Monday, May 23, 2011

Canadian Superiority?

From a note to Richard Gwyn concerning his May 14, 2011, newspaper report about Canadians' feelings of superiority over Americans.

If I have a sense of moral superiority over our "American cousins," it would be for reasons not mentioned in your recent piece. It deals with a comparison of the development of our two nations. The difference, in a word, is "violence".

The U.S. was conceived in a violent revolutionary war. We all know how relatively amicably Canada achieved nationhood. Because our history is quieter, some consider us dull. That suits me.

The American Civil War was the deadliest in all history -- if one compares the number killed against the size of the warring populations. In one particular day, Americans killed 20,000 of their own. In comparison, Canadian "rebellions" were picnics. Civil unrest consisted mainly of skirmishes on street corners after the pitchfork-wielding rebels emerged from the local tavern

The development of the American west occurred through violence, never mind the violence against the aboriginals. Homesteaders fought for land. There's a famous drawing by Charles Jefferys that illustrates how Ontario was settled. On a certain day, loyalists appeared at a designated place. Each drew a piece of paper from a hat. This gave them ownership of a certain plot of land -- no fighting, no shooting, no violence, all very Canadian.

Known murderers roamed the streets in the U.S. west. If the sheriff proclaimed law and order, he was shot. It took the U.S. cavalry, lynch mobs and vigilantes, the latter with their history for even greater violence, to produce a modicum or order.The plot of my favourite film, High Noon with Gary Cooper, while fiction, would not have been plausible in Canada where the North West Mounted Police, not an isolated sheriff,  assured that law preceded settlement.

Peace, order and good government (originally peace, welfare and good government) still reflects our attitude of courtesy and non-violence. This is well described by John Ralston Saul in his book, A Fair Country. Whereas, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and "the right to bear arms" have abetted a murderous gun culture.

If it takes violence to be noticed, world, avert your eyes from Canada.You will notice us again when Europe again needs liberating, or when there is a cry for peacekeeping.

No, I don't feel a superiority to the United States, just pity.

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