Alberta Politics
Old Glory, the Star Spangled Banner, the current and probably terminal version of the national flag of the United States (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Independence Day: An excellent moment for Canadians to recommit ourselves to being different from the United States

Posted on July 04, 2018, 1:58 am
10 mins

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the Great Republic immediately to our south.

Normally, as befits our national character, we Canadians celebrate this occasion with restrained fondness for our American cousins, coming as it does just three days after la fête du Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

On the 242nd observance of this occasion, however, owing to the unexpectedly fraught relationship of our neighbours with most of their neighbours and allies, including us, perhaps our feelings will not be expressed quite so warmly this year.

So, sorry, as we Canadians are wont to say, there may be a lousy turnout at the U.S. Embassy’s annual July 4 beanfest in Ottawa today, as befits two nations on the precipice of a trade war if not, thank God, the other kind. Not much we can do about that, eh?

In the great nation to the south of the great nation immediately to the south of us, meanwhile, citizens have taken a more forceful step, responding to the stream of vituperation and racism from President Donald J. Trump, whose policies are the proximate cause of all this Canadian ennui, by electing a real socialist who is also a real nationalist to lead them through the foreign crisis that is widely expected to complicate the domestic one Mexico is already experiencing.

If you don’t think the boardrooms of America are not extremely displeased with that development, notwithstanding a congratulatory Tweet from @realDonaldTrump, the first virtual president of the United States, think again. The Wall Street Journal, the American oligarchy’s official mouthpiece and ideological testament, didn’t merely compare Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, as might have been expected in the aftermath of Sunday’s Mexican election, but to Franklin Delano Roosevelt!

¡Ay, qué horror!

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president-elect of Mexico (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

If Justin Trudeau deserves to have a can of whup-ass opened up on him by the President of the United States just for saying at a news conference that as prime minister of Canada he’ll stand up for Canadians, one can only imagine what the flaming Trumpster will soon be saying about AMLO!

Still, the generation of neoliberals that now runs Washington may despise FDR with abiding passion, but he did save capitalism from itself for an earlier generation of their counterparts, so their country may yet require an AMLO of its own to survive. But don’t expect that realization to come easily to the kind of people who subscribe to the WSJ.

Frustration with Canadian defiance and anticipation of the Mexican vote result may account for why Stephen Harper, the former Canadian prime minister, was invited to the White House for a secretive covfefe-klatch with President Trump’s remaining loyal retainers last week, if only to reassure the insecure president and his floundering flunkies that not all foreign leaders are insufficiently obsequious.

If only someone on the White House staff hadn’t forgotten that Mr. Harper is no longer actually a prime minister, it could have been very comforting for them to imagine a head of government from somewhere in the world would get on board with the fevered delusions of the crumbling “single superpower” of the 21st Century. This is probably true even if Mr. Harper did happen to be on his way back from giving a nice speech to the cult-like extremists of Mojahedin-e Khalq.

At least Mr. Harper, possibly alone in a restive crowd of former American friends, would understand that while the legacy of the 18th Century rebellion against the British Crown was that one no longer need to bow or curtsey to a monarch, that does not apply to the kings and princes of reality TV. And that is a category that most certainly includes the aging TV host who now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As for the rest of us Canadians, like the Mexicans, we should be seriously contemplating the long-term management of our relationship with the United States, so pacific throughout most of the 20th Century, now that we have unexpectedly entered a patch of rough waters and are uncertain whether this is just a squall or an actual hurricane.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States from 1933-1945 and the man who probably saved capitalism from itself (Photo: Public Domain).

So this would be a good time for citizens of both countries to remember that our fellow Americans’ foundational documents were carefully parsed to qualify the notion that “all men are created equal” according to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God by ensuring that everyone understood some people weren’t that equal at all.

The United States lives to this day with the unintended consequences of its 18th and 19th Century slave economy. And so do we and the Mexicans, as people who have no choice but to share this continent with the United States.

The U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights and arguably the American Revolution itself were intended to preserve slavery in the face of both jurisprudence and nascent popular revulsion throughout the British Empire that made it clear its days were numbered. Don’t tell me the American rebels couldn’t read the handwriting on the wall.

The Legislature of Upper Canada outlawed slavery in its territory in 1793, the first in the Empire to do so, only two years after the new American Republic approved the Second Amendment to its constitution so citizens of the United States could maintain militias in the face of the ever-present threat of slave rebellions.

Today, the legal remnants of this ugly policy sow terror within the borders of the United States and release a tide of firearms that threatens to overwhelm our borders.

