Happy Fourth of July.
It’s Independence Day at the crazy neighbour’s place next door and the crowds are partying without masks.
We can’t very well send fire trucks to help put the fires out because the borders are closed. It’s just as well, too, because the virus seems to be creeping across the line in our direction, and I’m not just talking about SARS-CoV-2.
So what do you do when the monolithic cultural exemplar that you’ve collectively admired, imitated and feared for most of a century and a half has an existential crisis and starts to rip apart at the seams?
What you do is, don’t ignore it!
Indeed, the last time the neighbours had an existential crisis we came up with that thing called Confederation to preserve a patch of sanity on the top half of the continent.
So pay attention when your local crazies start exhibiting the same symptoms as our American Cousins! You wouldn’t ignore it if they started to complain about a dry cough and a sore throat as soon as they got back from Arizona, would you?
Yesterday, it sounds very much as if one of our homegrown lunatics with numerous firearms, QAnon ringing in his ears, and some kind of a plan crashed his truck though the gate outside our prime minister’s temporary residence.
Mental illness can happen in any family, of course. The disturbing part is what some of our other Canadian brothers and sisters have been saying, especially in this corner of the country. Just take a look at the comments on social media and you’ll see that this appears to be a highly contagious condition, and one that can’t be fixed just by shutting down a few border posts for a couple more months.
The situation yesterday suggests our police and intelligence agencies might more profitably keep an eye on the foreign-influenced loony local right than supposedly foreign-funded environmentalists who only present a political threat of the sort that’s supposed to able to be sorted out in the marketplace of ideas.
Well, at least one thing suggests a remaining difference between our two countries: The Mounties on guard at Rideau Hall didn’t just blow the poor nut away on the spot.
Meanwhile, south of the Medicine Line, the national holiday today sure looks as if it won’t be a particularly happy one for our cousins.
Their president is not just unsuited to the job, he’s obviously dangerously mentally unstable. The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the country harder than any other country on the planet, including many in the so-called Third Word. That’s partly the result the fractured, extremely expensive and largely private U.S. health care system — the same one our own ideologically deranged right would like to import across the temporarily closed border. The streets of America are not aflame tonight, but they were a few days ago and may soon be again.
As Roger Cohen observed in the New York Times yesterday, as the world looks on aghast, “once saviors, long allies, Americans are now lepers from the Land of the Crazed.”
Don’t be smug, fellow Canadians. Even if we keep our own lunatics in check, as any seasoned traveller knows there are lots of good people on this planet can’t tell the difference between Americans and Canadians and don’t have the patience to stick around for an explanation.
So it matters for more than just economic and medical reasons that our neighbours somehow manage to recover their sanity in the next few months, which isn’t going to be easy with a man in the White House Der Spiegel rightly characterized last month as a “fire gremlin.”
Certainly, from the perspective north of the 49th Parallel, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are starting to look a lot less appealing as a national ideal than the peace, order and good government we Canadians signed on for in 1867.
Still, if you’re starting to wonder if the United States can survive this mess, it probably can, and might even emerge from the flames a better place.
Granted, the last time the country had an existential crisis, a far better man was at the helm.
Still, as Abraham Lincoln himself is said to have observed, quoting his secretary of State, William Henry Seward, toward the end of the Civil War: “There was always just enough virtue in this Republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency.”