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I’ve always considered growing up a Canadian an honest to goodness blessing. Everyone loved Canadians. We were the meek, unassuming, non-threatening kin of those Americans. We, as Canadians, were everything that Americans had always aspired to be, weren’t we? Back in high school, when I was actually able to delude myself that I could, one day, afford a summer spent over on the continent, I had been led to believe my experience would be made so much better if I had a Maple Leaf sewn to my backpack. Even Americans sew a Maple Leaf onto their backpack when they travel abroad. Or so I was told by my contemporaries. Which I readily believed. I mean, everyone except Americans hated Americans, didn’t they?
Oh, the nievity of youth.
The very first American that I ever met and befriended is many years dead now. He didn’t have two heads. He didn’t eat non-Americans for breakfast (that I know of). He was a very friendly old man (probably in his late 30’s early 40’s) that I met in the surf of Longnook Beach, Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Damn, that’s a mouthful, even to this very day. He was a friendly, suntanned gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He had been body surfing and when he noticed me watching and trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to emulate him he took the time to show me the finer points of the sport. Even at 14 years of age I still towered over him. You see, Everett Spencer was not a tall man, physically. Yet he made an impression on me that late July 1975 afternoon. So much so that, on the following day, I made it a point to look for him again, when my parents and I made our way back to Longnook.
He was there, as was a young girl, round about my own age at the time. For me this was an added bonus. I only wanted to reconnect with my new friend. At 14 I was only to thrilled to have made a connection with an adult, other than my very own parents or relations. The fact that an attractive young girl was with him was a bonus. Remember now, I beg; this was 1975. As it turned out, the attractive young girl was his daughter, Rhonda. If you know me, then you know what happened next. If you don’t then, suffice to say, Rhonda and I have a history together.
As such, she was the second American that I befriended.
It soon became evident that all the falsies and evils I, as a Canadian, had been fed were probably somewhat less than accurate. Neither Everett, nor his daughter Rhonda, were what I had been led to believe your average American would be like. They were not loud, brash and ignorant. Rather, they were friendly, accommodating and entirely guileless. While I have, in the ensuing years, met more than my fair share of Americans who can easily and appropriately be placed squarely in the stereotype of everything that can be regarded as wrong with Americans, I have found that these people are the exception. Most Americans are no different than us Canadians. Hell, they are no different than most residents of this little blue planet, third from the sun.
Why do I mention this as a preamble you may ask? No reason, really. Except to say that if I had never met these two Americans first I may well have bought into all of the negative propaganda that most folks who are not American perpetrate. I mean, I could well be a card carrying, flag waving, burn their fucking villages down proponent of everything anti American.
Score one for the good guys.
I learned, early on, the concept of the Global Village, even though we didn’t have any kind of name for it then. It really does not matter what country you come from.
Have peoples concept of America and the Americans who live within said country changed drastically over the years? That’s really not an easy question to answer. As the world has truly started on the road towards being the aforementioned Global Village making friends, online, from just about anywhere else in the world has become easier and easier. Where a person is physically located has become almost irrelevant. A nice person is a nice person, regardless of if they live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada or in Красноярск Krai, Russia. A good person is a good person regardless of if they live in مدينة السادس من أكتوبر, Egypt or Cherokee Village, Arkansas, United States of America.
By this same reckoning, an evil person is an evil person regardless of if they live in Washington, DC, USA or Ottawa, ON, Canada.
As I have grown older I have found it endlessly ironic that while Americans as individuals are considered no different than anyone else in the world, their home land has become even more vilified (if that is even possible). Not by me, I hasten to add, and not by a lot of people that I know.
Does America, as a nation have its problems? Hell yeah; gun laws which are antiquated, a schism forged in the hell that was the American Civil War which has never truly begun to heal and the gross bastardization of the ideal of the “American Dream”. Yet, show me a nation which doesn’t have its own set of problems and I will sell you a lovely bridge which connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, cheap.
Like most Canadians of my era, I have had a real love-hate relationship with our neighbours to the south. Yet, as I have aged (notice I didn’t say grown up) I have come to the realization that things are rarely if ever black and white; there are myriad shades of grey. As I have aged, I have realized that residents of a specific geographic region are not, necessarily, defined by the geographic region in which they grew up. As a, at one time rare, vocal proponent of all things Canadian I have come to recognize that the American’s overt drum beating is a good thing; but not when blind nationalism holds sway. I have always admired the pride that Americans have in their country and wished we, as Canadians could take on some of this same sense of pride for our own wonderful land; a trend which has taken hold in recent years.
Having been married to an American for going on 30 years I have spent a fair chunk of time in the good old United States of America; both north of AND south of the Mason Dixon Line. How many states have I spent at least some time in? Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachussetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
That’s quite a few. I have set in bold states which I have spent more than just an hour or two in.
The one thing that has impressed me over and over again is the genuine friendliness and hospitality shown me by the vast majority of people I have met, either intimately or superficially, during my travels south of the border (and by that I mean the 49th parallel, which isn’t even accurate now that I say it because Toronto resides well south of the 49th).
I have long ago dispelled, in my own mind anyway, the concept of the stereotypical American; through actual interaction as opposed to “book learning”. All the better. Everything I thought I knew about Americans in my youth has, by and large, been dispelled. Americans are just like Canadians, except a bit more boisterous about it. Plus, there are more of them than us.
And so, on this 2013 Thanksgiving Day I would humbly, sincerely and honestly like to wish all my American family and friends a wondrous and loving Thanksgiving Day. May you spend it with those closest to your heart. While I can’t be there with you in person, I am most definitely there with you in spirit.
Oh, and do me a favour, will you? Learn how to spell simple words like colour, neighbour and, oh yeah, favour,