The World According To Trump? No Thank You

Ahead of the results of the U.S election tonight, Michael Wedmann warns Canadians not to be so glib or self-righteous about our neighbours in the south.

It’s easy at the moment to look at the U.S. election campaign and think “I’m glad that’s not us!” We watch Saturday Night Live mock Donald Trump and we laugh at our neighbours. But maybe we should not be quite so glib or self-righteous. I honestly wonder what kind of society my kids are going to grow up in when I read the news every day. What appears to be a dumbing down of our politics and appealing to a lower common denominator, rather than leaders trying to elevate the debate, is happening here too.

I never wanted to be the person that constantly said “back in my day,” or worse, refer to “the good old days” as if it was the time of enlightenment. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and history tells us there were problems and we got a lot of things wrong. But there were some things which seemed untouchable and reassuringly constant. Many of these things seem to be in question today. And largely, I think we are the worse for it.

Yes, there were some private schools in earlier decades, but they were largely using a similar curriculum and simply provided better facilities for those that could afford it. The fundamentals, like the belief in science, were givens. The fact most of us were jammed into an imperfect public system was in many ways the great equalizer. I was the child of immigrants, yet I got the same education as the third generation Canadian lawyer’s kid that lived down the street. It made us largely colour blind. Now we see challenges to the curriculum, suggesting religious studies should be treated the same as science, with Creationism taught alongside the Theory of Evolution. Except that Creationism is a story, while Evolution is a scientifically proven theory.

We had health classes, and yes the teachers did venture into what today is controversial for some—the dreaded Sex Education. I am glad it was addressed in schools, as it was not something my Dad wanted to talk about. And today I want my kids to be properly educated about their bodies, what is right and wrong, what’s socially acceptable and what’s not. I will certainly try to create a home environment where the kids feel safe to bring their questions home. But sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody who is not your Dad. Unfortunately, many hardcore religious zealots would like to see this muted.

Over the past 50 years in Canada, we witnessed some incredible health advances that largely saw major diseases disappear or shrink drastically. Who remembers an iron lung from polio victims, or small pox outbreaks, or even mumps and measles? But now we have the internet, and we give a voice to people that have no real credentials, like a former Playboy Bunny, and suddenly vaccinations are evil. Now we see childhood diseases returning because people choose to believe conspiracy theorists over countless scientific studies. When did we get to the ‘facts don’t matter’ era? Do we leave the health of our kids in the hands of scientifically educated doctors or a B-list actor? In Peel region alone last year, 8400 kids faced suspension for not having vaccinations up to date—the same schools my children attend.

I remember vividly as a kid my meetings with police officers. They came to visit the schools and let kids climb in the police cruisers, they came to the fairs and carnivals with their horses and let us feed them carrots. Our parents and teachers taught us that the police were our friends and were there to help us if we ever were lost. My son is in Grade 3 now, and I don’t remember the police paying an educational visit to the school. We have the police in Peel defending a policy of carding, where people are stopped and questioned without cause and files are kept, again without cause. Then we wonder why there are growing trust issues with our youth, ethnic groups, and the police.

In the last Canadian Federal Election, we saw some of the fear-based, often fact free, policies promoted. My favourite was the proposed Hotline for “Barbaric Cultural Practices”. How do I explain that to my 8-year-old? Fortunately, this time around Canadians rejected this divisive approach and embraced what has been the traditional Canadian approach. But even now we have a candidate pitching an immigration policy that would include a means test of “Canadian Values”. And what exactly would those be? Tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness have been our goal, or at least that’s what I was taught. But it seems kind of ironic that a proposed test does the exact opposite.

Before we laugh too hard about Trump we should remember the era of Mayor Ford. Where facts didn’t matter either, and the policy of simply repeating a lie over and over was deemed to be okay. We have a very tired government and an opposition party that may or may not repeal the long overdue sex-ed curriculum, plus some other hard right ideas imported from our southern neighbours. 

This didn’t start with Donald Trump—he is just today’s flag bearer for those who want to take us backward, whether it be women’s rights, gay rights or racial equality. But for the sake of our kids, it’s never been more important to be involved in our communities and let the voices of tolerance, compassion, science, education, and equality, be heard loud and clear.    

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