OTTAWA: Now I see why Donald Trump has a mad-on about Canada.
Just walk around this grand capital city of rough granite and brown stone perched on the edge of the Ottawa River and you’ll get it.
Listen, this town wouldn’t even be here if the Canadians hadn’t been so freaked out about a possible American invasion during the war of 1812 that they terra-formed a lock-and-canal system through the wilderness lest the enemy blockade the St. Lawrence River.
But that’s ancient history. Point is you can’t walk around here today without seeing In-your-Face-Donald signs overt and subtle.
One restaurant serves a dish called “Love Trumps Hate.” Shops proudly display smiling photos of a young, energetic and articulate leader who is the anti-Trump in every way.
Not Justin Trudeau, although I’m sure they like him too.
No, Ottawans are still infatuated with Barack Obama, whose last official visit was in 2016. Bakeries sell Obama cookies.
Not that Canadians are all that vocal about our prez. Rage and anger tend to be an American bumper crop. North of the border they prefer to farm affability.
“Give a message to your president…” our city bicycle guide began. And then he hesitated, shrugged and dropped it. Discretion being the better part of Canadian valor.
No, this is decidedly not Trump country.
Up on Parliament Hill a bronze suffragette brandishes a banner proclaiming “Women Are Persons.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s still mulling that one over in the D.C. Swamp.
And on a bridge spanning the Rideau Canal, there is an outdoor display of photos and graphics asserting that the Canadian government believes climate change is real, serious and must be confronted, not denied.
“Climate change impacts human health, the economy and natural resources,” we are informed. While Canada touts wind and solar, it is all coal all the time back in the presidential bunker formerly known as the White House.
Meanwhile, people are lining up at Ottawa’s National Gallery to see its latest exhibit: Anthropocene.”
That being the theory that the Earth is entering a new geological epoch in which human activity, not nature, is permanently altering the planet.
“Humans now change the Earth’s systems more than all other natural processes combined,” the exhibit argues. As evidence it offers startling aerial view photos: City-sized plastic landfills in Africa, oil refining on the coastal Gulf of Mexico, tundra tunneling in Russia, fracking in Wyoming.
There is a haunting video of the mass incineration of ivory tusks seized from elephant poachers that should make you cry if you have an ounce of compassion left in your soul.
Viewed from the 25,000-foot level, some of the images – copper smelting in Arizona, oil bunkering in the Niger Delta – at first look like lovely surrealistic art forms. Until it dawns on you that all the strange colors and weird shapes are, literally, earth-changing events.
That’s not Dali. Those “swirling, marble-like patterns are the result of leached heavy metals held in tailing ponds at an Arizona mining-smelter operation.”
But you don’t have to go to Canada to get schooled on this brave new world we are carving out for ourselves. Just visit UF’s own Harn Museum and see its new exhibit: “The World To Come: Art In The Age of Anthropocene.”
These artists “display a mastery of human power over nature”…all the while attempting to keep their “optimism in check and nihilism at bay.”
Oh the irony. Our down-to-earth terra-forming has literally become a unique art-form all its own.
Oh Canada. Oh America. Oh Donald!
(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.)
(Published Oct. 7 in the Gainesville Sun.)