The Idea of North

Nick Denton considers a recent poll that alleges that 40% of Americans* favor U.S. annexation of Canada, and sees an electoral advantage to the Democrats in such an expansion.  As much as I’d like to see an electoral dilution of the hindbrain right, it is clear that both America and Canada are enriched—culturally, politically, economically—by having each other as distinct nations.  Each country has taken a different path from being an agrarian British colony to becoming a post-industrial representative democracy, and it is immensely helpful to have an alternative next door to provide both a role model in times of doubt and a laughingstock in times of conviction.

For myself, I have affection and respect for many aspects of Canada, but discussion of a "merger" of Canada with the U.S. reminds me that I also think of Canada, particularly British Columbia, in the same way that the Pakistani generals think of Afghanistan; ie, as "strategic depth" for liberals (Where would conservatives fall back to?  Chile, probably).  I doubt I will ever move to Canada, and I’m sure that—were I to do so—I would find plenty to complain aboot.  But it’s nice to know it’s there.  Garrison Keillor once spoke of attending grade school in rural Minnesota, where each child was assigned a family living near the school that would care for him or her in the event of a blizzard that closed the roads.  Whatever traumas beset him during his childhood, Keillor often took comfort in the knowledge that, if things got really bad, he could always go to his "storm home," where he would be accepted and succored without condition.  That’s why I want Canada to remain separate from the U.S.; it’s my "storm country."

Of course, there is one simple compelling argument against merging the U.S. and Canada: they couldn’t put up with Texas, and we couldn’t put up with Quebec.

* Yammerheads who insist upon the nightmare cacologism "Unitedstatesian"—out of a benighted desire to include Canada and Mexico in the term "American"—display a politically-motivated blindness as to how language evolves and why words gain currency.  Such butchers of the mind deserve no quarter, and we shall give none here.

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