Opinion

Canada glories in summer, while Trump feeds and waters his racist mooncalves: Neil Macdonald

It's not that Canada doesn't have racists and criminals with guns. We just don't elect racists to lead the country, or enshrine a legal right to buy unlimited combat guns that can kill 20 or 30 people in 60 seconds.

Trump's America is a midden. It's hard not to feel grateful for the boredom here

It's not that Canada doesn't have racists and criminals with guns. We just don't elect racists to lead the country, or enshrine a legal right to buy unlimited combat guns that can kill 20 or 30 people in 60 seconds. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Back from far niente, catching up. It having been July all last month and August so far this week, catching up doesn't take long.

There hasn't been much Canadian news (I know, I know, define "news"). But the news goat, as it's called in newsrooms, must be fed. The hungry little radge never takes a vacation, which is why, when legislatures aren't sitting and other news-generating institutions are on summer schedule, assignment desks will pounce on anything that even smells like news. 

"Barbers in Regulatory Limbo…" warned last Monday's Globe and Mail.

According to the newspaper's sources, some of whom were granted anonymity because of the explosiveness of their allegations, shady operators are taking advantage of Ontario's overhaul of trades rules. It may even be that the character giving your kid his summer beanshave doesn't have a licence at all. Never considered that, did you?

A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Star documented something equally shocking: unregulated sales of pot on the city's sidewalks.

Who could have imagined such a thing?  

Several unfortunate reporters have had to file about the outraged objections by Ottawa's chattering class to a proposed annex on the rear side of the Château Laurier hotel — a "turreted jewel" — which apparently should outrage all right-thinking Canadians.

The view of the latest Château Laurier design from the Rideau Canal. (Larco Investments)

Blacklock's Reporter, an online news site, had a nifty little item about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank's list of mean, nasty reporters. (For the record, I think I deserve to be on that list, and I'm outraged if I'm not). 

There was a fair amount of pickup on the story about British Columbia's human rights tribunal hearing on female estheticians who refused to administer groin waxings to a transgender customer's genitals.

Outrageous, apparently, that these women, some of them immigrants with conservative backgrounds, would think they have the right in Canada to refuse to handle penises and testicles.

And there was Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's "attack" on the Canada Food Guide, which says … well, I don't know what it says, and I don't know anybody who does know. But apparently Scheer thinks it's ideologically driven, and that we should all drink more chocolate milk, or something. 

In any case, it was a more positive headline for Scheer than the one in early July about him claiming he needs more information before he would consider supporting a ban on gay conversion therapy; the Liberal Party's campaign brain trust put out the bait, and Scheer, just about the only political leader in the country who still doesn't attend Pride parades, obediently snaffled it up.

To be fair, though, Canadian journalists on summer duty are at a disadvantage; this country does not have a leader with a mouth like an open sewer, and does not allow private citizens to amass private arsenals. America does, so for my American colleagues, there is no longer any silly season.

Weekend shootings

In the U.S., the news agenda so far this summer seems to have been demarcated by the weekend slaughters in Texas and Ohio. Not that mass murder, usually by men from what conservatives like to call "America's Judeo-Christian heritage," is really news any longer. 

But there did seem at least some connection between U.S. President Donald Trump's racist, white nationalist, immigrant-demonizing diatribes and the shootings in Texas, perpetrated by a fellow who evidently targeted brown-skinned shoppers in a Walmart after posting a screed about the "immigrant invasion." (The Ohio shooter, meanwhile, seemed to be supportive of violent leftists, prompting an Ohio Republican politician to blame that shooting on transgender people, gay marriage, open borders and "drag queen advocates.")

In fact, until the massacres, Trump had gone far beyond the dog whistles and ugly innuendo on which he has relied for years. He'd evidently decided that explicit, unalloyed, unambiguous racist attacks — white supremacy — work well with the millions of people who would only ever vote against him if he began behaving like a decent human being.

So he'd told four non-white members of Congress, all of whom are American citizens, and three of whom, unlike Trump's current wife, were born in the United States, to go back to the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

It was actually a twofer for Trump: Not only were his targets olive- and dark-skinned, they were all women. Putting them in their place, Trump reckoned, would be a smash hit with the aging white male mooncalves who believe their president is restoring the natural order that feminazi, immigrant-loving liberals have wrecked so badly.

And of course it was. A few days later, at one of his rallies, Trump paused for nearly 15 seconds, savouring the moment, as the mooncalves joyously bellowed "Send her back!" and "Send them back!" 

Most Republican politicians, people who once believed it necessary to at least pretend distaste for racism, just smiled and looked away. Trump, they know, has changed the rules. Suddenly, it's okay to fart and belch and scratch your private parts at the public table. We're not gonna be politically correct anymore! MAGA!

Trump vs. Cummings

Pleased, Trump lumbered on, tweeting that the majority-black city of Baltimore is a "disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess," and that it's all the fault not of slumlords like his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who owns lots of rat-infested Baltimore properties, but of Elijah Cummings, the Democratic congressman in whose district the city lies.  

Cummings, of course, is black. (Because, you know, this is all a black issue. Four years ago, the "filthy mess" in Baltimore was, according to Trump, the fault of President Barack Obama, whom Trump sneeringly described as "our great African-American president," and who may have been born in Kenya, who knows?)

When Cummings's home in Maryland was burglarized a few days later, Trump celebrated in a particularly vicious, sarcastic tweet (Trump later claimed, with no evident irony, that it was not sarcastic), then capped it with the goober-encouraging assertion that it is Cummings and the four congresswomen who are the real racists. Grin, nudge.

The encouraging thing, though, was the mainstream media coverage. Reasoning, finally, that what quacks is a duck, America's newspapers and news networks, which normally genuflect to authority, dropped their beloved qualifiers such as "allegedly" and "said to be" and "according to critics," grew a spine, and did their job, flatly labelling Trump what he is — a racist — and his intended audience, and by association Trump himself, white nationalist, meaning white supremacist.

And when, after the shootings, Trump delivered 10 Pecksniffian minutes about the need to rebuff hate-filled ideologies, even singling out what he called the sinister ideology of white supremacy (remember, this president once said there were some very fine people in the ranks of white supremacists; he also said not too long ago that white supremacist violence was not really a concern), reporters were disinclined to buy the healer-in-chief hypocrisy. Most reports pointedly referenced Trump's racist history.

Anyway, sitting in peaceful, lazy, ethnically diverse Ottawa, where people glorying in summer's haze happily call out greetings to strangers, it's hard not to feel grateful for the boredom here, and the foolishness of our summer news menu. 

Not that Canada doesn't have racists and criminals with guns. We just don't elect racists to lead the country, or enshrine a legal right to buy unlimited combat guns that can kill 20 or 30 people in 60 seconds.

Trump's America is a midden. To hell with it. I am glad I don't live there anymore, and doubly glad to read about unlicensed barbers and annexes to grand old Ottawa hotels and the terrible dishonesty of the Canada Food Guide.


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About the Author

Neil Macdonald

Opinion Columnist

Neil Macdonald is an opinion columnist for CBC News, based in Ottawa. Prior to that he was the CBC's Washington correspondent for 12 years, and before that he spent five years reporting from the Middle East. He also had a previous career in newspapers, and speaks English and French fluently, and some Arabic.

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