Canada Day and the U.S.

July 3, 2017

From a tweetstorm!

On this #July4th eve, I’d like to take a quick moment to talk about #Canada150. Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary. Hooray!

But as it’s the “New World” there’s the awkward problem of celebrating a country’s birthday while also acknowledging indigenous populations.

I was watching some CBC TV and by chance caught a few snippets of several broadcasts that addressed Canadian history.

During one program, correspondents went around discussing their provinces. Here’s the one on Newfoundland and Labrador:

HER FIRST WORDS “The land I’m standing on is part of the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq & Beothuk people”

I thought this lady was punk as hell. Instead of spouting some comedy bit about breeds of dogs, she told the truth right from the start.

Yeah, her broadcast had levity. But it acknowledged that Canada Day hasn’t traditionally included everyone and ought to start doing so.

Well, that was terrific! Good on her. But when I happened to catch another broadcast I realized it wasn’t a one-off fluke:

“To me this means 150 years of attempted genocide…but it also means 150 years of survival”

Can you even conceive of such words being aired by a news station in the US in 2017?

We can’t even discuss systematic genocides we perpetuate at this very moment, let alone the rest of our bloody history.

And that’s Canadian national broadcasting news. Not some fringe indie network.

That’s a message that aired at time when everyone at home was waiting for music and fireworks. Hell yes, Canada. What else did I catch?

Here’s a sketch show that satirized moments in Canadian history. It began like this:

“The indigenous people were here long before that. You can’t discover a place that hasn’t been lost!”

(Special acknowledgement to “They were the Americans of their day!” of course.)

It seemed that even Trudeau acknowledged it, with a delicate word selection mastered by every politician:

“It is a choice we make not because of what we did or what we were, but who we are.”

I don’t know enough about current Canadian politics (or LATAM, for that matter) to comment on whether or not it’s all lip service.

I do know that in Canada, some racist and colonialist policies continue to threaten indigenous peoples.

But the point is: whether or not they are making great strides in relations, Canada acknowledges its past. The US doesn’t.

I cannot think of a single moment I heard any politician or talking head discuss openly the country’s fraught history.

(The closest is Kanye West’s incredible “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”)

From http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=6179, Ford’s 1976 Bicentennial speech had this to say:

“Colonists and immigrants brought…law and learning which, mixed with the native American ways, gave us our rich American heritage” πŸ™„

“For 200 years, we have tried & we will continue…to make the lives of individual[s]…in this country & on this Earth better lives” πŸ™„

I poured through some Obama speeches and videos to see if he had anything to say on the matter. Not much.

Here’s the video from his final July 4th speech:

“And so on a day like this…we also have to recommit ourselves to making sure that everybody in this country is free; that…

everybody has opportunity; that everybody gets a fair shot; that we look after all of our veterans…that every child has a good education.”

Damn. Just say it. Go one teeny step forward: “Oh yeah, and we have to stop judging people based on skin, religion, and gender”

“We’ve done some bad stuff and still do bad stuff and let’s continue to fix that.”

Canadian news and comedy shows allow different voices to speak. Past actions are condemned.

That’s the ultimate problem with the US. Without admitting faults, without dissecting history, without comprehending why people are upset

it’s going to continue to ignore reality, prattle off feel-good platitudes, and hope that things just work themselves out.

It’s beyond party lines. It’s a collective failing.

Airing someone saying “it was attempted genocide” doesn’t make government look good. But it was done anyway.

And sure, you can film a message and throw it on Netflix. But that’s not a national broadcast. That’s an echo chamber.

Tomorrow, pay close attention to how much on-air conversation is about how great we are, how resilient we are.

We’ll talk about vanquishing our enemies. But we’ll never mention the monsters that walk among us. The demons that still haunt us.

I’m not sure how you can celebrate the present without thinking about how you got here.

I’m not sure how you can get excited for the future when you’re still denying the past.