For the sake of argument


Morley Callaghan June 7 1958
For the sake of argument


Morley Callaghan June 7 1958


For the sake of argument

Morley Callaghan

The anti-Americanism so prevalent in Canada right now is kept well below the surface so

that editorial writers, I suppose. can piously deny it exists. If there is a little rancor showing here and there those expressing it come up with bland, plausible and rational explanations. In the west, they tell you, the farmers resent the way the Americans have been dumping their wheat and other agricultural products in the world markets, making it difficult for us to sell our Canadian wheat. In the industrial east they talk about the absentee owners of American corporations in Canada refusing to let Canadians acquire a just share of the stock of these corporations. American investors, they say, are gaining control of our natural resources; worse still the American state department, by meddling in the affairs of those American-controlled motor-car companies in Canada, has blocked an effort to open up one of the channels of trade with China.

Areas of differences in matters of trade between the two countries there well may be. When you are coping with the rational there is always the prospect of a sensible solution. But 1 don't think the present anti-Americanism in this country is rational at all. It is an old disease Haring up in an ugly rash. Those who suffer from it cover it up. They duck and squirm away from any discovery of the disease and profess to he unaware that they suffer from it. These differences in views on trade matters arc simply something they pounce on eagerly. The anti-Americanism, of course, has been latent for some generations, but between 1911, the time of the reciprocity election, and now, it has found happy and respectable expression, and wide acceptance too, in a kind of comical self-righteousness of spirit that has been embarrassing to me as a Canadian.

Anyone who listened to a program on the CBC's Fighting Words a few weeks ago could have caught a glimpse of what 1 mean. The participants were discussing police brutality. It was agreed that there might be rare cases of brutality in the treatment of prisoners in our country but there was also ready agreement that this brutality resulted from the introduction of American methods. Pass the buck to the Americans, that was the idea. And then 1 saw how continued on page 57

For the sake of argument—Morley Callaghan

Continued from page 14

“We’ve nursed the pathetic belief we’re morally superior to the U. S. We should be thanking them”

effectively we had been doing this for years. If our criminals do a job in style, requiring a little organization, we put it down to the introduction of American gangster methods. Those who favor censorship have been fighting a stern battle year after year to keep "filth from across the line” from flooding our bookstands. All that is loud, vulgar and noisy on our little scene is supposed to be due to the American influence. If the manners of our children are bad, if they don't read, pray, think or wash their faces, the Americans are blamed for it.

For years now in polite circles the United States has been our moral whipping boy, and in this way, taking cut after cut at the boy, we have been able to inflate our national sense of virtue and flee from our own sins. It is a wonderful thing to have a whipping boy so close at hand, but what kind of a people are we supposed to be? Was there a civilization in Canada of pristine purity and grace and order before the turn of the century and the introduction of American influences? There was not. Our towns and cities have grown as the American cities have grown, just as cabbages grow the same in the same soil and sunlight. But from 1776 through 1812 and 1911 there has been nursed along a hard core of resentment against the United States which has found expression not in the creation of cultural things, hut in the nursing of the pathetic belief that we are morally superior as a people and show it in our customs and our tastes. The people who have this belief should be very thankful, of course, for the United States.

My conviction is that the anti-Americanism that gets into Canadians really comes from outside the country. I mean it was always something from abroad,

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cherished even openly as something from abroad, but really alien to the whole North American world. For example just recently the English novelist, J. B. Priestley, let go another one of his tirades against the United States, that land of mass men, of conformists, the civilization that destroys the free human spirit. He pleaded with Canadians to see that the real threat to our fine old democratic dignity in this civilization we have, and the Americans haven't, comes not from an alien political philosophy, but from south of our undefended border.

You see how this plays upon that vanity, that "Thank God we are not as they are” spirit, our strange view of America as the source of sin? Indeed it does. It is the old game of putting the European blinkers on us, pinning the European tail on the Canadian donkey, and soothing us with the fancy, so dear to some Canadians anyway, that we are far more like the independent-minded, highly individualistic and untamed Europeans than like the mass-minded Americans. These Europeans who give us this advice are like the advisors of King Canute who told him he could sweep back the tide with a broom. Are we supposed to ignore all the forces in our daily lives, our means of production, what we eat, what we read, how we dress, our language, for the sake of kidding ourselves for sentimental reasons into pretending that we are not part and parcel of the North American civilization?

But there is more to it than the fostering of a love for unreality. The whipped-up resentment may get out of hand and enter into the trade picture in a way that may have consequences for all of us. These are to be the days of trade missions evidently. By this time it is understood by everyone—and it doesn’t matter whether a Liberal or Conservative government is in power in Ottawa— that we have an interlocking military defensive system with the United States. No one, evidently, would have it otherwise. One look at the map is enough. Yet spokesmen have appeared all over the land warning against the danger of an interlocking North American economy. Military dependence seems to be one thing, economic dependence something else. And so we talk openly of diverting fifteen percent of our trade to Britain.

