n any other time, in any other place, the idea of accepting the rise of fascism in the 21st century in North America may have been deemed unthinkable. But here we are, in 2016, watching fascism rise again with a new face as Donald J. Trump has been elected as the USA’s 45th President.
No longer the stuff of history from a bygone era we weren’t born into, an ugly rumour spreading and wreaking havoc a world away, violence and hateful vitriol have planted themselves firmly at our feet. A discomfiting reality we are now being forced to address – flagrant racism, blind hatred inflamed by reckless fear-mongering, and rampant misogyny is indeed alive and well in our modern time – has come calling, asking each and every one of us to consider our fundamental values and search our souls for the answer to a very uncomfortable question.
How did we, the generation shaping current and future leaders to engage with optimism and inclusiveness in this world, simply not see it? On our way towards progress, did the inconvenience of some very ugly truths get swept under the rug so we could focus on more noble goals? And how do we now reconcile ourselves to confront the current state of things – that those gremlins didn’t dissipate over time into dust due to lack of an attentive audience or a mainstream platform, but rather grew legs and bred – and manage the all out sensory assault such a reality is wreaking on our ability to rationalize? Like a dreadful stench faintly suppressed by sweet perfume, how did we not detect it? Was it that we really didn’t see it or that, more likely, we didn’t want to?
Oscillating between utter disbelief and heart-breaking devastation, the internet has been exploding with news media and citizens alike expressing utter dismay at how we all failed to realize with how much gravitas so many American’s had internalized Trump’s inflammatory words. As his popularity grew, we became obsessed with the maintenance of that deeply engrained denial, blinded by our lofty goals, stymied by our own well-intentioned rhetoric of a far more utopian society than actually existed; a grave error which ultimately handed him the election. We were offended at the mere idea that such an abrasive and divisive undercurrent still existed in the thinking of such a large percentage of the populace. To the extent of our disbelief, we ushered the idea out of our conscience. We simply decided it wasn’t possible, not even willing to entertain the notion that it might be.
Until it was. Until it was too late. Until the lights were turned off at the Javits Center in NYC as the last of Hillary’s shattered dreams of election victory filtered out onto the streets in the form of her shaken and emotionally traumatized support network.
And the tremors of that shock have been felt globally. For those women desperately hoping we’d be sweeping up glass shards on November 9th instead of starring despairingly up at a seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling: unspeakable heartbreak. For those families whose parents work harder than most to give their children a shot at the American dream: indescribable fear at the spectre of mass deportation as prescribed by the Republican nominee as a solution to ‘Making America Great Again’. For those concerned about access to affordable healthcare and their rights to maintain safe and informed control over their reproductive choices: crippling anxiety. For those simply hoping to love and be loved by whomever they love: overwhelming uncertainty. And for those whose reflexive interaction with law enforcement has been predicated on suspicion rather than facts and invasive, sometimes disproportionately violent retribution for minor infractions: mind numbing terror at the prospect of the unconstitutional stop and frisk policy being reinstated.
We, their Northern Neighbours, and the global community have watched all of this unfold and fear the direct influence of the USA’s dark turn will infiltrate our communities, distorting the minds of our most impressionable, not to mention the destabilizing effect these destructive policies may have on the world’s allied infrastructure and overall stability of foreign relations.
What do we, as Canadians, do with that now? Plainly speaking, there are two ways to view this. One, America has clearly lost its mind; change channel. Or two, the time has come to acknowledge the gremlins under the rug and expose them for what they are. Though the first option is arguably easier, listen up. That’s how Trump happened. We are only kidding ourselves if we think the same avoidant behaviour is going to affect a different outcome in our own politics.
To be clear, the gremlins under the rug aren’t people and Trump’s supporters aren’t monsters (not all of them anyway). Said gremlins take the form of misconceptions and innuendo cavalierly interchanged with actual facts and labelled as truths, hidden motives and abuse of power, stereotyping of gender norms, racial and faith-based prejudice, and lack of gender parity. These gremlins live in all our heads, and we must keep our feet if we think we can’t be swept down equally dark and misguided paths as far as our thinking goes.
It goes without saying though, that altruism in theory is different than in actual practice. Most would not argue against the virtues espoused by many faiths; servitude, love of one’s neighbours, humility, unconditional acceptance of/and belief in redemption of the human condition in all its forms. But many of us sooth ourselves by only reflecting on these tenets of faith stopping just shy of action and by extension, advocation.
And we stop there because action is hard and involvement is messy. Perhaps we would like to help but don’t know if our voice will carry. Likely, we are also scared to upset the precariously balanced elements of our own complicated lives to assume greater societal responsibility.
But if one must, one can.
And maybe it simply starts there. Funny how motivated we become when we feel we must do something (no matter how small or large scale), and how freeing when that intention catches fire as we realize with reinvigorated purpose that yes, we can.
BANDWIDTH ERA MAGAZINE aims to explore intelligent opinion from a wide range of individual voices while pushing our readership to think deeply about the meaning of printed words and their impact on the world in this era of internet accessibility. The ideas presented herein are opinion only, and represent the authors individual perspective.