Category Archives: Politics

Musings on the Canadian Federal Election

By Dr David Laing Dawson

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Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

Using the three step program (reach for remote, click on guide, click channel 1502) I tore myself away from Donald Trump and American politics to watch a couple of hours of CBC election night, and it was oh so boring and lovely. No one ominously intoning “breaking news” every 15 minutes, a wide collection of thoughtful and polite people, all ages, a variety of racial and ethnic origins, each offering gentle and sometimes humorous musings, no one defending the indefensible, clever but not intrusive graphics, and many women, real women (I have to be careful how I put this) chosen for their knowledge and not their sex appeal, a couple of them completely sans make up. Not once was I distracted by cleavage, flame coloured lipstick and flowing blonde curls. Not once was I dismayed by an overfed bald neck-less undereducated white male in a suit.

During the few breaks, instead of being convinced I had to talk to my doctor about a wonderful new pharmaceutical product that could kill me, I was presented with a short video montage of Canada, from sea to sea to sea, reminding me of what we have and what we are.

And then the results: Bernier and populism is sent packing, left of centre, or progressive parties, win more than 50% of the vote, the Liberals retain power but as a minority government, as long as they can hold onto NDP support. The BQ gains seats, raising the spectre of Quebec Separation again, but only as a small haunting I hope, and Alberta expresses its disdain of the east once more.

But as a friend once pointed out, “My God, in Toronto they speak 50 different languages and they are not killing one another.”

It will always take work to keep this very big multicultural experiment together.

Trudeau, I think, has had a little slap on the wrist, and been told to cease and desist his Kum ba ya apology tour and get down to work. No more dress up. Neither Hindu garb, white cowboy hat nor blackface. Understand where Quebecois and Albertans are coming from and work with it. Work with it as you develop real action for the major issues of the day:

  • Climate Change
  • Wealth inequality
  • Affordable Education
  • Housing for all
  • Pharmacare
  • Electoral Reform
  • A voice of sanity, peace and compromise on the world stage
  • Preparing for the tectonic changes already upon us thanks to automation, the digital and media revolution, over population, climate change, and this country of ours becoming one of the few places on earth everyone would prefer to live.

Donald Trump and the Cornered Narcissist

By Dr David Laing Dawson

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“Projection” within psychoanalytic circles is defined as a defense mechanism that entails attributing your own unconscious impulses to others. Of course in real life the division between unconscious and conscious is a wide grey field, as is the division between willful and impulsive.

And projection is a rather common defense used by children and teenagers when caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing: “He/she (sibs, friends, other kids in the class) did far worse things than me.” More accurately, I suppose, when fully conscious it is deflection, when unconscious it is projection. (with a lot of grey between)

When used by adults it is often more of a fully conscious justification, a salve for the conscience, to point out, or claim, that others have done worse.

For Donald Trump, his projections have frequently been, as those of an adolescent might be, directed at his younger sister, Hillary, and his High School rival, the better looking and more admired Barack.

And now as his circle of enemies widens so do Donald’s projections: to Pelosi, General Mattis, and Joe Biden, for example, ascribing his instability to Pelosi, his weakness to Mattis, and his corruption to Biden. To name just three of many.

One year ago I wrote a piece entitled “A Cornered Narcissist is not a Pretty Sight.” Well, Donald was not quite cornered then. He slipped out from under Mueller, who arrived at the hearing as a forgetful, tired old man who did not want this moment in history.

But now the walls are closing in again on Donald J. Trump and it may be worth publishing that piece once more:

Here is what to expect:

Increasing displays of petulance, irrational accusations, self-pity, rage, and depression, while he continues to seek out adoring crowds and fawning world leaders wherever he can find them.

This depression will take the form of blunt affect, self-imposed isolation, and paranoia.

