I was born of American parents in Canada. During my formative years, I spent about half of the time in the U.S. I received both my undergraduate and graduate education there before returning to Canada to teach at the University of Western Ontario and UBC, eventually becoming a federal civil servant. I was married to an American and my son lives in Chicago. So I have some deep ties to the United States.
Over its history since independence in 1776, there has been much to admire with America including its achievements both in the arts — performing and creative — and in science. It was — and remains — the home to impressive universities, great orchestras, major global companies, fantastic and varied art museums and world-renowned libraries
But most of all, for me at least, among America’s most significant contributions was its role in developing the postwar global economy based on defined rules. It supported important international economic organizations and treaties such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (latterly the World Trade Organization).
All these institutions cooperated in an open and multifaceted approach to facilitating the growth of world trade.
Further, in the immediate postwar period, the American-led Marshall Plan provided needed relief and assistance to the rebuilding of war-ravaged Europe.
Of course, the U.S. has had major problems with racial issues stemming from its long and violent history of slavery. That said, the civil rights movement of the 1960s brought many positive changes with the abolition of legalized segregation and advances in voting rights for minorities.
So, all and all, while American might was feared by many, there was also much to admire in a nation based on the rule of law, defined civil liberties and freely-elected government at all levels. It was easy to be proud to be an American, just as I was proud to be a Canadian.
But, in these dark days, admiration for America is evaporating, leaving only the fear.
Under the current Donald Trump administration, the U.S. has alienated allies, bullied neighbours and treated disadvantaged and desperate people in such a despicable fashion as to be tarred as a modern-day echo of Himmler.
Individuals fleeing oppression with little or nothing but the clothes on their backs are treated as if they were vermin. Families are broken up and children of all ages are separated from their parents and held in horrid conditions with no sanitation, inadequate food and little room to sleep in holding pens which are lighted 24/7.
You would think that a leader descended from immigrants himself would want to deal humanely with the influx of people seeking refuge from crime-ridden countries. America, after all, was long the refuge of the down-trodden.
You would think a successful businessperson would be able to organize government activities to deal expeditiously and compassionately with the challenge posed by migration - but it is evidently too much of a challenge for this president. Or is it?
It is now obvious that Trump is using this influx of poor and defenceless people to raise anger amongst his base and divide the nation along racial and ethnic lines. How tragic.
A divided electorate will not easily be unified once he leaves the White House. The painful progress the U.S. has made since the 1960s will have to be repeated — a monumental task for whoever comes after him.
What is most discomfiting for America’s friends and allies is that many Americans seem to be unconcerned about the terrible conditions in which these refugees are being held and about their government’s disrespect for the due process of law which grants even the most impoverished and desperate basic protections. It is as if there is no compassion left in this once-great nation.
The U.S. should be better than this. It is time for Republicans in Congress to put an end to this spiteful and damaging presidency.