Will Escaping Americans Test Canadas Capacity for Sympathy?

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2218 ... October 17, 2020
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Will Escaping Americans Test Canada’s Capacity for Sympathy?

Leo Panitch

When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I started hearing from American friends that they were thinking of migrating to Canada. Sensing that most of them didn’t really mean it, I would joke in response that we would "build a wall and make you pay for it." And I sometimes reminded them that Canada had more often been the refuge for those escaping the overthrow of reactionary regimes. A good many white people in Apartheid South African used to refer to Toronto as "To-run-to."

Especially since the already infamous first presidential debate of 2020, where Trump appeared to morph into sounding more like Benito Mussolini than the shyster businessman of the P.T. Barnum "there’s a sucker born every minute" variety, I have been getting more declarations of intent to migrate to Canada. They seem more sincere and credible this time.

Immediately after watching the debate myself, I was impelled to go hunting for my battered old copy of It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair... Lewis’s Depression-era novel about the coming to power of a fascist president. A passage toward the end, rather foreshadowing Margaret Atwood’s ending to The Handmaid’s Tale, tells of a dissident journalist who, after escaping a US concentration camp, arrives in Canada supposing…

"that everyone would thrill to his tale of imprisonment, torture, and escape. But he found that ten thousand spirited tellers of woe had come before him, and that the Canadians, however attentive and generous hosts they might be, were actively sick of pumping up new sympathy. They felt that their quota of martyrs was completely filled, and as to the exiles who came in penniless, and that was the majority of them, the Canadians became distinctly wary of depriving their own families on behalf of unknown refugees, and they couldn’t even keep up forever a gratification in the presence of celebrated American authors, politicians, scientists, when they became common as mosquitoes."

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