I was struck by Trump’s demeanor right after the midterms. The news channels referred to it as upbeat, positive. His words (the actual words) started out upbeat, declaring the midterms a Republican “victory”, calling it “great”, before taking pot shots at all his favourite enemies and hinting at a democratic/deep state conspiracy against him, but his affect throughout this was flat, his pronunciation dull, his face blunted. even when using the words “great” and “victory” – at least until his petulant rage at Jim Acosta.

With the democrats now having the majority in the House, the republicans weakened in many State legislatures, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we are now into the endgame.

I don’t profess to feel any certainty how this will unfold. The possibilities include everything from impeachment to endless investigations to a thin gruel of feigned bipartisanship to more unrest, polarization, and violence.

But Donald Trump’s responses are predictable, and highly visible in his five tweets today attacking the press and the Mueller Investigation with even more recklessness and less attention to reality than we have seen before.

There was a time when a mad king could be isolated and the kingdom protected from his madness. Unfortunately we now have twitter and more than a few sycophants surrounding this president. And many more commentators still trying to shine a kind light on his outrageous words and notions.

Perhaps the world’s frightening march back to 1913 with the rise of nationalism, the erection of fences, the dissolution of agreements, and the rebirth of oligarchs will proceed without Trump. Or, or, or America might return to an improved version of itself as the beacon of successful liberal democracy, perhaps even with universal health care, gun control, less racism and a major role to play addressing climate change. I hope they try. Whatever poison flows below the 49th parallel tends to seep into Canada.

So, my American friends, it is now time for damage control and careful planning. If only you could promise him a statue bigger than Lincoln’s and the rating of “best president ever” in the history books in return for his retirement to Mar-a-Lago, quietly and permanently.

Disasters

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In most unfolding human disasters, in my lifetime and historically, it is difficult to ascertain a time, a moment, a place, when the actions of one person could have made a difference, could have changed the course of an unfolding disaster.

But this is one of those rare moments. Simply put as a request:

“President Trump, please call President Erdogan and tell him to stop. Say it simply and firmly. Do it now before it is too late. Then quickly return two hundred or two thousand  American advisors, experts, medical personnel and soldiers to the border towns, encampments, prison camps of Northern Syria.”

You made a mistake giving Erdogan the green light, for reasons only you and Erdogan might understand. You can rectify this with a phone call.

Trump and the Kurds

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Western powers meddling in, invading, colonizing, any of the middle east Nations has seldom if ever resulted in something good. I must leave this as “seldom if ever” because the history of such meddling, colonization, invasion, corruption is too long and complicated to review. Even the fact there is no Kurdistan but rather populations of Kurds in three adjacent countries is the product of Western meddling, of arbitrary boundaries drawn up after European wars.

But then we arrive rather suddenly in the last months of 2019 and even though, albeit through much tragedy and failed foreign policies, we are at a point of relative peace and success (defeating ISIS), and an opportunity for Western powers, this time mostly the US, at a relatively small cost, to stay with just enough presence to prevent more war and genocide, to provide the Kurds with some defacto autonomy, to prevent Erdogan’s Turkey from exercising its genocidal impulses, to prevent a resurgence of ISIS…. and now, with a rare chance of doing great good with minimal cost the US cuts and runs.

Not the US actually, but Donald Trump. Supposedly after a little quid pro quo phone call with Erdogan.

Such an irony. The most foolish inept corrupt president the US has ever suffered is given an opportunity to have success, and to save lives, and preserve peace by simply doing nothing and he blows it. Over the next few weeks and months we can all watch how this unfolds, causing more suffering and more de stabilization of the region.

But why is this happening? Even Trump’s acolytes know it is a bad move and are speaking out.

I think we are hostage now to Donald Trump’s rather severe personality flaw. As bombastic and ruthless as he appears to be with ordinary mortals he lapses into a craven sycophant seeking approval whenever one on one with a man who holds true life and death power over his own tribe.

As the drums of impeachment beat louder he will seek and need this kind of approval more and more, from both chanting crowds and one on one from those he perceives as powerful men.

