Listen to the full episode
PAUL RYAN: It's a partisan polarized country. What we're trying to do is tone down the rhetoric.
NANCY PELOSI: We’re proud of the differences of opinion.
PAUL RYAN: Sure: We have a professional attitude toward our colleagues and that is to respect them. But sometimes that doesn’t always work.
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Well when two opposing Washington powerhouses, the Republican speaker Paul Ryan and the Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi start talking political unity together, you know how bad it's become. And so as that scene played out last week in the wake of a shooting by a disgruntled Democrat targeting Republicans, others were raising concerns that the U.S. could be on a path to a second civil war, one fueled by anger, disenfranchisement, inequality, and racism. And in a moment we'll hear why that concern is so potent right now.
And then a different sort of politics:
VOICE 1: He’s someone that you know Somali people in the community look up to.
VOICE 2: The biggest thing for me that he can bring into the table is his lived experience in understanding the difficulty that the refugees go through.
AMT: Ahmed Hussen arrived in Canada in the early 90s. A teenage war refugee from Somalia. He’s the man who lobbied to have Somalia's Al Shabab labelled terrorists. He’s fought against criminalization of refugees. And now, as the Minister of Immigration, he has a unique understanding of those who desperately want to be a part of Canadian society. Ahmed Hussen is my guest in an hour.
Also today a topic that is inescapably political.
ROXANE GAY: The fat body is a public text in many ways. People comment openly to your face. They give you advice, unsolicited. It’s a lot.
Writer and social commentator Roxane Gay confronts the preconceived notions of our society and the scars of sexual abuse with a memoir of her own body. Hear her in half an hour but we go first to yet another terror attack in London. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
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London attack: Van plows into crowd near mosque
Guest: Margaret Evans
I was there when it happened. We were trying to help an old man who was laying on the floor. And this big van just came and went all over us. I think at least eight to ten people got injured. Luckily I managed to escape. [unintelligible] And then the guy came out from his van and then I got him on the floor, I managed to get him on the floor, holding him and he was screaming, he was screaming before then. He was saying “I’m going to kill all Muslims. I’m going to kill all Muslims”. So he was throwing punches all over.
AMT: An eyewitness to another attack in London where the attacker was wrestled down and held by people on the street including the person you just heard. As you have been hearing on the news once again, the weapon was a vehicle, plowing into worshippers outside a mosque in the Finsbury Park area of London. Ten people were injured, one person is dead. Police are treating it as a terrorist incident. They say all the victims were from the Muslim community. The CBC's European Correspondent Margaret Evans joins us from London. Hi Margaret.
MARGARET EVANS: Hi Anna Maria.
AMT: Again I'm talking to you about this on a Monday morning. What do we know about the attacker at this point?
MARGARET EVANS: Not a lot. 48 year old man, white. The police have said they don't see any reason to believe that he was not acting alone. That's despite some earlier reports that there were there was more than one person in the van, but they say that that is not their understanding.
There is now some cell phone footage emerging of him after he'd been wrestled to the ground by the crowd and held down, and the local Imam you know made sure that he was held and saying don't harm him, let's hand him over to the police. There's now cellphone footage of the police putting him into the back of a wagon and him waving at the crowd as they shut the door on him.
And as you might expect, there are some far right groups now on the web praising that attack. And in terms of the investigation ,they are looking at the van as you say, yet another vehicle used as a weapon here. It was apparently hired at a rental firm in South Wales and that's pretty much all we know at this stage.
AMT: One man died at the scene. What happened there?
MARGARET EVANS: Well he apparently was, according to the police, I'm going to read to you what the the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu said about it. He was apparently receiving first aid at the time. This is the police commissioner saying this. “The attack unfolded whilst a man was receiving first aid from the public at the scene. Sadly he has died. Any causative link between his death and the attack will form part of our investigation. It is too early to state if his death was the result of an attack.”
AMT: What's the reaction been to this attack, Margaret?
MARGARET EVANS: Well you know, as you might expect, one of shock. I mean we've seen the politicians come out very quickly because the fear of course that this is a backlash attack in the wake of the other terrorist attacks that have taken place here and been attributed to Islamists. For people though, it's you know, it's just been a heck of a year. It's the fourth attack of this kind. There's a lot of unrest in the Finsbury Park area. Some of the local residents saying that they believe that you know it's proof of Islamophobia.
They're accusing the government of being slow to respond, slow to call it a terrorist attack. That's why when the British Prime Minister Theresa May came out to talk to people, she was very quick to say that the police were on the scene within one minute, that they described it as a terrorist attack within eight minutes. People are really afraid that tensions are going to rise up in the, in the communities or between communities. And at the same time this is just days after this terrible fire in central London, claimed, they're now saying, 79 lives. And it's just to give you a sense of it, today there was a moment's silence at 11:00 for the victims of Grenfell tower. And people were kind of saying... And also for you know for the people of Finsbury Park, that we're also thinking of them. I mean it just seems like every other week there's sort of memorials for people who have who have lost their lives.
AMT: And there's a political edge to all of this as well. People have been on the streets in the last couple of days. They are very unhappy with Theresa May. What's happening there?
MARGARET EVANS: Well that's right. I mean there was an election, there's a hung parliament. She was seen to be not listening to the will of the people or the wishes of the people in how she managed that campaign.
She was accused and criticized last week of being very cold not immediately going to see victims of the fire. And then of course in the last terrorist incident here which took place at Borough Market, she came under a lot of criticism as the former Home Secretary for cutting back on the number of police in in in London. And so of course that raises the issue of security and that you know on top of all that, on top of this today, it's also the start of Brexit negotiations. And the formal beginning of the end if you like, of Britain's membership in the European Union. So the political waters are swirling. A lot of people are saying that she can't survive her lack of popularity right now, the hostility towards her. And people will be watching very very closely in the days to come about how she's going to manage ahead, what kind of reassurance she's trying to give the nation. She said that the you know like all of the other political leaders here, that an attack on one faith or any faith is an attack on us all, that she's determined to tackle extremism as a country, has tackled racism. And sort of she's repeating those kind of pledges to kind of get a grip on the security situation. But of course, in these kinds of attacks it's very difficult to do as you know.
AMT: Margaret Evans thank you.
MARGARET EVANS: You're welcome.
AMT: Margaret Evans, the CBC's European correspondent. She joined us from London. This is The Current.Back To Top »
Is America on the verge of a second civil war?
