On Canadian Anti-Americanism

December 18, 2012 § 7 Comments

Sometimes there are few things as depressing as Canadian anti-Americanism.  We Canadians are a smug lot, we think we’re smarter, more cosmopolitan, less racist, less sexist, more everything that’s good, less everything that’s bad than Americans.  And yet we’re obsessed with Americans.  For many of us, our self-identity as a nation is simple: we’re not American.  Years ago, even the Canadian Football League fell for this with an ad that asked “WHAT’S THE DEFINITION OF CANADIAN?!? NOT AMERICAN!!!” Yeah, great, thanks for that.  I find few things as sad, pathetic, and limiting as we Canadians identifying ourselves in the negative, as in NOT American, NOT British, NOT French.

But it appears that this means of self-definition still appeals to and obsesses too many of my fellow citizens.  And this leads to this sad anti-Americanism.  The kind that leads Canadians to proudly declare we live in a paradise of non-existant crime, racism, homophobia, etc.  And sometimes, it leads to leftist Americans fetishising Canada.  Think, for example, of Michael Moore’s fatuous claim in Bowling for Columbine that Canadians don’t lock their doors at night because there’s no crime.  I have never, ever, ever left my door unlocked living in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montréal.  Not once.  Ever.  You think I’m nuts?!?

Canadian anti-Americanism is quite the phenomenon in social media right now.  All kinds of Canadians lecturing, hectoring, and badgering Americans (not that they’re paying attention) about guns in the wake of the Newtown massacre (and let’s not forget the mall shooting in Oregon last week) (if you’d really like to depress yourself about mass shootings in the United States over the past thirty years, I have this for you).  The script of this particular anti-Americanism is consistent: “You Americans are dumb. You have guns.  And you shoot each other and yourselves with them.  We Canadians are smart.  We don’t shoot ourselves and each other.” And so and so forth.  To that, my fellow Canadians, I will remind you of the rash of shootings in Toronto last summer.  As for mass shootings, I present École Polytechnique; Concordia University; Taber, AB; Dawson College.  You want a closer look at mass shootings in Canada? Go here. But this kind of anti-Americanism is predictable.  But it’s not like Americans aren’t upset and distressed by these goings-on.  It’s not like Americans aren’t trying to have this very same discussion.

But there’s also the more prosaic kind of anti-Americanism.  Since I re-located to Boston this summer, I’ve had a few choice comments directed my way on Twitter and in real life.  Comments like “I could NEVER live in the States, it’s so violent,” “Ha! Better get a gun!” and “Americans are dumb” (yes, seriously), and so on and so forth.  A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, one numbskull went crazy on me in response to a tweet about the subtle difference I have noticed between the two nations: Canadians have social programmes, Americans have entitlements.  This now-former tweep went on a tirade about Americans and war, suggesting that the American entry into the Second World War had nothing to do with the Allies winning the war.  But it got better.  Apparently the only thing Americans can do is fight, they can’t do diplomacy, and they can’t innovate unless it’s war.  Cars, electricity, nope, none of that comes from the United States.  Certainly, this kind of irrational anti-Americanism is not the norm in Canada, but it is still symptomatic of the larger problem.

I don’t see how this kind of irrational anti-Americanism can square with our self-image as more erudite, more intelligent, etc. than Americans.  For that matter, I can’t see why this comparison even exists in the first place.  I am Canadian.  Full stop.  I am not not-American.  I don’t care what Americans are or do.  That’s for Americans to decide.  As Canadians, we need to get over our inferiority complex.

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§ 7 Responses to On Canadian Anti-Americanism

  • goodywinks says:

    In Britain we have a similar thing between the Scottish and the English…it does my head in!

  • John Matthew Barlow says:

    One of my favourite movies of all time is Trainspotting. Renton’s rant about being colonised by the English is priceless. I think this is a function between any smaller, insecure nation/people and a larger, more secure, more powerful one. I’m told New Zealand/Australia is similar.

  • Nathan Keaveny says:

    Great short article. I lived in Toronto for four years and I got tired of the silly anti-Americanism. I’m glad to see someone has the courage to speak up about it.

  • Fredrick Burtwaterr says:

    Canadians have a lot to learn from Americans. At least there is still free speech in America. Canada has anti-blasphemy laws, hate speech laws, no 1st amendment., forced speech laws towards trans and non-binary people. Its a maze of politically correct speech in Canada and fines for not doing so- far from a free country. Yes, Canadians are arrogant, and extremely NOSY, they don’t believe in ANY SORT OF PRIVACY.

  • Allison says:

    Thank you for this! Well said. I’ve always lived in the states and the family in Canada never has anything not unpleasant to say about the US. Canadians do need to loose the inferiority complex. It’s not becoming.

    • Well, to be fair, there are very clear historical reasons why we have our sense of superiority, but, at the same time, the Canadian smugness is the equivalent of what I see here in the US, this belief in American exceptionalism.

      I am a Canadian, I live in the South, and I keep being told that the future I have chosen for myself in the US is something I couldn’t have in Canada, which is simply untrue. I also get told that I am free here, as opposed to at home, etc.

      Just national neuroses, I suppose.

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