Category Archives: Politics

Please, America, Please

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have always looked to our south, like many Canadians, with a little disdain, a smidgen of envy, a touch of awe, and no small sense of superiority. When you repeat over and over again, ad nauseum, that America is the Greatest country on earth, I want to politely shout, “No, you are not.” Perhaps by one measure out of twenty you are, but that’s it. One out of twenty. Maybe two. Military force and entertainment. Maybe three: military force, entertainment, and some of the sciences.

You got the atomic bomb first, with the help of a few imported scientists, but Canada was second in having the knowledge and technology to build one, and it did not. Perhaps this was a much more significant accomplishment.

You can see our relationship has been complicated.

Traveling in Europe we quickly identify ourselves as Canadian, not American. I know some Americans who do as well.

But I was in Paris when the twin towers came down, and we spent four days there watching the news. And I found, out on the street, that suddenly I too was American, North American.

How dare these primitives, these semi-civilized thirteenth century people, attack the greatest city on earth, the showpiece of my America? How dare such primitives, such pre-enlightenment Neanderthals attack this beacon of light, this democracy, our democracy?

At that moment the civilized enlightened world was with you, America. You had a free hand to go hard after Osama Bin Laden. Instead you invaded Iraq. And as the war drums grew I found myself saying, “No. They won’t do that. Nobody could be that stupid.”

But you were. And then you did it badly, ignoring history and everything we know about collective human behaviour, about what happens when you take away stability, structure, organization.

And once again I became a disdainful Canadian watching you torture yourselves (and others).

Of course, with your own disdain of regulations and oversight, you also allowed a financial crisis to assail the world, and for the gap in wealth to grow to outrageous proportions. The very rich got richer, the poor got poorer.

And then we had 8 years of Obama, a man who proved to be, if a little indecisive, at least sane, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and responsible. It looked like America had a chance again and might one-day regain a fourth or even fifth category of greatness.

Four or five out of twenty wouldn’t be all that bad. Education? Health care? Quality of Life? Women’s rights? Racial equality? Literacy? Scientific literacy? Standard of living? Clean air? Clean water? Mental health care? Less primitive corrections system? Modern transportation system? Banking regulations? Maybe you would even direct that famous American energy and ingenuity toward preventing the calamity of climate change?

But no.

Instead you took a mighty step backwards. You elected a child as president and a raft of 19th century idealogues to Congress. The arguments I hear on CNN about that whole list one paragraph above are silly, stupid, primitive, ill informed. With each of them the push is backwards: women’s rights, health care, EPA, great lakes, mental health care, climate change, education, science, corrections, regulations, wealth equality, race relations.

Please, America, Please. Those of you who are enlightened, educated, worldly, kind, sane, responsible – those of you who have empathy for others, who have outgrown or at least come to terms with your past – those of you who care about the real future – the future for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and the rest of the world for that matter – you need to resist; you need to turn the tables.

I could simply go on feeling superior and disdainful, but America is too important, even the idea of America is too important. We, the whole world, need a sane, stable, educated, advanced, involved, compassionate America.

And now I shall watch CNN again and cross my fingers.

We are Now in Big Trouble

by Dr David Laing Dawson

The other evening Mr. Tapper of CNN came out directly and asked the following question: Does Mr. Trump know the difference between the truth and a lie? Does he say these things as strategic gambits, all the while knowing they are falsehoods, in some cases outrageous falsehoods, or is he incapable of knowing the difference? This dichotomy suggests either he lies nastily and without regard for any semblance of truth as a political strategy, a gimmick, a distraction, or he is incapacitated.

Neither answer is very reassuring. And if this is an incapacity what is the nature of it?

There is a simple and consistent answer to this question. Pathological narcissism.

Trump’s lies are responses to that which his inflated ego cannot accept. All information, evidence, facts that suggest Trump is not supreme, the best, the most popular is unacceptable to him and therefore must be denied or rebuffed with “alternative facts”. Any successes or glory he does achieve must be revisited, replayed, exaggerated over and over again.

