Tell Him to Stay Home!!!

statement by aidThe G7 summit, a meeting of the leaders of the world’s seven largest advanced economies, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is scheduled to start next Friday, June 8th, in Quebec, Canada.  With just a short five days left, one would think that the agenda would be set, yes?  Well, it is not.  Not even close.  I will give you only one guess as to the reason the summit plans remain in chaos.  Think hard, now …

Ugly TrumpYou got it!  None other than Donald John Trump, the one who notoriously acted as a stubborn, unsupervised toddler at last year’s G7 in Taormina, Italy, when after three days of meetings and countless discussions, he refused to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. In addition, he scolded Germany for its trade practices and lectured NATO members, saying they don’t pay their fair share. But this year is even worse … apparently he has single-handedly blown up the entire agenda!

My humble opinion is that, since Trump has, by his actions, ceded a global leadership role, the summit should be changed to the G6 and Trump considered of no value to the summit.

Initially, the agenda was slated to include such topics as climate change, women’s empowerment, peace, economic growth for all and jobs for the future.  Well, while the other six leaders are in tune with those goals, they are not in keeping with Trump’s “America First” agenda.  The only topic on which Trump did not disagree was ‘women’s empowerment’.  That Trump agreed to this topic is one of life’s great ironies!  Think about it … he calls for de-funding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of women’s health services in the nation, and froze the equal pay rule, aimed at fighting employer discrimination against women and minorities.  Not to mention that he is currently embroiled in a scandal over paying ‘hush money’ to a porn star after an extramarital affair, and has been accused by … I think the number is up to 19 now … women of sexual misconduct.

As if trying to find common ground for the agenda wasn’t hard enough, Trump’s decision last month to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal left our allies scrambling to try to salvage what was basically a working agreement.  And then, just a few days ago, Trump imposed harsh and unnecessary tariffs on Mexico, Canada and the EU, further angering other G7 nations.  Boy, he sure knows how to make a party fun, doesn’t he?

Then there is the concern that Trump will use the G7 to publicly take Germany to task over its military spending, for it is a known fact that he has no filter and blurts out whatever he is thinking at any given moment.

trump-bully-3The purpose of the G7 summit is to serve as a forum for highly industrialized democracies to coordinate economic, security, and energy policy.  It is a venue where ideas are exchanged and problems discussed.  It is a venue for global cooperation, not for one player to bully all the rest.  These seven leaders are on equal footing … they are each elected leaders of their nations and their interest is in global cooperation to help make the world a more prosperous, safer place.  When one player comes to the table believing that he is somehow superior to the rest, believing that he, somehow is the leader of the group, then nothing good can come out of it.

I seriously think it would be in the global best interest for Mr. Trudeau to call Mr. Trump and rescind his invitation, rename the summit the G6 summit, and move on with an agenda that addresses the pressing issues of the day, starting with climate change.  Let the bully stay at home and spew his hateful bluster here … the rest of the world should not have to contend with him, and when he leaves home, he does nothing but cause us shame and embarrassment anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Now, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.

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Good People Doing Good Things — Maggie MacDonnell

This is actually the second ‘Good People’ post I have written for today.  The first will appear sometime soon, but likely not as a ‘good people’ post, though the subject is indeed a good person. I debated and soul-searched about its appropriateness for the Good People post, and decided rather than perhaps stir some conflict and controversy, I would shelve it and write a different post.  Today’s good person is a teacher … the winner of this year’s Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize of $1 million.  I did not know there was such a prize, did you?  Well, allow me to introduce this year’s most-deserving winner, Ms. Maggie MacDonnell!

Imagine, if you will, that you have just earned your college degree and are now a certified teacher.  The world is your oyster; you can teach anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?  I am betting not too many would choose a town of only 1,347 people, accessible only by air, in the Canadian Arctic, but that is exactly where Maggie MacDonnell has been making a difference in young people’s lives for the past six years.

SalluitMaggie MacDonnell grew up in rural Nova Scotia and after completing her Bachelor’s degree, spent five years volunteering and teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. After completing her Master’s degree, she found her country was beginning to wake up to the decades of abuse that Canadian Indigenous people have lived through, including assaults on the environment and enormous economic and social inequality. As such, she sought out opportunities to teach indigenous communities in Canada and for the last six years has been a teacher in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, nestled in the Canadian Arctic. This is home to the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec, with a population of just over 1,300 – it cannot be reached by road, only by air. In winter, temperatures are minus 25° C (-13° F).

