It’s an 82 kilometer drive from Peace River, Alberta to Fairview, and there’s not a whole lot to see along the way. Fewer than 10,000 people live in the two towns combined, but I still managed to get stuck in traffic driving from one to the other.
We sat there, my friends and I, waiting for the road to clear so we could get to a company Christmas party. We were listening to CBC Radio 1; Randy Bachman, of BTO fame, was outlining the history of reggae, playing songs that were perfectly juxtaposed with the snow-covered canola fields outside.
Eventually the cops motioned us forward, and we could see what the holdup was. The face of a Ford F350 was completely flattened, like an accordion. It hit a moose, apparently, though the moose itself was no where to be seen. The cops told us it walked away. Apparently that’s not uncommon.
This is the most Canadian story I could possibly tell, but that truck also nicely outlines my mental state the day after the election of Donald J. Trump. I was utterly flattened by something I really should have seen coming.
I didn’t sleep the night of the election. I wept multiple times on Wednesday. I spent the weekend on the coast with my wife, entirely offline, doing everything I could to avoid reading the news.
What I’m feeling, dear reader, is this: I want to love America, but I can’t. I just can’t.
I live outside Portland, Oregon, a city aflame with protests last week. When I go home to rural Ontario, people call me “the American.” I’ve lived stateside for over a decade. I own a house. And I’ve been known to spout dangerous foreign ideas, like “putting an NHL team in Hamilton isn’t a great idea.”
But I don’t consider myself American. I’m not an American citizen. Maybe someday, I’ve always told myself, but then something always happens. Sometimes a small thing, like the US facing Canada in Olympic hockey, makes me realize I’m completely incapable of self-identifying as American. And sometimes….well, sometimes it’s big things. Seeing Canada embrace Syrian refugees makes me feel deeply patriotic, and so does the way Canadian voters soundly rejected anti-Muslim rhetoric in the 2015 election.
Which brings me to the 2016 US election. I have never felt less American than now. This is not my native land, but I hesitate to even call it home. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very grateful to live here. I have many great friends here. I love these people. I love my wife.
But when I think of “America”, writ large, I now think of a country that elects a know-nothing demagogue spouting unambiguous racism and hatred. The thought of ever pledging allegiance to its flag makes me sick in my stomach.
I know this, on some level, is a defense mechanism. I’m a straight white Christian male, but playing the “Canada” card gets me off the hook for Trump entirely. Knowing the psychological reasons behind my sudden surge of Canadian nationalism doesn’t lessen its potency.
I’m going to feel like this for a while, and I’m going to be venting a lot. I’m hoping to put some of my energy toward making my local community a better place for the people Trump wants to hurt.
But in the meantime, I want to say something to my compatriots back home.
Canada: you’re the shining city on the hill now. America has lost faith with its own ideals, and Europe is descending into darkness. Canada is the only Western power that believes in multiculturalism, and the world needs Canada to live up to that belief.
So what I ask of you, fellow Canadians, is this: don’t fuck this up.
Last year the Conservative Party tried to play up anti-Muslim fear in an attempt to save its election hopes. The backlash was immediate, and Canada wound up electing Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in an unprecedented wave. The third-place party ended up with a majority government.
I know many of you don’t like Trudeau, or the Liberals, when it comes to policy. That’s fine. But please: no matter how you feel, do not let the hatred of minority groups drive the discussion. If politicians try to use suspicion of minority groups as a rallying cry, fight back, regardless of the partisan implications. Ethnic hatred unleashes forces that can’t be tamed, and will outlast any election victory. It’s not worth it.
The world is watching, Canada. Stand on guard.
Oh, and Trudeau: keep your damn voting reform promises.