The fact Donald Trump’s narcissism is extreme enough to require this level of denial of reality (the size of the crowds, the “3 – 5 million illegal votes”, murder rate, wire taps) means it is incapacitating. He is incapacitated.

His lies, his tweets, are not even bounded by plausibility. They will continue, grow more outrageous, and dissolve in a wild lashing out.

Unfortunately Kim Jong Un and the excited commentary on American television may be providing Mr. Trump a way to lash out and destroy. And then, which I am sure aligns with an image in his head, he can stand akimbo in his great black coat upon the scorched battlefield like a Vulcan God.

“Last Night in Sweden”

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Donald Trump’s reference to Sweden at his rally in Florida has been met with much astonishment and satire. He has tried to explain that he meant to reference more of a trend of refugee crime in Sweden than a single recent event. His supporters repeat this. His detractors roll their eyes.

But what he actually said and how he said it and the manner in which he absorbed the source material are, as usual, very telling. They speak to his attention span, how he is influenced, how he formulates thoughts, his limited vocabulary, and the superficiality of his cognitive processes. Here is his statement: “..you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

The source of this remark is a Fox News report he watched the night before. Hence the “last night”. His thinking process collapses the time he watched the report and the time of supposed “events.” The television screen that he watched was split screen. On the viewer’s left a talking head reports an immigrant inspired crime wave in Sweden. This information was apparently gleaned from particular face book rants. But on the right half of the screen we watch videos of unidentified violence and crime: fires, vandalism, assault, riots.

The spoken information is not sourced from government data or first hand reporting but from Facebook tirades and a filmmaker with an agenda. The visual information (always more potent than words as we know) is of unknown origin and time frame.

This makes an impression on Donald Trump. He says, “You look at what’s happening…who would believe this?” So he has not taken in words and images and formulated and judged them, thought about them, considered them, reflected on their meaning – no, instead he simply excitedly points to them, “You look…”

“They took in large numbers.” He conjures an image of swarms of refugees rather than any considered look at numbers, programs, origins, and the problems of integration and settling.

And then, using a kind of vague hyperbole, “They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Trump frequently falls back on these kinds of qualifiers and exaggerations. They create an emotional impression without any kind of actual description, identification, or assessment. His favorites are: “You wouldn’t believe.” “Unbelievable” “Like they never thought possible.” “Like you never thought possible.”

Of course I may be wrong. Such speech patterns may not reflect the patterns of his thought; they may not indicate he has the cognitive processes of an excited 14 year old. Perhaps it is an act, a ploy, a strategy. Perhaps in private he can think and talk as a responsible adult.

Now that is a really frightening thought.

Time, Gentlemen, Time

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Open letter to all the sane and sensible Republican lawmakers who wish to see their children and grandchildren grow up in a safe world.

It is time to huddle with sane and sensible Democrats and figure out how to remove Donald Trump from office. Perhaps you are doing that already. God speed.

Thursday this past week, for almost 90 minutes, Donald Trump gave us what has been called “vintage Trump.”

And in that almost 90 minutes, once again, Mr. Trump demonstrated that you have elected for your president a man who is:

  • A world-class narcissist
  • A man with a very short attention span (unless he is the subject of praise, and adulation)
  • A careless liar. A very careless liar. “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”
  • A man with a teenager’s vocabulary and the conceptual abilities of a 14 year old.
  • A man for whom everything (and I mean everything) is about his own greatness.
  • A man with very poor impulse control.
  • A man with a level of knowledge of the world equivalent to that of a bright 12 year old from a good public school: “I’ve been briefed…and I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say …because anybody who ever read the most basic book can say it…nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
  • A man with no sense of the complexities (and safeguards) of governance in a democratic system. “The FAKE NEWS media (failing , , , , ) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • A man who, strikingly, does not notice, does not seem to understand or care about, the meaning and inferences of his own words. “You will never meet a person less anti-Semitic (less racist) than I am.” “I’m not calling it fake news anymore, I’m calling it very fake news.”
  • A man who always blames others, who cannot take responsibility for any failures or mistakes or even oversights. “I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given it. We had a very, very big margin.”
  • A man still obsessing  about the woman (Hillary) who almost beat him, and the black man more loved than he.
  • A man who lives for adulation, excitement, winning, not working, not actually doing a job. Hence the constant replay of the November election, and the reprise in Florida last Saturday evening.

