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The One Man Show Starring Trump: Why We Can’t Look Away, And Why We Really Should MAG
As someone who is rather insulated from the plight plaguing American politics (I reside in British Columbia, Canada, just a few kilometers and Chik-Fil-A’s away from the U.S. political epicenter) I must admit that even as a geographically distant outsider, seeing what our neighbors in the South have been up to lately is rather unpleasant. For one thing, the POTUS has become a recurring image whose glory can be caught around every corner of prestigious media sites and even domestic publications such as The Vancouver Sun and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In fact, I think I might speak for most Canadians when I say that Trump’s presence in the media feels more familiar than that of our own prime minister.
When Justin Trudeau was accused of sexually harassing a journalist, he responded to allegations with blatant and largely hypocritical deflection. However, the story failed to stay in the headlines after an initial round of short-lived outrage. The same cannot be said about the Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump affair, which has been shoved into the limelight, broadcast center-stage, and forced to resurface in the media like an excessively reiterated truism. Of course, the nature of these two acts are inherently different, but I’m willing to bet that most Canadians would more likely be able to recall Stormy Daniels’ statement about how Trump’s genitalia holds resembles Toad from “Mario Cart” than remember any details about their own Prime Minister’s recent transgression
There’s no judgment directed at those caught up in the allure of Keeping Up with the Trumps. It’s understandable – the American political scene is strikingly comparable to a reality show, with a generous ration of dramatic expulsions, presidential meltdowns, and partisan rivalries riddling every turn of events. It’s almost too difficult to look away. The Canadian news cycle seems like a big fat yawn in comparison, with a lackluster wow-factor and more reports about wild animal sightings than reports about sightings of corruption. So why should we Canadians divert our attention back to these seemingly dull and uneventful domestic news feeds?
I didn’t think we needed to. I would’ve been happy to keep feeding into the Trump craze, completely tuning out the cordial and drama-free interactions going on over at Parliament Hill. However, a few days ago, I was confronted with a political yet deeply personal dilemma. One of my teachers asked the class questions about some of the most topical American headlines: the latest in Trumponomics, the Democratic triumph in seizing the House and the following gridlock, and what the shutdown could mean for Trump’s dubious reelection. As an avid follower of the news cycle, I responded with a firm assuredness, as if reciting a childhood nursery rhyme that’s been permanently etched onto my consciousness. But my confidence quickly waned once he followed up with this: “Now, can you name your local representative or MP? How about the revamped Canadian reunification system for immigrants? What about the lawsuit against the federal government for its violation of joint obligations with Saskatchewan First Nations communities?”
Everyone in the room grew silent. I was stumped, and apparently, so were my classmates. We frantically searched every crevice of our mind for an answer but returned from the venture without much success.
My teacher shook his head and laughed, then teased us about how we’ve all been “Americanized.” Feeling at a loss and a little humiliated, I went home that night contemplating his words. The thing is, my teacher was right. I never bothered internalizing each Canadian politician’s agenda, the latest Canadian bill pending approval, or even the name of the minister of education who makes nation-wide rules governing how and what I learn in school. I reflected on where this ignorance stemmed from and why people outside of the U.S. have grown increasingly invested in the trials and tribulations of a country that is not their own. The only answer I could offer for myself was: well, it’s just more entertaining.
And American politics is exactly that to those who don’t have to directly grapple with its outcomes – entertainment. Entertainment that is laden with unrest, laced with politician-performed pantomimes, and fraught with laments about the latest effort to further marginalize disadvantaged groups and individuals. Of course, I don’t mean entertainment in the traditional sense of the word, because there is certainly nothing amusing about watching children separated from their parents and locked up in cages. I mean entertainment as in a sensationalized distraction that outsources our concern across the southern border.
Alarmingly enough, I almost find myself with a very palpable indifference or even aversion toward Canadian current events that aren’t tainted with the American influence. It seems ironic, because when it comes to what has the most tangible impact on my life, it’s not the Russian collusion, not Nancy Pelosi’s bid to be speaker of the House, and certainly not Trump’s apparent excommunication of every cabinet member who dares breathe a defiant sigh. But regardless of that, I’ve turned my back on my own country’s political system simply because it isn’t sparkly or glamorous enough, doesn’t manufacture enough scandals, and fails to churn out 50 articles every day catastrophizing the implosions taking a toll on parliament. This apathy is more toxic than we let on, because we are inadvertently relinquishing the ability to hold discourse about our government’s affairs. And this capacity (or lack thereof), if neglected, has fateful consequences.
There is plenty going on in Canada which deserves the label “tumultuous,” or at the very least, is worthy of debate. For one, the newly imposed carbon taxes are either going to incapacitate small businesses and lower-income households or result in a raging success for not only environmentalists but all of Canada. Both outcomes would leave an imprint on the average Canadian household. The by-elections could either kick Trudeau’s government out the door or allow them to camp out in parliament for another term, having huge implications on a whole string of legislations. And what about the stark wage gap which still exists, particularly for Canadian women at the top of the corporate ladder? Aren’t all these just as worthy of a read as, I don’t know, Trump’s tireless digs at the Federal Reserve?
If we continue to keep our eyes glued on every one of Trump’s tantrums, we will
never stop falling down this rabbit hole. There is a reason why it’s called paying
attention, because expending all of it on something not worthwhile comes at a hefty price. And for Canadians, that price is a neglect and disengagement with our own political system, the one which our livelihoods are tightly hung upon, the one that may not be as glittery or yield as many reactionary Twitter wars and nuclear showdowns, but the one that ends up mattering the most.
What is the antidote to these woes? Well, it’s simple. Hold your own government accountable. Strike up a conversation with your acquaintances about the ethicality of Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia instead of ranting about Trump’s tax cuts, indulge yourself in learning of reconciliation programs which integrate aspects of indigenous cultures into school curricula, or negate the “nice Canadian” stereotype by getting agitated (or not) about the new increase in the cost of mail stamps, courtesy of Canada Post.
None of this is to say that we should shut out American news completely and construct some kind of unassailable wall. We should all know by now that walls don’t work, especially ones that operate on a basis of informational awareness. Grasping issues in America significantly expands one’s political dimensions, as it can be employed as a cautionary tale warning against the erosion of democracy, and paradoxically, a success story exemplifying the potency of grassroots movements and civil engagement. However, there must come a time when we tend to the fires burning at home. Given my recent discovery of my own illiteracy of the entities which govern my school, neighborhood, and city, I would say that time is now. We must make a valiant effort in resisting the lure and temptation of buying exclusively into political turmoil abroad, and instead better equip ourselves with the resources needed to resolve existing conflict within our borders. And there is a lot at stake, so explore the political hemispheres of the True North, you’ll definitely find something you didn’t know, or didn’t think you didn’t know before. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find out what the Canadian equivalent of gerrymandering is.