Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Hate Americans

Oh Canada! July 1st is nearly here and Oh Boy! Kate and Willy are coming! (Now... who is it, Canada, that you think is ridiculous?) Maybe now that the Canadian dollar has trumped the US dollar by 4 cents we can finally stop hating Americans.

I was an American once. It wasn't so bad. For years and years I held on defiantly to that title from this side of the border, just to get in your faces, until a recent dunk across into the US made me realize I've actually grown uncomfortable with wide open vowels and large toilet paper. Oh I'm not saying that I'm Canadian, exactly, although I do carry both passports. But I have to admit, I have developed a somewhat Canadian sensibility in many affairs over my 13 years in residence. In other regards I remain definitively Yanquoise/Nouvelle Yorkaise-- daring, innovative, bold; welcoming to a disarming degree (if you're Canadian) direct, entrepeneurial. But my NY schtick has had a strong northern filter slapped on it; ie, I'm more in control of my cultural default settings.

Speaking of default settings, lets talk about hate. I mean, more specifically, lets talk about anti-americanism.

Now, your average Canadian will not openly admit... well... uh... anything really. Europeans, on the other hand, will tell you straight out that they hate Americans and then they will tell you why. Some of their explanations will make sense. In fact you may agree with them, and return to America as an anti-american American, (as I did, years ago) which is probably a positive thing in a nation of people awash in a lack of self-awareness and self-reflection. But Canadian hatred of Americans is different. Its friendlier. Its couched as humor, or sarcasm. Good wholesome beer-hall hahaha, can't you take a joke? Its in-bred. Its passive aggressive, and its completely socially acceptable. Its default, man. It isn't intelligent, or insightful or politically astute. Its knee-jerk, its mainstream and its elementary. Its bullied-kid-turned-JD Salinger gang of boys. Freaks out for vengeance. Luckily it is backed by very little fire-power, comparatively. But its culturally lethal, nonetheless.

Now what is bizarre as an American (who is no longer an American) is the bipolar experience of being hated and adored. In my individual experience, being American has earned me strange brownie points with other immigrants-- members of many groups who have been broadly disenfranchised, endangered and displaced by US politic and policy in either direct or indirect ways. "Oh!", they exclaim, brightly. "you're from The States!" they glow, putting their arm around me, pulling me in a little closer. "You will come to my family, for dinner. You will stay as long as you like. You can live with us!" I love these people. But why? Why are they not dripping with anti american hatred? Maybe it is the 'we are in this together' immigrant experience, bonding in the face of the relatively cold and insular Canadian cultural climate. Or maybe they want to associate with my US citizenship and the perceived privilege and opportunity it might afford. Or more likely, they recognize the difference between a government and its people, many of them having witnessed and experienced corruption in their own governments at home. Perhaps, for some reason, they just plain like me. Or maybe, they are just being very very polite, and are secretly seething below the surface.

As for you Canadians, I being kind-of one of you now, it is kind of understandable. Canadians take for granted a government that mostly does represent them. It is hard for them to imagine a dichotomy. They are outraged by the fluke election where a party sweeps into power without popular, majority support, whereas, I am always dumbstruck and bewildered by any dynamic groundswell of the people that manages to impact the actions and policies of any government. Its really about privilege, and sense of entitlement from a semi socially liberal democracy that has the comfort of the social welfare net in the background of Canadian lives. Its the 'well, you can always go on welfare' mindset that gets everyone of the accountability hook, instead of the do or die cry of 'give me liberty or give me death'. With the rate of unemployment and homelessness down south these days, death wins out more often than not for a lot of people. And no, we do not all share the views of our government. In fact, there are 30 million 'progressive' Americans whose political views and lifestyles reside somewhere in between the NDP an the Greens, with an added dash of innovation and communitarianism. That is almost the entire population of Canada! Put that in your snide and smoke it.

So don't teach your kids to hate Americans. Look to form alliances, liase across borders, celebrate the contributions from both sides, and open your minds. Me? Oh I can hate Americans on a bad day, if I want to, because I am one. Well, I was one. Well, anyway. You get the point. And go ahead, Oh Canada, have a grass fed hamburger and enjoy your extra day off. But stop wishing me a Happy 4th of July and then sneering behind my back. I don't do patriotic holidays anyway. Because national borders, insofar as they divide us, pit us against each other, and sic us on each other like a bunch of rabid boozed up soccer/football/hockey fans, are not all that much to celebrate, if you ask me.

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