Sure they’ve been funny. Hilarious even. But with all due respect to the creative genius of Saturday Night Live, the truth is that Donald Trump just isn’t funny, anymore.
That doesn’t mean that I’d like to see an end to the political satire dished out by SNL; on the contrary, I think it’s more important than ever. Bring it on! As loud, and brash, and “in your face Donald!”, as you can possibly manage. But at the same time, we need to realize that what the Trump administration is doing to democracy, is no laughing matter.
It may seem early to be pushing the panic button only 24 days into the Trump Era, but this is something that can’t afford to wait.
It is the greatest challenge to American democracy since Nixon, in 1972.
Back then, Nixon just wanted to change the system so that he could by-pass existing laws, and be re-elected for a third term.
The Trump gang however, doesn’t want to by-pass the system, they want to burn it down.
The Case for Serious Concern:
If you doubt the reality of this, or think it could never happen, then I urge you to read this excellent piece by Yonatan Zunger, published in Medium. It quite clearly lays out the path by which the United States, under the current administration, could very easily be turned into a totalitarian police state dominated by whites, and fundamentalist Christians. And it could happen much more quickly than you might realize.
Sure there are legal checks and balances on the office of the President. Sure, the federal court intervened to issue a stay on Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims. Sure.
But did you notice that despite the ban, Muslims, and other foreigners are still being detained? Questioned for hours? Denied entry into the United States? Even prominent, and powerful American citizens.
The most Canadian examples is that of Fadwa Alaoui, a Canadian dual citizen turned back at the Quebec/Vermont border, because she had Muslim prayers on her cell phone. ( Traveling with your cell phone is another issue altogether right now. More on that, later. )
But last week Hina Shamsi, a prominent director of the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) in charge of the organization’s National Security Project, was apprehended on a return trip from the Dominican, held for hours, and questioned extensively by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. ( CBP )
Shamsi is a U.S. permanent resident. An American. Working with a prominent national organization dedicated to protecting the rights and liberties of American citizens. Despite her eventual release, the fact that she was stopped and held at all, sends a clear message. Those who rock the boat, or oppose the agenda of the current administration, will suffer the consequences.
Her ordeal was made possible, despite the U.S. Federal Court ruling, because the original travel ban order is so wide-reaching and vague, it’s not clear what it covers, and what it does not. And since CBP officers have almost limitless power when it comes to allowing entry ( or not ) into the United States, it can be interpreted in any way that a CBP officer wants to interpret it.
Leave Your Cell Phone at Home:
Which leads me back to cell phones.
One action that seems to be rapidly gaining popularity among CBP officers, is the temporary seizure of personal cell phones from those they choose to question, and a demand for passwords. Once obtained, the phone is thoroughly searched for items that might indicate opposition to the current Trump administration, or the practice of Muslim faith. Both, are almost automatic qualifiers for official refusal to enter the States. And remember, once they find something, anything, they don’t like and you are turned back, it will be entered in CBP records as “previously denied entry”, which is a major red flag at the border and could result in a lifetime of difficulty in crossing the into the United States or even, perhaps, permanent banishment.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Once your phone is confiscated, it takes the authorities about half and hour to download everything you’ve got stored upon it. Photographs, contacts, email, and all information from all of your applications, Cloud-based or otherwise, including Facebook, and passwords stored on a password app, for other devices you may use.
If you have a fingerprint security lock, it’s even worse, because now, in addition to your personal information, they also have an accurate record, of your fingerprint. You can bet it will go into a national security database somewhere, and you’d better hope that it doesn’t randomly turn up in a location where something illegal has occurred, whether you did anything wrong, or not.
But apart from opening yourself up to risk in this situation, you’ve now inadvertently placed everyone you know, or associate with, at risk as well. Those contact lists you have for friends on your apps, their telephone numbers, and plenty of other information, is now easily accessible to American authorities at any time they wish to pursue it.
And the courts, will have very little influence on whether these actions are legal or not. It takes years for a ruling to be rendered by a court. It takes only minutes for the information to be acquired. The horse is out of the barn, and gone, long before anyone can do anything to stop it.
How Do We Resist?:
Because of that, I have very reluctantly decided that I should not travel into the United States, until such time that there is a clear legal ruling regarding who may be allowed access, and who may not. Especially in regard to how it affects Canadian citizens. And even if I do go at some point, I will not be taking my cell phone. It’s very presence would be a powerful temptation to a zealous CBP officer, and as I’ve said, could cause problems for innocent friends and relatives down the line.
I am, in some ways torn about this position. After all, tens of thousands of tourists launching legal actions and protests in the United States could persuade American citizens that there is something wrong-headed about the policies of the Trump administration, and spur them to oppose those policies.
On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of Canadian tourists deciding to keep their money in Canada, might provide a far stronger, and more meaningful message, to American business interests that have far greater influence with the political administration, than individual foreigners do. After all, if there’s one thing that Americans understand, it’s the power of a buck.
Neither option is particularly palatable, but either is entirely possible.
So continue to laugh away at Saturday Night Live, if you wish, but please remember why I’m saying, “this stuff isn’t funny any more.”