Dr. Francis rightly points out that we should not diagnose from a distance, and that a criterion for the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder is that the patient be suffering, not merely wreaking havoc on others.

On the other hand, Typhoid Mary was healthy, yet few would disagree with removing her from the kitchen.

And we have lately seen glimmers of the rage within, the rage that will be unleashed when he is cornered, trapped, and finally undone.

Please read my manual for undermining democracy and note the progress to date.

Trump’s grandiosity.

by Dr. David Laing Dawson

I have been watching too much CNN. I must control this new addiction. It is bad enough to find oneself compelled to watch a train wreck or a car accident, to have to slow down and gawk, but now I’m following the ambulances into the ER and waiting to hear the pronouncements of the doctors and nurses and next of kin.

Each evening several panels comprised of both political persuasions dissect the president’s tweets and statements, seeking substance, direction, and meaning, seeking precedent for his personal attacks, sometimes deftly skipping past his actual words to re-frame and reword the proclamation in question. They are often concerned about the political advantage or disadvantage his words might have. As George Orwell and Mark Twain and others have told us, when the outrageous lie becomes commonplace it loses its ability to outrage us. It becomes “strong opinion”. It may even become “alternative fact”.

But none of these panelists seem to pay attention to a part of Donald Trump’s speech that I think they should. Perhaps they need a linguist on one of their panels. Like a child
Trump calls the judge a “so-called judge”; like an envious teenager he revels in the low ratings of Arnold Schwartzenegger; he demonstrates every day he has no boundaries, personal, professional, or ethical.

But this is the kind of sentence I find most frightening:

“I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody.”

Without irony or a wink he begins to tell us that he comprehends better than anybody, that he is smarter than everybody else. Then as he is forming the words he catches a glimpse of how this will sound to others, and he squeezes in the phrase, “I think almost”.

He did the same when he said, “I am very smart.” He squeezed in the word “like” to soften the statement a tad, even if it ended up sounding adolescent.

I can analyze this as a grandiosity that is really an over-compensation for insecurity, but it is, nonetheless, grandiosity: A belief in his own powers, in this case his intellectual powers, that far exceeds reality.

As President Kirkman said last season: “There is nothing more dangerous than a pawn that thinks it’s a queen.”

It is this grandiosity that will bring down the house, or some day implode in rage.

When is it Too Late? Time For a Coalition!

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We talk about him incessantly. We worry; we laugh; we snicker, we cry. Every day we see his narcissism on display. Everyday we see him manipulated by a handful of petty tyrants. Everyday he displays his ignorance anew. Everyday we get to see his carelessness.

And I start to wonder. When did it become too late to stop Hitler? When did it become too late to stop the First World War? When did it become too late to stop Franco, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot? When did it become too late to stop the Great Depression, the war in Iraq, the rise of ISIS?

Things are moving quickly my American friends. Please get together, form a coalition, if necessary put your political careers at risk, but start your filibusters, begin the impeachment process now.

I don’t want my grandchildren living on a broken planet wondering when it became too late to stop Donald Trump and Mr. Bannon.

Quebec City – On You Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Mr. Trump, this is on you.

Every country in the world has a few young men capable of committing a mass murder. They are angry; they blame others for their failures; they nurse grudges; they are easily caught up in conspiracies; they rebel against any authority; they lap up the hatred of others; they spend much of their time lamenting about the state of the world while drinking beer or snorting cocaine late into the night; they are unsuccessful with women. They deeply fear the world of adult responsibility. They play first person shooter video games. They like guns. They harbor racist grievances. Some are “loners” as the newspaper will call them, but this usually means a mental disorder that limits their ability to engage face to face with others, and allows them to build a delusional world view from other sources. Of course the impersonal sources from which they can build that distorted world view, and their place in it, has dramatically increased in the last 20 years.

