It took a while after the rather shocking U.S. presidential election results for me to recover and consider what I might look at doing around the old Hope Ness homestead to get ready for the American invasion.
That’s a reference to many thousands of Americans apparently considering a move to Canada following the election of Donald Trump; no coincidence the Immigration Canada website crashed on election night as the results began to point inexorably to a Donald Trump victory.
Perish the thought when I’m referring to “invasion” above that I meant the possibility of any other kind of American invasion on the pretext, say, of a trumped-up national security or economic issue – like the possibility he might think Canada should simply be part of the U.S. as an alternative to renegotiating NAFTA. Surely, he wouldn’t think or do any such thing . . . surely.
And I say “shocking” regarding the election results not because I was shocked, but for the sake of that great multitude of people, including in the mainstream American news media, who were. I saw it coming a year ago and never believed the polls.
Still, I confess I invested a lot of time watching CNN, especially in the past few months. And that meant enduring a lot of talking heads, panel after panel of them, expressing their opinions day after day, week after week.
It’s astonishing how CNN, despite being reviled and bad-mouthed along with the rest of the news media by now-president-elect Trump kept trying to bend over backwards to maintain the appearance of being fair and objective when the situation called for nothing but truth, truth, and more truth.
And what is the truth?
The truth is Trump demonstrated time and time again in the most outrageous way during the campaign that he was unfit to be President and Commander-in-Chief with his finger on the nuclear button. He has done precious little since the election to reassure the millions of Americans – and millions more other people around the world – living in fear of what the future holds.
One scripted, teleprompter-assisted victory speech in which he called upon all Americans, regardless of politics, to “bind the wounds of division,” does not suddenly change that. He can’t get off that easy for the damage he has done to the quality and spirit of American democracy.
He is after all the man who inflicted so many of those wounds, the man who repeatedly said the election was “rigged” and left a lot of people wondering and afraid of what might happen if he lost. In effect, he held his country hostage.
Trump has to earn back the trust of the millions of people he offended by demonstrating he can be trusted to be a better man, especially as President, than the one he showed his country and the world during a hateful campaign.
Does anyone doubt the sincerity of defeated Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton’s call for her supporters – as many as Trump’s – to accept his election with an “open mind”?
Does anyone doubt the sincerity of outgoing President Barack Obama’s promise to cooperate fully and graciously with Trump and his transition team to ensure the peaceful transfer of power?
Clinton and Obama’s behaviour at this crucial moment in American history is a testament to a real and profound love of their country, and its place in the world. It also shows a fundamental decency of character, a “grace under pressure,” that does great credit to the true and best spirit of American democracy.
Trump should take some quality, alone time now in his tower to reflect on those thoughts and let them percolate for a good while, if he can.
I don’t know. Somewhere in the world there may be some perfect people, one or two anyway, maybe. I know a few in my own experience who come pretty close.
But most of us are works-in-progress, trying to learn from our mistakes, and our successes, and accepting responsibility for both.
It’s not easy to change, to grow, and become a better person.
Sometimes it’s only yourself you hurt if you fall short. Sometimes it’s other people, and that’s the hardest responsibility to bear, assuming you have a conscience.
Donald Trump now has the future of 300 million Americans in his hands, and to a large extent the future of many millions, even billions of other people around this troubled world.
Let’s hope he has a conscience, and a sincere desire to grow and become a better man than the one he showed the world since announcing his intention to seek the office of President of the United States of America many troubling, turbulent months ago.
The American people, and the rest of us Earthlings, may find out all-too-soon if he can rise to his personal challenge and the many others he will face on the international stage. Barely more than a week after the election there were few if any signs he was.
The man who spoke so coarsely of undocumented Mexican immigrants, who promised to “tear up” the North American Free Trade Agreement, who has called climate change a “hoax” had good, comforting words to say in his victory speech about working in a spirit of partnership with other nations.
The stock markets heaved a collective sigh of relief. But were those words just another lie? Does he even know himself?
Trump became infamous during the campaign for his impulsive, sometimes downright self-destructive behaviour, the candidate many people feared to see with his hands on the nuclear-war codes. His campaign minders had to ban him from tweeting in the final week to make sure he didn’t cause any more problems on the way to apparent victory.
If you can’t trust him to tweet, how can you trust him with the nuclear codes? Obama asked that very good question in his final campaign speech.
Is Trump really on his way to becoming a President capable of careful thoughtfulness in the face of an unfolding crisis?
Or will he destroy the world?
If the answer to that question is yes there will of course ultimately be no refuge or sanctuary anywhere, not even here at the end of Cathedral Drive.
Nevertheless, I will as always welcome American, or any refugees, to my door in a spirit of mutual love and consolation.
A version of this was originally published in The Sun Times in November, 2016