The Elephant in the Bed: A Canadian Mormon Looks at Trump

Jennifer Quist is an award-winning novelist as well as an essayist and a youth Sunday school teacher (which is its own reward). She has five sons but studies comparative literature at the University of Alberta anyway, and her Chinese is terrible.

I was worried about my boy. He left our home and our country as the youngest missionary in my family’s sixty-years history with the Church to go to a foreign nation. It’s a place with an unstable government led by an authoritarian madman elected by a mob that sees themselves as beset by outsiders and their leader as justified in violating international treaties, denying residents’ rights, taunting foreign governments, and doing nothing as the sick poor suffer and die. My missionary wrote home about culture shock, glossing over it in his mass emails, telling me “no, but really” in our private letters. What could I do but remind him to thank God for his Canadian passport? Then six weeks into his mission, his time at the Provo Missionary Training Center was over and he could move on, leave the surreality of Donald Trump’s post-truth America, to serve his mission in countries we’re more comfortable with right now: Romania and Moldova.

How did this happen? I’m a Cold War kid, raised on night terrors about The Bomb burning, cracking, bending the heavens together like a scroll. Little Jenny in her nightgown, standing scared in her parents’ bedroom doorway, closer to the DEW Line than most Americans will ever get—this girl has grown up to have a son living “behind the Iron Curtain,” as his grandfather still calls it. And I’m grateful, relieved that he’s there instead of in the United States. It’s like scripture about the end of the world, where part of the message, the prophecy, is simply surprise, disorientation, confusion. Wo unto them that are with child in those days, or, in my case, without a child.

I am without a vote too, without any voice in what’s happening in the smaller but vastly more populous and powerful nation just south of my own. All I have is Justin’s voice—our prime minister who has already met with Trump, shaken his hand. In China, Justin Trudeau’s name is phonetically rendered as 小土豆 which translates back into English as “Little Potato.” That’s our man—another trust fund baby head of state, the smug heir of a political dynasty. We’re all smug here though—healthy, unarmed, and smug–our nation’s shameful genocidal history with the indigenous people of this territory notwithstanding.

It was Justin’s father, past prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the original 土豆 “Potato,” who described Canada’s global position next to the United States as “sleeping with an elephant” where we are “affected by every twitch and grunt.” Now is the great season of twitches and grunts, of full-blown trumpeting and stamping. What you have done in your own country, you have done it unto ours.

I mentioned my misgivings about Elder Boy being in the United States on social media. It wasn’t directed at my conservative American Mormon friends but they did see it. “He’ll be fine in the MTC,” they said. “Most of us are just going about our normal lives.” I said nothing in reply to their well-meant reassurances about the placid normalcy of Provo. Going about normal lives, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage—at this point, it’s a ghastly report. I’m glad they were wrong. A few weeks later, a raucous town hall meeting where Utahns called out rotten politics showed the world not everyone’s life is staying the same. Thank you. Thank God. But would Elder Boy, a foreigner behind the yellow-brick walls, would he be able to tell?

He needs to know. For him, for me, for most of us here in Canada, America’s executive has lost whatever moral authority it had left.  My son’s experience in the MTC was his most intensive experience with America and his most intensive experience with the institutional Church. The two experiences were entangled, perhaps inextricably. What would the loss of the moral authority of one of those bodies mean to the moral authority of the other? What did America vote out of the religious hopes and expectations of members of the international Church when so many Mormon states went red? It’s hard not to feel betrayed, thrust out not from the living Savior’s heart of the Church but from the hearts of people we once believed considered us brothers and sisters rather than aliens and rivals. Those faces of the people in the Conference Center twice a year, singing on our screens—do they know we can see them, even if they can’t see us? Know me for the sister I am, for the faint and faraway Hosanna I am singing, for the missionary who passed from me to you—recognize us, here beneath a scroll that is beginning to curl and lift.


  1. Tired and broke saint says:

    I’ve been fortunate to live in Canada on a number of occasions. At present I live in a very Blue state.

    I understand Jennifer’s concerns. They’re the concerns of many Americans. And I suspect some of them will become the concerns of more and more Americans as the truth behind the Trump administration’s connections to Putin unravel. I hope it doesn’t come too late to prevent the damage he’s doing to our democracy.

    I watched Prime Minister Trudeau speak eloquently and adroitly in 2 languages while Trump struggled through a telepromptered introduction with a fifth grade vocabulary. I watch Republican Congress members of both houses parade in front of news cameras to dissemble to protect a party member while overlooking the security of the American people.

    I shake my head and wonder what has become of my country and wish I had taken an opportunity to become Canadian that I dismissed decades ago.

  2. John Mansfield says:

    This caused me to wonder if Michael Ignatieff is still at Harvard, something to temper Canadian fears. But he’s not!!! He took a position in Budapest, which indicates (even though his wife’s name is Zsuzsanna—love those z’s) that Canadians do have something to fear in the United States that can be escaped in Eastern Europe.

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Proud Canadian here, born and raised. I want to say this with as much respect as possible. I hear your frustration and anxiety and I sympathize with it. (I am a swing voter, what would be called an independent in the U.S.) But I think your analogy is way over the top. Are you really comparing the current U.S. political situation with actual police states?

    I have family in what were former Iron Curtain countries. As a child we went to visit my LDS uncle who lived in East Berlin back when the Wall was still up. I saw the guard towers and the Death Strip firsthand. We also travelled by train through East Germany and when we crossed back over to the West the East German border guards took dogs and searched the undercarriage of the train for potential escaping East Germans. My little cousin, a pre-schooler at the time, had her own Stasi file complete with family photos.

    President Monson, Elder Monson at the time, was the church’s envoy to East Germany. He told the members to support their government.

    My grandmother, also a member of the church, lived in Berlin during WWII under the Nazis. The church told the members to support the government. I knew her well and I don’t think this was an easy thing for her, especially when after the war some of those former Nazis ended up as local church leaders. In fact, I know this was very hard for her to accept.

    I have other family members in Eastern Europe who lived under Stalin – we’re talking real oppression. There are church members today all around the world who live under less than ideal governments. They are told by the church to support those governments.

