I’ve been asked from time to time by readers and correspondents why a Canadian, who presumably has his own national issues to consider, should engage so intently with American problems and concerns. Some have even suggested or implied that I should just mind my own business; after all, what is a Canadian doing messing in affairs that do not involve him, like an ignorant tourist or an intrusive foreigner? But the United States is my business, for decisions and events that occur there will substantially impact my life and the lives of my fellow citizens in innumerable and complex ways, and often not to our advantage.
It is certainly true that I write far more — and far more urgently — on American themes than on the various dilemmas that trouble Canadian political waters. This does not make me a disaffected Canuck, only someone who understands that Canada and the U.S. are intimately connected and that what happens in America also happens in Canada, often in greater measure. It seems obvious that, with its ballooning debt, redistributionist policies, fractured electorate, a governing left-wing party, and a disastrously out-of-touch president, a possibly lethal bacillus has infected the American body politic which must be addressed, resisted, and expunged if we too are not to succumb. This is why I am preoccupied with things American and tend to regard my contributions, such as they are, as a kind of antibiotic writing. We are too profoundly aligned for Canadians to think of themselves as immune to the American malady.
To begin with, our two countries share the longest border in the world. They are closely bound together through trade agreements like NAFTA and defense alliances like NORAD. Our auto industry, accounting for more than one sixth of the manufacturing sector, is effectively an American branch plant and our air force flies American jet fighters, very much to America’s financial benefit. We supply the U.S. with oil, timber, and electricity and reap a handsome profit in the bargain. Mutuality is the order of the day. Domestic cross-border traffic is robust. We vacation in one another’s countries and many winter-weary Quebecers, known as Snowbirds, have made a second home for themselves in Florida, not to mention a growing community of grateful retirees. In a very real sense, we are more than merely neighbors; we are more like partners, even relatives. Yankee-bashing may be a national twitch, but Canadians who dislike Americans are only engaging in a family feud.
But there is yet another reason for my political focus on the United States. Despite its current difficulties the United States remains at the center of the geopolitical universe. The American ship of state displaces more volume in the international medium on which it sails than any other, by a degree of political magnitude. When that ship begins to list or founder, one can expect a quasi-nautical calamity to swamp the world’s various shores — and Canada owing to its multifaceted proximity would be the first to suffer. More on this later.