Salluit-2Most teachers who go to teach in the Arctic don’t stay long … many do not even make it halfway through their first year.  Conditions are harsh, added to by the sense of isolation and limited resources.  But Maggie has stayed for six years now, determined to make a difference in the lives of the young people in the village.  There are many challenges for Maggie to confront. Teenagers, in the face of deprivation and isolation, frequently turn to drink, drugs and self-harm. In Salluit alone there were six suicides in 2015, all among men aged 18 to 25. Teenage pregnancy is common, levels of sexual abuse are high, and gender expectations see young girls burdened with domestic duties.

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It takes a remarkable teacher just to work in such an environment. But, to do what Maggie has done requires something quite extraordinary, something very special. She has worked assiduously to raise funds for the community, particularly her students, focusing on nutrition and fitness, and created a life-skills program specifically for young women that has seen a 500 percent growth in girls’ enrollment because previous programs were designed to help mainly boys. With the help of her students, the community and contributions from individuals, companies and government agencies, Salluit now has a thriving fitness centre and the villagers have helped other communities create their own.

Maggie-1.jpgOutside the classroom, she spent time as a coach for the Salluit Running Club. Seven Inuit youth travelled with her to Hawaii in 2016 to run a half marathon. Her projects include taking students hiking in national parks, having them run a community kitchen, a second-hand store,  and fundraising for diabetes prevention programs. She has also temporarily fostered some Salluit youth. Maggie does not simply see herself as the teacher and the kids as students, but sees their lives as being intertwined with hers.  One of the biggest myths about teaching is that the school day ends at 3pm, says Maggie: “I think as a teacher in a small Arctic community, your day never ends. The school doors may close – but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them.”

The Life Skills program Maggie implemented is three-pronged:

  1. It has motivated young people to return to school, by engaging them in projects that interest them – from cookery to mechanics.
  2. These talents and interests are used to tackle and address issues in the community.
  3. Her students then receive praise and acknowledgment. They have low confidence, and are viewed negatively by the community. But “giving them a new positive platform to stand upon while contributing to the community is transformative for both my students and the community,” writes Maggie.

A bit about the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize

The Varkey Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for underprivileged children around the world. The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. The prize serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognised and celebrated. It seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them.  Why teachers?  Lack of education is a major factor behind many of the social, political, economic and health issues faced by the world today. We believe education has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict. The status of teachers in cultures across the world is critically important to our global future.

MacDonnell was selected from among 20,000 nominees representing 179 countries. The Nobel-style award was set up three years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. The prize is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years.

award ceremony.jpgThe award ceremony, held in Dubai, is a glitzy affair. The winner was announced by astronaut Thomas Pesquet, speaking from the International Space Station, who said: “I’d like to be the first person in history to thank all the world’s teachers from space.” The award was handed out by adventurer Bear Grylls, who jumped from a helicopter to deliver it to the ceremony. Italian singer Andrea Bocelli took part in the prize giving. A video message from Prince Harry was screened and the ceremony was attended by the vice president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Maggie was even congratulated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“You chose to teach at the Ikusik school in Salluit, a remote village in the Canadian Arctic. There are no roads to Salluit – it is only accessible by air and it gets cold, really cold, -20c this time of year. I’d like to say thank you to every teacher out there.”

My hat is off to this amazing young woman who is helping to make a big difference in the lives of the youth in Salluit.  Her approach, rooted in respect for her students, their culture and the particular challenges of their community, is a model for teachers everywhere. Her conviction that kindness breeds hope holds a lesson for us all. This, my friends, is how we make the world a better place … one person at a time.

Note to Readers:  If any of you know of a person or organization that you believe qualifies for a “good people” post, please feel free to send me a suggestion via email at dennisonjill@aol.com.  

The Canadian Guy Has Class!

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to visit and to discuss ongoing policies with Trump.  Trudeau had hoped for an audience with the President of the United States, but in lieu of that, he got Trump.  Of course, the U.S. was embroiled in the scandal of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and whether he did or didn’t give Russian ambassador Kislyak a heads up about impending sanctions by President Obama back on Christmas day, so it is understandable that the U.S. news outlets were too busy to cover more than the barest details of Trudeau’s visit.

trudeau-trump-shakeNonetheless, there were some pretty great moments, like when Trudeau got to have his picture taken standing to the left of Ivanka Trump, with a beaming proud Papa Trump on her right.  And speaking of Ivanka, let us not forget the iconic photos of Ivanka gazing with adoration at the handsome, young Trudeau!