    And why is that? Missionary work, yes that too. But I think it’s because we’re supposed to be about something bigger – the kingdom of God. We’re supposed to be about having a grander vision that involves preparing the earth for the return of the Saviour. If the adversary can splinter us into fighting factions then that’s a big victory for him and a big defeat for us.

    Sorry if this is coming across as harsh. I don’t mean to pick on you in particular. It’s just that you hit a nerve. My family background makes me sensitive about this. I am keenly aware of what it means to live in a free society. I’m not saying we should stick our heads in the sand. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on. But let’s keep our perspective. Please.

    And personally, I’m just super tired of hearing about politics at church, especially U.S. politics, even in General Conference, the culture wars, and issues like gay marriage that were resolved in Canada fifteen years ago.

    We need to have a bigger vision. If members of the church could rise above politics in East Germany than surely we can do it today.

    And by the way, Justin is doing just fine. Don’t let that cherubic face fool you. He’s been around politics all his life. Besides which he has no real opposition. Wait till the Conservatives choose their new leader. It might even be Kevin O’Leary. LOL! Then we’ll have our own drama. :D

  4. Alaska Girl says:

    Thanks for speaking more eloquently than I can, many of my fears and worries. I grew up in a blue enclave. For the first time I voted in a presidential election where my precinct overall went to a Republican. (Not by as much as my state, but still by way more than I have ever seen.) I sometimes wonder if this country is safe for me, and then I hang out with my Episcopalian and Alaska Native friends, and I am grateful that my tribe is no longer based in SLC.

  5. You know, “I sometimes wonder if this country is safe for me” rhetoric is just going to produce eye-rolls. When you talk like that, it’s easy to dismiss you. There’s been no Kristallnacht. By and large, everyone can express their opinions, march, and protest exactly as they did before. No one’s missionary is any less safe in the US than they were 2 years ago. Trump is beyond doubt a threat to a great many things, but that’ll take time to really develop. Hopefully he’ll be impeached before he gets too far along.

    I’m shocked that so many of my Republican-leaning church brothers and sisters rolled over and voted for Trump, but a considerable number did not, and I think it’s important to recognize that. They gave a lot more support to Bush, and he started a war. I think political opinions within the church are more diverse than they’ve been in decades, so I think it’d be pretty silly to withdraw now.

  6. “There’s been no Kristallnacht.” (Martin)

    Personally, I find it amazing that, after only three weeks with Trump, people can find solace in the fact that things aren’t as bad as they were four years of Hitler. Given the world’s history over the last hundred years or so, I don’t think that anyone from outside the United States can be easily, or fairly dismissed for expressing fear that the leader of our nation is saying so many things that sound so much like what other leaders have said at the beginning of totalitarian regimes. “It’s going to take Trump a while to get to the stage of mass deportations and violence in the streets” isn’t really a comforting thought.

    “Are you really comparing the current U.S. political situation with actual police states?” (BB)

    This would make a lot more sense if Jennifer were comparing USA 2017 to Romania circa 1980. As it is right now, the USA is a much scarier place for foreigners than the former Soviet block countries that are now party of the EU.

  7. Michael Austin, depends what type of foreigner you are, and for that matter which country. I wouldn’t feel very comfortable walking down the street in any of the former Warsaw Pact countries, EU or not, if I were of (more) noticeably Middle Eastern or South Asian appearance–not least because they might think I’m a Gypsy.

  8. APM, perhaps. But if that were the case, there are a number of places in the Old Confederacy where I would suggest that you not walk down the street as well.

  9. jlouielucero says:

    I despise Trump, but having spent time in Eastern Europe the racism there is much worse just not as publicized. Horrible atrocities are committed in the name of race and nationalism. America could become that except for the loud and consistent voices that have and will continue to overcome it even if there are moments of setbacks.

  10. “If members of the church could rise above politics in East Germany than surely we can do it today.”

    No one—not even the church—ever rises above politics. Politics informs everything we do. Like everyone else, the church has to figure out how to accommodate political realities. That’s a necessity, not a transcendent virtue.

    Under the rule of law, we can occasionally pretend that we are above politics, and no harm is done. That pretense can even be healthy sometimes, but we should not forget what makes it possible. Those of us who are blessed to live under the rule of law should do everything in our power not to lose that blessing.

  11. Michael Austin,
    “This would make a lot more sense if Jennifer were comparing USA 2017 to Romania circa 1980.”

    References to “the Cold War” and “behind the Iron Curtain” suggest she was making this comparison.

  12. Jennifer, it is refreshing to hear an outsider’s perspective on what we are experiencing here. I keep reminding myself that we are not yet at Kristallnacht levels yet, but I have read President Trump’s executive order on protecting law enforcement, and the vagueness just screams that we could be facing federal felony charges for participating in peaceful protests. Three weeks in, and I am chilled to be watching and reading the news each day. We seem to be hurtling unavoidably towards something bad, that there is no easy resolution to this problem. And what makes it harder for me is that so many friends and extended family members all seem to be okay with this. These are all otherwise goodhearted, charitable people, who have bought in to trading for this new normal. We are not yet as bad as several of the worst political regimes of the 20th century, but the road we are traveling leads in that direction.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    As it is right now, the USA is a much scarier place for foreigners than the former Soviet block countries that are now party of the EU.

    Have you or an immediate family member spent any significant time in any of the places in question? Your breezy, conclusory statement could only be made in the absence of any such experience.

  14. Tubes, let me turn that question around: how much time have you spent in the last three weeks with friends, students, and faculty members whose visas are from one of the countries targeted in the travel ban? Because a significant portion of my job has been dealing with these issues. I think you have no idea how afraid Muslim immigrants to the United States are right now. Please have your family members in Romania get in touch with me to compare notes.

  15. Loursat,

    I agree that politics is inescapable. Render unto Caesar. I get that. I just don’t think we should be using church as the place for collecting and aligning with political allies. Rifts and factions can get in the way of our primary responsibility there which should be to build up the kingdom. Remember the Saviour was crucified for not being the political Messiah the people wanted.

