Something I posted on my personal Facebook page after Justin Trudeau became the 23rd Prime Minister of our country has resurfaced, partly in response to his recent, much celebrated visit to Washington to meet with President Obama. Hilde Weisert, an American, became a Facebook friend after she saw my original post, which not only went viral but also found its way into several strangers' blogs.
It was my baptism by fire into the crazy world of Facebook, its lightning speed and immediacy. But it also showed me how tired we were of corruption and mudslinging and dirty, mean-spirited politics, how deeply we craved positivity, civility and hope. How happy we were to finally elect a politician who seemed to practise the sunny ways he preached. Justin Trudeau was bright, modest, thoughtful. And cultured. He knew something about the arts and he embedded it in his discourse.
Yesterday, Hilde re-shared my November post. The latest comments, mainly from Americans, include, "Oh, how wonderful. He just keeps getting better and better." To which Hilde replied, "Adding to the feeling we are living in two different realities." These reactions come on the heels of the fallout in Chicago after protesters clashed with Trump supporters at a Friday night rally. They come in light of the polarizing race for the Republican nomination, an ugly contest that has brought racism, misogyny and hatred to the fore.
I would be wrong to suggest that Canada is squeaky-clean, a model country, bereft of intolerance. I would also be wrong to suggest that the U.S. has gone completely haywire. For now, it has an intelligent leader and a significant portion of the population is broad-minded, thoughtful and horrified at how one man has turned American politics into a dangerous circus. Before this year, who could have ever imagined that someone running for the highest office in the U.S. would bring the size of his penis into the conversation? Who could know that the media, even the mainstream media, would feed so ravenously on it?
Now if an American makes the point that Canada and the U.S. are living in two different realities, I feel I've been given permission to put in my two cents, Canadian. So here it is. There was a time during the Canadian election campaign when I feared the worst, that Stephen Harper would be re-elected and that Canada would continue its decline under his dark and divisive politics. And then a miracle happened. The not-so-little Engine That Could brought his party out of last place status and showed everyone that openness and transparency and sunny ways could triumph. He was right. More things unite us than divide us.
Back in 2012, Justin Trudeau was just a Member of Parliament knocking on doors, listening to ordinary citizens talk about the world they lived in and the world they dreamed of. In March of that year, I was curating a major literary event with Montreal poet Endre Farkas, a centenary celebration of Canada's most renowned poet, Irving Layton. We invited Montreal's stars of poetry to read their favourite Layton poems alongside public figures such as Moses Znaimer (of Zoomer Media) and Mr. Trudeau, who offered personal tributes to the literary icon. (Scroll down for a link to his presentation on YouTube.)
Following the event, Mr. Trudeau sent me a personal thank you note, which became the much-circulated Facebook post last November after he won the election. In it, he references Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is an important reminder that we, voters, have the power to choose leaders that are cultured and respectful, humble and just, leaders who choose the high road over the sinkhole of negativity. It merits reposting, as a message of hope to my American neighbours. Keep fighting the good fight.
Justin Trudeau reads at the Irving Layton Centenary here.