You live next door to a clean-cut, quiet guy. He never plays loud music or throws raucous parties. He doesn’t gossip over the fence, just smiles politely and offers you some tomatoes. His lawn is cared-for, his house is neat as a pin and you get the feeling he doesn’t always lock his front door. He wears Dockers. You hardly know he’s there.
And then one day you discover that he has pot in his basement, spends his weekends at peace marches and that guy you’ve seen mowing the yard is his spouse.
Allow me to introduce Canada.
The Canadians are so quiet that you may have forgotten they’re up there, but they’ve been busy doing some surprising things. It’s like discovering that the mice you are dimly aware of in your attic have been building an espresso machine.
Did you realize, for example, that our reliable little tag-along brother never joined the Coalition of the Willing? Canada wasn’t willing, as it turns out, to join the fun in Iraq. I can only assume American diner menus weren’t angrily changed to include “freedom bacon,” because nobody here eats the stuff anyway.
And then there’s the wild drug situation: Canadian doctors are authorized to dispense medical marijuana. Parliament is considering legislation that would not exactly legalize marijuana possession, as you may have heard, but would reduce the penalty for possession of under 15 grams to a fine, like a speeding ticket. This is to allow law enforcement to concentrate resources on traffickers; if your garden is full of wasps, it’s smarter to go for the nest rather than trying to swat every individual bug. Or, in the United States, bong.
Like teenagers, we fiercely idolize individual freedom but really demand that everyone be the same. But the Canadians seem more adult — more secure. They aren’t afraid of foreigners. They aren’t afraid of homosexuality. Most of all, they’re not afraid of each other.
I wonder if America will ever be that cool.
-Samatha Bennett (2003)