    Having said that, I realize that there will always be overlap. To get back to my earlier East German example, when the wall eventually did come down it was as a result of massive street protests that had their origin in the churches. (Not the LDS church though, as far as I know.)

  16. BB, I agree. I think that the sermon that Steve Evans posted the other day is a really good discussion of the challenge we will always have in dealing with political differences among the members of the church. It’s not easy.

  17. (hears his name)

    Yes, I agree that those rifts can get in the way, but it’s important to remember that they are just that – in the way. The rifts are not our primary objectives. Being Christians is.

  18. Dog Spirit says:

    “My son’s experience in the MTC was his most intensive experience with America and his most intensive experience with the institutional Church. The two experiences were entangled, perhaps inextricably. What would the loss of the moral authority of one of those bodies mean to the moral authority of the other?….It’s hard not to feel betrayed, thrust out not from the living Savior’s heart of the Church but from the hearts of people we once believed considered us brothers and sisters rather than aliens and rivals.”

    Questions of relative physical safety aside, this is the part of the piece that seemed most salient to me. Despite aspirations of internationalism and political neutrality, the church often fails to come across as either of those things. I grew up in Utah, and as I’ve undergone my faith transition, politics have been involved in strange and unexpected ways. I realized not long ago that in my subconscious, the church and the Republican party in Utah were nearly synonymous, and that sometimes I was lashing out at one when I was actually angry with the other. If we yoke ourselves in people’s perceptions so thoroughly to a party that is seen by many on the national and international stage as promoting practices and attitudes that lead down a dark path, I think we can expect to see some faith struggles centered on the difficulty distinguishing between the church and the American government.

    And although of course not all church members voted for Trump, the perception is that the majority did. The comments sections of articles about refugees etc. published by the Deseret News and church newsrooms are pretty effective at promoting the image that a ton of Mormons don’t like foreigners. If we as a church can’t somehow be louder than that in proclaiming and demonstrating our love and respect for others around the globe, it would be no wonder if international Church members felt rejected by American Mormons and by extension the church itself.

  19. I understand the reaction of people who want to downplay events in the United States. People can’t live productively when they’re constantly in a state of heightened anxiety. Talking the danger down is one way of coping. I’m struggling with that stuff myself every day. However, we need to be very serious about the current situation. What’s happening now is earthshaking, and it matters for the church as much as for everything else.

    I grew up feeling secure (as a white person) in an America that was protected by our collective commitment to civil rights and the rule of law. I pored through Solzhenitsyn and Conquest. I read histories of Nazi Germany and World War II. I took seriously the idea that we needed to learn from the past. The motto, “Never Again,” in connection with the Holocaust, is something that I have pondered deeply. But now I realize that all of that political history and theory has been mostly academic for me. This is the first time that I am seeing those lessons challenged where I live. It is frightening, but it is also scintillating. This is the moment to show that we truly have learned history’s lessons. If we minimize the gravity of what’s happening right now, we will lose our chance.

    As BB, Steve, and others have said, our first loyalty must always be to Christ, to his church, and to our Christian duty of love. Let’s just be careful about the temptation to use that loyalty as an excuse for overlooking political evil, especially when it is within our power to resist the evil.

  20. Steve Evans,

    Yes, “Kingdom Come” was an excellent talk/post. I agree 100%.

  21. This is satire, right? I mean otherwise it’s more than a little overwrought. We’re a Canadian household (one of us naturalized US) living in a purple State and I’m just scratching my head if this isn’t satire.

    Yes Trump is ignorant and cavalier but America has survived worse. Just not in your lifetime.

  22. “Yes Trump is ignorant and cavalier but America has survived worse. Just not in your lifetime.”

    Loki, I think that your premise and your conclusion defeat each other. It makes no sense to argue that the OP is overwrought because, as you say, “America has survived worse.” We are three weeks into a presidency that shows pretty much all of the signs of wanting to be an authoritarian dictatorship. The reason that America has survived things like this in the past is that people tend to react very strongly, and very negatively, to the early signals.

    In other words, “overwrought” reactions like those of the OP are precisely the reason that “America has survived worse.”

  23. Tired and broke saint says:

    “Yes Trump is ignorant and cavalier but America has survived worse. Just not in your lifetime.”

    I’ve lived in the US for 70 years. I HAVE NOT seen worse. I haven’t seen anything close to as dangerous as Trump is. Not even Nixon and I can still run hours and hours of the divisive hearings that resulted in his resignation and still have a toxic eye-for-an-eye effect on partisan American politics in my memory now.

  24. … for me, for most of us here in Canada …

    Amusing that you think you can speak for most Canadians.

    Can you really believe that a Canadian is safer in Romania or Moldova than in the MTC in Provo? Have you ever been to Romania or Moldova? Have you ever been to the MTC?

    After reading this I’m thinking that the novels you write must all be fiction.

  25. Ojisan,

    Objectively speaking, most people outside of the United States and Romania would say that they would be safer in Romania. And they would be right. Objectively speaking, crime rates in the US are about twice what they are in Romania:

    What Jennifer is pointing to, though, is something deeper and more problematic, which is that people in other countries PERCEIVE that the current government in the United States is more hostile to foreigners than other societies, and this perception itself has consequences now that an overtly nativist regime has come into power. This will have implications for tourism, education, technology, agriculture, industry, health care–just about every sector of our economy is going to be affected by a perception of hostility.

    Rather than personally insulting a Canadian woman who is worried about her missionary son, perhaps you should ask yourself why it might be a problem that someone in a closely allied country, who shares our faith, would be worried for her family in the United States. Even if the perception is incorrect, it is a perception that is becoming more common, and the perception itself has real consequences.

