Please don’t think that “badass” is a good qualification for a cabinet minister.

An opinion piece by Stephen Marsh (, discusses the cool factor of Canada under a Trudeau government. The article is humorous –a little tongue-in-cheek to be sure, and not objectionable, really. But aspects of it pushed a button with me.

The article ascribes to our new defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, a tough-guy credential, preferring this (perhaps playfully) to “running think tanks, or teaching at universities” –as if killing Taliban fighters is somehow a better qualification for a Cabinet Minister than being an intellectual. The article compares Sajjan to movie action hero, Jack Reacher.

Notwithstanding the overall message of the article, it brushes against a theme that doesn’t sit right with me. I’m tired of the diss of intellectualism. Just who the hell is Jack Reacher, and why the hell would we want someone like him in our government?

Killing Taliban (or killing anyone) is not something that should impress. Rather, it’s something that should depress. In the world today, there are far too many people killing each other. The dichotomy of “us” and “them” is far to entrenched. Whatever has necessitated our young people to range themselves as infantry against other young people in deadly conflict is a tragedy.

I don’t have a problem with the appointment of Sajjan. For all I know, he is eminently qualified to be Minister of Defense. Certainly his experience in the military can be an asset to the job.

But when I pin the poppy to my lapel, an association of the word “badassery” with the proud military history (of which my grandfathers and grandmothers were a part) feels like so much blasphemy. The word diminishes them in some way: men and women who preached and lived gentleness and who thought “intellectual” to be a great compliment –men and women who survived a terrible, terrible war, and who fervently wished that their children’s children never experience war again. Men and women who told me that the “bigger man” was the one who walks away from a fight.

“Cute” is the right word to contextualize this article. I get the joke, but I have a real fear that among Canadians there is a large element of macho-shithead-ery that would prefer badassery to a sober, nuanced, intellectual approach to a very serious portfolio.


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