Having been born and raised in Canada, I've experienced my fair share of anti-American-ism. We live in the shadow of the elephant, and we resent it. No one pays attention to us. Other countries think we are part of the US. We are mistaken for Americans when we travel.
There are plenty of negative stereotypes of Americans (Americans are fat and obnoxious!), and we help perpetuate them. Yet we know they are false. Canadians express disapproval/dislike/disgust for things American, but when pressed, we usually admit it is the American government we dislike, not the people. Hell - like many Canadians, I have relatives and many friends in the US (even a former boyfriend), and the people we know tend to be far removed from the stereotypes. The more people you meet, the more you realize that stereotypes are bullshit.
Lately, this phenomenon has been reinforced in spades. I've met quite a number of Americans who have chosen to immigrate to Canada. Some have come of necessity - to escape the gay-persecution coming from religious fundamentalists and George Bush (the religious fundamentalist). Others simply don't like where their country is heading, and/or like what they see here (better health care, more than two political choices, more tolerance for diversity, etc.). These people were ostracized for criticizing the US when they were living there: "If you don't like it, then leave". (Oddly, the same people who told them to leave now call them "cowards" and "traitors" for leaving. Tell you what: how about you get your thoughts on the same page and then get back to us.)
The US's loss is Canada's gain. These people are far from cowards; they have packed up all of their belongings and savings, left dear friends and family behind, and moved to a new country, many facing a job hunt and an uncertain future. Because many are moving for reasons of political ideology, they tend to be intelligent, progressive, outside-the-box thinkers. They show a strong commitment to making this move work. As a lifelong resident of Canada, I fear they will learn about all the problems we have, and once the honeymoon is over, pick up and go back. Yet many of them express how happy they are here; one after another, they tell me: "You don't know how bad things are there."
One important subset of this group is the war resisters, who are not only refusing to participate in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, but in publicizing their cause they are teaching Canadians about the realities of the conflict and about the Bush administration's actions and motives. Too bad more Canadians aren't listening. Although the majority of Canadians support them, as do a majority in the House of Commons, Harper is running our government as a dictatorship and refusing to honour his obligation to let them stay in Canada. You can bet those of us involved in or supporting the campaign will be screaming loudly about this during the upcoming election.
Anyway. I think about my life in Toronto, and how many people of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles I know. Chinese-Canadians, British-Canadians, Pakistani-Canadians. Add to that American-Canadians. We don't tend to think of those from the US as hyphenated Canadians. When they become citizens, we simply think of them as Canadians. Yet they are not the same as us, and their background and history should not be taken for granted or forgotten. Because of my new friendships, I am being forced to re-evaluate my prejudices, and pay more attention to that tenuous Canadian/American relationship that will always be a part of our lives. I continue to learn. And unless things in the US take a quick change for the better, I have a feeling we are going to be meeting many more American immigrants in the months and years to come.
A big welcome to those who are just arriving. Also, happy anniversary to wmtc, celebrating 3 years here!
2 weeks ago