It's the night of Toronto's first snow and I'm standing outside in the enjoyable company of a group I met at a party—they don't know I grew up in the U.S. because they know I have Canadian citizenship and hey, my accent passes for Torontonian. One of them chuckles in an awkward silence and says, "Trump, eh?" He says this in the same way one might say "so about that weather, eh?" or "good party, eh?" But he does not choose one of these innocuous topics: instead, he says "Trump, eh?" To me, this was jarring and distancing. "Trump, eh?" is the reason I may not be able to move back home once my green card expires after graduation; the reason my family's employers may withdraw their health insurance; the reason many of my friends' families risk being torn apart by deportations.
In most cases, when we talk about Trump in passing here the underlying question is how could this have possibly happened? And that question is rhetorical because the answer seems simple. How could anyone expect a reasonable outcome from the same country that elected G. W. Bush twice? It must just be that Those Americans are stupid—and when you say Those Americans, of course you don't mean me (after all, I'm an honorary American at best), or my family, or the friends I respect and hold dear. You mean the Real Americans, the Other Americans, the ones in red states who own guns. When I ask more specifically what you mean by that, you say: "You know—those Americans."
Not only is this an old, unoriginal and tired trope—that has, in fact, been following me since I left the States for the first time in 2001—it's also naive. Here in Canada, we know we'll be affected by this, but there's a sense that our hands up here are tied because this is a uniquely American dynamic and there's nothing we can possibly do to stop it. After all, Trump is across the border and he's a problem we have to deal with, but he isn't our problem.
But this goes deeper than that: this election happens after Brexit, where the whole world was similarly blind-sided by a seemingly unpredictable political event. It comes at a time when far-right candidates across Europe are gaining traction—quickly. And politically-educated Canadians know this, yet Canada is in a weird position where we've just elected Trudeau after a long Conservative government. There's this pervasive sense that up here in Canada, we're good—we know better than Them Americans, we know better than Them Europeans. This trend doesn't really threaten us. After all, look at how diverse Trudeau's cabinet is!
But that's failing to recognize the failures of the American Left in our own backyard. The media—American and Canadian alike—spent the first weeks after Nov. 8 analyzing the reasons for Hillary's failure. "Middle America is racist! No, wait, Middle America is sexist! No, wait, the democrats are classist!" I'm not saying that any of those things are wrong they're all correct, if perhaps overly simple. But of all the different analyses I've been exposed to, those stemming from Canadian sources were consistently the least self-reflective. When you shake your head at What Those Americans Have Done Now, you're abstracting his populism to the point where you won't recognize the same dynamics when they unfold in your own backyard—and they will, and they have.
Dear Canadians: when was the last time you read an opinion piece by someone from rural Alberta? In fact, when was the last time you read anything by anyone who didn't live in their province's largest city (or Ottawa)? Thankfully, the rhetoric about Trump's success has shifted from shock, anger and finger-pointing to a more holistic analysis of the failure of the American Left; yet we have still to apply those same principles here at home.
If you're saying 'the liberals' this, 'the conservatives' that, then don't: consider instead how diverse this election has shown both of those camps to be. Which liberals are you talking about? Which conservatives? What are the structural factors that made them believe the things they do? Can you be a part of the movement that changes them?
Don't mourn, organize. This movement, though it is still nameless, is being born already, and you don't need to be a politics fiend to shape it—you can find it in every organization that partakes in community engagement. You can be a part of fighting the rising sectarianism that won Trump the Presidency: and if you aren't, well, you may not have much moral high ground to stand on.comments powered by Disqus