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We have met the enemy and he is us

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Earl Fowler

My wife wasn’t as shaken by it as I was.

After all, as an Indo-Canadian woman who emigrated with her family to this country in 1971 as a young teen, she was accustomed to that feeling of never quite fitting in.

She’d taken the measure — so to speak — of the men who would lean into her on packed Montreal buses or métro cars just because they felt they could get away with it. And did. The bus drivers who pretended not to see her waiting at her stop on rainy afternoons as they rushed by with half-full vehicles. The (usually) unintended daily injuries and humiliations her parents had suffered from inquisitive onlookers who felt compelled to comment on their colourful clothing or spicy food or what a terrible adjustment our winters must be.

I nearly bit off my tongue the time a friendly woman with a pronounced Liverpudlian accent asked my mother-in-law how she was enjoying her visit to Canada, which by then had been her home but not so native land for almost half a century.

With glowing hearts we see thee colonized.

I was pushing our toddler daughter in a cart at a grocery store once when another friendly woman took it upon herself to pick her up and coo: “What a cute little darkie.” Little Kelly cooed back, smiling and laughing.

Grownup Kelly was less amused this summer when a grizzled old white guy in a ballcap and a pickup truck cut her off, menacingly emerged and told her to “go back to your own country, bitch!”

Kelly, born in the middle of the Canadian Prairies, raised in Quebec, transplanted to British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley, never cries.

She cried that night.

So. There I was, a middle-age white anglophone comfortably ensconced in our basic bungalow on Montreal’s West Island that night in October 1995 when a pickled Jacques Parizeau, the premier of all Quebecers, made an angry televised concession speech after the No side had eked out a win in the second referendum on Quebec sovereignty by a mere 55,000 votes.

You’ll remember the drill, chaps. The man known as “Monsieur” for his three-piece Savile Row suits and precise use of language, in both French and English, blamed the defeat on “l’argent pis des votes ethniques” (money and the ethnic vote), and stressed that the majority of Quebec francophones — “nous” — us — had just opted, for the first time, in favour of independence from Canada. The will of the only true, pur et dur, authentic Quebecers, le peuple, had been maliciously thwarted by les autres.

We had been living in Montreal for seven years by then and I loved living there. Paid our taxes. Plugged away at learning French. Lived and died with the Expos and la Sainte-Flanelle.

And for the first time in my life as a privileged white male, I was being excoriated as the other. A less than. A member of a minority not like “us.” It didn’t feel good. Maybe a bit like being a francophone had been in the 1950s, when the English ran everything.

To Rekha, it was just another canister of same old, same old. To me, a walk on the reviled side.

Parizeau — who had been an influential adviser to the provincial Liberal government of Jean Lesage during the Quiet Revolution and later finance minister under René Lévesque’s Parti-Québécois government in the 1980s — resigned as premier and PQ leader the day after that inflammatory tirade.

Writers for La Presse and Le Soleil linked his resignation to his intemperate invective. Le Devoir drew attention to an embargoed TV interview on the eve of the vote in which Monsieur had vowed to step down in the event of a referendum defeat. He was immediately replaced as premier and PQ leader by Lucien Bouchard, the popular Bloc Québécois leader who was seen as more moderate and had taken over leadership of the Yes campaign when it appeared to be faltering.

En tout cas, there was broad agreement that Parizeau had gone too far in scapegoating the non-nous, including anglophones and allophones whose families had lived in Quebec for generations. Including, it seemed, English-speaking Mohawks who had been there for time immemorial, long before Jacques Cartier’s exploratory voyage up the St. Lawrence in 1535.

Which brings us face to face, as we so often have been for most of the last decade, with the odious American version of the Gibeau Orange Julep, who is once again busily stirring up racial, ethnic and religious enmity by taking advantage of the Israel-Hamas war to ostracize Muslims and propose “ideological screening” for all immigrants.

“You remember the travel ban? On Day One (after winning the 2024 presidential election), I will restore our travel ban,” Trump said in an address last week in Las Vegas.

During the chaotic shit show of his first presidency, the 2017 ban applied to seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Sudan. The new one would also apply to any refugees fleeing Gaza.

“We will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” Trump told the gathering.

Mafia Don has been railing for years about standing up for “Judaeo-Christian civilization and values,” which is kind of ironic, coming from an unhinged, uneducated, racist barbarian revered by anti-Semitic troglodytes. If the Sermon on the Mount meant anything, Trump is as Christian as a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob.

But it’s his “people who hate us” and “Islam hates us” and “us vs. them” shtick, used to stoke ignorant fears and arouse the worst xenophobic instincts of Americans, that should most give us pause. And I’m astounded at the surprisingly large numbers of non-white and/or non-“Christian” people who seem willing to ignore or suppress this bedrock axiom: In Trumpistan, they will never be fully accepted as “nous.” As us. As soon as they’re out of hearing distance, an ethnic slur will be forming on those smirking, supercilious lips that have smacked down so cruelly on so many unwilling women.

Paki. Spic. Kike. He learned them all at Daddy’s knee. Imbibed them all with Mommy’s artificial milk substitute. That never goes away.

I want to scream whenever I hear media commentators offer bland assurances that most American evangelists find Trump morally repugnant but hold their nose like Mike Pence did and back him because he supports their positions on LGBTQ issues, abortion, opposition to Black Lives Matter and any progressive movement since 1962. No, no, no and no.

Just look at them. The people at his gatherings literally worship Trump precisely because their vision of Jesus is of a militantly masculine Charlton Heston, armed to the teeth and intent on dragging America back to the Jim Crow era and maybe even, God willing, stumbling into a nuclear holy war with Iran or China that will bring on Armageddon. Trump is their exemplar, their crusader, their righteous redeemer, not merely a useful ally. He is the white male American Jesus for the Nous Age. “I AM YOUR RETRIBUTION,” saith the Lord.

Did you catch that surreal moment in a New Hampshire speech a week ago when, in one of his increasingly rambling and disjointed discourses, Trump revealed to supporters that he had recently realized that the word “us” is spelled as ‘U-S’?

Speaking about a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump bragged to supporters: “Macron, nice guy, he’s for France — I’m for us. You know, you spell ‘us’, right? You just spell ‘us’ ‘U-S.’ I just picked this up. Has anyone ever thought of that?”

It’s well nigh impossible to top that stroke of sheer profundity, but Rekha has pointed out to me on more than one occasion that “moo” is “oom” backwards. As in om or aum — spell it as you will — the Hindu symbol for ultimate reality.

“Which must be why Hindus revere cows. Has anyone ever thought of that?”

So long as we’re harvesting deep, innermost thoughts, I’ll add one of my own: In Trumpland, if you ain’t white, you ain’t right. And you can’t teach a decrepit, lying, thieving, lecherous old dog nous tricks.

Ooh. Anyone ever notice what dog spells backward?

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