The View from Up North

ATTICD – The View from Up North

We watched yesterday January 6, 2021 in horror, along with our American neighbors, as fascists, nazis, and confederate wannabes climbed up the walls of the Capitol in a terrifying display of what can only be described as an attempt to overthrow the US government by US citizens.

I grew up hearing about the elephant and the mouse.  In geography class this was a reference to Canada living right beside the USA.  The US has consistently been ten times as big as Canada population-wise, though smaller geographically.  This has made for a constant consciousness that our country exists independently because we don’t have much that the US wants.  We exist as a quiet, cold neighbor that tries to stay on good terms and not draw too much attention our way.  While we provide a steady stream of physicians who can make more money in the US, nurses who can get jobs more easily in nicer weather and comedians who can’t get enough work in Canada, most of are happy to live where we do. 

We are always conscious of what is going on down south and how it might affect us.  While we remain polite, we have been changed by the past four years.  We also found out that people we thought we knew are racists and survivalists and fascists.  We have had to face up to our own systemic racism.  Our mutual funds have benefited enormously from US stock market profiteers.  We have watched in disbelief as COVID deaths have reached a tragically unnecessary level for our US neighbors, which can only be compared to war losses, hoping that our government finds a polite way to keep the border closed.

We too are glued to all-day news networks, aghast at the things we heard for the last four years.  We too held our breaths over the election hoping that this time the pollsters didn’t have their heads up their asses the way they did in 2016, hoping that the wave of Trump-supporting COVID denying in-person voters didn’t carry the electoral college again. 

Even though the democrats won the presidency, the specter of fascism still fills us with dread.  Scenes of angry republicans illogically calling for a stop to the vote counting, even though the numbers for Trump were not there from the beginning, makes us scared and anxious.  A few weeks ago Trump announced a $22 Billion deal for a railway from Alaska to Alberta – which made me wonder first – is he hoping to annex Alberta which has a hate-relationship with eastern politicians and second – why is Alaska part of the US? I mean, it’s right up there next to the Yukon and above British Columbia, how did the US get up there and grab that one piece of land?  I know, gold.  But they had to skip through an entire province to get there, not an easy route through the Rockies?  And why didn’t they just take BC while they were at it.  I mean we have that great geological divide that runs all the way up the west side of the continent. 

I digress.  Things have always seeped in to Canada from the US  – slaves looking for freedom, pacifists looking for freedom; red vines; Netflix shows that we can’t get on our own service; cable TV; CNN.   We watched, as the rest of the world watched, as the votes were counted.  We waited for that number 253-213 to change, day after day, fearful that Trumpism would violently wrench the votes away.  Even now, with Trump still in the Whitehouse not conceding and his supporters not being met with martial law as the BLM supporters were, the specter of a shadow government in exile is not implausible:  how did Trump manage to do all the things he did?  Because he had support – in the government, in the party.  Those people are all still there, and were staunchly still supporting his denial of the elections results as recently as 12 hours ago despite the rampage that their supporters, in turn, had carried out.    Because 48% of the American public thinks that what Trump says is true and factual.

Here above the 49th parallel, we don’t understand a political system that not only allows but structurally requires that kind of division.  We have at least four parties representing us, and when we are not happy with the two leading parties, we can vote for the others who will not likely win but can be deciders when parliament votes.  Our parties are constantly changing their names and refining their platforms; often representatives “cross the floor” – a dramatic day on “the hill” Canadian style – taking their supporters with them in the next election.  This business of being one or the other isn’t so important.  Yes some people always vote conservative, but centre and left of it have choices. There is a political spectrum that reflects change, personal situations, and beliefs, rather than one end or the other.  It is messier, but a truer democratic process, IMO, which allows pressure to be vented before the people can get so worked up that hate and violence are the political process of choice.  It also means that the people whose choice is violence are on the fringe where they belong, not part of a majority.

Of course Canadians have also had violent historical periods, but we watched with the world yesterday with despair as the global emblem for democracy was torn apart by people who probably thought they were fighting for it.  As the Mouse lying next door, we worry more than the rest of the world that the Elephant will notice us and decide that it is time to move over, squashing us in the process.

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