So too the worst features of the Republic’s government – so beloved by the most reactionary forces in Canada, who love every American idea except the good ones  – among them the uniquely sclerotic U.S. Senate, designed from the get-go to render the United States virtually immune to democratic reform.

And from the success of this uniquely conservative revolution, too, comes the United States’ dark history of delusional exceptionalism, ordained by God, that has caused so much tragedy in the first few years of the 21st Century and now looks to be coming home to roost on the North American continent.

There is an old saw that Canadians define themselves as who they are not – to wit, we are not Americans, notwithstanding the fact we resemble them quite a lot and share the American continent with them. This is not such a bad ambition, and a manageable one in a complex world despite our similarities.

It’s how we got to be about the freest place on the planet, and one of the most peaceful. It emphatically does not make us, as Mr. Harper famously compared us to the United States in December 2000, “a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status.”

Given the events that have led up to it in recent weeks, Independence Day 2018 offers a perspective to help Canadians recommit themselves to the idea of our uniqueness, and ponder the steps we need to take to make ourselves less like our neighbours.

While we work that out, polite restraint, and this Independence Day even a chilly reserve, would seem to be in order.

10 Comments to: Independence Day: An excellent moment for Canadians to recommit ourselves to being different from the United States

  1. jerrymacgp

    July 4th, 2018

    Good morning. This is a fascinating post, in that it reveals a history behind the US’ Second Amendment of which many are unaware; I found a comprehensive paper on the subject—https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=132088086121075000093084079119106108125018001047091022000125084006124117094092120126045055003101126027111027079099099091069064009041023059084029024076118117115120005092001082009112022094089099004085094096116098125065080127031072127088113071008119066&EXT=pdf—that goes into this in some detail.

    My impression of this is that the racist roots of the 2nd Amendment may explain why the most outlandish elements of American gun culture, like “open carry” laws, appear not to favour non-white Americans. Picture the police reaction if a black person were to strap on a holster & a 9-mm Browning, for example, and walk down the streets of Fairbanks or Kansas City in broad daylight… even though it would be perfectly legal to do so.

    Reply
  2. David

    July 4th, 2018

    The rest of the world including Canada does seem to be wondering what to do about that problem called Trump. For years many outside the US have suspected US politics is quite dysfunctional and delusional. Mostly this seemed to harm US citizens themselves, particularly with the country’s strange ideas on guns and health care. Occasionally the US would invade some small foreign country in a show of force, but it generally understood it should treat most other countries, particularly allies, with some degree of respect at least in public.

    I think most countries including Canada initially were cautious about Trump, but decided to be pleasant and cordial as that seemed to be the best option to preserve good relations. Well subtlety and diplomacy does not seem to work well with Trump, I think the rest of the world has had it with Trump and diplomatic niceties are quickly disappearing. An example of this is recently is the press conference with the Dutch Prime Minister, where he shouted out “No” several times, when Trump said something he disagreed with.

    I am not sure if Americans have got the hint yet, but there is close to a full scale rebellion against Trump by the US’s former(?) allies. Gone are the days when the US could focus its economic and perhaps military might on one or perhaps two wayward countries and bringing them into line. Right now, pretty much everyone is fed up with Trump and also the US for foisting that pest on us. I think the real legacy of Trump is that US power in the world will diminish much more quickly that if the President was someone who used that power more carefully and responsibly. I don’t think the average American voter who does not think much about foreign affairs gets this, but I think those in Washington that do think about this understand very well the long term damage to US international interests Trump is likely to cause.

    If the US wants a leader more friendly to them in Mexico or elsewhere, then they need to start by being more friendly to Mexico and other countries. It is probably just the start of a series of more forceful leaders in countries the US previously considered fairly amicable and it will likely continue until the real irritant to international relations, which is in Washington, goes away.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      July 5th, 2018

      “ … [the USA] generally understood it should treat most other countries, particularly allies, with some degree of respect at least in public…. “ No longer, apparently. The US Border Patrol has invaded Canadian waters off the Atlantic Coast to search innocent, unarmed Canadian fishing boats for “illegal” migrants. The parallel with the provocations by the British Royal Navy that were among the triggers for the War of 1812—British naval crews would board and search American-flagged merchant ships searching for “deserters” from the Napoleonic Wars—is fairly obvious to any student of history. There’s a word used in international relations for this sort of activity, when armed forces of a foreign government board and search unarmed civilian vessels in their own waters. It’s an ugly word, one syllable, only three letters, starts with ‘w’.

