Thoughts on a Coming November Tuesday

I’ve spent much of the last week here in Canada – at the World Fantasy Convention – and have spent some enjoyable hours with Canadian colleagues and friends I don’t see too often, which is not surprising, since I don’t live exactly near Canada, and since too much traveling means far too little writing. It’s also been quite interesting to see the Canadian perspective on the coming U.S. election, including an observation in the Globe and Mail, one of the largest newspapers in Canada, that most Canadians don’t understand why the U.S. election is even close, because most Canadians can’t fathom why there is widespread popular support for Mitt Romney.

Part of that arises, I suspect, because Canadians don’t understand the furor over Obamacare, and there are doubtless other reasons I don’t know. I also suspect those in the United States who support Romney would claim that it’s because the Canadians are all “liberals,” but Canadian politics have trended toward the more conservative in recent years, and the current Canadian prime minister is from the conservative side of Canadian politics [admittedly less radically conservative than the American right wing, but clearly not liberal in most senses of the word]. Certainly there’s no doubt that Canadian banks were and remain far more conservative than are American banks, a fact explained by a Canadian friend’s tongue-in-cheek observation that the United States got more Irish immigrants, while Canada got more of the tight-fisted Scots.

One of the aspects of the Romney campaign that appears to ironically amuse many Canadians is how Americans seem to be blind to… or just ignore… Romney’s blatant flip-flops and vehement denials of proposals and statements that he himself made just months before. That doesn’t exactly surprise me because, over the years I’ve observed that a greater percentage of Canadians I’ve met tend to consider ethical questions somewhat more deeply than do the Americans I know who share similar backgrounds to their Canadian counterparts. You could also say that perhaps it’s because Canadians lag in “adjusting” to the “realities” of the twenty-first century, since their culture isn’t, at least yet, so highly permeated with reality shows, graphic violence, and endless tweets and twitters… and thus, they don’t seem to understand the necessity of continually changing their self-presentation to meet each new situation in the way in which Romney and all too many other American business and political leaders clearly excel.

Whatever the reason, there’s definitely a different outlook from north of the border.

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Coming November Tuesday”

  1. Brian says:

    Newspapers in Canada are just as politicized as they are elsewhere in the world in general and in the USA in particular. We too are at the mercy of the bias of our news sources. For example:

    The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star are huge supporters of the ‘Left’ here. The Globe’s perspective is not surprising given their support of the Liberal party and The Star endorsed the far Left NDP in the last federal election on the last weekend after being Liberal supporters since I can remember. The Star also includes a New York Times insert in their Sunday edition. Both papers support of President Obama and the Democrats is a given. Add to these the TV news networks of both the CBC and CTV.

    On the other hand, The National Post and the SunNews newspaper chain and the SunNews Network on TV are supporters of the Conservative Party here. Therefore, they are also supporters of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and the Republicans. Their perspective on the issues are what you would expect. Opposite to those above.

    I agree with the observation about Canadians greater consideration of ethical questions. I know I have to sift through the above news sources to get to the ethical questions of an election campaign. We too have our politicians who flip-flop like a fish out of water. Some get elected too!!

    We were once, on a per capita basis, the highest percentage of social media and internet users in the world. I don’t know if that still holds but we’re connected. We get all US networks here along with our own who pick up US network shows. So too programmes for specialty channels. We are inundated with graphic violence in movies and TV and ‘Reality’ TV (Survivor, American Idol and its copy cats, Hillbilly Hand Fishing, Ancient Aliens, etc.). So we get all that you do. So why the difference? I’m not sure, but it gives me something to think about in the future.

    One final observation: I do see a certain amount of smugness(?) concerning the entertainment industry. The smugness comes from the attitude that we think we keep all the above at arms length and can see through the ‘reality’ aspect and Americans may not be able to. Maybe it makes some feel better. I don’t know since I shun that form of ‘entertainment’. But, just this week the talk in the lunch room at work was all about ‘Reality’ TV. Accompanied by much laughter at the participants (and judges). Maybe my colleagues can see it for what it was: entertainment. Perhaps.

    Oh well, when in doubt and we want a feel good experience, we watch hockey…that is if the players weren’t locked out….:(

  2. Wayne Kernochan says:

    From my historical reading, your friend’s observation is more or less true, but much more nuanced. Essentially, the South got lots of Highland Scots in the late 1700s and lots of Irish in the 1840s, while the English ensured that a steady stream of Lowland Scots came to Canada from 1785 to 1845 or thereabouts.

