Although living happily and successfully in the United States – working regularly, starting a family, throwing away my galoshes – it took me twenty-five years for me to finally decide to become an American citizen.
(Full Disclosure: I had actually decided to apply for my American citizenship after eighteen years, but I showed up for my “Citizenship Test” on the wrong day, and I was so embarrassed, it took me seven years before I went back.)
Why did it take me so long to replace my Canadian affiliation with an American one (although I could still retain my Canadian passport)?
Because, in many ways, characteristically,
I believed Canada was better.
(Beginning with “no slavery”, although Canadians cannot assume moral superiority in that regard because of at least one reason: No cotton.)
Here’s what was behind my reluctance to switch allegiances:
What, typically, is a Canadian?
A Canadian is decent, deferential, fair-minded and morally upright without making a fuss about it, because “morally upright” is simply the right way to behave.
Why should I be in rush to switch teams, abandoning a contender for a squad ranking demonstrably lower in the standings?
Although we superficially appear to be, we are not the same people. There’s this story, said to have taken place at the Toronto Blue Jays home ballpark. As is traditional in these matters, the home crowd was loudly heckling an opposing team’s player. Upset by this treatment, the visiting player turned angrily to the crowd, bellowing,
“Shut the fuck up!”
The Canadians did.
(Try that in New York or Philadelphia.)
Call it pride, call it prejudice, but I had this ingrained belief. In ways that truly mattered to me, Canadians were the superior nationality.
And then – I don’t know when, but I am sure it was down here because I never heard anything about it in Canada – somebody, clearly tired of my braggadocious bloviations, informed me about…
“None is too many.”
Are you familiar with that pronouncement? Neither was I. But apparently, during the Jewish refugee crisis surrounding World War II, the Canadian head of immigration – with the seeming concurrence of then Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King – in response to the question of how many Jewish refugees should be allowed into the country, asserted,
“None is too many.”
A book by the same name (co-authored by historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper) reports that during the Nazi era, the Canadian government did less than other Western countries to help Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1948.
Hardly a “high water” mark in Canadian humanitarianism.
Okay, so be it. For shame, but so be it. Overall, however - Hey, those were my people! Okay, sorry. I’m back now – I still believed that, from an idealistical standpoint, Canada still rated considerably higher than its noisy neighbor to the South. I mean, at least we didn’t force our Japanese citizens into internment camps.
As it turns out, we did.
Which I also did not know about.
Until I listened to this “Book-on-CD” recently entitled Requiem, by Frances Itani.
According to Wikipedia, during the duration of the war, without a trial or any charges against them, twenty-seven thousand Japanese-Canadians were systematically evacuated from their homes – which were subsequently looted and sold off, along with, in the case of this story, their fishing boats – and billeted in makeshift camps far away from the coastline. After the war ended, until a vociferous outcry curtailed the policy, the displaced Canadians were also forbidden to come back.
And after that, hm.
Upon further consideration, as they say…
Is it possible the two countries are not as different as I thought?
Somewhere along the line, I got wind of this ennobling contrast:
As the pioneers moved west, the American cavalry was assigned to protect the settlers from the Indians. While in Canada during that same period, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were assigned to protect the Indians from the settlers.
I am now wondering,
Is that one wrong too?
I hope not.
Because to be honest with you,
I am running out of distinctions.