Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Annoying Canadian nationalism

Yes, there are Canadian nationalists.  And one strand in Canadian nationalism can get tiresome: the smug part about how Canada is better than the US because of American crime or inequality or the rest.  This morning, I woke up to not just various reviews of the Inauguration but to this piece.  The title itself, which may not be the writer's fault, is annoying enough--that we could brag, but will not and then the article goes ahead and does so.

Yes, there is a bit less hoopla at the American parties and the Canadian party still rocks out because everything is wonderful in Canada.  Hmmm, why no austerity programs in Canada?  Oh wait, there are some significant budget cuts--talk to the teachers and students in Ontario.  I am still wondering how my daughter will have any extracurriculars on her colleague applications next year when the teachers are refraining from supporting such activities this year due to their strife with the province.  Oh, and perhaps Canada's good situation is partly/largely funded by its oil wealth?  Which is fine except that it makes Canada a leader in climate change--causing, not fighting.

One can go back and forth about the respective virtues and vices of the US and Canada.  Both do tremendous good in the world, and both do some bad stuff as well. The US does more bad stuff because, well, as a much more powerful country, it can.  The US has heaps of stains in its history--slavery and treatment of the Native Americans stand out; but Canada still has some problems with its First Nations, does it not?  In some ways, American institutions are failing--the political parties (especially the Republicans) have turned checks and balances into deadlock.  But Canadian institutions are a mystery to many Canadians--what is the role of the Governor General and the Queen?  And Westminster systems generally mean that they have the opposite problem of the US--instead of tyranny of the minority, they have tyranny of the majority.  Which one is better?  Depends on what you expect to be, I guess.

Any nationalism will have multiple strands and people will disagree about the relative weight and meaning of each strand.  Canadian nationalism is more than "the US sucks more than we do" but sometimes that particular strand stands out and actually diminishes all that is good in Canada--its multiculturalism, its multilingualism, its good public spirit, its positive role in the world via both peacekeeping and warfighting, its role in banning landmines, and so on.  I have enjoyed the past ten plus years here, having been most welcomed, even in Montreal when my ability to speak in French was insufficient.  So, I don't want to rain all over the Canadian parade, but it would be nice if the Canadian nationalists did not try to sleet on yesterday's parade in DC.

1 comment:

Josh said...

canadians are annoying with their smugness. do they realize their country has benefitted tremendously over the last 8 decades from having the United States as its nearest neighbor? everything happening in the United States motivates discussion in canadian media - in other words, we're fun to watch. without the american market, there probably would not be a quality professional hockey league. one can go on and on, but the fact is that the United States has suffered (much more) for having to be the policeman in this world. there is no way to identify the tangible benefits of the American presence in world politics, but it exists. we as a planet are much better without Saddam, with the Arab Spring (thanks to the minimization of Al Quaida), etc. so when i recall that image (somewhere on the internet) of that young woman holding a sign saying "at least we have health care" (apparently at an international sporting event) i grimace at the callousness. and i think of maimed, disfigured, or dead american men whose service in the big picture allows places like canada and germany to live without these stresses. the world should thank the US.