Letters and Diary Non-Fiction posted November 10, 2016


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My six-day political diary

My Political Oddyssey

by Spiritual Echo


Written over a six-day period, this diary wraps up my political fascination with the US election. Sunday I will return to my own country without any further interest in the fall-out of American democracy.

To say I don't care what happens anymore would be inaccurate and unkind. However, no matter that Americans might believe it's their country to govern, the ramifications of US policies and actions are felt around the world.

I'm laying down my boxing gloves, blocking CNN, and looking forward to drinking a decent beer.

Home: The word means the same thing in any language.

Part One: Preparing for my US trip

A self-admitted political junkie, far from an expert, I have been obsessed by the United States election. However it plays out, it will be a historical event. I suspect America will elect its first female president, but there is also the possibility the world will wake up on November 9th to discover a new kid on the block. The possibility of Trump Nation terrifies some, and fires the imagination of others. It's a close race.

The lengthy election cycle, riddled with scandals and theatrical plays for power, has become one of the dirtiest campaigns ever waged. American children, once encouraged to watch debates for a lesson in the democratic process, have been shielded from televisions. Rallies, seeded with political mercenaries, have erupted into violence; reality television at its best. Or, am I mistake? At its worst?

My political appetite leans to the left, a laissez faire attitude. Live and let live, support the weakest members of society with social programs, but the minimum amount of interference in the lives of a country's citizens.

I have strong opinions about assault weapons and common sense gun control, gender, racial and religious equality and freedoms. Ditto for women's rights to make personal reproduction decisions, but this is not my election, and I have often been reminded American values are not my business. Still, if I were an American, I'd likely need to register as a Libertarian, but I'm not an American. As a Canadian, my right to vote in my country is not registered naming party affiliation--thank God.

We experienced our longest election cycle ever in 2015--seventy-six days. Near the end of the campaign, I became weary of the rhetoric. Imagine if we had an eighteen-month barrage of promises and lies. But, when given the opportunity to be in America on November 8th, I accepted the invitation with glee.

In the back of my mind, I juggled the possibility of a violent aftermath to the election. There is no question that if Clinton succeeds, there will be repercussions. Already people, on camera, have sworn to do their patriotic duty under the provisions in the second amendment, and take Hillary out.

Based on the hate and bigotry Trump has successfully harvested, this is a real concern. Moreover, I will be staying smack in the middle of Republican territory. It is the risk I'm taking by crossing the border. I tell myself I'm going to America, our benevolent and cherished cousin, not the Middle East, but even without Trump stoking the flames, violence, senseless killings and domestic terrorism continue to be front page news. My journey begins very early, Friday morning.

Part Two: Crossing the Border

It's no surprise that Timmy's--Tim Horton's for the uninitiated--is the last beacon before the border crossing. For many Canadians, the double-double they order at the donut house, represents their final attachment to Canada, a unique cup of java they know will be impossible to replicate in the United States. Bull shit. But, this brand has become so successfully integrated into the Canadian landscape, for many travellers it is a sacrifice they need to make before crossing into America.

I smoke a cigarette, pray for the nicotine and caffeine to kick in, and get back into the SUV. I'm travelling in style, in a Nissan, Infinity, complete with a chauffeur who is prepared to drive the distance. Not only is the driver a knowledgeable tour guide, she is also my friend. We cross into New York before the sun rises.

The border is an invisible line, yet a mere footstep defines a change in cultural values. Canadian patriotism runs deep, but is understated. The familiar maple leaf flag adorns public buildings, but is rarely seen in neighbourhoods or commercial businesses.

There may be a shortage of flagpoles in our country entirely due to US consumption. The American flag, proudly flown, seems to serve no other purpose than to remind people they are on American soil; in an empty field, marking an overpass, and often an adornment on vehicles.

I'm expecting evidence of the upcoming election. None. Instead of the tacky signs that pollute the Canadian landscape during our election cycle, I am treated to gorgeous scenery beside some of the best and virtually empty highways I've ever seen. By the time we reach our overnight destination, we've travelled through four states, and have the promise of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains in the morning.

It's been a spectacular ride, and I take a moment to remind myself that my day was spent in a corridor, not the country itself. If I were to form an opinion based on my limited glance at the view, I'd be dead wrong. An infrastructure problem? Hey, not that I saw. Of course, I'm comparing the smooth ride to the winter-ravished highways of Canada, conveniently forgetting I'm in a temperate climate unlikely to produce a crop of spring potholes. The perfect analogy, and often the insular way people form opinions--based on personal experience. If we'd taken an exit ramp, the story would change when we hit the first town.

In the morning, I turn on the TV. Holy shit! It's not even Sunday and three stations are broadcasting Evangelical sermons at 6AM. I definitely need coffee and a smoke.

Part three: The calm before the storm

We've arrived at our final destination, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The weather is fantastic, a temperate 70 degrees--21 degrees Celsius, for my Canadian buddies. Even the ocean is warm enough to walk in the surf, though the shark's teeth left behind on the beach by the outgoing tide would dissuade me regardless of air temperature. Long-range forecasts promise a week of sunshine.

