Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A Canada-do attitude

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The other night, during a typically placid evening before the television set, I tore clumps of hair out of my head while watching President Bush lead his train wreck of an administration into ever-deeper levels of ruin. The president — who despite appearances is a grown man — had just told Iraqi guerillas killing American soldiers to “bring it on.”

It got me thinking about our peaceful Canadian neighbors. Canada isn’t involved in the recent unpleasantness in the Middle East. That must be nice.

So, just out of curiosity, I wandered over to the Web site of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Hey, it never hurts to keep your options open, right?

It turns out that, according to their promotional literature, “Canadian citizenship is one of the most prized in the world.” I believe it. I’ve been to Canada many times. I have relatives there, like a lot of Portuguese people in Fall River. You can eat off Canadian streets, they’re so clean. And because the population is small — about a tenth of the U.S. population — you really can eat off their streets without pesky traffic getting in the way.

There’s more to recommend. In a page called “A Look at Canada,” the Web site includes a description of how the Canadians have managed to create the closest place to Paradise in the Western Hemisphere. Listen to this: “In Canada, we also believe in the importance of working together and helping one another.” Doesn’t that sound fucking awesome? And in case you don’t have your dictionary handy, the site helpfully adds, “People who help others without being paid are called volunteers.” That’s good to know.

I’m sure this stuff is also in the U.S. Constitution, but I don’t want to wade through all that stuffy 18th century English. And most of the Constitution is ignored or not enforced anyway, except for the Second Amendment and a few references to God.

My wife is all set to move to Canada, too. She’s hoping that, if we do move up there, we settle in Prince Edward Island so we can live like Anne of Green Gables. I want to live in Toronto, so we can visit that spinning restaurant at the top of the CN Tower. We’ll end up flipping a coin for it.

A few years ago, my wife and I visited my Canadian relatives, who live in Ontario around the Toronto area. I demonstrated all the strange customs for which Canadians are known. For instance, at no time will a Canadian enter a house with his shoes on. The citizenship Web site I found does not mention this on its “Responsibilities of Citizenship” page, but it’s true nonetheless. The front halls of Canadian homes are lined with neatly arranged pairs of shoes, and laundry detergent commercials on TV specifically boast how they can “get your socks their whitest.”

Milk in Canada comes in bags, not cartons, like those IV drips you see in hospitals. That would be an adjustment if we moved up there. My wife and I thought it seemed somehow unsanitary — as if a box of waxed paper is somehow cleaner than a sterile plastic bag — but I’m lactose-intolerant, anyway, so that will be her problem.

Products in Canada have to be twice as big, to fit both the English and French languages on the packaging. Thus, when my wife and I ordered KFC we also ordered PFK, or “Poulet Frite Kentucky.” Every visit to the supermarket is like a little trip to a newer, friendlier Paris.

Politically, my wife and I have more in common with Canada’s liberal style than we do with President Bush’s regime. Canadians believe, like we do, that “war is not good,” and “sick people deserve to get healthy,” and “politicians who don’t do their job should be hit with cream pies.”

Instead of slandering or murdering a politician, as we do in America, Canadians often throw pies at them to show their disapproval. On July 7, Alberta Premier (that’s “governor” to you Yanks) Ralph Klein was hit in the face with a banana cream pie before he hosted a political breakfast, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. “He said the pie hurt and he will be pressing charges,” the newspaper wrote. See? The protester makes his point, the politico learns a valuable lesson, and everyone laughs about it afterward.

The Toronto Star reported July 7 on the grand old tradition of civil disobedience via pastry: “Jean Charest was pied in April, two days before his Liberals ousted the Parti Quebecois and he was elected premier of Quebec. He was also struck in the face and head with a cream pie before he was to address supporters in the Laurentians north of Montreal. He blocked a second pie thrown by others, but it splattered on his wife, Michele Dionne.” Collateral damage is, in times of war, unavoidable.

“Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau have all been pied,” the report continued. Forget the silly slogans and protest marches — nothing says, “of the people, for the people and by the people,” like custard in your face.

While my plan to move to Canada may not work out — the commute to The Herald News every day would be inconvenient — perhaps we can bring a little bit of Canada down here. Unless we find out soon that his war on Iraq was truly justified, let’s give President Bush his just desserts.

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