October 25, 2016

A Good Dose of Ubuntu during this Election: from Canada to America with Love.

obama trudeau

Ubuntu: I am, because we are.

* Some interpretations of Ubuntu suggest that when one may be doing harm to themselves or others, they are to be held within the love of the whole community until they remember their own goodness.

Trump and Ubuntu—this will make sense in a few minutes.

When Trump first announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination, I suspected that an epic red herring had just been tossed into the soup to make a few of the other candidates look better. I’ve suspected this many times in the Canadian campaign process too; it’s one of my fall-back theories when nothing else makes sense.

I watched—first with amusement, then with growing dismay—as the awaited punchline was hijacked by a surreal vignette. I confess a bias from the word go about both Trump and Clinton. I had never heard anything from Trump or about him that made me think, “Hey, this guy would be a great leader!” I thought though, that I ought to at least give him a listen.

A learned friend tried to school me on the merits of Trump vs. Clinton. I tried (valiantly, I thought) to see it his way. Maybe there was something to Trump that I knew nothing about, a secret leadership quality that would soon become evident. But nope, quite the opposite. The continuous flow of vitriol from Trump’s own mouth reduced that idea into flaming dust.

I just could not get past my gut reaction to him.

I’m not saying I was rooting for HRC—she comes with her own little bag o’history, for sure. Some of it is quite impressive actually, and some of it maybe not so much. On the trail and in debate though, she has shown that she can maintain a leader’s demeanor under the most ludicrous circumstances. That suddenly becomes hugely important when you let your imagination fly in the direction of geopolitics.

When you’re forced to weigh the nutritional and palette-pleasing value of sour crab apples vs. cow-pucks as if they are somehow alike, the choice does become clear. On their own, neither is overly appealing. Side-by-side, one becomes infinitely more preferable, even to those on the outside looking in. Apparently though, some Americans have noticed us noticing, and feel that their family business is off limits for outside comment or observation. Understandable, really. But observing we are, and commenting too. J.K. Rowling was recently called out for her tweets about Trump and her response was succinct:


Okay. Putting the whole “Yikes, proximity to the button” thing aside, there are other factors to consider.

(Because it’s silly to worry about him being anywhere within sniffing…oh never mind, we all know he wouldn’t. Right?)

I believe that most people vote with their gut. What influences their guts may differ, but it’s not always facts, or even relevant to issues facing the nation. So while Hillary and Trump fling anything that will stick, diverting public attention with dirty secrets, issues like this unfold:

A few days ago, a journalist was facing possible charges of riot in an obvious effort to subvert the information she was reporting. This is where I would hope to see any future democratic leader directing their attention.

I can’t imagine what kinds of challenging discussions are occurring at dinner tables, pubs, and water coolers as Americans grapple with a decision that will emphasize the divide within their nation regardless of who goes home with the mangled win.

Interestingly, amid the tsk-tsk chatter I hear about Trumpesque antics, I don’t hear many Canadians reminiscing about the pickle we were in last year—when we found ourselves wading in unexpectedly nasty pools of yuck, much of it similar to what Americans are enduring now. It wasn’t our finest moment as a nation either.

There were many arenas in which our differences were glaring rather than celebrated. There are still wounds healing, particularly over the extremes we went to in trying to identify our stance as a nation on immigration. Horrific images of Syrian refugees drowning while fleeing were rebutted with fearsome and dire warnings about terrorists slipping into our country. It’s truly unsettling to see how ubiquitous this sort of campaigning has become, and what impact it has on normally level headed, well-intentioned people.

Fortunately, we noticed our own behaviour.

There was much hand-wringing about it, and by the end of it all, we’d voted for hope over fear and divisiveness. But have we already forgotten how close we came to jumping into the sewer with both feet? We certainly dabbled our toes, and a few jumped in head first. I hear some got stuck in there like that. Maybe it’s easier for us to wrinkle our noses and pretend we didn’t get some stink on ourselves throughout that whole ordeal, but if we’re honest, we all needed a good scrub after that election.

Presently, discussions in my circles indicate a general waning of hope for anything super wonderful to come out of this U.S. election. It isn’t just Trump, it’s the fact that he has so many supporters. If he loses, they’ll still be there. What’s next for them…and from them? And the Sanders supporters? Clinton’s not really a comparable option, she’s just their only option. Is the best they can hope for is to stop Trump?

American election news fills much of my evening news as we hover (at a polite Canadian arm’s length, of course) like helpless cousins, waiting with you to see what comes next. Oh yes, we are noticing, and some of us are beginning to feel bad. Not in a crappy, condescending way. Genuinely.

Stepping out of my baffled and wary perspective, I’m aware of a huge wave of compassion for my neighbours to the south. I wish I could bring you all buckets of maple syrup to drown your candidate sorrows in. Apparently, I’m not the only one, because this amazing little video appeared a few days ago, which then prompted one of the most beautiful events we can witness on social media—a viral love fest on twitter: #tellamericaitsgreat:

So, adding my voice to the chorus of big loves coming from Canada, I say to my neighbours to the south: Ubuntu. It’s a bit like Namaste, with a loving request to continue being all that we honour in you.

Oh and about the election—you got this. Right?


Author: Karen Hubert

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Catherine Monkman



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