Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

When we lived in Korea, my husband and I were asked a lot of questions about Canada, on topics ranging from the silly: "Does everyone have blond hair and blue eyes?" or "Does it always snow?" to the more political "Do you like the United States?" And sometimes we came across a Korean whose English was quite strong, and whose sense of the world was stronger, and we would get the digger: "How is Canada different from the United States?"

Oh man that was tough to answer, mostly because what makes us different
is so hard to define. People have joked about the Canadian verses American identity for years. Some people are adamant there is no difference. American journalist Richard Starnes quipped, "Canadians are generally indistinguishable from the Americans, and the surest way of telling the two apart is to make the observation to a Canadian." The definition of a Canadian offered by The Econmist in 1993 is: "an American
with healthcare and no guns".

We have the stereotypes to consider as well: the beer drinking, toque wearing, polite, lumberjacks, living in an Igloo in the middle of nowhere Canadians 'eh. And do we ever rage against those! Rick Mercer, Newfoundland's native son leads the charge of that peculiar war with his show Talking To Americans. Rick pretends to be a journalist in American cities asking passers-by for their opinions on factitious Canadian news stories. I think I almost laughed myself into hospital the night I watched him ask a Harvard professor to offer his congratulations to Canada for going with a 24 hr. day. Dear God, my sides ache just thinking about it.

I can't really laugh too hard, the stereotype game is played on both sides of the border- and it can get nasty. Our version of the United States is quite often as ignorant as the fodder offered to us. And you know, it really doesn't help us to define who we are by who we are not. Though Mike Myers wouldn't agree with me. Of his home and native land Mike said: "Canada is the essence of not being. Not English, not American, it is the mathematic of not being. And a subtle flavour - we're more like celery as a flavour." Come on Mike, we are a little more flavourful then celery!

So how should we define ourselves? I have my own sense of Canadianess that I developed in large part while I was in Korea. And it is personal to me. It is bitter and sweet, it is rooted in a strong sense of national pride, tempered with that oh so Canadian polite modesty. Ahem. But who am I to say?

I came across this today: and suddenly my Nasolacrimal ducts were leaking (not a lot, but enough). I think this sums us up quite beautifully. When you go to the site you will notice there are three options: you can listen to the whole thing, or read it, or you can watch a portion of it. If you would like my suggestion, I say listen while reading it and then watch it. Either way my friends, enjoy. And if you have a minute, tell me what being Canadian means to you.

Happy Canada Day!

1 comment:

WhitbyDude01 said...

I feel very lucky to be Canadian. We are relatively safer, less polluted, less congested, and more polite than a lot of other nations(just ask us). We are always working overseas in some kind of U.N. mission and are currently busy helping to rebuild Afghanistan while simultaneously protecting people there from the Taliban. Our medicare system although not perfect is something envied by many countries including the United States. The land itself is beautiful and there are fresh water lakes everywhere. The people who immigrate to Canada enrich it with their own sense of identity resulting in a fascinating cultural landscape...Oh Canada, you rock.