American Tragedy, Canadian Mandate


Events surrounding the recent American presidential election prompt a number of adjectives– despicable, ludicrous, pathological and so on. But the word that comes to my mind, as one who spent the first 28 years of his life in that country, is tragic.

I do have to remind myself that Donald Trump is merely the visible tip of an iceberg, one that we didn’t see coming. To understand why a third of adult Americans buy in to fake news and crazed conspiracy theories, one has to back up twenty years or so, and question schools, teachers, parents and the society in general that allowed this third to lose its grip on both facts and ethics.  That loss is what paved the way for Trump, and Mussolini, and Hitler. Pathological personalities come to power partly on their own accord, but mostly because the public allows them, either passively standing by or by active welcome.  

One of the observations emerging from the Trump/Biden election is the totally bizarre and arcane mechanics of American presidential elections. Surprisingly, this is the first time the machine, which makes Rube Goldberg’s Self-operating Napkin look simple in comparison, has nearly broken down.

Self-operating napkin – Rube Goldberg

Many of us Canadians have been watching American presidential election news obsessively. Certainly it is hard not to, but beyond that it is almost second nature for us, and for our news media, to closely follow US news. As one wag said, “Americans are woefully ignorant about Canada; Canadians are sinfully knowledgeable about the USA.” But it is important to remember that their political systems are not the same as ours, and their social ethics are not the same as ours: in fact they are poles apart.

It is time we begin making clear US/Canadian distinctions: honoring our system of government, celebrating our multi-party system, re-engaging in politics from local through to federal levels, standing up for multiculturalism, and guarding against the northward seepage of conspiracy theories across our southern border. In short, being proud Canadians instead of surrogate Americans. I say this particularly to my fellow dual citizens and ex-Americans living in Canada. There is a fine line between ho-hum laissez-faire patriotism and toxic super-patriotism. We can find that line.

The United States has always thought of itself as the beacon of democracy to the rest of the world. Their example is now severely dimmed and tarnished. It is time for us Canadians to proudly raise our beacon, and the world will thank us for it.  

5 thoughts on “American Tragedy, Canadian Mandate

  1. tragically true Don, every once in a while events conspire to create the conditions for a narcissist to capture a zeitgeist and ride that wave to power, and as a narcissist is wont to do, wreck havoc.

    It is quite alarming to be in this moment and wonder how so many people fail to see the shallow, self-aggrandizing grifter for what he is. Like two sides of a coin, we each of us, see our side of the coin, oblivious to the other….an interesting and alarming moment in time and insight into the psychologies of the human condition.

  2. Brilliantly said, Don. Since we shared the same history teachers at Franklin High, not to mention the glorious R.W. Wettleson, journalism wonder and all-around intellectual and ethics mentor, I wonder what oaths (Shakespearean, not loyalty) they would mutter in utter disbelief and despair. As a child, like you, of 1950s and early 1960s America, when I think of those 70+ million Trump supporters and the Republican traitors to the Republic (99% of the elected miscreants and behind-the-scenes scoundrels), I am absolutely gobsmacked by how far they have drifted from the values on which I was raised by family, school teachers, clergy, Scoutmasters, coaches, et al. I also think of photos of Hitler ranting for the assembled starry-eyed masses of true believers circa 1935…and the photos a mere ten years later of German cities in ruin and those dazed-eyed masses loading the rubble onto trucks. Not that America is going to flatted physically by its external enemies. But how fast a sufficiently large segment of a society can go stark raving bonkers in tragic ways (to use your word), and how all their resentment and enthusiasm can turn to ash. But, as you say, this has been building for decades. We can go back — as have many commentators — to Goldwater and the Birchites, or to Reagan and his ilk. But, for me, there was a paradigm shift with Newt Gringrich in the mid-1990s and that government shutdown. Reagan and most of his people and Republican votes still accepted the fundamental rules and norms of American democracy. Newt and his hoard did/does not. Couple that with the ascension of Murdoch/Ailes and the Fox Propaganda Network and then other lunatic media types moving out of the shadows. And a weak, docile, puppet Bush Jr. as a mostly passive occupant of the Oval Office. But there’s hope. Kirk and Spock returned with the Enterprise to rescue two whales. Since the Discovery has gone into the future, with Spock’s adopted sister, perhaps she and the Discovery will return to save America.

    1. I was an editor on the Tolo Weekly at Franklin with R W Wettleson in 1966. I had been doing some research in his life and was wondering if you knew why he left Franklin and if you ever read a copy of his paper Reflections of a Years Sabbatical 1966-67”
      Please let me know. Thank you.

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