Posts Tagged ‘Harjit Sajjan’

Speechwriters and old soldiers never die.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

This writer would have serious doubts taking on writing speeches for an old soldier such as Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan. There are a series of problems involved, not the least of them being the mistake of trying to present an apolitical Sikh in the guise of a politician. There is no fit.

The first mistake most people make when a decorated military veteran is appointed defence minister is to assume he knows his job. No, he does not. It is a political job and, as it turns out, Sajjan is not all that political. His political career is at the mercy of the political people working for him.

Not the least of these political flunkies would be the speechwriters who have their own way of doing things. They would hardly be likely to have any understanding of the cultural divide faced by Canadian Sikhs. While conceit is considered one of the hated five thieves of their religion, Sikhs take considerable pride in their military history. And like many other sects, their oral history can be enriched with hyperbole.

But what Sajjan saw in politics was the day-in-day-out glossing over the facts. He saw how people would keep their more positive stories in the forefront and bury the less savoury. And we need to face the fact that to Sikhs, he was not just part of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan but the highest-ranking Sikh playing a key role. To a Sikh, the claim of his being an architect in the operation, became being the architect. He knew this was an exaggeration but was convinced that this is how it is done in politics.

So you have the combination of misconceptions about politics. First by the inexperience in politics of Sajjan and then by the misconceptions of speechwriters. And when you have speechwriters who might not understand the military chain of command in battlefield operations, you have the combination that caused the problems.

We should remember though that as soon as he was called on this as being inaccurate, Sajjan apologized. He made no pretense nor did he take the usual political defense of stonewalling the complaint.

As are more than a few of Sajjan’s cabinet colleagues, he is a neophyte in this field. To be fair, we need to cut him some slack. He should have had an easier introduction to politics and learned to be a politician in a different parliamentary job. He might become Canada’s first veteran to get PTSD in the House of Commons.

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