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  • Macdougall

Monday, July 09, 2018

It’s become an all-too-common reality: an American citizen, upset by political news, does something rash, an act they’ll regret later.

I never thought it would happen to me.

I go about my life, caring for my young and elderly, teaching music, trying to breathe and smile — despite headlines — even when it means my smile is delivered through gritted teeth.

Another maddening news report? (Breathe, smile.) An elected official uttering complete nonsense? (Breathe, smile.) Make another school lunch, drive a loved one to the doctor, arrange a song for SATB chorus. (Breathe, smile, breathe.)

But then it happened. A news report raised my blood pressure sharply. I hyperventilated. I saw red. I forgot myself. I’m so embarrassed.

I don’t participate in Facebook or Twitter, and don’t own a smartphone. I question the ability of humans to widely broadcast their thoughts in an instant. Yet even with limited access to technology, I fell into that booby trap. I went to my computer and typed a message intended for a whole bunch of people. Then I pressed “send.”

Naughty, naughty.

I fell prey to the 21st century temptation to spontaneously spread ideas. Thank goodness my vitriol was not nearly as far-reaching as that of celebrities who fling opinions out to millions. My one-sentence message went to a neighborhood listserv.

What inspired me to forget myself in so wild a fashion? What impulse led me to allude to international politics on a site that’s designed to allow people to share information about lost dogs, hours of transfer station operation, and pancake suppers?

My inner Canadian went rogue. After years of saying “please” and “thank you,” I snapped.

Believe me, I tried to steady my breathing as the U.S. president cozied up to an infamous bully, going far beyond diplomatic formalities. Trump referred to Kim Jong-un as “smart” and “funny,” calling North Korea’s brutal dictator “a very talented man.”

Meanwhile, beyond my weirdest dreams, Trump called Justin Trudeau a liar and castigated Canada’s prime minister for being “meek and mild.” One of Trump’s minions said there’s a “special place in hell” for Trudeau.

(I won’t touch the issue of tariffs. I’ll let the historians sort that one out. I’ll stay with the topic of common decency.)

Yes, folks, I jumped the track. I reached for the only tool at my disposal, rationalizing that it was acceptable to use a neighbors’ site to refer to our neighbor to the north. Caught up in my own passions, I sent an inflammatory sentence to listserv members: “If you feel inclined, as I do, to send a friendly note to the prime ,inister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, here is the address.” Then I provided the address.

Needless to say, this incendiary statement created a firestorm of controversy. At a time when children are kept in cages, polar ice caps are quickly melting, and racism and misogyny are revealed at dizzying rates, my unrestrained suggestion tipped the scales.

Initially, responses from neighbors were overwhelmingly positive. I felt gratified, until one of my neighbors, a responsible soul, brought me back to reality with a two-part message. First, she reminded me that the site is not intended for international politics. She was spot-on. I apologized to the online community and called it a day. Fortunately, the site’s vigilant moderators had the good sense to remove my flagrant post.

But I disagree with my challenger’s second point, that we should never question the actions of the U.S. president, no matter who holds that office. Apparently, others disagreed as well — hence, the controversy.

I was born in the United States. I grew up in upstate New York and southern Québec. My dad (from Brooklyn) and my mom (from a tiny village located between Montréal and Québec City) taught me to be polite and to speak up in the face of injustice.

I reserve the right to question goings-on in the White House. I’ll just try to channel my outrage in less outlandishly provocative ways.

Eveline MacDougall is a mom, writer, composer, visual artist and substitute teacher. She lives in Northfield, which is not all that far from Canada.