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The take on the visit depends entirely which side of the border you are on.  The U.S. press called the meeting boring, but the Canadians were thrilled.  Both reactions seem to be a result of the fact that Trump didn’t throw any of his bombastic temper tantrums during the Trudeau visit.  U.S. citizens seem to have come to a point where they look forward to these daily, sometimes hourly events, but Canadians, having a bit more sense of propriety, find them unamusing, to say the least.

trudeau-ivanka

Their major differences are in the areas of immigration, trade and climate change.  As we all know, Trump is determined to have his way in banning refugees from at least seven Middle-Eastern nations from entering the U.S. and is not above verbally abusing judges and others in order to see his ‘orders’ carried out.  Meanwhile, Trudeau welcomes refugees and the cultural diversity they bring.  Asked for his opinion on Trump’s refugee ban, PM Trudeau tactfully declined to opine, saying instead, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves.”

us-canadaCertainly the main point PM Trudeau came hoping to come to an agreement with Trump about was regarding trade, given that Trump has repeatedly said he would either ‘rip up’ the NAFTA agreement, or renegotiate it in terms more favourable to the U.S.  Canada counts on trade with the United States for about 25 percent of their country’s gross domestic product and 73% of their exports.  PM Trudeau and President Obama had forged a mutually beneficial working relationship, so it is no wonder that Trudeau was a bit unsure what to expect from the contentious Trump … heck, those of us who live in the U.S. do not know what to expect of him from one day to the next!

A little known episode from last month:  a group of six Canadian women and two French nationals tried to enter the U.S. in order to attend the Women’s March on 21 January, but after a two-hour ordeal at the border which included a search of the car, their mobile phones being examined, each person fingerprinted, and their photo taken, they were denied access and told that if they attempted to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested.  Another Canadian and a British citizen were also turned away after informing border patrol agents the reason for their visit was the Women’s March. The same day, a resident of Montreal was turned away after being asked by border patrol agents whether he was ‘pro-Trump’ or ‘anti-Trump’.  He was then fingerprinted, photographed, and denied entry.

At least one Canadian school district has ceased their periodic field trips into the U.S., citing safety concerns in light of Trump’s immigration ban and the unpredictability of what might happen next. We certainly can no longer claim to be a nation of hospitality, can we?

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PM Justin Trudeau welcoming newly-arrived refugees to his country

Justin Trudeau is a class act, much the same as was President Obama.  Though we have the impression that he strongly disagrees with Trump’s stance on immigration and his ‘executive order’ to ban mostly Muslims from the U.S., Trudeau has never specifically criticized Trump.  He has merely stated the importance of welcoming more refugees, without mentioning Trump by name.  As I said, the man has class, something which is sorely lacking in Trump.

On a final note, the day after the meeting and press conference with PM Trudeau and Trump, Sean Spicer had this to say in the morning White House press briefing:

“Yesterday the president set — had an incredibly productive set of meetings and discussions with Prime Minister Joe Trudeau of Canada, focusing on our shared commitment to close cooperation in addressing both the challenges facing our two countries and the problems throughout the world.” Um, Sean?  It’s Justin … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Not Joe.

I asked one of my Canadian friends if we could trade leaders … just for a year or so.  Her response, verbatim, was: “Over my dead body (and those of millions of Canucks!!) Sorry…”  Guess that means ‘no’, huh?  And I was even willing to throw in Bannon, Miller, Spicer, Conway, Sessions and DeVos as a bonus!  Well, can’t blame me for trying.  Sigh.

The Woe of Trudeau …

Guess who may be going to Canada?  No, it isn’t me … and I’m not going to tell you who just yet … I will get to that in a moment …

Of all the world leaders today, I think I most respect Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.  He is wise, gracious, and most of all, he is a humanitarian.  PM Trudeau and Donald Trump are as different as night and day:

  • Trudeau is a self-described feminist who appointed his country’s first gender-balanced cabinet. Trump, currently married to his third wife, has cheated on the first two, and has been accused multiple times of sexual misconduct. There are very few women among Trump’s cabinet picks.
  • Trudeau has sought to champion trade deals such as Ceta (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, with the EU). Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal last month and has threatened to rip up the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) trade deal.
  • Trudeau said, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”. Trump signed an executive order to ban all immigrants from seven Middle Eastern nations that are primarily Muslim nations, for no apparent reason.
  • Trudeau is well-educated and speaks intelligently.  Trump can barely string a sentence together on his best days.

So it is understandable that as Justin Trudeau plans for a visit to the U.S. to meet with Trump next Monday, he is consulting with other world leaders for advice on how to proceed. In preparation for the upcoming meeting, PM Trudeau has contacted both British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President François Hollande to discuss how best to engage with Trump. Two of the key points that will likely be discussed are trade and the Keystone pipeline.

While other leaders have, understandably and justifiably, criticized Trump, Trudeau has notably refrained from doing so.  In part this is because of his nature, but more importantly, the economies of Canada and the U.S. are closely tied, with some 73% of Canada’s exports going to the U.S. Trump has threatened to ‘rip up’ NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and re-negotiate to be in the best interest of the U.S., as well as impose border tariffs on imports from both Canada and Mexico. Trudeau, familiar by now with Trump’s inconsistent and irrational rhetoric, must be concerned for the future of Canadian-U.S. relations.

Earlier today, asked how he viewed his relationship with the United States, Trudeau said, “Canadians expect their government to have a constructive working relationship with the incoming American administration, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. But there are things that we hold dear that the Americans haven’t prioritized. I’m never going to shy away from standing up for what I believe in — whether it’s proclaiming loudly to the world that I am a feminist, whether it’s understanding that immigration is a source of strength for us and Muslim Canadians are an essential part of the success of our country today and into the future.”  I wonder if Canadians would be willing to trade leaders?

Now, as if that weren’t enough for PM Trudeau to have to worry about … word has it that Trump is seriously considering none other than America’s #1 Bimbo, Sarah Palin, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada!!!  Take a minute to savor that one!

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Canadians are not exactly jumping for joy at this news. Democrat MP Charlie Angus tweeted, “Sarah Palin as ambassador? Well that would show how little Steve Bannon and his pal @realDonaldTrump think of Canada.” Some thought it was an early April Fool’s joke from the White House, while still others thought it must surely be fake news.  But no, a White House spokesperson confirmed that she was being considered.  Some reactions from Canadians:

  • “Appointing Sarah Palin as the US ambassador to Canada is, like, ultimate trolling.”
  • “If he makes Sarah Palin the US Ambassador to Canada. I say we keep our oil and hockey players. BTW … does she speak Canadian?”
  • “This is entirely because Sarah Palin can see Canada from Alaska, isn’t it?”
  • “Just cus @SarahPalinUSA ‘probably’ knows the difference between a moose & a beaver shouldn’t make her a Canadian ambassador option.”
  • “Palin as ambassador is an insult. To any country.”
  • “Dear Mr. Trump: Rather than appoint Sarah Palin as ambassador to Canada, please bomb us. Signed, all intelligent life in Canada.” (This was my personal favourite!)
  • “Stop laughing, little known fact – she speaks almost fluent Canadian.”
  • “I know #Trump is cruel and heartless but making #SarahPalin #US #Ambassador to #Canada would be going too far.”

Last week I wrote about Trump’s choice of Ted Malloch as ambassador to the EU, a poor choice, as Malloch has expressed disdain for the European Union.  The appointment of Sarah Palin as ambassador to Canada would be an equally poor selection, not only because she is a brainless twit, but because her ideology, to the extent she can be said to have one, is quite the opposite of that of PM Trudeau.  Andrew Cohen, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, summed it up best: “In Canada, Palin would have to learn to speak one of our official languages. She would have to live in a land of naïfs who favour immigrants, gay marriage, the United Nations and NATO.”

Ambassadors serve as a liaison in communications between the two countries, and Palin sorely lacks the intellect or the filter to be an ambassador to any country, let alone our nearest ally, an ally with whom we have historically had cordial relations and with whom we share a border.  It seems to me rather a slap in the face to even consider her for the appointment. But then, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Trump seems intent on destroying relationships with allies while cultivating relationships with contentious dictators such as Putin and Erdoğan.

