Here's To the American-Canadians

Today is my father's sixtieth birthday. Still haven't gotten him his gift. He's a hard person to buy for. But we're celebrating his birthday the way he knows best: with good food (Chinese, of course, as befitting our proximity to Chinese New Year) and family. I should have his gift ready to hand over to him then.

Happy Birthday, old man! (My father hates it when I say that!)

Reading through the comments on Erin's blog, I came upon one which left a bad taste in my mouth. In it, when Erin's commenting on the pieces of Canadian history that resonate with her, as an American, a person named Terence says "you can't be Canadian and American, Erin, they're opposites."

Now, I'm sure that Terence didn't mean this to sound at all hostile or alienating, but still my reaction is this: says who? Canada and the United States have taken in millions upon millions of immigrants throughout the centuries, and these immigrants have been allowed to keep all or some of their identities through the generations. We have Irish-Americans, Chinese-Canadians, African-Americans, Italian-Canadians and a whole host of other hyphenations.

Why can't we have American-Canadians or Canadian-Americans?

For those who believe that we overplay our hyphenations and shouldn't we all be Canadians, why doesn't this credo apply to Americans? Why is it that Erin has had the differences in the rules of Canadian football explained to her by six separate individuals? The overwhelming majority of Canadians that she's met have been as polite and as welcoming as our reputation suggests, but a small handful have let their latent anti-Americanism colour their perception of Erin. Americans are not like us, is the unspoken implication of Terance's comments, and they can never be like us.

To those, I say only this: Canadians and Americans are not opposites. There are far more differences within Canada and within the United States than there are between the average Canadian and the average American. For one thing, most of us Canadians don't really know true Americans; we don't give them nearly enough credit for their diversity. The regionalisms that exist within America are so new to me that a simple PBS documentary on the differences in American sandwiches can really open my eyes, as well as make my stomach growl. Most of us Canadians get our impression of American culture by watching American television (how can we avoid it?) but the television offers a vision of American culture that's skewed towards New York or Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the American Midwest sits unnoticed, as Canadian as cheese on apple pie. Omaha and Minneapolis are as Canadian in their temperment as most of Ontario.

For those who don't mind the hyphenations, but can't see how American and Canadian can be paired, let me say that there are reasons for the border that's between us, political, historical and cultural, and there are things that we will take and keep with us long after we move from one side of it to the other. Even if our primary identity is a non-hyphenated melting pot or multicultural quilt, you don't lose that. You take it with you to your adopted home, even as your adopted home is added to who you are. So, why can't Erin be an American-Canadian? No reason that I can see.

Just over a year ago, Erin collected first prize for poetry in the CBC Canadian Litarary Awards. We were notified in the middle of the month of January, came down to Montreal for five lovely days, and were treated to a live broadcast, with Jorane providing the music, and Erin's poems being read live on the air across Canada.

It also kicked off Erin's best year, thus far, for poetry, with enough money coming in from grants and prizes to allow her to take months off in order to work on her writing full time. It was a year that won't soon be forgotten.

I remember this as I reread Erin's winning poems. As part of her prize, they were printed in Air Canada's En Route magazine, where they had an audience of over a million.

This week's episode of Buffy was packed, to put it mildly. Lots of things going on, and the whole thing felt unfinished -- but not in a bad way. I have a sense that this episode will have a great impact on the rest of the season. Overall, I was satisfied. We've come down well from the initial fight with the First, and it looks like we're gearing up for the series ending finale.

Angel was also good, what I could hear of it. I don't know if it was the episode, or if it was the station I was on, but even with the sound jacked up to max, I could barely make out what the characters were saying. David Boreanaz was the worst, with his mumbling voice. On all other levels, he was creepy, but this flaw in the story proved very frustrating.

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