Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BRIEF NOTE] Happy 4th of July!

Today, the fourth of July, is famously America's Independence Day, and as always I'm left a bit bemused by the displays of patriotism on that and on other days (actually, the rest of the year). There just isn't that the sort of strong group identity in Canada--particularly English Canada--that I can perceive through the various media of the United States all year round, even in the performances of the Boston Pops Orchestra that I used to watch on A&E.

I like that certainty. Canada's vague, but it's questionable if that's a good thing: If, as you should, you agree with the argument of Christian Dufour in his 1990 A Canadian Challenge/Le défi canadien that Canadian identity is founded upon the fact that Britain retained control of Canada after the War of American Independence because Canada used to be the core of New France and Québec is th most direct successor to New France, what does it say about Canadians that only 9% of Canadian Anglophones can speak French? The sources of Canadian identity are practically inaccessible now, whether one's talking about Québécois who've minimized their Canadian roots or Canadian Anglophones who can't have any direct access to the first century and a half of Canadian history.

That's not the case with the United States. American identity seems to be well-rooted, imagined as a more-or-less direct line from the Thirteen Colonies to the War f American Independence to the Civil War to its great 20th century flourishing. Americans, as a group, have been a very creative and ingenuous group of people, contrasting interestingly with the conservatism of many American institutions--it has been frequently noted that the United States' constitution is the second-oldest constitution in the world, ranking behind only ancient San Marino. Americans seem to like their time-honoured institutions, even when--like the electoral college--they seem to work at cross-purposes to the stated ideals of the United States. And yet, the contradictions appeal, make it all the more interesting to me.

Of course it errs. Sometimes with some justification it can be called the world's id, but at least as frequently it can be the world's super-ego. I tend to agree with David Bowie that unthinking anti-Americanism, just like any unthinking anti-, says more about the thinker than about the object. America is frequently self-correcting: Witness, for instance, how Americans are finally recapturing the concept of patriotism from a political movement that deems dissent to be unpatriotic. The way that Americans can, given sufficient time, use the old as framework for the new appeals to me. (That, and their popular culture, which, I have to confess, is on the whole more interesting than anything that comes out of English Canada. It goes without saying that Québec is different, but more on that later.)

The fact of my appreciation for the United States' doesn't mean that I want to actually be American, much less that I'd like Canada to be American. Everyone has a right to their chosen identity, every people or region a right to their own chosen futures. Still, there's something about the United States that makes me want to experience more of that country and its inhabitants. it's just a pity that, so far, I can realistically only go as far as Niagara Falls and perhaps Buffalo. There's a lot I'd like to see, that I need to see. Before Toronto, New York City was my original model for a metropolis, you know. Beyond that city, you're an interesting bunch of people in a vast demi-continental land that, unlike Canada's, is mostly shirtsleeves-habitable. A career spent exploring Canada's southern neighbour likely wouldn't be so bad.

Happy 4th of July, my American compatriots! May you all enjoy this year's celebrations thoroughly.
Tags: canada, nationalism, new york city, québec, toronto, united states
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