Backstabbing or Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?

Most Canadians are media savvy. Between cable TV, the internet, newspapers and radio, a healthy percentage of citizens are well informed of events and entertainment in both Canada and the United States. In some sense, Canadians are more informed by events in the US than events in their own country. This is due to a certain reliance on American media.

Canadians have become accustomed to watching American shows and movies and listening to American bands on the radio. How fair is it then to mock this history of one-way flow? Is it valid to treat Americans with less respect, simply because they have not benefitted from Canadian programming as we have from American programming? Is it fair to poke holes in the society on which our own is based?

There is a segment of the television program This Hour has 22 Minutes entitled ‘Talking To Americans.’ While the title holds no negative connotations, the goal of the show is to exacerbate the stereotype of the ignorant American by having a delegate go to the United States with a camera crew, so that misleading questions can be answered by representative examples of this stereotype.

The questions the delegate poses and the comments he offers are common knowledge to people living in Canada, but are evidently not to people living elsewhere. When Canadians view this program they feel superior to the Americans questioned, and believe the average American to be inferior in knowledge. The segment can be quite effective, especially considering some of the people they coerce into saying ridiculous things. However, one must consider the effect would be quite similar if, say, a Norwegian television station conducted a comparable experiment in downtown Toronto.

These sorts of media experiments bolster nationalistic feelings in Canada. It’s a hollow sentiment, though. As a nation, Canada should not base its feelings about a country on how it is viewed in the media. It’s hypocrytical. Molson’s ‘Joe Canada’ campaign from a couple years ago purported to dispel stereotypes of Canadians, but in fact only reinforced how we think Americans view Canadians. This depiction of a Canadian man refuting stereotypes also strengthened feelings that Americans consistently view Canadians with a negative perspective.

Molson has been particularly responsible for stirring the pot to this effect, focusing ad campaign after ad campaign on the mockery of US attitudes, with the tagline, ‘I am Canadian.’

Are we, as a nation, simply jealous of the American nation and its various successes, aping their media, and at the same time being so critical of their shortcomings? Canada owes the US much, in that to a large extent our country has relied on and taken for granted the powerful United States. We’re nice, but we could be nicer. Canada’s large area and small population would make it ripe for invasion, but for its geographical fortune of having an intimidating and like-minded (if thick-headed at times) neighbour ready to fight.

A particular favourite of supposed Canadian patriots is the glorification of the ‘Canadian’ victory over the United States in the War of 1812. While the war was fought on what would eventually become Canadian territory and was fought by the ancestors of the people who would be known as Canadians, the war was largely a duel between the United States and the Empire of Great Britain.

While the colonial troops and indigenous peoples (for the sake of charity: Canadians) of British North America were undoubtedly useful for the Royal Navy and British Army, the fact remains that the War of 1812 was not won, let alone fought, by Canadians. Websites such as canadaka.net [Canada Kicks Ass] extol the imagined virtues of imagined Canadian armies that repelled an invasion while simultaneously attacking Americans as unskillful war-mongers.

Aside from sharing a land border, the United States and Canada participate in mutual defense programs. While there haven’t been any significant attacks on the North American continent since the inception of these defense pacts, people and resources from both countries are ready to be expended in defense of the other. The two nations have shared a mutual trust and friendship that was extended to an agreement to defend each other’s land from outside hostility. Americans and Canadians have coexisted peacefully and respectfully for many years.

In addition to defense, the US and Canada have many trade agreements, and have created a stable trading relationship. The strength of the relationship is such that Canadians have become almost completely dependent on the United States as far as imports and exports are concerned, with almost three quarters of Canada’s total imports coming from the US and almost 90% of exports heading to the US.

Although Canadians have many reasons to view Americans in a positive manner, as a society Canadians endorse a negative perspective of Americans. While there are many reasons for Canadians to view Americans in a positive way, there seems to simultaneously be no need for such a perspective. As a nation Canada endorses freedom of expression through any media, and if Canadians prefer to be critical of Americans, or hold them in a negative perspective they are fully free to, despite any reasons that may contravene. But one must remember having a big brother is not a bad thing. As long as he is not Big Brother.

December 6, 2003 Blueprint Web Administrator No Comments