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Diary

Diary

19 May 2012

4:00 PM

19 May 2012

4:00 PM

It is unusual in Canada to have had the same address for 60 years, and for an urban house to have ten acres around it (testimony to my father’s foresight), and these facts made it especially painful not to set eyes on my home for five years while I struggled in the American Gulag. It has been an affecting return, with many kindnesses and very few echoes of the appalling defamations that announced the beginning of my travails (and have ended in generous libel settlements in my favour). Given the correlation of forces between the US government and me, it is ending as well as it could, and the remaining relatively trivial legal skirmishing should also be favourable.

•••

As at my earlier prison, before I was released following the US Supreme Court’s vacation of all my counts, I had made many friendly acquaintances. In such a place, humour is precious and everyone has a story, though most are fables. One of the best, apparently true stories, was that of my friend who was suspected by the Food and Drug Administration of having rats in his refrigerated warehouse. The FDA posted a 300lb female agent on a folding chair in front of what was thought to be an access to the rats’ den. The agent dozed off but was awakened by the startled cheepings of a Norwegian freezer rat, 18 inches long plus a tail of over a foot. The agent levitated in alarm, bumped her head on an overhead pipe, fell down unconscious and soiled herself, and my fellow resident was accused of negligently creating a sanitary hazard and of putting a federal agent in harm’s way. My time in this milieu had its interesting and amusing moments.

•••


As all the arrangements for my departure from the United States and arrival in Canada had been agreed with both governments weeks before, it was disconcerting that they became the subject of confected media and parliamentary controversy. The unforgettable 4th of May began with the authoritarian loudspeakers and clanking of an American prison, then an uneventful trip to the airport after a decoy motorcade had distracted the waiting press, and boisterous American handshakes as I boarded our little plane for an unruffled flight to Toronto. I was home by two o’clock in the afternoon, and able to enjoy the still-blooming magnolias and other treats with Barbara and her splendid dogs, Hungarian Kuvaszok, whom I had last seen sweltering in Florida a year ago. We were all united in gratitude for the end of our separation, as for our change of venue. We cannot recover the nine years consumed by the onslaught, but the prosecution, greeted with such general credulity, failed.

•••

Charles de Gaulle saved France as a serious country by giving it back a monarchy and calling it a republic. The progression from him to Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand and Chirac was a gradual descent in presidential (or monarchical) aptitudes, with, perhaps, the slightest resuscitation with Sarkozy. François Hollande is an unmitigated cipher and his programme is insane in a country that already has an economy dominated by the public sector. By the time Hollande’s term is over, Chancellor Merkel will have completed the work of Bismarck. She will continue the German policy of enabling the ECB to assist fiscally distressed countries that emulate Germany’s labour market flexibility and tax incentivisation of investment. Thus will Europe be saved from its suffocating social safety hammock and ancient paranoid terror of discontented working and agrarian classes.

•••

The supreme irony of European affairs is that Germany, which Europe’s leading statesmen, from Richelieu to Margaret Thatcher, strove to keep divided and which for nearly a century frightened all Europe with its aggressive strength, will unify Central and Western Europe on request, by benignity and example. A humdrum chemist and East German Lutheran minister’s daughter will succeed where some of Europe’s greatest and most galvanising leaders did not.

•••

The United States is now entering what appears at this point to be the most unexciting election campaign in its history (not excluding when Washington and Monroe ran unopposed), between the most unsuccessful president since James Buchanan and a diffident consultant. The country that made the world safe for democracy, and extended it from 12 countries in the early 1940s to approximately 130 countries today is not now one of the world’s 20 better-functioning democracies. Doubtless it will renovate itself, but that is unlikely under the leadership of anyone on offer now. 


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