I watched United States President Obama on TV last night, appealing to Americans to ask their congressmen to approve raising the debt ceiling already. Don't take this coupled with my recent post on the FAA shutting down as a sign that I'm taking a sudden interest in US politics. The FAA post indicated my interest in the responsibilities of national aviation regulatory bodies, and I didn't tune in to Obama on purpose. He pre-empted the television show I wanted to watch, so that when I turned on the TV, instead of a vapid sitcom there was my neighbouring nation's president, all serious-like, quoting Ronald Reagan and explaining what taxes are used for. He's charismatic, for sure. And there's the "holy shit, the large nation we live next to is really having problems" aspect of the situation. I listened to him for the whole fifteen minutes, my attention only being broken after he left and a station commentator came on to say that Obama's solution was too complicated.
Taxes are a really hot-button item for Americans. They established a whole new country to get out of paying taxes they didn't like, and even their latest political movement, the Tea Party is named to hark back to that tax protest. This made me wonder, what really instigated Canadian nationhood, and is it still a berserk button for Canadians?
Everyone who went to school here knows that we were a bunch of separate British colonies and then the British North America Act united a few of them when the founding fathers all got hammered at the Charlottetown Conference (do you have a photo of the founders of your country all hungover after doing it?) But why did the British decide that 1867 was time these colonies governed themselves?
There'd been some rebellions in the colonies, and Lord Selkirk was sent to analyze why and figure out how to settle us down. He recommended that we be given responsibility for government. What quaint 19th century concerns were the issues in those rebellions? There seem to have been three main ones: ethnic disputes between members of the French and English populations, inequality in government land grants to different religions, and opposition to mass American immigration. I already knew that the English fighting the French was woven deep in the fabric of our nation, but I didn't realize that separate school funding and resenting American infiltration were as originally Canadian as trapping beaver and tapping maple syrup. So yup, it seems that whatever inspired you to create a country remains something your citizens care about. I do believe that goes for the the lofty ideals as well as the grievances, though. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; liberté, égalité, fraternité; peace, order and good government. That last link is to an essay by a smart, bilingual Canadian politician who was vilified by his opponents on the basis that he had been unduly influenced by time spent in the United States.
And now I go back to watching the American television show (How I Met Your Mother) that Obama displaced, when it would be more useful for me to be watching something in French to improve my language skills. I already did my taxes.