Guests: Matt Mayer, Alexander Livingston, Dennis Prager, Omar el Akkad
VOICE 1: Tonight the FBI looking into whether hate crime charges will be filed against an alleged white supremacist accused of stabbing two good Samaritans to death on a commuter train in Portland.
VOICE 2: An emergency cruise rushed injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise into a helicopter after a shooter opened fire during an early morning baseball practice for Congressional Republicans outside Washington.
AMT: Well it is event such as those described in that clip, the fatal stabbings on the Portland transit system last month. Last week's shooting in Alexandria, Virginia that have Americans concerned about the political divide in their country and concern that it is spilling out of the corridors of Washington and into streets and fearing that the political discord is increasingly turning into political violence.
NEWT GINGRICH: Quote: It is time that our society acknowledge the sad truth. America is currently fighting its second civil war. In fact, with the obvious and enormous exception of attitudes toward slavery, Americans are more divided morally ideologically and politically today than they were during the Civil War.
AMT: OK well that is former Republican speaker of the House Newt Gingrich quoting an article by conservative radio host Dennis Prager. In January, Mr. Prager wrote that the US was once again at war with itself and he blames the left.
To explore whether the US is on the brink of what some have called America's Second Civil War, I'm joined by three guests.
Omar el Akkad is the author of the dystopian novel American War. He's a former journalist at The Globe and Mail. He joins us from Portland Oregon.
Matt Mayer is the CEO of Opportunity Ohio and a former official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is in Dublin, Ohio just outside of Columbus.
Alexander Livingston joins us from Ithaca, New York. He's an assistant professor of Government at Cornell University.
OMAR EL AKKAD: Good morning.
DENNIS PRAGER: Hi.
MATT MAYER: Hello.
AMT: I'm just going to get quick answers first all around and I want to know do you think, is America headed for a second civil war? Matt Mayer.
MATT MAYER: Matt Mayer I'm not sure if we're going to a civil war as much as a civic war where there's just been a high level of animosity towards people that you disagree with.
AMT: Omar el Akkad.
OMAR EL AKKAD: I don't think so but certainly the US seems now to be more polarized than at any point during my lifetime.
AMT: Alexander Livingston.
ALEXANDER LIVINGSTON: I don't think so. I think there's always been a great deal of violence in the United States and its predominantly affected some people more than others. And we're seeing more inequality and more violence surrounding that inequality right now.
AMT: OK well let's get into some of the concerns. Omar el Akkad, what inspired you to write your novel American War that imagines a second civil war.
OMAR EL AKKAD: Well my inspiration was to take the conflicts that have defined the world in my lifetime, and these are conflicts you know in which U.S. involvement has either been indirect or from a great distance, and recast them as elements of something very close to home, namely a second civil war. The idea being that I wanted to explore the thesis that that everybody behaves the same way when on the losing end of a war. But I finished the first draft of this novel about two or three weeks before Donald Trump announced he was running for president. And so the light that the novel has been cast in ever since has been very very different from from the context in which in which I wrote it.
AMT: Given that Omar, but the context still holds. Does it?
OMAR EL AKKAD: Oh absolutely. I mean so there's been there's been a research study that's been going on for decades in this country that looks at the extent to which the median Republican is more conservative, or the share of Republicans who are more conservative than the median Democrat and vice versa. And right now, that level is something like 90 percent. It’s the highest it's ever been meaning that politically at least, this country is more polarized than it's been in decades. You know, there have been more violent times in this country. But the fact that we need to go back and compare to something like the civil rights era in the 1960s or even a hundred years earlier, the 1860s, is not a particularly encouraging sign.
AMT: Matt Mayer who do you think is fueling the escalation in the rhetoric?
MATT MAYER: You know I don't think it's a who as much as a what. For me, when I think about it, it's really the rise of 24 hour news and talk radio, and then adding on that the Internet and specifically social media that has allowed more and more of Americans to sort themselves into people they agree with versus disagree. People can be more passive-aggressive over social media than they normally would be. You know in their backyard to their neighbor, and so that has created a kind of a divide and a gulf where we just don't talk anymore. We shout, we castigate, and we denigrate the opponent, whoever that is and on both sides of the aisle. So it's just gotten to the very corrosive element because we could just listen to what we want to listen to, confirm our own biases and beliefs, and hate the other side without ever actually knowing who that is.
AMT: And is there a left or right that you would blame, Matt Mayer?
MATT MAYER: No I mean I think both sides are to blame. I mean it depends on who you, where did it all start, right? I think it started in the 80s. It got fueled in the 90s, it got fueled in the [unintelligible] in that in the last eight years it got fueled, and now Trump is going to fuel it even more so I think both sides are guilty of fueling their version of it. Whether it's Occupy Wall Street or it's the far right, it's some of the fringe groups over there.
AMT: Omar al Akkad, what do you think? Is one side more responsible than another for the rhetoric?
OMAR EL AKKAD: I mean it would be somewhat comforting to me to believe that there's an equal level of extremism on both sides of the political spectrum and I suppose in individual cases that's probably true. I mean there are almost 350 million people in this country. You're going to find fringes on both ends of the spectrum. But in my mind, what matters more right now is which of those sides feels most empowered. You know I live in Portland Oregon, a city where not too long ago, a white supremacist stabbed two people to death because they tried to stop him from harassing a Muslim woman. And to me, one of the more disgusting aspects of that crime, and there were many disgusting aspects of that crime, is the fact that the president of the United States took three days to issue a somewhat half-hearted condemnation of what happened. That sends a signal. And so you know what worries me is that the far-right in this country appears to be far more energized and far more empowered than certainly I've seen it in many years.
AMT: Alexander Livingston, how unusual is the divisiveness between the left and right that we see today?
ALEXANDER LIVINGSTON: So I think the kind of hyperbolic rhetoric that we're seeing in American discourse is itself nothing new. But I think what is new is the way that it's being driven by growing inequality. So I agree with Matt that we're seeing more ad hominem attacks, where people imagine one another as monsters, criminals. But I think that's a symptom of the hollowing out of our democratic institutions. We no longer have spaces or institutions where we actually meet and engage with people we disagree with. And partly that's a function of segregation, growing racial inequality, and partly that's a function of economic inequality. That affluent and poor Americans live in very different worlds at this point. So there's a toxic media environment. I think we have to situate that in the context of growing inequality in the United States.
AMT: And how much of that do you attribute to the rise of Donald Trump as well?
