Mr Trump, Can We Talk?

In his one-man, head-long, crusade to “Make America Great Again” US President Donald Trump seems about to usher in a nuclear war with North Korea. And there is a whole sector of the American populace – those who voted for him – who think he’s doing the right thing. That’s the scary part. This summer millions of Americans will watch the Hollywood movie, “Dunkirk,” a sobering film about the Allied defeat and retreat across the English Channel at the beginning of World War II. One wonders if Trump will get the message? That the posturing of Empire and Reich for power, territory and honour led to untold deaths of
sons, husbands and fathers, and to generations of deeply scarred men trying to recover their humanity. Sitting with a group of immigrants to Canada I listened to the story of a high school age young man who was recently arrived from Syria. A question was asked of all, “what is
something that you brought with you to remind you of your homeland?” One woman from Latin America spoke of a piece of clothing, traditional in her country, that her mother had made for her. A man from South Asia had brought a picture of his parents to hang on the wall of his new home. An African young woman had a wrinkled and folded postcard of the Eiffel Tower in Paris; she had hung onto that card along the refugee highway as a symbol of hope for a different kind of future. A very old woman from Eastern Europe had managed to hang onto a Bible that had a record of the genealogy of her family for many generations. The high school student from Syria said, “I have nothing – we fled so fast in the face of bombings all around us. I only have my memories.” And he began to weep. We are living in the midst of one of the largest mass migrations in human history. People are moving “from everywhere to everywhere.” For many reasons, of course. Some for education or job opportunities. Some to join family who have already moved. Some for differences of political opinion. Many for reasons of displacement because of ongoing conflict or outright war. All of this moving and shifting, for whatever reasons, has an impact on the human psyche and the development of healthy self-understanding. Children and young people who are shifting and moving with family members, whether for economic reasons or the outcome of war, are impacted. Most often negatively. And there are millions of them. A year ago, four months before Trump’s election, political essayist and noted author Pankaj Mishra wrote an article for The NewYorker entitled, “How Rousseau Predicted Trump.” In the article Mishra discusses the life of Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, a French social philosopher in the mid-1700s who was born the son of a craftsman, lost his mother shortly after his birth, was never formally educated, and left abandoned by his father at age 10. From these humble beginnings, Rousseau rose to challenge and frustrate the social and political elite of his day. In his years of mature reflection, he also had a closeup view of the European global powers in conflict during the Seven Years War. Mishra’s point is that Rousseau’s life and writings reflect the world-view of common people who feel slighted, even condescended to, by the ruling elites and who have been profoundly impacted by changing societal conditions. Mishra concludes his essay by making a direct application to America and, by ex-tension, to the globalizing world in which we live: “It is uprooted people with Rousseau’s complex wounds who have periodically made and unmade the modern world with their demands for radical equality and cravings for stability. There will be many more of them, it is safe to say, as billions of young people in Asia and Africa negotiate the maelstrom of progress.”That was the recipe in America that produced Trump as president, and look out, it’s a perspective that is circling the globe. White,
heartland Americans who felt like outsiders or strangers in their own country because of prevailing ideas about who was welcome and who wasn’t. Hispanic peoples, who make up almost one third of the American population, likewise feeling like outsiders and not welcomed. Muslims, from Europe, the East and Asia, who were once welcomed, now since 9/11,seen as strangers and outsiders.

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