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Nice Shoes

by Stephen Lautens


May 10, 2002

In high school a lot of people wanted to hang out with the cool kid. You know, the kid whose father let him have a BB gun, got a car when he turned sixteen and was generally the envy of every boy and the dream of every girl. You wanted to be part of his group, have lunch at the same table, and go to the same parties.

I suppose in the world of international relations, the cool kid is the United States. It's the one everyone wants to be like - big, good-looking, powerful, rich, self-confident.

Of course not everyone loved the cool kid, the same way not everyone loves the US. Some people were jealous, or thought him arrogant; that he had too much and couldn't see beyond the end of his own nose. Or that he was so busy being adored he never took the time to get to know anyone else.

I think of that every time I hear how Canada feels slighted by its "best friend" the United States. Between the bombing and the booing, there's been a lot of talk lately about how much we Canadians feel under-appreciated by our American neighbours. We search every speech to see if President Bush mentions us. If he does mention us we look to see if we got mentioned before Argentina.

We're so insecure that we make sure the cool kid to the South knows Mathew Perry and Shania Twain are Canadian. When the Simpsons did five minutes of an episode in Toronto, it was front page news. When the TV program 60 Minutes does a show about Canadian immigration, it causes questions to be asked in Parliament.

There was a study just released that shows once again that Americans really don't know anything much about us. Apparently 30% of Americans think Canada is just another US state - something like Oregon. They don't know we're its biggest trading partner, and don't consider us their closest ally.

I suppose there will be much wringing of Canadian hands that we are so unappreciated by the cool kid. After all, we know so much about their history, spend our holidays there and wish our dollar had the same sort of clout.

Some Canadians have gone so far to insist that there really shouldn't any differences between us and the US, and that we should be "merging" our money, laws, immigration and pesky little things like government.

If you don't think there's any difference between us, just ask for vinegar for your French fries the next time you're in America. I did it once in Florida and instead of the little shaker bottle that comes standard in every Canadian greasy spoon, they brought me a gallon jug from the kitchen. I think the staff kept it on hand for cleaning windows. And after giving it to me they all stood around to see what the crazy foreigner was going to do with it.

But we all have to grow up sometime, and with a little maturity we realize that it isn't as important to be liked or acknowledged by the cool kid as it is to do your own thing.

And while it's nice to have cool friends, its more important to be yourself, especially if those cool friends don't really pay that much attention to you. It's a lesson we teach all our children.

It's just a part of growing up.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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