  26. Ya got me! All the novels I write ARE fiction. Don’t tell anyone. Michael Austin is doing a great job on this thread clarifying my position but I wanted to add some detail that didn’t fit the tone or make the point of the original article about the political climate in Canada, since my representation of it has been called into question (ie. “Assuming that you can speak for most Canadians” and some “scratching”). Canada does not have a two party system, we have as many parties as the electorate will get behind. Currently, five different parties hold seats in our Parliament. In Canada, our “Left” is far more left than in the US and in Parliament, it is split between three different parties: Liberal, New Democratic, and Green. Our “Right” is also far more left than the US right and is represented by one party: Conservative. (We also have a separatist party from Quebec which holds seats in Parliament but that’s a whole other story. In our most recent election, in 2015, the three lefty-left-leftist parties amassed 62.3% of the popular vote. In other words, “most Canadians” are left-wing voters in data that’s just a little more than a year old. 4.7% of voters went with the Quebec separatists. 31.9% voted for the Conservatives, a party that is nowhere nearly as right-wing as Trump. But even if every single Conservative voter in Canada would vote for Trump, it would still be accurate to say most Canadians would not. The separatists don’t even swing it. So there it is.,_2015

  27. Wonderful, Jennifer!

    As a fellow Canadian I share your sentiments and your sense of betrayal. I have had many conversations over the past few months about what a loss of moral authority means for the US, and the implications for our church, which seems to entangle itself in US politics and political themes so readily and so often.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch at all for Jennifer to say that most of us here in Canada have lost any sense of America’s moral authority. The conservatives (small c and large C) in my circle all just shake our heads in disbelief, and worry about how far things can go in four years.

    Your final lines brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for writing this.

  28. Jennifer,
    I wouldn’t be so quick to draw lines between past Canadian elections and who would potentially support Trump. Trump’s election represents a lot more than left/right politics and is tied into things like anti-globalism and Brexit, and the frustrations of blue collar workers. Think of Hillary’s big blue wall and all those Democrats in Michigan and Wisconsin who were never supposed to vote for Trump but somehow did anyway.

    I was only somewhat facetious in my earlier comment re. Kevin O’Leary. He’s running for the Conservative leadership and he makes Donald Trump look like a refined gentleman. We have all the same issues with our middle class here in Canada. They’re percolating beneath the surface but rest assured they exist. Look for them to surface in the run up to the next election once the Conservatives sort themselves out.

    Also Justin Trudeau did not help himself this week when he broke his promise to bring in electoral reform and proportional representation. Remember when he said “2015 will be the last first past the post election”? NDP voters gave Trudeau their vote precisely because of this statement and now they are royally pi**ed. Elizabeth May of the Greens was in tears.

  29. Whoops! Posted too soon. What I meant to say was I don’t think Trudeau’s broken promise will be so easily forgotten. In these times we can’t necessarily look to the past to predict the future. Canada will not be spared the political implications of changes happening south of our border and elsewhere.

  30. Michel Austin

    Sorry maybe we didn’t read the same post. Her son was in the MTC. He was not in the Bronx or Detroit or some similar urban area so general US crime statistics are meaningless in the context of her “fear”. Her “perception” is that he is less safe in the MTC than in Romania. I seriously doubt that any foreigner who knew what the crime rate was in Provo generally and in the MTC specifically would feel they would be safer in Romania. I’m assuming that as a Mormon mother she is reasonably familiar with Provo generally and the structure of the MTC and missionary schedules specifically, Accordingly, even with the “raucous town hall meeting” (which no missionary attended) it is difficult to believe that she could really perceive that he is in greater danger in “lockdown” in the MTC than he will be in Romania. Rather her “perception” seems like nothing more than a springboard to enable her to express her dismay with her fellow mormons in the US of A.

    Jennifer Quist

    You didn’t say that most Canadians would not have voted for Trump. You said “For him, for me, for most of us here in Canada, America’s executive has lost whatever moral authority it had left”.
    That’s not the same as saying they wouldn’t have voted for him. Voting patterns have nothing to do with the perception of moral authority. The fact that many Canadians would not vote for him could likely be said for Bush, Romney or any other candidate that the Republicans nominated but moral authority would not be an issue. Having said that let us not forget that Harper ran a majority conservative government in Canada for a number of years and the general consensus was that Trudeau did as well as he did simply because the economy was struggling.


    The conservatives (small c and large C) in my circle all just shake their heads in disbelief at the antics of the left simply because they lost an election they probably could have won if they’d nominated a different candidate and worry about what will happen if they regain power in 4 years.

  31. “all just shake their heads in disbelief at the antics of the left simply because they lost an election”

    I’m pretty sure it isn’t simply because they lost an election. That strikes me a such an oversimplification. It’s the loss of a lot more than a election: the loss of the world they thought they were living in, feeling they simply don’t know their neighbours the way they thought they did, etc…

    I’m not in the US, but I experienced that and more at the Brexit vote. Still haven’t got my head round it.

  32. Ojiisan, once again, Canada does not have a two-party political system. Please go back and check the popular votes in 2011 and 2006 and combine all of the left-wing party votes. It is misleading to talk about Liberal and Conservative numbers as if they are analogous to Republican and Democrat ones when there are millions of leftist-of-the-left Canadians who voted New Democratic and Green during the election years you’ve referred to as Conservative majorities. These were actually years when the Conservatives never succeeded in securing the popular vote, falling short by margins of millions of people–which is a more significant portion in Canada than in the more populous US. Apples to apples, friend. The Conservatives won because the left vote was split. You can say that doesn’t equate to my claims but it’s a heck of a lot more evidence for my perspective on what’s happening in the country I live in than I can find in any of the uncorroborated opinions you’ve offered here. And there is plenty of middle ground between lockdown and the environment I don’t want my kids to have to deal with in the US–for now, anyways. Physical violence isn’t the only thing parents worry about.

  33. Hedgehog

    Not the same thing. You don’t get a do-over on Brexit in 4 years.

    Jennifer Quist

    Once again. Saying they wouldn’t vote for him is not the same as saying they feel he has lost his moral authority. And if it is not violence you are concerned about then what is the concern about his time in the MTC? That he might actually have to talk to someone who voted for Trump? Because if that is the concern, then you probably better not think about the fact that there is a reasonable probability that some of his companions in Romania will be Americans and, who knows, one might actually have voted for Trump.

  34. “I seriously doubt that any foreigner who knew what the crime rate was in Provo generally and in the MTC specifically would feel they would be safer in Romania.”

