By James Fife
I like Jack Knox. A lot. He’s one of the few writers that makes me chuckle out loud, even in public, when I read some of his pieces. But this time, I think he’s wrong. And I want to explain why.
As I write this, it’s been a rough week for Canada here in the U.S. It started out to be a showcase opportunity for Canada, hosting the G7 summit in Charlevoix. We all know how that panned out, though, with aspersions, repudiations, and outright damning as the result. But that was all the work of one person: Donald Trump. Or, as Jack Knox labels him, the Narcissist-in-Chief. It was all so unexpected. Or maybe it wasn’t. But a lot of people I know seemed a bit gob-smacked by this sudden outburst of vitriol against Canada and Justin Trudeau as the personification of all things Canadian. It seemed out of the blue and with little provocation. Most Americans can claim so little knowledge about Canada and Canadians, they must have felt out to sea what it was all about. From what any one of us knew, we can’t think of any wrong Canada has ever done. Not even win the World Series away from us. Then, suddenly, we were being ‘reminded’ that Canadians supposedly burned down Washington (no one bothers to mention what happened to York a year earlier).
I do agree with Jack’s basic premise in his June 12 Times Colonist article. It’s not about trade or tariffs. It’s not about Trudeau, his knife-wielding treachery, or his likely after-life. It’s not even about bad blood from 1814. “It’s about Trump,” says Jack. And he’s right. It’s taken some months of observation to realize that no benefit of the doubt will change the original impression. None of what I am witnessing happening in the U.S. has anything to do with policy. It’s all about ego.
I have to constantly remind myself of that: there is no substance to any of the hot air wafting from Washington (and I’m not referring to heat coming off a burning White House). It’s my main way to try to maintain a decent blood pressure level these days. But this recent spate of Canada-bashing hit closer to home and was at the same time so inexplicable. I have learned that there is seldom any reality behind the assertions sent out in the presidential Twitter feed, but this assault on my newly acquired country marked a new low.
I mean, in all my decades of living among my fellow Americans, I have yet to hear any real aspersions or animosity aimed toward the North. Jokes, yes. Usually good humored, sometimes snarky. But animus? Never. Just to make sure I was not suffering from some rose-coloured blindness to Canada’s faults, I asked some acquaintances if they had ever heard anyone before tear strips off of Canada like Trump and his surrogates recently did. None had. It confirmed my initial impression: I’m not aware of any festering odium among the American populace in general. Apparently, it is yet another manifestation of alternative facts and fake news.
My impression was also quickly confirmed by reports that masses of people signed on to the #ThankCanada social media movement. I’m not a social median myself, but I was heartened to learn so many people felt the spontaneous need to disassociate themselves from any official Canada-bashing. Like (the non-profane) Robert De Niro apologizing to Toronto on behalf of our government. That’s the America I’m familiar with. And since I have a split-nationality syndrome, I could enjoy just as fully the rousing response on Parliament Hill to all this. Now, I’m not a fan of everything Justin Trudeau says or does. Nor Andrew Scheer nor Doug Ford (or is it Doug McKenzie? I can’t keep them straight—just too new to Canadiana, I guess). But it so fit everything I have come to appreciate about Home North that all parties stood shoulder to shoulder to reject an unjustified and puerile attack on a whole nation, with a statement of determination to stand their ground. That’s the Canada I am familiar with.
At the end of his article, Jack Knox tells his readers that they have to realize where Americans are coming from. He quotes the view that Americans are paranoid and afraid that the “whole world is attacking them.” I’m sorry, Jack, but that’s not it. I love your writing, and I thank you for signing that copy of your book I had just bought at the book-signing in Munro’s. But Americans are not lashing out at Canada out of fear. It’s one American, and his mouthpieces and, perhaps soon, his zombie followers who never thought before they had any complaint against Canada. From what I have ever seen and known about my (southern) compatriots’ attitude toward my (northern) compatriots, it’s always been more like “I [heart] Canada.”
There may be some of us who are “hunkered down” and ready to lash out at friend and foe (recently, more friends than foes), but I’m counting on such outrageous incidents to make people hunker up. To realize this spewing of hate has gone far enough and needs to stop. Taking an undeserved swipe at a neighbour is just not right. Or is that just the Canadian in me talking?