Alberta -- Make that a big Canadian, "Oh dear."
These nice Canadians, whom George W. Bush once
managed to triumphantly identify as "our most
important neighbors to the north" are famous for
their reticence. Canada, Land of the Understatement.
I once proposed their national motto should be:
"Now, Let's Not Get Excited." Not that I would
ever generalize. I attribute their commendable
phlegm to being too cold to waste much energy
and regular ingestion of oatmeal.
Nice, polite, calm, reserved, chock full of common
sense and living next to us -- what a fate. For
them, it's like having the Simpsons for next-door
neighbors. A few years ago, during the height
of our national meltdown over Monica Lewinsky,
a host on the Canadian Broadcasting Co.'s evening
news program began an interview by gingerly asking
me, "So, having another of your little psychodramas
down there, eh?"
This year, the American psychodrama, eh, is the
election, and Canadians are taking unusual care,
even by their standards, to try to phrase their
questions delicately. "You couldn't possibly ..."
they begin, only to break off. "Are you not aware
of what ..." "Surely you realize how ..." But
they can think of no polite way of asking if we
are such freaking idiots we haven't noticed the
damage that has been done by the Bush administration
to the American reputation all over the world.
One tries to explain that, "Who cares what the
rest of the world thinks?" is a common American
reaction, leaving the poor Canadians to quietly
mutter, "Oh dear."
Just FYI, of the many allies the Bush White House
managed to gratuitously insult on the run-up to
the invasion of Iraq, we miffed the Canadians
by blowing off their last-minute attempt to work
out a deal for continued inspections under a strict
timeframe -- we not only blew it off, we went
to the trouble of being rude and arrogant about
it. Among its other unpleasant traits, bad manners
rank quite high on this administration's list
of failings. In addition, some right-wingers weighed
in with juvenile taunts along the intellectually
brilliant lines of "nyah-nyah-nyah."
The National Review published a cover story headlined
"Wimps!" Bill O'Reilly of Fox News got all huffy
over something a Toronto columnist wrote and decided
to appoint himself our national spokesman. Diplomacy
is not O'Reilly's forte (he called Canadians "dishonest
Of the many stupid things our country has done
lately, alienating the best neighbor any country
ever had ranks fairly high on the All Time Stupid
list. So I have been at some pains to try to answer
the ever-so-delicately phrased questions: Are
you people actually going to re-elect that nincompoop?
(I doubt a Canadian would ever actually ask an
American that question -- this is free interpretation
on my part.)
What makes the delicacy even more interesting
is that Alberta is the province of Canada most
like West Texas and the American Mountain states.
Lot of ranchers, oil-and-gas men, conservative
if not right-wing, a big anti-environmental movement
-- just like home. Same deal -- timber industry,
mining, all the extractive industries and hunters
all lined up against environmentalists, who are
outmanned and outgunned but perceived to have
the federal government on their side.
You can find Albertans who think John Kerry would
ruin the U.S. economy because they are under the
impression that Democrats are all deficit spenders.
When our economy catches cold, theirs gets pneumonia,
so this is a source of real concern here. Pointing
out that Bush is already doing trillions in deficit
spending, and that he came into office with a
huge surplus, draws sad agreement.
What is most striking to me every time I visit
this country is how much more Canadians know about
the United States and the rest of the world than
many Americans do. Because they are generally
less provincial than we are and certainly pay
more attention to world news, they are acutely
aware of how much the Bush administration has
increased anti-Americanism around the globe. That's
why so many of them are stupefied at the idea
he might be re-elected -- they perceive him as
having done great harm to his own country.
So, here I am trying to explain these politely
astonished people how Americans could vote for
George W. Bush. Some days are much tougher sledding
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists,
visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Posted: August 20, 2004