    Can you even hear the nationalistic chauvinism in your own voice when you suggest that, on the one hand, someone from another country should differentiate their perception of safety down to a specific area of a single city in the United States and then, in the same sentence, speak in glaring generalities of how they should feel in another country? Do you know what the crime rate is in the Northwestern corner of Brașov? People tend to break things like this down to a very granular level in their own country. But our perceptions of other countries tend to bensure based on our holistic perceptions. I once had to cancel a student trip to “Mexico” because of violence that was occurring a thousand miles from where we were supposed to be going–because people did not want to go to a country that they perceived as violent.

    The perception that the current administration has made the US more hostile to foreigners is very real. It is just rational self-interest for Americans to listen to other people when they talk about their perceptions of us rather than striking out and telling them that they don’t really believe what they are saying.

  35. it's a series of tubes says:

    Tubes, let me turn that question around:

    Nice dodge. Unlike you, I will answer the question: I work approximately 20 feet from one, represent another, and live next door to a third. So how many conversations over the last three weeks? Quite a few. And in the last year, I’ve spent significant time in Estonia and Slovakia, while a family member lives in Romania. I’ll put my level of “being informed” up against the average BCC commentator with some confidence. YMMV.

    I know it’s hard for many on the left to accept, but rational, well-informed people can disagree with their positions in good faith, especially the positions taken in the vein of OMG THE SKY IS FALLING ARMAGEDDON TRUMP NOTHING LIKE THIS EVER HITLER ONEITTY11111!!1 WTFBBQ.

    Can you even hear the nationalistic chauvinism in your own voice when you suggest that, on the one hand, someone from another country should differentiate their perception of safety down to a specific area of a single city in the United States and then, in the same sentence, speak in glaring generalities of how they should feel in another country?

    Uh, that’s exactly what the OP did. Can you even hear the lack of rationality in your voice when people disagree with extreme rhetoric like “unstable government”, “authoritarian madman”, and “mob”? But I guess your current outrage isn’t cheap, right?

    The sad part about all this is: many of the anti-Trump points are valid. But many people in the middle are repulsed by the vile approaches and inaccurately extreme characterizations utilized by those who oppose him. Excuse yourself with “this time it’s different” all you like. You’re still using vinegar instead of honey, and that approach always ultimately fails.

  36. John Mansfield says:

    “The Conservatives won because the left vote was split.” When the Conservatives took over in 2006 from Paul Martin’s Liberals, that was the case with a Conservative/Liberal/NDP split of 124/103/29. After the election in 2008 though, their seat counts were 143/77/37. Then when the Liberal party and the Quebec bloc collapsed in 2011, the Conservatives had a majority government from 2011 through 2015, and a majority Liberal government since. Canada’s party system seems much more interesting and fluid than the US’s and doesn’t map to the US’s, but it always results in Liberal or Conservative governments, some of them minority governments.

  37. “Hedgehog Not the same thing. You don’t get a do-over on Brexit in 4 years.”
    Ojiisan. Well let’s hope you guys do get a do-over in 4 years. Because to the rest of the world what’s going on in the US looks nothing like the usual change of party in power.

  38. Tubes, fair enough. I will answer the questions too.

    No, I have not spent a significant amount of time in the former Eastern bloc countries. Yes, I know many people who have, including several for whom it is a primary academic specialty. Yes, i know Muslims who have spent time in both Eastern bloc countries and the United States and who draw comparisons. No, I have not seen these myself. My original comment that you objected to was directed at someone who characterized these countries as “police states,” which was accurate in the Cold War but is not accurate today. Yes, I recognize your authority–if you tell me that you have personally witnessed massive immigration unrest in Romania, I will bow to your authority and revise my opinion.

    No, this is not cheap outrage. Yes, I did consider my New Years Resolution post before I said anything. But I have put significant effort into the stands that I have taken on this and several of the other issues related to our current administration. I never intended to suggest that I would not have political opinions, or that I would not assert them vigorously. I meant to say that I would not engage in low-investment activism on social media. I never said that I would not have opinions that people would disagree with. And since it is my resolution, I get to decide whether or not I am breaking it.

    No,the original post did not do what I suggested that Ojiisan did in comparing “Provo” to “Romania.” It may have done something else that you disagree with, but it did not do this thing, which is to suggest that “safety” in one country should be assessed granularly in one country but, in another country, should be assessed holistically. The OP compared apples to apples (“Romania” to the “United States”). The comment I was objecting to compared Apples to those tiny little black seeds in kiwi fruit.

    And finally, I will assert that there is a difference between saying, “Trump is a madman and the people who elected him are a mob” to saying that people in the United States should not criticize people from other countries who say this (and, let’w be honest, the context of the OP has enough irony markers that readers should be able to perceive some shades of satire in the words themselves). Rather, we should pay some attention to the fact that a lot of the rest of the world is anxious about the moves our elephant is making and that anxiety–whatever you good folks in the center think about its veracity–has consequences for the country that should not be ignored.

  39. And also, Re: honey and vinegar: I don’t entirely agree that honey always works and vinegar always fails. The Romanian police state is a good example: Ceaușescu was not brought down by polite discourse. Gandhi and Martin Luther King were good combinations of honey and vinegar–they promoted non-violent resistance, but they still promoted resistance. George Washington and Simon Bolivar were pretty much all vinegar. Rational political discourse is valuable, but demonstrating in the public square and shouting down congressional representatives in town hall meetings also have a place in the process.

  40. “It’s hard not to feel betrayed, thrust out … from the hearts of people we once believed considered us brothers and sisters rather than aliens and rivals. Those faces of the people in the Conference Center twice a year, singing on our screens—do they know we can see them, even if they can’t see us?”

    I empathize with the OP. I am also appalled by Trump & Co. and nervous about the possible results of his presidency. But then I have also been appalled by Clinton & Co.

    Still, while I don’t know whether the reference to those “singing on our screens” is to the Tabernacle Choir or the entire general conference congregation, I would hope, despite the difficulty, that it will be understood that many (I suspect most) active Church members, including those who voted for Trump, still consider non-Americans their brothers and sisters. The substantial numbers of votes for third party or independent candidates and for Clinton should not be forgotten in the temptation to generalize. It appears from my limited perspective that a good number of votes for Trump were really votes against Clinton and one or more of her policies or behaviors, hoping that Trump, if elected, would be unable to implement many of his statements and trusting that the nation could survive his presidency. Though I could not vote for either major party candidate, some voters even seem to have followed Mae West’s approach: “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.”

