There are parts of being a Canadian that make me proud. One of those things is that I’m proud not to be from the United States. I’m not going out of my way to attack the US; there’s no option but to compare and contrast my country with theirs because of the fact that we are similar enough for comparisons to matter, and geographically bounded/inescapable from each other.
I’m proud that Canadians are more polite and can handle extreme cold better at no sacrifice of the ability to handle extreme heat. I prefer the ten extra yards and one fewer down, and I’d take hockey any day over baseball and basketball; even competitive curling interests me more.
But there are reasons of political substance. Having delved into learning about the period of prohibition in the United States, I’m glad that my country never went for something so ridiculous. We have had universal health care for decades without bullshit discussions of how in infringes on “freedoms” to deny others of what well-off white people can already afford. Same-sex marriage has been legal for ten years. In the life of Canada as a country we have never traded humans as commodities through enslaving them on fabricated justification of race. We haven’t wiped out as large of a portion of our indigenous population as our southern neighbours (although blatant attempts at cultural genocide is never, ever something to excuse) and we have, as a whole, greater awareness of other cultures and embrace the diversity that our country has depended on for growth through immigration.
Then there are things not to be proud of. Recent developments in tightening criminalization of marijuana possession and distribution is backwards. Although it’s not as loud and widespread as in the US, elected officials in our country have attempted to bring back the abortion debate in ways that imply women become less-human then foetuses (foeti?) immediately upon impregnation. Our Conservative government is crooked and led by a megalomaniac who thinks that “Government of Canada” should be stripped of its connotations of being owned by the people, and should be changed to “Harper’s Government” to represent the pharaoh that he believes himself to be. Privacy is being stripped from us and public servants are being booted off the ship they built and have been navigating for their entire careers. Money is not being saved because of costly measures to ensure police brutality at public events, and to stuff the pockets of contractors replacing downsized government organizations because they’re personal friends of members of the cabinet. It’s not a happy place to live in, even if it’s better than what’s to the south.
In just over a month when the American election and its incessant over-campaigning has passed, I am confident that Barack Obama will be re-elected. I’m not impressed with Obama’s first term compared to what he could’ve done, but I’m even less impressed with the loud faction of American citizens that have masked racism with completely unbased labels of “socialism” and “radical” with doubts about place of birth. However, Mitt Romney has alienated more people who are reasonably minded and wish to practice their right to dignity with his comments on 47% of the population being leeches with whom he does not want to associate, nor does he want to represent them in his presidency.
This gives Obama the upper hand. With presidencies being limited to two four-year terms in the United States, Obama won’t have to worry about re-election again. He has hopefully learned great lessons on the fruitlessness of attempting moderate proposals for the purpose of bipartisanship from the beginning. Hopefully he will push forward with progressive initiatives: he will reaffirm women’s rights to their own bodies and remove that private matter from public debates; he will ensure same-sex marriages are recognized in every jurisdiction (perhaps even so bold as with a constitutional amendment); he will reduce corruption and thin out the defense budget to stick to protecting their country rather than invading others; he will eliminate tax cuts for the top income brackets using empirical evidence that wealth-hoarding is bad for the economy and the rich go to lengths to not create jobs. It’s wishful thinking, but it stops short of rewriting the Affordable Care Act into a single-payer universal health care system. It stops short of decriminalizing marijuana to lower incarceration rates. It doesn’t even rebuild the public sector as it should, to reinforce the role that an engaged government had in the rapid growth of wealth for the generation that now complains they don’t want to pay taxes at the peak of their success because they don’t see how much tax-funded initiatives enabled them to achieve dreams. It doesn’t address the plentitude of critical environmental issues that can only be solved through public cooperation.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic about a government I can’t vote for. But even a few of the hopeful improvements in equality and accountability outlined above will stimulate Canada’s competitive spirit in being a more equal, collective political culture than the United States. If Obama makes those moves, he has two or three years of his second term to set that example before Canada goes back to the polls to oust the cult of personality into which Stephen Harper has turned the Prime Minister’s role. That is why I care about the election. I’m not afraid of the US becoming better, more progressive than Canada. That’s what’s necessary to give us that push to catch up.