2017: Taking the Good with the Bad.

As the massive opposition and controversy against Donald Trump—so what else is new?—bubbles across America after his inauguration into (what is now arguably) the highest office in the land, there is still a smorgasbord of rants that can be written about Trump.

[Side note: the title “President Trump” feels a bit like rancid bile on my tongue so I’m going to refrain from using that for the rest of this piece.]

Regardless, I thought maybe I should keep my head out of the internet swamp that is Trump mania despite how both fun and depressing it would be to gather a slush pile of reasons why Trump is an idiot. (Please see: any of the Last Week with John Oliver clips on YouTube relating to Trump—both tragic and hilarious).

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Photo Credit: Business Insider

But following an atrocious year of grim events, I would like to keep 2017 going strong in momentum and pump some lost optimism into the minds of the dwindling hopefuls and increasing cynics.

So here I remind you of a few reasons to think for once, hey, maybe the world is off to an okay start this year.

 

Unity.

As consequences of that terrible 2016 election slides into the new year, the rampant lava of hate and idiocy flowing through parts of the US has not yet destroyed everything in its path. While it has split the American population quite bluntly into supporters and non-supporters, it has also paradoxically unified people in a way that I’d dare say is kind of beautiful.

When Trump held his pen between his short vulgarian fingers—a fantastic description we can thank Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter for—and signed a dozen executive orders within the first 20 days of his presidency, the world simultaneously cringed and burst with funny memes, inspiring messages, and threads to encourage people to hold it together. And held it together they have.

On January 27, after Trump temporarily blocked citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., airports were thrown into chaos and confusion. The ban prevented any traveller from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days with a 120-day suspension of refugee admissions from these countries. Among heartbreak and worry from family members and friends waiting for loved ones who had been detained, people sprang into action.

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Photo Credit: Sputnik News

Protesters gathered in droves outside airports across the country, but more surprisingly, lawyers had collected inside more than 30 airports since the ban was put in place to offer free legal advice and file paperwork for those who needed assistance, according to the Globe and Mail.

Lawyers for Good Government was a group created after the election in November of last year as a place for lawyers to work together and trade ideas on how to effectively oppose the new administration. It has over 120,000 members according to its website and Facebook page.

Meanwhile, even Canadian lawyers had begun to offer their services and advice to clients facing problems at the border. CBC news reported that Vancouver International Airport, Pearson International, and Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport were only some of the places that had lawyers stationed to assist clients who had been affected by the executive order.

Currently, the travel ban is on hold by U.S. federal courts. Across the nation, lawyers, judges, and government officials from states such as Washington, Virginia, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and California fought against the legality of such an order, which has been working so far. Trump’s team is fighting to create an altered version of the ban meant to “streamline” its execution and amend certain measures of the first version that may have caused its failure in the courts.

Despite not knowing exactly what the new version of the ban will look like, one can remain sceptical and relieved that the blatant discrimination and lack of appeal to actual national security concerns will stay in the new version just like the old, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in the administration pushing it through again. But it’s nice to know that when push comes to shove, people will stand together.

 

Women’s Movement.

On January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration, almost five million people gathered in 673 marches around the world in protest of Trump, as stated on the Women’s March website. People marched in support of not only women’s rights, but also the rights of minorities, the marginalized, and victims of discrimination whom Trump had both alienated and insulted during his campaign.

The solidarity continues through another Women’s March campaign called 10 Actions for the First 100 Days, where “huddles” are formed around the world for groups of like-minded individuals to come together to envision end goals and plan steps of action to achieve these goals during the next four years. In other words, how best to ensure Trump does not get re-elected.

Even Audi has jumped on the progressive bandwagon and launched a commercial, during the Super Bowl I might add, where advertisers spend an average of $5 million for each hyped-up slot, designed for not only boosting sales but to put forth a greater message of promoting “equal pay for equal work.” People might be cynical of the obvious sales pitch and cheesy undertones, but big corporations have big voices. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have public messaging like that.

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img_4558On February 14, the 27th Annual Women’s Memorial March took place in Vancouver with hundreds in attendance to honour the lives of the many women found murdered and/or missing in the Downtown Eastside. The March continues to shine a light on unsolved and under-reported crimes in this area and the fact that a disproportionate number of those victims were indigenous women. I include this event as an optimistic example of the movement because it shows the hope and desire for change that both loved ones and strangers carry forward in remembrance and support of these women, which to me, is something that should be encouraged and discussed with more significance.

 

Canada and the Refugee Crisis.

As of January 29, 2017, according to figures posted on the Government of Canada’s #WelcomeRefugees page, 40,081 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 4, 2015. Canada has become and remains one of the key players among its closest allies in assisting with the Syrian refugee crisis (taking country size and population into consideration), although we still fall far below countries like Germany and Sweden, both of which have welcomed over one million and 160,000 refugees over the last two years, respectively.

For 2017, the government aims to bring 300,000 new permanent residents overall into Canada, with 40,000 of these spots reserved for “Protected Persons and Refugees.” The overall level remains higher than previous recent years; although the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), a non-profit committed to upholding the rights and protections for refugees and immigrants, expressed criticism regarding the low targeted number of government-assisted refugees, 7500, Canada is aiming to bring in for the year.

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Photo Credit: UNHCR Facebook page

“It is particularly distressing,” reads CCR’s comments, “that Canada would not increase its commitment at a time when the global need for resettlement places for refugees is greater than ever (UNHCR projects needs for 1,190,000 refugees to be resettled in 2017).”

Why am I feeling optimistic about these numbers? After the Trudeau government achieved their promise to bring 25,000 refugees into Canada during 2015 and early 2016, I’m not really surprised the target number of specifically government-assisted refugees dipped lower this year after the onslaught of new arrivals. I don’t think this means that we’ll see this figure continue to drop, in fact, I believe it will begin to increase, just at a more gradual rate. I think the system is changing for the better—we just have to give it time.

 

It’s true, the government can always do more. We can always do better. Nevertheless, our country and the communities helping to sponsor refugees during this time of crisis are making a difference. As Canada pulls back in the number of refugees directly sponsored by the government, they’re moving a step forward in encouraging further action to be taken by other countries in terms of adopting Canada’s private sponsorship program, hailed by the UN as a truly effective option. In December 2016, Canada launched the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative that took place over a three-day session to promote this program to other nations, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. (wait, what?)

The program began in the ’70s as a response to the flood of refugees coming from Vietnam, or the “Boat People” crisis as many called it. Over 60,000 refugees were accepted into Canada by the end of 1980, many of whom were privately sponsored by ordinary citizens and organizations.

Two of those 60,000 “Boat People” happened to be a young married couple, both of whom were sponsored in 1979 by a group of about seven Canadians.

The couple, now Canadian citizens, were my mom and dad.

Looking at the bigger picture, yes, there’s a lot that can be better. But sometimes you have to take a break from looking at all the shit and garbage and how awful this world can be, and look at all the positive things we can do and have done.

In 1979, that small group of seven Canadians touched the lives of two people forever. It’s a tiny number on the scale of a crisis, but now generations of Lus will be raised in Canada and have a life filled with opportunities and freedoms. This random bunch of people had hope, took action for change, and made a difference beyond words in terms of my life and those I love.

We can still complain and bitch about the world (I’m one of the biggest culprits of that), but let’s try and keep 2017 positive. There’s so much to be angry about, but maybe even more to be inspired by if you take a closer look.

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My parents, Truong Lu and My Tam Lu, and their grandson, Ethan Thanh Darby.

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