ALEXANDER LIVINGSTON: Well the inequality certainly predates Donald Trump. But Donald Trump is really pushing it in a very dangerous new direction. So I agree with Omar. It's dangerous to think about an equivalency here because really there is one group that feels much more empowered to act violently towards vulnerable people. And again, America is historically very violent, historically very unequal. And that violence is disproportionately imposed on people of color in that state. More recently migrants, Muslims, gender non-conforming people, trans people. And I think this rhetoric of civil war obscures that. It makes it sound like a conflict between two equal powers. But really there's a disproportionate number, the amount of violence be subjected to the most vulnerable people in society.
AMT: Omar, in your fictional imagining of a second civil war social inequality is an important trigger.
OMAR EL AKKAD: Yeah absolutely. I mean, you know, the United States I think is difficult to look at as a nation without looking at the inherent inequality that comes from it's, you know, almost from its founding sins, you know. A genocide of a population and enslavement of another population. And these things aren't historical blips. They didn't happen and then their effects sort of faded away. We see the effects of these things to this day.
You know I think there's a there's a level of inequality that's very very clear racially, it's very clear on a class level. One of the really sort of scary things that I've seen happen in the last few years is this idea of the discrepancy between different levels of government. You know, the difference between the way the federal government under the Trump administration is behaving and the sort of resistance it's getting from blue states and you know when the president of the United States comes out and essentially abandons one of the most important climate change agreements in the world and says that he's working for the people of Pittsburgh and not Paris, and then the mayor of Pittsburgh comes out and says “Well no actually we support this agreement.” That disconnect is a frightening thing. I think it points to a lot of problems getting anything done down the road.
AMT: Matt Mayer, what do you think?
MATT MAYER: Well you know it's interesting because you know all the talk of empowerment and you know which groups you know has the leverage today. What's fascinating is you know, after the November election everybody expected there to be all this kind of violence from the right, and in fact that's not what has happened. It's been violence from the left from protesters, you know property damage other things like that that has occurred. The rhetoric has been ramped up on the left and that's what's been so interesting. It's not the group that you thought, that common sense thought was going to be feeling empowered with the election of Trump. It's been the opponents of that that have really come out far more aggressively than expected. So I'm not so sure it fits into a tiny box of you know who has power and who doesn't, because that's always switching. I just think that we've just both sides have ramped up the rhetoric and we've got to really solve this more difficult problem of how do you bring everybody back down into, well I think what one of the guests said was like, places where we have commonality, where we can speak civilly and kind of move forward as a country united rather than viewing it as us versus them, environment right versus left. The kind of categories we've now put ourselves in.
AMT: How does that, the shooting in Alexandria play and what you're talking about.
MATT MAYER: Well I mean that's pretty that's pretty scary stuff because you know this guy was, you know, I don't want to say he was a Democrat or he was you know a left, because you know in some ways there's some craziness to that right? And to say that he came from the left is unfair to the left. But he targeted Republicans in a way that was about political assassination. And that horrible incident has created an opportunity hopefully that will get beyond a few days of dice gathering kumbayas and we'll be able to start digging deeper into how do we get past all that and realize that that the rhetoric is irresponsible. That at the end of the day we're all Americans and we've got real tough problems to solve socially and culturally that we need to solve in order for us to kind of continue for another 229 years as a country.
AMT: We're almost out of time but Alexander Livingston, what would it take then? Do you see a civil war? Or like what do you see looming?
ALEXANDER LIVINGSTON: Well I don't see anything particularly good looming but I don't see a civil war. And I think the language of civil war is really unhelpful. First, because I think it obscures the unequal experience of vulnerability and violence that's going on here. I disagree with Matt that we can point toward the left as the very obvious culprit, you know in what's been going on.
Just reporting from university campuses, as you surely know, there's been a small number of student protests which have garnered a great deal of media attention. But that's taking place against the backdrop of a great deal of harassment, intimidation of students on and off campus from hate speech to racist graffiti, to nooses appearing that's becoming increasingly ubiquitous and it goes hand-in-hand with a real mobilization by the alt-right through the internet.
AMT: [cross-talk] OK. We're going to have to we're going to have to leave that thought right there because we are out of time.
ALEXANDER LIVINGSTON: All right.
AMT: But lots to think about. Thank you. Omar el Akkad, author of the novel American War. ALEXANDER Livingston, assistant professor of Government at Cornell University. Matt Mayer a former official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now with Opportunity Ohio.
The CBC News is next and then Roxane Gay opens up about childhood trauma and how food became her consolation. We'll hear from her this is The Current.
'All they see is the fat': Author Roxane Gay on society's obsession with size
Guest: Roxane Gay
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Hello, I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
AMT: Still to come, he escaped civil war in Somalia and came to Canada as teenage refugee. Now, Ahmed Hussen holds one of the most important posts in cabinet:
AHMED HUSSEN: I think that it says a lot about Canada that someone can come here, integrate successfully, and run for Parliament and be chosen to head the very department that I was once a client of many many years ago.
AMT: With Canada facing an influx of desperate refugees, the federal immigration minister has ordered a review of the asylum process. Ahmed Hussen tells us his story and what he's doing to speed up an overwhelmed system. But first, her new book is challenging and intimate.
AMT: Roxane Gay is a bestselling author and a sought after cultural commentator. With her new book she takes on a deeply personal and inescapably political topic: the body. In Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay writes about her weight. And she explores what our collective preoccupation with size and shape reveals about society. She also looks at a traumatic experience from her childhood that led her to turn to food in order to feel safe. Roxane Gay joins me from New York. Hello.
ROXANE GAY: Hi.
AMT: You describe this as a memoir of your body. How much does your body define who you are?
ROXANE GAY: You know it depends on the day. In many ways. I would love to believe that my body doesn't define me at all. And, when I think of myself, I try not to let my body define me, but after a few hours out in the world where people love to give me their opinions on my body, the answer might be different.
AMT: You just came in our studio in New York City. What's that like in terms of how you see your body or how you see other people seeing your body?
ROXANE GAY: Well everyone in New York is moving really fast and they're oftentimes glamorously thin and wearing impossible high heels. And so it's hard not to feel like a fish out of water.
AMT: You say there was a traumatic incident that divides your life into a before and after. What happened?
