We Canadians are often criticized for being too smug for engaging in excessive self-congratulation. You know the drill. We've got universal single-payer healthcare and Americans don't. We have effective gun control laws and low violent crime rates and Americans don't.
Personally, I think we often overdo our polite humble brag. After all, we're far from perfect and really shouldn't be throwing critical stones at America's political glass house, no matter how big and poorly constructed it might be.
But there is one issue where I have to concede that we have outdone the U. S. in a huge way: the acceptance and resettlement of Syrian refugees. When it comes to welcoming those fleeing the ongoing destructive civil war, we win hands down.
Last year, Canada took in some 39,000 Syrian refugees and Canadian cities from coast to coast have made great efforts to help them adapt and assimilate. The U.S., on the other hand, let in a grand total of roughly 13,000 refugees, an embarrassing number given our population is only a tenth of theirs.
And since Americans have seen fit to elect the Islamophobic Donald Trump, things have only gotten worse. With his proposed Muslim ban, it looks like he wants to halt the trickle of Syrian refugees altogether.
Shameful as all this is just as a matter of pure numbers, it is all the more shameful given who is to blame for the situation. The disastrous Syrian civil war did not arise out of thin air. It was the necessary and tragic result of America's ill-thought-out and illegal incursion into Iraq.
When George W. Bush stupidly and unlawfully removed the lid from the Pandora's Box that was Iraq, he initiated the events that led to today's Middle Eastern tragedies. That mistake was compounded by other egregious errors such as the disbandment of the Iraqi army that ultimately led to the formation of ISIS and its escalation of the Syrian conflict.
Without America's criminal intervention in Iraq, Syria would likely have remained a relatively stable autocracy. That's not to say that such a repressive state is desirable or laudable but I have no doubt that most Syrians would opt for that functioning society in place of the disaster they are now fleeing.
Like some lumbering leviathan, America ignorantly bumbles into another country with a naïve notion of "liberating a dictatorship" or "spreading democracy." Despite repeated warnings from those in the know (including the State Department's own experts), leaders like Bush rush in where even fools know the obvious consequences and thus fear to tread.
But when things go predictably and tragically wrong, America is nowhere to be found. The Pottery Barn rule ("you break it, you own it") seems to have no application to the American bull in the Middle Eastern china shop.
This, of course, has been the pattern for years. The U. S. invades some poor country, declares victory and eschews any responsibility for cleaning up the resulting mess.
That is why America's position on Syrian refugees is all the more shameful. A responsible democracy which created such a horrible situation would presumably want to make amends and do everything in its power to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected.
"Maybe enough Americans will awake from their comfortable ignorant slumber and help will be offered to those they have harmed although history suggests otherwise."
Yet where is the United States when it comes to helping the Syrian people? Once again, America is last in line. European countries are overwhelmed in their attempts to help and even little Canada does thirty times more than America which again just throws its arms up and says "Who, me?"
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this state of affairs. After all, a nation that still hasn't come to terms with its history of slavery can't be expected to take responsibility for the human damage it has caused elsewhere.
Maybe things will improve although not likely during the reign of Donald Trump. Maybe enough Americans will awake from their comfortable ignorant slumber and help will be offered to those they have harmed although history suggests otherwise.
In the meantime, I will take pride in Canada's small attempt to assist those hurt by the heedless American giant. After all, it's the least we can do.
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