My new Canadian passport arrived today and as I turned it over in my hands I had mixed feelings. The navy cover is stiff and formal looking, the gold lettering regal. The inside pages feel and smell like freshly minted money. I admired the watermark images on the visa pages—Samuel de Champlain, the father of New France, Niagara Falls, four Royal Canadian Mounted Police, straight in the saddle, their spines and their hat brims stiff with honor and integrity.
I let my previous passport expire while I was enjoying citizenship in the United States. I love it here. As well as being physically diverse and beautiful, innovative, proud, powerful and endlessly interesting, America is my children’s birthplace. I have made many close friends, met my wife here (though she’s Canadian, too), had several fantastic jobs, traveled to every state and raised a family.
But I still feel Canadian. Most of my American acquaintances think of me as Canadian anyway. To my hockey teammates I’m a borrowed Canuck with ready elbows and a litany of French cuss words, though I’ve never showcased either. They are mildly amused by my cultural uniqueness, but I wouldn’t say particularly impressed.
They are a great bunch of guys, but some of the locker room conversation would make a moderately liberal Canadian blanch. On any given night you might hear harangues about immigrants, Obama, homosexuals, taxes and gun control. And that’s just one guy. But the other night I heard something new—fear and loathing of the Trumpocalypse.
I thought I was alone in my dread. Since the summer, my alarm has steadily risen. Like a foreign operative in a compromising situation, I only mentioned my fear to those I knew to be sympathetic. Otherwise, I assumed I’d be accused of being brainwashed by liberal ideology.
But now it seems there are more of us fearful than I ever imagined. After the latest round of state primary elections on “Super Tuesday” the search engine Google reported a 1,150% increase in Americans searching “how can I move to Canada”.
So, who are all these primary voters bringing about our collective demise? I’ve been trying to understand them the same way I’ve wondered who eats at Arby’s and who watches any of the Housewives reality shows. Yet, they continue to exist. The theory is Trump’s supporters feel alienated by mannered politics and angry toward the establishment and they love that he’s thrusting a thumb into its figurative eye, like Rodney Dangerfield’s character in Caddy Shack. But less funny. Never mind that as a candidate Mr. Trump has no cogent political agenda or workable idea and is the least experienced candidate for our highest office in history. In fact, that’s likely part of the appeal. He’s not beholding to anybody and has experience where it counts.
I recently read an Op-Ed piece by a Republican evangelical who wrote, “What stuns me is how my fellow evangelicals can rally behind a man whose words and actions are so at odds with the central teachings of our faith.”
Mainline Republicans are just as stunned.
Yet the Donald gets stronger.
Printed in gold on the front of my new passport is the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada. Between the English lion and the Scottish unicorn is a ribbon with the Latin inscription desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning “desiring a better country.” I’m sure the words weren’t meant as an invitation to Americans terrified of a Trump presidency, but it’s certainly ironic.
One of the questions most of my Canadian friends ask when I return north is the difference between Canadians and Americans. At face value, we seem pretty similar. With some variety and regional uniqueness, we watch the same television and movies, get the same news and understand each other’s geography and climate. Yet a fundamental difference exists. But what is it?
I lived in the U.S. for many years and was already a newly naturalized citizen before I put my finger on it. Growing up in Canada in the 70s and 80s I was indoctrinated with a belief that I was part of a whole and while I was important I was not necessarily more important than the whole. It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that Americans believe something different, that the individual is paramount and more important than the whole. Neither of these ideologies is necessarily worse than the other, they’re just different. But the trouble with ideologies learned from childhood is that it’s difficult to see or appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of other points of view. Having lived in America and Canada and being intimately familiar with the cultural values of each country, I can say both value systems inspire greatness and not-so-greatness. Could Canada produce a Trump-like candidate for it’s highest office? I think so. Look at former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
I’d like to think rational Canadians would stop such a candidate before he or she reached Parliament Hill, but I think many, if not all, rational Americans thought Trump would not get as far as he has.
I remember the anxiety and panic at the turn of the century about Y2K. If you believed the hype, Y2K threatened to crash markets, destroy infrastructure and cast developed nations into figurative and literal darkness. It sounds eerily familiar.
Of course, a crisis is always more threatening when you’re living it, which makes my new passport a pretty hot item. But if you love something doesn’t it make more sense to stay and fight for its survival and ultimate preservation than leave? On the other hand, Canada is pretty fantastic.