ROXANE GAY: When I was 12 years old I was gang raped. And then my life changed. My life changed because before that I had been a normal 12 year old girl, Catholic, very sheltered. And after, all of that changed because something had happened that I didn't even know was possible. Like it wasn't even on my radar of things that could happen to me. And I changed. I became terrified of everyone and everything.
AMT: You never told anyone what happened at the time.
ROXANE GAY: No I didn't because I thought I was going to go to hell and that it was my fault. And the boys that raped me went to school and said that I had chosen it and that I had done this thing voluntarily and so everyone at school started to call me a slut. So that reinforced this idea that I really couldn't tell my parents and I couldn't tell any adults because obviously no one was going to believe me.
AMT: And you were just 12 years old.
ROXANE GAY: Mmhmm.
AMT: How did you hide something that terrible?
ROXANE GAY: I don't know. To this day I don't know how I hid it, but you know it was a really good girl. And I think that when your parents trust you to be a good girl, they aren't expecting certain things. And so I just remember I came home and I took the longest bath, and I just I don't even know how I kept it to myself.
AMT: And I guess it underlines how traumatic it was that you found a way to keep it to yourself, how much shame you felt over something that that you should have felt no shame for.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah but at the time I didn't know that. And also you know it was many years ago and it was a different world. It was a very different world than the one we're living in now And again, like I just didn't have a frame of reference. I didn't know. I didn't even have the vocabulary. I couldn't have told you what had happened to me even if I wanted to because I just had no idea.
AMT: And you started to eat in a different way, in a different way.
ROXANE GAY: I did.
AMT: What happened?
ROXANE GAY: I started to overeat because partly food is comforting and I needed comfort and that was the only means of comfort available to me. And partly because I wanted to be stronger, I wanted to be bigger. And I wanted to protect, I just wanted to protect myself. I told myself, I'm never going to let this happen again. And so they're not going to be able to overpower me next time. And so I thought if I made myself bigger, that would help. And of course at 12 years old I also thought well if I'm bigger than they won't even be interested in me. They won't even want to do something like that with me.
AMT: And so it became a way to protect yourself, to create like a wall around yourself.
ROXANE GAY: Yes it did.
AMT: How did your family react to your weight gain?
ROXANE GAY: They were mystified. They did not react well. That's for sure. It became the family problem for sure.
AMT: You learn much later as you grew older that they would've helped you had they known.
ROXANE GAY: Absolutely. Absolutely. Hindsight of course, and maturity, offers all sorts of perspective that you know you don't have at 12 in the moment, traumatized. But I do know that my parents would have protected me and gotten justice for me and taken care of me in the ways I needed to be taken care of at the time. But I just didn't trust I could tell them and I didn't.
AMT: And before this year, you were growing up you, but you have a close family.
ROXANE GAY: I do. We're very close. We were you know living in Omaha, Nebraska and we were definitely the only black family in our neighborhood. And certainly the only Haitian family. There were maybe I think five or six Haitian families in the entire city. So we had ourselves so because of that we were very close.
AMT: In some ways I guess you wanted to protect your parents from what had happened to you as well.
ROXANE GAY: I did of course. I didn't want them to think less of me. I didn't want them to know something so terrible had happened to me, something so unseemly. So there was a lot wrapped up in my secret.
AMT: And so what was high school like for you?
ROXANE GAY: You know, high school is a nightmare for everyone isn't it? High school was awkward. I was shy. I was at boarding school. I just was away from home for the first time, at 13 years old. And I had access to food in a way I had not previously had access to food. This time there was no one there to control what I ate, when I ate, how much I ate. And so that's when the weight gain really began in earnest.
AMT: And how did all of that affect your relationships as you as you got older?
ROXANE GAY: You know it's certainly created a lot of strain on many of my relationships, as people in my life try to solve what they viewed as a problem and created a lot of distance between me and the people in my life.
AMT: You talk about your lost years, starting sometime and you were at Yale. What happened?
ROXANE GAY: In the summer after my sophomore year of college, I was living in an apartment with a roommate in New Haven waiting for the fall semester to begin. And I had been spending a lot of time online and I met a guy who flew me out to San Francisco and we hung out for a week and I said I didn't want to go back to college and he said “Oh you can come with me to Arizona.” So I did. And I just dropped out of my life and disappeared.
AMT: Did that make you feel better?
ROXANE GAY: It made me feel great because for the first time in my life I didn't have to be the person that everyone in my life assumed that I was. And I could be the mess that I knew that I was and I didn't have to answer to anyone. And I didn't have to listen to all this pressure or face all this pressure to lose weight and to get it together. I just, I no longer had to pretend that I was holding it together somehow. I just was allowed to be a mess. And in many ways it was very good for me to have that time.
AMT: What was your relationship with him like?
ROXANE GAY: It was very good. I mean he was a friend when I needed a friend. And it's a miracle. You know I think that sometimes there is some sort of higher power that looks out for lost children, and you know, when you hear about like a much older man flying a young girl out, you would think the worst. But he was very good to me. He never hurt me ever.
AMT: How were you making a living at the time?
ROXANE GAY: I had a range of interesting jobs. I worked as a phone sex operator in Phoenix. And I went into an office of all places because it was an actual job.
AMT: And your parents had no idea where you were. You just disappeared.
ROXANE GAY: I just disappeared. As far as I know they hired an investigator and found me.
AMT: And what happened?
ROXANE GAY: They had my youngest brother call the phone number where I was staying and we slowly reconnected.
AMT: And you had other relationships in those years.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah definitely.
AMT: And you were, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I want you to talk to me a little bit about what, you call your book Hunger. What were you hungry for?
ROXANE GAY: I was hungry for peace. I was hungry for, I was mostly hungry for peace, for a sense of safety in my body which I did not feel. I was hungry for love and acceptance. But mostly I was hungry for peace.
AMT: Because in your mind, your mind was still churning with what happened to you.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah absolutely. I had this, you know, the longer you hold on to a secret the more attached you get to it. And so I just never resolved any of the issues that came out of being assaulted. And they only got worse the longer I kept them to myself. And I had started going to therapy in high school because a teacher could tell that I needed help. But in those early years, I didn't even know what to do in therapy. It was just the beginning of what would be a many year process of starting to make peace with what happened to me.
AMT: And were you aware as you were gaining weight, were you like consciously aware of what you were doing to try to protect yourself, to try to find that peace through eating through changing your body?
ROXANE GAY: Yes. It was very deliberate. And you know I think it got out of control. But when I began, it was very deliberate. And I just didn't want to stop. The bigger I got, the safer I felt. Even though I know and I knew I wasn't really safe, you're never safe.
