Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canada Daze

My Little Spot In Cyber Space To Kick Back And Contemplate Life, Politics, Raising Kids while Raising Parents And What It Means To Be A Canadian In A Topsy Turvy World

So what does it mean to be "Canadian" in a topsy turvy world? I think I may have a little better idea of that now, having surfed my way through the fascinating world of the blogs for the past few years.

One thing in particular I've noticed is the difference in attitude or perception (I'm not quite sure of the best word) between Canadians and Americans (as a good counterpoint).

I love my country. I am proud of my country. Most of the time anyway. Although I love to travel and there are many places I might like to spend lengthy times visiting, I wouldn't want to actually live anywhere else. Most people probably feel that way about their country. But what I've noticed in my interactions with Americans online is this. In many of their views, the US is THE BEST Country in The World. Bar None. The Best Place to Live and THE BEST Country. Some (many?) go so far as to say that it's the world's only true democracy, the world's only true ... fill in the blank...

I must confess that I have had a bit of a hard time with that. Sure, I would categorize some countries as better than others. I certainly don't see them all as the same. As equal. But I would never place my country (or any other) at the top of the heap. That's always struck me as pretty egotistical. Pretty dismissive of everybody else. And quite frankly, it's a value judgment that I don't believe I am in any position to make.

Perhaps if I had lived for a significant period of time (not visited, not read or heard about but actually lived) in just about every country on the face of the earth, I would feel that I had the right to make such a judgment. But how can I legitimately judge that which I honestly do not know? And when I use the word "know", I mean really "know", as in intimately, not just think that I know.

But I have come to think that this is a fundamental difference between us and them. Perhaps this American phenomena is not really so much egotistical, at least not in the way I usually think of the word, as it is simply a product of their own unique brand of patriotism. Perhaps they are not trying to be so dismissive of everyone else but are simply speaking their reality, as they see it. In other words, it's not an attempt to be nasty or callous, it's just telling it as (they honestly believe) it is.

Yes, Canadians are patriotic. But not the same way as Americans are. I'm not so sure that we're any less patriotic now (I think prior to 9/11, we may well have been) than they are, I think we just show it in a different way. And that different way is influenced, moulded even, by the fact that we are Canadians. By how we perceive ourselves. How we perceive the rest of the world. And how we perceive our place in that world. The very fact that we are Canadians, what it actually means to be a Canadian, not only shapes what our patriotism looks like but actually defines the very meaning of the term for us.

I'm not sure that I can verbalize it or express it beyond this. It's a strange place for me to be, a place where I *know* what I want to say but can't quite seem to find the words I need to express my thoughts clearly.

Moving on to a lighter note, it appears that a recent survey that I can't now seem to lay my hands on shows that Canadians define ourselves by things like the Maple Leaf, our flag, hockey, the beaver and the Canadarm. So make of that what you will.

And if you're so inspired you can take a quiz and see how you stack up in your opinions against your fellow Canucks, if you be one of us, or just against those strange creatures in the Great White North, if you are not so fortunate as to be from here. And if you don't want to take the quiz, but might like to look at all the results, you can take a gander here.

Results like

  • in a choice between doctors, firefighters, pilots and pharmacists, 94% of Canadians would put their trust in a firefighter, 91% in pharmacists, 85% in doctors and 81% in airline pilots

  • 43% of Canadians feel the world is changing too quickly and this is a major cause of stress

  • If we won $10 million, 50% of us would share with family, 39% would donate to charity, 35% would travel and 23% of us would use it to pay off debt. But only 10% would quit their jobs!

  • 33% of us hide what we have paid for something from our spouses.

  • More people have suffered a broken heart in my home province of Saskatchewan than anywhere else. The place where you are least likely to get a broken heart is Quebec.

  • Over one-third of Canadians think Newfoundlanders have the best sense of humour. 13% think Quebeckers are funny while only 1% think Prince Edward Islanders can get a laugh.

  • And perhaps most interestingly, British Columbians are most likely to say we are different from the Americans. The province whose residents are least likely to think so is Alberta.
So what does that tell us? Hell if I know, I only live here!




Kris, in New England said...

Being American, I don't believe we are egotistical about our country. We do have a brand of patriotism and love of our country that is different from the rest of the world.

And certainly whenever there is trouble in the world - Americans are always first on the scene. Whether that's good or bad depends on your own personal perspective.

We aren't better - we are different. Perhaps "more different" than any other country. Most of our country was founded by immigrants at one time or another, which makes our population unique in its drive and determination.

Better than others? Perhaps, perhaps not. But would I want to live anywhere else to find out either way?


Happy Birthday Canada!

PeterGunn said...

Happy Birthday, CANADA! I had the good fortune to attend a BlueJay v. Mariner baseball game just the other night where many Canadians joined us here in Seattle to celebrate their own Canada Day, "American Style".
All were well behaved, nice young people, supporting their baseball team midst Americans. We enjoyed their enthusiasm and bright spirits

Americans are PROUD of their homeland, just as this group of Canadians was proud of their team. While we do believe we're #1, it's truly more in the spirit of friendly competition as it was the other night. (Seattle did win the series with Toronto, 2-1.)

I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and I've always enjoyed the country I've been visiting, but I've ALWAYS been eager to return home to the USA. It's the dramatic change from whatever country we're visiting back to the US that proves to me it's the BEST.

"We take so much for granted" is a phrase on the lips of every international traveler when they return to the US. We finally recognize our freedoms after feeling the very natural stress of foreign travel.

We believe in US... with confidence and verve!

MMC said...

Well, I seem to have drawn out a few of my American friends, anyway. Thanks, guys. ;-)

Balancing Act said...

One more American to put her two cents in. First and foremost Happy Birthday Canada! Second Happy 4th of July to the USA. I have had the great experience to travel to a few places but still have much more to go. I believe that everyone should be proud of where they are from but please note that no matter where you live there is always good and bad everywhere. Americans are proud and I believe that we became a much more cohesive group after 9/11. Sometimes it takes something so horrible for us to realize how wonderful a place this is to live. And yes we become very defensive to protect ourselves. But I also believe that we like to help others protect what is important to them as well. Is it perfect? No. But frankly I don't know anywhere that is pure perfection. I am proud to be an American as you are to be a Canadian. Would I want to live anywhere else? Probably not but either would you. I agree with Kris in that not one country is better than another but merely different. We just need to appreciate the good in everywhere and everyone.