Adventures in US-Canadian Citizenship

My apologies for not having written in a while, the problem being that Emily is no longer in America, but arrived two weeks ago in Canadaland (located somewhere between the North Pole and Cleveland, Canadaland is not unlike Candyland, minus the fun). I usually write about crazy America or Germany. They’re interesting because they’re foreign and weird and love revolutions (Germany apparently had a quasi-revolution in 1848, so says the book I stole from their embassy yesterday). Both countries provide an interesting point of comparison to anti-revolution, stability-loving Canada.

This is not to say Canada is in anyway boring. Since I’ve been here we’ve watched with too little ambivalence as our future king married. Then to add a nail to our political system coffin, we (shockingly) elected a majority conservative government (Point well taken, things seem to run better around here when I’m not in the country).

To add a little American content to my week I attended a series of lectures yesterday on Canada-US relations. Four hundred high school students from across Canuckland attended the talks at Carleton University. I was then given a group of 20 of the cutest Frenchest ones for a half hour to discuss the topic further.

“Full disclosure: I’ve barely lived in Canada in the last 4 years and I currently live in Florida,” I began, having finally found my classroom after roaming the halls far too long. “Let’s make a list of the words you think of when you hear USA,” I asked them in my most teacherly voice. I should have known better.

“Fat, obesity, fast food, money, anger, exceptionalism, superiority complex, proud, property, guns, capitalism, crime, patriotism, stupid…” they yelled at me, some upset because the words they had chosen had already been used (guns came up at least three times).

I wanted to unpack a lot of what they had said. I pointed out that while Canada’s obesity rate isn’t quite as high as America’s (30% vs. 40%), we hardly have anything to brag about. Twenty minutes into our talk I was really impressed by what these 17 and 18 year-olds had to say (I certainly didn’t throw around words like exceptionalism at their age). But I was also worried about their blatant and misinformed anti-Americanism, which too often leads to a false sense of Canadian moral superiority.

During his lecture Professor Norman Hillmer noted how Canadians like to think of themselves as a moral superpower, while the US is some other kind of superpower (military no doubt, but he left it to our imaginations). The inferiority complex we’ve harboured so long is actually just a cover up for our (moral) superiority complex, he said. I can’t help but agree with him. Making ourselves out to be the silly little neighbo(u)r, the Ned Flanders to their Homer Simpson, allows us to imagine we are morally and intellectually superior, even if we aren’t the star of the show.

I wanted to really drive this point home with my kids. I had even prepared a witty Simpsons metaphor I was sure they’d understand. But we were already out of time.

I need my kids back. Forty minutes wasn’t enough. There’s so much more they need to know. “Be wary of nationalism,” I warned them as they were already out the door, on their way to Tim Horton’s or Roots, no doubt.

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3 Responses

  1. I love your blog.
    And I would love it even if I was an impartial reader, which I am not.

  2. Interesting…
    Welcome back. But do you really live in Florida now?

  3. I would have suggested “freedom” and “Elvis.” But, that’s just me.

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