    By the Norman Conquest, the Scots had divided more or less into Highland and Lowland along a rough east-west (mountain/lowland) dividing line. Highland Scots were Irish Gaelic, having moved in over the last 600 years. Lowland Scots were quite mixed, with predominantly English Gaelic (Pict), Saxon, Norse/Danish (Viking), and very recently Norman strains. The resulting kingdom was surprisingly strong, by some measures richer than England in 1215. Then Edward I’s attempt to convert a succession dispute into English rule over subject realms a la Wales resulted by some accounts in a decimation of the Scots population, from which they were saved only by the military skill of Bruce and Douglas (Norman). These were succeeded by a series of Stewart (= Steward = stew-ward = guardian of the king’s food supply) kings whose genetic problems resulted in just about every king for the next 400 years starting as a child and not lasting beyond age 30. At the same time, the Campbells allied with the Lowlanders and steadily decreased the power of the other Highland lairds, resulting in a need for exporting Highlanders.

    The first attempt was Ulster — hence the ongoing problems of Northern Ireland. The repression after the Jacobite Rebellion and the attempts by England-based lairds to squeeze their tenants out for better “scientific management of the land” meant a second wave of Highland Scot emigration to both the Appalachians (like the Highlands) and Nova Scotia and the Toronto area. Many of the Lowland Scots, at the same time, as part of their role as administrators of the British Empire, emigrated to Canada (among other places). Tight-fisted applies typically to Lowland Scots — think Andrew Carnegie. Highland Scots stereotypically are constantly about clans and fighting — think Hatfields and McCoys. By the way, as late as 1950 you could find an Appalachian folk song whose refrain (“Hi falero gin con a gero”) was actually slang Latin from the Wall troops whom the Pictish Gaels encountered in 100-400 AD.

    Their strong strain in the South, and the pivotal position of the South in American politics until possibly the last four years means that the US is far more affected by the Scotch-Irish (the second wave of Irish went primarily to the North) than we realize. By the same token, Canada’s relative abundance of Lowland Scots who think themselves the administrators of Empire has had a much greater influence on the differences between the US and Canada than I suspect US people might guess.

    Oddly, I myself am apparently an example. We were able to trace back my direct ancestry to a Scotsman sentenced to exile to “the colonies” (Ulster) for assassinating someone else on the orders of a local laird in the early 1600s. In 1800, a descendant acting as a factor for an Ulsterite landed in New Orleans, struck out on his own, and wound up in NYC with some sort of lucrative deal, probably having bought up timber-land from the collapsed Five Nations Indian Confederacy at a bargain sum. The name Kernochan is precisely equal to Carnahan. Kern in Gaelic has an astonishing range of meanings — house, hill, marker pile of stones, burial pile of stones, Welsh footsoldier. Eoghan apparently means “youth”, bowdlerized by the church into “God’s gift”. So I guess I’m “hill folk”; but I prefer to think of myself as “home boy.”

  3. Joe says:

    @Wayne: I enjoyed your history post, thanks.

    Another incomprehensible thing about the US elections is the way politicians are allowed to create barriers to voting. That’s something that I think should be considered treasonous. If a democracy tolerates undemocratic behavior from its officials it will not stay a democracy very long. Most totalitarian states, like the USSR had elections too: they just weren’t free, fair, or representative.

    1. Steve says:

      Joe, I absolutely agree with your statment that barriers to voting should be removed. However, I think that is often leftist code for allowing non citizens to vote and Democrats to vote twice!

      1. Joe says:

        One issue does not preclude the other. However I find the shenanigans in Ohio most troubling.

        The votes of every American should be counted whether they happen to be black, happen to work on Tuesdays, happen to be serving abroad, happen to be young, happen to be old, whatever. Officials who do not discharge their duty which is limited to determining the will of the people should simply be exiled for life.

        The difference between official and citizen voter fraud is one of scale. A few officials can “miscount” with very little effort. Even a persistant fraudulent voter can only be counted a few times, and very few would bother.

  4. Lawrence says:

    It surprises me not at all that would be the impression in Toronto. What does surprise me is when educated Americans presume that the entire population of a country as geographically and culturally diverse as Canada would all have the same opinion. If the convention were held anywhere west of the Ontario border I would be surprise if a very different consensus didn’t emerge.

    And yes, to admit my own bias, I do have a knee-jerk Albertan resentment to any implied similarity with Ontario (and especially Toronto). But then which of us is completely reasonable eh?

  5. All that is certainly true, but I was also in the company of quite a number of Albertans, and while they’re definitely more conservative than what appears to be the general opinion of those in Ontario, most of them weren’t exactly thrilled with the American Republicans… and the poll I cited didn’t just cover Ontario, but all of Canada.

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