AMT: And you write there were times when you would lose weight and then you would actually feel unsafe.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah definitely. Oftentimes when I'm losing weight, I feel a sense of panic. Like “Oh no like I'm going to get smaller and then I'm going to be in danger again.” And fortunately I think I'm finally, I’ve therapized enough to work through that. But yeah, there's always a sense of panic when I start to lose weight because even though you're highly visible, you're kind of invisible when you're fat. But when you start to lose weight, you become more visible in different ways that are uncomfortable.
AMT: Therapized. That's a good word.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah.
AMT: How heavy did you get?
ROXANE GAY: At my heaviest, I weighed five hundred and seventy seven pounds.
AMT: And you thought of surgery at that point?
ROXANE GAY: Absolutely. Weight loss surgery is very seductive. It's this idea that you can go in and a few hours later your anatomy will be rearranged. And a year later you'll have lost a significant amount of weight. But in general, it has a 5 percent success rate. And so I decided not to do it.
AMT: And what did you do instead?
ROXANE GAY: Nothing. I just, you know, I'm always on a diet. Who isn’t? And so I just lose weight in little parcels of 30 or 40 pounds at a time. My weight frustrates me mostly because it gets in the way of, it just gets in the way. There are many places in the world that do not accommodate my body.
AMT: And how do you move through the world, in a world that is not made to accommodate people who aren't thin?
ROXANE GAY: With a lot of care and forethought.
AMT: What does that mean?
ROXANE GAY: Well you know. I try to just live my life and I do, actually live my life. I'm always on the road traveling and so on. But you know, if I'm going to a restaurant, I always research the restaurant online to make sure that it offers chairs without arms or chairs with wide arms. And I'm always thinking about sort of what a space looks like. How many stairs. You know stuff like that. Like just how challenging is it going to be for me to navigate a given physical space that I'm going to be in.
AMT: When you were in university, those chairs are those chairs always have that desk attached to them. You have to kind of get into that chair with the desk in front of you.
ROXANE GAY: It was terrible having your body sort of being restricted in this really painful way for 50 minutes or 75 minutes or longer if it was a seminar but you have to go to school. So there isn't a lot of choice.
AMT: There's a lot of judgment though isn't there?
ROXANE GAY: You know when we see other people, we make judgments and you know we make judgments. We have opinions on what people look like. But when people see fat bodies, all they see is the fat and then they make a lot of assumptions. They think oh that person is dumb. That person is lazy. That person sits around eating junk food all day. And you know that person's unhealthy. That person's going to die. And you know, that's frustrating.
AMT: Some of those judgments aren't just quiet judgments. That's like people think they can have ownership of sort of your world.
ROXANE GAY: Yeah definitely the fat body is a public text in many ways. People comment and openly to your face what they think about your body. They give you advice unsolicited. It's a lot.
AMT: And in your case all of this goes back to what happened to you when you were 12. You say something in your book. You named this boy who took you to the place where you were then sexually assaulted by so many of his friends and him as well, that there isn't a day when you don't think about him.
ROXANE GAY: Definitely. Of course the older I get, and quite frankly the happier I get, the less he crosses my mind. But there's always one moment in my day where I have just a memory of some kind. Which is frustrating.
AMT: You've even looked up, you know where he lives and works.
ROXANE GAY: I do. A couple years ago I Googled. I was curious. I was like where is this man? What has he become? What is he doing with his life? Who is he now? Is he the same guy? Of course he is. And so I Googled him, and you know the Internet is an amazing thing. And so I definitely found him.
AMT: Do you think, what you just said, di you think he's the same guy?
ROXANE GAY: Because he wasn't a good guy when I met him. At the time, I thought he was Mr. Wonderful before the assault of course. But he was just, he treated me like crap. He was a lousy person. And I don't know that maturity has changed that. I'm quite sure he's just lousier.
AMT: Well the lesson to him was that he paid no price. He did it with impunity. Do you ever wonder if he pays a price somewhere inside himself now?
ROXANE GAY: Now I do. I definitely wonder. You know, and I write about that in the book sort of. Does he remember? Does he feel any remorse? If he was confronted would he apologize? Has he done it again? That keeps me up. I mean, I don't think you can ever get away from the things that you do. I think some people try. I think some people are heartless and therefore don't feel any sort of remorse or reflection when they hurt others. I don't know. I don't know who he is today.
AMT: And you may never know.
ROXANE GAY: No I will never know. I mean because I'm certainly never going to like send him a Facebook message like “Hey what's up?” That’s never going to happen. So no, I will never know. I mean, the older I get, especially in the past few years. You know, when you like, move on, when you find peace in your own life, it does wonders for ending that kind of speculation.
AMT: Talk to me a little bit about the process of finding peace in your own life.
ROXANE GAY: You know I think I'm still learning. But the older I get, the more I recognize that I did the best I could when I was a kid. Which, I have to have a lot of empathy for my younger self. I did the best that I could in a situation that was completely untenable. And so I'm trying to just be a lot kinder to myself now as I try to undo that unintended damage that I did to myself. And that helps, to just have some empathy for yourself and just say “You know what. You're not bad. You're a good person. You live a good life and you are not your body and there's nothing wrong with your body and it has served you very well for many many years.” And so I'm definitely just working on that and just being kinder to myself.
AMT: What have you found out about your own strength?
ROXANE GAY: Well you know I don't think of myself as particularly strong but I have certainly endured quite a lot. And so I have a fair amount of resilience.
AMT: And you know, it's you know a couple of years ago there was a hash tag started by two Canadian journalists who had been raped and never reported. And thousands of people started to tell their own stories because so many, so many women, when they are young go through something that they feel they could never talk about.
ROXANE GAY: It's shocking.
AMT: What do we have to do about that? What do we what do we have to learn about how we talk to girls and young women so that they feel they can talk about the help they might need?
ROXANE GAY: I don't think that we have to talk to girls and young women. I think we have to talk to men and I think we have to talk to the judicial system. And I think we have to talk to everyone about the cultural attitudes that we have around sexual violence and women's choices and this pervasive and very pernicious notion that based on our choices sometimes you know that we ask for it. Young women and girls will come forward when they know that it's safe to come forward. The reason they don't come forward is because they're smart and they know that it’s not safe and that probably nothing's going to happen. The track record of the judicial system in prosecuting sexual crimes is appalling.