Dual Citizenship

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Until the recent news cycle I did not know that in Canada we have no rules addressing dual citizenship and public office. A man or woman who is a citizen of both Canada and another country could become our Prime Minister.

I am once again roused from the suffocating vapours emanating from our neighbour to the south.

Dual citizenship is a way of hedging bets. It is an “If things go wrong I can always go back home.” kind of thing.

And I accept that it is a reasonable and logical state for many immigrants testing the waters in Canada, or someone born of Canadians in another country. But maybe there should be a time limit on that. Say 20 years to make up your mind and commit.

But dual citizenship does imply a divided allegiance, a back door to escape through. It also, in some cases, allows one to benefit from the best of both worlds, say peace, security, health care, good governance in Canada, and big money in the USA, or a life with longer summers, a good pension and free health care every six months.

But never, ever should we allow a person with dual citizenship, a sworn allegiance to two different countries, divided loyalties, an escape hatch, to become a sitting member of our Parliament, let alone the Prime Minister.

Mr. Scheer’s history with this smacks of arrogance, no real commitment, and a reluctance to sacrifice anything for the honour of being our Prime Minister.

While I am here I would like to propose another rule. And that is, No one should be allowed to run for public office, Municipal, Provincial, or Federal, until they have experienced at least, say, 15 years of adult life: job, career, community, workplace, partner, house, mortgage, rent, responsibilities……

Stepping out of college and taking one exam in insurance while working as a clerk does not cut it.

Universal Health Care and Mental Health Care

By Marvin  Ross

Canadians will be going to the polls in about a month and one of the top issues for every election be it federal or provincial is the state of health care. And the presidential election in the US for later next year has already begun with numerous Democrats fighting for the right to try to take down the Trumpster. Universal health care is another issue that is high on the list of US voters.

Every country in the world with an advanced economy provides some form of universal coverage for its citizens except for the US. Why, I will never really understand but I do hear comments that our system is inefficient, has long wait times, and could benefit from a dose of privatization. An American I know on Facebook recently posted that their insurance premiums come to $730 a month but they have not received any payments from the insurance company despite paying out about $1500 for medical treatment since the beginning of the year.

In this country, right wing politicians and many doctors are trying to bring in some degree of privatization to improve our efficiency – or so they claim. Recently, Dr Bob Bell, an orthopaedic surgeon, former heard of the University Health Network in Toronto and former Deputy Minister of Health in Ontario, discussed his research on the Canadian system versus others with some elements of privatization.

His findings are that there is:

“much evidence to support the argument that private insurance exacerbates problems rather than solves them. Healthcare becomes more expensive, and care for public patients deteriorates when private care is introduced.”

You can read his reasons for that conclusion in the link above where he does state that the British system performs better in mental health than Canada. That is something that I will pursue in the near future.

The US, in 1965, passed the Institutes for Mental Disease  exclusion (IMD) which forbids Medicaid funding for institutes with more than 16 beds that provide residential mental health care. This was an attempt to leave mental health funding to the states but it resulted in many of those facilities shutting down. Consequently, almost half those with mental illnesses in 2013 received no treatment. In contrast, while treatment for the mentally ill in Canada could be  better than it is, we do have free standing hospitals dedicated to treating patients with mental illness and psychiatric wards within general hospitals. Treatment is covered the same as it is for any other disease and social assistance covers medication.

