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An amused Canadian writes
By Barton Wong
To my fellow conservatives in the United States of America,
Well, it's finally hit the fan, hasn't it? For the first time in nearly 50 years, you Republicans had control of all three legislative branches of government. You guys got a golden opportunity to set the agenda, to chart a brand new course, to bring back "the good, old days" everyone seems enamored with. And quite frankly, you guys blew it. Conservatives all around the world are looking at Trent "Vacant" Lott and his Senate Republicans and shaking their heads in disbelief.
Sure, there's probably any number of excuses that you guys could think of and have probably all used by now ("Jeffords was a squish who'd vote with the Democrats anyway," "Keeping Jeffords would have been too high a price to pay," "We only had nominal control anyway," or my personal favourite, "Hey, let's use this opportunity for a purge of the liberals in our party!"), but we'll see if the silver lining crowd will still be bravely smiling, as Ted Kennedy's bloodshot eyes glare down at them from their television sets in his new position as Committee Chairman.
As for purging the Republicans of everyone born north of the Pennsylvania border, that's a kamikaze mission, if I've ever heard of one. You ideological purists seem so eager to nullify the votes of Miller, Breaux, and other sane members of the Democratic Party as well as giving another wonderful opportunity for Eric Alterman and Paul Begala to label the Republican Party as "divisive" and "extreme." Tsk, tsk, what would the Upper West Side think of you, then?
But there is actually, a silver lining to all this. Political junkies like me are already cooking the popcorn and getting ready to salivate as we prepare to watch the "After Lott" Senate Republicans. We expect only the best in political entertainment: vicious infighting, organizational disrepair, and all around chaos as only a to-the-death fight for that grandest of all political prizes (Senate Minority Leader) can provide. Already, you guys have not disappointed (Arlen "Magic Bullet" Specter in a leadership position?) and we can only expect things to fall apart even further from here.
If all this sounds rather smug and overbearing, well it is. I can't really help it, I'm Canadian, and Canadians from the day they're born, are taught about their fundamental superiority to Americans in every way. The War of 1812 is drilled into our minds as we're told all about the glorious burning of Washington and why the White House is white. Still, it is worth a laugh. A 50-to-1 superiority in military forces and the Americans still couldn't win? We even had a show recently on our government-sponsored television station, the CBC, about how stupid Americans were. What's more, I've been educated in public schools and I am now getting the finest left-leaning, most politically correct education, my parents' money can buy, at university, and if that doesn't leave you glib and condescending, nothing will.
Even on my recent trip to the U.S., I couldn't help but look for signs of our vaunted superiority. I noted with distaste the frequency of toll booths in New Jersey, the litter on the streets of Manhattan on a Sunday morning, the genteel slums of inner-city Washington, and thought that "if I was back in Toronto, this would never happen." Even the oiliness of an overpriced pizza I had the misfortune to eat on the top of the World Trade Center seemed especially disgusting since it was, well, American pizza. I had been taught in school to look for any signs of the inevitable decline of the American Empire and as I ate that soggy mess, this seemed as good a sign as any.
All this of course is to make up for our actual inferiority complex to you Americans. Our late Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, once compared being neighbours to the United States, with sleeping with a elephant, and when you're forced to sleep with it all the time, you tend to get cranky and want to make it feel as small as you are. We Canadians know in our hearts that we need you guys and we depend on the United States for practically everything from our economy to our military protection, but that won't stop us from making absurd statements about American politics like comparing George W. Bush to Pat Robertson, or accusing your current president of dyslexia as the CBC did, or mercilessly mocking you. And why shouldn't we have that right? You guys get to live in the greatest and most powerful country in the world, while I get to live in a bigger and better Belgium (apologies in advance to any Belgians reading this). It's comes with the territory, you could say.
As for being a conservative, you should count yourself lucky to live in America and not here. Sure, we Canadian conservatives have a few grand, old institutions we still like to have around like the monarchy and institutions that start with the word "Royal," and we even like to point out that the media here is rather more balanced than it is in the US. While the CBC is guaranteed to give you the Toronto liberal establishment's worldview without fail, CTV and Global were both founded by conservatives, and they actually strive for that rare thing in journalism today, balanced and objective reporting. Three out of the four major newspapers here in Toronto lean toward the right and add to that, the recent demolishment of the socialist NDP in British Columbia, the victory of Conservatives in Alberta, and our own provincial Conservatives here in Ontario finally moving back to the right after two years of Bush Senior-style centrism, and you'd think that things were looking up for us Canadian conservatives.
But we have got a long way to go yet. Our socialized "Hilarycare" medical system is inefficient and ineffective. Our politicians' only solution? Throw more money at it. That's because for most Canadians, our Medicare system has become a sacred cow, not be changed or reformed in any radical way, but only tinkered with and made more efficient. The left in Canada love to make out Medicare as a fundamental part of being Canadian, sort of like maple syrup or the maple leaf. We even had a televised "Heritage Moment" financed using taxpayers' money celebrating its founding. No one seems to want to point out that there might be something fundamentally wrong with a health service that actually forces cancer patients to go to the despised American system for chemotherapy because of waiting lists here.
What's even more frustrating is the persistence of socialism as political
force in this country. You'd think they'd packed it in and gone home after
say, 1991, but the NDP still continue to hold two provincial governments
and twelve seats in the House of Commons. For Americans, that would be
the equivalent of Ralph Nader's Green Party holding ten state governorships
and having about twenty-five seats in the House of Representatives, a
frightening thought for every American.
A split between the two right-wing parties and the complete incompetence of our current leader of the opposition, Stockwell Day, all led to the Liberals sweeping to a third-term majority last November and even worse, they're currently at 50 per cent in the polls, which is very high given that we have five major political parties. Chretian himself is arrogant and complacent, and actual proof that you don't have to be photogenic or (along with Bush) even articulate in any known language to be leader of your country. He's been involved in a few conflict-of-interest scandals, but unlike Clinton, he's free of any true sleaziness. That, along with tax cuts, getting the deficit and debt under control, and the fact he really is from an ordinary background, "a little guy from Shawinigan" as he likes to call himself, and underneath all the goofiness, a very shrewd pol, has made him the only option for many Canadians. Heck, even I admit to admiring him at times, even if I do hate his guts and wish for his government's downfall.
So, in the end, I wish to write this letter urging you American conservatives to continue your fight. As horrible as the failures of the last few weeks have been, there's still hope and life for the American conservative movement yet. If you fail, there can only be one road, and that's the road to Canada. And the next time you meet a smug Canadian like me boasting of our infinite superiority to you Americans, just quip, "Oh yeah, if you hate us so much, why does 90 per cent of your population live hugging the American border?" That should wipe the sneer off our faces rather quickly.
An Amused Canadian
Barton Wong is a regular commentator at the Houston Review and is currently being indoctrinated in liberalism in the fields of Literary Studies and Philosophy at the University of Toronto in Canada.
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