A deep malaise south of the border
Our columnist discovers a palpable state of fear in his U.S. travels
Pete McMartin - Vancouver Sun - Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Two weeks ago, in a campground on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, a woman discovered I was from Vancouver. She was an American. We were washing our dishes over a camp sink, and when I said I was from Vancouver, her eyes lit up. She loved Vancouver, she said, and one day hoped to move there.
Her face soured. She said: "Because I hate the direction this country is going in."
And I thought, that was an answer only an American could give.
Canadians don't think of their country in terms of direction; our sense of history and ourselves is more up and down, like the rise and fall of volume bars on a stereo system. We watch the dollar, or the shifting levels of incompetency emanating from Ottawa, or the price of housing. We prefer domesticity, not direction. We don't feel the compulsion to save the world.
In Currituck County, North Carolina, our waitress complained loudly to another waitress of how greed was ruining the country. We asked, was she unhappy with the way things were going in the country, and she said, oh my, yes, things were bad.
How so, we asked, and the waitress, who was black, said, well, for one thing, you being from Canada and all, maybe you hadn't noticed we got a race problem down here.
Oh, we had noticed. You could not help but notice. Despite the vaunted rise of a black middle class, the gap between whites and blacks was stark.
Almost all the blacks we saw worked at menial, low-paying jobs -- waitressing, cashiering, janitorial and landscaping work. Any social interaction we saw between whites and blacks was rare.
The reality on the ground was so bald that it made laughable the media's hand-wringing over whether the U.S., in light of Barack Obama's rise, had a race problem.
Everything everywhere seemed for sale. We pulled up to the bed and breakfast we had booked in Beaufort, N.C., and it was for sale. Restaurants we ate in were for sale. Golf courses were for sale. Half-finished subdivisions out along the highway remained empty, or with only one or two homes occupied.
Backdropping all this was the rise in gas prices. The spectre of the $4 gallon of gas was causing a level of alarm among Americans that was all out of whack with reason. It was all anyone could talk about. In the media, the level of discourse was set on hysteria, with talk of the American way of life being in jeopardy.
In a sense, it was, if one considered the American way of life to be blithe consumption. When the subject of high gas prices came up in conversation with locals, and it invariably did, we would say that it had been a few years since Canadians, and the rest of the industrialized world, had paid as little as $4 for a gallon of gas, and that in Vancouver, we were now paying about $5.50 US a gallon. At this, the reaction would be something like disbelief, and a "Well, I never."
Well, no, they never, but now they will. And that prospect, if our intuition about these things was right, had people anxious.
It seemed to us to be a country holding its breath, not rushing toward some great destiny over time's horizon now, but fearful of what might be waiting for it there.
And then this from today's Business section:
Uncle Sam's fingers are all over the Canadian copyright bill
Michael Geist - Vancouver Sun - Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Last week's introduction of new federal copyright legislation ignited a firestorm with thousands of Canadians expressing genuine shock at provisions that some MPs argued would create a "police state." As opposition to the copyright bill mounts, the most commonly asked question is "Why"?
Instead, the bill, dubbed by critics as the Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act (after the U.S. version of the law), is the result of an intense public and private campaign waged by the U.S. government to pressure Canada into following its much-criticized digital copyright model. The U.S. pressure has intensified in recent years, particularly since there is a growing international trend toward greater copyright flexibility, with countries such as Japan, New Zealand, and Israel either implementing or considering more flexible copyright standards.
The public campaign was obvious. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins was outspoken on the copyright issue, characterizing Canadian copyright law as the weakest in the G7 (despite the World Economic Forum ranking it ahead of the U.S.).
The private campaign was even more important. Emboldened by the successful campaign for anti-camcording legislation, U.S. officials upped the ante at the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting in Montebello, Que., last summer. Canadian officials arrived ready to talk about a series of economic concerns, but were quickly rebuffed by their U.S. counterparts, who indicated that progress on other issues would depend upon action on the copyright file.
The heart of the bill, however, remained largely unchanged since satisfying U.S. pressure remained priority number one. Just after 11 a.m. last Thursday, the U.S. got its Canadian copyright bill.
The first article shows how everything's not so perfect down south, and the next article reveals how the US is still bent on making the world over in it's image.
There's something not quite right with this picture . . . .