Two years ago, I had what I call a near death experience and wrote about the efficiency of the Canadian system that saved my life in the Huffington Post. This is what I wrote at the time:

For the past number of years, right-wing Americans have continually criticized the Canadian universal health-care system. Sometimes, they are joined by Canadians of similar political leanings who want to see privatization. A couple of years ago, Dr. Danielle Martin, a physician at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, made a big splash when she appeared before a Congressional committee defending us and, in the process, poking holes in the States’ lack of universality and emphasis on profits. That video has been promoted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

The other week, Canada’s system very efficiently saved my life so that I was released from hospital after only about five days. My experiences should convince skeptics, but first this — for years, I’ve been telling this story to doubting Yanks. It was probably the 1980s when my mother, who suffered from dementia, broke her leg in her nursing home. She was old, she was poor and she was demented, but she was taken by ambulance to one of the major University of Toronto teaching hospitals. The U of T ranks in the top 10 medical schools in the world, and my mother was operated on within 12 hours by the chief of orthopaedic surgery.

I was impressed. But then, to my surprise, the surgeon apologized to me for the 12-hour delay. He said they had major traumas come in that night, and my mother was made to wait under sedation, resting without pain.

Now for my own recent trauma. I had a routine colonoscopy, of which I’ve had many before (but this will be my last one). I had some unusual pain during the procedure, likely due to the air they inject to open up the colon for exploration. That evening I wasn’t feeling well and by morning I was sick and could barely walk. My wife called 911 and within about five minutes, the fire department was standing over me, quickly followed by the paramedics. It pays to live near a fire station.

I had no blood pressure so they got me into the ambulance and tried to find a vein to give me saline but they were unable to. I could hear them talking to the hospital and we quickly took off with lights and sirens. My arrival was like a TV medical show as I was raced into a trauma bay that was waiting for me and fully staffed with doctors and nurses jumping in to do their bit.

I won’t go into the gory details, but at one point I heard a doctor ask if I had family nearby and my wife was told that I was critical. By early evening, I was stable enough to not have to go to intensive care as planned, but to one level down called the medical step down unit. By the next afternoon, I was able to be moved to a regular ward. What exactly happened, no one is sure, but something from the colonoscopy (a common and usually safe procedure) triggered something that put me into organ failure and showed up on the CAT scan as a totally involved inflamed colon.

I was discharged five days later. The competence, dedication and compassion of all the staff amazed me. So, what did it cost? I’ve heard Americans say that nothing is free, so why should free health care be free? It isn’t and it’s not. I will get a bill for the ambulance for $45 — it’s something I’d object to, but I do know that if I were on social assistance, it would be waved. The flat screen TV with cable in the step-down unit was part of the service — no charge. I did have to pay for a personal TV in the other unit and picked the $15-per-day premium package so I could watch the Blue Jays continue to disappoint. My compensation was free WiFi.

My taxes and the taxes of my fellow citizens paid for all else. The 911 line, fire department and probably the paramedics were part of my municipal taxes. All else came out of the Ontario government with infusions from the Canadian government.

But here is another key difference that matters. Our hospitals, unlike in the U.S., are not private corporations intent on making a profit, but are not-for-profit institutions. They are lucky to break even, let alone make money. Here is a question for Americans to mull over: why should a corporation try to make a profit on someone’s misery and misfortune? Making a profit and money is a powerful motivator, but there are some things that should be done for the good of all in society.

The hospital that I was at is part of the Sisters of St. Joseph movement, so their reward is that of serving others, which they consider an honour. However, none of this means that our system and this hospital are not rife with wait times, inefficiencies and overpaid bloated bureaucracies. The health-care system is run by bureaucrats and politicians so the stupid is expected. But at least they are not trying to make a buck on my illness. That can and does compromise service.

In another place I actually was very critical of this hospital for its bureaucrats and their big bucks. The CEO makes about $750,000 a year which, frankly, is way too much. He could reduce his salary significantly so they could hire a few more of the competent nurses I had. They were willing to get down into the muck and bodily fluids which would have ruined the CEO’s fancy suits. He would still make a damn good salary.

If I may, some advice to the United States — Kiefer Sutherland. Let him restructure your health system. Besides saving the American Empire so many times on 24 and now as the Designated Survivor, his maternal grandfather was socialist Tommy Douglas who brought us universal health care. In 2004, almost 18 years after his death, he was voted the Greatest Canadian.

