By Dr David Laing Dawson
RVing through the US and into Canada at Creston BC I ponder the shaping of national identity and patterns of behaviour, for the visual differences between the two countries are becoming stark.
The landscape and climate are the same in Western Montana and South Eastern BC, but the differences lie in organization, in care, attitude.
The signage in Canada thanks me for slowing through a construction site. In the US it threatens me with a $1500 fine and months in jail.
In the US we pass through half dead small towns in disarray, dumps of old trailers and trucks beside dilapidated clapboard houses. No matter how poor the small town in Montana, it has a windowless casino, from a shack with slots to Diamond Lil’s. It is a man’s world of heavy machinery, equipment, trucks, and minimal attention to design and decoration.
Crossing into Canada we enter a different world. Money has been spent on the roads, only occasionally do we see a shack or barn left to decay in place. And the small towns: suddenly people are sitting at tables outside cafes, the buildings are maintained, colourful, quaint, alive. Shops are open, people stroll. Some of these strolling, shopping people may be American tourists spending their overvalued currency while enjoying the pleasant sense of safety and security Canada offers.
And that leads me to the point of this. The American economy is good, I am reminded by Donald every day. So why does America not look better?
The arguments for Universal Health care and gun control are usually based on health improvement and fewer killings. But I would like to make them, as well, for a lessening of anxiety. For America, I think, is rife with anxiety, leaving a whole population over compensating with ‘America First’ appeals, and displays of power and self reliance, while driving rapidly by signs that read 110 people killed on this highway so far in 2019, and another sign telling us how many children per day were killed by guns.
Now some of that anxiety is the product of a violent, racist history, yet to be resolved, and some from a large and growing income inequality, and some from an otherwise beneficial value of self reliance and a little I am sure from genuine threat, though the fear and preoccupation with “adversaries” is far overblown.
These sources of anxiety may be difficult to overcome, but two major sources shouldn’t be: health care and guns.
And maybe if the average American was not worried about health insurance, the enormous cost of becoming ill, and of being in the wrong place when a boy with an AR 15 shows up, they might be able to relax and pretty up their town and sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping good coffee too.