I will not be going to the USA next week. My partner and I had been planning on making the trip, but following the events of the past few weeks and the President’s Executive Order (EO) regarding immigration and refugees, we will instead be keeping the trip domestic.
We’ll be heading from Toronto to Saskatchewan, because Sab is beginning a 6-week contract as a nurse in a small community there. She will need the car while she’s there, and thus we thought it best to drive out together and then have me fly back home once she’s settled in.
When we were planning this last month, we thought it would be a great opportunity to do some fun things along the way: see some friends in Windsor, catch a hockey game in Detroit during the last season of Joe Louis Arena, visit the Field of Dreams in Iowa, and then head up to Sask. We didn’t think much of it – flash our passports at the border, and the gas would be cheaper, it would be a bit quicker, and the risk of severe weather would be slightly lessened.
However, last week after the travel ban was announced, things changed for both of us. We weren’t together at the time (I was working out of town for a few days), but when we saw each other for five minutes mid-week, she mentioned that she wanted to talk. When she said “I was thinking, about the trip…”, I said without bothering to wait for the business end of her sentence “Yep, completely agree – we should go through Canada instead.” Immediate agreement. Neither of us felt comfortable going through the US anymore.
At the time, for me, it was partly due to the uncertainty surrounding travel to the country in general in the days following the issuance of the EO – if the former Prime Minister of Norway was being detained at the border, it didn’t seem entirely certain that we would make it through unscathed. It was also partly a solidarity issue – if thousands of law-abiding, good people were being barred from entering the United States for no reason other than the country in which they happened to be born, then I wasn’t going to go either. (There is also the ever-present threat of millions and millions of guns spread out among members of the population, but that is a topic for another time).
In the time since, I’ve been reflecting. I share a few points on which to meditate:
- Economics. Of course, the few hundred dollars that we would’ve spent in the US aren’t enough to register on any sort of scale – couple hundred for Red Wings tickets, couple hundred on gas, and a couple hundred on hotels and food. No one is really going to miss that. But start to multiply that out, and there may be an impact. The CBC reported that there were markedly fewer searches on flight-finding websites for flights from Canada to the US in the previous weeks. Maybe, in the long run, an economic trend will start to appear that will be difficult for American policy-makers to ignore.
- Ethics. Is it wrong to take an eye for an eye? Does refusing to engage with the US only increase international divisions and tensions? Or does the fact that we were born with the privileges of being both white and holding Canadian passports mean that our gestures ring hollow? The answer may be yes, and I don’t know that I will know for sure until we’ve made the trip and had a chance to consider it in retrospect. However, at the end of the day, it feels simply wrong to willingly travel to the United States at this moment in time. And that is enough for both of us.
- The Future. This is an incredibly uncertain time – the new President is attempting to put his stamp on his country, and is doing so with great haste and seemingly a lack of care for stability or concern for the collateral damage his decisions may cause. Of course, in broad strokes he is correct – the USA must protect its borders, and it is his job as commander-in-chief to provide security for all Americans. With that being said, I believe that the President is being fundamentally unfair and unnecessarily unkind. There are many things that the President could do in his quest to “Make America Great Again”, and as the duly-elected President he has the right to do them. But part of the reason I admire America is that it preaches freedom and opportunity to all.
The Statue of Liberty implores “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” The America that the President seems to believe in doesn’t currently embody this ethos.
To conclude the thought on The Future – America can certainly be great again. It can do so by being kind again – there is room to work between a slavish devotion to security, and continuing to allow for the liberty and opportunity on which the country’s greatness was built to begin with. In the great philosopher Viktor E. Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, he describes the need for a Statue of Responsibility to counterbalance the Statue of Liberty:
The thought of the burden of responsibility as a counterbalance to the right to liberty is an interesting one, and one that the new President would be well-served to consider. It is my hope that the United States will again become the type of place that I would like to visit. For now, however, we will be watching Canadian hockey games, visiting Canadian historic sites, driving through the Canadian wilderness, and visiting friends in Thunder Bay rather than Windsor. We will be buying Canadian gas, staying in Canadian lodging, and eating Canadian food. And we feel much better about it.