It would be a fine thing naturally if we could do fifteen percent more business with Britain, but when wc talk of diverting trade from the United States should we be so innocent as to wonder why Americans talk of a worsening of Canadian-American relations? Out of it comes that curious mixed-up contradiction in our attitude to the United States. Take the matter of their cut-back of fifteen percent in our western oil export to them. We greeted the proposal with resentment and a sense of shock that our special position as part of an interlocking North American economy wasn't being recognized, yet at the same time a certain type of spokesman—never a trained economist by the way—was pro-

claiming loudly that wc should cease being an economic satellite of the United States.

This term “economic satellite” comes readily to the lips of those I mentioned in the beginning who have an axe to grind about the United States. We buy more and sell more to the United States than to any other country, and there isn't an economist in the land who doesn't know that switching a percentage of our trade from one country to another won’t add to our productivity or take away from it, expand our trade, or contract it. It can have little meaning at all in the lives of Canadians. The idea behind the trade policy of any country is to sell as many of its products as possible, and import what is needed as cheaply as possible. As it is now, we do seventy percent of our business with the United States. They take fifty-five percent of our exports. Indeed, some of our economists have contended that the market offering the greatest chance of expansion for us is in the United States. Would there be loud cheers right now if it was announced that we were sending a trade mission to the United States to expand our markets? I doubt it. In this country the climate is wrong now. The grave danger is that those who have created it may unwittingly be creating the same climate in the United States, where the strong protectionist lobby seems to he growing stronger.

Mut in this field of trade, just as in the field of manners and morals, it seems to me we are making some large emotional, irrational but self-satisfying gestures. We can always, of course, make hasty explanations to the Americans that far from wanting to do less business with them we intend to do more and more, if the recession ever ends. Some of these self-satisfying gestures are understandable enough, and may fairly be attributed to a growth in the national spirit, a desire to fling our weight around somewhere. The real anti-American gesture, however, is something else. If it gets into our nationalism—if, as I said in the beginning, we attribute all the bad influences in our way of life to the Americans, it will leave us a strangely holier-than-thou people.

The boy in the schoolroom, the girl in the movies, the man in the ball park, the little crowds that stand outside store windows in the early fall watching the world series on television, have no feeling of hostility or false superiority to Americans, but then they are not moldéis of opinion.

If the seeds of anti-Americanism have been in our soil for so long, what caused their sudden rapid flowering? After the war the soil was all wrong. The Gallup poll used to show an overwhelming proAmerican sentiment. There was little

talk of anti-Americanism in Europe and the old guard anti-Americans here had small chance to say "me too.” But now it is different. Brooding over the matter I decided to do a little research work on a man who, I had noticed, had been making derogatory remarks about the Americans for the last year. The conversation, as faithfully as I can record it, went like this:

"Would you mind telling me why you have turned so anti-American?” I asked. "I’m not anti-American.”

"Oh come on now. You know you’ve changed.”

"Well, I think we should stand up to the Americans.”

“Stand up where and why?”

"l ook how they blocked us at Geneva when we could have got our off-shore fishing rights extended to the twelve-mile limit. Why shouldn’t I be against them?"

“But Britain and France were against us too. It was so important to Britain the matter was raised in the House of Commons. Are you against them too?” "Well, all right,” he said, looking a little testy, “I guess I am.”

"Then what is it you have against the Americans?”

"Why, it’s the state department. It’s that man Dulles."

"All right, what have you against Dulles?”

"What has everybody against Dulles all over the world?”

“No. I want to know what you have against him.”

"The same thing everybody else in Europe and Asia has,” he said, getting more irritable. "He’s a double-crosser.” “Whom did he double-cross?”


"Where and when? Go on.”


“Ah, Suez!”

“Yes, Suez,” he said grimly.

I think that tells the story. Those in Canada who had always been feeling morally superior to the Americans, although with a certain good will, and those who had a long memory of antiAmericanism, also muted over the years by a certain good will, suddenly lost all this good will and simply couldn’t stop talking. Oddly enough though, unless pressed hard they don’t talk now about Suez. In the last election Suez was hardly a Canadian issue at all. What has happened, though, is that they have found convenient pegs to hang their hats on that seem to put them on the side of an aggressive Canadian nationalism; the resentment against American wheat dumping, complete American control of American corporations in Canada, the China trade, and the cut in American oil imports. And if they are in a position to be opinion molders, it is all grist for the mill, if


‘‘I can lick anybody in the house.”