Why don’t Canadians grow up and stop hating the States?
ROBERT THOMAS ALLENSeptember241960
Why don’t Canadians grow up and stop hating the States?
For the sake of argument
ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN
I’ve been in Canada two months on a visit home from Florida, and I feel fairly certain now that Canadians are the smuggest race left on earth. I've been snowed under by hoary lore about the superiority of Canadian craftsmanship, economics, morals and artistic integrity and have run into such blind bigotry and complacent malice toward the United States that I’ve become embarrassed for my fellow Canadians. I’ve heard that Canadian schools are superior to American schools so often that one of these days I’m going to ask somebody to prove it. I've heard Canadians repeat like rutiled parrots that Americans don't know anything about Canada, that Americans persist in using a different scale of dress sizes from Canadians just to annoy Canadians, and that they are so perverse that they even have a different gallon from the one Canada (the normal world) has. As one furious Canadian said to me the other night:
“What’s wrong with them down there anyway?”
The great Canadian obsession
I don’t know what’s wrong with them. But I know what’s wrong with Canadians: they’ve gone
slightly out of their minds on the subject of the United States. They’ve become the victims of a fixed idea — the idea that the first step toward being right is to establish that the United States is wrong. It’s turning them into a spectator nation, a breed of carping Monday - morning quarterbacks, and they're getting worse every time I come up here. They can’t speak intelligently about Americans, or civilly about Americans, or calmly about Americans, or get their minds off Americans. It’s become the great Canadian obsession, and it has also reached a point where it’s becoming funny.
During the closed-circuit telecast of the Johannson - Patterson fight at Loew's Uptown theatre in Toronto, just after someone
had stood in the ring and sung the Swedish national anthem, some guy sitting behind me exploded vehemently:
"Well, if that isn’t like those ignorant Americans, turning around and walking out for a hotdog in the middle of someone else’s national anthem.”
His crony said in a rather strained, embarrassed voice: “That was Joliannson walking up to the ring.”
The guy was so wound up about Americans that he was having delusions, and he wasn't much different from a lot of Canadians I’ve been meeting. Canada used to be represented by a big, smiling outdoor character in shirtsleeves. A more appropriate figure these days would be a little short guy who is always trying to prove something by picking fights. I think it’s time he grew up and stopped hating the States.
I think before the Canadians shake their heads in such happy exasperation at every new fiasco in the United States’ handling of foreign affairs they should remind themselves that infallibility is a spectator’s virtue, and stop discussing American setbacks with a sense of personal triumph, as if they’d just heard that the Maple Leafs had beaten the Boston Bruins thirty-five to nothing. If the Americans receive too many defeats there’ll be nobody left to protect Canada but God, and I don’t think it has been proved yet that He is a Canadian, although I’m sure a lot of guys I meet over in Murray's Restaurant are working on it.
There’s still too much for Canada to do to leave time for hatethe-States rallies. Although Canada had the same start as the United States and got the bigger half of the same continent, it is still light-years behind the U. S. economically. The Canadian midwest is still largely undeveloped. The first highway across the country isn’t yet completed. Religious and racial relations aren't nearly as enlight-
CONTINUED ON PAGE 76
MR. ALLEN, A TORONTONIAN, FLEES CANADA FOR FLORIDA AT REGULAR INTERVALS.
For the sake of argument
continued from page 10
“Why should Americans always be thinking about Canada? The U. S. is powerful; we’re small”
ened as Canadians pretend they are. (Just a couple of weeks ago, a man who tried to sell me a lot in Haliburton said it was preferred property because there were no Jews on it—a real Jack Canuck in jackboots.) The truth is that Cana-
dians just aren't so wonderful that they can spend their time and energy giving advice to the States.
It’s time Canadians got rid of the superstition that people become Canadians because they have a superior sense
of values, but are duped into becoming Americans by some process of propaganda. I'm getting used to someone rounding on me with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, during an otherwise enjoyable evening, and snapping:
“What happened? They brainwash you down there or something? What made you turn American?”
I’m not an American. I'm a Canadian. 1 ve always been a Canadian. There's only one thing that could make me become an American — talking to Canadians. Every time I do, I feel warmer and warmer toward Americans, who never speak of Canadians except with the greatest courtesy and respect. Just before I left the South I got my forms stating that I was eligible for American citizenship. It was stressed that this was a purely voluntary act and that if I decided against applying for citizenship, it would in no way alter my status as a permanent resident of the United States.
I dropped the forms in my wastebasket.
I vc never had any intention of becoming anything but a Canadian. But lately I’ve been wondering whether I emptied that wastebasket.
Something else I get. every place I go, is the bit about the American educational system being inferior to the Canadian educational system. I've got news for Canadians. My daughters have gone to a lot of schools in both Canada and the United States, and the amount of difference between educational systems on either side of the border — if such things as the size of the town and the prosperity of the region are equal — couldn't be detected by the Mount Palomar telescope (which American-educated scientists and technicians somehow botched together).
