Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/12/2002 (6134 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I feel much better now. It had to be said. The reasons are these.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney visits Parliament Hill to attend the unveiling of a portrait of himself. A few corridors away, a pudgy little chap slips away from the visitors' tour he came with, ducks into the Reading Room and situates himself behind Mulroney at the dais. He waves a tiny plastic American flag over Mulroney's head.
It was uproariously funny, but we are immediately admonished to stop laughing. The guy could have been a terrorist. He could have been carrying a knife or a weapon of mass destruction or something. Security precautions must be improved. Steps must be taken.
Then the National Post sees fit to turn an offhand comment by Prime Minister Chretien's communications director, in a private conversation at the NATO summit in Prague, into an international incident. Francoise Ducros used the word "moron" in the same sentence as the name of the unambiguously moronic U.S. president.
Lots of reporters overheard her comment and properly thought nothing of it. But after the Post's Robert Fife made spurious headlines with it, everybody followed. And before you know it we have Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper sticking his face into TV cameras, spitting saliva and shouting for the poor woman's head. Columnists from one end of the country to the next hector us about how we mustn't utter such sentiments about Americans in these trying times.
On the editorial pages of the country's dailies, we are treated to in-depth analyses of the Greek origins of the word moron, thoughtful essays on the implications of congenital daftness in world leaders, statistical reviews of the incidence of gaffes-by-aides since the government of Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, and competing interpretations of the intelligence-quotient thresholds necessary to qualify as a moron.
South of the border, the gutter press works overtime filling the airwaves with outraged windbaggery from such lofty intellectual heights as CNN's shout-show Crossfire. All this further enlivens Canada's chatterati, which results in Ducros throwing in the towel. And all the while, what goes unsaid is that the content of Ducros' comment was actually a thing that among normal, intelligent, average people is utterly without controversy. George W. Bush is indeed a moron.
Then there's the case of Durham MP Alex Shepherd, who recently mustered the temerity to wonder aloud whether it's all that neighbourly for the White House to be hectoring Canada to abandon its defence policy and fall in step with the American military machine.
For years, Canada's armed forces have been directed to concern themselves mainly with protecting the country's territorial sovereignty, responding to natural disasters and providing peacekeepers to United Nations missions. Now, says the White House — and its legion of bumkissers in the Canadian news media — our military must be put to the purposes of American military policy, which appears to consist of swaggering around the planet and bashing the crap out of any country the White House fingers — whenever it wants, no matter the pretext, and regardless of whether the United Nations likes it or not.
For his sins, Shepherd was subjected to a tongue-lashing by a certain Vancouver newspaper columnist on the grounds that Canadian MPs should be careful about what they say lest their names end up on some Central Intelligence Agency list of undesirables.
What the hell has happened here?
Canada is the country that gave the world Mort Saul, Johnny Wayne, Frank Schuster, Mike Myers, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, David Foley, Dan Ackroyd, Scott Thompson, Leslie Neilsen, Rick Mercer, Mary Walsh, Phil Hartman, Rich Little, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, Steve Smith, and David Steinberg. This is not to mention dozens of others, including our single greatest contribution to American comedy, Pamela Anderson.
And now we're instructed on a daily basis that we mustn't laugh at Americans. They might not get the joke. They might get upset. Well, I'm sorry. These people didn't even know how funny Mark Twain was until the English explained it to them, for God's sake. And now we're told that we can only laugh at jokes about Americans if they're shared between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes.
Publicly, we must bow and scrape. It's in our national interest, say the editorialists, the National Citizens' Coalition, the Alliance Party, half the country's premiers, and just about any white guy in a bad suit within breathing distance of a microphone these days.
Suddenly, it has become downright unpatriotic to question the premise that George W. Bush is the greatest world leader since Charlemagne. We must follow his lead on Iraq, no matter what 99 per cent of the world says on the subject — and even if it's not quite certain why we'd want to go to war with Iraq in the first place and the White House itself appears incapable of making its case to anyone.
Asking the president certainly won't help. He doesn't make any sense. That's because he's a moron.
Consider this, from an address Bush gave a couple of months ago in Nashville, Tennessee, during the height of his elocutionary fervour over Iraq's alleged weapons arsenal: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
And if that wasn't clear enough, last month he explained America's intentions with respect to Saddam Hussein this way: "I was proud the other day when both Republicans and Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a clear statement of purpose: you disarm, or we will."
Compared to Bush, Chretien's notoriously weak grip on the English language still has him coming off like H.W. Fowler, and he's starting to sound like one of the few Canadians left with any sense of humour. 'Ducros called Bush a Moron? So what? She calls me that all the time, and that's what she calls you journalists, too.'
That's a wisecrack worthy of Stephen Leacock.
In all fairness to George Bush, most Americans are morons. Just ask the U.S. National Science Foundation, which responded in dismay to the results of a poll it conducted a while back to test Americans' comprehension of basic science. The poll showed that most Americans didn't know that it takes a year for the earth to revolve around the sun.
Earlier this month, a National Geographic poll of Americans aged 18 to 24 found that, despite a groundswell of American support for obliterating Iraq, at least 80 per cent of respondents couldn't even find Iraq on a map. That's how highly these people think of themselves, and their thick president. Blow up Iraq? Sure. Know where it is? Nope. Don't matter.
It's time to be honest with one another about this.
These people can't even pronounce the last letter of the alphabet properly. They have smaller brains. Also, the United States suffers the greatest incidence of obesity of any country on earth, so they're not just morons, they're big fat morons.
Nya, nya, nya.
Terry Glavin is a B.C. author, critic and journalist. His most recent book, The Last Great Sea: A Voyage Through the Human and Natural History of the North Pacific Ocean, won the 2001 Hubert Evans Prize. He is the editor of Transmontanus Books, and lives on Mayne Island, in the Southern Gulf Islands.