April 26, 2004


The Know-It-All Neighbour: When it comes to America, writes JONATHON GATEHOUSE, we have all the answers (JONATHON GATEHOUSE, May 03, 2004, MacLean's)

No matter how the election-bound Liberals try to spin it, things have gone sour between old allies, and it has happened during their watch. It's more than the deep divisions over Iraq, or the Canadian public's palpable distaste for a Yalie cowboy and his conservative politics. Suddenly, there's a meanness to our day-to-day interactions. We harass American flag-waving school kids, and boo their national anthem at hockey games. Promises to stand "shoulder to shoulder" after the Sept. 11 attacks have been overshadowed by epithets like "moron" and "bastards." Symptoms of a declining friendship are everywhere you look.

Our unsolicited advice to Washington about the war on terror goes mostly unheeded, our small military contributions largely unappreciated. And far from our cherished self-image as the world's "helpful fixer," a sort of moral superpower, both Democrats and Republicans have come to view us as unhelpful nixers. Like the know-it-all neighbour who never misses a chance to bend your ear over the back fence or critique your yardwork, Canada has become the block bore. The "special" status that we once took for granted, able to withstand even the frankest disagreements, seems in doubt. Things between our countries are apparently getting worse all the time. And, the evidence suggests, the attitude problem is almost entirely our own.

An exclusive new Maclean's poll probing what Canadians and Americans really think of each other shows this new sense of animus is disproportionately centred north of the border. Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians say the U.S.'s global reputation has worsened over the last decade, while 38 per cent of us say we feel more negatively about America since Sept. 11 (the biggest reasons cited -- the Iraq war and George W. Bush). Asked to pick the word that best describes our neighbours to the south, the No. 1 response was "arrogant," with "patriotic" (not necessarily a compliment) close behind. More of us say Americans are "dangerous" than "compassionate." And even though a majority would be willing to immediately commit Canadian troops to defend the U.S. in the event of another attack, only 44 per cent of us "strongly support" the idea.

On the flip side, most Americans remain indifferent to the insults and jibes floating across the border.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 26, 2004 2:24 PM

Reading that second paragraph, I got a strong vision of Canada as Ned Flanders.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 26, 2004 2:32 PM

Except that Ned is a Christian.

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2004 2:36 PM

"More of us say Americans are "dangerous" than "compassionate."

I used to think that way, but then I met Orrin and Harry.

Posted by: Peter B at April 26, 2004 2:39 PM

Nothing ticks off someone who is trying to get to you than simple refusal to rise to the bait. We're refusing to take the bait, and the canucks are p.o.ed about it.

Tough, says I...

Posted by: M. Murcek at April 26, 2004 2:42 PM

When I hear about Canadian criticism, I say "Are they still around? Haven't they broken apart yet?"

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 26, 2004 3:10 PM

I'd like to see a poll question that flipped this last question around. Something like "...would the US immediately commit US troops to defend Canada if Canada was attacked."

Snarkiness aside, when I see polls like this, I picture a small dog yipping at an elephant. The small dog thinks he is hot stuff, and the elephant is mildly pondering the noise that is just at the edge of earshot.

Posted by: fred at April 26, 2004 4:34 PM

David --

More like Ms. Lovejoy. Ned is not nearly as judgemental and petty.

Posted by: MG at April 26, 2004 5:17 PM

Two quotes from the private diaries of the late Canadian Ambassador to Washington in the 60's:

"What depresses me is the thick coating of congratulation which covers every Canadian offical statement. This eternal boasting to Canadians about their own achievements when heard abroad sounds painfully embarrassing, especially when combined with a sort of Rotarian optimism about the future in which all Canadian politicians of every party indulge."


"...(jounalist) says that we are in danger of a state of affairs in which American officials groan when they see a Canadian coming. They think from experience that we are going to grouse over one of our grudges.(As they have a grudge a minute from one ally or another, they must be getting hardened to it)...Now we drop in to protest, and always in the name of Canadian interests, not on the assumption of shared responsibilities. We are reluctant to admit we are involved with the United States and have adopted an attitude of some detachment, which we associate with both independence and moral rectitude. Of course no one wants us to agree with every American policy, but there should be a dialogue based upon a common unescapable commitment."

Ah, to dream. But in the meantime, I'll take Orrin's mourning for lost love as a compliment.

Posted by: Peter B at April 26, 2004 7:14 PM

Just keep sending us your electricity, gas and oil. Otherwise, think what you like and stay off the floor when we start to dance.

As Rhett Butler said ...

Posted by: Genecis at April 26, 2004 9:59 PM

It's really not their fault, they're a mini-frogistan.

Posted by: Sandy P. at April 26, 2004 10:07 PM
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