Saturday, December 04, 2004

Fox News slams Canada. Again.

Recent commentary from Fox News on the G.W. Bush visit to Canada appears to have been written with the sole goal of being divisive and infuriating to Canadians, further separating us from our brothers and sisters to the south.

Interspersed liberally throughout the article are comments that seem to have been written solely to get a rise out of Canadians. These include:

"Here is a country which depends on America for 85% of its products for $1 billion a day in cross border trade..."

One of the most basic principles of economics is that free trade benefits both nations. However, the implication is made that by trading with us, Americans are doing us some kind of favor when, in reality, that favor goes both ways. Perhaps the underlying argument is that, if it weren't for the U.S., Canada would be an economic backwater. I'll resist the temptation to point out that, if Canada didn't export certain products, Americans may have trouble paying for prescription drugs, turning on their lights and perhaps one day, running a bath.

Economic backwater, indeed.

"[A country that] depends on America to provide an audience for all those Canadian entertainers who would starve to death if they had to depend on a Canadian audience for their paychecks."

If we make the assumption that Canadians and Americans spend roughly the same amount on entertainment, and produce the same number of talented people per capita, then the exchange is roughly equal. So Canada produces fewer entertainers that each receive a larger proportion of revenue from the U.S., while the U.S. produces more entertainers, that each receive a smaller proportion of revenue from Canada. Summing up each nation's proportions and viewing it as per capita sponsorship, the two should be roughly equal.

So while the U.S. is responsible for getting Avril Lavigne out of Napanee, we helped J. Lo buy her new Porche.

I don't think either nation has the moral high ground on this issue.

"This is the country whose politicians called President Bush a moron, and referred to Americans as bastards, and refused to help in a war the U.S. wanted to fight — in fact, refuses to believe that the 9/11 attacks on America were unprovoked. The U.S. had it coming, they say."

That's definitely too broad of a stroke. We restricted our assistance to Afghanistan and naval missions in the Persian Gulf. However, we still have taken casualties and made sacrifices to help safeguard the security of our allies and ourselves. Canadian soldiers participated in the invasion of Iraq, believe it or not.

"OK, OK... it's a minority which says all those things, but the minority is the elected politicians and the snooty condescending media."

After acknowledging that it is a minority of Canadians who are responsible for flip remarks and broad stroke complaints against the U.S., the article goes on to ask the final, all-encompassing question:

"Frankly, Canada, it's all a bit tiresome to us. Would you like us to just ignore you?"

In a way, I'm glad that this "article" was written. Despite being a gut reaction lacking hard evidence and reasonable conclusions, it helps highlight a key problem in the relations between the U.S. and Canada: the 'U.S. and Them' phenomenon. Perhaps remembered most vividly through the comment: "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists," the 'U.S. and Them' argument essentially states that if someone does not agree with our way of thinking, they're our enemy, and there can be no compromise.

An article like this will have one impact: to widen the gulf between Canadians and Americans. When did this gulf become unbridgeable? When did our respective countries start thinking, "That's it, there's no hope, they're just crazy" of one another? When did we lose the common ground that we shared, the same common ground that we used to help build the world's largest undefended border?

This article calls into question my own statements and mistakes. The times that I've used the blanket statement 'Americans' when I should've said 'current American foreign policy.' These aren't faceless 'others.' These are our friends. In the international equivalent of a neighborly argument over the placement of a lawn gnome, we've let this quibble get out of control.

Now, there's an icy silence across the fence, and no one wants to be the first person to say they're sorry. We need to close that gulf. We need to let our neighbours know that, just because we don't agree with certain aspects of what's going on, it doesn't mean that we're no longer friends and allies. We need to find common ground, and go from there.

Let's debate the policies, not the people. There's no denying that Bush makes a pretty tempting target. But if Americans had made fun of Chretien for his facial ticks and speech impediment, you'd better believe we'd have gotten our backs up pretty quick, whether or not we voted for him.

Let's acknowledge the fact that the policies aren't necessarily evil, but that they don't mesh with our values. Let's offer constructive criticism. Suggesting that we internationalize Iraq and build a viable, non-puppet democracy is bound to go over a lot better than suggesting we indict their President for war crimes.

There have been good things about this presidency. An interventionist foreign policy isn't necessarily a bad thing, provided that it has broad support and a worthy mission. Could you imagine what $148 billion could have done in Haiti, Sudan, and Rwanda? We criticize the current President, but many of the current problems started on Clinton's watch. To criticize constructively, you first need to find something positive to build on. There's no denying this is going to be an uphill battle.

