5.15.2005

safety valve

Just now a newcomer to wtmc left a much kinder and more thoughtful (and more sane!) comment. She/he said, among other things:
You shouldn't think of it so much as leaving your country, though, for someone else's. After all, Canada (English Canada, anyway), was founded by Americans who left the US for political reasons in the first place. In essense, all you're really doing is continuing that heritage. Canada has always been a safety valve for the United States. Years ago, I had a friend in Seattle who surprised me by saying he hoped Canada would never become a part of the US... he told me it was far too useful the way it was. It provided a few necessary examples of practical alternatives that would vanish if it weren't there, and gave people in the US with unpopular views a means to voice them (Malcolm X, Ralph Nader), or even, if needs be, a familiar place to escape to (draft dodgers). He said something to the effect that 'when the world wants to be free, it moves to America. When Americans want to be free, they move to Canada'. [Emphasis mine.] It's an oversimplification, but I've always thought it was a nice, pithy way of summing it up.
I agree! I had a similar thought, though less articulate, here.

It's especially true as the US becomes less and less free. It retains the superficial veneer of freedom, but there's little democracy left under the surface.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ahem, forgive me if I've been denied important historical information on the 'founding' of Canada, but this comment is baseless as far as I'm concerned:

"After all, Canada (English Canada, anyway), was founded by Americans who left the US for political reasons in the first place."

Sure there were Americans living in Canada when Confederation time came, but 'founded by Americans' is more than a stretch - even if your comment was certified 'sane' by L-Girl ;)

Please see this link for some basic confederation info, and point me towards any evidence that Americans founded Canada if it exists, thank you!

L-girl said...

I said the comment was sane because it was polite, thoughtful and friendly - as opposed to the earlier comment by someone calling me a fascist, a traitor and a liar.

I'm not sure the person who left the historically questionable comment is reading in order to respond to this. And I'm not sure what she/he meant by that phrase. Perhaps other Canadians will have an idea.

Please do try to be be polite when you post here. Thank you.

RobfromAlberta said...

I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that the United Empire Loyalists built English Canada and many of them came from the original 13 colonies during and immediately after the American Revolution. The English population of Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was pretty small before that time. Of course, in the century between the Revolution and Confederation, many more immigrants came to the Canadas and so, the original UEL population was surpassed by new arrivals. However, were it not for the Loyalists, English Canada would very likely have been absorbed by the US before 1867.

Canada is the blue state that saw it coming 200 years ago.

L-girl said...

Thanks Rob! Very interesting.

Were those early immigrants mostly Irish and Scottish? I know a tremendous number of "famine Irish" fled to Canada. It seems like most white Canadians whose families have been in Canada for several generations have Scottish and Irish roots.

RobfromAlberta said...

Yes, Irish escaping the potato famine and Scots fleeing the Highland clearances (an early case of ethnic cleansing) settled in British North America in large numbers. Interestingly, many Irish settled in Lower Canada (later Quebec) because it was mostly Catholic. There are many people in Quebec today whose first language is French, but have surnames like Johnston and Blackburn.

Later on, the Crown wanted to settle the West in order to prevent the US from laying claim to it, so they encouraged Ukrainians and Germans to move there. Hence, the ethnic mix out on the Prairies is skewed a bit more towards central and eastern Europeans (as well as some Chinese who were brought in to build the railways).

Finally, in the last 30 or so years, Canada has gone on a massive immigration drive to compensate for our relatively low population growth. Most of these new immigrants are South Asian and Chinese.

Anonymous said...

What Rob said is really what I had in mind. Your other anonymous poster seems to feel Canadian history begins in 1867 with the founding of the modern federal state, or just prior to it. I was really speaking about the founding of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, which were, for all intents and purposes, really established by Loyalists leaving the United States between the mid-1780s to just before the War of 1812. Laura Secord, of eternal renoun to every Canadian schoolchild (wandering through the American lines to report their plans to Fitzgibbon / having a confectionary company named after her a la Dolly Madison), was herself, in fact, born in New England, if I'm not mistaken.

L-girl said...

Thank you, Anon. I am starting to absorb Canadian history in bits and pieces. I'm going to read a lot of it eventually.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia information about the War of 1812 reads that:

"At the beginning of the War of 1812 it is estimated that perhaps one third of the inhabitants of Upper Canada were American born. Some were United Empire Loyalists but others had simply come for low-cost land and had little loyalty to the British Crown. For instance, Laura Secord was originally an American immigrant to Upper Canada, but did not hesitate to make her arduous trek to warn the British forces of a pending attack by her former country.

This nationalistic sentiment also caused a great deal of suspicion of American ideas like responsible government which would frustrate political reform in Upper and Lower Canada until the Rebellions of 1837. However, the War of 1812 also started the process that ultimately led to Canadian Confederation in 1867. Although later events such as the Rebellions and the Fenian raids of the 1860s were more directly pivotal, Canadian historian Pierre Berton has written that if the War of 1812 had never happened Canada would be part of the United States today, as more and more American settlers would have arrived, and Canadian nationalism would never have developed."