But usually these young men hurt few but themselves and their families. They don’t (usually) act upon their darkest fantasies.

Unless they are given license to do so by someone with a loud voice. That would be you Mr. Trump. Your careless words, your disdain can unleash such horrors no matter that it was not your intention.

When I write my blogs about American politics my daughter reminds me I am Canadian. But we breathe the same air; your messages are clearly heard north of the 49th parallel. It is a sad thing the first young man who took your words and actions as license to kill was a Canadian. I trust our response to this will continue to be very Canadian.

But beware, Mr. Trump, you and Mr. Bannon have the capacity to unleash the contemporary equivalent of Krystallnacht.

Trump and the Threat to Democracy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

My optimism was short lived. After watching Trump’s speech at the CIA headquarters and Sean Spicer’s first press conference I wondered how one goes about dismantling a democracy. I assume there is no manual for this. So I thought I would create a Coles Notes version so we can all follow along:

1. Make frequent reference to the utter failure of all previous administrations. Take credit for anything good that happened during the most recent administration.

2. Promote a cult of personality. Suggest the new leader has God-like powers, such as controlling the rain, and solving complex and intractable problems with forceful statements.

3. Paint a bleak picture of the current state of affairs and grossly exaggerate the risk, the dangers posed by outsiders and nonbelievers.

4. Promote law and order and military power as the only forces that can keep us safe.

5. Incrementally reduce voting rights by insisting on regulations that favor your supporters and disenfranchise others. Do this by claiming you are controlling corruption and fraud.

6. Choose an enemy or two, give them names, and promise to eradicate them. Use emotionally inspiring words such as evil, kill, wipe them out, get rid of them once and for all.

7. Exaggerate the size of your support and the crowds attending your rallies. Refer to this as a movement.

8. Lie frequently and often. Use big, bold lies. This is a form of desensitization. More and more will believe your lies. The remaining citizens will stop caring.

9. Undermine the Fourth Estate. Seed distrust of news and information. Call all reporters and truth tellers liars. It will be difficult to fully control the media (this is not Russia) but consider using licensing bodies, libel laws and the courts to tie their hands.

10. Promote the idea that the people of your nation, your followers, are superior human beings, exceptional, and deserve to live better than others. American Exceptionalism. Or is that “Uber Alles”?

11. You will need the armed forces and intelligence agencies so flatter them frequently, while you replace their leaders with your own men.

12. You will need cabinet members and spokespeople who will unabashedly promote you and your statements and policies no matter how unpalatable or ludicrous they become. Some will be willing to do this for money, others for power and glory of their own, and others because of their own anger and resentment from earlier grievances. Unfortunately such people abound. But remember, it is not loyalty that binds them to you, but self-interest. Reward them generously; always be prepared to kill them.

13. Quickly disparage and render impotent any leader who opposes you. Memorable name calling and disinformation will suffice.

14. Create a language of code words for anything that remains unacceptable for most citizens. For example: “alternative facts” for lies, “violence in the inner cities” for racial profiling.

15. Use hyperbole at all times. A person or event is either “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing”, or “a disaster”, “evil”, “total failure”. This fosters a dichotomous view of the world and will help dehumanize victims when the time comes to purge.

16. Find some allies in other countries by directly or tacitly supporting their extreme views. Examples might include Putin, Duterte, Boris Johnson, Marie Penn and Netanyahu. Be unpredictable for the others. Keep them on edge.

