Home Perspectives Opinions Baumel Joseph: The West’s devolving political climate

Baumel Joseph: The West’s devolving political climate

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I am not a political scientist, nor can I claim any deep understanding of geopolitics or domestic political systems. But I am a citizen of two countries and a concerned advocate of a third (the U.S., Canada and Israel), which leaves me very confused and apprehensive. It feels as though we are experiencing the trembling of an earthquake before the fact. Something bad is happening to our countries and we are not responding, or, more accurately, our responses seem inadequate or inappropriate.

Politicians communicate in short bursts of ungrammatical, inarticulate, positions that are taken to be rulings and legal frameworks, but in fact have no weight or value. Leaders are accused of corruption, but manage to slip through the legal process and hold office without being held accountable. Some establish policies that violate the laws of their respective countries, but claim that high poll numbers indicate that their citizens approve of such behaviour. Where is the accountability, where are our votes going, where is the concerned citizenry? How on earth did we get into such a spiral?

I remember a time when the people had a voice; when the phrase “liberal values” was not a dirty word. I do understand the fears that some conservatives have, but I don’t understand why our politicians are constantly fear mongering.

Many are concerned about immigrants who try to cross borders illegally. I get that. But we should not be afraid of immigrants in general. We Jews all came here as immigrants. And we were all horrified when some of us were refused entry and were proud, or at least heartened, when the prime minister apologized for Canada’s refusal to allow the Jewish refugees on the MS St. Louis to enter Canada in 1939. Some 250 Jews died because Canada would not give them asylum. In fact, of all the Allied countries, Canada admitted the fewest number of Jews. At least in the 1950s, Canada returned to an open-door policy and started welcoming many Jews from Arab countries. Given those facts, how can we side with the anti-immigration factions? How can we cheer when families are torn apart south of the border? How can we agree with the CAQ’s policy limiting immigration to Quebec?

It seems to me that we have lost our way, that our values have been turned around and, in our confusion, we have become isolationists. Fear mongering has replaced our notions of being good neighbours. Instead of following the biblical mandate to protect the widow and orphan, we want to look out only for ourselves. How can that sit right with our Jewish ideals and standards?


There are many problems facing the world today – issues such as the environment, education and health care. But the headlines and talk shows focus on the glitter, which avoids the complexity of our dilemmas. If they do “investigate” any of the issues, they tend to focus on one simple solution and evade most of the nuance.

Thus, if the problem is health care, then the answer is easy: just add another administrative layer into the system, or eliminate the Affordable Care Act. If the problem is pollution, ban cars in the downtown area. Forget about the small businesses that will be profoundly impacted by such a move. If the province is seeing an outflow of immigrants after they are trained, then limit immigration. Simple solutions for complex problems.

At the same time, politicians and the media feed the fear – fear of the new, the different and the other. How can this be good? How can we grow as a community and as a nation?

Diversity feeds the nation. It invests in communal values by inspiring and offering new ideas, while strengthening our tried and true ideals. There is nothing to fear if we are sure of our traditions. Confidence in our ways is built on our sense of openness, not by being closed off from the world at large. We must invest in Canada and welcome others, so we can share and grow.

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