Skip to comments.Canada's not so nice, after all
Posted on 12/05/2004 8:08:28 AM PST by Dog Gone
I moved to Canada after the 2000 election. Although I did it mainly for career reasons I got a job whose description read as though it had been written precisely for my rather quirky background and interests at the time I found it gratifying to joke that I was leaving the United States because of George W. Bush. It felt fine to think of myself as someone who was actually going to make good on the standard election-year threat to leave the country.
Also, I had spent years of my life feeling like I wasn't a typical American and wishing I could be Canadian. I wanted to live in a country that was not a superpower, a country I believe to have made the right choices about fairness, human rights and the social compact.
So I could certainly identify with the disappointed John Kerry supporters who started fantasizing about moving to Canada after Nov. 2. But after nearly four years as an American in the Great White North, I've learned it's not all beer and doughnuts. If you're thinking about coming to Canada, let me give you some advice: Don't.
Although I enjoy my work and have made good friends in Toronto, I've found life as an American expatriate in Canada difficult, frustrating and even painful in ways that have surprised me.
As attractive as living here may be in theory, the reality's something else. For me, it's been one of almost daily confrontation with a powerful anti-Americanism that pervades many aspects of life. When I've mentioned this phenomenon to Canadian friends, they've furrowed their brows sympathetically and said, "Yes, Canadian anti-Americanism can be very subtle." My response is, there's nothing subtle about it.
The anti-Americanism I experience generally takes this form: Canadians bring up "the States" or "Americans" to make comparisons or evaluations that mix a kind of smug contempt with a wariness that alternates between the paranoid and the absurd.
Thus, Canadian media discussion of President Bush's official visit last week focused on the snub implied by his not having visited earlier. The media reported that when he did come, he would not speak to a Parliament that's so hostile it can't be trusted to receive him politely. [Bush did not speak in Parliament.] Coverage of a Canadian athlete caught doping devolves into complaints about how Americans always get away with cheating.
The Blame Canada song from the South Park movie is taken as documentary evidence of Americans' real attitudes toward this country. The ongoing U.S. ban on importing Canadian cattle (after a case of mad cow disease was traced to Alberta) is interpreted as a form of political persecution.
In the wake of 9/11, after the initial shock wore off, it was common to hear some Canadians voice the opinion that Americans had finally gotten what they deserved. The attacks were just deserts for years of interventionist U.S. foreign policy, the increasing inequality between the world's poorest nations and the wealthiest one on Earth, and a generalized arrogance.
I heard similar views expressed after Nov. 2, when Americans were perceived to have revealed their true selves and thus to "deserve" a second Bush term.
Canadians often use metaphors to portray their relationship with the United States. They describe Canada as "sleeping with an elephant." Even when the elephant is at rest, they worry that it may suddenly roll over. They liken Canada to a gawky teen-age girl with a hopeless crush on the handsome and popular boy next door. You know, the one who doesn't even know she exists.
The self-image conveyed in these metaphors is timid and accommodating. Perhaps this is how Canadians see themselves (or would like to be seen), but my experience is that they are extremely aggressive (if somewhat passively so) when it comes to demonstrating their deep ambivalence toward Americans. Take the popular TV show Talking to Americans, which simultaneously showcases Americans' ignorance about Canada and mocks Canadians' unhealthy preoccupation with what Americans really think of them.
Of course, there's often something of the stalker in that gawky teen-age girl, isn't there?
Part of what's irksome about Canadian anti-Americanism and the obsession with the United States is that it seems so corrosive to Canada. Any country that defines itself through a negative ("Canada: We're not the United States") is doomed to an endless and repetitive cycle of hand-wringing and angst. For example, Canadians often point to their system of universal health care as the best example of what it means to be Canadian (because the United States doesn't provide it), but this means that any effort to adjust or reform that system (which is not perfect) precipitates a national identity crisis: To wit, instituting co-payments or private MRI clinics will make Canada too much like the United States.
The rush to make comparisons sometimes prevents meaningful examination of the very real problems that Canada faces. As a Canadian social advocate once told me, when her compatriots look at their own societal problems, they are often satisfied once they can reassure themselves that they're better off than the United States. As long as there's still more homelessness, racism and income inequality to the south, Canadians can continue to rest easy in their moral superiority.
I felt a strong tug toward the United States when the borders shut for several hours on the afternoon of 9/11, and again after the election this month. Canadian friends were honestly shocked when I, a caricature of a bluestocking blue-stater (I've spent most of my life in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Wisconsin, with short stays in Washington state and the bluest part of Colorado), said that I would in many ways prefer to live in the United States, and not just because it's home.
They assume that it's better, more comfortable, to be in a place seemingly more in tune with one's own political and philosophical leanings. Right after the election, many asked me if I would now apply for Canadian citizenship.
I don't intend to do that, because experiencing the anti-Americanism I've described has been instructive: Living in Canada and coping with it has forced me to confront my own feelings about America. And it's helped me discover what I do value about it: its contradictions, its eccentricities, its expansive spirit, all the intensity and opportunity of a deeply flawed, widely inconsistent, but always interesting country.
Perhaps I am a typical American, after all.
Jacobson is an American medical sociologist living in Toronto.
Are U.S. public schools or U.S. spellcheckers to blame?
Jacobson is an American medical sociologist living in Toronto.
I think Canada is a good home for him.
Yeah, we have that here, also. In our high schools, it's called "acting white".
I would guess the result of that kind of thinking is the same.
I don't know why they, and the rest of the world don't just admit it...
It's penis envy!
(can I say that?)
This must be a minority view among Canadians. Oh, and I suspect the liberal press likes to play up how intellectual it is for thinking Canadians to disdain the U.S. I suspect the average Canadian likes the average U.S. citizen just fine and visa versa.
Here's the $64,000 question: why would blue-state liberals rather move to a frigid land full of snotty, French-speaking, maple-syrup guzzling cheese eaters instead of to Cuba, a tropical island paradise full of happy brown people?
Oh, and by the way, I feel safe living next door to the sheriff too.
"I don't intend to do that, because experiencing the anti-Americanism I've described has been instructive: Living in Canada and coping with it has forced me to confront my own feelings about America. And it's helped me discover what I do value about it: its contradictions, its eccentricities, its expansive spirit, all the intensity and opportunity of a deeply flawed, widely inconsistent, but always interesting country."
Why can't liberals look at anything simply?!
Canadians = Unarmed Americans with lousy healthcare.
McGill university hired a professor in Education from California. At her introduction at a graduation ceremony, she spent her time saying how great it was to be out of the US and how much smarter the Candadians were than US Americans and because of this how important it was that Canandians keep bashing the US.
As far as I could tell, the average IQ of California went up when she and her family left, while that in Candada sunk even lower.
Last week I got a call from a Canadian taking a poll about world affairs. He never did get around to asking me what I though about Canada.
True but not quite...Canada also includes the disfunctional French who are worse than the Muslims as they want to divide the country now, the horrible mosquitos in the summer, and their dreadful freezing winters amid boring flat country. Yikess!!! What a place!
It's resentment that we are powerful and they are not.
And that resentment is unlikely to change unless we have to come to the aid of Canada in a dramatic fashion.
Canadians = French too poor to live in France.
Actually, believe it or not, it's spelled correctly. (The word is derived from "deserve," not what you have after dinner.)
I describe Canada as our big retarded cousin who lives in the attic.
As regards Canada, that about says it all!
Beat me to it!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.