    It has been a very long time – beginning long prior to the election of Trump – that the US Presidency lost moral authority.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    Michael, thanks for your fair and detailed reply. A few comments in response:

    And finally, I will assert that there is a difference between saying, “Trump is a madman and the people who elected him are a mob” to saying that people in the United States should not criticize people from other countries who say this


    Rather, we should pay some attention to the fact that a lot of the rest of the world is anxious about the moves our elephant is making and that anxiety–whatever you good folks in the center think about its veracity–has consequences for the country that should not be ignored.

    Again, agreed.

    (and, let’s be honest, the context of the OP has enough irony markers that readers should be able to perceive some shades of satire in the words themselves).

    Of course. But here’s the problem: words matter. The way we talk about things matters. Labels matter. Why? At least partially, because they influence outcomes. You can’t say “it’s OK, it’s satire” regarding divisive language used by those on one side of an issue, while waxing apoplectic about divisive language used by those on the opposite side of the issue; such an approach merely brings to mind the old childhood taunt that one “can dish it out, but can’t take it”. It doesn’t solve anything. It merely ratchets up the conflict level.

    Our country, our church, and the world are facing serious issues. How we talk about those issues matters. As can be seen in our small conversation here, in most instances we probably agree far more than we disagree. But neither of us are going to win hearts or minds when we make inaccurate exaggerations, or cherry-pick data that supports our POV while ignoring data that is contrary, or question the good faith of the opposing side (and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no saint when it comes to consistently applying these principles). Much of the conversation here on BCC the past few months, in various OPs and in the comments, hasn’t been productive, and that’s unfortunate.

  42. Look, I think we ought to address the many elephants present in this post and evaluate them with sincere consideration to recognize why someone might react toward the OP’s language with a furrowing of the brow and a question of whether she’s serious about drama that drips from the language used. I almost feel like the song “Ten Little [Elephants] in a Bed” is about to break out given the mixed up elements of anxiety that are likely contributing to the feelings expressed.

    This is not just about Trump even though he seems to play the antagonist in this brief quip of personal experience.

    Let me start by saying I live in a neighborhood of an extremely mixed complexion. Our next door neighbors are Serbian, two doors down on either side are Pakistani Muslims – one family devout the other very liberal. Four doors down a family of Syrians. In the last decade, the entire neighborhood has seen a dramatic influx of Indians, Iranians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Japanese, Germans, etc. My kids’ elementary school explains that there are 34 different native languages spoken in the homes of their students. My white daughter is in the minority among her classmates in 1st Grade. My friends at Church include several undocumented immigrants from various countries including Mexico and other Central and South American countries. Half the youth in our Stake are Spanish speaking, many definitely undocumented. But there is a diversity of Trump support and and rejection across my communities both spiritual and temporal. My Facebook feed was a whirling dervish of disintegrated discussion and noisy promotion during the campaign that energized and exhausted me at the same time. Since the election and especially inauguration day I’ve stepped away from Facebook as a news source at least and focus on finding my news directly from the journalists of quality in a more metered fashion. I lead with this just to offset the inevitable response from Michael on how I obviously cannot appreciate what my fellow Canadian or the Visa dependent students he works with daily might be experiencing. Believe me, our conversations are not that different.

    What I read in Jennifer’s post are the complex feelings of a Mormon mother suffering the anxiety of sending her seemingly very young but likely first born son off on a foreign mission partly contributed to by the relatively recent change in age for young men, an Albertan evaluating the changes in her world as a result of an election over which she has no control and expressing how unsafe it leaves her feeling, and a Mormon woman evaluating her relationship to the Church and a realization of how different many of the members in especially Western Mormon enclaves seem to be from her own personal worldview from her own Western enclave of smallish relatively Mormon populated towns. All of this is wrapped up into the literary expressions of a novelist whose writing explores the drama of family interaction.

    Have I missed any Jennifer? I ask that in the utmost respect.

    I work with the youth, especially the High School Seniors in our Stake, many of whom are preparing to leave for college, missions, or whatever adventure life holds for them. I hear the anxieties of their parents and I discuss their own personal anxieties as many prepare to go serve. I read their letters, blog posts and talk at length with their Moms, it seems to always be the Mom – it is the Missionary Mom’s calling in life to worry about their son or daughter. And I share their experiences with the Seniors who are preparing to launch themselves. This fear of the unknown where we wonder who these young adults will meet, how they will be treated, and whether they are up to the challenge makes this an anxiety laden time that overwhelms many. “Have I really prepared them for the world that is out there?” That seems to be the most common phrase I hear.

    What I also consider here is the experience we had when a young cousin came to visit us in the States. She grew up in Lethbridge, where her parents still live, and the thought of her small family traveling from Toronto to Chicago just set her poor Dad on edge. Mind you this was 2 years ago when the murder rate hadn’t quite yet spiked but the shootings on the South side were probably what most people outside of the United States who paid any attention to Chicago heard about. Consider that we live 50 miles outside of Chicago in a suburbia that is no different from most other upper middle class communities spread across the United States. There’s more concern about running into a deer in the dark while driving than encountering some thug with a gun. Which means the threats are about equal to what she would encounter in Lethbridge. But that didn’t prevent her Dad from calling daily just to make sure she and her husband and their two small children were OK. It would not be an overstatement to say that he almost went to the length of telling his adult, married daughter that he would prefer she not visit her cousins in Chicago. I read some of that very similar tension in your expressed emotions.

