It’s been one month now since Donald J. Trump officially became POTUS.
«How bad can it actually be?» ,we consoled ourselves at the time. Most of what he had said during the election campaign could be put down to inflated campaign rhetoric, not meant to be taken literally, just meant to grab headlines and to rouse voters from their natural state of peevish indifference. Or so we thought.
Well, as we’ve since found out, it actually is that bad.
It’s everything we shook our heads at, frowned or chuckled at – and perhaps worse.
Donald Trump’s presidency is not just the victory of a skilled manipulator over a complacent and jaded establishment: we need to begin recognizing the full implications of this presidency, which is nothing less than the end of the western-brokered power balance as it has existed since the end of World War II.
Not to be overly alarmist, but it is the End of the World As We Know It.
I don’t think this has quite sunk in with most of us, busy as we are with texting each other and rushing around buying stuff and paying our bills. But it will sink in, one presidential decree at a time.
Let’s take a square look at exactly what is under attack:
Undocumented workers are currently being hunted down and expelled from the United States. This is done not in a proactive spirit of regularisation of status; it is done in a spirit of cleansing the United States of its unwanteds, in a manner designed to instill fear in the undocumented class and chest-thumping bravado (or «bragadoccio») in those who have bought into the «Make America Great Again» rhetoric.
The impact of this strong-arming of migrants is to create a climate of fear which is inspiring many to either flee, some towards Canada (meanwhile, our readiness to deal with a sudden surge in influx of illegal migrants is uncertain) or to go deeper underground. What happened to the American promise for a better life? To the freedom to pursue one’s dreams?
Eroding trade agreements
NAFTA was one of the first items on the Presidential agenda to come under attack by POTUS, who calls it «a disaster». Yet NAFTA, ratified by the USA, Canada and Mexico in 1994, has brought greater fluidity between borders and increased prosperity for all three participating countries.
In an increasingly globalized world economy, backtracking on trade agreements with partners comes at the risk of trade isolation, a sharp rise in domestic prices and almost certain job losses. Quite the contrary of the gleaming vision of an industrial revival that Donald Trump sold to the disenfranchised unemployed of the rust belt in exchange for their votes.
Perhaps most troubling is the tone the Trump administration has taken with the news media, labelling them as biased and accusing them of being «fake news», even «an enemy of the people», bent on misinforming the public while pandering to a self-righteous liberal minority. Certainly, media has become, over the last few decades, less a source of reliable information than a circus show, chasing sensationalistic headlines in an attempt to pull in viewers in an increasingly competitive and segmented industry.
But let’s not be so hasty to forget the fundamental role assured by a critical and independent media: that is, to question, to fact-check and to give voice to alternate opinions than those put forward by our governing bodies. Without this crucial public questioning, there is a real danger of widespread misinformation, ignorance and ultimately manipulation of public opinion. When the government controls the message and there is no longer a dissident, independent review, the public no longer has access to real news, only state-controlled propaganda. And we’ve seen this before.
I don’t know where this is all going. But I’m pretty sure it’s not a good place.
I suggest we prepare for the road ahead with our eyes wide open. First, we need to acknowledge how we got here and deal with the underlying irritants and social triggers that we’ve been sweeping under the rug. Secondly, we must reinforce our values of inclusion, of generosity and of reciprocity. Concretely, we need to have a plan to face a potential massive influx of political refugees from south of the border, a situation that was unthinkable just a few months ago. We need to rethink whether the Safe Third Country Agreement is still valid or needs to be revoked in light of the present political climate. Finally, we must bolster our independent media and tune out or turn off messages of hate, exclusion and fear-mongering.
I don’t know where America is headed. But I suggest we work now to make Canada a better place.