Kiefer, along with his mother, is an active supporter of universal health care, as he pointed out in this message from a few years ago. You may also be interested in a very passionate presentation (Part One) his mother gave on the struggle for and the origins of the Canadian health system. I’m sure, as a tribute to his grandfather, he would be happy to help.

 

The Continuing Rorschach of Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

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Back Cover of Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch

Most politicians are quite adept at concealing the inner workings of their minds, their unguarded thoughts: “That is a very important question you’re asking. I thank you for asking that and giving me a chance to respond to such an important question. Now when I was a young boy growing up in (Idaho, Winnipeg) in a working class neighbourhood, and I watched my father go off to work each morning…..”

But Donald, ahh Donald. Every day he tweets and talks he exposes something about himself, not necessarily in the content of his half sentences, but in their form and style and context.

I am writing this because of two compelling moments last week. The first of these was his inclusion of Alabama as a target of Hurricane Dorian, which was quickly refuted by Alabama officials and his following press conferences and tweets in which he compulsively went to great lengths, including the notorious addition of a sharpie curve, to claim he was right, not wrong, to include Alabama.

It was a very small, entirely forgivable mistake to include Alabama in the first place but he was officially corrected. And herein lies the problem. He could not admit to even such a small, understandable, inconsequential error. And this, unfortunately, is evidence of a very fragile narcissism, one that cannot accept any correction lest it topple the whole edifice.

The second was his use of phrases such as, “Who ever heard of a category 5?” The news and late night hosts were quick to find and air five or six times in the last three years Donald has used very similar phrases when talking about hurricanes. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a category 5”. “I’m not sure I’ve even heard of a category 5.”

It has been pointed out the second to sixth time he said this it was a lie. But I think it is more Rorschach evidence of something else. Whenever he is over his head, when he doesn’t know any details, when he doesn’t really understand, he resorts to a set form of linguistic grandiosity: “Bigger than you’ve ever seen before.” “Who knew health care was so complicated?” “Like you’ve never seen before.” or simply, “It will be big, very big.”

And these phrases cover for the fact he doesn’t know the details, he doesn’t comprehend or understand, while at the same time implying that if he doesn’t know something it is beyond the comprehension of mortal man. And, as always with Donald, truth is inconsequential in his self serving performances.

Not news, but just more Rorschach evidence.

On the other hand, is there any point trying to determine the working principals of this man’s brain/mind? Or as others have pointed out, might we be simply watching “Reality TV”? Was there really a plan in place to fly Taliban leaders and the President of Afghanistan to Camp David for a secret meeting with Donald scheduled for today, Sunday? That he then cancels publicly with a tweet? Boggles the mind, it does.

Well, either way we are living in a world where the man with the biggest voice plays always to the camera seeking immediate glory, attention, or revenge, using, just as “Reality TV” does, fictional contrivances masquerading as truth.

 

Refugees and Hypocrisy

By Marvin Ross

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Image by heblo from Pixabay

I’ve just finished reading By Chance Alone, a book of Holocaust survival, life as a refugee and eventual settlement in Toronto. Max Eisen, the author, is a Hungarian Jew who was rounded up with his family, neighbours and relatives from a small city in Hungary and sent off to Auschwitz. He was a young teenager at the time and the only one in his family to survive.

For many years, he has travelled across Canada lecturing about his life to schools, universities and even the York Region police cadets, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Forces College. He is one of many who devote their senior years to reminding us of what happened but, sadly, few of us listen. The world today is full of refugees fleeing war, poverty and misery while fascism, Neo-Nazis and white supremacy are once again growing.

In 2015, Eisen went back to Germany to testify at the trial of the SS official who was known as the bookkeeper. He was in charge of gathering valuables such as money, jewellery and gold crowns pulled from the mouths of gassed Hungarian Jews. When enough was accumulated, he carried the ill gotten gains in a large suitcase to a bank in Berlin a few times a week. The man was convicted but still maintained his innocence as a man simply following orders.

