Alan Zendell, September 27, 2020
Imagine for a moment that you’re a Canadian. Most Americans are vaguely aware of Canada as our neighbor to the north. Some can name most of the Canadian provinces, and some fraction of those can even locate them on a map. On any given day, however, most Americans don’t give Canada a thought, except for trite but largely true aphorisms like, “Canadians are just like us, only nicer.”
As a Canadian, however, you would be aware of your neighbor to the south on a daily basis. It’s bigger, wealthier, militarily stronger, and as individuals, more heavily armed. You‘d know our countries experienced many of the same problems: the embarrassment of genocide against our First Nations, racism, economic ups and downs. You’d be a citizen of a proud independent nation, but at some level you’d always know your fate was inextricably tied to ours.
If our economy fell into a major depression, so would yours. We experience the same climate change problems, and any major war that involved us would invariably drag you in as well. You’ve mostly admired us in the manner of a kid looking up to his big brother, even when he doesn’t treat you well. Lately, however, you’d wonder why your big brother seems so intent on destroying himself, and possibly taking you down with him.
You must shake your head in disbelief. Maybe the COVID virus, which you handled so well, has driven your neighbors to the south insane. You closed our shared border, which protected you from the virus, but if everything went to hell down here, a closed border wouldn’t protect you. Watching Donald Trump cavort around like a sociopathic clown at a distance may have been amusing at first, but seeing him willing to destroy everything America stands for to retain power must chill you down to your core. Most Americans feel the same way.
Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson summed it up perfectly in yesterday’s edition of her daily Letters From an American: “Trump and his cronies are trying to create their own reality. They are trying to make people believe that the coronavirus is not real, that it has not killed more than 200,000 of our neighbors, that the economy is fine, that our cities are in flames, that Black Lives Matter protesters are anarchists, and that putting Democrats in office will usher in radical socialism. None of these things is true. Similarly, Trump is trying to convince people that he can deploy the power of the government to remain in power even if we want him to leave, creating uncertainly and fear. By talking about it, he is willing that situation into existence. It is a lie.”
Watching all this from across the border must make you feel the way Europeans felt watching the Fascists transform Germany and Italy in the 1930s. You might even be justified in blaming America’s arrogant complacency and intellectual laziness. We created this problem by turning blind eyes to the rifts in our society and allowing them to grow into chasms that become harder to bridge, the longer they persist. We have let the subsurface anger and frustration of large segments of our population explode into a tableau that looks scarily similar to the days that preceded our Civil War. It has to stop, and soon.
We have created the spectacle of a power-mad president who masquerades as a populist, whose approval rating has never touched 50 percent, and who, five weeks prior to the presidential election has the support of only two in every five Americans. In a true democracy that would presage an end to his autocratic fantasies. But our archaic Electoral College could subvert the will of the majority, as it has in the past, only this time, it may cause permanent harm.
Americans have usually responded well to wake-up calls like this, and we had better this time, or the America our grandchildren grow up in will look nothing like the one we did. If we permit a cult based on divisiveness and partisan hatred to steal this election with lies and fearmongering fantasies, our alleged democracy is doomed. If Donald Trump’s cynical, deliberate mishandling of the pandemic, his implicit support for the murder and suppression of our minorities, his disregard for the health of the planet, and his lack of a moral center haven’t convinced Americans that this must end now, our country will never again approach the ideals of its founders.
To Americans who say things like, “If Trump wins I’m moving to Canada,” I say, “Think again. What makes you think they’ll let you in?”