17. Finally, incrementally increase your power and authority until you can accurately call yourself “president-for-life” or “Supreme Leader”. This will take time. At some point you will need a crisis at home (Terrorist attack for e.g.) or you will need to provoke a crisis abroad and at home (Palestinian response to moving embassy to Jerusalem for e.g.). This will justify your transfer of a specific power from a democratic body (congress/senate/parliament) to your own office. This can be done on the grounds that only you know all the facts, and quick decisions are required. It is also more acceptable if the democratic bodies are perceived as ineffective or too partisan. Your people can ensure the latter condition is met.

18. In the meantime cater to the dominant political force in the democratic body by quickly implementing all their pet projects (e.g anti-abortion legislation), and by cancelling all the social and health initiatives of that upstart negro president.

19. Build monuments to yourself. Oops. I forgot. You already have. Good. Build more. Start with the Trump Great Southern Wall.

20. Throughout this process continue to emphasize that you are working for the people. Use the words “people”, “working people” and “democracy” frequently. As you usurp power explain that you are protecting democracy.

21. Have patience. Others may deliver you the crisis and fear that will allow an incremental or bold increase in power. When you assume new powers present yourself as reluctant to do so.

22. Use as much pomp and circumstance as possible. People love ceremonies. Emphasize the sacred trust your office embodies.

23. Visit a religious leader (televised of course). Ensure him and the American Public that you understand the enormity of your office and the need for God’s guidance. Try not to sneer or chuckle doing this. It is not wise to compare yourself to God, but you can hint that He favors you in some way.

24. Don’t worry about the physical quirks the cartoonists seize upon, the little black mustache for example, or the blonde comb over. Ultimately these will confer upon you icon status.

25. There will be protests and marches against you. Be gracious in your response to those that remain peaceful. Come down very hard on those that become violent. Emphasize these, and use them to accrue more power. But, be assured that any large gathering of people can become violent with a little help from your friends.

26. Toady up to the leaders of organized religion, the church.  With few exceptions these religious leaders will see you as a means of helping them achieve their long term goals. They will not stand against you for fear of losing their own power.

27. Allow others to live vicariously through you. This is a fine balance. While allowing the people to view your sumptuous life style use colloquial language, talk as they do. Remind them you work tirelessly for them. Pretend that one day they can all live as you do.

28. Women are tricky. Have one or two around you but not many. They tend to have empathy for others, children, small animals. They tend to prefer compromise and cooperation. Reference your own dear mother frequently, and say how much you respect women. But subtly denigrate them by your own actions, and limit their voices and rights through reproductive and child-care legislation.

29. Gain increasing control of your population. You can start this by controlling all immigration and visitation to your country. Then pick the minority group most feared or misunderstood by your followers and order a registration process. This will appear harmless, like getting a driver’s license. Then incrementally increase the strength of this process, include more identifiable groupings, until all citizens must carry “papers” with them and submit to police checks. This will instill fear.

……………………

But Donald Trump’s performance at CIA headquarters was not so much of a man seeking autocratic rule but of unbridled narcissism. A narcissism that cannot be sated. Even a hint that the adoring crowd was not as big as Obama’s set him off on a delusional reconstruction, or, as Conway called it, “alternative facts”.

And his claim that 3 million votes were cast fraudulently may not be (by Donald himself) a clever ploy to undermine democracy but rather his narcissistic rage against a perceived slight. (Overall more people liked Hillary).

So I suspect he is not so much a would-be tyrant as a man needing constant adulation, threatened by any possibility he is not loved and admired as much as he feels he deserves.

But let me be clinical for a moment. In psychiatry we talk of “personality disorders” – dependent, borderline, narcissistic, sociopathic for example. Now we all have some of these traits. Who isn’t a little narcissistic? But what makes a human trait a “disorder” lies in its insatiability. A dependent person can find someone to take care of him or her and life goes on smoothly. Each satisfies the needs of the other. But for some the dependency must be re-enacted and reconstructed, reinforced in each and every encounter. Then we have a problem. A little normal/average narcissism can be satisfied by a simple comment perhaps once per week: “You look really good in that dress”. But it is a disorder when it must be reenacted and satisfied in each and every encounter. When it cannot be even temporarily sated. For most of us, being elected president would suffice, or even being treated well by a store clerk.

