Of course we began by talking about the weather. I fully expected the conversation to end with the condemnation of Obama and liberals because, obviously, global warming was a hoax. To my pleasant surprise, my new friends instead began to talk about how changes to the earth caused by things like fracking and oil spills would invariably affect the earth as a whole. Aha, I thought, not from around here....
In fact, they were from Canada in Quebec. But they had been here for a couple of months already, and had learned how to tread carefully where political opinion was concerned. Once we had established that I too was of rational mind, they asked the inevitable question: what's with the southern states?
After an animated conversation, we agreed that the opposition to health care and obstruction of voting rights was just not Christian, and just didn't make sense.
"However," my friend began somewhat sheepishly...
In Quebec, it seems that religious intolerance is actually intolerance of religion. A proposed "Charter of Quebec values" would require faces to be uncovered, and no religious symbols displayed on a person. This would apply to all public employees, and also to anyone who receives services from the state.
It may come as no surprise that the Parti Quebecois that is sponsoring this charter is about as radical as... Texas. They actually support the secession of Quebec from Canada. There is the Office quebecois de la langue francaise, which group of tyrants send out threatening letters to miscreant businesses who have English Facebook pages; last year an overzealous minister was forced to resign after fining a restaurateur for using the word "pasta" on his menu.
And now there is religion. Which brings me back around to religious intolerance. Here we are flogged by Christians who insist that they are being treated unfairly because they are not allowed to control everyone else's behavior. In France and Quebec, it seems that the solution to being intimidated by religious symbols is to not tolerate any of them.
It seems that the religious intolerance of the U.S. and Quebec (and France) stem from the same thing: fear of anything Moslem. Here in the U.S. the majority feels perfectly comfortable banning minority traditions, while in our gentle neighbor to the north, the solution is to ban all religious symbols.
What we need is religion that is confident enough of itself that it does not seek to force its beliefs on others, and is content that all religions are free to express their beliefs. Or not.
I would like to conclude by saying that I was very happy to have had this informative conversation with travelers from Montreal, although while I'm on vacation I would prefer not to make a habit out of it. On the other hand, imagining Quebec as a place in which wingnut Rick Perry would feel right at home did give me a chuckle.