Dark clouds at morning in the west


A dark-cloud overcast was building up on the western horizon. It held promise of rain after a month-long drought in our little corner of the world on the Bruce Peninsula, Canada where I’m trying to earn a bit of supplementary income by growing pesticide-free potatoes, among other things.

It won’t be the end of my world if the clouds blow over again as they often do here on the peninsula. I’ll survive. But for other local farmers, with their lives much more dependent on the well-being of recently-planted cash crops, the need is much more urgent.

I’ve been out every day hand-watering my struggling rows of Yukon Gem and Russian Blue potato plants, and other veggies, several hours a day. Yes, I have mused about those two side-by-side: purely a coincidence, of course, but I have nothing against Russians, despite Vladimir Putin.

On the contrary, I’ve thought ever since my youthful, bedside book was an anthology, Canadian Short Stories, that Canadians and Russians share a certain cultural mood: a little dark and melancholy but with an underlying spirit of hopeful perseverance.

Neither do I have anything against Americans and the U.S., despite its current president. I have extended family south of the border. My father’s remains rest in a cemetery in southern California. My maternal grandfather was a kind-hearted man of peace from Kansas, that most iconic of midwestern U.S. states.

So, I won’t blame Americans for the dark, menacing cloud that suddenly this week appeared over my good country, not even those who voted for Donald Trump. We all make mistakes.

As the whole world must know by now, Trump this past week chose to threaten Canada and its people personally with financial hardship because Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dared to say publicly Canada was “not going to be pushed around.”

Trudeau made that remark during a press conference at the close of the G-7 summit in Quebec City last weekend in reference to recent tariffs imposed on Canada and other western allies by the Trump Administration for “national security” reasons. Trudeau also repeated what he has said publicly before, that the tariffs are “insulting” on that basis, given that Canadians and Americans have fought side-by-side in wars for more than 100 years.

I suspect Trudeau regrets the timing of those remarks, watched by Trump on an Air Force 1 television as he flew to Singapore for his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

It was frankly frightening, the extent to which Trump continued to spitefully tweet his anger at Trudeau and Canada before, and after that summit. Nothing justifies the over-the-top language he and members of his administration used to demonize Trudeau. At least, Peter Navarro, one of Trump’s top trade advisers, apologized for saying Trudeau deserved a “special place in hell.”

Trump welcomes Canada's Trudeau before their about the NAFTA trade agreement at the White House in Washington

A finger of things to come? At The White House, October, 2017

Canada, of all countries in the world, was thus turned into the enemy, the easy and unfortunately, vulnerable target to be bullied into submission as an example apparently to the world.

Meanwhile, Trump had kind, complimentary things to say about his new, best friend, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, one of the most ruthless dictators in the world.

And one of the first things Trump said upon arrival at the G-7 summit was that Russia should be there. (Russia was expelled from what was then called the G-8 after it annexed Crimea in 2014 and militarily supported pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.)

It is now widely accepted that Russia conducted an internet-based, cyberspace campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 American election in favor of Trump, and also similarly interfered with the democratic process in other western democracies.

The extent to which Trump may or may not have colluded with the Russian interference in the campaign leading up to his election is the subject of a lengthy investigation in the U.S. under special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump has frequently called that investigation a hoax, while appearing at times on the verge of firing Mueller in hopes of ending it.

Meanwhile, the events of this past week, including Trump’s attacks on Trudeau and Canada, seemingly overshadowed news of his own administration’s imposition of new sanctions on Russian “entities” involved in “cyberattacks against the U.S.”

“The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Monday (June 11),” CNN reported.

The cable-news network, often described as “fake news” by Trump, was one of a relative few news-media outlets to cover story.

And yet it was arguably big news, revealing possibly for the first time that Russia has expanded its intelligence activity to include spying on “undersea communication cables which carry the bulk of the world’s telecommunication data.”

The newly-sanctioned firms “have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber capabilities through their work with the FSB (Russia’s Federal Security Service) and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies,” Mnuchin said, according to CNN.

Where was Donald Trump’s anger and outrage? Why wasn’t he tweeting about that, instead of big, bad Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

No wonder Senator John McCain felt compelled to tell U.S. allies, “Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” And no wonder too Senator Chuck Schumer wondered who Trump is working for.


A version of this post was originally published in The Sun Times in June, 2018

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