Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I heard on CBC radio, so it must be true, that Gregor Robinson, in order to court the Chinese vote in Vancouver, has announced that he is the nephew of Dr. Norman Bethune. Dr. Bethune, a Canadian doctor and surgeon, went to China during the Chinese revolution and was the first doctor and scientist in history to develop taking surgical facilities directly to the battlefield and operating on the wounded there. He believed utterly in socialism and the Chinese revolution, and died while engaging in that struggle. Dr. Bethune was revered for his contribution to the Chinese revolution and is still regarded as a hero in China. But in Canada?

Dr. Bethune was considered a traitor at home and more or less reviled by the governments of Canada. And even today Dr. Bethune’s contributions to medicine are more or less ignored in Canada. In fact, I was in Ontario when the first real thaw came between Canada and China and some Chinese dignitaries visited Canada and wanted to be shown Dr. Bethune’s birth place and family home. Nobody in charge even knew where it was and when they found it, it was so run down they had to spruce it up lickey split so the Chinese wouldn’t think they were unappreciative of a Canadian the Chinese considered a hero.

Dr. Norman Bethune was a real socialist, a believer in equality, and he sympathized completely with the Chinese revolution. In case it isn’t clear, Dr. Bethune is also a hero of mine. He fought the moneyed interests, both foreign and domestic that kept China a desperate, backward county. And I rather resent Gregor Robinson evoking my hero’s name, kin or no, in order to further the fortunes of the Vision Municipal Party of Vancouver, a party that is seventy per cent funded by corporations and developers. I think Dr. Bethune is turning over in his grave by this act of his nephew’s, this recent announcement, in the hope of influencing Chinese voters. I think Dr Bethune must be appalled that his own passionate, committed socialism could be used in such a cynical way. Dr. Bethune knew that he who pays the piper picks the tune. Gregor Robinson either doesn’t know that he is cruising on corporate money, or he doesn’t care. Blood is not always thicker than water.

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