Mr Eisen commented “I have a great deal of concern for humanity should a supremacist ideology take hold again. It will be a threat to our way of life and our freedom.”

Sadly, this is exactly what is happening in many parts of the world and Mr Eisen puts into words the warning signs that we are presently seeing in many countries today. One of those warning signs is the increasing anti-semitism in the US particularly among Christian evangelicals.

Prior to and during the war, Canada and the US were reluctant to take in refugees fleeing Hitler. Canada’s policy towards Jews fleeing Hitler as described by  historian, Irving Abella was “none is too many”. The refugee ship, the St Louis carrying 900 Jewish refugees was denied entry into Canada and the US and the passengers all returned to Europe and their deaths.

After the war, both Canada and the US began welcoming refugees. First the Holocaust survivors, then thousands of Hungarians in 1956 fleeing Communism after the uprising. All have been an asset and contributed to the nations they settled in. Then there were the boat people from Vietnam, the South Asians kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin and countless others.

Thankfully, Canada has been quite open in letting in many from the wars in the Middle East and we now have a situation where in the past two years an estimate 45,000 people have come here via unofficial border crossings into Quebec from the US.

Refugees from Trump.

The US, in contrast, rounds up undocumented workers in its country and separates children from their parents on the southern border and locks them up in abysmal conditions.

The pressure of refugees is growing and, thus far, Canada has continued to offer them sanctuary although some are referring to those coming from the US outside of formal border posts as illegal entrants. These are the right wing politicians who do not understand that under international law, refugees are to be accommodated. Right wing politicians in Canada have argued for tests of Canadian values to determine who should be let in. They have also proposed a tip line to report those with barbaric practices.

Sadly, parts of Europe are forgetting their own history and acting despicably. Hungary, which gave the world so many fleeing people in the 50s, is now barring any refugees from its land. Recently, the news reported on a refugee boat in the Mediterranean that was not being allowed to land in Italy despite the horrible conditions on board. Italy has conveniently forgotten that so many of their countrymen migrated to North America for better lives which they found.

What stuck me about Max Eisen’s survival (a Jew) was the help he got from a Pole. Eisen was struck on the back of the head with a rifle butt by a German guard and carried unconscious to the camp hospital. The chief surgeon was a Polish physician, Dr Tadeusz Orzeszko, who was being held as a political prisoner. As Eisen recovered from his surgery, he was offered the chance to work in the camp hospital assisting with operations.

Max and the doctor became separated with the advance of the Red Army and the start of the Death March where the Germans forced the prisoners to march away from the camp and freedom to another one closer to Germany. They never did meet again but in 2010, Max met the now deceased doctor’s family at a reception in Warsaw. He has maintained a close friendship with the doctor’s son and then learned that Dr Orzeszko’s granddaughter, Julia, named her baby son Max in his honour.

The camp that Eisen was moved to after the Death March was liberated by the 761st Tank Battalion or the Black Panthers – a segregated unit of the US Army as, by law, Blacks were not allowed to serve alongside whites. One officer in that unit had been Jackie Robinson who broke the colour bar in major league baseball.

If we are not to descend into the actions of Nazi Germany, we will need to begin acting with more humanity than we have been. Germany, after all, has been trying and Angela Merkel deserves a great deal of praise. The hordes of refugees will continue to grow and we need to develop a compassionate policy to help them.

America, Come to Your Senses

By Dr David Laing Dawson

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Back Cover of Two Years of Trump on the Psychiatrist’s Couch

I am sitting by a fire in a campsite in a National Forest enjoying the cool mountain breezes, the clouds floating overhead with the last light of the setting sun. A CPR train moans in the distance, another fire crackles, someone chops wood for kindling, and families abound, some with tents and bicycles, some with big rigs. It is here one can easily see the nature of Earth, the complex ecology, and the fair and (mostly) equitable social order of Canada. The rules are stringent and thorough: two hours for generators in the morning and two hours in the evening, quiet after 11, no alcohol or cannabis off campsite, none of either after 11 on a long weekend.

