October 03, 2005

Anti-American, really?

I recently read a tale of an American woman who moved to Canada only to move back to the USA after she found the level of Anti-Americanism too much to handle. Though she was quite disgusted and disappointed with her own country’s political regime, she claimed Canadians were over the top with their own criticisms. I don’t recall any specific examples that she gave, if she did at all, but it makes me wonder, at the risk of over-simplifying her experience, if she may have been too sensitive. In the class I was teaching today, I allowed the students to play Green Day’s American Idiot. The students had work sheets to complete and it gave me a few moments to listen to Billy Joe’s lyrics. It’s not that I haven’t listened to the lyrics before, but prior to today I more or less just heard them and racked them up to just the usual anti-war rhetoric. Yet, this time I realized there are a lot of shots thrown at not only Bush and the ‘war’ in Iraq, but at those Americans that also support this agenda. At no time though do I recall this album being referred as much worse than ‘anti-war’, ‘anti-bush’ or even ‘anti-establishment’. In fact, I think much of the American-based music and other media outlets that make direct attacks on conservatives/republicans are often considered only anti-establishment or the latest buzzword, liberal. As soon as outsiders take many of those same arguments or stances, in this case Canadians, it is considered, almost immediately, anti-American. This seems to happen often even when some of the arguments or criticisms being made are the same as those said by Americans. This of course is excluding Carolyn Parrish’s over the top remarks, but I’ve seen and heard it done to many people, including myself (not that it happens often based on my traffic flow!). If anything, I think the groups that toss it around the most are the Conservative Alliance Reformers and their like-minded friends. However, they are definitely not the only group to accuse Canadians of being anti-American. Numerous journalists, writers, etc. have commented on Canada’s tendency to be such. And these are not always those with Conservative connections. I’ve heard it so much in the last few years, notably in the last federal election, that it’s almost a term that has no weight anymore, especially concerning when it is used in arguments. It almost seems like another one of those buzzwords. Maybe that is exactly what it has become, a buzzword. American conservatives toss around the term ‘liberal’ in a demeaning manner to describe anyone that disagrees with them. Often done in an attempt to bully those dissenters into submission, conservatives are obviously good at using language. Could it be that the same attempt is being made here, outside of American’s borders? Maybe the term ‘anti-American’ was supposed to be a way for conservatives both inside, but more likely outside, to try to marginalize those outspoken against Bush and his agenda by those, internationally, that sympathize. If this is so then I would have to say that it doesn’t seem to be working. However, what it may have accomplished is the tightening of the language and criticisms that aims to place Bush et al in a negative category. It may have had the opposite affect. Rather than shutting down the opposition, it has only made them more focused and possibly even louder as ranks of dissention seems to be growing, both within and out of the USA. Obviously, this would not be the only reason, but it may be a factor in the growth. And let’s be honest, who really likes to be debated by someone that only tries to shut you up? Most people I know would only become more determined to get their message out and come back stronger, which may be the case here. Sure, we might be anti-Bush, anti-war, and even anti-establishment, just like so many Americans are, but to be anti-American for just holding those opinions is unlikely and unfounded.


Canadian Perasma said...

As much as I'd like to agree with you I have found that most of the hurtful, unfounded statements against Americans have come from fellow "liberal" Canadians. To dismiss this woman as "too sensitive" totally negates her experience since you didn't provide any other information about her yet you use her experience as the thesis of your post. A link or quote would have been nice to back yourself up and we aren't so blindly dependent on your take without a clearer picture. If you are a teacher, surely you would be aware of that.

I don't think the discourse on Anti-Americanism is a subversive attempt by conservative forces to quash dissent but perhaps sheding light on over-the-top, misinformed rants that do more to alienate rather than empower Canadians or liberal Americans who live in Canada and are trying to integrate and leave a painful, divisive past behind. Something I doubt the "Ranteurs" ever thought about.

From what I've seen, Canadian liberals have learned to thumb their noses at their American counterparts for being "weak" and "disorganized" and allowing the Bush accession in the first place. This is unfortunate because this wall prevents American liberals from learning from their Canadian cohorts and it reveals the ever-present Canadian insecurity that keeps Canada from attaining its full potential.

Kyle said...

The story was not accounted by the actual woman but by a guy from Fox News (I'm trying to find out who) writing a piece for the Canadian Edition of Times Magazine. What I relayed about the story is essentially what he wrote. His piece was no less of a rant against Canada/Canadians than probably many of the people you speak about, and from what I remember he premises his piece by saying as much.

I don't doubt that there are many people who are over-the-top and misinformed when they rant about Americans. Being in 'liberal' circles, I hear lots of comments. However, while they may say, in generalization, 'Americans' when commenting, will clarify at some point that they do not mean American people but their government or their policies.

I'm not sure how many people I've encountered have considered their American counterparts 'weak', etc. In my experience most seem to focus their blame about Bush's wins on the general apathy by American voters, or the ignorance of many voters that supported the Republicans. But that is my experience which may be different from yours.

Mike said...


I think the real problem is that the term "anti-American" has been, and is still being used as a club by the right to suppress both Anti-Bush and Anti-War sentiment. If we criticize the need for war or the conduct thereof, we are instantly labelled anti-American and pro-Al Queda or terrorism. Look at Cindy Sheehan. How many times has she been accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy simply because she opposes the war.

This is similar in vain to being called anit-Semetic if you criticize the conduct of the Isreali government.

The Anti-American meme has been used to try to silence dissent and opposing opinion.

I suspect that this actually creates more true anti-American sentiment than it stops.

I fell for that woman, but I have no idea where she was or why she felt so harrassed.

I'd like more details to see if the story is real.

Kyle said...

I'm working on finding out the name of the Fox News contributor and issue of the magazine. I read it while I was at my doctor's office, but I'm attempting to locate it nonetheless.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)