    Then there’s Trump. What is the world becoming and what impact will that have on the neighbors to the North and the South? What does this mean for foreigners who come into the country? There seems to be so much hostility. Well, that may be true but almost all of it is overblown when it comes to how people, the every day citizen, are behaving. Will your young Canadian son be stopped at the border and be held by border agents until he is cleared? Not likely because, A) I’m going to guess he is white like you, B) he has your same last name (which isn’t strange or Islamic looking) C) he carries a Canadian passport (which though every American I’ve spoken to sees things differently and asks how could a Canadian have trouble getting into the US even to become a citizen – because the Canadian in question is probably white middle class and not some Mexican – I know differently after many dealings with the Department of Homeland Security as a naturalized citizen and a regular traveler). The point is, yes, entering the US has become more problematic for some people, even American born citizens but those are edge cases. The vast majority of visitors who generally come from the 38 countries that don’t require a Visa (of which Canada is one) continue to move in and out of the country with ease.

    Does that mean all is well with Trump? Obviously not. He’s largely ignorant of what it means to act as President and how to “properly” approach the office. That makes him erratic and potentially easily influenced by highly manipulative individuals who have specific schemes and strategies in mind, many of which include overturning the advances that are claimed by the Left under President Obama. But as Martin Luther King exclaimed, and Barack often cited, “the arc of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice.” We are already beginning to see the means by which that arc will be adjusted as many civil servants and politicians and journalists and masses of citizens take on the task of keeping the pressure on the Trump administration. Which is why I say somewhat lightly, yes, America has survived worse, because I have faith in our democratic republic and do not see evidence that a fascist regime will truly evolve from Trump’s bumbling and populist declarations. For one thing, unlike Canada, the US citizenry is far too well armed for something like that to take hold. For another, for all the bombast that his Executive Orders have created there has been relatively little impact in general which would mirror how he operates in business. A great deal of talk to pump himself up but very little action to support it. That is not the case for the personal situation of refugees and other citizens of the world who wish to come to the US and this will have a detrimental impact on the economy. Whatever we can do to support them and lighten their burdens is incumbent upon us as citizens of Western democratic countries and especially as Saints.

    Does that mean I don’t worry about what he might do next and how to encourage my Congresswoman, Senators and and other leaders to counteract his efforts? Absolutely. Does that mean I don’t recoil in horror somewhat as I watch him bumble about in his dealings with foreign leaders and dealing with classified material? Certainly. And I will continue to make calls and attend Town hall meetings to make my voice heard. But the sky is not falling. Life will go on after Trump. The US will be diminished as a country and as a world leader. But given the experience of how things changed with the Obama presidency it is evident how much a single Executive can modify the world perception of the US for good and for bad. Is this what it looks like as empires decline? Probably. The question to ask is how will it evolve as a result? And right now we don’t know. So I look at it all as my father always said, “Don’t wait around for life to happen to you, get some grit and make your own way in life.”

    That’s my take at least. And that is why I say this post is overwrought. The prose is provocative and seems deliberately dramatic unless you parse what seems to be happening in the OP’s world and evaluate each element independently.

  43. “You can’t say “it’s OK, it’s satire” regarding divisive language used by those on one side of an issue, while waxing apoplectic about divisive language used by those on the opposite side of the issue.”

    I agree almost entirely with your last post, and I appreciate the perspective. But I have to get in a defense of satire (my own academic training, after all, is as a critic of 18th century British literature, though I have been ad administrator so long that I barely remember my own academic training).

    Words have meanings, yes, but meanings have contexts, and satiric intent is a context that should affect how we understand the words. My favorite political satire is Daniel Defoe’s “The Shortest Way with Dissenters””–this is a purported letter from an Anglican divine in which 90% of the text is indistinguishable from what such divines really were saying, and 10% of it advocates the extermination of dissenting Protestants. Defoe was a dissenting Protestant. Nonetheless, he was arrested, tried, and convicted on the charge of advocating the death of His Majesty’s subjects, which was actually the point of his satire. But it was a brilliant piece that forced those who read it to confront the logical extensions of their own deeply held opinions.

    This is not to defend any particular contemporary characterization, only to say that there is a legitimate place for certain kinds of understatement, overstatement, and ironic comparisons that serve a satirical intent that does not perfectly map on to the meaning of the same words when used without an ironic intent. This is because meaning is always an interplay between text and context, so context matters as much as words do.

  44. So what you’re saying Michael is I’m right, this is satire. I appreciate the clarification. ;)

  45. “The point is, yes, entering the US has become more problematic for some people, even American born citizens but those are edge cases.” (Loki)

    “Edge cases.” Does this mean that these cases are a marginal few that we can afford to lop off? Or does it mean that they signal the thin edge of a wedge that’s being driven deeper? I understand Loki’s argument that the OP is exaggerating a mother’s concern for dramatic effect, but consider who takes the brunt of this argument. It’s not Jennifer or her son, and it’s not Loki. It’s the nameless, faceless “edge cases.”

    It’s our attitude toward the “edge cases”—that is, the people who are different from us—that shows how seriously we take our politics. The only way a person can minimize the abuses being aimed at the “edge cases” is by saying, “It doesn’t really affect me or mine.” Any other way you look at it, the new immigration raids and the disregard for due process in border inspections represent a significant erosion of civil rights—very much the thin edge of a long wedge.

    I appreciate Loki’s activism against the Trump administration. I think we’re on the same side. I disagree with the attempt to downplay the suffering and abuse that’s happening now, every day. That’s a mistake that will eventually catch up to all of us.

  46. Edge cases drive perception, the law (see the 9th Circuit ruling), and the arc of history. Edge cases matter.

  47. I made no judgement call on the edge cases as far as moral value and I thought I was pretty clear on my opinion of what is necessary to support them. Christian and I are on the same page with regards to their importance from a legal and historical perspective.

  48. Cynthia Hale says:

    Well, after all is said and done what I know is that – unless absolutely necessary – I will avoid travel for work or pleasure in the US until Mr. Trump’s “reign” is over. And yes, I know a LOT of Canadians who feel the same way as I have discussed it with them. And I know some of my friends in Europe and other parts of the world feel the same. For moral reasons (and perhaps a few safety ones), my line in the sand has been drawn.

  49. True Stories says:

    “Security is a feeling.”

