I grew up spending a lot of time in America, as I lived in a border town. That was back in the 1950s and 60s, and Americans didn’t seem to be all that different from us Canadians.
The American culture impacted us in a big way because all the media that we could tune in back then was from Buffalo. So it’s no wonder we were very much alike. I remember getting the day off and nuns in my Catholic school openly weeping on the day JFK was assassinated. I remember feeling the pain of loss that my American friends felt.
We were more than just neighbours, those Americans I knew and I. We were connected with the bond of common culture by Hollywood movies and Captain Kangaroo and Elvis and Bob Dylan and the Reverend Billy Graham. These were all the American tentacles that reached out and wrapped us up, binding us together.
And I stayed bound in that relationship until I was 17 and left home to move to Ottawa. And even there my two best friends were Americans.
My dad, who would probably have been a Republican in the US, told me that I should always keep a close eye on America, because whatever happens there, sooner or later finds its way to Canada.
I heeded that advice all through the course of my life, I kept a close eye on the country. Watched a lot of American TV and read Time and Newsweek, even the New York Times from time to time.
I like to think of myself as fairly well-informed about what’s going on there. And it seems like all of my adult life, America has been getting itself into one jackpot after another.
For me, it started with the assassinations of the Kennedys and trudged on through the Watergate scandal, Vietnam, Reagan and his silly theory of trickle-down economics, civil rights, the Iraq war, the 21-year hopeless war in Afghanistan.
It felt very much to me that the country was actually coming apart at the seams and nobody was really willing to stitch it up and make it whole again.
That’s the trouble with most countries. Liberal and Conservative ideologies in opposition. And of course, in America, where everything is done up large, this has turned into a genuine domestic war.
As much as I would like to believe it can be resolved, and the country can be made whole again, I’m not sure it can. Some of my American friends believe that the country has always been divided along these ideological and political lines. It’s just that these days the amount of available rhetoric flying around has exacerbated this polarity, to the degree where it’s not just ideological or political, it’s personal, and it’s violent.
It’s gotten to the point where a leader can, using the media, orchestrate an insurrection on the current government, and tens of thousands of disgruntled souls will show up spoiling for a fight.
This insurrection was a real barometer of just how tragically divided the country has become. Yeah, sure, it was illegal, immoral, and all kinds of other bad things including irresponsible on the parts of those who made it happen. But more importantly, it was a sign that something needed to change in America. Because there were people out there watching closely, and counting on a continuation left versus right hostilities in that country, so they could plan their own insurrections, and maybe America would not be so quick to lead the charge against them.
And what do you know, one of those watchers was Vladimir Putin, and guess what he’s doing right now?
In my lifetime, and despite its failures, some of which were epic. The United States was considered to be the most powerful nation on earth. But now, it’s also one of the most divided. And the jury is out all around the world as to whether it can actually heal that divide, because it is a much weaker country because of it, and nature, as we all should know, abhors a vacuum.
Up until just recently, I was doing a lot of posting about America, and I was unabashedly pro-Democrat in my leaning. I was willing to fight the good fight, and support people like Obama, Biden, and Bernie Sanders, because I really do believe that their intentions were good and the policies they advocated all were designed to serve the greater good.
But when I think of all the good things that the Biden administration would be able to do if there was not the level of obstruction and downright hatred toward Democrats in the US house and senate, it makes me very sad for the country.
There are a lot of Americans out there who simply don’t understand what democracy means. Or if they do, they don’t accept it. This, of course, makes it very difficult for any administration, unless they have a clear majority in both houses, to get anything done.
It’s like taking a gun, pointing it at your feet, and pulling the trigger over and over again.
The fact that the country is so terribly divided makes it much less interesting because it’s too easy to criticize. All the targets have thousand-watt bulbs shining on them. After a while, any criticism just becomes an exercise in futility, since the people you really need to reach with any sort of message are cemented firmly into their point of view.
In my country, we suffer from the same political malaise. There are now people who hate our Prime Minister, whereas even a year ago they just would have shrugged him off and vowed to vote against him in the next election.
The long and short of it is that I have very little left to say about America, and will until it gets interesting again. Right now the great divide that exists in that country makes it impossible for anything I would have to offer to get to the people who might benefit from seeing it.
To quote a great American and Austrian immigrant…Hasta la vista, baby.