Clinton's losing her voice and Trump was hustled off stage when someone in the audience yelled 'gun'. The secret service reacts immediately and efficiently. A protester explains: Carrying a sign, 'Republicans against Trump', he was targeted by other audience members.

"Thank God the secret service reacted so quickly or I might have been beaten to a pulp,'' the protester tells the reporter interviewing him after the incident. Minutes later, Trump Jr. sends out a tweet about an 'assassination attempt.' I sigh.

With two days until the election, it hardly seems worthwhile turning on the TV. Everything that could be said must surely have hit the news wire.

Part Four: Election Day

It seems like an ordinary day, but of course it isn't. Yet, everything seems normal, exactly like yesterday. Pick-up trucks cruise the streets, their cargo a wealth of election signs. Trump! Trump! Trump! They hammer in the pickets on the signs, lining them up to lead to the polling booth. I promise myself I'll take one back to Canada as a memento of my trip to South Carolina, but not until tomorrow. I wouldn't dare try removing the advertisement before decision day. Even I sense a creeping paranoia about what will happen if Trump doesn't win. No one expects a gracious loser. Then again, it never crosses my mind the Republican Party might survive the fractures of its own divisiveness.

My grandson, only eleven years old, has requested I bring a Trump bobble-head home. His only other request is a shark's tooth. To me, they are almost one and the same, but I am delighted when I find the Trump collectable. In a tongue-in-cheek decision, I E-mail home my intention to dine with rapists and murderers, planning to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The margaritas are watered down, but business is brisk in the cantina. The television sets over the bar are all tuned in to a ballgame. No one seems interested in the election.

By the time we get back to the condo, early results are starting to be tallied. I watch party colours appear on the map; the bold red states--anticipated--are not a surprise, but when Florida is declared for Trump, my heart sinks. Wisconsin follows suit. With Ohio gone to Trump, Pennsylvania is a nail-biting challenge. Anybody could win, and someone does. By midnight, a Democratic victory is improbable. Suddenly dirt-tired, I can't watch any more. I go to bed, but turn on the TV, expecting the sound of Trump's voice, his victory speech, to penetrate my gloomy sleep and rouse me from my stupefied state of exhaustion.

Part five: The Aftermath

I wake up feeling despondent, sorrowful for Hillary's loss, saddened that Obama's legacy will soon be shredded. This election is a closure of the Obama era. I am certain Americans have had little appreciation for how hard his mandate became when faced with massive congressional opposition. He never
gave up faith. He never had a temper tantrum. Instead, we watched his hair turn grey. Only time will record his contribution. My sincere hope is that history will be kind to the 44th president. Yes, I was a fan.

The speeches are complete; the transfer of power already begun. From this day forward, the president-elect will receive presidential briefings, be privy to the most sensitive and highly classified information. Do I think The Donald can be trusted with World secrets? It doesn't matter what I think. What I know for sure is that Trump can do nothing about the information for another two months--small mercies.

I've been told repeatedly that what happens in The United States is none of my business. Ironically, I received an E-Mail from my financial advisor telling me not to panic about the sudden crash in the stock market. Nothing to do with me? You think? My investments tanked out overnight. Sure, they'll come back--probably, but there are no guarantees, are there?

A second E-mail came from my son, telling me the Canadian Immigration site crashed last night because of the overload of Americans looking for information to relocate. Why not? If we can successfully integrate twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees, it should be no problem accommodating a few million Americans looking for a safe place to park their boots. We've done it before. Thousands of Viet Nam resistors made Canada home.

Single Canadian men and women are already capitalizing on this US 'flight-or-fight' survival strategy, offering to marry--for a fee-- and thereby fast track landed immigrant status. Moreover, it really doesn't matter the gender; same-sex marriage has been legal for over ten years in Canada.

The jokes are still flying, but nothing seems funny right now. In the aftermath, it's impossible not to walk away without a backward glance.

Hillary Clinton was the most knowledgeable, well-prepared candidate that has ever stood up and asked for the presidency, but she was still a woman. There is absolutely no question in my mind her gender was a factor in the election--none--and it was her handicap with just as many women as it was men.

Crooked Hillary--now there's an election victory. The name-calling label attachments worked--every candidate was gifted with his personal moniker. 'Lock her up,' the crowds screamed. All this in conjunction with an illegal server? Did she put her country in jeopardy? I'd have to say yes, she did. BUT, nothing happened--nothing. Back in the day, and this offense is at least twenty years old, no one knew about hacking. She didn't contrive or conspire to put America at risk. The bottom line, she screwed up--NOTHING HAPPENED.

She needed to cry, beg forgiveness, be contrite, but her stalwart strength worked against her, and in my mind, the theatrics might have helped. Ben Ghazi? A tragedy, but not the only one during this relentless and often hopeless tangle in the Mid-East. And, more importantly, there were others involved in these decisions. She took the fall, accepted the responsibility, but America could not forgive. She didn't cry. The damn bitch didn't act like a girl.

