Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Potentially Radical Departure

For quite some time, I have been thinking of writing a book that reflected my take as an American ex-pat in Canada.  Not an academic book but not a fictional account.  Instead, hopefully humorous observations about Canada and its differences from its southern neighbor: A Yankee on Thin Ice.  As I drove to and from my daughter's college the past couple of days (hence the low spewage this week), I had an epiphany--that American interest in Canada is peaking!  Perhaps my potential book might be too late to capitalize on this heightened attention, but it did give me an intro chapter/section/whatever:

Tru-ly A Time For Americans to Think About Canada

            We live in strange times.  Canadians are often miffed that Americans do not pay enough attention to their northern neighbors.  Every year, they wonder why Canada is not mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address.  I remind them every year that being in the same category as Iran and North Korea is usually not a good thing, that being taken for granted may not always be a bad thing.  However, the American politics of 2016 have put a spotlight on Canada.  We have two very distinct politicians to thank for this: Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump.
            Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is having an Obama-esque moment.  For about seven years, Barak Obama was the most popular politician in Canada, with many Canadians wishing they could vote for him rather than the choices they have faced.  Now, more than a few Americans wish they could have Justin Trudeau on the ballot.  When Trudeau visits the U.S. (and other countries), it is almost as if the Beatles or Justin Bieber (insert more recent reference!) has arrived.  His charisma, his appeal to young folks, his ability to talk and talk off the cuff, his past social media adventures (boxing pictures, tattoos, etc.) and, of course, the fact that he has not yet taken many hard stances or made difficult decisions, has made him quite appealing to the American public.  I am sure that any poll of Americans would reflect a far greater percentage know who the Canadian Prime Minister is than at any point in recent history.  Beloved may be too strong, but admired certainly is not.  So, Americans are far more aware of Canada and its politics right now.
            At the same time, Donald Trump is making more Americans think of Canada as a possible destination than ever before.  Most American ex-pats living in Canada are annoyed every four years by the threats made by Americans that they will move to Canada if their preferred candidate loses the Presidential election.  This was particularly grating in 2012 when conservative Republicans issued such statements, given that Canada has had many of things that seemed to bother these folks: national health care program, same sex marriage, semi-legalized marijuana, etc.  This time, Americans in Canada and Canadians themselves are not surprised by the threats to move to Canada.  Trump is something else, so we already see the development of websites promising to help Americans transition to Canada.  Indeed, there is at least one dating site that aims to hook up Americans with Canadians so that they can have a, ahem, sponsor for their immigration: Maple Match!  Alas, I did not get any takers on my promise to reserve space in my basement for any Americans thinking of fleeing a Trump Presidency. Perhaps it was the non-refundable deposit I required.
          However, I would caution those thinking of fleeing to the Great White North: immigration is not easy, and, more importantly, Canada is not just a colder version of the United States.  I moved to Canada in 2002.  No, I was not fleeing the Bush Administration.  In 2002 and since then, I learned again and again that Canada is actually a distinct country, that the invisible lines (or pretty visible border) actually matter.  The purpose of this book is to share the lessons I learned, both to inform Americans about what they might be getting themselves into and to help Canadians understand why their American friends are so confused.

So, that's the start, for now.  Let me know what you think.  I don't know if I will have enough material for a short book or not, as most of my proposed chapters seem to be about as long as my typical blog-posts--not that long.  Given that this is now the academic summer followed by my sabbatical, I may make some progress on this.  Or I may not. 

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