Tak­ing on Amer­ica’s bully

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

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.

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