Some people keep strange things behind their furnace. In Huntsville, there was a woman named Winnie Trainor. She was the girlfriend of Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s most famous wilderness artists who died under mysterious and long-contested circumstances. Winnie never married and lived in Huntsville until she expired from old age.
In her later years, behind her furnace on the dirt floor of her basement, was a quart basket with rolled up sketches and paintings by Thomson. Probably worth a fortune. There was a concern expressed by some that they might burn and after she died they disappeared.
In my case, one of the things I have behind our furnace is a framed autographed picture of Donald Trump on the front page of the Toronto Sun, posing with the “sunshine girl”. Across the page he had scrolled, “Hugh, you’re the greatest!” and signed his name.
This was from more than twenty years ago when Donald Trump was competing for a casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and my firm at the time was acting on his behalf. It was an interesting experience, and in the end it was his ego, his inability to focus, and his penchant for conspiracy theories—and not his brilliance as a developer—that did him in. However, all of that is a story for another day.
There are many times, especially in more recent years, when I have been sorely tempted to take Trump’s picture from behind the furnace and (metaphorically speaking) throw it into the furnace. But then, quite recently, Trump has said anyone who has an autograph from him could sell it on eBay for $10,000. And that’s American dollars! Not really a fortune and he is never too fussy about the truth, of course. But still, I should probably check it out before I have it consumed by fire!
As people who are regular readers of this column will know, I am not a fan of the current president of the United States, conservative though he may be. In many ways he frightens me. I believe he is dangerous and unfit for the position he holds. I also fear, in spite of current polls, he will be re-elected or retain his office, and that is most frightening of all.
Most leaders work hard to build people up, to make them feel good about themselves, but Donald Trump does not. He is a bully. Expert opinions mean nothing to him unless, first, they are also his opinions. He thrives on insulting and ridiculing people and tearing down well-earned reputations of those who dare to disagree with him. Truth means nothing to him.
Donald Trump has said there are “good people” in organizations like the white supremacists. He defends people, organizations, and even governments who most of us would view as repugnant as long as their support or clandestine activities support and help him. His moral compass never stops spinning. Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump.
And yet Donald Trump leads one of the most powerful and strident political movements ever seen in the United States of America. His core is strong and loyal. He has an iron grip on the Republican and conservative establishment. People who are well aware of his character, his temperament, and his abuse of power still flock to him. During this COVID-19 pandemic, some are literally dying to see him. They have blinders on instead of masks and, to them, he can do no wrong. This is what I find frightening and difficult to understand.
I find it particularly hard to understand or forgive Donald Trump’s self-serving approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. He denies science, he down-plays the seriousness of the virus, he enables those who reject masks and social distancing, and to a degree he encourages civil unrest. I have no doubt that there is a correlation between this and the fact that on a per capita basis there are twice as many deaths from COVID-19 in the United States than there are in Canada. How can anyone believe that this is acceptable leadership?
I have heard from people I know, good people, who defend at least some aspects of Donald Trump’s administration. Some for example, say he has done a great deal for the Christian church. I have tried to understand that but cannot help concluding that he actually lacks what I understand to be Christian values and that he is only using the church and religion of any type for his own political purposes. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have trouble with that.
Two events during the past week have gained much public attention. One is the nomination by President Trump of Amy Coney Barrett as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. There has been a hue and cry about this especially because her predecessor is not yet even in the ground. I do worry that the SCOTUS is being stacked to reflect far-right views that can adversely affect the rights of women and minority groups.
The haste to replace Justice Ginsberg is unseemly but not surprising. It is what politicians do when they are committed to a certain agenda and when they may be running out of time. It doesn’t just happen in the United States. It has happened here in Canada. The real test will come, as it thankfully did with Chief Justice Roberts, when Justice Coney Barrett must decide while adjudicating a decision whether she is her own person or a captive of the political establishment. We will have to wait and see.
The really scary thing that happened this week is the inference by the President of the United States that he would not necessarily leave the White House if he lost the election this November. His supporters dismiss his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power as bombastic rhetoric in response to an unreasonable question from the media. But it’s not.
Never in our history have we heard that from a president of the United States. It is a danger to Americans and if you think about it, it is a danger to Canadians.
Donald Trump is a despot. He craves power, he shuns opposition, and he avoids accountability like the plague. He has laid the groundwork for challenging the election, no matter the actual outcome, through undermining the credibility of mail-in ballots during the pandemic and by his public inference that the Supreme Court, in the event of a challenge, will have his back. He has also hinted rather strongly at a third term in office.
Americans have a tough choice this November. One candidate has visions of omnipotence and the other is somewhat past his best-before date.
I don’t agree with some of what Joe Biden stands for, but I believe him to be a decent man with a track record of collaboration and compromise, who believes in the equality of every individual, and who is a person to whom integrity is important. Some of my conservative friends will disagree with me but if I were voting in the United States, I could live with that.
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