Just over a week ago, Deb and I booked accommodations for our New York City trip in August. We did extensive research (“Which listing comes up first in Airbnb?”) and put down our deposit.
A few days later, U.S. President Donald Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a weenie-boy, and suddenly Canadians were livid – livid like someone had butted into their collective Timmie’s drive-thru.
“Boycott! Boycott! Don’t visit the U.S.!” Canadians cried in stern and firmly forwarded Facebook posts.
“Well, crap,” I thought.
In truth, I had been questioning the wisdom of spending time, let alone money, in the United States, especially given that its current raison-d’être seems to be to make the rest of the world go, “Bu- but you- how- wha- really?”
But other than being inarticulate with dismay, Canada has never really been angry with the USA, just very, very disappointed. Yes, the U.S. has been threatening to disrupt Canadian trade by imposing stiff tariffs, but tariffs are boring. The very word is a snore. You can’t get excited about tariffs, even stiff ones. Now, if trade disputes meant that every Canadian had to bake two pies for every American, we would be up in flour-covered arms. But tariffs, steel, wood, even stiff wood? Yawn.
Trade disputes aren’t going to ruin us. The only thing trade disputes have ever ruined is The Phantom Menace. Sure, Trump might be using international trade as a pretense to withdraw from NATO, allowing Russia to run roughshod over Eastern Europe, but we’ll cross that doomsday bridge when we come to it.
Given this, I figured there was no reason things couldn’t be business as usual, or, in my case, over-priced tourist traps at a terrible exchange rate as usual.
But then, as they say, things got personal.
Ever since the Cheap Shot Heard Round the World, Canadians have been taking the insult very hard on Trudeau’s behalf. They’ve shown an astounding level of attachment to their PM, even though, unlike in the U.S., virtually zero Canadians voted Justin Trudeau into the position of prime minister. Realistically, our emotional investment in the PM should be slightly higher than attachment to a professional Canadian sports team rostered by mostly American player but considerably lower than our embrace of universal but not very efficient health care.
Our response to this slight is in fact very Canadian. As easygoing as we supposedly are, we are surprisingly thin-skinned. And like the rest of the world, we will happily muster outrage. We will take umbrage. We will take all the umbrage until there is no umbrage left in the umbrage bowl.
My initial reaction was also to feel affronted. But then I realized that it really doesn’t matter. In fact, taking this slight to heart is exactly part of the problem.
First of all, it’s a relatively mild diss from the preternaturally boorish President. This glue-eating, last-picked baby-man is a word vomiter. His words mean nothing. And, really, Trudeau can handle it. I mean, he doesn’t have much to be insecure about, am I right, ladies? I find it more insulting that Trump insists on referring to him as “Justin.”
Secondly, by letting our reactions be ruled by anger and impulse, Canadians are no better than Trump and the base and divisive instincts that elected him to office.
Boycotting the United States and U.S. products isn’t the answer, because the only people such actions will hurt are Americans. We love Americans! We love American stuff. We love American places. We love American pie (really, who are we to assume to make pies for you!).
So instead of sitting back smugly and feeling morally superior (Ontario provincial election notwithstanding), we should instead be flooding into the U.S. Let’s show them that it’s about the people, not the politics. We’ll leave it to our government to do the job of not getting walked over. Us, we’ll just walk, namely in welcoming U.S. parks and services. Let’s travel to the United States, be ambassadors, shoulders to cry on, a calming voice that says, “Your president is a jerk but it’s all going to be okay.”
Me, I’ll be a Canadian in New York, letting car after car merge into my lane, smiling politely at the woman who said my butt looks good in those pants (true story), speaking in French just for kicks, being a real Canadian dork.
And I’m not just saying that because I can’t get my deposit back.