Allan Fotheringham June 25 1990


Allan Fotheringham June 25 1990




Why does everyone always look at the dark side of things? Why doesn’t everyone take the positive side of things, a well-known feature on the back page? In every cloud there is some silver. We must look for it. The Meech mess has some silver in it. It is that the Americans, watching this incomprehensible mishmash from the outside, will be further dissuaded from any aspiration of acquiring our troubles.

Canadians, in their conceit, always assume that the voracious Yanks want ever more territory and cast covetous eyes this way. In truth, Americans are very insular people. They simply want to be left alone. They are isolationists by nature, being formed by peoples who left other lands because of their troubles and unhappiness there. Having founded the home of the rave and the land of the spree, they know they have discovered Nirvana and are content.

Americans did not seek out world leadership. It was thrust on them, willy-nilly, after the 1945 war because of the collapse of British energy and the rising threat of the Soviet Union. Most Americans resent the burden of foreign aid they have had to supply, just as a previous generation didn’t like Woodrow Wilson’s championing of the League of Nations. Most Americans, if they had their way, wish the United Nations would get to hell out of New York and go off to Geneva so the Swiss could figure out what to do with foreign diplomats with wall-to-wall limos who refuse to pay parking tickets.

Americans have yet to figure out what to do with their black population, which, although only 12 per cent of the 250 million total, gives more than 12 per cent trouble. Because Americans can’t figure out what to do, their inner cities are being destroyed, drugs and crime are rampant, and a permanent underclass is being formed. You think Americans want to inherit Quebec too, not to mention Newfoundland?

The surging Hispanic population is bringing increased pressure on the idea of Spanish as an official second language. Do you think Americans want to wrestle with the problem of assimilating seven million proud Québécois who are accustomed to official language status? Canada can’t figure out Quebec after 123 years, do Iowa, Mississippi and New Mexico want to have a try?

The standard theory up here is that the Americans lust after our water and our resources. Yes, do they know they would have to take Bill Vander Zalm too? That should frighten them. The thought of having to listen to Jean Chrétien’s eloquence—in either language— would give them pause to think.

One of the hilarious things about the innocent arrogance of John Buchanan was the assumption—given the leaving of Quebec— that the Atlantic provinces could just automatically join the United States. Who says the United States would want the Atlantic provinces?

Heavy-water plants that don’t work? Fish stocks that have been plundered? A welfarebased mentality? K.C. Irving, for God’s sake? And, thrown in to boot, Clyde Wells? The Yanks have troubles enough of their own.

Besides all this, there is the simple reality that the Americans don’t have to try very hard to own Canada. They do that anyway, thanks to the lie-back-and-enjoy-it compliance of their hosts. The Prime Minister of the country proudly announced on his election that Canada was “open for business again.” Meaning, rape. After one of the periodic spells of nationalism, in trying to repatriate its pride, Ottawa was now telling the Americans to revert to their usual role: running this country as a branchplant, frozen-banana republic.

When you can get the milk for free, why buy the cow?—as a million mothers have warned their daughters. The present government

doesn’t take this as a warning; it takes it as its credo of life. View its servile attitude to the instructions of Jack Valenti and the Hollywood film industry. View its (jump? how high?) attitude to American Express moving into Canadian banking. View its everyone-makesmistakes attitude towards the U.S. invasion of Panama. If there is one thing Canada, in its hour of discontent, does not have to worry about, it is American intentions of expansion northward. America at the moment is turning ever more inward, as the developments in Germany and Eastern Europe diminish American power.

There are no longer any superpowers. Moscow is in terrible trouble with its economy and recalcitrant republics. America is worried about Japan and its own economic future.

We should be content. Content in our knowledge that we just have the small problem of Quebec (and Clyde Wells) to deal with. The country will survive, warring as usual.

To a scribe who has recently been five years in Washington, viewing the American problems (and virtues) rather as a bemused visitor from Mars, one regards an American love for Canadian property as remote as a complete sentence of English from George Bush.

They have got much better things to do with their time, and so do we. Such as adapting to the never-solvable riddle-within-the-enigma of Quebec. Besides, the Americans don’t have to buy us: Brian Mulroney is leasing us out, week by increasing week.

There are now no giants, just fears. Canadians are smug—more smug than they usually are— if they think Americans are spending their time at this point in their troubles wanting to invade Saskatchewan.