Slam the Door and Lock and Latch It!
The week past saw yet another horrendous murder that made international headlines, this time in England. Jo Cox, a rising star in British politics and a Member of Parliament, was shot down in front of her Constituency office, apparently by some far right nut bar opposed to Great Britain remaining in the European Union. “Britain first,” he is reported to have shouted as he ended this young and fruitful life. This is a tragic symptom of isolationism that seems to be creeping into many parts of our society.
In Britain, this trend toward isolationism is reflected in the Brexit Referendum that is to be held this week to decide whether Great Britain will stay within the European Union. It is too close to call. Those who want to leave the EU resent imposed policies from Brussels, most particularly as they relate to immigration and climate change. Those who want to remain in the EU believe Britain’s economy will collapse if they leave, with trade opportunities greatly diminished and the British pound devalued. A bright young friend of mine who lives in Sweden believes that an exit vote by Britain will eventually lead to the collapse of the entire European Union. The economic consequences of this would be extremely serious and spread well beyond Europe.
Jo Cox was a strong supporter of keeping Britain in the EU, as are many other Labour and Conservative politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron. It may well be that her murder will swing the referendum in that direction. One way or the other, however, it will be a close call and it clearly reflects that many in that country are willing to close their doors and damn the consequences.
Isolationism has also reared its head in the United States, primarily in the persona of Donald Trump. He will ‘make America great again’ by building a wall on the U.S./Mexican border, banning Muslim immigrants, at least for now, repealing international trade agreements, and pulling back military support from some of our allies. In a recent interview, former Mexican President Vincente Fox warned that Canada will be next on Trump’s hit list.
Although his poll numbers are in decline, Trump still has a good chance of becoming President. Many people shake their head and wonder how this can possibly happen but the truth is that too many people in the States are sick and tired of dysfunctional governments failing to come to grips with life-altering issues within their country. They are fed up and when that happens people tend to grab at rings they would otherwise avoid. ‘Go away and leave us alone’ is a mantra that could well propel Donald Trump into the Presidency of the United States.
The problem is that in the long run isolationism doesn’t work. Our world, indeed our countries, are smaller today because of new technology. We simply cannot do without each other. The United States, Britain and Canada are trading nations. That is how we survive. To close our doors is to turn our backs on our economy. And to open our doors only on our terms and without a level playing field for everyone will lead to certain failure.
Isolationism also fosters racism and racism fosters hate. We have seen it too often and it changes the world we live in. Canadians have no right to be smug about this. We may be more subtle about it but we have seen it here. We have seen it in aboriginal issues. We have seen it in linguistic issues and we have seen it in gender issues. We can be incredibly intolerant of other people’s points of view and that not only isolates us, it makes it practically impossible to accomplish anything for the public good.
The more open we are as a society, both internally and externally, the more we can accomplish. Sticking our collective heads in the sand and ignoring world problems as well as world opportunities simply guarantees that eventually we will be bitten on our collective rear ends. If we close our doors to others, we will eventually close them on ourselves.
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