Friday, March 18, 2005

Following up on a brief conversation I had with friends Wednesday night on the nature of Canada’s national identity complex vis-à-vis the US, I’m posting a few choice samples from Matt Labash’s latest Weekly Standard article, entitled “Welcome to Canada: The Great White Waste of Time”:
...Canadians are bizarrely obsessed with us, binge-eating out of our cultural trough, then pretending it tastes bad. Plainly the two things Canada needs most are a mirror and a good psychiatrist.

Though they don't know who they are, they know they're not us (roughly 9 out of 10 comparison surveys are done by Canadians), so they bang that drum until their hands bleed. Still, it seems there is almost nothing Canadian that isn't informed in some way by America. When the late Canadian radio host Peter Gzowski had a competition to come up with a phrase comparable to "American as apple pie," the winner was "As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances." In 1996, when Canadians were asked to name both the greatest living and the all-time greatest Canadian, 76 percent said "no one comes to mind." Another survey showed them to believe that the most famous Canadian was Pamela Anderson, star of America's Baywatch. When Canadians were asked to name their favorite song, they settled on one by a good Canadian band, The Guess Who. The song: "American Woman."

While Canadians pride themselves on knowing more about us than we do about them (undoubtedly true), the problem--captured in a survey done for Canada Day in 2000--is that even historically challenged Americans know more about ourselves than Canadians do about themselves. In parallel 10-question quizzes on everything from our first president/prime minister to the words of our respective national anthems, 63 percent of Americans scored five or more right answers. Only 39 percent of Canadians did...

What many don't consider is how much Canada has oversold itself in the areas where it purportedly does succeed. While it's true that the government has been much friendlier than ours to gay marriage, only 39 percent of Canadians decidedly support it. While Canada is supposedly more environment-friendly, it has been cited for producing more waste per person than any other country. While Canada is supposedly safer, a 1996 study showed its banks had the highest stick-up rate of any industrialized nation (one in every six was robbed). And while a great deal is made of Americans' passion for firearms, the Edmonton Sun, citing Statistics Canada, reported that Canada has a higher crime rate than we do.

Canadians are supposedly less greedy than Americans, yet they lead the world in telemarketing fraud, and most of their victims are Americans. Are they more generous? Not by a long shot. The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute publishes a Generosity Index, which shows that more Americans give to charity, and give more when they do.

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