The maple spirit

As a newly minted Canadian citizen, I’m proud to live down south.

By Andrew Alexander

Two weeks ago, I was lying next to Botany Pond reading The Wall Street Journal when I discovered I was a Canadian citizen.

This was not what I had been expecting to read. I had been expecting to read that unemployment had reached its latest historic high (two months before I graduate, no less).

But instead I found myself reading an article about how Canada’s parliament, despite its busy schedule of intramural hockey games and midnight moose-tippings, had passed a revised version of its citizenship laws. And my Saskatchewan-born mother, who emigrated to a small hippie town in Upstate New York before Canada allowed dual citizenship, was having her citizenship restored. Retroactively. Meaning that she was a Canadian citizen when I was born. And I was now Canadian.

I guess that means I can take those vacations to Tehran and Havana now. But why couldn’t this have happened four years ago? Why couldn’t this have happened in those dark six weeks between Bush’s reelection and my acceptance to the U of C? I wanted to be Canadian then.

So did everyone else in the weird liberal oasis I grew up in. If Bush won, they’d leave. Move to Canada. Maybe get political asylum. Presumably they’re all back now that Obama has risen, and because there was no census between November 2000 and November 2008, I guess we’ll never know how many fled. Yet for some reason the organic grocery stores in Ithaca seemed just as crowded during the Bush years.

In retrospect, what did Canada have that we didn’t? Maple syrup? We certainly had that in Upstate New York. We even had a maple syrup festival every year. My grandfather used to have sugar maples in his backyard that he tapped every spring; he boiled the sap down to syrup in the left hemisphere of a 55-gallon drum. And even though he was born, raised, and educated in Montreal, he always told me that New York maple syrup was far better than anything Quebec ever produced—let alone Vermont.

Hockey? Well, no, we had that too. Cornell hockey was one of the few things that brought townies and students together. I’d snaggle a ticket to one of their Friday night games and there would be my Algebra II teacher, chanting obscenities louder even than the undergrads who had waited in line for a week to buy season tickets.

Canada had a democratically elected leader, perhaps, but so did Ithaca. In this respect we out-Canada’d Canada: When I was in elementary school, our mayor was not just a self-proclaimed socialist but also a former card-carrying Communist. (Take that, Jean Chrétien!)

Who needs Canada? It’s all right here! Sure, sometimes the United States tortures people, and sometimes it starts region-destabilizing wars for no clear reason. But those are only on bad days. On good days we produce people like Franklin and Lincoln and William James. Canada once had a Prime Minister who won the Nobel Prize, which I guess is pretty cool, but it’s a lot easier to win the Peace Prize if your Revolutionary War consisted of politely asking your British masters for independence… for 125 years.

When Woodrow Wilson was turning the United States into a major player on the world stage, King George V still wouldn’t let Canada have its own foreign policy. Two generations later, Americans were debating the Equal Rights Amendment, but the same discussion would have been moot up north, since Canadians weren’t allowed to amend their own constitution until 1982.

So who cares about Canada? George Bush is safely back in Texas, where he can do no more harm, and the current president is a black man from 51st and Greenwood. Stem-cell research is legal, Guantanamo is closing down, and that hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia? It ended when American GIs shot three pirates with one bullet each—two of them through tiny portholes—while bobbing up and down in the ocean in the middle of the night.

And our maple syrup is better, anyway.

Andrew Alexander is a fourth-year in the College majoring in chemistry. He is a Viewpoints Editor.