By Peter Globensky and Beverly Sabourin
Travelling through the United States, we have been hard-pressed to find any news on any media that does not blare out “DONALD TRUMP” in their headlines. In a land where spectacle trumps (no pun intended) substance and celebrities guarantee an audience, this “unique” (and we are being kind) US presidential candidate is a media dream. They follow his every outrageous remark, his every slur. From his horrid, sexist comment to a female news reporter (“you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”) to his avalanche of false and trumped-up claims (pun intended), the bombastic buffoonery from this Clown Prince of Politics is a media dream because it is spectacle. But perhaps his most flagrant “policy pronouncement,” his most fear-mongering diatribe to date, was his call to both ban Muslims from entering the country and expel 11 million undocumented immigrants. Among Trump’s many problems as a political sociopath, immigrants and immigration seem to be near the top of his list.
A few weeks ago, we came across this marvelous and thought-provoking poster.
We sent the poster to all we knew and put it up on Facebook. Most were able to make the connection between Trump’s racism on immigration and the message in the poster. Some were not. We want to share an exchange with one of our friends whose response to the poster was not atypical of the general sentiment one would likely find among the Canadian public. The exchange began with our friend: “When do we stop being immigrants Bev and Peter? I mean, after multiple generations of our family born in Canada, am I really supposed to relate to this poster? Seems to me that an immigrant is someone who chooses or is forced to go to another country to live. But if you are born here, you have not made that choice. The country chose you instead. Its really a false distinction now, for all of us who are native (sic) born.” He had obviously missed the point of the poster.
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek we responded by saying: “I think you suffer from MAD Syndrome (Majority Auto Defense Syndrome) acquired by a significant number of Canadians who are angry and tired of feeling beat upon by all manner of minority and disadvantaged groups who blame “mainstream Canadians” for all their ills. This is particularly the case when Aboriginal Canadians (who are often thought of as free-riders, blah, blah, blah) point fingers at the larger society and say “you are mostly the cause of this and it started when you were the immigrants!”
“Friend,” we continued, “Look at it this way for once. Let’s suppose you and your family work a 20,000 acreage ranch on the high, rolling plains of southern Alberta. It has been in your family for generations. The original 160 acres was acquired by your great grandparents in the 1860’s. Through an entrepreneurial spirit and the sweat of their brows, your great grandparents expanded their initial land acquisition and ranching operations. The ranch has grown with each successive generation. Their son and then your parents brought significant improvements and acquisitions – to the point that you inherited, as is your right, a multi-million dollar business located on some of the most valuable land in Alberta. You and your partner have improved that value by modernizing equipment and selling agricultural products. Yours is a material success story by any measure!”
“What is little known however, as the initial records were deliberately destroyed for reasons which will become obvious, is how the original land was acquired. Through the use of threats, bribes and legal wranglings, a corrupt government Indian agent sold parcels of lands which had been set aside for exclusive Indian use in order to line his own pockets and accommodate land speculators. Indians were evicted or relocated. Knowingly or unknowingly your great grandparents and all their descendents including you benefited from this transaction. Are you personally responsible for this? No. Did that removal indirectly contribute to your success – absolutely!”
The poster is an intentional mockery of Trump’s fear-mongering remarks while reminding people at the same time that when his ancestors came to America as immigrants in the 1880s, Aboriginal peoples were having a rough time of it, to put it mildly!
Beverly Sabourin, recently retired as the Vice-Provost of Aboriginal Initiatives at Lakehead University, is a member of the Pic Mobert Ojibwe. Peter Globensky is a former senior policy advisor on Aboriginal Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister and recently retired as CEO of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. They invite your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org