Welcome to the new United States, Mr. Trudeau … enjoy your visit!

Trump: A Global View

The United States, since the end of World War II, has been considered a world leader, and for a long time has had, for the most part, the respect of other nations around the world. Since U.S. intervention in Iraq and, to a lesser extent Afghanistan under George W. Bush, the respect of the global community for the U.S. has been waning.  In the past year, the rise of Donald Trump to GOP presumptive nominee has done nothing but to further tarnish that image. Similar to the reactions of many here in the U.S., the rest of the world first saw Trump as a clown, a joke, and thought we were too smart to fall for this particular joke.  Then, as the snowball began rolling ever faster down that slippery slope, other nations began to express concern and doubt.  But still, they thought, Americans are too smart … they are just having a moment from which they will wake up soon.  Today, the general reaction from other nations ranges from mild disdain to outright contempt to fear that this madman may be the catalyst that brings doom to, not just the United States, but the world.

make fascism great againWhile WWII and America’s role gave rise to the U.S. being seen as a ‘superpower’, President George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began to change that perception.  Donald Trump may well be poised to finish what Bush started in stripping the U.S. of the respect of our allies.  Trump’s first ‘foreign policy speech’, alarmed our allies far more than our enemies.  His ‘America First’ rhetoric is often seen on the other side of the globe as a threat to retreat from the rest of the world, or to back out of commitments we have to our allies.  Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said “The world’s security architecture has changed and it is no longer based on two pillars alone. It cannot be conducted unilaterally. No American president can get round this change in the international security architecture…. ‘America first’ is actually no answer to that.”  Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and U.N. foreign minister said he heard Trump’s speech as “abandoning both democratic allies and democratic values. Trump had not a word against Russian aggression in Ukraine, but plenty against past U.S. support for democracy in Egypt.”

In some circles, Trump has been dubbed “America’s First Isolationist Candidate”.  Prior to WWII, a large portion of the U.S. population was isolationist, preferring to stay out of the struggle in Europe to stop the madman, Hitler.  In fact, had Japan not bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, it is doubtful that FDR would have been able to drum up support to enter the war in any official capacity. ‘America First’ was also the phrase used by those who called for the U.S. to stay out of WWII, rather than to support its allies.  If there is a lesson to be learned from WWII, it is that the world is now a much more global community and no nation can stand alone, isolationism leaves a nation vulnerable.  Former South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Sung-han noted, “Saying the U.S. will no longer engage in anything that is a burden in terms of its relationships with allies, it would be almost like abandoning those alliances. It will inevitably give rise to anti-American sentiment worldwide.”

reallySo, what does the rest of the world think of Donald Trump?

Germany’s Der Spiegel has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Britain’s David Cameron says his plan to ban Muslims is divisive and unhelpful.  The French liberal newspaper Liberation has described him as a nightmare turned reality. JK Rowling tweeted that he’s worse than Voldemort. A recent Economist cover has a picture of Trump dressed as Uncle Sam with just one word, “Really?” That pretty much sums up the mood of global elites.  A few comments I think are noteworthy:

“Trump does for the U.S. what ISIS does for Islam.” – Phil, BBC, 05 Mar 2016

“Oh, I think it does matter what the world thinks of US candidates and presidents and it matters even more how the world views Americans at large. Can we be a trend-setting nation and global leader when a third of nation falls for a histrionic foul-mouthed populist with fascist tendencies? The US has many friends around the world but many often wonder about our lack of common sense.” – Bob Williams, BBC, 05 Mar 2016

“Speaking from a Canadian view, people that I know and that I speak with about this think that Trump is one or any combination of the following:  dangerous, scary, moronic, rude, racist, inciter of hate, bigoted, misogynist, unfit for politics, narcissist, sketchy, womanizer, angry, hateful, etc etc etc” – Catherine Durnford-Wang, Quora, 16 Mar 2016

“The inability of politicians to connect with voters and get things done was part of what made authoritarianism so appealing in the interwar years.” – Heather Horn, The Atlantic, 03 March 2016

ban trumpHundreds of thousands of Britons signed a petition calling for Trump to be banned from Britain for hate speech, which was taken up in parliament. Cameron declined to ban Trump, but said: “If he came to visit our country, I think he would unite us against him.”  The UK is arguably our #1 ally.  A Trump presidency “would be a disaster for EU-U.S. ties,” said one senior EU official involved in shaping foreign policy in Brussels, headquarters of the EU. “Right now, we and the Obama administration generally understand each other. I don’t think we understand Donald Trump. He has no understanding of the delicate, complex nature of foreign policy on Europe’s doorstep.”

