainly, the ideas of treason and patriotism have been subject to enormous shifts since the beginning of the twentieth century.
Ideas of treason and patriotism are important to the Canadian situation for a variety of reasons. Much of traditional English-Canadian identity is bound up with the profession of loyalty to the Sovereign or Monarch. A person who fails to profess loyalty to the Sovereign or Monarch is, in the traditional conception, being disloyal to Canada. At the same time, there have been a number of times in 1990s Canada when Québécois nationalists have been accused of treason. One should examine these accusations in the light of current thinking about what constitutes treason, in Canada as well as elsewhere.
The questions of loyalty as between Church and State have always been particularly difficult. According to English historian Edward Gibbon, much of the persecutions of Christians under the Roman Empire stemmed from the latter's intransigence to make even the slightest recognition of loyalty to the Emperor (i.e., burning some incense before a statuette of the Emperor) which was interpreted by Christians not as a civic or patriotic ritual, but one of idolatrous recognition of the divinity of the Emperor rather than that of Christ. Christians would face the most severe tortures and death, rather than submit to this ritual.
Nevertheless, Roman Catholicism in England managed to attract a long and illustrious lineage of intellectual apologists, such as Sir Thomas More, many of whom faced martyrdom.
The anti-Catholicism of the English or British state was largely transferred to America. In virtually any era of America's history, one could point to periodic outbreaks of severe anti-Catholicism. Indeed, Roman Catholics have been under almost constant suspicion -- whether from Protestant or secularist critics -- of being "un-American." At the same time, it must be pointed out that probably one of the largest desertions from the U.S. army occurred during the Mexican-American War, where the Mexicans were able to raise the so-called San Patricio battalion from Irish Catholic U.S. deserters and prisoners of war. The U.S. army unsurprisingly immediately hanged upon capture any identified member of this formation.
One of the most savage, modern armed conflicts between Church and State was the uprising of the so-called Cristeros in late-1920s Mexico – against a ferociously enforced secularization. There is a very recent major movie depicting this conflict – For Greater Glory.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.