Voice of Fairness

My personal opinion on science, religion and politics

Betrayers of their own trade: on Canadian journalists Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm

Just read an article in Toronto Sun on Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 entitled “Canada's worship of Norman Bethune misguided” by Candice Malcolm [1]. This immediately led to another article entitled “Dr. Norman Bethune: China's Hero, Canada's Traitor”, written by Peter Worthington [2]. Neither article provides any substantiation of their claim except a full display of shallow journalism and ignorance. The two thought that they could get away because they believed that other Canadians were equally ignorant. Malcolm wrote that “Most Canadians have never heard of Norman Bethune”, and Worthington asserted that Bethune is “Virtually unknown in Canada” (which is perhaps paraphrased from "Virtually unknown in his homeland" in Wikipedia's article on Bethune). Hence they both picked up the license to lie and to mislead.

“Bethune first moved to Spain to fight for communism in the Spanish civil war”, Malcolm wrote, but ignored the fact that Bethune went there to fight the Franco regime funded by Nazi Germany and Italian fascists [3]. The fact is also omitted in Worthington’s article. Yes, the opposition against the dictatorship was ruthlessly crashed, and Dr. Bethune was on the losing side, but the noble doctor had always been on the side of the weak and the poor all his life. As Worthington has acknowledged, “as a medical doctor he was ahead of his time and genuinely saw socialized medicine as the way to go…… After serving briefly as a stretcher-bearer in WWI, he completed his medical degree at the University of Toronto, and then joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant…… he developed battlefield blood transfusions that cut down deaths caused by loss of blood” (All of these can be found in the Wikipedia article). In short, peoples of the world, especially the poor and the weak, are still benefiting from the pioneering work by Dr. Bethune. No one, except for the few wicked ones, should feel ashamed to claim the doctor as our fellow Canadian.

But then, how Dr. Bethune became “Canada’s Traitor” in the words of Worthington? In a similar vein, Malcolm handed out her judgement that “Bethune was no hero. He betrayed Canadian values. He essentially defected from Canada to fight for a foreign army”.

And the substantiation for the judgment? Because he went to China to fight the Japanese Imperial Army butchering innocent Chinese children and raping Chinese women!

Dr. Bethune went to China to help in the war against Japanese Imperial Army during the darkest period of the war, with bombing and shelling around him most of the time. He could not stand alone after having been shown the brutal massacre of Chinese people carried out by Japanese soldiers. The weak and the poor needed help, so he took the long journey.

He was right at the war frontier. Most of his surgical operations were done close to the enemy line. Whenever a wounded soldier asked him to retreat to safety, he always had the almost stereotyped answer, “No, my child, no one has the right to leave without caring for you.”

No surgical operation can be perfectly accurate and precise when bombs and shells are falling next to you. So in one fateful operation, Dr. Bethune accidentally inflicted a cut at his finger and contracted a fatal bacterial infection, to which he eventually succumbed.

Dr. Bethune is not the only western medical doctor participating in the fight against Japanese armies in China. Another doctor is Jakob Rosenfeld, well-known as “Bid-nose magic doctor” among soldiers and officers healed by him. He did not die in war and decided to go back to his homeland in Austria. A statue of him was also erected, and a hospital was named after him in China. There are many others, including Japanese who fought on the side of Chinese and sacrificed their young lives. It is the sacrifice of people like them that ultimately resulted in the defeat of the Axis powers in 1945.

In his death-bed, Dr. Bethune did express his wish to send a letter to Tim Buck, and Worthington mean-spiritedly emphasized that Tim Buck was the leader of Canadian Communist Party, as if a letter to a communist leader must imply a mortal sin beyond redemption. For the benefit of English readers, I will translate part of the letter from Chinese to English:

“Dear Commander Nie:

Today I am not feeling well…… perhaps we will part forever. Please send a letter to Tim Buck (Secretary of Canadian Communist Party) at 10 Wellington St, Toronto, Canada.