Hillary Clinton was judged against a standard that Trump has never came close to approaching. Forgiven for every blunder, bigotry and misogyny, racial and gender slurs, the man has been elected. I am confused, but not really. America chose an ignorant buffoon over an intelligent woman and called it democracy.

Trump has promised to wipe out--overturn--all of Obama's executive orders, dismantle Obama care and cut taxes for wealthy corporations from 35% to 15%, a trickle down economic policy that didn't work for Bush. Good luck with that America.

Part Six: Tomorrow and tomorrow and the days ahead

Few Canadians live in an intellectual vacuum. We pay attention to America, but the same can't be said in reverse. We receive unbiased coverage on National News. Some of us dig deeper, switch over to American networks, including CNN or Fox for a partisan view of the issues. After years of front-row viewing, I consider myself reasonably well-informed. Most Americans think of Canada as a block of land that has yet to be annexed to the US. They know very little about their neighbours and seem to care less.

I heard America referred to as a 'headline' nation, and understood why, for perhaps the first time, why accusations about a rigged media might be true. There is no question the media gave Trump unprecedented coverage. The free advertising was something he bragged about at the beginning of his campaign then turned into a persecution. Trump's daily gaffes were reported while Clinton's flaws became old news. Until the late-breaking news of E-mails on Anthony Weiner's computer was reported last week, there was nothing new to say about Hillary Clinton. Trump's daily specials, his continual conveyer belt of inflammatory comments, fed the hungry news cycle. Yes, you'd think a flow of negative publicity might influence the vote, but did it, Donald? Today you're President-Elect. I'd say that clearly shows your followers are hungry for more trash talk. I'm sure you won't disappoint.

On the other hand, Coney's unprecedented announcement of potential new evidence against Clinton, uncovered in an on-going investigation unrelated to the election, might have shaken up a few folks. When ever has the head of the FBI stood up in front of a microphone to inform the public about the bureau's secret work? Do I hear--never? His retraction was equally distracting. Even more fascinating; Rudy Giuliani's hand-rubbing announcement days before Coney's announcement of news coming down the chute. Answer that one, Rudy. Or maybe he won't need to as a member of Trump's cabinet.

In the early days of the campaign, I couldn't believe Trump would survive the primaries, and found his antics and foul comments amusing, just as I did when Archie Bunker became television's darling bigot a few decades ago. It stopped being funny when thousands began to show up at his rallies. As an outsider, I wrote several commentaries that garnered me little favour. I found it impossible to accept there were so many Americans prepared to follow AND VOTE for such an ignorant man. My dismay did not come from unearthing a hate-filled candidate, but the followers, the lemmings who were prepared to follow him to the edge of the cliff. My criticism of Trump inevitably brought forward accusations that I was anti-American. Not so--anti Trump. Even with his victory, I find the man's election victory a disgrace to intelligence. I am having serious difficulty avoiding name-calling--thinking half of the American voters are just plain stupid. Unfortunately, whether global opinion is of any relevance to the average American, mine is not a solitary reaction. The world is still reeling in shock.

I've read, and tend to believe, Putin was among the first to telephone and offer Trump his congratulations. Funny, in my day, we were taught to hide under our desks at the mention of the USSR, but I suspect in the years to come, Russia may become America's new best friend. How very sad.

Twenty-four hours after the election, thousands are marching in the streets. 'Not my president.' The mantra is encouraging, only in that it proves intelligent life still exists in America and wants to be heard. Kudos for their voices, echoing around the globe, the protests might be enough to retain some respect in the International community--maybe.

My travelling companion believes every Trump promise will be retracted. Already Trump has removed his policy statement about deporting Muslims from the web site. In the months to come, I suspect there will be other flip-flops. Some he may blame on the Obama regime. In most cases, I doubt he'll feel the need for accountability. It has been my belief that Trump has never wanted to serve. He wanted to win--that's it. If forced to do the job, he will condescend to rule--not serve. Yeah, get ready for a ride, America.

Perhaps he'll never get the chance to do either. After all, in less than two weeks, he will be in court defending fraud charges in conjunction with Trump University. Imagine the historical significance of a president-elect on trial, even before he has taken office. Pence may be boning up on foreign policy, even as I tap on the keyboard. Paul Ryan's good friend may be called upon much sooner than expected.

I've enjoyed my time as a guest in your great country, America. I've fulfilled my tourist expectations leaving behind an investment in your economy--a hard vacation choice with a 40% difference in the Canadian dollar.

In some ways, I believe I've completed my political detoxification during the last week, no longer attracted to the repercussions of American democracy. I wish you well. I'm done. Not my president.

As a final aside, if any of you are truly so despondent over the results and are serious about relocating to Canada, please know you will be welcomed. Canadians DON'T hate Americans, or Mexicans, or Muslims, or... It'll never be home, we know that, but we'll do our very best to make you feel it is a safe refuge.
















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Odyssey, in title, is deliberately misspelled.
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