For you, the dress code is casual.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Buyable Canuck

I'm a little miffed at American citizens in general tonight, and maybe undeservedly, since the culprit that provoked my current angst is actually, yes, you guessed it, a corporation.

As it happens, I was out for drinks with a good friend earlier, and we somehow got on the topic of the US and a new hot-selling item--the buyable Canadian identity. is selling t-shirts, decals, and more for Americans to assume the Canadian identity abroad. Now, we're no slouches. We've known this was a 'covert' practice by a lot of Americans for a lot of years, but for someone to be brazenly marketing the idea is astounding. It's one thing when it's anti-establishment college kids sewing a Maple Leaf on their knapsack, but it's another when it's some lame SUV-driving yuppie trying to have a lowkey time in Provence while wearing an "O Canada" t-shirt as they tour lavender-lined vineyards.

Either way, it's still wrong. We're Canadian. You're American. Don't cop our style, man.

Strangely, no matter how often you try to explain that yes, we look like you, we may even like all the same stuff as you, but we are absolutely, fundamentally different from you, most Americans seem to shake their heads and then act like we're just another jealous little sibling that refuses to get lumped in with the Big Bro.

It's been said before: We're proud of how we negotiated, not fought, our country into existence. We're natural peacemakers. Having developed more constitutionally protected personal freedoms than the US, it's safe to say that Canada has been left-wing, politically, for a long time, both domestically and abroad. We have always exalted freedom and championed human rights around the world, as we are currently trying to do on the issue of genocide in Sudan, for example.

We are indeed proud people. Both of who we are and what we're not. Specifically, that is to say the United States. It's been very hard growing up in your shadow, with your culture, your news, your politics, all dominating our domestic stage. That we have an identity and that it is getting stronger and more concrete despite our being the most multicultural country in the world today leaves us with even more pride in who and what we are.

Enter T-shirt King. Essentially, they're marketing to Americans who are getting tired of being treated as they do when they travel (be it the political fallout, the empirical tendencies, whatever). Now, to have those Americans cop out and affect a Canadian "accent" and don a Maple Leaf while trying to figure out how the hell the word "eh" works as a part of speech is inconceivably offensive on so many levels.

[Ed. Note: The word "eh" does perform a specific function in transforming a simple declarative into an interrogative. You do not get your "Canadian-speak" decoder ring today, though, I'm sorry to say.]

Unfortunately, the American reception around the world has to do with a few things--one, the pricks who wrecked it for all the nice Americans by being the pricks they were, and loudly announcing their American citizenship in so doing. Two, you're uncomfortable discussing your politics? You elected your government. I'm sorry, but that means most of you endorse their politics. That's generally how the electoral process works, even when it's as cocked up as the electoral college system. Three, the fact that, not all, but unfortunately too many Americans do not take the time to learn about the cultures and peoples of the places they're visiting.

Yes, it reflects badly on those of you who are more worldly and open.

Despite that, it does not give any American, or any other national, the right to wear the Maple Leaf and try to pose as a hoser. The American reputation has been injured internationally, in many ways, for a number of reasons. This schtick isn't going to help. It will, however, start hurting the Canadian reputation--the one we've spent a century-plus creating through our efforts to broker peace throughout the world, through our work towards worldwide human rights and freedoms, and all the while, creating a great socialist nation that provides for (arguably) all its subjects, whilst giving them great beer to drink.

What we ain't, though, is a fashion statement and travel gimmick.