Ouch, Canada

Our neighbors to the north fire back over my invasion column.

CANADA IS IN THE news this week. Vancouver, B.C., was selected as the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, surprisingly just beating out Pyeonchang,South Korea, easily confused (by me at least) with Pyongyang, North Korea. At least they better hope it’s the South Korean city, because North Korea’s glorious leader, Kim Jong Il, is something of a sore loser with intercontinental missile capability. When he talks about “dropping in,” it’s not for a cup of Murchies.

But Canada, usually ignored by the American press, was already on the radar screen. A July 1 Washington Post piece titled “Whoa! Canada!” discussed how gay marriage, an anti-Iraq War stance, and legalized pot was changing the country’s image. At least, changing it inside the Beltway. Suddenly, it’s like having a little slice o’ Europe right next door. That is good news for U.S. liberals but conceivably poses an eventual threat to the Dominion itself if certain rowdy Texans decide to do up North what they did to Mexico back in 1845.

Of course, Mossback has already written about the dangers of Canada creating an open, caring society that might offer a diplomatic safe haven for liberals like Mossback. That column (“Canada’s Next,” May 14) generatedand continues to generatea good deal of response from our Canadian cousins. In it, I laid out why Canada was the next likely target for invasion under the Bush foreign policy. Most Canadian readers seemed to believe Mossback is the new Paul Wolfowitz.

Some e-mailers got right to the point: “This is the most ignorant article I’ve ever read in my life. Knute, you are an arrogant moron, shut up.”

Wrote another: “Interesting view. I am always one to support free speech. But, that is only when it is accompanied with some sort of educated thought. You need to either learn more about the world outside of the USA or seek professional help. Regards, Proud to be Canadian”

And here is a typical scolding: “There is no other nation on the face of this planet that is more like the U.S. than Canada is, economically, culturally, socially. When insecure and powerless people like yourself start talking this rubbish about invading Canada, you sound ridiculous. You are a great country. You should start acting like one.”

At this point, I suspected a nerve had been touched. And also, in thinking about all the great Canadian comics who have come south to make it in the States (Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Mike Myers, William Shatner), I realized the country had likely suffered Humor Brain Drain. An effort to satirically dramatize the Bush foreign policy taken to its logical extreme was being read as Mossback’s blueprint for invading Manitoba.

But I must make a confession: I have had great ambivalence about Canada over the years. Partly because of its second-city socialist smugness, partly because back in the 1960s, a Canadian border guard once mistook me for Wayne Newton. Imagine the bruised adolescent ego! Insecure, indeed. There is a part of Mossback’s psyche that would love to wreak unholy revenge upon Manitoba. So imagine the deep, conflicted awkwardness I feel now having to count on Canada to be there for when the time comes to flee Ashcroft’s Gestapo!

SO, WEIRDLY, I AM comforted rather than annoyed by Canada’s renewed confidence in finding its identity as the “Not-America” brand: “You compliment all Canadians with your characterization of our country as a socialist safe haven. I for one am proud that Canada values freedoms over blind commitment to a leader and his rhetoric, social programs and diversity over the all-consuming obsession to obtain the American ‘dream’ at the cost of all others. And you’re right, we are suspicious of Americans and, after reading your column, do you blame us? By the way, we fought a war with the U.S. in 1812 and burned down the White House. Sincerely, A Canadian traitorous, pot-smoking bleeding heart.”

You’ll note that Bleeding Heart refers to the seldom-mentioned war of 1812, during which the Canadians came down and kicked major American ass. OK, and the Cubs won a World Series in 1908. But I find the unapologetic feistiness nevertheless alluring. Would Bleeding Heart consider coming south and running for the Democratic presidential nomination? If not, well, I guess Howard Dean is from Vermont, which makes him almost Canadian.

Another reader reminds that Canadians are not wimps, and not beyond engaging in their own sinister psychological warfare campaigns: “We aren’t all that pacifistic. . . . I will let you in on a little secret. A few years back, we launched a failed assault on the U.S. If we were to give it a Yankee moniker it would have been called Operation Celine Dion. See, the plan was to brutalize the senses with high frequency shrills. You got us back though because someone signed her and now our stations have to play it as CanCon. Drats, foiled again.”

Wow. Talk about weapons of mass destruction.

The column also elicited pride in another reader: “Thank you for your glowing review of Canada. Your article really made me proud to be a Canadian. It’s funny that America has been on a war footing since 1942. It’s kinda sad that your military consumes 40 percent of the value of American output. . . . Good luck on finding an end to the endless wars your nation has been fighting and may someday your country realize peace.TJ”

TJ listed all the wars America has been in, then postscripted his note wondering about the name Knute Berger. Is it German? he asked.