While the UK may be considered our #1 ally, Canada is #2, and has the added distinction of being one of only two countries that actually share a border with the U.S.  So what does Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada think of Trump?  For the most part Trudeau, ever the diplomat, has responded to questions about Trump simply by saying that he has faith in the American people.  However, on at least one occasion he made a stronger statement when asked his opinion of Trump’s hateful rhetoric: “I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric. I think Canada—indeed, any modern society—does best when we understand that diversity is a source of strength, not a source of weakness, that the elements on which we are similar are always far greater than the elements on which we are diverse, and if we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don’t actually end up any safer.”  And of course we already know how Trump is viewed by the leaders and citizens of the other nation that shares a border with us!

So, why should we care what the rest of the world thinks?

When President Obama travelled to the United Kingdom and encouraged the UK not to leave the European Union (EU), a large portion of Britons were up in arms, basically saying the U.S. should stay out of their politics, their decisions.  I do not necessarily agree, nor do I agree with the naysayers here in the U.S. who believe it does not matter what the rest of the world thinks of a candidate who could potentially become the next U.S. president.  We need our allies and our allies need us.  A president who does and says everything in his power to alienate those allies is not an asset, but a liability.  Global issues, such as the ongoing fight against terrorism, the fight to protect the world from the tyranny of such rulers as Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the deteriorating environment are all extremely important issues on the world stage today and for the foreseeable future.

Our allies have a right to expect that the leader of the nation they look to for global leadership at least understands those issues and is likely to make decisions that will benefit not only the U.S., but also its allies.  Donald Trump has already, in essence, declared himself ‘persona non grata’ throughout the Middle East.  Latin America and Mexico certainly have no reason to love him.  Europe is leery and frightened of the effect his presidency would have on global peace.  In fact, the only leaders who have shown any degree of support for him are the three I named as tyrants above:  Jong-un, Putin and Erdoğan!  To me, this speaks volumes.  Think about it.

Something To Show For It

I was reading E.J. Dionne’s column in the Washington Post, and he made reference to “political achievement”.  That is the term I have been seeking, but it was just somewhere beyond the reach of my mind.  Political achievement is what separates the qualified from the un-qualified in any political race.  President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, in the 2012 election, both had political achievements, a proven track record in government.  Obama, of course, had already served four years as president, and prior to that, had been a senator from Illinois.  Prior to that, he was a Constitutional Law scholar.  Romney had served four years as Governor of Massachusetts.  Whether you agree or disagree with their accomplishments in those offices is irrelevant.  They both had good moments and bad moments, some successes and some failures.  But they had proven political achievements.

On the Democrat side this year, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have political achievements:

  • Bernie Sanders served four two-year terms as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and was named one of America’s Best Mayors by U.S. News and World Report. He then served a total of 16 years as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives before going on to become U.S. Senator from Vermont in 2006, a position which he still holds.
  • Hillary Clinton spent eight years serving as the U.S. Senator from New York, then four years as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. She also has the experience of being a former First Lady of the U.S. for eight years, and the former First Lady of Arkansas for 12 years.  Although her tenure as first lady is not officially a political achievement, it is certainly government experience. Additionally, Clinton holds a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School.

On the Republican side this year:

  • Ted Cruz was the Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission for four years, during which time he also served as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice and domestic policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He served as Solicitor General of Texas for five years and has been a U.S. Senator since 2013, a position he currently holds. He is also a Constitutional Law scholar.
  • John Kasich served 18 years as representative from Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives, then went on to become the Governor of Ohio in 2011, a position he still holds today.
  • Donald Trump has no political achievements on record.

These are our choices for President of the United States, a decision each of us will contribute toward in six short months.  You may notice one glaring omission, one candidate for the highest office in the land who actually has no political achievements, no proven track record.  Donald Trump is a businessman, only partly successful, and a celebrity.  Never before in the history of this nation has ‘celebrity’ been a sufficient qualification for the office of President of the United States.  Never.

