Thursday, November 10, 2016

Americans: don’t move to Canada.

I live in Canada.  It’s a nice place with friendly people and a pretty decent government.  But you know what? I’m coming back home.  I’m coming back to America in May.  I didn’t come to Canada because I hated the US or thought it was hopeless.  I came here because I wanted to see what someplace else looked like.  I wanted to learn.  And I did.  

Vancouver, where I live, is one of the most diverse places in the world.  It’s true.  Around half of the population here is are recent immigrants.  I’ve met people from parts of the world I otherwise never would have.  I’ve made friends with a few and I’ve learned a few things too.  

Here’s one thing I’ve learned: Things can improve, but they can also get worse.  The arc of history does not unerringly bend towards justice.  We--or perhaps more accurately I--believed that because we lived in a prosperous nation with good folks things would always get better.  But that’s no guarantee.  Some people I have met have lived through revolutions and wars.  Some have lived in countries that were once prosperous and are now destitute or, in some cases, gone.  

I’ve asked some of these folks, “What can I, as an American, do?”  So many things look hopeless.  Nothing we do seems to make a difference for the better.  There’s no simple solution--maybe there isn’t a solution.  It’s not unanimous, but here’s what I’ve heard: Make the US an example to the world.  Show the world how things can be.  That there is a place that values everyone.  Show us that there is hope.

Tuesday night we did not do this.  We sent the opposite message.  That not everyone is valued.  That the US is willing to hand over the reigns to someone who has promised to be and anti-democratic and not work for the interests of us all.  

So here’s the deal.  The US needs you.  I believe that it needs me.  I believe this more strongly than I’ve believed anything in a long while.  

I don’t believe that rational argument sways people, at least not about the things that matter.  That probably sounds weird coming from a philosophy student, but there it is.  I don’t mean that it has no place, but when one’s mind is set--as so many of ours are--no amount of argument or list of facts will matter.  I happen to think that it may, in fact, be irrational to be swayed by argument in these cases, but that’s a story for another time.  

So what does change minds?  How can we make things better?

Here’s what I know: The one mind I have changed--and maybe I shouldn’t take credit for it--was changed through understanding.  We had an interest in each other as humans, as friends.  Neither of us wanted to change the other’s mind--really--we just wanted to understand each other.  Not by pushing or prodding.  Not by antagonism.  Just by being interested.  There is a paradox here.  In order to really change someone you must not desire to change them.  

So actually, now that I think on it, do move to Canada, if you can.  Move to Japan.  Move to Australia or Spain.  Maybe try out California or Texas too, for that matter.   Live there.   Listen.  Try to understand.  And then move home.  America needs you.