American, Canadian — what's the difference?

Carter Haydu
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Whenever I pop down to the United States, I am always flabbergasted with just how much it resembles Canada — it’s almost like the 11th province.

True there are some distinct differences, and more so depending on which jurisdiction one finds him or herself. However, for the most part it’s a pluralistic, liberal democracy with lots of fast-food restaurants, cars, urban sprawl and lower middle-class folks trying to make it ahead in this life — just like Canada.

Next week, of course, brings birthdays for both halves of North America’s power couple, with Canada celebrating 145 years on Sunday, and the U.S. blowing out 236 candles on Wednesday.

For both countries, 2012 is also a significant anniversary in that it marks the only time these two state-level chums went to war against each other. In a war that apparently both sides claim to have won, America and British-Canada each achieved victories into the other’s territory, although in the end neither side really gained anything once the Treaty of Ghent restored the borders.

I don’t know much about the war, except apparently our side burned down the Whitehouse, while their side beat us in a Johnny Horton song. Still, it is amazing to imagine modern-day BFFs Canada and the United States actually, once upon a time, making fisticuffs at each other.

Most fortunately, one of my long-time friends had the good sense to marry an American and move to Miami Beach. This has had the most excellent benefit of giving me someplace warm to travel come winter.

It doesn’t really take any cultural adjusting on my part as a Canadian in order to make myself feel at home in South Beach. True, there are infinitely more smoking bars, palm trees and Hasidic Jews in Miami Beach than Moose Jaw, but really aside from that it’s basically the same thing. Whenever I have talked to my buddy’s friends down there, the conversations strike me as very similar to conversations I’d have up here.

The ‘differences’ between America and Canada seem even less evident whenever I make the short trek to North Dakota. In fact, whenever I’ve headed across the border with buddy Brad Brown, I make a note of just how similar Northern North Dakota seems to Southern Saskatchewan.

As Canadians, we are constantly bombarded with propaganda pertaining to the necessity of protecting our identity from becoming completely absorbed into the larger American identity. It seems to be a national fear that, unfortunately, leads Canadians towards resentment of their American cousins, as well as overly stressing what few fundamental differences there exits between our two nations.

It’s true, while they are a republic, we are a constitutional monarchy. While we are officially bilingual, they are only unofficially so.  While universal healthcare is assumed up here, for some reason they seem a tad suspicious of the concept. Yet, despite these and other differences, I defy anyone to point out the Canadian or American in a blind taste test.

Actually, that might be fun! Maybe CBC and NPR should get together and do a show where people have to guess between two similarly-accented people, determining which one is from Pocatello, and which one is from Lethbridge.

It is perhaps a bit ironic, but somehow it seems to me that the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is, more than anything, an opportunity for Canadians and Americans to celebrate each other, and the productive relationship and cultural similarities these two nations share.

It’s pretty difficult to look at the Canadian-American example and not be overwhelmed with a sense of just how superficial nationalism really is. We are all the same.


Carter Haydu can be reached at 691-1265.

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: United States, Canada, Miami Beach North America South Beach Moose Jaw North Dakota Southern Saskatchewan Pocatello Lethbridge

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