AMT: Do you think that those who read your book will gain some strength?
ROXANE GAY: I mean I don't know. But I do think that they will gain perspective. And I think that there are many people who will read the book and yes gain some kind of strength from it.
AMT: You talk about the fact that this isn't, this isn't a story so that you can tell us you're living happily ever after here. There is who you are.
ROXANE GAY: But I think most of us regardless of what we've been through in our lives struggle with accepting that who I am is good enough. But one of the joys of being in my 40s is having this profound sense that who I am is good enough and that is such a refreshing thing to feel. It just takes such a load off of your shoulders to just be OK with who you are. Which is not to say that you're complacent. I'm always trying to become better as a person, particularly to the people I love. But I'm OK with who I am. I think I'm a pretty cool person. I enjoy myself.
But I think that I've hungered to just… I've hungered for you know as I said before peace and just feeling like I am not a failure simply because I'm fat. And feeling like I'm not a failure because of the coping mechanism that I chose at such a young age.
AMT: We're going to leave it there but thank you. Thank you for your work and thank you for your honesty.
ROXANE GAY: Thank you. Appreciate it.
AMT: Roxane Gay author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent work is Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. She joined us from New York City.
Let us know what you think. You can tweet us. We are @TheCurrent CBC. Find us on Facebook. Go to our website, CBC.ca/thecurrent and click on the contact link.
Coming up in our next half hour U.S. President Donald Trump has revised the start date for his travel ban to all but ensure a Supreme Court showdown.
How will that affect the Canadian immigration system already struggling to meet demands? We will ask the minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship. My conversation with Ahmed Hussen is next. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.
[Music: Theme]Back To Top »
Ahmed Hussen: From Somali refugee to Canada's immigration minister
Guest: Ahmed Hussen
ANNA MARIA TREMONTI: Hello I'm Anna Maria Tremonti and this is The Current. Ahmed Hussen meets a lot of people as Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. That's part of the job. But when he shakes hands and says hello to a new Canadian there's an understanding that goes deeper than with many politicians. Mr. Hussen was born in Somalia and came to Canada as a refugee. He was 16 years old when he arrived here alone. Twelve years later he was the president of the Canadian Somali Congress. Six years after that he graduated law school. His appointment to the prime minister's cabinet in January made headlines around the world. It also gave hope to refugees who get inspiration from his story.
The refugees who come in Canada are part of the right now the top ministers in Canada. It's a kind of a success story. Where the refugees are not abandoned. But it can be something positive. And he's the kind of, he is the outcome of that kind of success story for the refugee system in Canada.
AMT: Well that's a Somali man in Mexico who is trying to make his way to Canada. Canada's immigration system is struggling to keep up with the demand from people such as the man you just heard. As a result, Minister Hussen has ordered a review of the program in hopes that he can speed it up. Add to that a volatile situation in the U.S., Mr. Hussan took over the immigration portfolio just as the Trump administration launched a travel ban against citizens of seven Muslim majority countries. And that ban includes his native Somalia and the battle over the law looks destined for the Supreme Court. Ahmed Hussen is Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and he joins me from our Ottawa studio. Hello.
AHMED HUSSEN: Hello. Good morning.
AMT: That was quite a first week for you.
AHMED HUSSEN: Yes it was. I think in hindsight, it was a good week because I learnt a lot and I was able to also get a lot of support from my Cabinet colleagues and really good support system from the department and all the colleagues in Parliament.
AMT: What message was Mr. Trudeau sending to Mr. Trump by appointing you the minister of Minister of Immigration?
AHMED HUSSEN: Look I don't I mean I don't think those that he was sending a message, I think he was just recognising someone who he felt could take on that responsibility. And it is a huge responsibility. It's a privilege to serve in any capacity in public life and I'm honored and deeply touched that the prime minister felt that I could fulfill this duty.
AMT: President Trump's travel ban was again ruled unconstitutional last week by a second circuit court. What are you thinking as you watch this unfold in the U.S.?
AHMED HUSSEN: I think the United States administration has its own policies when it comes to these issues. When I spoke to my counterpart in the U.S. regarding what they intend to do with respect to refugees or even the number that they accept, he said that they hadn't made any final decisions. That this was quote unquote “a pause” for them to then do some analysis on their refugee program and so I take him at his word. What we intend to do and we've been very clear and this is this has nothing to do with the current administration, that the Canadian government has made a choice and our choice is that we will continue to use immigration as a great tool to a great system for increasing and growing our economy and contributing to our skills in Canada and our productivity but also making sure that we always have space for humanitarian obligations to the world to make sure we have a home, provide a home for those who seek sanctuary from war, from persecution, from terrorism. And we'll continue to maintain that course. Other countries can do what they want.
AMT: And it is interesting how our two countries are so different. Somalia where you were born, is on the list of the banned countries. The Trump administration says it is fighting terror. You actually successfully lobbied to have al-Shabaab designated a terrorist group in Canada. So you understand there is terror in Somalia. But what are they, what did they not see that you see? What are they missing in that blanket view of people from the countries that they name?
AHMED HUSSEN: So again I think with the United States government, what my counterpart told me is that you know, they're looking at a pause so that they can look at the integrity of the, of the documents and the immigration system of those seven countries. But like I said, I'm focused on Canada and I think we have a great immigration system that is doing a lot to fill our skills shortage in this country, which we have. Everywhere that I go employers tell me that. They, yesterday they get some of their demand filled by Canadian graduates of various schools and universities and colleges and trade schools. But we have a skills shortage and that skills shortage is affecting businesses. It's blocking them from growing, from creating additional jobs, from having the ability to even stay open. And so the only other mechanism to fill that skills shortage is immigration. And the vast majority of the immigrants who we rely on this year are economic immigrants who will lend us their skills and their talents and ensure that we have prosperity for all of us.
Yes we have a humanitarian portion of our immigration system. But even those people we invest heavily in settlement and integration processes to make sure that they restart their lives successfully and contribute and turn around and become community leaders and businesspeople and so on.
So I think Canada has a great system. And whenever I've traveled the world, other countries especially Europe have been asking us how we do this how. How are we so successful at settling and integrating newcomers to become great citizens? And we're not perfect but we've sort of figured out how to do that better than a lot of countries.
AMT: And and again as you point out, there are different kinds of, different classifications of immigrants. I don't want to belabor the Trump effect, but what are your officials telling you about how Canada is being affected by the Trump administration's immigration policy? We saw a lot of people coming over the border in the last several months.
