Wednesday, January 13, 2016

George Jonas a lifelong believer in freedom

Robert Fulford: George Jonas was an enemy of every oppression, great or small | National Post:

January 11, 2016 - "For many years after the Second World War, Canadians had trouble understanding the immigrants who flowed in from eastern Europe. Their stories of oppression weren’t always taken seriously. Ukrainians, Hungarians, Poles and many others were embittered after losing their national homes to the Russian empire but Canadians found that hard to grasp. Newspaper editorials often instructed immigrants — Displaced Persons, or DPs, they were often called — that they must not bring old enmities into Canadian life.

"George Jonas, a Hungarian who became a distinguished Canadian writer, was sophisticated enough to treat that provincial attitude with an urbane shrug. He remained forever an enemy of the Soviet Union and all other despotisms.

"With his opinions uninhibited, he plunged into a six-decades-long career in Canada as poet, playwright, novelist, CBC broadcaster and journalist, ending up with the widespread respect of his profession and membership in the Order of Canada. He died Sunday in Toronto at age 80.

"A lifelong belief in freedom ran like an electric current through his poetry, his fiction and his journalism. Long-established Canadians tend to take freedom for granted, never having known its opposite, but where Jonas came from it was scarce. As a child in the early 1940s, he was made to wear a yellow star on the street, like all other Jews. After 1945 he watched the Soviet Union impose a dreary and evil dictatorship on Hungary.

"Freedom was the song Jonas sang, in all his writing He never gave up trying to protect freedom — from communists, fascists, Islamists or any other totalitarians. I can’t forget the contempt he expressed in the 1960s when describing a Canadian nationalist poet who said that Mao’s China sounded like an admirable society. How could those who were born to freedom consider bartering it away, even in imagination? Freedom was the song Jonas sang, in all his writing. He proudly called himself a classical liberal. Many people think that means a conservative but he believed it meant he was an enemy of every oppression, great or small."

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