Everything Pedde

   S J Pedde Canada   S.J. Pedde


Dear Zachary:

I don’t know why, but to most Canadians, our American neighbours are “Yankees.”  It has nothing to do with North/South, Union/Confederate issues.  It is just what Americans are called here.  I point this out just in case there is someone, somewhere, who doesn’t know.

In this letter to you, Zachary, I am embarrassed to have to try to explain to you why so many Canadians are joining in a global chorus of Yankee-bashing.

Before I discuss this deplorable trend, let me point out that I am not blind to the faults of the United States.  America, especially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is becoming more and more a police state.  Soon, under the protective cover of the ‘War on Terrorism,’ virtually everything you do, write or say there will be monitored in some way.  George Orwell’s Big Brother is alive and well in the United States.  Want more?  The vaunted war on drugs is a monumental failure. The U.S. prisons are filled to capacity and overflow.  Many prisoners are incarcerated courtesy of convictions for what might be termed victimless crimes -- simple possession of marijuana, for example.  In my mind, the United States has strayed from the path it followed successfully for so many years and is becoming something that would make the founding fathers shudder. 

Let me try and explain what I mean.  The United States constitution guarantees the right of every American to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The founders recognized that the right to the pursuit of happiness meant a large degree of individual freedom and a laissez-faire economy.  The United States became a great nation because of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

What has happened in the United States that would cause dismay to the founders? 

What has happened there is what is also happening in every other nation in which the populace is relatively free and where voters are able to guide, through an electoral process, the fate and direction of their countries.  People are beginning to confuse rights with privileges.

How so?

Let’s talk about this trend in the context of the American Constitution.  The right to life simply means that no-one else has the right to kill you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone else has to support you, entertain you, educate your children, and give you a place to live.  You have the guaranteed right to life and the security of your person until or unless you do something to threaten someone else’s similar rights.  To the extent that anyone does receive any sort of benefit, the cost of which exceeds his own tax contributions, it is privilege, born at the cost of other individuals.

The right to liberty simply means that no-one has the right to detain you, to force you to do things you don’t wish to do, to keep you from doing things you want to do, or to restrain you from speaking freely or assembling with others.  It doesn’t mean that you can escape responsibility or consequence if you have caused harm to others.  To the extent that justice is not exercised against violators of the rights of others, it is a privilege to the offenders, the cost of which is continued criminal behaviour due to the willingness of the law-abiding to forego reasonable punishment of criminals for whatever reason.

The right to pursue happiness is your guarantee that no-one can reasonably interfere with you as you go about your life unless, and this is very important, your actions interfere with the similar rights of others.  To the extent that we all endure daily disruptions and inconveniences, we are extending privileges to the violators because we prefer to err on the side of granting too much freedom, rather than not enough, even if it encroaches somewhat on our own.

These rights all make sense.  Libertarians call them Natural Rights.  They simply exist because they are natural extensions of life itself.  These rights would exist even if they weren’t enshrined in the Constitution of the United States or anywhere else.  To the extent that these natural rights are interfered with anywhere, by anyone, they are violations against the individual.

Violations against the individual abound, world-wide.  That is no surprise.  Many cultures and, more recently, political ideologies, place little value on individuals. Collective ‘group-think’ is pervasive.  Individuals are expendable and are often seen to be little more than convenient sacrifices on the altar of collectivism and any of many tyrannical political systems.  What is alarming is that the United States, the last, great hope for individualism and individual rights is falling into the same ideological quagmire.  The federal government is ever more intrusive into the personal lives of the populace, thanks in large part to the efforts of the political right.  It interferes increasingly in business and commerce because of the political left.  But that is not what this letter is about.  I just want to underline that the United States isn’t perfect. 

We all know, if we are honest with ourselves, that most other countries are far less perfect.

Let’s dwell on other facets of the United States for a bit.  It is the country to which everyone turns when they are in trouble.  Were the borders to the United States opened wide to let everyone in, and the borders of other countries world-wide opened to let their citizens out, America would soon have a population of a billion or more. Everyone wants to live there.  Why does everyone want to live in America?  Precisely because of the constitutional guarantees discussed above.  Immigrants and refugees might not know the wording of the constitution and the constitutional amendments, but they can see what America is.  And America is what it is because of its constitution.

Consider this: How many people are flocking to Iraq, to Iran, to Libya, to Somalia, to North Korea, to take up residence there in hope of a better life?  Some, to be sure, but usually only because escape to more inviting environs is all but impossible.

Given the above, why is the United States reviled by ignorati everywhere? 

America spends many billions every year on foreign aid.  It can always be counted on to send military help when a country and its citizens are threatened by its neighbours or by disruptive elements from within.  It trades freely with virtually anyone who wants to sell goods or services to Americans.  Still, Yankee-bashing continues unabated.

Europeans act as if they are more civilized, more cultured, superior in every way. Hmmm.  The French, in particular, have very short memories.  Where would the French be today, had the British and Americans not intervened when Hitler had a temporary stranglehold on that part of Europe?  Would Germany be as free and as much an economic powerhouse today had the Americans stayed home during World War II? 

And what about us Canadians?  The Americans are our largest trading partners.  They don’t need us.  They could easily ignore us and hardly anyone there would notice. Instead, they interact with us, consult with us, trade with us.   They even humour us when we, in our typically condescending Canadian fashion, look down our noses at them.  Are they really unsophisticated and boorish?  Or are they better mannered than we are, on average, at least when it comes to international protocol and diplomacy?

I admit to having met Americans who think we all hunt moose and ski to school year round.  On the other hand, during many, many trips to the United States, I have always felt welcome and at home.  Who would I want at my side if I was in danger? You guessed it.  When the chips are down, Americans accept the challenge.  They don’t ask how they will be repaid or ask for everlasting adulation, they simply do what has to be done.

As I write this, the Americans are at war with Iraq.  Should they be there?  Maybe, maybe not.  I could easily argue both sides of the issue.  Whether Canada, as a nation, should pledge military or other support can similarly be argued at length.  But whatever we do, or don’t do, to help, let’s get off our high horse and stop being the pompous, sanctimonious boors that we must seem to anyone with their critical faculties intact.  Our so-called leaders in parliament have no right to call Americans “bastards” or its president “an idiot.”  We have no right to deride them for failing to roll over and surrender every time they are challenged. 

Shame on us all.  The Yanks deserve better. 

I am a proud Canadian.  But I will not accept that our friends to the south are slandered and ridiculed.  As Canadians, we have a lot to do right here at home to keep our house in order. 

Let’s stop the Yankee-bashing and give them our support.

I am one Canadian who is proud to consider America our friend.


Note:  “ignorati” is a coined word.  I take full credit for its creation.  Here is my definition: 

Ignorati:  Any group of uninformed and closed-minded people.

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