By Dr David Laing Dawson
I have always looked to our south, like many Canadians, with a little disdain, a smidgen of envy, a touch of awe, and no small sense of superiority. When you repeat over and over again, ad nauseum, that America is the Greatest country on earth, I want to politely shout, “No, you are not.” Perhaps by one measure out of twenty you are, but that’s it. One out of twenty. Maybe two. Military force and entertainment. Maybe three: military force, entertainment, and some of the sciences.
You got the atomic bomb first, with the help of a few imported scientists, but Canada was second in having the knowledge and technology to build one, and it did not. Perhaps this was a much more significant accomplishment.
You can see our relationship has been complicated.
Traveling in Europe we quickly identify ourselves as Canadian, not American. I know some Americans who do as well.
But I was in Paris when the twin towers came down, and we spent four days there watching the news. And I found, out on the street, that suddenly I too was American, North American.
How dare these primitives, these semi-civilized thirteenth century people, attack the greatest city on earth, the showpiece of my America? How dare such primitives, such pre-enlightenment Neanderthals attack this beacon of light, this democracy, our democracy?
At that moment the civilized enlightened world was with you, America. You had a free hand to go hard after Osama Bin Laden. Instead you invaded Iraq. And as the war drums grew I found myself saying, “No. They won’t do that. Nobody could be that stupid.”
But you were. And then you did it badly, ignoring history and everything we know about collective human behaviour, about what happens when you take away stability, structure, organization.
And once again I became a disdainful Canadian watching you torture yourselves (and others).
Of course, with your own disdain of regulations and oversight, you also allowed a financial crisis to assail the world, and for the gap in wealth to grow to outrageous proportions. The very rich got richer, the poor got poorer.
And then we had 8 years of Obama, a man who proved to be, if a little indecisive, at least sane, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and responsible. It looked like America had a chance again and might one-day regain a fourth or even fifth category of greatness.
Four or five out of twenty wouldn’t be all that bad. Education? Health care? Quality of Life? Women’s rights? Racial equality? Literacy? Scientific literacy? Standard of living? Clean air? Clean water? Mental health care? Less primitive corrections system? Modern transportation system? Banking regulations? Maybe you would even direct that famous American energy and ingenuity toward preventing the calamity of climate change?
Instead you took a mighty step backwards. You elected a child as president and a raft of 19th century idealogues to Congress. The arguments I hear on CNN about that whole list one paragraph above are silly, stupid, primitive, ill informed. With each of them the push is backwards: women’s rights, health care, EPA, great lakes, mental health care, climate change, education, science, corrections, regulations, wealth equality, race relations.
Please, America, Please. Those of you who are enlightened, educated, worldly, kind, sane, responsible – those of you who have empathy for others, who have outgrown or at least come to terms with your past – those of you who care about the real future – the future for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and the rest of the world for that matter – you need to resist; you need to turn the tables.
I could simply go on feeling superior and disdainful, but America is too important, even the idea of America is too important. We, the whole world, need a sane, stable, educated, advanced, involved, compassionate America.
And now I shall watch CNN again and cross my fingers.