Showing their T-R-U colours

Under a Facebook post bemoaning president-elect Donald Trump’s lack of political experience – and the positives and negatives associated with limited exposure to Washington, D.C. – I spotted this comment:

“We did the same thing last year in Canada! And it was a disaster!”

Hmm. You don’t say.

For the time being, I’ll avoid the “Justin Trudeau disaster” debate and suggest that there are indeed parallels to be drawn between the triumphs of Trudeau and Trump.

Both claimed the big prize in their first crack at their respective countries’ top elected positions, defeating well-entrenched political faces – specifically, Stephen Harper and Hillary Clinton.
Both men tend to be called by their first name rather than their last. They both spend a lot of time on social media, to varying degrees of success. And, oh yes, their surnames both end with T-R-U.

Trump and Trudeau both inherited their family businesses, to a degree. Trump took over his father’s real-estate company in 1971. (Fittingly, his first order of business was renaming the firm The Trump Organization.)

Trudeau, of course, is a name indelibly linked with Canadian politics. It’s a name reviled in some corners, particularly in Western Canada.

Still, the profound impact of Pierre Trudeau on his son was rarely more pronounced when Justin, delivering his father’s eulogy in 2000, recalled his attempt as an eight-year-old to please his Prime Minister dad by making a joke about Opposition Leader Joe Clark while the two men were eating with their children in the parliamentary cafeteria.

“My father looked at me sternly…and said, ‘Justin, we never attack the individual. We can be in total disagreement with someone, without denigrating them as a consequence.’”

The future Prime Minister was then introduced by his father to Clark. “It was at that point that I understood that having opinions that are different from another does not preclude being deserving of respect as an individual – because simple tolerance, mere tolerance, is not enough. We need genuine and deep respect for each and every human being, notwithstanding their thoughts, their values, their beliefs, their origins.”

Now, this is not to say that Pierre or Justin Trudeau never had anything negative to say about another party leader. That’s still a far cry from the Trump approach, which includes everything from mocking the disabled and dismissing Mexicans as murderers and rapists to picking middle-of-the-night Twitter fights with the media, Saturday Night Live and even former Miss Universe contestants.

But America is in crisis, hopelessly divided, a threat for further terrorism, you say. All right, that’s a valid point. So let’s see how Justin Trudeau – 18 months into his leadership of the federal Liberals and still a year away from becoming Prime Minister – responded to violence in our nation’s capital.

In the aftermath of the fatal shooting of an unarmed Canadian soldier on sentry duty at the National War Memorial, Trudeau described as “inaccurate” the concept of Canada losing its innocence: “Canada is not innocent to the threats we face, and we know that we are not immune. What is true is that we have not let those threats shape us, and we have never bowed to those who mean to undermine our values and way of life. We remain Canadians, and this should be how we will carry on.”

And while some in the highest of political circles prepared to brand the shooting as proof of Muslim extremism (despite the fact that the shooter was a Montreal native suffering from mental illness), Trudeau offered this: “To our friends and fellow citizens in the Muslim community, Canadians know acts such as these committed in the name of Islam are an aberration of your faith. Continued mutual cooperation and respect will help prevent the influence of distorted ideological propaganda posing as religion. We will walk together, not apart.”

No talk of deportation or refusal to allow any more Muslims into Canada – instead, tolerance, optimism, a hand extended rather than a welcome withdrawn.

In the days and weeks to come, Trudeau will have a face full of Trump, who has pledged to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and set up separate trade deals with individual countries. Some wags have referred to the two leaders and their upcoming discussions as “Bambi vs. Godzilla,” apparently forgetting that Bambi’s the one that actually survives his movie.

Recognizing that neither our Prime Minister nor Canada is perfect, I actually welcome the chance for Trump to spend time with Trudeau. Apart from the discussions needed to maintain positive relations between our two nations, maybe The Donald might learn a thing or two about basic human decency and the dignity of his office.

At the very least, the selfies should be interesting.