Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Canada Rocks

Let's just go ahead and say it: Canada rocks!! This seems so un-Canadian to say--so boastful, so assertive, so silly. Oops. Canada is the home to silly, as Kids in the Hall and William Shatner exemplify. But, given my previous whining about Canada, I have to say that I am incredibly fortunate to find myself in this mysterious land, despite the incredibly long winters and high taxes. Not only do I have tenure, something that is increasingly scarce [More on the changes in the profession in a future post], but I have students who care about the world because they are genuinely curious and not just because they want a high grade. So, let me count the ways in which Canada rocks:
  1. Canadians care about the world around them and have a pretty good idea not only of where places are, but why they matter in the broader scheme of things. Reporters don't have to ask me "why does x matter for Montreal or Canada." In Lubbock, I had to show a connection between international events and Lubbock, which was sometimes hard to do. Indeed, it resulted in a 1996 story that suggested that Lubbock was a prime target for terrorism (long story how that happened).
  2. Canadians care more about the collateral damage they cause than the average American. Indeed, I think the Canadian Military bought into the Petraeus playbook on counter-insurgency before most American units. Less force is often better. Indeed, because of the events during the 1993 effort in Somalia, the issue of detainees is quite important to military officials and civilians alike. So, oversight over detention is significant and an Abu Ghraib is far less likely and certainly far less tolerated.
  3. Canadians have a great sense of humor (humour?) about themselves and everyone else, peaking at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal every summer. Indeed, they have such an excess of funny folks, it has become a major export industry: Will Arnett, Dan Ackroyd, Jim Carrey, Dave Foley and the rest of the aforementioned Kids in the Hall, the late Phil Hartman, the SCTV folks, Norm MacDonald, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, and more. Indeed, the only thing they export more than comedians would be failing sports teams (Expos, the Vancouver basketball team, half of the NHL, etc).
  4. While the English/French issues are not close to being solved, they are well-managed compared to most places.
  5. The people are incredibly friendly and supportive. Even the thieves are mostly non-violent, and were considerate enough to steal two desktops from my office and one car from a commuter lot without my being around. Good show!
  6. Their mainstream beers are quite good, compared to the swill produced by the major US breweries, although US has more and better microbrews.
  7. Home of Wolverine and Alpha Flight (which had the first major out-of-the-closet superhero in the Marvel Universe).
  8. It is a very small pond, so I have been able to use McGill's status as one of the top 2-3 schools in the country to get access to nearly every single politician and military officer whom I wanted to interview, including one former Prime Minister, two former Ministers of National Defense, two Chiefs of Defense Staff (Hillier when he was in the position, Natynczyk when he was the Vice CDS), a couple of Deputy CDS's, the Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM), two deputy commanders of CEFCOM, and most of the folks who have commanded in Afghanistan. I was even invited to go Afghanistan in December 2007.
  9. The name of its Defense bureaucracy is the Department of National Defence or DND, which always makes me think of Dungeons and Dragons and that a dice roll of 17-19 led to the deployment in Kandahar as opposed one of 20, which would have been Tikrit.
  10. Canadians have been incredibly tolerant of this curious, somewhat(?) outspoken, occasionally(?) critical foreigner, and their accommodation of me has been far more than reasonable but downright generous. Hopefully, that will continue as I complain about Canada some more in future posts (insert winky face here).

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