“He has to advance Canada’s interests and that is what he’s doing.” – former Ontario NDP Premier and now retired Liberal MP Bob Rae, in defense of the Prime Minister’s long pause after being asked to comment on Trump’s authoritarian-like response to anti-racist demonstrations south of the Canadian border
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted June 8th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
As one Canadian news commentary put it recently, the 21 seconds of absolute silence that followed a reporter recently asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to comment on the iron fisted way Trump has been responding to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the United States serve as a kind of Rorschach test for those who watched during those 21 seconds and waited for the PM’s answer.
In other words, there is so much a person can read in to the 21 seconds that the Prime Minister of Canada stood there during one of his COVID-19 news briefings this June 2nd and said nothing the day after Trump had public space near the White House violently cleared of peaceful protesters so he could walk across a park to the front of a church that never invited him and do a photo-op of himself wielding a copy of The Bible like a sword of wrath for his mostly white evangelical base.
And there has certainly been a good deal of commentary about those 21 seconds from Canadians, from coast to coast.
At one end of the Rorchach spectrum, there are those who see that 21 seconds of silence as an act of supreme dignity and class on the Prime Minister’s part. That silence, they say, sent a message possibly more powerful than words, about the disapproval our Prime Minister feels for Trump’s use The Bible like a cheap political prop, while simultaneously using totalitarian tactics to repel people expressing their constitutional freedoms in ways he views as a threat to his power to “dominate.”
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who see those seconds of silence as an act of cowardliness that reduces Canada’s role in the world to that of frightened serf or colonist in the face of an existential threat of fascism directly across our border – a fascism that could, in the minds of many retired military leaders and others in the United States, shatter what are left of the fragile pillars of democracy in that country and around the world if Trump wins a second term – a nightmare that is not entirely out of the question.
And if Trump should win a second term or, as some fear, refuses to leave if he loses what he might declare a “rigged election,” what the world has been suffering through during his first term in office is going to seem like a light wind storm compared to the Category Five Hurricane that could cause enough destruction to democratic institutions to ensure that anyone who speaks out for 21 seconds might find themselves beaten by goons and thrown in jail.
In a commentary I wrote and posted on Niagara At Large this past June 6th, I opted for the position that Trudeau should have used those 21 seconds and the time after to finally slam Trump for his dangerous and destructive ways.
I’ll admit that I was coming at this Rorschach test as someone who has grown tired of going down to gatherings of old friends in the United States and being warned over the past two or three years by some of the more liberal among them not to speak negatively of Trump because a few in the group were crazy enough to vote for him and might flip if we say anything that might challenge their belief that he is the greatest.
So there the rest of us are, walking on eggs so as not to upset people who willfully support a guy who, just for a start, is ripping apart environmental programs in ways that could leave people my daughter’s age with a very bleak future. We shut up and they go on controlling the agenda.
I have had it with that, but then again, I think I understand those who support Trudeau’s decision to stay silent that it is one thing for someone like me to slam Trump.
It is quite another if the leader of Canada or some other country does it.
So argue many Canadians, from ordinary citizens to some of the country’s most esteemed political pundits, who feel that Trudeau did the right thing by not saying anything to rattle Trump’s cage at a time when events in his country, from the pandemic to the economic and racial crises, are spinning ever more out of control as a November election approaches.
One of the more common points I have read and heard in support of Trudeau’s silence is that, given how closely tied Canada’s economy is to that of the United States, Trump could pull a tantrum that does a great deal of damage to Canadian businesses and jobs if we do or say anything that makes him mad.
It sounds quite a bit like being parents to a seven-year-old who is such a brat, you are afraid of saying or doing anything that might cause the little monster to tear up all the living room furniture. So once again, the brat controls the agenda.
I’m ready to let the little brat have it, but the bottom line is that Trudeau has many defenders out there for the way he has handled him.
So it came as little surprise that shortly after I posted my June 6th commentary on this, I had a number of well-informed and thoughtful people out there share comments on the NAL site, on Facebook or through an email or phone call to say that as much as they usually agree with my views on subjects, this time they don’t.
Fair enough, and time will tell – I’m afraid – who is right and who is wrong on this one.
Here are a few of the thoughtful responses I received that I am posting again in the space immediately below –
From Linda McKellar, a long-time NAL visitor and a resident of Fort Erie in Niagara, Ontario;
“Doug, here is where I disagree.
If this question was asked of Trump he would blurt out some shit even before the question was finished and then berate the reporter as a loser for asking a nasty question. It is vital to put the brain in gear before opening the mouth. This is called diplomacy, something Trump doesn’t comprehend. It seems being diplomatic is seen as weakness. Diplomacy is not in Trump’s playbook and he is almost universally hated.
The behaviour of Trump is obvious to everyone and needs no highlighting so why poke a hornet’s nest when it will only result in more repercussions? Trump couldn’t care less what Canada thinks and would only respond with one of his childish tantrums. Why bother? He had a hissy fit this week over lobsters and maple syrup! Trudeau would be damned if he chastised Trump and damned if he didn’t. Personally, I was proud of his restraint.
Trudeau showed up in Ottawa at the Black Lives Matters demonstration and was damned for not keeping social distance. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. Meanwhile Trump hid in a bunker behind fences and phalanx of military while ordering firing of rubber bullets and pepper spray on his fellow citizens and refusing to wear a mask. Trump showed up for a photo op at a church. Some will of course accuse Trudeau of doing the same at the protest but he still had the guts to attend. Damned if he showed up, damned if he didn’t.
“It is better for a man to remain silent and appear a fool than to open his mouth and remove all doubt.” ***Samuel Clemens AKA Mark Twain.
Chastising Trump is like flogging a dead horse, unnecessary and futile. He won’t care and his behaviour is obvious to all anyway.”
There was also this one from Linda Sawka, another good visitor to the Niagara At Large site;
“I seldom disagree with your comments, Mr. Draper, but this time, I do. I think Trudeau’s 21 seconds of thought spoke volumes.
Trudeau is speaking on behalf of all Canadians and must, at least at this point in time, choose his words carefully. His silence was as clear to me as it was to most Canadians. Clearly, he disapproves of Trump’s behaviour. He proves that every day by his actions and his deeds.”
Here is my June 6th commentary which is included in the same post as a statement Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made that day to honour Canada’s Second World War veterans on the 76th anniversary of D-Day. You can read it by clicking on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/06/06/canadas-pm-pays-tribute-to-wwii-veterans-on-anniversary-of-d-day-invasion/
Here also is a news video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, joining thousands of others in taking a knee at a June 5th, 2020 anti-racism demonstration in Ottawa. Some can be heard applauding the Prime Minister’s gesture. Others can be heard chanting; Stand up to Trump.” To watch it, click on the screen immediately below –
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