Thompson Rivers University

Protests are good news in complicated political transition

  Posted on: February 1, 2017

Dr. Wilson Bell knows a thing or two about systematic discrimination and the havoc it wreaks on those within its sightline.

The Russian historian who has written extensively about 20th century history and repression — specifically forced labour camps, or Gulags, in the Soviet Union under Stalin — has dual American and Canadian citizenship, and has been watching closely as President Donald Trump transitions to power.

Read: President’s Message about US travel ban and Quebec shootings, InsideTRU, Jan. 31, 2017
Watch: TRU professor opening arms to those affected by travel ban, CFJC Today, Jan. 30, 2017
Read: Historian awarded prestigious research grant, InsideTRU, Sept. 28, 2015

While deeply concerned about the recent executive orders, Bell said he finds the ensuing protests — the Women’s March on Washington and the numerous airport protests that rose up following the travel ban — heartening. And he’s eager to see demonstrations continue.

“One of the questions I’ve dealt with in my research is the issue of the bystander. This is largely borrowed from those asking that question about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. In this case, the bystander is one who isn’t directly impacted, but who must have known what was going on, and did nothing.”

Bystanders in the U.S. are rising up right now, which he calls “encouraging,” but he’s greatly concerned about Trump’s criticism of the media and the justice system.

“Seeing Trump attack the press as being the opposition party, seeing him dismiss people within the justice system who don’t agree with his executive orders, even when those executive orders have been deemed unconstitutional, are very worrying signs.

“It’s so important for people to speak out, and try to find more ways to speak out. Protests are only possible in a political system that exists within a strong, civil society.”

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Dr. Wilson Bell