Your Friend Next-door
Why am I doing this?
If this were a podcast, I’d be starting with a performative sigh. I didn’t want to do this. While I’m not someone who keeps his political opinions to himself or shies from argument and conflict, the Trump years sort of broke me. I quit Facebook, utterly exhausted with trading barbs with idiots. I’ve watched Twitter from afar with growing horror. I’m not an Instagram guy, can’t stand TikTok, and whilst I’m old enough to have a MySpace page, I let that particular innovation pass me by. But I think that there's a deep flaw in my personality: if I can’t at least comment on the deluge of insanity and stupidity our current age disgorges like a malfunctioning firehose, I suspect I’m going to explode. I didn’t want to do this. But I need to.
I can’t help but care about American politics. Partly this is practical: the vast majority of Canadians live within a couple hours drive of the US border! America is our biggest trading partner! We consume vast quantities of your media and products! The US is a hyper-power and anything that happens in your country has terrible implications for the rest of the world! But I’ve a more esoteric reason for my interest as well: I feel sort of responsible for you. If my dad's amateur genealogy is accurate, I’m descended from a Founding Father, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Not one of the famous ones. If I said his name, odds are good you couldn't name the colony he signed for. Still, if we bear any responsibility for our ancestors’ choices - debatable - then what’s going on in American politics is sort of my inheritance. I can’t ignore it. And since I can’t do anything directly to affect American politics from where I sit, I decided to write about it.
I’ve been talking around my own politics for a couple paragraphs now, so I should probably state them plainly. I’m a centrist, with a lean to the left. In terms of our own party politics, I’m usually a Liberal voter. I often describe myself as a “Marxist-Tory”, partly because the term doesn’t exactly mean anything, partly because it confuses whomever I’m speaking with long enough for me to state my case, and partly because it’s accurate. My critiques of the inequities in our society are legion, but I favour slow, gradual, incremental solutions. I’m a First Nations reparationist, pro-Union (though happy to criticize Unions), and multicultural, probably owing to my own multiracial heritage. Our present era disdains centrism and moderation as “squishy”, and I certainly understand that critique. Ideological purity is a lot more psychologically satisfying than compromise. Heck, “compromise” is almost treated as an insult or slur in our contemporary political vernacular. But compromise is what you need to actually live with other people who disagree with you. Even the MAGA types. (oh, you think we don’t have them in Canada? of course it doesn't make sense that we’re swamped by MAGA weirdos up here! when has that ever stopped them?) As should be obvious by now, I’m also strongly anti-Trump. You would think there wouldn’t be that many pro-Trump Canadians. You would be wrong.
The other major force that informs my political outlook is my Atheism. I’m not the Atheist I once was. I was angrier, more confrontational, less willing to believe the religious were arguing in good faith (pun intended). Getting older drained away some of the venom. I’m still willing ro engage on the topic - and I think religion and politics have a symbiotic/mutually-parasitic relationship - but it doesn’t drive my own politics as much as it once did. Still, there will occasionally be explicitly Atheist discussions on here, and it’s one of the lenses through which I view the world.
I’m not going to claim that this is going to be dry and analytical. There are too many emotions mixed up in politics for discussions of it to be purely objective, and right now, living in Canada feels like standing on my porch watching my neighbor wander around his yard, naked and smeared in what might he mud and might be blood, as he stockpiles alligators, kerosene and ammunition, worriedly wondering if I should call someone. It’s going to be a journal and a journey, a record of my passage through this age. And while I can’t help but be a little performative in my writing, ultimately, I’m doing this for me. Because I need to. Because I have to try to make sense of the madness of our time.
Welcome to the desperate middleground. We’re having high tea in no-man's land.
You and I are a lot alike. Different in some ways (I'm certainly no Marxist, for example), but I can relate to a lot of what you say here. Atheist? Check. Anti-Trump? Check. Left of center squish? Check.
I will say that I am staunchly anti-"heritage" in the sense you describe here. You say that your responsibility as a descendent of a Founding Father is "debatable". Here's my contribution to the debate - to me it's anathema to the principles of individuality, which are foundational to Western thinking (sadly in decline on the American left). We do not hold people responsible for the sins of their ancestors. That's the stuff of blood feuds and ethnic conflict. As an American, I've seen enough of the deleterious effects of "white guilt" on society. Arguably it served a purpose for a time, but one needn't feel personally responsible for something in order to see that a wrong needs to be righted. And now it has become a toxic element of modern progressivism, suppressing what should be an uncontroversial opposition to a dangerous strain of illiberalism in leftist thinking. And I say this as a Euro-mongrel whose ancestors weren't even here during the time of slavery - so even though I'm white, I could easily justify an exemption from any inherited responsibility. But nobody should have to.
So suffice it to say, I don't think you should feel any responsibility for the sins of my country based on your birth. I think you have a far better justification in taking an active interest in America: you are a citizen of what we loosely call the "free world", and like it or not, America is ... *consults experts* ... yes, it seems we are still, more or less, the leader of the free world. Canada may not be perfect, but in many ways you set a good example for America - and believe me, it does not go unnoticed. So keep doing that, and learn from our mistakes.