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-Canadians Think They're Superior - Here's What US Thinks

Americans fire back over column


RICHARD GWYN

You all suck even more than France. That is one American's opinion of Canada.

Another, from Salem, Mass., holds the view that, "Americans are superior to Canadians because we don't play or watch curling."

And from Kansas City comes the comment, "Canada is the bookish, nerdy sister of the prom queen that is America." Many, from all over, remark on how Canada "hiding behind Big Mama's skirts" depends on the U.S. for its defence.

But then a Texan chimes in with, "I'm a right-wing American who loves being part of the biggest, baddest, nation on the block.

Yet that voice from the distant, frigid north is oddly reassuring, sort of like having a more even-keeled young brother."

And a "Jon" recalled that the Roman emperors had a servant whisper in their ear, "Remember, Caesar, you are mortal" a practice that could usefully be recreated in Ottawa and then opined: "The U.S. needs to be challenged for its own good the same way ... (a role) Canadians are particularly well-suited to."

What Canadians think does matter to Americans. In certain circumstances at certain times.

My evidence for saying this is that I've culled those quotes from the some 1,400 e-mails sent to me as a result of my column of last Sunday titled, "It's not our fault that we're morally superior to Americans."

What promoted the column was some hand-wringing by Deputy Prime Minister John Manley that any Canadian sentiments of superiority were actually a sign of a sense of inferiority, and should be silenced so as not to annoy Americans.

My rebuttal was that Canadian sentiments of superiority were actually a sign of a sense of superiority, and why on Earth not say so out loud, since Americans are certain they are superior to everyone in the world and can hardly be shocked to be challenged.

I expected some shots back, from both sides of the border. I got the verbal equivalent of a salvo of cruise missiles. As a journalist, I've never experienced its equal. The Drudge Report on the Web picked up the column, and, in a tribute to its power, triggered well over 1,000 of those e-mails. American radio and TV stations called for interviews.

Best of all, I got by accident, a fascinating insight into American opinions about Canada but also about their own country.

First, a sample of the antis:

"We Americans don't give a rat's ass what you think about us."

"You do nothing and carp about others. You're like a nation populated entirely by university professors and newspaper columnists."

"You people can be as superior as you like while you surrender your firearms, pay for your socialist health care, and freeze your collective asses off."

"Canadians are sort of a nation of Homer Simpsons."

Then the pros:

"One of the reasons Canadians are such good neighbours is that they are not afraid to disagree with us. Our differences are not violent, fearful or antagonistic, and that means they must be constructive."

"I remember the first time being around Canadian people and as a black man that was the first time in my 44 years I was treated like a real person. I wish I were a Canadian."

"Overall you guys are great. If in fact you are superior in some areas, I see that as a challenge. You know how we hate to come in second."

The level of knowledge about Canada was far higher than is generally assumed. To my comment that Canadians have more of a sense of being a collectivity, many respondents replied: "What about Quebec?" On the differences in health-care systems, one of many defending the U.S. practice observed shrewdly, "Canadians do have a two-tier system. It's just that your first-tier is in places like Minneapolis and Syracuse and Boston where you can get an MRI on three day's notice."

The level of humour was high as well. "I'm impressed that Canada's firearms registration program has ballooned from $2 million to one billion. I thought only the U.S. Congress was that inept."

Most interesting, perhaps, is that dealing with a Canadian's comments about the U.S. triggered perceptive comments by Americans about themselves:

"Please be patient with us as we search for a way to respond to what we feel is a critically dangerous time in history. We can have big mouths, but we also have big hearts."

"Americans do have a bit of a superiority complex. But not in the way you understand. We want to be the best at everything we do. Our attitudes demand victory, victory, victory."

"It seems we NEED an enemy to feel good about ourselves. The fall of the Soviet Union was the worst thing that could have happened to us. No one to beat at the Olympics. No one to talk tough to."

The only way to end is to balance evenly, in a properly Canadian way, the praise and the blame:

"Just as Canadians are better at viewing themselves as a collective, they are also better at viewing themselves not just as members of a nation but as citizens of the world."

And to confirm that it's curling that really distinguishes the two nations of North America, "Go back to sliding things across the ice and calling it a sport."
 






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