THE CANADIANS: OUR FRIENDS TO THE NORTH
By Paul Walfield
Some are funny, some conciliatory, but all have in common the sense that, as Americans, we are either in awe of our northern neighbor or so caught up in nationalism, we scoff and ridicule any foreigners that have the gall to question American foreign policy. In either case, Americans are portrayed as living up to the author's expectations of sub- standard moral and intellectual proclivity, i.e., strong habitual inclination to fall below the standards met by their Canadian counterparts. What the article and author seem to fail to recognize is that criticism is not judged, accepted, or rejected on the basis of who it comes from, but rather on the basis of its validity or lack of validity and, just as impor- tant, the motives underlying its presentation.
The original article has as its basis the idea that Canadians are morally superior to Americans, and, as justification for the claim of that moral superiority, the article cites the concept that Canadians, while sharing the same attributes of all North Americans, have an ace in the hole; Canadians are a "collective." What that means is explained further as "a sense of solidarity."
What exactly that has to do with moral superiority is left to the reader's imagination. Canada is described as having great natural wealth, no enemies, and no global respon- sibilities. This is kind of like grandparents who get to enjoy their grandchildren, but have no responsibilities after the kids go home. They can be seen as all wise and kind, but leave the disciplining and educating to others.
In the same vein, Canada enjoys all the benefits of being America's neighbor but none of the responsibilities. Surely, Canadian superiority cannot stem from the fact that it has shunned any national defense for itself and now ranks the lowest per capita in defense spending for any NATO nation. Nor could Canadian moral superiority derive from their policy of not wanting to ruffle the feathers of terrorist organizations by banning their activities on Canadian soil. Although Canada has just recently relented to American pressure to name two terrorist organizations as terrorist organizations, Canadian moral superiority appears to come after the American inferior morality of naming names and not before.
Perhaps Canadian moral superiority comes from the fact that any and all peoples from anywhere in the world can enter Canada without as much as an interview. Maybe moral superiority to the Canadians is not being judgmental or interested in a stranger's back- ground before you say "welcome" and lose track of their whereabouts. However, that is probably not the definition held by most people.
Canadian's basis for moral superiority is also claimed because they have "no enemies." Somehow claiming that terrorists and despots the world over see you as a friend equates to moral superiority for the Canadians. For others, just the opposite is true.
As Edmund Burke, the 18th. century Scottish Conservative political philosopher said, "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing." Taken a bit further, how "good" can a people be, if in the face of evil, they do nothing? America, in its fight against terrorism and the regimes that promulgate terrorist activity, is standing up for itself and all that makes us and all North Americans free and prosperous. If all that it took to be morally superior was a willingness to look the other way in the face of evil in the 21st century, to ensure that you were the last on the list of terrorists' and tyrants' targets, the Taliban would get first place.
The criticisms being leveled against America, especially in light of September 11, 2001, do not show a moral superiority in the critics, rather it displays a moral bankruptcy as well as ideological blindness and intellectual dishonesty. It all comes down to what is morality. This, at first glance may appear easy, but on inspection, is not. In this day and age of moral relativity, when root causes and diverse opinions need to be taken into account, the very idea of morality emerges as a concept defined locally, rather than universally. However, if evil, another relative concept, can be accepted as a reality and defined by various terrorist actions against the West--such as the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--morality would dictate that fighting that evil was justi- fied and, by extension, the fight to uphold Western values, wherever they occur through- out North America, would also be justified, if not a moral imperative.
Conversely, actions and voices in opposition to the defense of Western values and the Western way of life could not be defined as "moral," let alone superior. This is espe- cially the case if the underlying motive for the criticism is to avoid "enemies" by trash- ing your neighbor to the south. Nor is the sense of moral bankruptcy any the less real when couched in terms of a phony moral superiority.
Paul Walfield is a freelance writer and member of the State Bar of California and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Also, he has attended postgraduate classes in be- havioral and analytical psychology. He resided for a number of years in the small town of Houlton, Maine, and is now a California attorney.
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