I believe this snippet supports what you meant to say, but being a nut about facts and semantics I strongly stand by my statement that Canada was not 'founded by Americans'. The sentiment of your comment, however, was definitely thoughtful and encouraging so I am sorry if I caused distraction from that point.

Please know that in no way was I trying to be impolite with my previous comment. Obviously you, Other Anonymous, had plenty of great things to say while I chose to scrutinize this one sentence. Hopefully you'll understand the reasons for my thoughts when you consider how easily facts are manipulated to forward an agenda or to create propaganda.

"Canada was founded by Americans in the first place" just sounds to me like something Ann Coulter would say.

While I may not be knowledgeable in Canadian history in general (not a lot of people are!), I am fully aware that the history doesn't begin in 1867. At the very least this conversation has encouraged us all to do more reading on the subject, which is a positive thing.

Also, I find the role of Native Indians in that conflict to be quite interesting, and of course they truly founded Canada in the first place.

Lone Primate said...

I share with you, I think, a disdain for Ann Coulter and her methods, but we should give her enough due to admit that even she can say "2+2=4" and be right. Just being Ann Coulter doesn't make her automatically wrong in all things (there, I've said it and I'm glad). And for me, to say "Canada was founded by Americans in the first place" is a truism, though it's only a part of the truth, I admit. But there is an awful lot about modern English Canada that is based on this fact, and dear as our independence and identy is, there's no shame in admitting it.

For example, Lt. Governor Simcoe was quite sincere in his plans to create in the Canadian wilderness the very image of the United Kingdom. Among his plans were the institution of a landed aristocracy... literally. Canada would have had lords, dukes of that, countesses of the other, earls of such-and-such. Simcoe saw this as a natural, requisite basis for British society, and the very evidence of that fact (in his eyes) was the American Revolution in a land lacking this cultural anchorage. Most of the Americans who were, by then, populating Upper Canada came out of loyalty to the Crown. But, they were also coming from places that had largely lived apart from that experience for centuries, and unfortunately for Simcoe's plans, brought with them a low-key republicanism that is still the basis of Canadian life. We may have a monarch, but that's as deep as that philosphy has roots in this country. Beneath the bright blossoms of British tradition is a warm, living, republican soil with certain expectations about the value of a person and his or her equality to everyone else. I see no reason to deny that that very Canadian tradition, adapted to more British institutions, came to us by way of ancestors who threaded through the American experience. It's a sweet dichotomy that makes us who we are. If it were not so, Canada would be a very different place today. We, like Britain itself, would probably only have just disestablished a hereditary House of Lords, had the country been strictly populated by direct emigration from Britain, without the Loyalist basis. Our country might be unitary, rather than federal (and without the elbow-room compartmentalization that furnishes, I don't think Canada could have survived); we would almost certainly not have the Charter... that took 115 years to achieve as it is!

When I say that (English) Canada was founded by Americans, I don't mean the people you meet in, say, Kentucky today. I mean people with a certain set of experiences and assumptions, in common with others who lived in places that are today the United States, but had a different opinion of the necessity of the Empire, and moved to another part of North America to live in accordance with those opinions. In a way, that is exactly what Laura is doing, though not, I think, because she has some attachment to the Crown... but rather, to values being given the force of policy here, but not currently in the United States. In that, she is very much a Late Loyalist... the object of her loyalty may be different, but the tradition is a long and honourable one, and she and Allan are treading a path northward well-worn by the feet of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen over the centuries.

None of this is to belittle or ignore the contributions of Natives, the French, British newcomers, or those who followed. But the basis of the country is what it is; we speak, think, and act a certain way because of it. To deny it just because we don't like a word or the flavour of it is a disservice to those who came before us and ourselves today.

L-girl said...

Thank you both so much for this intelligent and enlightening discourse. You may know from reading wmtc that I love history, I read lots of it on my own, so I find this discussion fascinating.

This exchange is also a brilliant example of what's best about the internet and the blogsphere (those ridiculous people who insult me because I'm leaving the US being exactly the opposite).

Plus Loneprimate spelled both our names correctly! Snaps for that.

L-girl said...

However, if Ann Coulter said "2+2=4" she would probably add, "Except for stupid liberals who think that 2+2=welfare and I wish they had all been blown up on 9/11!"

Lone Primate said...

However, if Ann Coulter said "2+2=4" she would probably add, "Except for stupid liberals who think that 2+2=welfare and I wish they had all been blown up on 9/11!"

Wow, I could hear her voice and envision the smirk, eye-roll, and hair toss as I read that. You sure it's not a direct quote? :)

L-girl said...

:-)

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the problem with this argument is poor word choice, to say "Canada was founded by American's" brings into debate two issues:

1. The argument that American refers to people from North America and not just the USofA

2. That the people that left the US (United Empire Loyalists) could acutally be called American's in the narrower definition of the word.

These people left the US because they still felt pride in their monarch and did not want to cut their ties with Great Britain. So could you really call them american's?

