Anti-Bush not anti-American

By Michael Jankovic

Rick Mercer, a CBC comedian, gained the most attention for his series of segments and subsequent special, Talking to Americans.

It tapped a secret joy of Canadians, consisting of Mercer illustrating the ignorance of the American public, and sometimes their leaders, by asking questions with misleading preambles. It is questionable whether Canadians would have answered differently to the same questions, but we loved the fact Americans were so clueless when it came to the world outside the USA.

Then there was the incident where a Canadian bureaucrat called American President George W. Bush a moron. And there was Carolyn Parrish, an MP who appeared on a comedy show and said “damn Americans, I hate those bastards.”

Then Canada declared it was not going to support the newest American offensive in the Middle East and it became official: Canada was anti-American.

Those who support the idea of anti-Americanism hold that nations of the world are against America’s projects not based upon the merits of those projects but solely because America is the one pursuing them. So, Canadian refusal was no longer based on a rational consideration of national interests, it was based instead on the vitriol of the Chretien government towards everything American.

Of course, the Canadian involvement in the invasion of Afghanistan helps us see through the fog.

Anti-Americanism is no more than a myth, created by conserva-tives who believe in the righteous-ness of all American actions. They create a false dichotomy because of their own belief that the world is divided into purely good and purely evil.

It’s understandable we should be worried about anti-Americanism. Freud described a phenomenon he labelled the narcissism of minor difference. Under this situation, the most minor of differences is magnified so one group can distinguish itself from another, although they are actually quite similar.

This is serious business. It is most often used in reference to the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The narcissism of minor difference is also present in Canada, albeit in a less aggressive form than in the former Yugoslavia.

In Canada, it is based on political culture rather than culture itself. We are proud of the more egalitarian social system we have created. If Canada were truly anti-American, we would see the rejection of American popular culture. Instead, Canadian television networks are filled with American programming. The disagreement over one policy item (the Iraq war) does not indicate, to me, a pressing problem of anti-Americanism.

If there is something a lot of Canadians oppose, it’s the re-election of George W. Bush. His aggressive post-September 11 policies are the source of the decline in the popularity of American government, not only in Canada but also around the world. The international community, in general, is anti-Bush, though not generally anti-American. It is an important distinction to make as charges of anti-Americanism are hurled by the likes of David Frum.

The bottom line is there exist reasonable disagreements over issues in public and foreign policy. Those who charge others with anti-Americanism want to paint a picture where there are only two options: see through the fog they try to create and realize there are hardly ever two answers to a yes or no question.

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