With Friends Like US
In 2003, Canada was attacked by the US. Unjustly so in our opinion. We had the odd exhibition of the sovereign confederation of provinces in the north, Canada, treated by the US (the president, the executive office, cabinet members, some elected officials and many of the countrys citizens) like a traitor in a scenario befitting a Shakespearean tragedy, with Canada, like Desdemona, protesting its innocence to a crazed, misguided, indignant and a certainly dull Othello.
Oh God! That men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains.
The subject of Canadas transgression was its desire to deal with the rogue state of Iraq through the UN, opting for controlling the country rather than further decimating its structure, harming its people and destroying its artifacts. At worst Canadas proposal would have resulted in a delay, but at least it would have gained the UN backing and prevented the internecine bickering that is now undermining the world powers.
The result was that following on the somewhat predictable and pathetic crushing of Iraq, the US waged an arrogant and aggressive campaign against Canada internally and externally, with less than veiled threats of economic and political punishments (many delivered by the US ambassador with mob-like severity) and heaped abuse on this quiet, unassuming northern state that has staunchly tried to make its way in the world as a peacemaker and peacekeeper, rather than a warmonger. And although Canada would never be pretentious nor powerful enough to tell anyone to stop their lunatic behavior, it is certainly within their civil rights to point out that such attitudes are ignorant, demeaning and frankly just plain silly if not inherently destructive.
Rather than scorning Canada, a country that incidentally has a total population less than California's yet with a land mass that is second largest in the world, the US should be happy and praise their good fortune to be sitting next to such a mild, unassuming, infinitely tolerant and stalwart neighbour. Canada has a stability that is extremely rare if not the envy of the world. It is a country that is not intent on aggrandizement and expansion. It has never used atomic bombs, never attacked its neighbours, exported tainted blood, used chemical warfare, kept slaves nor killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens in a civil war.
Canada is certainly a country that is proud of its heritage. But it is a passive unassuming pride. It would never be so crude as to wrap itself in the gauze of patriotic jingoism, at least not in front of anyone else. There are many examples of the human suffering that extreme systems leave behind. Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, Duvalier, Pol Pot all being examples of extremism gone awry. In the 60s, Senator Goldwater said extremism in the pursuit of virtue is no vice. But extremism coupled with propaganda, crossing over the lines of truth, in the pursuit of self-serving aims, seems to be an essential part of the present US administration and that, in the great tradition of warring nations, gives licence to fabrications and outright lies. You only have to look at the tap dancing that occurred around finding the 'figmentary' weapons of mass destruction to have a prime example of that.
The US could not have a better neighbour. And don't ever presume that in spite of our concerns and criticisms Canadians arent happy about living next to the elephant. They certainly take advantage of their enviable position to encourage and foster a healthy trade that represents a significant chunk of their economy. Which is as it should be, after all they are neighbours.
The US contains some of the best the world has to offer, and as befits a country of extremes, they possess some of the worst the world has to offer too. Canadians just deathly fear being accidentally rolled over on. The fact that the US knows so little about Canada is probably a testament to that fact rather than an embarrassment of ignorance. Canada just does not give America any trouble. Frankly, the trouble they do give can be categorized at best as annoying, much like the itch that comes from wearing a woolen sweater. You live with it. The US does not have to worry about Canada. Canada is predictable. Some may call that dull. Canada can be trusted to be there, not to provide any threats. And the US has always seen Canada as a buffer; a place where air battles would take place and nuclear bombs would be exploded. Berating and browbeating and treating Canada like an errant schoolboy, or a leper is shameful and shortsighted.
There is no question that Canada is there when needed. The cases where Canada has assisted the US are legion, the incidents where Canada and the US have stood together are limitless, and the examples where Canada has provided a moral compass are underrated. Canada can be a voice of reason, a realm of sober thoughts and calm reflection and infinite patience. Canada stood beside the US in Korea, Canadians fought with the US in Vietnam. Canada was involved in NORAD, Canada was the site of the DEW line that allowed for the early detection of attacks on the US. Canada led forces into Bosnia and Kosovo and is continuing with its policing work. Canada put its diplomats on the line when Iran took over the US embassy and American foreign nationals sought refuge in the Canadian embassy and were spirited out of the country as Canadians. During the first Iraq war, Canadas prime minister was the first to register support and supply forces. During the second Iraq war Canada had more forces in the Gulf area assisting in the counter terrorism effort than all of the coalition of the willing countries outside of Britain. Considering what these countries contributed and what they expect to get out of it, it would be better to call them the coalition of the swilling. Canada has had peacekeepers and police in Viet Nam, Germany, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Middle East and Congo among many others. Canadians were on the front lines of aid work at the World Trade Center in New York. Canada fought alongside the US forces in Afghanistan to help overthrow the Taliban and rid the country of terrorists. Canada has been there all along.