The first point has been debated b4 but I do not consider myself to be american and therefore use the narrower definition of this term.

Anyway, wow, i leave for a couple of days and huge 48 post thread happens on my favorite topic! Too bad the debate has reached it's reasonable conclusion, would have liked to spar with Rob again :) Especially being a socialist in Alberta (their are a few!).

Peter

L-girl said...

Hi Peter! I'm always happy to hear from you.

I'm sure you're right, that this is all about language and word choice. Everyone seems to agree on the historical events.

The argument that American refers to people from North America and not just the USofA

This is one of the few times where I disagree with the leftist line (and a minor point it is). Lefties from the US are always saying this - but Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans (etc etc) refer to people from the US as "Americans" and themselves as whatever nationalities they are.

I've never heard anyone from Central or South America - or a Mexican or Canadian - refer to themselves as Americans. I do think "American" means "from the US" the world over. It seems to be something only the American left cares about. That's been my impression, anyway.

Anyway, wow, i leave for a couple of days and huge 48 post thread happens on my favorite topic!

Yeah, it's been crazy! (Fun!)

Too bad the debate has reached it's reasonable conclusion, would have liked to spar with Rob again :) Especially being a socialist in Alberta (their are a few!).

I hope you'll weigh in anyway! Poor Rob, he must feel lonely. But that's what you get for being a conservative on this blog.

Lone Primate said...

This is one of the few times where I disagree with the leftist line (and a minor point it is). Lefties from the US are always saying this - but Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans (etc etc) refer to people from the US as "Americans" and themselves as whatever nationalities they are.

I've never heard anyone from Central or South America - or a Mexican or Canadian - refer to themselves as Americans. I do think "American" means "from the US" the world over. It seems to be something only the American left cares about. That's been my impression, anyway.


This is a point I'd like to contend for a number of reasons. I'm one of those people for whom the presumption of calling the US "America" and its citizens "Americans" has always rankled. Perhaps it stems from a childhood desire to be included in the big party, I don't know; but the fact is, it does. I've heard it compared to the idea of, say, Germany referring to itself alone as "Europe", and Germans alone as "Europeans", and expecting everyone else to lump it. Why should they? Why should, or would, the French and Russians and Greeks be expected to give up their birthright?

When I used the word "American" in reference to the Loyalists earlier, I admit, I was caving in on what is, and has been for a long time, essentially a lost cause. Unfortunately in English, "America" largely means "the United States", unless it's qualified or being used very high-level... and even then, the custom is to hedge and say "the Americas". Although in the British Isles, where Canada is largely invisible, "America" often means 'anyplace English-speaking on the other side of the Atlantic', and Canada is benignly lumped in.

What I find interesting is that sometimes, even US citizens are aware of the usurpation, and sometimes avoid it. Years ago, I remember the Goldman family of OJ Simpson fame were in Toronto and being interviewed on CFRB; father, mother, and daughter. And in the course of making a point, the daughter began to say something about life in "America", stopped herself short, and said "the United States" instead. It was a telling point.

This battle is not yet lost in Latin languages, however. For instance, in Quebecois French, Pierre Vallières had no issues (apparently, not even racial ones) when, in the late 1960s, he entitled his lament for the state of French Canadian affairs "The White Niggers of America"... a rather unfortunate example, I admit, but one used to make the point. It's not atypical for Quebecois to refer to themselves, in French, as "the French Fact in America". And that's precisely what they are, when one overlooks the usurpation of the term by the people of the United States. Similiarly -- and while I claim to be no expert -- it seems to me that Latin Americans, speaking Spanish and Portuguese, often differentiate Anglo America by the term "Norteamerica", and its people as "Norteamericanos". There seems to be some ambiguity, even among them, as to whether or not Mexico is included... sometimes yes, sometimes no, depending on whether the context is cultural (no) or geographic/economic (yes). To refer to the US specifically in Spanish, I gather that's exactly what they do: the call it "los Estados Unidos".

While I was using the term "American" to mean "from the United States (or Thirteen Colonies)" starting out, I was using the term for the convenience of readers, and, I suppose, for the shock value it did provoke, especially in the anonymous poster who seemed to find offence in the idea that Canada was founded by "Americans". But, that said, I still claim the title of "American" for myself, because I am an American, as much as anyone in the United States is, or anyone in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, etc. (But not Hawaii!)

L-girl said...

Very nice! You make some excellent points.

I've definitely heard Los Estados Unidos, as you say, and also Norteamericanos. And yes, there is that question mark about Mexico.

The Latinos who live in my neighborhood - many of whom are American citizens! - refer to white people as Americanos and themselves as Dominicans. In Mexico, everyone asked us if we were Americanos, no one ever said Estado Unido.

I think for me, it has to be fluid - because language is fluid. I care deeply about language and word choice, but don't appreciate the lefty language police.

The "white nigger" label is often well placed, as an acknowledgement of second-class status. I think of Yoko Ono's famous "women are the niggers of the world" comment. It caused a malestrom, and it was so, so true.