A few years ago, I had made a trip to Greece with my family and found that the distinction between American and Canadian had blurred considerably. Even worse, I had tried to correct the natives on their terminology by stating that I was, indeed, Canadian. Their response was deeply disturbing.
"So, you're American?"
"No, I'm Canadian. We're from a city thats a little to the northeast of Toronto."
"Canada's in North America, though."
"Well, yes. But we're not American."
"But I'm Greek, that makes me European. If you're from Canada, that means you're American."
"We don't really like to be called American."
"...oh. I'm sorry, I still don't understand."
It was at this point that I came to the conclusion that while we, as Canadians, have struggled to define ourselves by the distinction that we're "not American", the rest of the planet didn't seem to give a shit. Nobody else cares what Canada considers itself, it's not really their problem if we happen to live next to a loud and boisterous society that we can't measure up to. That's our issue and we've been ignoring it for far too long.
Take a look back at Canada's history and you'll find that the nation's done a lot of phenomenal things given the size of its population and the scientific and cultural breakthroughs over the last few centuries. The fact that we managed to have a Prime Minister who actively duped the Commonwealth into giving up its hold on our economy is something that no other country in the history of the British Empire (with the exception of Australia) has been able to do without a horrific amount of bloodshed. Yet instead of celebrating the recognition of the British North America Act, we sit back and allow the achievement to take a back seat to ridiculous grandstanding just a few feet closer to the equator.
Because we're polite and quiet.
Why are we polite and quiet?
Because we're trying our hardest not to be "American".
Following the same docile and spiteful method of resignation, we can see a pattern begin to form. If the inspirational and non-confrontational declaration of independence receives little more than a golf clap, then how can we expect to treat our artists or our history any better?
I had recently had the honour and privilege of speaking with an individual of native descent from Washington to convince him to appear on the same show that I had my interview a few weeks prior.
It's a convoluted philosophy, but bear with me for a few more paragraphs.
Let's take a look at our politics which we don't know anything about. It's okay to admit it, few people know anything about our representatives because we're trying so hard NOT to be American that the idea of exploiting their personal affairs is so foreign that it took a mayor smoking crack in front of a camera to receive any manner of notoriety. Wait, no, I'm sorry. That isn't right.
It took a mayor of a LGBT friendly city to say that he didn't approve of same-sex couples to appear on a videotape smoking crack a week after stumbling through Greektown drunk off his ass with allegations of soliciting a prostitute and later propositioning a councilwoman to receive any manner of notoriety. Even then, we've done absolutely nothing other than shake our heads and complain because we're not American, so staging a city-wide protest is completely out of the question. Leave that kind of crazy business to New York or California, thank you very much.
Let's compare the idea of a Canadian protest with that of an American protest, shall we? Here are some images from the "Occupy" demonstrations of recent years.
(photograph taken from www.blogto.com)
(photograph taken from www.telegraph.co.uk)
We're full of untapped potential, we have the largest cache of natural resources that we're basically giving away so that people will like us and they don't give a shit. To every other citizen of every other continent, we're still American because they don't really care what we like to think of ourselves. We're so busy trying to please the planet by wearing the mask of politesse that we haven't bothered to break the surface of what living in this country really means.
Hell, Doug Ford just said that he doesn't want to build a housing unit for those afflicted with Autism because it might "lower property values" and nobody is saying a goddamn thing. We're just shaking our heads like a group of assholes because marching up and down the streets would be oh so improper and we can't have that. God forbid the world sees Canada as something other than generous and easy-going. God forbid we admit that we have some fucking troubles of our own. God forbid we recognize that the United Nations has called our current government a joke and denounced the way it treats the First Nations and aboriginal people that were nice enough not to poison the fresh water supply when it became clear that the settlers were going to wipe them off the place of the planet. I guess they don't have to any more since we've sat back and allowed the same administration to do the jobs of their own accord.
Canada lacks a culture because our population has become so used to the idea of being second best that it just doesn't care any more. We praise the talent that we've allowed to drift towards the south and take pride in their achievements within the United States without asking the question of why didn't we fight harder to promote them when they were here? We condemn the way they treat their people while ignoring the plight of our own. We feed the children of Africa while a bottle of water can cost upwards of fifteen dollars in Nunavut after the local stores gouge shoppers thanks to the isolation. We give and we give and give because our troubles seem so large that we'd rather pretend we're perfect.
We're not perfect. We are deeply flawed and insecure.
If writing has taught me anything from the last year, it's that the solution is as simple as looking in the mirror and saying "I can do better than this" until the mantra becomes a reality.
We can start with the oldest problems and work our way forward. We can start with the realization that we will NEVER be defined as anything other than "Not American" until we've allowed the First Nations to once again become a prominent contributor to our social evolution. We can start by contributing to the reserves rather than placating the residents that live within them. We can start by funding our media and allowing it to flourish in a field other than fucking boring ass documentaries. We can start by being loud and proud. We can start by kicking a little ass on the global stage rather than whisper about our nationality in secret.
For Christ's sake, Canada! Did we forget about Ypres already?