A country that deserves not even to exist

Fig. 1. Screenshot via Guide Travel, fair use.

The contrast could not be more stark. In the U.S., we see a hysterical Islamophobia that can lead only to further violence.[1] In Canada, . . . well, in Canada:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted a planeload of weary Syrian refugees landing in Toronto early Friday, telling the first to disembark that “you’re safe at home now” as he handed them winter coats.

“Tonight they step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada,” Mr. Trudeau told government employees gathered at the airport.

“This is a wonderful night where we get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada is all about, but we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult straits,” the prime minister said.[2]

There is an image (figure 1), which has apparently disappeared from the story where I first saw it, of a Canadian immigration agent smiling at an arrived refugee. And tears come to my eyes as I read of Trudeau’s welcome.

These are words I myself, being stuck in the U.S., am desperate to hear. No matter what I do here, it is apparent that my economic rights which would be recognized almost anywhere else in the world[3] will not be realized. The violence I face now (it has not always been so) is structural[4] rather than physical, so even my so-called friends—whom I’m no longer feeling are friends at all for their failure to lift even a finger in over fourteen years to help me find work—view it as considerably less urgent.[5]

But ironically, the economic despair that I and so many others face may be a factor in the vicious xenophobic, racist, and Islamophobic response[6] that I now believe will predominate in the 2016 presidential election.[7] It is true that despite some superficial similarities, the people who settled in Canada are not all the same as those who settled in the U.S.[8] but there can be no excuse for our niggardliness in contrast to the generosity exhibited in Canada.

I am skeptical of the emphasis on the suicide rate and rate of deaths due to drug abuse in working class white males in a recent study[9] that evidently underlies Waleed Shahid’s acceptance of a view that

[t]he growing proto-fascist, white-supremacist movement in the Republican Party is preying upon non-rich white people who are literally dying of despair, turning to drugs and suicide to deal with a reality they can’t bear, and a society they believe doesn’t care for them… [W]hite people are right that they are under attack — they’re just pointing to the wrong culprits.[10]

I suspect that had this study been broadened to consider incarceration rates, the rationalization for a paleoconservative view of the “white race” being “under attack” might have evaporated amid the disproportion of people of color in prison. But there can be little question that authoritarian populists and paleoconservatives feel they are getting the short end of an anti-discriminatory stick.

Whatever the cause, Canada’s welcome shows the U.S. to be considerably less great than many people in the U.S. imagine their country to be. We took a very wrong turn here and that turn feeds upon itself to make our situation even worse. And I am in despair, trapped in such a horrible and vicious country that I wish did not even exist.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “When war is not to be won, but rather to be fought,” Not Housebroken, December 10, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8388
  2. [2]Ian Austen, “Syrian Refugees Greeted by Justin Trudeau in Canada,” New York Times, December 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/12/world/americas/syria-refugees-arrive-in-canada.html
  3. [3]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm
  4. [4]David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Walking off a cliff,” Not Housebroken, November 27, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8352
  6. [6]Waleed Shahid, “Why We Can’t Bridge the Gulf Between Donald Trump Supporters and the Rest of Us,” Bill Moyers, December 10, 2015, http://billmoyers.com/story/why-we-cant-bridge-the-gulf-between-donald-trump-supporters-and-the-rest-of-us/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “As the world fumbles toward another world war, the U.S. fumbles toward a Trump presidency,” Not Housebroken, November 24, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8328
  8. [8]Colin Woodard, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (New York: Penguin, 2011).
  9. [9]Gina Kolata, “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html
  10. [10]Max Berger, quoted in Waleed Shahid, “Why We Can’t Bridge the Gulf Between Donald Trump Supporters and the Rest of Us,” Bill Moyers, December 10, 2015, http://billmoyers.com/story/why-we-cant-bridge-the-gulf-between-donald-trump-supporters-and-the-rest-of-us/

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