02.07.2017 01:17 AM

This week’s column: is it racism if half your neighbours support it?

“He’s doing what he said he was going to do. Let them protest.”

The unlikely scene: a drinking establishment somewhere in the Dominican Republic. Two American men are perched on stools at the bar, watching a satellite TV report — from Long Island, New York, of all places — showing footage of multiple American protests about Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

One of the American men had said: “He sure is stirring up a lot of shit.” His drinking buddy, as noted, is undaunted. (I, meanwhile, am listening in, pretending to be waiting for a drink for my wife that has already been delivered.)

The indifferent one shrugs and pulls on his beer. He grunts. “I don’t have a problem with it.”

Neither, as it turns out, do the majority of Americans. When I returned to my thirsty spouse, I checked the Internet. You can do likewise, and this is what you’ll find.

Reuters/Ipsos: The two firms polled a bunch of Americans right after the Unpresident attached his signature to the now-infamous executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries. Half — 49 per cent — agreed or strongly agreed with what Trump had done. Only 41 per cent disagreed. A third said it actually made them feel “more safe.” And get this: 52 per cent of self-identified Democrats agreed with Trump’s move.

Quinnipiac University: There, the same sort of depressing results: 48 per cent with Trump, 42 per cent against. Said the pollsters: “American voters support suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.”

Rasmussen: In this one, Trump did even better. In the wake of the decision, Rasmussen found that a whopping 57 per cent of Americans agreed, some strongly, with what the Groper-in-Chief had done. Only 33 per cent were against it. The Daily and Sunday Express in Britain headlined that the Rasmussen results were “a shock.”

But they’re not. Not to anyone who has been paying attention, anyway.

Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment isn’t just popular: it’s sweeping the planet. It’s why Brexit happened last June. It’s why Donald Trump happened last November. And it’s why up here in little old Canada — the now-aptly-monikered Great White North — that the likes of Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary have stubbornly stuck to their Trump-Lite guns.

As Leitch’s former campaign manager kept telling everyone before resigning late last week — and said former campaign manager has multiple members of his immediate family who are practicing Muslims, is married to an immigrant, is the son of immigrants and belongs to a family that is working to sponsor Syrian refugees, by the by — two-thirds of Canadians are onside. No less than the Toronto Star, never a paragon of conservative ideals, says so:

“Two-thirds of Canadians want prospective immigrants to be screened for ‘anti-Canadian’ values, a new poll reveals, lending support to an idea that is stirring controversy in political circles,” The Star reported in September. “Sixty-seven per cent [say] immigrants should indeed be screened for ‘anti-Canadian values.'”

Oh, and Liberals and New Democrats? Among them, 57 and 59 per cent, respectively, agreed with what Leitch has been saying about screening immigrants and refugees.

Apologies, here, for the myriad numbers. Apologies, too, for thoroughly depressing my already-discouraged progressive friends.

But the facts are becoming undeniable, folks. Sure, Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, fascistic creep. But the fact is that he won the election precisely by being the anti-immigrant candidate.

Fact two: it is not necessarily racist to want a debate about immigration and refugee policy. It isn’t.

That’s what I wrote more than 20 years ago in my book about racism, Web of Hate. It’s not wrong to have an objective, fact-based debate about how to deal with a massive influx of dispossessed people in the West.

What’s wrong, however, is to do it as Trump has done in the space of just a few days: by pledging to put up walls, and by dislocating tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens who happen to have been born somewhere else. It’s wrong, too, to play dog-whistle politics, promising to keep out those with “values” we dislike.

And it’s wrong, of course, to pepper a pro-refugee Facebook page with racist bile — and, then, when that isn’t enough, to go pick up a semi-automatic and gun down six innocent people at prayer in Québec City.

Citizens everywhere clearly want to have a debate about immigrants and refugees. Some are worried, some are scared. Some are racists, but some actually aren’t.

We in Canada can certainly have such a debate, but not in the way Trump is doing it, of course, or the way in which Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary want to do it, and not, particularly, because we in any way agree with the Brexit and Trump cabal.

Because we want to keep them from taking over here, too.


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    MikeTO says:

    A friend from Grad School, who was then a Jacobin, put it to me like this (imperfect quote); “Nation busting is the Union busting of the 21st century. Capital – in the form of banks, large co’s and gov’t, ship in mass amounts of foreign labour, willing to work for less, in sub-standard conditions, and driving up demand for housing and services, allowing banks to charge more interest for the same product as people have to borrow, borrow, borrow just to survive” Still thinking about this but it is blowing my mind, especially when I think of housing prices in our cities, the uncertainty of work for the young and the ever-rising levels of household debt carried by Canadians.

    The project seems to be working.

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      daveconstable says:

      Interesting idea!
      I was just looking at an article on union organization in USA, 10% generally, less than 7% in the private sector. Unions basically are for collective bargaining, but they also serve as a way for working people to develop a ‘voice.’ They have an education side. Without that education side, working people would look for a voice in talk media, and in politics that are doing well in USA just now, from state capitols to the presidency.
      What you and your Grad School friend suggest would similarly set up people who feel adrift for any saviour who comes by.

      On a current issue which is drawing my ire, electoral reform to give us more accurate representation in our self governance, the same lack of an education function by our nation’s government would work the same way. If a secretive group, like the PMO, is constantly doing what lobbyists get them to do, the Canadians generally, alienated from their own governance, would fell alienated from taking part in that self governance.
      Lobbyists and party big shots who benefit from the present system would naturally say what they have to to maintain a system that gives them all power with about 25% of the vote from eligible voters.

      …do I ramble? Very well, I ramble. My mind is similarly blown by the possibilities in the idea you have passed on to us here.

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    Peter says:

    I can understand why people are up in arms over deporting visa holders and others with a lawful right to be in the country, and I agree with them. I can understand why people object to banning residents from failed, hostile states, and I agree with them (we used to welcome anybody who could get out of hostile totalitarian states). I even understand the poignant angst over deporting illegals who have been in the country for a long time and the attraction of amnesties. But I cannot understand why these issues get conflated so seamlessly with the wall. Who other than potential illegals are going to be affected by this and why is that so bad? What basic right or even higher human impulse is being violated? Is it the symbolism? Would folks feel better if it were called a fence?

    Apparently about two thousand people entered Canada last year irregularly, meaning they crossed fields at night, etc. Increase that to two million and watch what happens to our openness and tolerance. As I watch all these upsetting, worrisome events in the States and Europe, I’m always left with the same question: When are progressives going to find a way to show that they mean it when they agree there must be limits and how to they propose we enforce them?

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    Jason says:

    I spent six weeks in America back in 2004 (It was the last six weeks of the election campaign). When I asked some of the normal people I was working with about the campaign, they had a very protectionist view. They basically said that they were tired of being the world’s police, bankers, bakers, and leaders. They wanted to look inwards, not outwards. That was in 2004! Add to that the financial crisis, ISIS attacks , etc. and one can see why Trump succeeded in becoming President. Not saying it’s right, but until the root causes of this are dealt with, People will continue to support Trump and his extreme policies.

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    Aongasha says:

    Sorry, don’t get the O’leary reference. Even the CBC and other left-leaning media types agree on their panels etc. that O’Leary is not a Trump, racist or anti-immigrant. Most folks would agree. Now I can understand that as a Liberal you might find many faults in him as a CPC leadership candidate, but these points seem to be quite a stretch.

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    Kevin T. says:

    My apologies for geek-ing, but damn, after reading this, I immediately thought of this exchange:
    Luke: Vader… Is the dark side stronger?
    Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

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