The Commonwealth Club of California lived up to San Francisco’s reputation as a shelter for contentious ideas.
The audience had fair warning; my presentation title “America & Canada = A More Perfect Union” was included in the April edition of The Commonwealth magazine. Still, at first, standing there was scary.
Americans take their citizenship as seriously as their politics and I was about to suggest that they water it down—that we can get rid of the border and unite Canada and the United States as a democratic federation. Fortunately, I got a quiet laugh early when I asked “If Canada is American only slightly less so, why can’t America be Canadian only a little more so?”
In the questions that followed it was clear they had little concern with the terms I’d outlined (proportionate representation) but wondered how we’d sell America—with all its problems—in Canada. There is, even in the US, the illusion that Canada can stand aside from whatever awaits America. As a sixties-something asked, “Where will the draft dodgers go without the border?”
I was urged to assure Canadians that they wouldn’t be assimilated in a wider union. “Texas and California were once separate states,” the gentleman pointed out “And they’re still not like anywhere else in America.”
It was exhilarating to talk about a big idea with constructive people—to put Canada in the body, not the preamble of a conversation. Hopefully, on both sides of the border, groups of individuals will put federation on the agenda when imagining a new project for North America.
The speech notes will be posted shortly.