So Donald Trump’s narcissism is pathological, insatiable, needing to be reenacted, reinforced every day. He cannot tolerate even the smallest insult to his ego. This is a disorder. And such a disorder seldom ends well. In this case it could end badly for all of us.

And this flaw makes Trump an easy stooge for others who truly hunger for power and world domination. He is a blunt instrument with no guidance system of his own. I’m sure many in the Republican party are using him now, perhaps Putin as well, each hoping they can rid themselves of Donald J. Trump when their goals are achieved. Some of those goals are ideological, some are about power, some about money. But it is a high stakes game they are playing.

Please, when he has done all you desire and becomes uncontrollable, when you decide to impeach him, first take away the nuclear codes.

Trump and the Women’s March

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Sitting in the lounge of the Vancouver airport waiting on a flight to Edmonton I can see the snowy peaks of the North Shore Mountains lit up by the late afternoon sun. With closed caption description the large television is showing the inauguration parade, the slowed and often paused procession of a large black limousine surrounded by dozens of secret service agents.

A young woman is pumping milk from her breasts to a bottle under her shirt. I wonder where her baby is. Perhaps with her parents in Edmonton. A tall black man walks by, ear buds, furry boots, and dreadlocks. The faces around me are varied. One I think is Japanese, another appears first nations, two more are Chinese, then Korean, and then an Hispanic couple. A Malaysian man is sleeping, a white woman eating a salad from a plastic container. Many are bent over phones and laptops. Two Asian boys speak Mandarin to their mother. Her legs are slightly bowed as an older woman’s might be from a  deficiency in Vitamin D experienced as a child. A plump white woman walks by in slightly ridiculous brilliant red spike heels.

Trump’s inauguration speech is isolationist, a warning to others. He talks of ending crime in the cities by expanding police forces, of wiping out ISIS once and for all. He speaks of desolation and destruction in America, of violence and death in the inner cities. He uses the word “carnage”. He speaks of building the armed forces and respecting the police. He talks of America first, of placing a high tariff on items built by American firms in other countries. He speaks of the American education system and suggests it is rich but wasteful, a failure. He paints a bleak picture of America and hints at a law and order solution.

Our flight is late. The plane has come from San Francisco where it was delayed.

Once we are in the plane and seated with baggage stowed the flight attendant tells us the crew can manage communication in English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean.

Trump’s speech is that of a strong man, an autocrat. He doesn’t name an enemy apart from ISIS and previous administrations but his code words hint at a few. He will dismantle industry regulation and Obama Care. He appeals to patriotism, power and domination.

When our plane arrives in Edmonton the attendant asks all passengers to remain seated so a man from the rear of the plane can disembark first to make a tight connection. A minute later a worried Asian man hurries down the aisle. A tall white woman gives him an encouraging smile.

It is still and cold this morning in Edmonton, the ground snow covered, the air dense with ice crystal fog. I see on the CBC news network that a similar fog has settled on Washington, though judging by the dress of the half million marchers it is warmer.

We watch the CBC coverage of the gatherings in many cities. We chuckle at the more clever protest signs: “We shall not overcomb”, and a uterus with fallopian tubes in the shape of a raised middle finger.

And then I experience a brief surge of optimism. Perhaps the election of Donald Trump is but a catalyst, a shock, a wake-up call that will energize a counter evolution propelling us along the better pathway of inclusiveness, women’s rights and equality, cooperation, kindness, good social programs….

The very fact there are marches taking place in many cities around the world is evidence that isolationism is impractical.

But I also see that Iran has already warned that it can easily restart it’s nuclear program, and Trump is already signing some regressive policies into law.

In Edmonton we are visiting our son and daughter-in-law and their three children, all girls. I pray for their sake my optimism holds.

A New Years Message to Justin Trudeau

by Dr David Laing Dawson

I have in my head an image of three generations of a family fleeing in an oxcart from the destruction of war. Today they may be boarding a bus leaving Aleppo.

