A Question for My Canadian Colleagues

CanadaI have a question for my colleagues in Canada, “Why do you care about the United States?” I understand that it is kind of hard to avoid the United States. For one thing, as a country, we are kind of like evangelical Christians: we get into everyone else’s business. But still, if I lived in Canada, I would be gleeful to not have to think about my southern neighbor. That is assuming that the United States didn’t go all Canadian Bacon on me.

My great fear is that my Canadian friends find the US interesting in the same way that some members of my extended family enjoy The Jerry Springer Show. I fear this because I’m afraid that this is how the rest of the world looks at us. Whenever I travel, I get that idea. When I went to China last year, my host seemed to be making assumptions about me that I didn’t like. He was very nice—they always are! But I really wasn’t one of these guys who thinks that America is this vast bastion of freedom and China is the ultimate in repression. So rather than pregnant girls who don’t know which of 50 guys knocked her up, the United States offers pretentious twats who think we are superior to the rest of the world when we don’t have a clue what’s really going on in our own country.

But mostly, I’m incredibly bored with this country. Remember the article I wrote this morning about the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans think the the federal deficit is increasing? It’s really boring because it is exactly the way things have always been here. I freely admit that we don’t have much of a democracy here. And part of that is due to our political institutions. For example, we make it hard to vote. But mostly, our lack of democracy is the direct result of the people not demanding it. Now, if the people did demand it, maybe the power elite would then push back. That would be interesting. But as it is, it is just as The Class told us back in 1977:

I’m stuck with this country and very probably this government. And it isn’t like I’d be any less of a malcontent if I lived in Canada. But I’d like to think that I would give up on American politics. Unless it is like a drug. Maybe I only think that I’m interested in American politics because it directly affects me. Maybe it is just like I said above: I like the Jerry Springer aspect of it. I really don’t know. And maybe I’m being unfair because I clearly expect better of my Canadian colleagues than I do of myself.

Look: I know you have your Rick Santorums and Sarah Palins. You have your crack smoking mayors. You have your evil oil companies. But are we really the Greatest Freak Show on Earth? Let me check the Magic 8-Ball. Ah yes, “Signs point to yes.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “A Question for My Canadian Colleagues

  1. I’ve been reading Rick Salutin’s columns at the "Toronto Star" for a few years. He’s an, old, very liberal, generally optimistic sort. And the sense I get from his work is that the two countries are intertwined (just as the US and Mexico are in different ways.) Our Native movement coincided with theirs. Our energy policies and theirs have impact on each other. Their politics have gotten further away from labor and social good, more about privatization and "market-based" solutions, just like ours.

    Of course Canada is still a far saner country than we are. But no two neighbors sharing this much of a border and a mostly common language (sans les Quebecois) aren’t going to affect each other deeply.

    Then there’s also just the fact of our being the world’s biggest military power and prime instigator of world economic trends for decades. In Denmark, a few years back, I listened to several lubricated locals listing US Presidents in reverse order. Everybody could go at least as far back as Kennedy (if you gave them a pass on remembering Ford.) Some could go back to FDR. None could remember their own prime ministers past the 70s, not all the minor ones. Maybe because in parliamentary democracies, a twerp like W wouldn’t have lasted eight years. Or just that all our presidents are associated with big wars, big trade agreements, big scandals and the like. Makes ’em more celebrity-ish.

    As to the "freak show" aspect of US politics, remember someone once asked Mencken why he paid attention if what he saw repulsed him so much. His response was "why do people go to zoos?"

  2. @JMF – Mostly, I was just venting. If I get the chance, I [i]will[/i] leave the country. But that isn’t about politics. If I’m going to feel like an outsider somewhere, I might as well actually be an outsider. I really want to go somewhere they speak Spanish. I still want to read [i]Don Quixote[/i] in Spanish before I die. And I’m not sure that I have all that much time.

  3. I think most critics of America feel that way at times. Whenever a friend has to take a second job to afford upped health insurance premiums, or has to quit their job because there’s no other way to help care for a needy sick loved one, I get madder than hell, and just wish we all lived someplace else.

    The outsider thing makes sense. Probably something like that is why I used to move around this country a lot. I think, eventually, wherever one goes, one ends up frustrated with local politics; the trends are similar everywhere (for now, for now!) It is nice to have that feeling of impotence removed. When you’re an outsider, you don’t expect to win anyone over to the side of the angels — and, in fact, your outsider status can make some people listen to your experiences elsewhere. (If I tell a Dane their anti-Muslim racism is stupid, I’m an ignorant outsider. If I talk about the history of European immigrants in America facing similar racism 100 years ago, I get some interesting responses.)

    That Quixote goal sounds like a good one (and you never know; sometimes people with goals just live longer through pure stubbornness!) I’ve always wanted to see one of those Japanese baseball games where fans make up songs for each player and sing them during at-bats — however, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll never learn Japanese.

  4. @JMF – I think you are young enough to do that. But I don’t think singing baseball songs is a lofty enough goal to inspire it. I just like the idea of seeing a baseball game in Japan. That sounds great.

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