Sometimes, silence is a powerful communications tool. Sometimes, silence conveys far more than mere words can. Sometimes, silence says it all.
So it was at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s news conference this week in Ottawa. A reporter asked him, "You've been reluctant to comment about the words and actions of the U.S. president. I'd like to ask you what you think about that. And, if you don't want to comment, what message do you think you're sending?"
It was a reference to the shocking events in Lafayette Park on June 1, when peaceful protesters and journalists were viciously attacked by armed police and military in order to make way for President Trump’s disgraceful photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Twenty-one long seconds of silence followed.
"We all watch in horror and consternation what's going on in the United States," Trudeau finally said. "It is a time to pull people together…it is a time to listen."
Some critics, most notably Russian Television, panned Trudeau’s lengthy pause, but it spoke volumes about how our neighbor and loyal ally to the north views what is going on right now in America.
After Trump was widely criticized for hiding out in the White House as protesters massed in the park across the street, presidential adviser Hope Hicks reportedly came up with the idea of the church photo op, presumably in a lame attempt to portray the president’s “strength.”
But first, all those pesky demonstrators had to be removed, so flash grenades, pepper balls and brute force were wantonly applied at the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr. It reminded me of the scene in “Dr. Zhivago,” when the czar unleashes his sword-wheedling Cossacks on peaceful Russian protesters.
Trudeau admitted Canadians have their own problems with racial discrimination, but those 21 seconds of silence of his undoubtedly reflect how the rest of the peace-loving world regards the collapse of presidential leadership here.
Kevin Foley owns KEF Media in Atlanta.