America, How Could You?

Open Letters

My lament takes a dark turn. Nothing brings reality into sharper focus then I brush with mortality. Life-and-death situations tend to bring things into sharp sharp contrast.

I thought the worst thing that could happen today had already happened: and accused sexual predator. A racist. A misogynist. A man whose many many public gaffes should have been enough individually to disqualify him from even the consideration of running for student government, let alone running a sovereign nation… Has managed to convince 50% of millions of people that he is fit to be president.

So I dressed for the occasion.

The End. I dressed for a day of mourning, and (ironically?) posed in front of an image of sheep plummeting off a cliff en masse – one lone sheep is going against the herd, bleating ‘excusez moi…’. And the day only got worse from there.

And we can all joke about how the Canadian immigration site crashed due to all the increased traffic, or how maybe this is all some horrible misunderstanding… But when I woke up and checked my phone, confirming what I thought must be a mistake as I went to bed, a deep discomfort set up residence in my gut. How did this happen?

The dread exploded with apropos responses, and I was shielded from many of the exuberant postings of joy from people who actually voted for this man, because Facebook at least can protect me from this reality through its ingenious filter settings. However, there’s a complicated reality being revealed… And what’s most disturbing is the sheer number of people who are willing to accept someone whose personality is vile, whose values are vile beyond comprehending, because these voters think he is somehow better than Hillary Clinton. Whatever your issues are with her, how can so many people have been duped into voting against their own best interest, for a man who has let workers take the fall for his financial losses, outsourced jobs within his own enterprises, degraded and humiliated his opponents, female and male, made so many blatantly racist comments that we hardly notice the subtle ones, like when he refers to ghettos and each time throws in the words Blacks and Latinos, as though these are the only people living below the poverty line, as though Black and Latino are synonymous with poor and unsuccessful, or that inner cities are homogeneously populated… The view from up here is unsettling.

And I thought it couldn’t get worse. But at 8 AM as I began teaching my first class of 17 and 18-year-olds, I got the news that one of our very own students bodies was found after he had been missing for several days. Shah Ruhk is who I’m thinking of today because his life is important, because I can’t stop thinking about his last moments, because he is Muslim, because the rhetoric across the border demonizes young people like him, because I have read his heart felt writing, where the ambition, love, and values of a young man are so clearly revealed and are so contrary to everything that Donald Trump claims to know about people like this young man who is so tragically lost to us. The last piece of school work that this boy wrote, praised his parents for providing him with opportunities to live and grow in this country, praised his faith for teaching him how to respect the opportunity to learn and to pursue a bright future; he wrote about the admiration he had for his teachers, the love and dedication he felt towards his family, the importance of treating children with kindness and respecting your elders. The last conversation I had with this quiet, sweet young man was about how he was continuing to encourage his brother to get back on track and take his studies seriously; he said to me, “I can’t give up on him he’s my brother and I need to look after him.”

Maybe this is the most profound statement that has come to mind today, because, for me, his words might also be applied to the way we view the current situation south of our border – we need to respond with love, and patience, and clear values, and lead the way, hoping that we will set our neighbour on a better path.

I don’t really know how I got through today, with the eyes of so many young people watching, and asking how to deal with this loss. By talking. By asking questions. By listening. And remembering what is important.


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