Chuckman: America's Imperial Wizard Visits Canada
America's Imperial Wizard Visits Canada
We are getting stories about increasing anti-Americanism in Canada, mainly coming from sources that are the Canadian equivalent of the Voice of America. They are pretty much the same people who told us we must support a friend who goes to war, neglecting to distinguish the case of a friend who has gone stark raving mad and decided to burn down someone else's house.
I think you can only have anti-Americanism if you first have Americanism, which is certainly not the same thing as simple love of country. Americanism is a cult centered on a belief in national exceptionalism. In modern times, there has been no better representative of the cult than George Bush, its current Imperial Wizard. Everywhere he goes, he projects the self-satisfied image of an America happy to dump its untreated effluent into the world's supply of drinking water so long as Americans themselves feel they are doing the right thing.
If you want to understand why George Bush is responsible for any increase in the world's stock of anti-Americanism, here is a brief summary of his recent visit to Canada. If you can believe it, the visit was intended to heal the rift over Canada's not signing on for the needless killing of 100,000 Iraqi civilians. (For the latest revelation of American behavior in Iraq you might want to see: Navy Seal Iraq Torture Images )
Bush went to Canada's capital, Ottawa, where his advisors were so fearful he might face catcalls by a few Members that he did not address Parliament, having been formally invited to do so. Maybe it was just that the electronic communications gizmo he wore on his back during the Presidential debates was out of order, but I think it more likely he was displaying the behavior of all bullies who have no tolerance for anyone who questions their posturing.
Security was so tight during the visit that some Members of Parliament were refused entry into the building for lack of a special one-time security pass, an act which actually is against the laws of Canada. Americans never hear of the grotesque measures taken when Bush travels abroad. After Bush's stay at Buckingham Palace in London, the Queen was horrified by the damage done to the Palace grounds. They were left looking like the parking lot at a Walmart two-for-one sale.
In Ottawa, thousands of demonstrators outside were kept away from Bush's sight, a practice followed wherever the Imperial Wizard travels.
Instead of addressing Parliament, Bush's staff suddenly decided to bundle him off to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Did we hear that right, Halifax, Nova Scotia? Why in God's name would a President go there? Could it be because it's a quiet, quaint little city whose officials would be swept off their feet by such an unexpected event? Could it be that going there with almost no notice assures you a lack of organized opposition? And it just might be the kind of place you go when you have very little to say.
It took a while for Air Force One to take off for Halifax, Canada's weather not being totally amenable to the Imperial will, but I'm sure Bush spent his idling time productively, perhaps watching old episodes of Cops on the plane's splendid entertainment system. We can just be grateful that Imperial Vice Wizard Cheney didn't tag along for the trip or they never would have made it to Halifax. Cheney never goes anywhere in the U.S. without a fleet of ambulances and chase cars, lights flashing and sirens blaring, just in case his heart implant ever fails during vitriolic speeches. Precious stuff, being Imperial Vice Wizard.
Bush's stated purpose in going to Halifax was to thank Canadians who were so helpful to large numbers of American air travelers stranded by 9/11. Canadians were indeed helpful at that awful time, but Bush's visit and pat few words of thanks came 3 1/4 years after the help. Not to mention the fact that Bush went to the wrong place, Halifax being roughly 600 miles by air from St. John's, Newfoundland, where the bulk of Americans were actually stranded, receiving remarkably generous and kind assistance Bush never acknowledged until the day he wanted to avoid Parliament.
In the course of all this heady activity, Bush offered nothing for the legitimate grievances Canada has over high-handed American trade practices. On the issue of soft-wood lumber, American claims now have been rejected by every international tribunal governing trade. The WTO only recently declared America's actions in violation of the organization's rules. It's been years of pointless grief for Canada's industry and years of American home buyers paying a premium price for home-grown lumber. But, no, you wouldn't expect a gracious concession, America is going as far as it's possible to go in seeking an extraordinary tribunal for its imagined grievances, and who knows after that? I may be wrong, but I just don't think you build friendships that way.
Bush deliberately brought up a subject that members of Canada's government had every reason to believe would not be brought up on his visit. So much for courtesy and thanks. Bush brought up his addled anti-missile defense scheme and embarrassed the government by speaking publicly about it. Again, that is hardly the way to build friendships. But Canadians are used to this kind of behavior. Paul Cellucci, Bush's Ambassador in Ottawa, has set a world record for diplomatic rudeness and sticking his nose into Canada's internal affairs. If a diplomat from any country at a Consulate in Texas acted the way Cellucci does, he would simply be lynched. Canadians are too decent and polite for that, but I think they can be forgiven for being dismayed and disappointed.
Canada's head of state, as opposed to its head of government, is the Governor General. The current holder of the office is Adrienne Clarkson, a distinguished Asian Canadian. It was said that at the official banquet, Ms. Clarkson kept a noticeable distance from Bush. After all, the last time Bush's father had a meal with an Asian, the Prime Minister of Japan, he puked all over the front of his suit. (Thanks to columnist Jan Wong for this last observation)