AHMED HUSSEN: My contention has always been that we've had the increase in the number of people coming from the United States started before the current administration in the United States. In fact the increase started during the Obama administration. So these fluctuations in migration patterns have always been there. In 2008, we had 40,000 inland asylum claims. A few years after, we had as low as 10,000. And yes this year we were tracking higher levels but we've already seen a dramatic drop in the number of people crossing in Emerson, Manitoba. So the fluctuations are there. We are susceptible to global migration patterns just like any other country in the world. What I can say is we have a very robust system that has the capacity to adjust and respond to those fluctuations. But the big pressure point is the IRB. They’re already facing backlogs prior to this increase and now, with the steady increase in irregular migrants, they'll face additional pressure. And that is why we, I mean they've introduced new efficiency measures which will enable them to move quickly and clear the backlog. They have appointed a task force to clear the legacy refugees. But this third party review will look at a comprehensive approach. Not just more resources which the IRB is asking for, but what else can the IRB do to make it quicker and more efficient.
AMT: So the immigration Refugee Review Board that your review of that year. That's what you hope will come out of it, some kind of a roadmap?
AHMED HUSSEN: Yes and I've met the chair of the immigration Refugee Board very regularly. As you know, they are a quasi-judicial independent body, so you know they have their own decision making processes, but we have an interest and we have a working relationship when it comes to the administration, the policies and the efficiencies.
AMT: Is the reclassification of the U.S. as a safe third country under review.
AHMED HUSSEN: Under the terms of the Safe Third Country Agreement, both the United States and Canada have a duty to monitor the domestic asylum system of both countries and the United States, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees also does that they monitor the domestic asylum systems for a lot of countries. And our analysis as well as the UNHCR`s analysis continues to show that the domestic U.S. asylum system is robust. There`s due process. People can claim asylum. And therefore under the principle of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is supported by the United Nations, asylum seekers must seek refuge in the first safe country that they land in. And in this case if you arrive in the research you should claim asylum in the United States and not make your way to Canada.
AMT: And you're not looking at changing that? There have been calls from those dealing with refugee claimants that that needs to change now.
AHMED HUSSEN: Absolutely. There have been calls but again like I said, our analysis does not show that the domestic asylum system in the United States has changed to the extent where refugees do not have protection. That's not the case. And our analysis has been supported by an independent analysis conducted by the UNHCR in Canada.
AMT: So is that a no?
AHMED HUSSEN: That is a no. For now. I mean, if things change down the road, of course we will re-examine. But again we do this regularly and we have absolutely no reason to suspend or change to Safe Third Country Agreement. That agreement works really well for both countries. The U.S. domestic asylum system is monitored by the U.S. judiciary, which is an independent institution. You've seen how they've taken positions that are independent. And so we have no reason to sort of suspend that agreement. It works well for Canada. And there's due process in the United States for asylum seekers.
AMT: We have issues of immigration to grapple with in our own country. Kashif Ali was Canada's longest serving immigration detainee. He spent more than seven years in a maximum security prison in Ontario before a judge ordered him released in April. Canada detained 6596 people for immigration purposes from 2015 to 2016. Why is Canada jailing people for wanting to come to this country?
AHMED HUSSEN: I think I don't I don't think that's a fair characterization. I don't think we will jail people for coming to the country. I think that when you come into Canada, we have humanitarian obligations to give you you know fair hearing, a chance to make your case. But at the same time we want to do that in a way that protects the security and health of Canadians. And so if you come in across our border, you are checked for against you know criminal databases, terrorist databases and so on, and if and if you are found to be a threat to Canadians, you are detained because we also have an obligation to protect Canadians.
And the folks that you're referring to who are in immigration detention tend to be mostly people who have exhausted their appeal mechanisms, have not been able to make their case. And therefore part of our law is that just as we can give you access, just as we have a duty to give you access to fair hearings and a chance to make your case and various appeals, once you exhaust all those mechanisms, the law also says that we should remove you because you don't have an inherent right to be in Canada.
AMT: OK well I would like you to hear what Mr. Ali's lawyer Jared Will has to say.
JARED WILL: There should be a cap on the duration for which people can be held for deportation. In other jurisdictions we have no limits that range from less than 90 days to some places an absolute hard maximum of 18 months. And there's no reason that Canada can't adopt the same practices in those jurisdictions. There’s again no justification for detaining people for years on and for purposes of their deportation when it's very clear that they can't actually be deported.
JD: So lawyer Jared Will is calling for time limits on the detention. The UN in 2015 called for the same thing. The EU has a limit of 18 months. Is Canada going to set a limit on how long someone can be detained?
AHMED HUSSEN: I think that as a as a government we have shown repeatedly that we are open to ideas we get feedback from all kinds of stakeholders including ordinary Canadians. If that particular individual feels that this is something that we should consider, then he should approach the Minister of Public Safety and emergency preparedness to see how this is something that the government of Canada should adopt. He should offer those ideas to the government.
AMT: And I would just want to ask further question about detention. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 241 Canadian children held in detention with their non-status parents at the Toronto immigration holding center alone. Are you comfortable with that number of kids?
AHMED HUSSEN: Absolutely not. I'm really glad you asked that question. The rise in the detention of children, in immigration detention, is something that we saw under the previous government. We have dramatically dropped that number from the time that we came into government. We use immigration detention as the last resort. We have invested money to take people, children out of that situation and put them in you know in more community settings. We, in fact even stakeholders who are concerned about this issue have come to us and told us that we've done a good job at dealing with this issue. The concern that they had is what happens in the long term. I mean will a future government reverse the progress that we've made? So I'm proud to stand on that record. That number under the previous government was unacceptable was very high and we moved very very quickly to reduce those numbers.
AMT: And so do you know what they are now? Or is there a rule that says they just do not go there?
AHMED HUSSEN: It's used as a very very very last resort. But even when that happens, we ensure that we transition families right out of that. We make sure that there, the education of the children is not disrupted. And like I said, even the advocates on this issue have publicly said, and privately that as a government we've moved so progressively on this issue that we will dramatically reduced the number that we inherited from the previous government. So I'm proud to stand on that.
AMT: I will play you a clip of a woman who was held in detention center in this country at the age of eight for more than a month with her five year old sister just to let our listeners know what we're talking about.
