President-elect Donald Trump awaits the traditional high-noonÂ inauguration date onÂ January 20, a divisive master of scapegoating, while a Republican Congress, former fortress of obstruction, is about to lurch into dangerous uncertainty.
The political stress level of Americans, reported to be 52 per cent before the election, now enters the red zone. For that matter, what about the stress of Canadians and citizens of other countries who were convinced that the most powerful nation in history was becoming unhinged? Now we are watching it happen.
As the vote was counted, a collective and premature sigh of relief that followed early polls soon became a dull sense of disbelief. Trumpâs statement a day before that,Â âIf I donât win I will consider it a tremendous waste of time, energy, and money,â had people believing that his bid toÂ become president was a lark, akin to nothing more than another failed casino project.
Now it begins to sink in that a crazed impossibility has come to fruition.
The election campaign that the country and the world was forced to endure was a kind of torture of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia soon to be followed by collective PTSD.
During the campaign, Americans were pandered to, milked as victims, and treated to choking doses of fear and loathing worthy of any second-rate tabloid news site. At the very least they were treated like bilked consumers instead of citizens.
Trump supporters, said to be longing for a return to the social (and possibly religious) fundamentalism of the 1950s, may soon inherit a whirlwind of resentment and something far worse than the 50s and 60s ever saw.
The Eisenhower 50s and the Kennedy 60s were not like this; they were struggling with the spectre of Cold War, imbedded racism, and gender discrimination, but they carried hope.
âAsk not what your country can do for you,â said John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in 1961, âask what you can do for your country.â
Kennedy wasnât doing anything exceptional by asking citizens to make a sacrifice for the common good. Past American presidents, even jurists, had asked the sameâmany of them taking the lead from Gospel quote: âFrom everyone who has been given much, much will be demandedâŠâ
Americans and their federal government had in the past expected much of those citizens who were given much.
In the year JFK was elected, the nation wasÂ happy to accept a top-bracket income tax rate over 90 per cent which, contrary to todayâs popular opinions about taxes, managed to keep the economy, the middle-class, and even the stock market growing and the government out of debt.
But America and the world canât go back to 1950 and start over again. For African Americans, Islamic peoples, immigrants and refugees, for women and the LGBT community, this is a chilling result.
For Americaâs neighboursâespecially Canadaâthis is like having a close friend who is a recovering alcoholic fall off the wagon and get into serious troubleÂ as a result.
When the Trump campaign singled out Canadaâs healthcare system for derision, it was a reminder that, seen from Canada, Barack Obamaâs courageous attempt to take on the powerful insurance and corporate health lobbies amounted to only a tepid (and now we know only temporary) response to a pressing need.
Never claiming their healthcare system to be a model of perfection, Canadiansâand for that matter, the rest of the developed worldâunderstand that a 21stÂ century country without universal healthcare is a country rushing to destroy its middle class.Â Serious medical procedures become second mortgages, ongoing procedures become home evictions. For the working poor, there is simply a lower life expectancy and infant mortality rate.
Canadians wondered, how could working-class Trump supporters not see this?
At the same time, it does Canada no good being smug about the fallout from this unsavory campaign.
Canada is not Russia or any other country that sees the U.S. as an adversary.
Foreign Policy magazineâs Julia Ioffe wrote thatÂ it is a gift to Vladimir PutinÂ to now discover, âa deeply fractured American system, once held up as a shining alternative to Moscowâs style of power, now tarnished beyond recognition.â
I am certain that the last thing Canadians want is a fractured, tarnished America. Canada wants a good neighbour.
But Canadaâs leaders must know that the resentments that led to the Trump victory are also present here. How we deal with them will be a test for the Trudeau government, a test we canât afford to fail.