Monday's HOT MIC

Monday's HOT MIC

Adam Gopnik, the New Yorker's critic-at-large, wrote a fascinating essay for the May 15 issue that the editors apparently couldn't wait to post online.

The title, "We Could Have Been Canada," really doesn't convey the essence of what Gopnik is trying to say. The tease is a little more revealing:

Was the American Revolution such a good idea?

He follows that up with what must be a new record for distortion, ignorance, and vile representations of what the Revolution meant, and how Americans have accepted its "myths."

The Revolution remains the last bulwark of national myth. Academics write on the growth of the Founding Father biographical genre in our time; the rule for any new writer should be that if you want a Pulitzer and a best-seller you must find a Founding Father and fetishize him. While no longer reverential, these accounts are always heroic in the core sense of showing us men, and now, occasionally, women, who transcend their flaws with spirit (though these flaws may include little things like holding other human beings as property, dividing their families, and selling off their children). The phenomenon of “Hamilton,” the hip-hop musical that is, contrary to one’s expectations, wholly faithful to a heroic view of American independence, reinforces the sanctity of the American Revolution in American life.

Academic histories of the Revolution, though, have been peeping over the parapets, joining scholarly scruples to contemporary polemic. One new take insists that we misunderstand the Revolution if we make what was an intramural and fratricidal battle of ideas in the English-speaking Empire look like a modern colonial rebellion. Another insists that the Revolution was a piece of great-power politics, fought in unimaginably brutal terms, and no more connected to ideas or principles than any other piece of great-power politics: America was essentially a Third World country that became the battlefield for two First World powers. Stirred into the larger pot of recent revisionism, these arguments leave us with a big question: was it really worth it, and are we better off for its having happened? In plain American, is Donald Trump a bug or a feature of the American heritage?

Gopnik believes that Canada avoided all this nonsense because, well, they're Canadians:

As it happened, my own childhood was neatly divided between what I learned to call “the States” and Canada. In my Philadelphia grade school, we paraded with flags, singing “The Marines’ Hymn” and “Here Comes the Flag!” (“Fathers shall bless it / Children caress it / All shall maintain it / No one shall stain it.”) We were taught that the brave Americans hid behind trees to fight the redcoats—though why this made them brave was left unexplained. In Canada, ninth grade disclosed a history of uneasy compromise duality, and the constant search for temporary nonviolent solutions to intractable divides. The world wars, in which Canadians had played a large part, passed by mostly in solemn sadness. (That the Canadians had marched beyond their beach on D Day with aplomb while the Americans struggled on Omaha was never boasted about.) Patriotic pageantry arose only from actual accomplishments: when Team Canada won its eight-game series against the Russians, in 1972, the entire nation sang “O Canada”—but they sang it as a hockey anthem as much as a nationalist hymn.

Heh. Canada wouldn't be "bragging" about a walkover at Juno Beach. The Canucks suffered 50% casualties in the first hour of the battle -- hardly "marching with aplomb." And why would they brag about the fact that Omaha Beach was far better defended than Juno? How could the manner in which the Germans deployed their forces along the Normandy coast be a reason to brag about anything?


The piece is too long and tries too hard to get people upset to spend any time in response. Just read the whole thing and stand back in awe observing its majestic stupidity in all its glory.