      https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/us-border-patrol-approached-questioned-canadian-vessels-1.4732583

      https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/theyre-being-harassed-canadian-anger-after-fishing-boats-stopped-by-u-s-patrol-vessels-in-disputed-waters

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        July 5th, 2018

        Growing up in a port city on a Canadian island that extends well south of the 49th Parallel, as I did, I can tell you there is nothing particularly new about this. It is, in my opinion, well short of the W-word, as long as the Canadians questioned in undisputed waters are not impressed into the U.S. Navy. Even if they were, the food is better there now than in the Royal Navy of the 18th Century. Heigh-ho! DJC

        Reply
  3. Sam Gunsch

    July 4th, 2018

    Some related recent analysis of USA by Saul in a Hedges article…

    USA = Walmart economic model

    Jul 01, 2018 https://www.truthdig.com/articles/america-the-failed-state/

    EXCERPT: John Ralston Saul… “The United States claims it embraces the free market, but it does the same thing as the Europeans,” Saul said. “It too heavily subsidizes the agricultural industry. This leads to American dairy farmers producing too much milk. This economic argument says the way to win is to mass-produce cheap goods. This is the Walmart argument. You’re not selling your milk or cheese for enough to make a living. The end result is, even though you subsidize them, the farmers go bankrupt. They commit suicide. You have terrible unhappiness in the [U.S.] dairy community.”

    “We have a very efficient management system in Canada that keeps the prices up, not so high that working-class people can’t buy milk and cheese, but it keeps the prices up high enough that farmers can make a proper living,” Saul said. “Because farmers can make a proper living they’re not committing suicide. What Trump is saying to Canadians is that they should give up a system that works so Canadian farmers can commit suicide with American farmers.”

    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/america-the-failed-state/

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      July 5th, 2018

      If the Trump free trade war kills off Canada’s dairy supply management/quota system:

      EXCERPT: ‘The milk industry in crisis

      https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/best-advice-u-s-dairy-farmers-sell-out-fast-you-n887941

      At Walmart, shoppers in Kentucky can buy a gallon of milk for as little as 78 cents, but that’s far less than what the company paid for it or even what it cost the farmer to produce. Stores often sell milk at a loss since it’s a staple and customers may pick up more profitable items as well.

      On average, farmers spend $1.92 to produce a gallon of milk and make $1.32 when they sell it to processors. This is the fourth year in a row that farmers’ milk prices have dipped below the cost of production.

      “We could buy all the gallons of milk out of the grocery store, bring them home to our bulk tank, pour it in there and sell it back to them and make more money,” said Carilynn Coombs, Curtis’s wife.’

      Reply
  4. political ranger

    July 4th, 2018

    Hear! Hear!
    One of your best yet David!

    Reply
  5. Sassy

    July 5th, 2018

    It will be difficult to separate ourselves when our foreign minister, who spent years living in the U.S., stills acts and speaks like an American. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/harper-white-house-west-wing-1.4731144

    quote:
    Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she believes Harper’s appearance on Fox News was helpful.

    “When it comes to prime minister Harper, he is someone we all need to respect as the former prime minister of Canada,” she said on Friday.
    end quote

    Freeland called Harper “Prime Minister Harper”, just like Americans call their past presidents “President so-and-so”. Yuck.

    Reply
  6. David Bridger

    July 5th, 2018

    This is certainly a good time to reflect on the fact that Canadians are not US citizens.

    Canadians have an affordable health care system whereas US citizen who don’t work for a large corporation that pays for their health insurance. If you are self employed or work for a small company of maybe 15 employees or less in the US you likely can’t afford health insurance.

    We have a more democratic form of government (barely) where electoral districts are allocated on a populations basis rather than gerrymandered to suit the incumbent. Our system is run on the national level where the US system is run on the state and county level. (I hesitated to us the word level but while it is not on the level that’s how its run down there.)

    We have a social safety net for our elderly and poor that is much more compassionate and really does take into account that human beings are social animals.

    Our government runs more than its military. Hey, our government now owns an oil pipeline even if it’s reluctant to do so for long.

    And we even have an American made government payroll system that the government can’t administer correctly.

    Reply
  7. Sam Gunsch

    July 6th, 2018

    Sustained efforts even before Trump to preserve a white majority… also American…

    EXCERPT: ‘ The move to denaturalize some citizens is just the latest in a larger drive by Republicans to preserve a white majority in American politics.

    Donald Trump is a major part of this story. But as with all things Trump, it would be wrong to treat this project as unique to him and his administration.’

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/07/donald-trump-is-leading-the-republican-charge-to-preserve-a-shrinking-white-majority.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_ru

    Reply

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