I didn’t say I hate Americans. I didn’t even say I hate America’s institutions.
All I said in yesterday’s blog was that it’s time Americans stopped viewing themselves as the best nation on earth, and that we Canadians could help them do that. Period.
I got a lot of agreement and some dissent, most very measured and reasonable, though I also got this, which wasn’t helpful, really……
“That’s very helpful: Everything I hate about Canadians packed into an efficient article. Snarky, self-righteous, hyperbolic and yet with just a soupçon of timorousness, as befits our perpetual coffee-shop grumbling.”
What was helpful were those readers who said that Canada should not be casting stones anywhere. Our governments didn’t exactly leap out of the blocks in spotting and stopping the coronavirus – and when the fog lifts there must be an accounting. Our long-term care facilities have been called concentration camps – and when the virus ends, there’d better be an accounting, not just for the thousands of Canadians who live out their final days in these homes, but the 7 million of us who are over 65. Our appalling treatment of Indigenous Canadians is centuries older than Canada itself — and when the pandemic ends, if we can’t at least guarantee our least advantaged citizens clean water, then all those “Most Liveable Nations” awards will become The National Lie.
Some readers said my deification of our healthcare system was idol worship. Canada actually scores pretty badly compared to other nations that have universal healthcare. They thought we should really be comparing ourselves not to America, but to our rivals for the most liveable countries on earth, like Norway and New Zealand. They’re right. Let’s compare apples to apples.
But that shouldn’t stop us from calling on the U.S. to have free public healthcare, as a right of citizenship, as it is here.
Still other readers decried the gnawing sense of inferiority in us Canadian mice taking on the American elephant. Its contributions are so great and Canada’s so tiny in comparison that…..
To this I say, Yes, America has brought enormous good to the world. But those days seem in the past now. What great global or even national initiative is America leading now? Certainly not the war against COVID-19.
What’s more, the U.S. is so large and teeming with contradiction that you can find enough evidence to argue just about anything. After all, 77% of Americans believe in angels, 55% believe Jesus was born of a virgin, and one in four believes the sun revolves around the earth. What are we to make of such a place? And remember, Canadians know the U.S. better than anyone else on earth. We’re not their distant cousins; we’re in the condo next door.
What scares me is not just the number of contradictions living cheek by jowl to the States, but the extremes they represent. At the same podium, we see Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s most respected infectious disease specialists, and a President (his boss) who muses that drinking bleach might be a cure for COVID-19.
To downplay the inherent insanity of this situation by focusing on the President’s policy initiatives is also a form of denial because such rational discussions give him a cloak of sanity his behaviour contradicts every day.
To me, the person who’s best summed up America’s ongoing decline and fall is not a policy wonk or a public intellectual, but an actor, Jeff Daniels.
Remember his role as the anchor in the HBO series, The Newsroom?
He was asked by a shy sophomore why he thinks America is the greatest country in the world.
Here, sent to me by five readers, is his response – not in 2020, but in 2012.
It’s worth our attention, especially now.