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.
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.