We are ants on a planet, a fragile orb, and my thoughts should be of life and fellowship, of eternity and mystery, of the grandchildren who visited our campsite last night.

But instead, but instead they are of Donald Trump. I have not read a newspaper but google news tells me of his absurd antics, his wish to buy Greenland, his arguments with the the Fed over interest rates, possibly declaring the Antifa (anti-fascism) a terrorist organization, his statements about Jews and Israel, and his fight with the plans of American automakers who wish to produce environmentally responsible automobiles for California.

I know. I could decide not to click on Trump news while on holiday. But….

Previously I wrote about the dangers of a cornered narcissist but he slipped away from every accusation. So now the danger lies with an unbridled narcissist who has learned he can get away with anything, and whose insatiable need for praise and pomp has already reached the grandiosity of buying part of another country, declaring himself the chosen one, threatening annihilation of a few populations, and dabbling in car design and macro economics.

He is appalling. Please, America, come to your senses.

No good can come of this man. It will take decades to recover from his influence and we don’t have the luxury of time. Or, more specifically, this melting earth cannot afford 8 years of Trump and the damage he brings to it with every tweet.

The next day a Chinese couple identify for me the sound of barking in a fir tree as that of a Raven, an Alberta truck driver apologizes for momentarily blocking our path to the air pump for a trailer tire, large fat clouds sweep over the craggy granite ridges near Canmore, and we drop from the Rockies into the foothills, lush and productive. My mental health is restored.

Canada VS the US From an RV

By Dr David Laing Dawson

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Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

RVing through the US and into Canada at Creston BC I ponder the shaping of national identity and patterns of behaviour, for the visual differences between the two countries are becoming stark.

The landscape and climate are the same in Western Montana and South Eastern BC, but the differences lie in organization, in care, attitude.

The signage in Canada thanks me for slowing through a construction site. In the US it threatens me with a $1500 fine and months in jail.

In the US we pass through half dead small towns in disarray, dumps of old trailers and trucks beside dilapidated clapboard houses. No matter how poor the small town in Montana, it has a windowless casino, from a shack with slots to Diamond Lil’s. It is a man’s world of heavy machinery, equipment, trucks, and minimal attention to design and decoration.

Crossing into Canada we enter a different world. Money has been spent on the roads, only occasionally do we see a shack or barn left to decay in place. And the small towns: suddenly people are sitting at tables outside cafes, the buildings are maintained, colourful, quaint, alive. Shops are open, people stroll. Some of these strolling, shopping people may be American tourists spending their overvalued currency while enjoying the pleasant sense of safety and security Canada offers.

And that leads me to the point of this. The American economy is good, I am reminded by Donald every day. So why does America not look better?

The arguments for Universal Health care and gun control are usually based on health improvement and fewer killings. But I would like to make them, as well, for a lessening of anxiety. For America, I think, is rife with anxiety, leaving a whole population over compensating with ‘America First’ appeals, and displays of power and self reliance, while driving rapidly by signs that read 110 people killed on this highway so far in 2019, and another sign telling us how many children per day were killed by guns.

Now some of that anxiety is the product of a violent, racist history, yet to be resolved, and some from a large and growing income inequality, and some from an otherwise beneficial value of self reliance and a little I am sure from genuine threat, though the fear and preoccupation with “adversaries” is far overblown.

These sources of anxiety may be difficult to overcome, but two major sources shouldn’t be: health care and guns.

And maybe if the average American was not worried about health insurance, the enormous cost of becoming ill, and of being in the wrong place when a boy with an AR 15 shows up, they might be able to relax and pretty up their town and sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping good coffee too.