But scratch a Canadian and the chances are he’ll say: “The American educational system is inferior to the Canadian educational system.” The last time I heard this was from a very talkative Canadian TV repairman who. while he tested tubes on my rented set, told me that he had quit work early to go bowling, then dropped into a beverage room for a few beers, then had come home and watched an old western on TV and the wrestling from Detroit, which was when I’d interrupted him by my phone call. Before he left, he asked me, seriously, why I was content to bring up my kids in a land where the educational standards were so low. He said that he’d heard that American high schools required only two foreign languages instead of three! A few minutes before he had said that he thought "all DPs" should be forced to speak English. And as far as I could see. he didn't even need the one language he knew: he
watched TV westerns all the time anyway, where everybody just says “Git,” and “Nope,” and "Draw.”
Some Canadians agree with all this, look wise and tolerant and more reasonable than other Canadians, then say: “The only thing I have against Americans is that they're so ignorant of Canada.”
This way they give the illusion of broadmindedness while retaining the same old national egomania. Why should Americans always be thinking about Canada? Canadians are getting like women who have to be told “I love you” every hour on the hour.
Why don't Americans know more about Canada? I’ll tell you why Americans don't know more about Canada. Because the United States, whether Canadians like it or not, is a great, powerful, rich nation of a hundred and eighty million
people, and Canada is a small country of not quite eighteen million people. Canada is bound to know more about Americans than Americans know about Canada. It's deplorable, I know. It's deplorable that Torontonians think Ontario stops somewhere around Orillia except for a few trappers and mapmakers and a few Malamutes and the Pine Tree line. It s deplorable that everyone in Omemee, Ontario, knows where Ottawa is, but hardly anyone in Ottawa knows where Omemee is. But that's the way human beings are.
So many Canadians howl and slap their foreheads when some sodajerk from Walgreen's drugstore in San Diego doesn't know what the capital of New Brunswick is, or what TCA is. or where the St. Lawrence River is. that I think Canadian viewers would be disappointed if somebody gave the right answers. Yet how many Canadians know' who the president of Mexico is, or what state Mexico City is in?
Who, for instance, is the governor of Alaska, which is right on our border? Where does the Colorado River empty? What state is the Grand Canyon in? Where does Braniff Airways operate? And Braniff is one of the big carriers in the United States.
The last Canadian I threw these ques-
fions at couldn't answer one of them, but he smiled witli tolerant amusement at the idea of Canada's being compared with Mexico.
A lot of Canadian folk tales about the ignorance of Americans are really illustrations of the ignorance of Canadians. ¡ he other day a man I know told me of a case he knew about. It seems some Florida schoolchildren had asked a Canadian youngster who joined their class to "speak some Canadian.”
"How can you stand living amid all that bigotry and narrowness? Doesn't it bother you?" he snarled, glaring in the direction of the longest peaceful border in the world.
Actually, what the Florida kids meant was, "Lets hear you talk the kind of French they talk in Canada." There are thousands of French Canadians in Florida every winter. The request of the Florida children w'as absurd only to someone like my friend, who—like most other people from Ontario — thinks all Canadians speak English.
Most Canadians who run down the States don’t know' what they’re talking about. They've made one trip to New York, or Washington, or Buffalo, or Detroit. They've had some waiter in an Eighth Avenue dump look suspiciously at a Canadian twelve-sided nickel (and who can blame him?) or heard a cracker from the Okefenokee swamp ask what a Canadian lieutenant-governor does, and they've formed a lifetime, working, liveand-kicking opinion of 180,000,000 people of every conceivable educational and cultural background.
The Canadian feels that his attitude toward the United States reflects a wholesome refusal to yield to decadence: a sound sense of values: a grasp of a better way of life, connected in some vague to vulgar innovation and brash newcomeritis. It's nothing of the kind, of course. It's pure prejudice, and has nothing to do with reason or reality. It makes no more sense than the argument of one Canadian who told me that what he disliked about the United States was its commercialism and materialism, while sitting
on one of those power mowers that you ride around the lawn on. Counting his two cars, this made three vehicles in a family of four.
It not only doesn't make sense; it's becoming more and more monotonous, boring, dull and unbecoming. Not that there aren't great shortcomings in American life. Millions of Americans are aware of them. But the C anadians who are always pointing them out aren't even mildly interested in ways of life or history or sociology. They are people who are looking for a quick, effortless way to national identity. In an age capable of producing such books as PHYSICS WITHOUT MATHEMATICS and CALCULUS MADE EASY, they're looking for HOW TO BECOME AN INSTANT C ANADIAN and they think they've found the answer: Hate the Americans.
But it won t work. There's more to being a Canadian than not being an American, and I hope the current Canadian attitude toward Americans is a fleeting form of fanaticism. My image of a Canadian has always been that of someone too big for this kind of yapping and carping. There are enough little countries in Europe now who hate the United States without Canada's joining the pack. Canadians by this time should have seen enough of Europe's transplanted feuds to start planting brand-new ones here in North America in the only remaining thoroughly peaceful (so far) part of the globe. There's no point in yelling "Go home. Yank. " The Yanks are just as much at home here as Canadians, and I think it’s time Canadians got back to living beside them as good neighbors, and good Canadians. ★
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