It’s tempting to say you’ll move out of the country if Donald Trump wins the election. I know I’ve said it more than once myself, and quite vehemently, too.
Cape Breton Island in Canada has officially welcomed American “refugees” on the website cbiftrumpwins.com, offering promotional information to encourage the move, while a number of celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, and Samuel L. Jackson, have publicly claimed they plan to leave the country if Trump manages to take the White House.
But an important question to ask is, what good will it do? Will those fleeing Trump’s control send a message of resistance, or will they be giving Trump supporters carte blanche to do as they please?
After Trump’s unexpected victories on Super Tuesday, Google Trends revealed that the number of searches for “How to move to Canada” had spiked tremendously, while articles on how to make the move popped up all over the Internet. Huffington Post suggests such simple courses of action as “Get a Job in Canada,” “Go to Canada,” and “Learn French. Eat food. Walk Cobblestone Streets. Repeat.” (Huffington Post, 2016). While I’m not sure the author really thinks speaking French and eating food are all it takes to receive a Canadian passport, all the articles make it seem like moving to Canada would be as easy as moving down the street.
After having visited Canada’s immigration webpage, I can assure you this is not the case. Immigrants need to specify their category of eligibility, and despite Canada’s pledge to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country, refugees still require sponsorship from within the country.
Let’s not be so selfish as to take immigration opportunities away from people fleeing a real war zone, nor housing, jobs, and resources. To call ourselves “Trump refugees” only diminishes the weight of the term.
It’s important to note, however, that there are two very different groups of people promising to leave the “Land of the Free” if Donald Trump becomes our next president. A recent poll by Vox/Morning Consult found that 25 percent of Whites said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to “consider moving to another country, such as Canada” (Vox, 2016). At more than twice that percentage, 53 percent of Hispanics answered similarly, as did 38 percent of African Americans and 43 percent of “other nonwhite” people polled (Vox).
I won’t argue that people of color don’t have the right to move out of a country if its people elect a racist leader. In fact, I encourage them to. It’s impossible to know if Donald Trump will follow through on his campaign promises after election, but it’s almost certain his supporters will. That is, they will feel entitled and empowered to commit acts of racial violence without fear of repercussion. The parallels between Trump and Adolf Hitler have perhaps been overdrawn, but it’s clear the safest course of action for Germany’s Jews would have been to leave the country, at least temporarily. Unfortunately for them, however, almost no other country was willing to accept Jewish immigrants, trapping them beneath an anti-Semitic tyrant.
If Canada will accept Americans who are likely to be the subjects of racial violence under a Trump presidency, bless the country’s soul.
The real issue I want to talk about here is the 25 percent of white voters claiming they will leave the country, too. I want to ask these educated, liberal people of means, what good will it do? If we’re not fleeing for our lives, what do we hope to accomplish?
You might argue, “Well, if a bunch of us up and leave, Trump will know how much we disapprove of him.”
Okay, then what?
Even if The Donald cared that a quarter of his white population fled for the border—and I rather think he’d only find such an outcome fully in line with his plan to make America “great” again—are we only hoping to hurt his feelings?
Or maybe we don’t want to feel complicit. It seems like Americans have a tendency to hold all Germans accountable for the Holocaust, asking why they didn’t leave the country or why they didn’t hide Jews in their basements. Even when we do acknowledge the fear of social and political stigmatization under which the German people lived, we still fail to understand why they didn’t pack their bags and move on.
I think this parallel reveals a certain anxiety that haunts the American mind, or at least the white, liberal, American mind. We see this fear exposed all the time with matters of race and racism: if I’m not doing everything I can to actively express how un-racist I am, am I racist? It’s this same anxiety we project onto Germany: if the German people didn’t risk life and limb to protect their Jewish neighbors, were they all anti-Semitic?
If we don’t do everything possible to reject Donald Trump, does it mean we accept him?
Perhaps a more positive way to frame the question is to consider it in the familiar terms of an American mantra: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Failing to help is equivalent to hurting. It’s not a bad mantra, though potentially a bit ungenerous. Wanting to protect your own children from harm doesn’t make you a Nazi. But it does beg the question: how does moving to Canada help solve the problem of Donald Trump?
The answer? It doesn’t.
If liberal-minded people that have the privilege to not be targeted by Trump’s supporters and the wherewithal to leave the country do actually leave, who will be left to protect those who don’t? In leaving, we don’t take responsibility for finding a solution, we absolve ourselves of it. We make our political statement and we leave the oppressed to fight on their own.
Which sounds better: a country led by Donald Trump filled only with the people who support him and those without the means to escape, or a country led by Donald Trump where he must struggle against a huge percentage of his citizens who are doing everything they can to impeach him and to protect the less privileged from harm?
I find it odd that we would place Germans who left Hitler’s country on the same moral high ground as those who risked everything to help what Jews they could.
Resistance isn’t demonstrated by running away if you have nothing to lose by staying. Resistance by the privileged is staying and fighting and being a major pain in Donald Trump’s ass. Resistance is helping those who stand to lose everything.
If Donald Trump gets elected president, don’t move to Canada. As appealing as Justin Trudeau might seem, let’s make America a place where Trump supporters have someone to hold them accountable.