The Embarrassing, Hilarious, Can't-Look-Away Trudeau Show
Imagine the reaction of the media if President Trump donned lederhosen and tried to do a German folk dance during a trip to meet with Germany's Angela Merkel. Or imagine if India's president, Ram Nath Kovind, arrived for a state visit to Canada dressed as a red-jacketed Canadian Mountie or as a plaid-shirted lumberjack carrying an axe.
The equivalent of the above is pretty much what Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted during his recent trip to India, where he made himself a laughingstock because of his fervid embrace of the religion of multiculturalism.
It was quite a show. Nothing was too much for Trudeau to do if it buttressed his devotion to national traditions other than the traditions of his own country, which is supposed to be Canada. Trudeau acted as if he were a representative of India, not Canada. He dressed like an Indian, tried to dance like an Indian, gestured like an Indian.
Nothing was off limits when it came to his acting, either. As Business Insider reported, "At one point, Trudeau, wearing traditional dress, broke into the Indian dance called the Bhangra, to a mixed reaction on Twitter."
Oh, it must have been something to see. Or not.
Some observers, such as Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, apparently had had enough of the Trudeau show after three days of the prime minster decking himself out in splendid Indian dress and prancing through the steps of the Bhangra. Abdullah tweeted, "Is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now? Also, FYI we Indians don't dress like this every day sir, not even in Bollywood."
Underlying Trudeau's obvious cultural appropriation of India's tradition of sartorial splendor is the belief that identification with any culture but the Western tradition is virtuous. Pretending to be an Indian from the upper classes or a member of Bollywood is supposedly better than being dressed in a suit or a tuxedo, both of which are ordinary Western dress but both of which may have been deemed by Trudeau as giving off vibes of Western imperialism.
He erred even more by hauling his entire family onto the multiculturalist stage, having them all dress in Indian attire while assuming the gestures typical of an Indian greeting. It all looked like a badly staged version of the Von Trapp family done Indian style. Thankfully, the family didn't sing.
Perhaps some of the messages were unintentional, but at the heart of the Trudeau show is the idea that imitation is the sincerest form of diplomacy.
On the contrary, the whole cringe-inducing episode had to have been humiliating for many of the people of Canada, including some of the immigrants from India who are part of Canada's population. What are they to think of their prime minister's ridiculous performances? Surely, they have seen that Trudeau's efforts were not truly diplomatic. Surely, they have noted the insulting fakery. This is to say nothing of the very bad acting and dancing.
There are some lessons to be learned from Trudeau's bad stagecraft.
First, ersatz pretenses of multiculturalism coupled with bad acting should never be part of diplomacy. It is diplomatic to understand the history of the nation one is visiting. It is gracious diplomacy to avoid egregious offenses by learning what the host country considers good manners. It is not good diplomacy to present oneself as an imitation citizen of the country that has invited you to visit.
Second, to state the obvious: Mr. Trudeau supposedly was visiting India to represent Canada, not India itself. Canada has its own integrity and national traditions, which traditions are the ones Mr. Trudeau is supposed to represent. Some of those traditions include parliamentary government vested in the national interests of Canada, which still technically is part of the British Commonwealth. In other words, Canada is Western in its history, not Indian. Mr. Trudeau is a Westerner, though he appears either not to know it or not to like it.
Third, Trudeau's attachment to the ideals of globalism is obvious. Even if it is at the expense of his own country, he apparently is committed to following the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." If he were in Tibet, he would probably attempt to take up a prayer wheel and learn throat-singing. If he were in Japan, he might be inclined to wear a samurai costume and thrum away on the shamisen. Were he in Australia, he might try the "Kangaroo Hop" on the didgeridoo. Nor would he neglect trying out the melodious flugelhorn while in the Swiss alps.
In any case, he has revealed himself as a chameleon who will try to assume the cultural identity of any nation he visits – any nation other than Canada.
In view of his bending over backward to be all things to all people, we can hazard a guess that as Trudeau returns to Canada, he will doubtless continue to try to be all things to all peoplekind.
Fay Voshell may be reached at email@example.com.
Image via the Toronto Star.