With Obama’s re-election now in the history books, I find myself slightly perturbed as a Canadian living in Massachusetts.
For the longest time, growing up in Canada, I looked around and felt pretty good about Canada’s place in the world. We were top-notch peacekeepers, we were one of the first to recognize gay marriage, we were quite open to the idea of decriminalizing marijuana, and we had the top human development index in the world for seven straight years during the 1990s. We decided not to go into Iraq, and our crazy, French-Canadian prime minister was one of the first Western leaders to suggest that perhaps we Westerners might consider our own roles in the complicated road to the world’s worst terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. We were a strong and noble nation and quite well liked and respected by the rest of the world. As someone told me once a long time ago, “I’m glad I have a Canadian passport rather than an American one. It’s nice to be able to travel the world and get a hug wherever you go, rather than a punch in the face.”
But now, all talk of marijuana legalization has gone down the toilet. Our role as peacekeeper has diminished hugely. Our presence as aggressive military types has grown particularly in Afghanistan. Our leader has stood by Israel even more than the United States’ leadership has in recent years. Our leader is signing strange, covert deals with China that may sell our economic independence down the toilet. We have the oil sands which is turning northern Alberta into a toxic dump.
And most of all, our prime minister is Stephen Harper, who looks down on Canadians with great, condescending disdain, and has an iron-clad hold on his members of parliament so that there is great fear of consequences should anyone consider stepping slightly out of party line.
Hell, as a person who worked in the media for years, I heard from journalists over and over again how difficult – or even impossible – it was to engage Prime Minister Harper on the pressing issues, for he had iron-clad control over that too.
Michael Ignatieff had something to say about all that party yoke stuff. He said the death of Western democracy is coming, because party members no longer can speak on their own terms. Wish he had said that as leader of the Liberals, but at least he’s bringing attention to it now.
And in the meantime, I look at the United States, and after eight years of President George W. Bush, the country has elected Barack Obama twice. Two states in that union have now legalized marijuana, including Washington State just south of B.C.’s great $6 billion underground pot kingdom. In Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown ran on a platform of “vote the person, not the party”, promoting himself as one of the more non-partisan politicians in the United States. He lost, to be sure, but Brown’s platform was one you would never see these days in Canada. We slam America’s democracy, but perhaps they’re a tad more democratic these days.
Meanwhile, with Barry O as leader, the U.S. Supreme Court may undergo a major overhaul and likely will become more left-leaning for the first time in 40 years. This means more workers’ rights, more progressive movements, more law changes to bring the United States more in line with the world’s more forward-thinking communities, and so on.
Folks, next time you look at America and think they’re world-hating fundamentalists bent on the earth’s destruction, think again. The country is changing. And it seems to be changing for the better – in the eyes of us liberals anyway.
And as a Canadian, I’m very pleased to see this happening with our southern neighbour. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little bit embarrassed about our own country and its seeming lack of progress as a national community.
It’s hard for me to say as a Canadian, but I’m looking at the United States and realizing they may be doing something right for a change. And the reason I feel perturbed? I’m looking at the United States with a feeling that I never thought I’d have about that country: envy. That’s because I look at Canada’s future and I don’t see a lot of hope there.