Please also send the same letter to International Committee of Aid to China [4] and Canadian Democracy and Peace Alliance [4]. Let them know that I am very happy here. I only wish to contribute more. These letters can be written in Chinese and be translated on the other side.

My photos, diaries, documents, films, etc., should also be mailed to Toronto and let Tim Buck look after the distribution. Let him know that one film should soon be finished. Put all these in a box, use the $18 given to me from Mr. Lin for the mailing expenses. The box should be very strong, wrapped in leather belt and strengthened with three ropes.

Please request some living expenses for my ex-wife from International Committee of Aid to China, either in a lump sum or periodic support. I am heavily indebted to her, and should never leave her in poverty. Please explain to her that I am very sorry. Please also let her know that I was very happy with her before.

The two camp beds are gifts for you and your wife, so are the two pairs of leather shoes. The riding boots and pants are for Commander Lv. Please leave some souvenirs for General He Long…….

Medical books and the alarm clock are for the Health School.

The last two years is the happiest and most significant period of my life……

I can’t write more. A thousand thanks to you and millions of my dear comrades.

Norman Bethune”

It is a simple letter. A letter that divides his love and compassion between the two countries that he loved. Dr. Bethune is not just a Canadian. He belongs to both Canada and China.

If Dr. Bethune does not exemplify Canadian value, then who does?

I read the articles by Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm several times trying to find any good reasons for their assertion that Dr. Bethune is “Canada’s Traitor”. It turned out that neither claimed to know much about the doctor. They had come up with two capital crimes. First, Bethune was praised by Chairman Mao who later became a dictator. Second, Worthington claimed to have an old friend, Michel Gauvin, who did not like Bethune. Michel Gauvin was Canadian Ambassador to China (1980-84), and Worthington alleged that Gauvin confided to him that he (Gauvin) strongly disapproved Norman Bethune and expressed his strong feeling against Bethune to Chinese Foreign Minister in the very first welcoming banquet in his honour. This sounds rather unusual for a skilled diplomat. Unfortunately, Michel Gauvin died a long time before Peter Worthington put words into his mouth (and Worthington repeated the story multiple times, perhaps in an attempt to make it sound a bit more realistic). Even if the Gauvin story is true, Gauvin's opinion of Bethune is just his personal opinion. Similarly, Stalin praised many heroes, within and beyond Russia, who sacrificed their lives defending their homeland against Nazi invasion. Does Stalin's praise transform those heroes to villains?

And that concludes the reality of Canadian journalism. We expect journalists to disseminate truth, but only observe an extraordinary zeal of spreading falsehood, by repeating oneself multiple times in the case of Peter Worthington, and repeating others in the case of Candice Malcolm. I do not see a traitor of Canada, but I do see two betrayers of their own trade.

What else can I say? Norman Bethune is my hero, so is Jakob Rosenfeld and many others who dedicated their productive years helping the poor and the weak. I don’t know if Peter Worthington and Candice Malcolm have any heroes in their mind, other than a pitiful ego writ gigantic.

[1] http://www.torontosun.com/2016/08/31/canadas-worship-of-norman-bethune-misguided

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/peter-worthington/bethune-china_b_1909347.html

[3] From Wikipedia’s entry of Francisco Franco: “Franco's Nationalist faction received military support from fascist regimes and groups, especially Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy, while the Republican side was supported by Spanish communists and anarchists as well as help from the Soviet Union, Mexico, and the International Brigades. Leaving half a million dead, the war was eventually won by Franco in 1939. He established a military dictatorship, which he defined as a totalitarian state.[3] Franco proclaimed himself Head of State and Government under the title El Caudillo (the Chief), a term similar to Il Duce (Italian) and Der Führer (German). Under Franco, Spain became a one-party state with a merger of the monarchist party and the fascist party that helped him during the war, the FET y de las JONS, while all other political parties were outlawed.”

[4] Literal translation from Chinese and may not correspond to the official name of the organization.

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