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We Love You, But...

by Stephen Lautens


March 7, 2003

We Canadians have always had a love-hate relationship with the Americans. Every once in a while the dark side of this peeks out, like MP Carolyn Parrish shooting off her mouth within microphone range, or when a senior aide to the Prime Minister referred to George Bush as a moron.

We love sharing the North American continent with the United States. There’s a real estate saying that the ideal position is buying an inexpensive house on the best street, and there’s no doubt North America is the world’s best address. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about Canada not pulling its weight, especially in the defence of North America. I’m not exactly sure who Canada needs defending from, even though if Tonga really wanted to give us a run for the money it probably could. But come to think of it, the last country that invaded Canada was the United States.

We love doing business with America, but hate the fact that when dealing with the United States, Canada usually ends up on the very short end of a very long stick. Our NAFTA negotiators are sometimes lucky to come home with bus fare in their pockets. That’s because Canada thinks it’s important to be fair in negotiations, and the US thinks it’s important to win.

We hate that Americans are always so sure they’re right. Canadians are suspicious of people who don’t have the teeniest bit of self-doubt. Of course, at the other extreme Canadians can be guilty of a high degree of wishy-washiness. Our governments feel they have to take into consideration every tiny, whiny interest group before they can make a decision. There’s a saying in Canadian government: "Good decisions get lost in committee - bad decisions get implemented immediately."

We love to point out that Americans get to keep far more of their hard earned cash than we do as Canadians. Those who complain the loudest here hate to be reminded that a lot of this extra cash gets spent right back out in things like home security, private school, gated communities and health care.

We love their devotion to free enterprise and rewarding individuals . We hate that there are still American states that have no minimum wage and poverty is still largely looked on as a divine judgment of a person’s worth.

We love American generosity. They would literally give you the shirt off their backs. We hate that they sometimes don’t understand that not everyone wants the same things they want.

We love America for its love of freedom and democracy. We applaud their desire to export these rare commodities to the rest of the world, but wonder about the wisdom of doing it on the pointy end of Tomahawk missiles. Their willingness to go to war for freedom and democracy in Iraq would have a much better ring if the US wasn’t propping up dictatorships in other parts of the world. Are they really so naïve to believe that they can forcibly plant the seeds of democracy and have them flourish in the harsh soil of Iraq?

In some ways, on the world stage America is like a mother in law who comes to your house and rearranges all your kitchen cupboards. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts, and can’t understand why anyone would consider it annoying meddling. America is genuinely surprised to find out that they are not automatically seen as the good guys, and that not everyone shares the American dream.

One last thing we hate - that sometimes they don’t understand that you can love and respect a neighbour and friend without necessarily always seeing eye to eye.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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