President's Commentary: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes

NUPGE President Larry Brown argues that the temptation to laugh, even if the laugh was bitter, has been erased over the last few days as the Trump administration issued racist and religiously biased travel bans on people traveling to the U.S.

By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes.

            —Macbeth, IV:1

It has been too easy to dismiss the new American president as a bit of a cartoon. 

A billionaire, with a cabinet full of billionaires, who claims to be standing up for the American worker. A president that appoints someone who hates unions as Secretary of Labour. Someone who hates public schools as Secretary of Education. Someone who wanted to do away with the Energy department as Secretary of, you guessed it, the Energy department.

And as the most powerful elected official in the world, he gets preoccupied with how big his inauguration crowd was, using alternative facts to prove that up is down, black is white, and smaller actually means bigger.

But any temptation to laugh, even if the laugh was bitter, was erased over the last few days when this monstrosity of an administration issued racist and religiously biased travel bans on people traveling to the U.S. If you are a Muslim from a select group of countries, you can’t go to the U.S. any more. If you are a Christian — and therefore apparently incapable of bad behavior — you will get priority for your refugee application.

This is awful stuff. 

During the election campaign Trump validated and gave comfort to racists and bigots and sexists and white supremists — by his speeches and his actions, he gave the people who should stay away from decent society permission to emerge from under their rocks and publicly vent their bile.

Canada is not far enough away from this unfolding tragedy. The racists and bigots and sexists and white supremists in our midst have been similarly emboldened.

And on Sunday night, the unspeakable happened. Six innocent people in Canada were gunned down not because they had said anything or done anything, but because they were of a non-white race and because they were Muslim. 

The ugly underbelly of our society is always present. But in normal times, people who have despicable opinions are on the fringes, looking in. 

These are no longer normal times.

We the people have to stand up and say we are not going to accept this. We the people have to take a stand for decency and for a society that tolerates instead of hates. We the people have to form a human shield to defend those who are the intended victims of hate.

Too many people are saying  that our government needs to appease and mollify, and be careful not to offend, the bully next door. That is cowardly and unacceptable to Canadians, and an affront to our values. We should never, in our personal lives or in our politics, appease a bully. 

We need to demand that our government publicly and vigorously defend our values and all our people, and for all of us, our freedom from fear and violence.

Those who study history will be all too aware of the warning signs now flashing, saying danger lies ahead. We need to arm ourselves, not with armaments but with courage and conviction, to prevent these dangers from overwhelming us.

My thumbs are prickling. Something wicked this way comes.

In solidarity,

Larry Brown
NUPGE President

NUPGE

Larry Brown is the President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE