Canada – not flashy but likeable, and with an example to follow.

23 Jun

By Lanny Morgnanesi

Gerry always tried to be funny. He’d introduce himself this way: “Hi, I’m Gerry, a Canadian, bland and inoffensive.”

Like his country, Gerry was neither.

It was during the Vietnam War that I first realized Canada was different, hardly bland and willing to offend. Without fear of U.S. retribution, it welcomed Americans dodging the war, coming off like some hippie outlaw country. Later, in another context, I remember people talking disparagingly about “Canadian socialism.” They made Canada sound evil when I think it was just trying to be nice to its people.

More recently, comedian Dave Chappell used a satirical sketch to show at least one difference between Canada and the U.S. In the sketch, he posed as a political candidate with a solution to expensive American health care: Fake Canadian ID.

Canada is the country where people have lots of guns but don’t use them on each other. Canadians seem to be more comfortable with life, more at peace with themselves and each other, and less stressed. Their cordial mantra is the simple: Eh?

Internationally, they have few enemies.

While traveling, Gerry and I once met two young women from Eastern Europe, which then was Communist. President Reagan recently had taken a strong stance against their patron, the Soviet Union, calling it the Evil Empire.

Nothing like that had occurred in Canada.

The two women were strikingly beautiful but cold and dead serious. We tried to start a conversation. It didn’t take long before I noticed they would speak to Gerry but not to me. I asked why and they said they could not understand me because I wasn’t speaking Oxford English. So Gerry, in his inoffensive way, began acted as a translator, taking my English and “translating” it into — English. He did the same for them.

Funny, eh? We had recreated a bit from the film “Bananas,” but the Eastern Europeans didn’t get it.

But back to Canada.

In Montreal this spring, thousands of students took to the streets to protest an 80 percent increase in college tuition.

According to a newspaper report, tuition for higher education in the province of Quebec was to go from $2,611 a year to $4,700. It would be instituted gradually, $254 a year over seven years.

I was sorry to hear this. My sympathies, however, were not with the Canadian students but with American students, who must pay so much more. My concern was not with the Canadian government but with the American government, which clearly doesn’t value education as much as its northern neighbor.

While I haven’t done the math, and don’t want to do the math, I’m guessing one less war a year would provide more than enough funding to make college affordable; or the end of a subsidy to one or two highly profitable industries; or – dare it be said – taxing a bit more, or just cutting a few loopholes or simply being fairer about the whole process.

The goal would be to put money where it pays national dividends, and educating the populace tends to do this.

The U.S., by its own design, finds itself in the precarious and costly position of having to police the world. Meanwhile, nations that benefit from this use their money to build vibrant economies, keeping their infrastructure modern and their industries competitive . And some allow college students to sit in a  classroom for less than it cost to go to the movies.

If this pattern continues, the natural outcome is they will get stronger and we will get weaker. In time, the great American military won’t have much of a country left to protect.

A strong defense is important. What I find of questionable value is a strong offense.

Somehow, by someone, balance will have to be restored. The richest and most powerful country on Earth should be able to educate itself. Only when we have fallen from that top position will it be easier to understand that fending for one self must be the norm.

Then fake Canadian ID will really be important. I hope they don’t put up a fence.

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