What You Do Is The Doing

The morning Trump won, I recorded celebratory messages for my baby granddaughters about Hillary’s presidency; twenty-four hours later, devastated, I was unsure whether or not to erase them, but they indicated a point in time where my hope of living to see a woman president in my lifetime still lived, so I didn’t.

People around me said I should stop paying so much attention to the US, given I was a Canadian in Vancouver. I thought I wasn’t paying enough attention, and I should sharpen my understanding of the US political system. Knowledge is power. Our border is porous to everything, not least ideologies.

Hate crimes were suddenly everywhere. Yes, in Vancouver. Yes, in Canada. I was accosted for being disabled; swastikas made their reappearance even though I thought we had eradicated them like smallpox. Racist rants were filmed. A gay man was bashed. There was leafletting for white supremacy, said to flow from one or other of one hundred “alt-right” groups in Canada. Six men worshipping in a mosque were slaughtered by a Trump supporter who hated women.

My country has always been a racist sewer (we interned the Japanese; our treatment of aboriginals is barbaric) but Trump ruptured our pavement and it’s burbling up now.

Once, I considered becoming American, but instead I returned to Canada. I used to have a green card, and lived among you my beginning adult years. I am yours, for better or worse, and you are a little bit mine.
I got a green card in the seventies after marrying an American, applying to the US consulate in Winnipeg from St Louis. My husband and I putted across Kansas bound for Phoenix in a rusty orange Vega as Nixon resigned. I received a letter that my immigration papers had been lost en route to the US consulate in Vancouver, which now had jurisdiction, and a couple days before Christmas, I was called into ICE and deported. “My application’s in process!” I cried and the officer said, “My job is to deport you.” He stamped down the verdict and I burst into tears. In those days (probably only if you were Caucasian, young and attractive, from Canada) they gave you ten days to relinquish your life. But then I heard … an immediate appointment had been granted in Vancouver. It was the day before Christmas, and there was scarcely any way to get north. I had no money. I begged from friends. Because of holiday traffic, I had to change planes six times. I stood in the US Embassy in Vancouver with my hand on a Bible I didn’t believe in and vowed not to enter the US to be either a prostitute or a lesbian.

We’ve been through ten years of a guy a lot like Pence running Canada in the person of bible-thumping wrong-wing Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ruthless, vindictive, small of spirit, he muzzled and fired scientists, permanently discarding years of federally funded research. Researchers were stopped in the field, fired and informed their years of research was being destroyed and they could not keep their data. He got rid of the long form census and made the short form census voluntary, leaving the population bewildered about marriage, divorce, poverty, unemployment, immigration, education and marginalized communities, and rendering many communities statistically invisible. Online portals to Indigenous resources disappeared. Women’s funding was stripped. He weakened or discarded environmental laws, with science about the oil sands thrown into dumpsters. He curtailed media access. He introduced omnibus bills where 700 pages of legislation was shoved through with one parliamentary vote—so much legislation, I’ve heard that even his own Conservative Members of Parliament often didn’t know what they were voting in. Buried in it could be anything. The press usually got the omnibus bills a day or two before they were voted on, but not in time to report on everything. A fundie, Harper was said to believe in Armageddon. There was no need for rights or regulations since his family, in the inevitable eventuality, would be lifted into the promised land. Canadians couldn’t resist him effectively with so much coming at us all at once. Any time we marshalled ourselves for an action, there would be another twenty, fifty, eighty assaults we let wave in the wind.

What you do is the doing. What Canada does is the echo (while, simultaneously, we have our own, echoless doing). Here in my part of the echo, the queer, disabled, feminist part, I’m still struggling. I love your resistance. Here we resist with a sense of impotence, knowing we can’t really influence what’s going on south of our border. We resist the tentacles of it where we can—pulling down hate posters, visiting mosques with messages of grief and solidarity, keeping up the fight against pipelines. I won’t cross your border until this is over.

We wish we could do more.
We wish we could do everything.

Jane Eaton Hamilton is the Canadian author of nine books, including the novel “Weekend.” Their work has appeared in the NY Times and Salon, and is upcoming at The Sun. janeeatonhamilton.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *