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.