Taking on America’s bully
Donald Trump is the classic schoolyard bully. He’s big, he’s rough, he picks on the weak and he gets his way until someone has the guts to stand up to him.
So who will that be? Which world leader will have the courage to take on America’s new president and demagogue-in-chief ?
Based on his strong, principled response to one of Trump’s latest outrages, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might be that leader — if the rest of Canada lets him.
“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” the PM tweeted after Trump signed an order last Friday that banned refugees and people from seven mainly Islamic countries from entering the U.S.
Trudeau’s words were understated — especially compared to the bombast that routinely roars out of Trump’s mouth. But those words, and their implicit criticism, could not have escaped the president’s notice after being reported by American media.
Knowing how thin-skinned Trump can be and how blindly he lashes out against his critics, some Canadian pundits urged Trudeau to keep quiet.
Canada needs America, especially to buy our exports, they argued. With Trump ready to trash old trade deals and tax goods entering the U.S., Canada should stay under Trump’s radar and avoid provoking him. Just like the proverbial mouse in bed with the elephant. Or so Trudeau’s armchair advisers would reason. But that’s not how to deal with bullies. Last week, Trump delivered a sharp kick in the shins to America’s other continental neighbour — Mexico. Not only did the president sign the order to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of his country, he had the gall to insist that Mexico pay for it.
Yet even as Trump went after Muslims and Mexicans, British Prime Minister Theresa May dropped in to meet him in Washington, D.C., and extend a friendly invitation for the president to make a state visit to the U.K.
May, who was photographed hand-in-hand with Trump, has voiced mild disapproval of some of his actions. But with Britain facing an uncertain future with its impending exit from the European Union, she’s more eager to rekindle her country’s “special relationship” with the U.S. than rock Trump’s boat. And that’s how bullies get their way.
They talk big. They swagger around the playground. They go after the little kids they can isolate and intimidate . And the others just watch silently, hoping that if they do nothing the bully will leave them alone.
The fact is, if the other kids in the playground stand together, they can stand up to the bully.
Trudeau can and should be diplomatic with Trump. Keep things cordial. Trudeau and his government must work with Trump. But we urge the PM to continue speaking up in defence of Canadian values, such as tolerance, diversity and compassion for those in need.
Other people sharing similar beliefs, around the world, will hear. And together they can make the bully behave.