Friday, May 30, 2003

On Canada

Steven den Beste wrote a great (as usual) piece that is a round up of the post war status of our relationship with friends and enemies. Reading his comments about Canada I was suddenly reminded of an amusing conversation from a decade ago.

I was a student at the London School of Economics in an international program. One evening after going out for dinner I was waiting for a bus with two friends from the program. Igor was from Russia, Dan from Canada, and all American me.

Apropos of nothing Igor suddenly asked, “I never understood – what is the difference between Canada and America?”

This was like putting a quarter into Dan, my Canadian friend. He spoke at length about the cultural, political and historical differences between Canada and America. I just smiled as Dan went on until he took a moment for a breath. Igor turned to me and asked “Is Dan right?”

I responded that while I am sure that Dan is technically correct about what sets Canada apart from America, he missed the real answer to the question. “What’s that?” asked Igor.

I responded, “Canadians like to think that Canada is a different country – and America lets them.”

Cue hysterical laughter from Igor and offended commentary from Dan.

I still stand by that statement. Face it – if Canada were to ever fall further down the den Beste scale from level 1 enemy to level 2 or 3 what would the repercussions be? I think that America might be less willing to let Canada live with the fiction of their uniqueness.

I am reminded of a quote that my friend Grady often uses from the movie A Few Good Men. “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it.” Canada owes its peace and prosperity in the last 50 years in no small part to the strength of the American military - whether or not they want to admit that fact.

I hope that in the next Canadian election those who recognize the reality that Canada’s greatest asset is a close relationship with America will prevail. Unfortunately I fear that will not be the case. Perhaps the time will come to pull a bit of the ‘blanket of freedom’ that we provide away from Canada. We have truer allies who might appreciate the warmth of that blanket a bit more.


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