I was reminded of all this as my wife and I recently spent half of a three week vacation in this fortunate country, sea kayaking off northern Vancouver Island, canoeing on an interior British Columbia River, and tent camping every night but one in the spectacular Canadian outdoors.
I've had an ongoing love-affair with our northern neighbor for more than a decade. Like many Americans, I am acquainted with numerous Canadians, many of them friends and all of them, without exception, individuals that I would be pleased to have as neighbors. For seven years during the nineties, I was professionally associated with members of a Toronto consulting firm, all of them intelligent, personable, and unfailingly honorable. Scholarly conferences have brought me to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. In the summer of 2000, and again in 2004, my wife and I drove to Alaska, which means, of course, through British Columbia and Yukon Territory, on both occasions taking plenty of time to explore the Canadian rivers and mountains.
Superficially, western Anglo-Canadians appear to be indistinguishable from visiting Americans. Among the young, "the Canadian diphthong" ("aboot" instead of "about") has vanished. Listen to our talk radio, and you will not be able to identify the Canadians unless they identify themselves. In British Columbia I doubt if many noticed, or cared, if I were American or Canadian.
While my political biases may color my impressions, and while it is folly to generalize about 32 million Canadians from an encounter with a few dozen, I did seemed to notice, beneath the surface, some subtle differences of temperament.
I was struck by the cheerfulness of the Canadians that I routinely encountered as a tourist: the sales clerks, waitresses, managers, etc. The same sunny disposition is evident among the Canadian scholars and consultants of my professional acquaintance. I find among the Canadians, perceptively less anxiety and more self-assurance - more "comfort in their own skins" -- than I find among my compatriots.
Could this be because Canadians, unlike citizens of Bush's America, are not "YoYos" - are not told, "you're on your own"? Because of their excellent health care system, Canadians have no fear that they are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Similarly, their other governmental social services are well-managed and secure. As we discovered, provincial parks and camping facilities are abundant and scrupulously maintained, while in Alaska we encountered many campsites closed "due to State budget cutbacks."
In sum, what Canadians take for granted from their government, Bush and the GOP Congress have been taking from us: a just allotment of the tax burden, competent management of public and personal emergencies, environmental protection, generous support for public education and for scientific research and development, even-handed rule of law, and most of all, honest, demonstrably accurate and verifiable elections. In Canada, the ballots are all hand-counted, in the presence of three witnesses.
Small wonder that the Canadians appear less anxious and more secure than their neighbors below the 49th parallel.
I can hear it now: "So, if you are so fond of Canada, why don't you move there and take your 'hate-America liberalism' with you?"
I choose to remain here precisely because I am loyal to and love my native country, the United States, just as I despise those who have defiled its good name through their imperial aggressions abroad, who have plundered its wealth, who have despoiled its natural environment, and who have, in violation of their oaths of office, subverted its Constitution and the rule of law.
The history, traditions and ideals of the United States of America should weigh far more than the misfortune that has befallen it these past six years. And if we the American people so determine, these traditional moral and political assets which, by example, we have offered to the entire world, may soon be restored. However, that restoration is by no means assured, and if we fail to resist the Bushevik assault upon our Constitution and demand that restoration of the rule of law, a long night of despotism may soon be upon us.
Because I love my country, I refuse to abandon it at this moment of its gravest peril. There is a struggle ahead, and I choose to be part of it.
If and when the time comes that my dissent puts my life and liberty in immediate danger, and if and when there is no further possibility of reform from within, then I may flee this country and continue the struggle for its liberation from without. Until then, I would no sooner abandon my troubled country than I would abandon my enfeebled parents or my wayward and bewildered children.
In the meantime, Canada, as well the other free nations of the British Commonwealth and of Western Europe, is an exemplar of the kind of free, just and prosperous country that the United States once was and which, through the determined and courageous resistance of its people, the United States can become once again. Canada, just by minding its own business, stands as an embarrassment to George Bush and his neo-con collaborators, and as an example and beacon of hope to the embattled Americans who are struggling to reclaim the liberty and justice once guaranteed by our Constitution, and the reputation that we once enjoyed throughout the world.
O Canada! ... With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free!