We respond emotionally to the images of children, wide-eyed, dusty, confused. But it is the older generation I think about, frail, arthritic, failing. The children may live to see the fighting stop and the country rebuilt. At the very least they can hope for this. But the grandparents know they are unlikely to live to see another round of peace and prosperity. They are unlikely to live long enough to see what becomes of their homes, their lands, and their grandchildren.

I was a university student during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Oddly I remember it as spring, but it must have been a warm October in 1962. I should have been studying for mid-terms, but with Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N., Kennedy not backing down, nuclear missiles deployed in Cuba, armed Soviet vessels steaming toward the American blockade, it looked like the end of the world was approaching quickly, and I decided that sitting in a library poring over books was no way to spend one’s last day on earth. Instead, I spent much of it sitting under a tree on the campus watching the leaves and the drifting clouds beyond.

We now know some of the strange details of those ten days of brinksmanship. Khrushchev overestimated Kennedy’s maneuvering latitude in a democracy. The Joint Chiefs wanted to invade Cuba. Kennedy knew the Soviets would have to take Berlin if the US took Cuba and killed some Russians in the process. And he knew where that would lead. Thank God Khrushchev knew as well, and he was not a madman, not an outrageous narcissist. Khrushchev blinked. And I went back to studying for my mid-terms.

I am no longer young, and like the grandparents on that oxcart, I wonder what is in store for the world and for my grandchildren. I am trying to gauge my anxiety about this. I have written about The Donald’s threat to democracy, but what do I know? I am neither historian nor political scientist. But many more qualified than I are seeing the same trend, the same threat to American democracy that I see, the same rise of an amoral international oligarchy, the chipping away at the fundamental tenets of democracy. And as it is for the crabs in a large pot of warm water on the stove, and for the subjects of a gradual desensitization program, each increase in temperature, each aberration becomes the new normal. The CNN pundits frequently say it has no “precedent”, (and in one of the best Freudian typos of all time, as we know, Mr. Trump wrote “unpresidented”), and that these are “new times, new realities”. Of course each of these erosions of American democracy does have a precedent. One need but look beyond our shores to the oligarchs of Russia, the nepotism of both Koreas, the mix of business and politics in China, the collapse of democracies in the past, and 1930’s Germany.

But let me get to my point before I dig too deep a hole. There are a few good democracies in this world, most notably Canada, capable of punching above their weight in international affairs. The next few years we must not succumb to the disease affecting much of Europe and America. We must instead shout loud and clear, we must participate, we must join whatever rational and sane leaders there are left in this world to get us through this. We must negotiate, mediate, and speak for morality.

So, Prime Minister Trudeau, it looks like we must try to survive four years of Mr. Trump and his cohort of oligarchs and plutocrats, impulsive tweets, regressive policies, a continuing increase in income disparity, further deterioration of the American public education and health system, along with Vladmir Putin baring his chest and flexing his pecs, Kim Jong Un playing lego with his nukes, Netanyahu digging in his right to the expansion of Israel, Brexit turmoil in Europe, Duterte unleashing the hounds of hell…

We need adults at the table. We need somebody to raise the flag of sanity and compassion. It will be okay by me if you and your team neglect the home front. By and large we Canadians are doing just fine. But we need to know our voices are being heard when Putin and Trump square off, or some idiot is about to trigger another mid east conflagration, or Putin and Trump team up and piss off China…..or…..

In a world of delicate balances, a world of compromise, a world in which we know that the written or spoken word, even if it is merely the public pronouncement of an obvious logic, truth, or morality, can trigger retaliation or war – in such a world the impulsive tweet, the school yard taunt, fake news, the inattention to detail,  the folly of self-importance, the fragile ego, and a horrible combination of ignorance and grandiosity can spell doom for us all.

You have a job to do Mr. Trudeau, you and all the other sane voices on the international stage. I wish you God speed.