One look at the article, and you'll know that the author is clearly passionate about the subject. You can tell that his pride was stung. "We used to be buddies," the article seems to say, "Now you're saying I'm a dick. Well, I think you're the dick. Dick."

Someone needs to extend an olive branch, and find a place of mutual compromise.

It's possible that your goodwill may be met by a tirade against "Soviet Canuckistan." But more likely, once the emotion is taken out of the debate, perhaps we'll have the chance to learn a bit more about what drives our Southernly friends. And perhaps they'll learn a little bit more about us and our wacky, non-preemptive ways in process.

Until then, I'm going to re-read the article, and dream of the day that Congress imposes sanctions on Avril Lavigne.

3 Comments:

At 12:43 AM, Blogger JTL said...

You raise some excellent points, not the least of which is the question of what $148,000,000,000 could do in other parts of the world. (Golly, that's a lot of zeroes, isn't it? God damn, is that right?!? Shoot, it is.)

Growing up close to the States, I've been more or less exposed to them all my life. They're great people, and every time I'm in the U.S. and mention I'm Canadian, I'm met with a warm response and something along the lines of "that sure is a nice country you got there."

I don't think Carolyn Parrish's remarks, even if broadcast far and wide on Fox News, are going to shake too many Americans' deep-seated feelings about Canada. People who already proclam our land to be Soviet Canuckistan are going to be driven a tiny bit farther away, and people who have doubts about their current administration's performance are going to take her words as a little affirmation of said doubts. I honestly don't think there are too many fence-sitters; everyone keeps calling it "a nation divided," and those divisions appear to run fairly deep these days.

I seem to recall someone asking Americans on the street (although not Rick Mercer) who they thought was their largest trading partner. I don't believe anyone they asked correctly identified Canada; many said Mexico or Japan. So yes, it works both ways, apparently except with delicious Canadian beef and delicious Canadian softwood lumber.

On the CBC on Tuesday night, I saw footage of a pro-Bush supporter at the anti-Bush rally at Parliament Hill. (I was there, but I don't think I arrived early enough to see the half-dozen American flag-wavers.) He said something to the effect of, "They're our neighbours, we should support our neighbours." Well, the last time I checked, we pitched in on Afghanistan and Iraq the First, NORAD's on our soil a little bit, and when I went to upstate New York a few weeks ago for a conference, the Canadian border guards were nice enough to check my car *before I left the country*. Add to that the fact that we have, like, our own flag and currency and song and everything... I'd say we can make our own decisions in our own best interests, thankyouverymuch.

I'm more than a bit curious as to what John Gibson thought Bush's "obvious apology" was in his article. Saying "I'm sorry" really isn't Dubya's thing. Just ask Ann Richards.

(If you haven't read "Against All Enemies" by Richard Clarke yet -- and I imagine you might have, given your current gig -- ooooooh, make sure to ask Santa for that for Christmas.)

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

I haven't had the chance to check out Richard Clarke's book. I'll have to take a look, next time I'm in a book store.

I don't think Carolyn Parish's actions and remarks changed that many people's opinions, but it certainly didn't help our image down south, and it certainly wasn't constructive criticism.

I mean, come on. Stomping on a Bush doll? What are you, a 16-year-old anarchist, trying to kill time between bong hits? Write a scathing critique, but at least have some style about it. That clip's going to get played every time the debate reopening the border to sweet, delicious Canadian beef.

I wonder how deep those divisions really are. One thing that fascinates me is the culture of politics, and how many votes go a certain way because someone has 'always voted Republican,' or 'my family votes democrat,' or because 'no one who's young votes for Bush.'

I think people tend to rely a lot on television media and word of mouth (essentially an extension of television media) for the information that they base political decisions on. These sound bites to lend themselves to people making broad conclusions based on what are essentially headlines. "Terrorist strike kills American troops!" "Chemical weapons lab found in Fallujah!" "We're tired of Canada!" You mentioned an excellent example of a broad generalization, with the guy who said, "Let's support our neighbours."

That's the one thing I fear more than anything, is that as this goes on, people are going to become more and more interested in international relations but less and less interested in doing the leg work to ensure their opinions are well researched.

I have a mental image of fifteen year old girls standing in front of a World Food Program outlet in the mall.

"What did you sponsor? I sponsored orphans in Afghanistan."

"I sponsored lepers in Angola. C'mon, Mindy. Afghani orphans are, like, sooooo last March."

*shudder*

 
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