Saturday, February 13, 2010

O Canada!

Canada does seem like a civilized place. We watched a part of the opening of the Olympics, and enjoyed the drumming and dancing by the "aboriginal people." The landscape, as it appeared on our television screen, is of unbelievable beauty. We spent a few memorable days in the city of Vancouver and on Vancouver Island a few years ago, and loved the energy of the area--much slower-paced than busy Southern California. The Canadians seem able to manage both the benefits of a capitalist economy and the more broadly liberal humanitarian concern for the country's citizens. I love the fact that a country of this size has a smaller population than does California. I suppose that's because much of the vast tundra to the north is inhabitable only by a hardy few.

I lived in Canada for two years back in the early 1960s--in Halifax, Nova Scotia, about as close to Europe as one could get! It was my first taste of living this side of the Atlantic. My older son, Matthew, was born there, and proudly maintains his Canadian nationality to this day. It's a bit like me being proud to be a Geordie (one born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne) even though I spent only the first year and a half of my life there. Halifax, at the time, was only just beginning to recover economically and culturally from the effects of the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which for the first time allowed much of Canada's ocean traffic and its cargoes to penetrate closer to the urban centers of Toronto and Quebec. Still, it was a fine place to live, and I have fond memories of the city, its people, and the lovely maritime landscapes that surrounded us there. Not to mention the lobsters, fresh from the sea...

We have often teased ourselves, Ellie and I, with the notion of re-locating north--a recurring theme amongst old liberals like ourselves since the days of the Vietnam war. We have watched with increasing distress, since those days, as our country has been hijacked by the aggressive politics of those to the far right. We were among those who thought the election of Nixon to be a disaster, long before his disgrace. We were appalled by the passage of Proposition 13. We thought Reagan's election--as Governor!--to be a major disaster; his elevation to the Presidency was unthinkable, until it happened. Poor Jimmy Carter was bullied into irrelevance before he had the opportunity to reverse the conservative tide; and Clinton was so harried by poisonous hostility and subversion from the right that it was miraculous that he survived at all, let alone make the achievements that he did. Then Bush junior...!

There have been many times, then, these past thirty-five years and more, when we have teased ourselves with thoughts of leaving for friendlier climes, more compatible with our sense of human justice and concern for the common good. We are still here, watching the Vancouver Games on television even as we watch Obama threatened from all sides, his agenda--the agenda for which we elected him--as frozen as those mountain tops in British Columbia. We have kept telling ourselves that things can't get any worse in this dis-United States--but they keep getting worse. So we tease ourselves, yet again, with those old thoughts...

It's not patriotism, certainly, that keeps me here. I've never had an ounce of that in my body--though I have to say I enjoyed the friendly parade of nations at the Games. No, sadly, it's not very much more than the weather!


mandt said...

Given climate change, it might be wise to buy beach front property in Prudhoe Bay! Your reflections mirror our own. My brother sold his business and immigrated to Vancouver last year. We just applied for passports, but like you, stay for the weather and pack our burlap bags just in case we must do a 'Sound of Music.'

Gary said...

Dear Canada,

Your country is wise to prosper calmly without needing to colonize or proclaim that others follow your ways.

Your national respect for indigenous peoples who walk in beauty within the tundra, dance like the wind moves the trees, color their dress to emulate the flora and fauna they revere is an expression of clarity and wisdom.

My brothers and sisters within the Navajo nation, where I was fortunate to spend my first 6 years of life, have this same beauty within their past. The development of reservations halted the reverence
and expressions of these values. They are slowly returning because young Navajo scholars are reinvesting the Dinea or people by returning from the universities to water the gardens of the past.

LillianAbel said...

From the age of 16 I've thought of leaving this wonderful country. As the years past I watched as the people elected who they did in total disbelief. It's been scary and gets scarier as the years go by. I still fantasize about moving to Canada. However, Gary has beautifully put into words my hopes for all of us.

They call him James Ure said...

I'd love to live in Canada.