TORONTO – Robin Williams of all people coined the sentence that I have heard repeatedly in Toronto over the past few weeks.
“You’re like a really nice apartment over a meth lab,” he said during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2013.
I read it on Twitter. I heard it while standing in a socially distant line on the street. Most recently, it started editing one of Canada’s national newspapers, The Globe and Mail.
It was hard to concentrate up here with all the noise on the other side of the border. First, the coronavirus got out of control down there. Then there were the protests against Black Lives Matter and the counter-protests. Do I have to say it now?
Tuesday’s elections made people fidget around the world.
Canadians have their cuticles ripped off.
Not only do we live right upstairs in the US, we do everything close neighbors do – share things, work out local improvement plans, kvetch, party together. The US is not only our biggest trading partner, it’s also our biggest vacation spot. Despite the size of Canada, two in three people live within 100 kilometers of the border, and many of us have sisters, brothers and cousins down there. (I have two sisters in California and one sister-in-law in North Carolina.)
I haven’t slept well in days, and neither have many of my friends and neighbors.
“I didn’t do a job in two days because of lengthy elections in a country I don’t live in,” Emmett Macfarlane, associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, said on Twitter.
Recent polls show that up to four in five Canadians were looking for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, to win the presidency. Canada’s political center tends to lean further to the left than America’s, which makes the Democratic Party a comfortable ideological home for many “Red Tories” – what we call liberal right-wingers.
However, this is not about guidelines. It’s about President Trump. Canadians really don’t like him – his confidence rating among Canadians has fallen to the lowest point of any American president in the past 20 years.
Initially, it was personal – he imposed tariffs on the country’s steel and aluminum exports two years ago, threatened to exclude Canada from the continental free trade agreement, and insulted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak” shortly after leaving the group of 7 peaks held by Mr. Trudeau.
Since then, many Canadians have said that it has become a moral issue for Mr Trump to politicize the coronavirus, slander his opponents and attack democratic institutions.
“Even the law is morally violated by its behavior; conservatives have values,” said Janice Stein, founding director of the Munk School for Global Affairs and Public Order at the University of Toronto, after a night watching Fox News. “You are deeply offended by this man who openly takes care of himself all the time. He’s a terrible narcissist. He’s a racist. “
While Mr Trudeau maintained a disciplined silence about the elections and said diplomatically that he will work with every American voter, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh spoke out against Mr Trump at a press conference this week. “It would be better for the world if Trump loses and I hope he loses today,” said Singh.
But when the predicted blue wave failed to materialize and Canadians sat on their couches for another day to watch Americans – many of them maskless – protest outside polling centers, many came to the sobering realization that Mr. Trump was no stray is. With deep support in the United States, it mirrors many of their American neighbors. Whether he wins or not, around 70 million people have voted for him – roughly double the total population of Canada.
“Beyond Despair,” wrote one reader in a haiku contest hosted by The Toronto Star. “That so many support his bigotry and hatred.”
Oct. Oct. 7, 2020, 2:08 p.m. ET
Even political analysts examining the nuanced dynamics of voting said the widespread support for Mr Trump signaled a worrying split in American identity.
“He achieved something real – a sense of disillusionment and hopelessness,” said Lori Turnbull, director of the School of Public Administration and associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“Whether it turns 270 or not,” she said, “the challenge will be: can America restore the integrity of its institutions and its mythology and belief in an American dream?”
Canada shares the world’s longest border with the United States. Canadians used to cross it regularly – for vacations, family reunions or lunch. We haven’t done that since March when the pandemic hit and the border closed like a long garage door. Despite the painful economic and personal consequences, an overwhelming majority of Canadians would like this border to remain closed until our American neighbors contain the spread of the virus, which hit record numbers two days in a row this week.
Given this choice, few of us think that we will see our American brothers and sisters soon.
“We had different administrations,” said Mike Bradley, who has been mayor of Sarnia, an industrial town across from Michigan, since 1988.
“I’ve never felt this collective fear of what is happening and what will happen in the future,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s statement Thursday night that the election had been rigged. “Everyone is afraid of retaliation.”
He added, “I think Americans have changed in ways that we Canadians find difficult to deal with.”
Aydin Aghdashloo, an artist at the center of the allegations in Iran’s #MeToo movement, is a Canadian citizen. While an exhibition of his work in Tehran was canceled, the executive director of Tirgan, a hugely popular Iranian cultural festival in Toronto, would not undertake not to publicly invite him.
Halloween was horrific this year in Quebec City – two people were stabbed and five more wounded by a man in medieval dress brandishing a sword.
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