Talking to Americans Nov 9

Calgary Herald, Nov 7, 2016: One more sleep until the U.S. presidential election. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t looked forward to something ending this much since childbirth.

As the campaign has gone completely off the rails of civil discourse, I am pretty sure I am not the only Canadian who has been reluctant to engage with Americans friends, colleagues and acquaintances about their candidates for president.

First of all, it’s none of my business.

While I love the U.S. and simply adore my American surfer dude nephews, it’s not my country. We are free to discuss the endless U.S. campaign within the privacy of our own borders of course, but beyond them I think most of us try to do that old ‘polite Canuck’ routine.

Besides, who wants to get in a shouting match over someone you can’t even vote for?

But once the American people “have spoken” it’s a bit of a different story. They’ve endured a lot over the last few years of campaigning and as a good neighbour – with a U—we can acknowledge their trauma and lend a supportive ear to help them recover.

And you will inevitably bump into Americans. Even if you can’t afford to go south with a fist fill of 75 cent dollars, you’re bound to run into Americans everywhere from Facebook to the Canadian bacon aisle at Safeway. Regardless of where you may encounter one, here are some things to consider as you shoot the breeze with Americans after tomorrow’s election:

  1. Check your geography: Before offering congrats or condolences, poke around to see where your American friend is from. If sanity (and the polls) prevail and Hillary Clinton is the next POTUS, peeps from California and New York will be doing jumpy claps. However your Republican pals from Arizona, Texas or Florida may be enjoying a more complex celebration, happy to see Trump going down (and hopefully just going away) while also mourning whatever the heck just happened to their beloved GOP.
  1. Never assume: Last winter as I ate dinner on a European river cruise, a retired FBI agent regaled the table with stories of going deep under cover in Asia to nab a heroin dealer. It was all very entertaining until dessert hit the table and he hit me with a question: ‘As a Canadian, what do you think of the guns in the U.S.?’ I answered something along the lines of: ‘Well, actually, we wonder WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING DOWN THERE!?’ I assumed that a law enforcement officer from Chicago— a democratic stronghold where innocents are shot dead almost weekly—would be all for keeping a lid on guns and the mayhem they bring.  But instead of nodding in agreement, he treated me to a 30-minute lecture on the merits of the Second Amendment, complete with a little fist pounding. I will never get that half hour back. Had I known, I would have given him the same answer but not in ALL CAPS. (The next night I sat with a five-foot-tall woman who regaled the table with a story about trying to smuggle a duvet under her coat as carry on).
  1. Trump fans: They may not be big on fact checking, but they have feelings, too. Perhaps you could cheer up them up by bringing up a harmless conspiracy theory, such as the one about the giant horse statue at the Denver Airport representing the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Granted, this strategy could backfire if your U.S. pal starts countering with his or her favourite conspiracy theories among the dozens invented by that toddler Trump. If this occurs, it might be best to nod your head, feign sympathy and remove yourself from the situation.
  2. Bernie fans: They will have mixed feelings. It’s like when your kids’ team wins the big game but only because they sat on the bench while the more experienced players cleaned up. But warming the bench, just like ‘Feeling the Bern,’ is rarely in vain.
  3. Hillary haters: Far be it for any of us to try to undo 40 years of GOP propaganda in a pleasant conversation, but if your Hilary hater goes so far as threatening to shoot her, perhaps give the Secret Service a dingle so they can add the would be assassin’s name to the list. After all, friends don’t let friends make death threats.
  4. Hillary fans: All that’s required here is ‘Phew.’ Maybe a fist bump. But please, no emails.

Starting Nov. 9, Clinton will likely be preparing to lead a distressingly divided country, the Republican Party will dive deep into its existential angst and Trump will continue his blustery march toward irrelevance and insolvency. Meanwhile, up here in Canada, we can all keep our fingers crossed that the yelling next door will stop.

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