WASHINGTON — O Canada. It is hard to explain to anybody down here how why the remarks that President Trump and his aides made about Canada sting so deeply and so frighteningly.
Maybe the fact my mother was a Canadian citizen, as were my maternal grandparents, might help. Perhaps the fact that my own family lived for years within easy sight of the Old Fort Erie explains it, in part.
To a kid raised in Buffalo, Canada was not quite another country, although it had a distinct history and better law enforcement. It was another place, a wonderful place. People seemed nicer, better behaved.
Coming and going then was casual. Underage rowers from the West Side Rowing Club often boarded the ferry "City of Toledo" on Friday nights for Fort Erie to guzzle delicious Canadian ale at the King Edward Hotel in Fort Erie.
Now, as is his sickening style, Trump has picked a fight with Canada — in disrespect, in ferocity, in taunts not leveled at our good neighbor in the 152 years since Irish-American volunteers fought British regulars at the Battle of Ridgeway.
America has trade disputes with Canada, as it does with China and Japan. Trump is taking them seriously for the first time in decades, which is great.
But the talk he and his aides are using against Canada is stuff reserved for mortal enemies — not friends that stood with the United States in three terrible wars. Trump and his aides are using language he used to put down his Republican rivals in 2016. They're like bolts from a stun gun.
Balanced people, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, don't know what to do with them.
After the G-7 Summit in Ontario, which Trump left early, Trudeau stood for some questions from the Canadian media, and he said Canada would retaliate against any threatened U.S. import taxes, tariffs, it imposed on Canadian goods. U.S. trade representatives reacted wildly on the Sunday talk shows.
The attacks had Trump's boot marks all over them. Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic advisor, said Trudeau "really kind of stabbed us in the back." Peter Navarro, a White House trade official, said Trudeau "tried to stab (Trump) in the back."
Navarro said his words "reflected the sentiment that was on Air Force One," meaning the presidential jet on its way to the summit with the murderous Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore. This is a clear signal that Trump is now is demanding that his aides — contrary to their own histories of public behavior — must also inspire hatred and distrust.
This is the scary part, and more evidence that at the root of Trump's seeming weirdness is an existential evil.
The worst aspect is that his twisted behavior is succeeding in hardening support in a discernible sector of his core; more proof that hatred and pure evil are contagious diseases in any country at any time.
Navarro told his TV audience that Trudeau deserved a "a special place in hell" for his post G-7 comments. Kudlow said Trudeau was guilty of "betrayal."
Sure, America leaders have used that kind of language before. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 accused Fascist Italy of stabbing France in the back when Italy's dictator Mussolini invaded France at Hitler's behest.
Navarro later apologized. The arm-weary Kudlow, who promptly suffered what was said to be a "mild" heart attack after his Sunday show vehemence, has not yet apologized. But what difference would that make when Trump, after genuflecting to Kim and saluting his generals, said Trudeau's comments were going to cost Canadians "a lot of money?"