Putting aside all other considerations (and you know I struggle to be able to do that!), it is time to have serious discussions about candidate qualifications.  If you owned a business and needed to hire an accountant, would you consider somebody with no accounting degree whose only experience was as a sales clerk in a dress shop?  McDonalds and other fast food restaurants hire kids with no work experience and train them to fry hamburgers and say “welcome to McDonalds, may I take your order?” But they do not hire those people as accountants or company executives.  Hiring in the corporate world is based on relevant experience first, all other considerations fall below experience on the priority list.

Whether you think Hillary Clinton is a liar, or Ted Cruz is not likeable, or Bernie Sanders is too old, or John Kasich is too moderate, the one thing they all have in common is that they are experienced, they understand how government is supposed to work, and they have political achievements and the education that enabled them to make those achievements.  It is not my intent to say which one would be better qualified to lead the nation for the next four or eight years, but merely to point out the fact that Donald Trump should never have gotten as far as he has.  He is singularly unqualified for the position and should not be seriously considered for the office, based on the most important criteria, achievement.

I am currently reading Common Ground by Justin Trudeau, and the following excerpt caught my eye, as it is very similar to what the U.S. is experiencing at present: “The last few years have seen this country’s potential greatness fade in the shadow of divisive politics and a focus on seizing power for its own sake.  That’s not what Canada needs, nor what Canadians want.  Our country was built on better goals that that, guided by a vision that was both unique and encouraging to people all over the world.”  I think the exact same can be said for the U.S.

Donald Trump is certainly not a nice man, not a kind or compassionate man.  That, in itself, however does not disqualify him from the job.  He is not a particularly honest man, nor a brilliant one, but again, those are qualifications that are subjective and do not disqualify him.  But having neither political background, education nor experience … those are the priorities that should, must automatically disqualify him.

 

In Praise of Prime Minister Trudeau

canada flagMany of us ‘anti-trumpsters’ have half-jokingly declared that we will move to Canada if Trump, by some strange coincidence, is actually elected president in November.  I say “we”, because I made this claim, only half-seriously in a previous post (See post from 13 Nov 2015).  Justin Trudeau is the relatively new Prime Minister of Canada and to date, he seems to be an effective, fair leader.  He reminds me much of President Obama, which coming from me is a compliment to Mr. Trudeau.

A few facts about Mr. Trudeau:

  • Born 25 December 1971 (current age 44) – 2nd youngest Canadian Prime Minister
  • Leader of the Liberal Party
  • Son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1968-1984)
  • Prime Minister since 4 November 2015

Though he has been Prime Minister for less than six months, he has already been named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.  Dahlia Lithwick, writing for Slate noted that Trudeau is “what [Obama] might have been, had he been allowed to just be. Trudeau swept into elected office on the same enormous wave of optimism and tolerance that brought Obama to the White House in 2008. Except the Canadians gave Trudeau a chance.”

TrudeauP.M. Trudeau’s platform is one of tolerance and multiculturalism, feminism and pluralism, environmental protection and military modesty; the exact opposite of the messages we hear today from our political candidates in the U.S.  In fact, after pledging to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees as the rest of the world was closing its doors—he met the first batch of refugee families at the airport as they arrived and helped them find proper winter coats.  While Trump is calling for a ban on all Muslim immigrants for the foreseeable future and the rabid masses chanting their support,  Trudeau says, “the manner in which Canada treats refugees defines us as a nation.”  So true.

Trudeau is resolutely pro-choice, supports legalization of marijuana, identifies himself as a ‘feminist’ and says he is proud to be so.  Canada has a similar problem with un and under-employed people as we have in the U.S., and Trudeau takes a reasonable approach: “Over the past 10 years, it has become harder for millions of Canadians to get ahead. Some people think the solution is to continue on the course we’re on, giving benefits to the wealthy and making cuts to everything else (emphasis added). I have a different plan, to invest immediately in jobs and growth and lower taxes for the middle-class. My vision of our country is a place where everyone has a shot at success because we have the confidence and leadership to invest in Canadians.”

Mr. Trudeau is soft-spoken, reasonable, and intelligent.  The few times I have watched him, such as when he and his family visited the White House in March, I am struck by the sharp contrast between the Prime Minister and the minions we are calling candidates today.  When I wrote my original, tongue-in-cheek article about moving to Canada, I did so in the form of a mock letter to Mr. Trudeau asking for political asylum.  It was meant to be a joke, but I must admit that it is becoming less of a joke and more of a serious consideration.  Not only is Mr. Trudeau obviously more intelligent and a better leader than any on our horizon, but the people of Canada also seem willing to let him do his job and work with their elected leaders rather than constantly fighting them.