KIMORA ADETUNJI: I remember being excited to come to Canada because my mom had come to Canada before us, I think about five years before us. And then she finally sent for us to come. And so we're excited to come and finally live in Canada with our mother. But before we even got to see what Canada was, we and my five year old sister at the time and my great grandmother, we were imprisoned in immigration detention.
AMT: And so Mr. Minister, that whole practice. What happens to those children? Is there a limit on where they go? What was like this, are their parents, are their parents cases sped up so that they can be reunited?
AHMED HUSSEN: So as I said earlier first of all we've dramatically reduced the number. Second we've put in money to make sure that there are other alternatives. Because when people break their immigration detention, their sort of CBSA conditions on their release, on their release once they come into the country, and then they breach those conditions, and they repeatedly breach other conditions and with respect for example providing us with an address, reporting to a CBS office, when they do that repeatedly, detention becomes very reluctant but last resort.
Now having said that, we are and have invested money to find alternatives to detention because we don't want to detain even one child, one family in immigration detention. And as I said, where we're heading is dramatically different from the previous government. Our approach is that this should this should ideally never be used. And we've made a lot of progress in terms of the reduction of the numbers.
AMT: And the woman we just heard was Kimora Adetunji. Right now her husband is being held in a maximum security prison in Ontario after arriving from Nigeria. Listen to her again please.
KIMORA ADETUNJI: It just makes us very unstable. It is the dynamic of our family has changed. Everything has changed. The children are sad. You know, they don't know what to expect. Now that they know what's going on. They made them even more bitter. They really miss him. I really miss him.
AMT: One family with an experience that lasts a very long time. Her husband's being held in maximum security as was Kashif Ali. Is there a way, if you make the point you have to hold onto asylum seekers, but why are they held in maximum security prisons with convicted criminals at that level?
AHMED HUSSEN: No I think I think you're mixing up some folks. There are people who are in Canada who then, you know, due to serious criminality or other violations of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act have to be detained because they are, they have been determined by a court of law to be a dangerous person to Canadian society. That person, we have an obligation to detain them and remove them from our country eventually. And the challenge is, the first step is removal. They have a lot of appeals against them. So… sorry I meant to say the first step is to detain them. But during detention they have a lot of appeal mechanisms. And our goal is to eventually remove them from Canada. But some of these individuals don't have, when we contact their countries, their countries don't have, don't recognize them or wouldn't issue them travel documents. So the government of Canada is in a situation where these individuals are in detention. We can't release them into the public because they've been determined by a court of law to be a danger to Canadian society. At the same time, it's difficult to remove them out of the country because the host country doesn't want to issue them or travel documents.
So it's a process and it takes time sometimes. But we also have an obligation to Canadian society to protect them. Our immigration system has to make sure that we protect the safety and health of Canadians. And that's you know also a huge priority for us. So that's a very defensible thing and the determinations on the detention and the dangers of the label and all that is made by a court of law where these people have due process.
AMT: You know when talking about our immigration system, you have a reference point that is unique in this portfolio. We heard that clip earlier of you making the point that you were once a client of the same department you now head. How does your own experience inform your work?
AHMED HUSSEN: It informs me a lot. It helps me really understand the good about immigration but also some of the challenges. So I have to tell you that my experience has been one of experiencing great, great Canadian generosity. I was helped immensely by ordinary Canadians in my journey of settling into Canada and integrating into Canadian society and succeeding as a Canadian citizen.
But I also experienced immigration backlogs. I experienced the frustrations that people experience when the applications don't move fast enough or they don't hear from the immigration system system. So I used those experiences to then take a more aggressive approach to, for example put the client at the center of everything that we do. So in my mandate letter, I’ve been mandated to for example improve the client services in the immigration department. What that means for me personally is that I would like people to not experience the backlogs that I experienced. And we are making great progress in that.
So for example in the spousal program, we inherited a caseload backlog of 20,000 cases. We cleared those cases and we reduce the processing time for the majority of the cases to 12 months or less. That's a huge success from previous processing times of 26 months or more. And while still maintaining program integrity. Our PR renewal timelines used to take months. Now it takes days. I'm committed to even reducing those processing times more.
We have a lot of success. The Express Entry program is working so well to bring highly skilled immigrants into Canada to fill much needed skill shortages. Our global skills strategy will help us continue to compete across the world for talent.
AMT: Did did the 16 year old Ahmed ever think that he would be a minister?
AHMED HUSSEN: No absolutely not. But I was really, I mean I was anxious to arrive in a new country that I know that I didn't know its norms and weather and all that. But I was always filled with hope for a new beginning and the ability to sort of restart my life and take advantage of the opportunities that exist in Canada.
AMT: You heard that young Somali man in Mexico earlier. What did you think as you heard him say that you inspire him and others?
AHMED HUSSEN: Well it's very humbling to hear that, that I'm an example for people. But I have to tell you that my story could only be possible in a country like Canada. And the second amazing thing about this country is that my story is not unique. You'll hear a lot of newcomers who have who have made Canada their home, who are great Canadian citizens, who have contributed so much to this country and still love Canada so much. And so my story is not unique and that's what makes this country so amazing. I don't think I would have achieved half of what I've been able to do in any other country.
AMT: Mr. Hussen, thank you for speaking with me today.
AHMED HUSSEN: Thank you so much.
AMT: Ahmed Hussan, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. He joined us from our Ottawa studio. That is our program for today. Stay with Radio One for Q. Tom Power goes back to 1969 to break down the hit Sugar Sugar. You know the one.
[Music: Sugar Sugar]
AMT: So Tom gets the tail of the tune from songwriter Andy Kim today on Q. If you missed part of our program today or any day, you can catch up with the CBC Radio app, free to download from the App Store or Google Play. Now earlier, we had a conversation about whether the U.S. is in or whether it could be headed towards a civil war. A second civil war. For our final word today, we go back to the first one, 1863 and a war weary president. This is the Gettysburg Address, words by Abraham Lincoln, delivered by Johnny Cash. I'm Anna Maria Tremonti. Thanks for listening to The Current.
JOHNNY CASH: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty. And dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war. Testing whether that nation. Or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their
lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do that. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate. We cannot consecrate. We cannot follow this ground. For the brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our for our to add or to track. The world will little note or long remember what we say here. But it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work. Which they who fought here have thus far so nobly. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead. We take increased devotion. To that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. And that this nation. Under God. Shall have a new birth of freedom. And that government of the people. By the People and For the people shall not perish. From the Earth.
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