Uniquely Canadian (and not at all American)

Posted: January 10, 2012 in Canadian Pride
Tags: , , , ,

I remember a day when I was just a wee little monke. I had probably just started into real school, not the playing with toys and taking naps kind of school but something where they actually try to drum some knowledge into you in the vain hopes that you might actually become a productive member of society eventually (31 years old and still proving them wrong). We had just started to learn about the continents and I was all eager to show off my smarts. My family were all sitting down to a movie at some point (details are a bit fuzzy, I was pretty young still).

Well, not that fuzzy I guess, we were sitting down to watch Spies Like Us – A Chevy Chase/Dan Aykryod movie from the 80’s. There was a scene where they end up in…I am pretty sure it was Russia. They end up in Russia surrounded by soldiers and one of them puts his hands up and says “Don’t shot, we’re American.”

I turned to my mother completely proud of myself “We are Americans too, right Mom? Cause we live in North America.”

She shook her head with a look of profound look of sadness. No doubt she was beginning to realize she didn’t need to save up any university tuition for me. “Not exactly, honey” she finally said.

This was the first hint I had that I was different from other kids. Not the being stupid part, I figured that out in kindergarten. This was something else, something more elusive. I was Canadian.

It took several discussions, a few diagrams and a world atlas to get me to understand what it meant to be Canadian in a geographic sense. I still struggle on a daily basis to understand what it means to be Canadian in a spiritual sense. What does it mean to be Canadian?

We Are Not American – Being a Canadian is like being a celebrity stalker. You are always aware of what is happening south of the border. We are kept informed of both major and minor news events on a daily basis. We watch American TV and movies, eat at American fast food franchises, drink American beer and pop and crystallized fruit drinks and drive American vehicles. We are pretty much saturated in the States, in some way it will affect our lives daily. Meanwhile, most Americans give no more thought to Canada then they do to any other country…or to their own bowel movements for that matter. We exist, we are up north somewhere, we get snow – a complete summary of all they need to know to live their lives.

It makes for a weird relationship when you depend so heavily on someone (or somewhere) else that is simply oblivious to you. You end up loving them and yet hating them. You want their approval or maybe you just want to laugh at their mistakes to make yourself feel better. The point is, a huge part of our cultural identity is tied up in us being a separate entity from America. Not being American is about 80% of what being Canadian is all about.

Beer Commercial Pride – So what does it really mean to be Canadian then? What is the other 20% of the equation? For that answer you’ll need to start watching beer commercials. No, I am not kidding. A while back, probably late 90’s, a beer company created an ad centered around a guy on a stage giving a rant about being Canadian. Mostly it is about beavers and toques and Not Being an American. This (sadly) is probably one of the most stirring examples of national pride we have on offer and it was written and filmed for the purpose of shilling beer to the masses. No speech by any politician since has had the universal appeal or approval that this sad little 30 second spot did.

Watch for yourself – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRI-A3vakVg

Quebec – What does being a bi-lingual country mean in Ontario and Quebec, heart of the country and home of the majority of the french speaking population? No idea. What does it mean in the mono-lingual province of Alberta, where I have lived all my life? It means I ended up being taught French all the way through elementary and any time I try to phone a governmental hotline I have to wait through the introduction in both English AND French before I can pick the language I want to be served in.

British Monarchy – As a Canadian you will get to spend most of your life ignoring the British Monarchy. If their role in British government is mostly ceremonial now then their role in Canadian government is almost inconsequential. Then one of them will decide to visit Canada and people will LOSE THEIR SHIT. The queen made a pit stop in our city and they ended up re-naming a highway AND the city museum after her. I have no idea why someone thought renaming a stretch of roadkill festooned and poorly paved roadway would make the Queen excited, but there you go. So there we are renaming shit and having parades and reveling in her stopping by and giving us the slightest bit of attention. Meanwhile, I can’t shake the feeling she is stopping by the ignored family estates and checking the servants aren’t running off with the silverware.

Spelling – Honour, Colour, Flavour. Every one of those is spelled correctly according to the Queen’s English and my piss poor education. Every single one has the red squiggle line under it that indicates that Apple’s spell check software thinks I am an idiot. Every time I go to spell one of those words on my iPhone I know it will be a two minute fight with Auto-Correct to get it right. Why do I bother? Because I am not an American, that’s why!

Tim Hortons – I don’t really understand what is uniquely Canadian about a doughnut and coffee shop but then again I don’t drink coffee. It is also owned by Burger King now. 

Rancid Monke

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