Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

George Jonas reminds Canadians of what they lost in 1812

The crass commercial Canadian arguments for full-scale integration with the United States are muted these days by good times and local interests. Also by a new nationalism that thinks Canada best serves itself and the world by separately being quieter, never unilateral, always more far-seeing, and more popular internationally than its neighbor. 

The political case for integration—the prospect of serious political influence in shaping the future—stares us in the face every four years. Most clever Canadians find ways to look away.

Canadian writer and columnist George Jonas, however, put it in print last weekend: 

“By successfully repulsing America in the War of 1812, Canadians made sure that they wouldn’t be able to vote in their most important elections, i.e., the U.S. presidential elections. Given the realities of size, power, population and proximity, the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue determines the social, economic and political future of Canada at least as much as the occupant of 24 Sussex Drive (PM’s residence in Ottawa). Ironically, had their forefathers lost, Canadians today would have more of a say in their future than they do as the descendants of victors.

“Had Canada been defeated and annexed 200 years ago, the Republican nominee running against Barack Obama in November might well be one Stephen Harper. I would be out there, too, campaigning for him.”

Jonas clearly isn’t that ambitious about promoting the idea. Otherwise he’d have dropped the last sentence. Harper’s record might impress moderate Republicans and independents in the US this November. However, if they had the privilege, two-thirds of Canadian voters would go the polls for Obama, with either Harper or Romney on the Republican ticket.

Nevertheless, think about it. 

All those flag-waving Canadians on Canada Day were affirming not only their freedom and relative good fortune but also their second-rate political status within North America.  

The great divide between Canadians and Americans is not one little war, Hollywood, the weather, lifestyles, education, table manners—or different departure dates from European imperial control. Surely, the greatest difference between a Canadian and an American citizen is that the American votes in presidential elections and the Canadian simply follows the news.

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