Thursday, August 13, 2009

Welcome to Canada

Greetings from Stratford, Ontario, home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (and the Ontario Pork Congress). This is my annual pilgrimage to see some of the finest theatre in the world, a family tradition that I have been participating in on and off since 1970. For you regular readers, you know the drill; the next few days will be more about theatre and reviews of the plays that we’re seeing than my usual stream of politics and observations about what is going on in the world, but then, theatre is as much a part of me and my life as anything else — if not more. So from now until Sunday, it’s going to be a large part of what I’ll be offering here. Of course, I’ll still be reading what’s going on back in the States, but one of the things I find out when I’m here is that I get a bit of a different perspective on some things, including how our good friends here in the True North see us.

This is my first trip to Canada since the election of President Obama, and I am curious to see how Canadians perceive him. I know that during my visits here during past administrations you could get a sense of our standing in the world by just interacting with people. During the Bush administration, I rarely if ever heard anyone say anything overtly negative about Mr. Bush, at least in my presence, but I got the distinct feeling that while a lot of the people I met didn’t particularly like the way the United States was going, especially with the war in Iraq, I never heard anyone express outright hatred for him or for U.S. citizens. After all, they probably couldn’t tell how I might feel, and I was always very careful not to diss our country while I was in outside of the country — or at least not say anything I hadn’t already said on the blog — so what I got from them was a sense of exasperation: “Oh, come on; just knock it off, okay?”

I’m sure there are some folks in the U.S. who could care less what Canadians think; after all this is a nation with single-payer health care, the metric system, you can book a trip to Cuba without getting indicted by the Treasury Department, and the roadsigns are in French as well as in English. Quelle horreur! But Canada is our biggest trading partner; we do more business with the Province of Ontario in a day than we do with some other countries in a year, and whether some care to admit it or not, our lives in the United States (not to mention the NHL) would be pretty well diminished without Canada as a good and trusting friend and partner. (Okay, I can forgive them for sending us Celine Dion; they made up for it with Joni Mitchell, William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, and Raymond Burr; I’m still mulling over Michael Myers and Jim Carrey.)

Just to remind you that Canada and Canadians are rightfully proud of their country, here’s an ad that Molson Brewing ran a few years back to let the world know that Canada is not a bunch of stereotypes, any more than the United States is.

(It was also before Molson merged with Coors…)