I must admit, American politics baffle me. I am cognizant that many readers live in our sister to the south and it is not intention to disparage a system with which I am only acquainted because of cable television and a three-year stint in Denver. I am baffled because I am a foreigner, and as such, only possess a modicum of understanding of a culture that is not my own. Canadians like to believe we understand all about the USA. After all, we get their cable and they like our oil and water. They make sure no one screws with us and we give them Maple Syrup and Michael J. Fox.
Living in the Fraser Valley it is easy to imagine that it didn’t snow anywhere in Canada this winter. Life in the valley is more like Canada’s greenhouse than any representation of actual Hoser life. I remember the first time I came out here I was struck by how different it was than the rest of the country. People in Surrey don’t really think about gay marriage the same way they do in Camrose, Alberta or Steinback, Manitoba. Different cultures. The Left Coast is more liberal, more urbane, more frantic, more moist. We are our own little rainforest, just north of Seattle.
So when I say I do not understand American politics it is from that complete ignorance of another culture, not from any sense of disdain. I have never been a part of the strongest and richest country in the world, although they did give me a free Master’s Degree because I qualified as a foreigner. It is tempting, though wrong, to believe that Canada and The United States are like two siblings who share a quirky little border where the temperature magically changes from 72 degrees to 22 C.
The United States is a profoundly different experience and culture. Canadians have grown up in a dual world of British colonialism and the need to apologize for everything, every day. I say the word “sorry” at least ten times a day and I am just average. We are a culture forced to get along, surrounded by multiculturalism and peoples who believe they should be given expansive personal autonomy. We are hemmed in by giants, powerful neighbours to the North and South and East. Canucks have been raised on Tommy Douglas’s socialized medicine and most of us have no idea why Obamacare was even a vote. Canadians secretly believe they are superior to Americans while most Yankees simply know they are the best country in the world, even if they can’t win at hockey. Americans are good at other things, many other things. I apologize if that is even mildly offensive because I am a Canadian.
For perhaps the first time in centuries Canada may elect a Prime Minister on name recognition and looks, money, and a political machine with untold resources. We never understood how people like Arnold and Sonny Bono and Jesse the Rock Ventura could get elected to politics, and don’t get us started about Reagan. Most Canadians actually wondered if the most powerful son to ever get dad’s job of running the world was truly of average intelligence, at best. We like Clinton and think he should hook up with Geddy Lee for an album. We have tried and tried and tried to give you Celine Dion and Justin Bieber and hate the fact that you know better.
Recently I was trolling a religious forum and an American (and we don’t really think you are all like this) mentioned in a comment something to the effect of, “well we saved the world from Hitler in the Second World War and we can do this too”. As an amateur history buff whose library is 20% World War One and Two books, I find that statement profoundly hilarious. I’m sorry, I meant interesting. Why wouldn’t a country believe itself to be special when it has been raised on stories of conquest and apple pie and justice? Who wouldn’t want to be powerful and expansive and wealthy and have lots of airplanes? Canada has a beaver and a canoe and two submarines. At one time half our submarine fleet was in the West Edmonton Mall.
So we say sorry a lot.
Donald Trump symbolizes, at least for me, much of the caricature of Americans that we, your friends and foes alike, tend to adhere to if we are ignorant and believe in alien abduction. I have never met better people than the folks I hung out with in Denver. People are people and most Americans are good people. Cartoon characters like Trump portray Americans, and particularly those to the south, as racist and libertarian to a fault, with something going on in that beehive that I do not understand. There is a perception of arrogance based on the notion that money and power somehow translates to wisdom and understanding and entitlement. In Canada, most of our politicians are lawyers. I’m not saying that’s any better, but at least you can be as ugly as Chretien and still be Prime Minister.
I am basically a liberal, too lame to hunt anymore, won’t kill a worm in the garden, kind of lightweight that loves martial arts; but even I was shocked at Trump’s statements regarding John McCain’s heroism while a prisoner in Vietnam. Say what you want about the Vietnam War; but if you have spent five and half years in the hell of a Viet Cong Prisoner of War Camp, been tortured countless times, spent two years in solitary confinement with the rats and the lice, the dysentery and the constant humiliation which broke thousands of men whose shoes we are not worthy to fill, than you are a hero just for not dying. Prisoners died of starvation and flees and cholera and any manner of disgusting bowel diseases, abuse or torture. Only an idiot would pronounce judgment on something so completely removed from the experience of the rich and pampered. It is fundamentally impossible to even understand an iota of what Mr. McCain went through, in spite of his political viewpoints. If I had endured what he has I might be a little pushy too.
How can any of us even begin to understand the nightmare of Passchendaele or the sheer terror of being rounded up by Nazis and sent off to an extermination camp? How can we even pretend to relate to the absolute personal holocaust that went on inside their heads and through their starved and beaten and profoundly emaciated bodies day after day after bloody day, in soaked trenches that decimated countless hopes and lives in so many wars. To watch everything you are and everything you love stripped from you, to be violated countless times by racist pigs amusing themselves at your expense, to hear bullets blow the brains out of comrades you would have died for; we have little context for understanding what McCain endured.
How dare we demean the sacrifice of millions throughout history in the most hellish nightmares humanity could imagine. Twenty thousand young Frenchmen wiped out in a single day, Russian Roulette in a Viet Cong nightmare, millions upon millions of innocent Russians and Poles and Slavs murdered in the name of a political viewpoint. The genocide of whole races, even today. Facing gun batteries and certain heinous death in front of you and political officers behind to kill you if you dare turn back. Villages of children and innocents beheaded by ISIS. Charging blindly, if still heroically, atop your horse into machine gun beds in the name of honour. Countless youths butchered in the name of an ideology and on battlefields soaked in blood and urine and shit. You must not agree with the reasons but we cannot belittle the sacrifice. Shame on you Donald Trump.
As a clinician I deal with the unresolved and relentless fallout of PTSD and Trauma literally every day. Blaming the victims because you are a rich comedian, or downplaying the personal hell of a bona fide hero, only hurts us all because it devalues the nobility of those, people like Romeo Dallaire, who have been thrown on the trash heap of politics, maimed and scarred both emotionally and physically because their sacrifices of love, or stories of horrific abuse, have been minimized and therefore never dealt with. Every time a rape victim is belittled or a child with autism is devalued, every time someone of another race is slandered because of the colour of a pigment, every single time a rich or famous or powerful narcissist is allowed to exploit the poor or rewrite history, we are all smaller for it.
John McCain seems like just another rich conservative to many of us, but to even call into question that unspeakable horror is reprehensible; and maybe John should be allowed to spend a few minutes alone with that trumped-up idiot without the cameras running, just to remind him of the sacrifice of millions and the meaningless death of innocents.
Try and use your bone spur for that, Mr. Trump.