Boring Canada

Nobody much notices Canada. (Outside Canada, that is.) Its citizens look much like (US) Americans, and sound like them, if you’re not attuned to the subtle differences of dialect. Canadian cities are similar to US ones; a bit cleaner, perhaps, and Montreal is obviously more French. (The US has New Orleans, but they don’t speak French there) You don’t find ‘Mounties’ in the cities, who would stand out. (Where are they?) On world maps Canada is solidly situated on one of the margins of the globe – if globes can strictly have ‘margins’ – petering out into white nothingness; rather like Scandinavia, which tends to be similarly ignored. (In all my years of studying modern European history at school and college, I don’t remember Sweden and Norway featuring at all.) Many people think of it as lying deep in snow the whole year round, again rather like Scandinavia. A word often applied to it is ‘boring’, which I suppose it is if you mean it doesn’t have exciting things happening there, like school massacres and mad religiosi and Trump. After sitting through the horror movie that the US often appears to be, Canada can seem rather soporific.

In 1812 Canada (or, more strictly then, ‘British North America’) was the target of an attempt by the USA to annex it to her, thus completing the project begun by the ‘American Revolution’, before going on to conquer ‘the West’ and, after that, in the ambitious minds of some Republicans, Central and South America. In many US school history books the ‘War of 1812’ is called the ‘Second War of American Independence’. In actual fact that exactly reverses the roles between the two protagonists. The British weren’t the imperialists, the Americans were. And the Canadians weren’t ‘subjects’ of his Britannic Majesty, in any real sense, but people who were fighting for their own independence, from the USA, under Britain’s protection. (I wrote what I thought was a rather good piece on this for the LRB in 2008: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n04/bernard-porter/friendly-fire. It attracted some flak from patriotic Americans, but I stand by it.) In fact 1812 was one of the first examples of an anti-imperial war against the American behemoth. And it was the only successful one, in these early years. (Mexico and the native Americans fared much worse.) The trend of American imperial failures begins with Canada, and ends up with Iraq.

Thank God the Canadians held out. They seem to be the only beacons of hope and sanity on the north American continent today. A friend wrote me from Montreal recently that Bernie Sanders would be situated around the middle of the political spectrum in Canada, rather than on the far Left, as he’s seen in the USA. It’s this that prompted this post. I must clearly learn more about this wonderful country. (I’ve visited several times, but never really studied it.)

Just before the last War the Pentagon drew up a strategic plan, called ‘War Plan Red’, for the conquest of Canada. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean much; it’s the job of War Offices to plan for any eventuality, however unlikely. But it’s apparently still there, in the archive. Whatever you do, don’t tell Trump. It might give him ideas.

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One Response to Boring Canada

  1. Pingback: Postnationalism | Porter’s Pensées

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