Distinct societies: Why Canada, U.S., diverge on Syrian refugees: Adams

Michael Adams on the contrast between Canada and the USA:

Americans certainly enjoy unique latitude in the individual pursuit of happiness, but the pursuit of happiness doesn’t always look like much fun. In an environment where there is a lot to fear (financial ruin in an unforgiving system, illness leading to bankruptcy, gun violence inflicted by a stranger, a family member, or an unsupervised toddler), it is perhaps not surprising that some are eager to control the one variable that seems like a no-brainer: don’t give jihadists a green card. But one of the San Bernardino jihadis seems to have been born in Chicago. The “big and beautiful wall” Donald Trump proposed to build to keep dangerous people out of America would require complex architecture indeed. No society is or can be perfectly safe. But societies that have traditionally put a little more stock in collective well-being seem to have better odds. To be fair, those safer, quieter places have also not been the birthplaces of Apple, Google, Tesla, Amazon, Wikipedia and the first man on the moon.

As I have written elsewhere, despite the current apparent spasm of xenophobic sentiment and the din of gun violence, our values research suggests that in fact Americans’ values are tilting in a slightly more Canadian direction – toward greater openness to social difference, a more nuanced sense of personal autonomy, and even a less suspicious attitude toward government. The shift is by no means a sea change, but the election of Mr. Obama (twice) was indeed the product of deep and meaningful changes in the electorate, no matter how lonely he may sometimes appear in White House press briefings these days. As younger voters, women (especially single women), and America’s diverse, city-dwelling voters become more influential politically, America is changing. But those who are on average less keen on this direction of social change (older, more conservative, whiter, more religious and patriarchal voters) have some innings left, as the tremendous polarization of U.S. political discourse attests.

What will become of America in the next election cycle and beyond? And how will the noisy debates and decisions of our neighbour to the south influence our own public conversations and political aspirations? As we wait to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees, Canada feels like a fairly peaceable corner of a turbulent world. Recent reports suggest, however, that of the more than 25,000 refugees interviewed by the UN, fewer than 2,000 were interested in coming to Canada. Many are likely hoping for reunification with family members in Europe. It would be interesting to know how many are holding out for their shot at the American Dream.

Source: Distinct societies: Why Canada, U.S., diverge on Syrian refugees – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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