All my life, ever since a young child, I have been proud and thankful to be a citizen of this nation.  I grew up believing in democratic values and that everyone had an equal opportunity to follow their dreams.  My interest in the history and political process of this nation has been a driving force since I learned to read. I felt blessed when I looked around the world at people starving in undeveloped countries.  I now understand that those opportunities are not exactly equal, that they are heavily weighted toward the wealthy, the corporate giants, and the rest of us are but pawns in the political game.  This is especially true among republicans, but also, though to a lesser extent, democrats.  The latest presidential candidates are mostly a joke.  If Trump or Cruz win the White House in November, I am certain I shall be seriously considering renouncing my citizenship and locating elsewhere, because the United States of America that once was will have ceased to exist.

“We are dreamers, innovators, builders. We know that in Canada, better is always possible. And we deserve a government that knows that too.”  –  JUSTIN TRUDEAU

canada

Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau …

Mr. Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Greetings! I am citizen of the United States, and I write to you today to request possible political asylum in your country. As you probably know, there is an upcoming election for President of the United States next year, and as you are also probably aware, there is a great deal of turmoil surrounding the election and the candidates themselves. It would appear at this point that the right-wing branch of our government, aka the Republican Party, are desirous of changing the structure of our once-great nation such that it will regress into a nation where all rights and property belong only to a small class of rich, white men, while the rest of us will be relegated to positions similar to the slaves circa 1800. Not only this, but it appears to be their intent to re-write the Constitution that has served as the foundation for our government such that there will no longer be a separation between church and state, and that there will actually be a “state-sponsored” religion.  As if that weren’t enough to strike fear into my heart, one of these candidates, as you may have heard, plans to build a wall completely blocking our borders, supposedly to keep our friends out, but you know that a wall works both ways, and I fear that the ultimate goal is to imprison us.  And the other listens to advisers that tell him that all non-Christians, but especially Muslims, are evil.  Some of my best friends are Muslims and Mexicans, so all this bigotry reminds me of a time just before my birth where the leader of a European nation decided that all Jews were evil and that there should be only one dominant race.

While I think it unlikely these radical right-wing conservatives stand much of a chance of actually winning the election, I am making my plans for escape early, just in case. I am deeply concerned for the welfare of my family, should this party be successful in their attempt to take over and derail our government. It is for that reason that I would like you to consider my bid to relocate to your country late in 2016 should it become necessary. I must be perfectly honest though, and inform you at the outset that if the Republicans fail in their bid for the presidency and either of the two Democratic candidates succeed, I will, in all likelihood, cancel this request and remain in my homeland, as both of them are experienced, intelligent diplomats with sound, humanitarian values who I believe might continue to strengthen our national persona.

I am certain that you are asking yourself what I might bring to your country, what benefit there might be for the citizens of your nation, and why you should even consider my plea. I am a retired Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in good standing with 25 years’ experience in the manufacturing and publishing industries. My daughter is a Registered Nurse (RN) with ten years’ experience in healthcare. My granddaughter is an artist, specializing in custom-design anime and animations. We are all well-educated, reasonably intelligent, and we are all very kind, compassionate and liberal-minded individuals with no criminal background. Each of the three of us would be happy to volunteer approximately ten hours of our time each week to altruistic service in whatever capacity we could best be of use to the good citizens of Canada. We are a hard-working family, have always taken care of ourselves and believe in giving more than we take from life. We treat all people equally, have no prejudices based on any superficial qualities such as race, religion, gender, ethnicity or culture, but instead believe in respecting and honouring all human beings. Sadly, the U.S. no longer values people like us.

Lastly, you may be asking yourself why my family and I would like to live in Canada. While it is true that I have only ever travelled outside the U.S. to Mexico and France, I have read much about Canada and have good friends who are citizens of your nation. I think it is a beautiful country, much like the northern parts of my own, actually. Though your climate is, perhaps, a bit colder than I might like. I am able to buy warmer winter clothing, so the climate will not be a problem.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to consider my query and please let me know if there is any additional information you would like me to provide about myself or my family. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Jill E. Dennison