Thursday, December 3, 2009

Americans and Canadians

When I was in high school one of the issues of the day was the Americanization of Canada. Pundits and experts wrung their hands and spoke in hushed but urgent tones of the glut of American entertainment on our television, radio and movies. Radio and television stations in Canada are mandated by law to include a certain percentage of Canadian content, so we did get some exposure, but if we were going to be honest, while Canadian music had an urgency and goodly amounts of veritas, our television and especially our movies were usually uninteresting and filled more with Good Intentions than artistic expression or even the calculated shock and tantalization so typical of American television.

We were going to be culturally absorbed. America has a dramatic history filled with sedition, rebellion, violence, the conquering of a frontier. I don't know about most people, but during high school I had very little idea of the history of Canada.

So, like most kids, I knew more about American history than Canadian history, but there was one thing I knew really well: Television. I definitely spent most of my free time watching television. I sat down and cataloged the country of origin for every channel from 2 to 50 and it was about half Canadian. Probably more than half. I didn't see what the fuss was about then and I don't even worry about it a little bit now.

America, instead of forcing Canada to culturally conform, is changing so rapidly that America and Canada are becoming distinctly different.

I think the biggest difference between our nations is universal health care. It's so much a part of our culture that a lot of us don't give it much thought. I'm grateful for it and it took Michael Moore's movie, Bowling for Columbine to put it into a quote that could sum it up for me: "Everyone has the right to live." Even the most conservative orthodox economists among us wouldn't get rid of universal health care. Everyone knows someone who's better now because they were able to just go to a hospital and get something fixed. This means hardly anyone knows someone who's gone bankrupt because they couldn't pay their medical bills. I think this is a stark, stark difference between our two cultures.

Another aspect is language. Americans are simplifying English, turning it, gradually, into a new language called 'American'. It's small right now and the process is much slower than it has been in the past. I don't know exactly who's responsible for it, be it calculated marketing or stupidity or irreverence but in the U.S. 'through' is becoming 'thru'. Well, why not? More power to them as far as I'm concerned. It's an antiquated way of spelling, really, when you look at it it's a seven-letter word with three silent letters. In the past, the way language has evolved was when a small section of a larger group moved away from the larger group and was geographically separated. Then the new group would start developing unique lingo and as time wore on, the original group would develop unique lingo too, then lingo would start to become language and after a few hundred years, they would have trouble communicating with each other. This is harder to do now with instant global communication, but it is happening.

The third way is genetic heritage, particularly skin pigmentation. Americans are not only hyper-aware of skin color, they're incredibly self-conscious about that awareness. Racial tension runs deep in their culture. It doesn't here. Not at all. I'm not saying there are no bigots in Canada, there certainly are, but very little that would give a rapper cause to take to the mic in protest.

Point is, the more time goes by, the more different our two countries become and at the moment I'm quite okay with that.

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