I usually hate when blogs do this, but I’ve been reading a lot about Canada-US relations lately, the writings below are just an example of the usual sort, and they all seem pretty shallow to me. So, bear with me.
Davie Fulton says, in an address to a conference on Canada-US relations in 1960:
“We in Canada find a strange conflict emerging. We have found that economically and socially we are tied closely to the United States and yet at the same time there is in Canada a new spirit of unity of purpose which has been for the past few years breaking down the barriers of region and language. This new spirit of Canadianism is bound in some respects to create stresses and strains by reason of the very proximity of our two nations.
“…they [the US] would remember that there has been an independent nation to their North for many generations and one who, no matter how close and cordial the relations are between these two nations, desires to stay that way and be recognized as such.”
He goes on to say:
“Between us, we share lakes the size of seas, great rivers, watersheds and prairies, which unite us; we have no Pyrenees, no Urals, no channels which divide us. This very geographical fact necessitates concord and discussion and it has been with great pleasure that I have seen such works as the St. Lawrence Seaway power project and more recently the Columbia River agreement achieved.”
This sort of distinction bothers me. We are unique, it says, but at the same time so many of the distinctions between us and them are painted as artificial. What’s missing, at any given time, is an explanation of those things that do make us different, that draw us together and form whatever national identity there is. To be sure, there are common threads to any national Canadian image, be they symbolic, commercial, or athletic. But those are common interests, and only a fraction of an identity. They also all seem pretty petty and small, and too often ring as little more thanplatitudesitiudes.
I suppose, though, that since the line that divides us is artificial, and since so many people have gone both ways across it since it was drawn, that it is only fitting that the distinctions seem similarly contrived.