The US likes to think that they were alone in these fights, and the US media, blinkered and shortsighted if not self serving flacks, not noted for their worldliness, liberality and integrity, helps foster that naval gazing. For Canadas efforts in all of these cases, Canadians are derided, overlooked and snubbed. And when four Canadian soldiers were 'murdered' by a US pilots bombs after the pilot defied definite orders, the officers involved were praised in their home state and exonerated in a military hearing will likely suffer no more than a military notation.
Canadians are more comfortable wearing helmets painted UN blue and driving vehicles painted white, separating combatants, delivering food, aid and assistance not bombs. Whereas the US record of support of Canada is a little tarnished. When Canada made the UN proposal that would eventually have led to full support of a military excursion into Iraq, the US brushed it aside. Is this what friends do? Just who violated whose friendship? In the Second World War Canada did not hesitate to come to the aid of Britain and Europe. Where was the US when France, as well as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands were swept up by Germany? Actually, they were actively trading with the Third Reich and they only entered the war when it became politically necessary and practically advantageous to do so.
Is there a reason for having one of the longest undefended borders in the world, stretching to 8,893 kilometres, 5,526 miles? Why is there no need for fences, walls, armaments, bases and soldiers along this line? Is it because Canada does not represent a threat? Is that the reason the President and frankly most of the Americans arent even aware of what Canada is and represents and many couldnt even tell you where it is. Americans should be ashamed about that, not angry. They should be questioning their education system not disparaging Canada's views.
At the present time Americas foreign policy seems to be reduced to simplest terms, as if its leaders are incapable of understanding or dealing with more than one idea at a time and not able to appreciate the various subtleties that make up the world. When you have a government operating on an US vs Them philosophy you do not have an enlightened leadership, you have an executive that is being run by testosterone crazed aficionados of the World Wrestling Federation, in a ring where it is all bluster, bravado and bull roar, where pumped up volume lords over reason and sanity. This is rule by bullies who are lucky enough to have the power and the might but who, unfortunately, lack the wit to be able to manage it correctly.
America is a big country, there is no doubt about that. It is a rich country too, very rich. It has great power and global control and influence. It has the ability to change the path of the world. But there is no way to call it a great countrythere are many other qualities that would have to come into play before calling the country great.
Meanwhile America should bless the fact that they have such a wise and understanding neighbour to the north. In spite of the perception, none of the nine/eleven attackers came through Canada. Thats a fact. They dont find thousands of Canadians storming the border to live illegally in the US. And Americans are still, by and large, welcomed in Canada. Canadians flew America flags after nine/eleven and when some Canadians booed the US national anthem in Montreal, Canadians across the country rose up to protest and loudly cheered the anthem from then on. When similarly sports-crazed fans booed the Canadian anthem in the US, nothing was said in reply, and the booing continued.
From hot dogs, to baseball, to football, to American Standard toilets and Windstars, we share common things and experiences, a common geography and way of life if not mentality and philosophy. We eat the same foods, share the same atmospheric weather forces, language and television shows. We have more things in common than not. And when America is attacked, we bleed too, and we did.
Rather than criticizing Canada, the US should be trying to learn from it. Why is it that Canada consistently ranks at the top of the best countries in the world to live in? Why does Canada, in spite of its flaws, have a health system that includes everyone and comes close to universal care? In the 2000s, Canada was the largest foreign supplier of oil to the US, with about 40 percent of US foreign oil supplies coming from Canada. Should Canada be vilified for that? Canadians are fools if they continue to do so without getting their due respect. Yet, the US consistently tries to block and penalize the sale of other natural resources, such as softwood, while soaking up the oil and water. Does it believe it is so big, so powerful, so inherently justified that it has the divine right to do so? That there is no man made law than applies to the US?
On the world scene many states feel that might is right and power buys justice, just as it does for the WWF. But that means reducing governing to the lowest common denominator. However, acting in this way will never get America the love, nor respect it subconsciously desires. America wants to be liked. It just doesn't know how. Through its misguided policies it will likely do nothing more than stir up some stiff resistance and passions. It is time for the US to temper their temper, time to use reason, patience and insight in dealing with the world. Time to put aside the juvenile rants and ravings and cultivate characteristics of wisdom and maturity. It is time to try to be great.
Copyright © 2008