  50. Man, we have some mean commenters.

  51. I assume this is satire. As a medium sized business owner in a red state I hear nothing but positivity coming from the business community right now. Even my Mexican employees are excited about the economy right now. Church is the same. I really do think there is 2 Americas these days. People in my neck of woods read articles like this and say stuff like “sure confirms why I voted for Trump”.

    Articles like this and nekkid protesters are deepening the divide.

  52. As a small business owner in a very red state who works primarily with immigrants, I’m hearing a lot of fear right now. Academics and students worried they’ll get sent back to their unsafe Muslim countries. Latinos with green cards worried they’ll run into trouble at the border if they visit their ailing parents. Farmers worried about their undocumented employees. My local business community is driven mostly by agriculture-type work and would entirely collapse without the immigrant work force.

  53. I live in northern Utah. Trump has become a worry for a great many people. I work daily with Hispanics, but have never heard a Hispanic say anything positive about the new administration. They have expressed concern. One Hispanic man, a U.S. military veteran and second-generation American, was told by one of his own ward members that now that Trump was in, he and “his kind” would be forced out of the country. A Jewish young woman told me she was having nightmares, with Trump appearing in story lines told to her by her grandmother about 1930’s Germany. So the angst is real, even here in “red state” Utah.

  54. Michael Austin

    My son will be spending six weeks in the MTC in Provo and then will leave to serve his mission “in countries we’re more comfortable with right now: Romania and Moldova”‘

    Seems like a pretty straight forward comparison between one place – MTC in Provo – on the one hand and countries – Romania and Moldova – on the other.

  55. Dear America,

    How are you my old friend? I have been hearing troubling reports as of late, so I thought I would write to you and inquire. Assuming that what I have heard is true, and not fake news, I must ask you:

    When did you decide sacrifice your freedoms on the alter of “security” and betray the ideals expressed in the statement “give me liberty, or give me death”?

    What was it that caused you to falter and believe that living a life in seclusion, separating yourself from all “others” was as noble a pursuit as fighting for the cause of freedom and establishing a place in this world that like minded people anywhere could look to with aspirations in their hearts?

    How did the statement “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” become acceptably corrupted to “I live for ratings”?

    When did you forget that you have “nothing to fear, but fear itself” and so aptly demonstrate that what you fear most are the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, and the imagined loss of your wealth?

    In what way do you deem it worthy that a purported leader of the free world would propose to build a wall of ignorance while at the same time trying usurp the mantle of the person who boldly proclaimed “tear down this wall!” in the face of oppression and tyranny.

    To paraphrase another great man “Tell me “friend”, when did America the wise (the free, the brave) abandon reason for madness”?

    I hope you do not find my questions harsh or unfeeling. I am genuinely concerned for your wellbeing. If there is anything I can do to help you please don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll always be here for you.

    Yours truly,

    America’s Hat

  56. There is a huge difference between the level of corruption, public safety, and overall well being of visitors in Romania vs. Moldova. I base this off of the experience of a recently returned missionary who spent a lot of time in Moldova.
    I do not know one way or the other, but your statement about the increasing difficulty for refugees/migrants to enter the US having a detrimental effect on the economy is not believed by most investors. The stock markets are at all time highs. Most investors think that the economy is going to improve. Obviously, most investors do not see a significant increase in safety risks in the US, otherwise the money would be going elsewhere.

  57. Was it really only a few months ago that the correct thinking people on this site ridiculed the conservative rubes who liked to dwell on how bad things were in this country, too stupid to realize that things were better than ever? Yes, yes it was only a few months ago.

  58. Don’t put too much confidence in what the stock market seems to be saying. The two greatest financial centers in the world are New York and London—traditionally the world’s pillars of democratic stability. Now both the US and the UK are compromised, and everyone is waiting to see whether the same thing will happen in France. And what will become of Germany if France goes to Le Pen, and Trump and Putin form a new axis? The situation is utterly outlandish.

    It’s no surprise that money isn’t flowing out of the US. At the moment, there’s nowhere else for it to go.

  59. Rob, if I recall, it was back at about the same time that the conservative provocateurs here were under the impression that issuing executive orders, claiming that executive power cannot be questioned, mishandling classified information, and lying to the FBI were, you know, bad things.

  60. It’s hard to point out the hypocrisy of the other side when literally both sides just switch their positions based on who is in power. Looking at you both Rob and Michael.

  61. As Nate Oman pointed out, opposition parties don’t behave the same way governing parties do. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s just the reality of the mechanics of governing. That’s not to say that there isn’t hypocrisy in politics, but much of what gets called hypocrisy isn’t.

  62. Serge Tittley says:

    Just a quick “thumbs up” to Jennifer Quist for her piece and all these quite thoughtful comments. I’ve just started reading BCC and studying about the LDS and it’s interesting people and history. I wondered why few Mormons seemed to have supported Evan McMullin in his independent bid, if only as “statement “? BTW, I’m Canadian.

  63. After reading through all of this it amazes me the hyperbole and innuendo. After all Canada does not believe in free speech.

  64. How is that for hyperbole? I expected a comment about this but instead of waiting with a response just look up Canada vs Mark Steyn. Try reading it from his perspective instead a globalist perspetive.

  65. Wow. I do hope the OP is a piece of satire. I am not a fan of Donald Trump, but the histrionics of the piece are just a wee bit over the top. Ugh.

  66. I am no fan of Donald Trump either, but being a Canadian, I am amazed at the total lack of understanding of our own history that the snowflakes on here are showing. There was never a man with a greater desire for a dictatorship than our own “small potato’s” father. He literally fingered us, and showed a complete lack of decorum on so many occasions. The “small potato” that we have now, has had no political experience of any kind, has had no business experience of any kind, and in fact was a part time drama teacher, before being called back to Montreal by his father’s cronies to run in a very safe seat there. He is very much a puppet of those who want to turn us into a Romania etc.
    How in the world can we look upon the Obama administration without recognizing the tremendous damage that he did to the American Dream, and yet, when someone comes into office threatening to undo so much of what he did, and does it clumsily, we run like lemmings into the sea crying woe is me. Really folks.

  67. You write beautifully. My first thought was that your son was going to Zimbabwe, but then caught your true meaning. Very well written and a valid expression.

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