A recent poll has determined that 15% of respondents would give up their ballot in the next Canadian federal election in order to be able to cast one in the American presidential race. There have been a couple of commenters blaming that on the overwhelming media coverage of the race, and I’ve heard a few people shaking their heads and calling it some kind of crisis of national pride. Which is why I tend to appreciate this comment, by a guy identified only as Nathan from Alberta:
I’m rather bemused by some of the posts here. We all know how much Canadians (in general) despise Americans. We’re SO much better than they are. In fact, if asked to describe what it means to be a Canadian, most Canadians choose to contrast themselves to Americans….I hear so often about “arrogant Americans,” but my observation, both in this forum and elsewhere, is that we are “self-righteous and superior Canadians.”
The poll also determined that a large percentage (over half) of Canadians think that the US is a negative force in the world, and I suspect this commenter is fuming over that when he refers to our despising of Americans. But I do think he’s got a point in looking at how we keep thinking that bigger and more public must necessarily have a bigger impact on our lives. And obviously, the results of the US election will make a far greater difference to a far larger number of lives than anything that could ever happen in Canada. But you know…think globally, act locally and all that. There is something of an arrogance to wanting to be a small fish in a big pond, partially because I’m assuming it has at least something to do with assuming that eventually you’ll be a big fish. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, maybe we can fix America!
And what’s the thing the Americans are mentioning about us these days? Well, it’s a week old, but apparently “Canadian” is the latest racist euphemism. I’ve seen a couple of hypotheses as to why, including one that attributes it to the name of a river in Texas that sounds quite similar to “Canada”, but what’s left of my linguist brain tends to assume that it takes too many steps backwards to make that one work (not least because at some point, even if you are thinking initially of the river, you have to make the leap to referring to people with the same derivation that we use for actual Canadians). That residual linguist brain is pinging a little more strongly with a point made in the National Post article, which hypothesizes that it’s based on a sense of Canadians as the “other”.
I’d go a step further and suggest that it’s actually based on a sense of Canadians as completely and totally innocuous and irrelevant. Nobody can be offended to be called “Canadian”, because it’s kind of like calling you a stuffed animal. It will go absolutely unnoticed to be speaking in negative terms about anyone using the term “Canadian”, because what could be wrong with Canadians? I think in order to “other” a group, one actually has to care that the group exists, develop some characteristics that must be attributed to/projected onto that group, a bunch of features that one can describe the self as “not”. For all the blather in the NP and whatever other Canadian media outlets have noticed this story, the word has absolutely nothing to do with Canadians.
This is one seriously messed up codependent relationship we’ve got going on, here.