But first, a little about my mother.
My mother was a crazy lady, and we, my two sisters and I, were the cats a crazy lady adores—when she’s not stuffing them in the wringer washing machine, shutting the lid and turning the dial to “Extra Hot”.
My mother had a way of structuring her time, and that way was drama. Armed with her ready-to-deploy signature facial expression of carefully-calculated aggrieved martyrdom, that gal knew how to fill an empty day: conjure a crisis from thin air, work herself into a frenzy over a thing-she-made-up-in-her-head, then act on that thing.
A simple phone call to her adult child—this was in the days of answering machines, and not even the ones that you could remotely call; to pick up your messages you had to get home, then play the tape, preferably with an HB pencil at the ready in case the actual tape got smooshed in the mechanism—such a call proceeded inexorably; entirely, grimly predictable, like Greek tragedy, but without the catharsis to make the misery worthwhile:
[Scene: Mother calls David, but he does not answer.]
First message (brimming with childlike hope): “Hi dear, it’s Mom, call me back.”
Second message (a brisk, secretarial tone, masking panic): “David, it’s Mom. Please call me back.”
Fifth message (debt collection agency determined to wear down its target): “It’s your mother. Please stop ignoring me. Answer the phone. I don’t think I deserve this!”
Tenth message: (At 100 dB, and well into Maggie-Thatcher-in-extremis-rails-against-the-striking-miners-with-optional-aneurysm mode. Industrial ear protection recommended): “WELL I THINK IT’S JUST TERRIBLE THE WAY YOU TREAT ME AFTER ALL I HAVE DONE FOR YOU AND IF THAT’S THE WAY IT’S GOING TO BE I WILL TELL YOU RIGHT NOW THAT —”
But you see—I wasn’t ignoring her. I wasn’t even home. I was at work, unaware of her calls (that’s right, because no cell phones; any millennials following along may need to take their medication at this point). “Ignoring her” was that day’s particular drama, the thing-she-made-up-in-her-head; the way she kept that narcissistic spotlight relentlessly and mercilessly on HER:
Mom: Hi, it’s mom. You sound like you have a cold.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been a bit under the weather this week—
Mom: WELL, I’VE BEEN SICK, TOO!!
Which is probably why I spent half my life slurping sloe gin out of a dog dish.
Why am I bringing up this admittedly fascinating chunk of get-to-know-me? Because the penny dropped for me last week, about, you know.
It dropped when I was perusing the comments in a Facebook group called “Trump Haters”, where every other post went something like this:
“We must take to the streets! Expose that liar, that womanizer, that traitor Trump, Putin’s puppet! This is revolution, it’s civil war, we must indict the bastard, impeach him, we must throw off the chains of tyranny!!
O my fucking god! Guys, guys, guys! You voted him in! Just—vote him out. Kind of thing?
Americans are such drama queens. I mean, I love you, truly I do; you’re the most decent, friendly, innocent and optimistic, arms-wide-open, set-a-while-and-have-some-pie down-home people.
You’re just a great, big, sloppy, drooling, pee-the-carpet-you’re-so-excited Golden Labrador, collectively speaking. But shove a demagogue down your pants and, whoah! Pit Bull, no muzzle!
American voters are like battered spouses, hoodwinked by the good times into believing it was just an anomaly, never remembering the nights of whisky breath and black eyes and promises he’ll change. Back to the polls believing the rhetoric, voting against your best interests, then awakening with a broken arm, a few missing teeth, a tax grab in favour of the forty-seven old white guys, the one percent that’s so bloated with wealth, the whole country would sink under its weight if they hadn’t already stuffed every greenback into a Swiss Alp.
But at least it passes the time.
Speaking of the War on Christmas:
There is something about Paul Ryan’s smarmy, self-satisfied smirk that just makes me want to grab his Jughead ears and shove a boot into his face. Do you get that, too?
Mitch McConnell and Ryan both look like they’ve just popped a woody for their Corporate Cash Grab, the real War on Christmas; squirming like guilty little boys who know there’s something unmentionable, yet oh-so-special, in their sweaty underpants that mommy and sis will never truly understand.
The Great Mouth-Breather looks on.
Why, America, why? Why do you do this to yourselves? Call Canadians boring if you will, we don’t actually care. We recognize that there is a place for heart-stopping drama, and that’s the CBC. Government is supposed to be boring.
Is it as simple as that? Some misprint in a civics textbook that hasn’t been updated since 1964, because you’ve defunded schools? Is it a Milton Friedman thing, that alter cocker? You can tell me, baby, there, there. Daddy’s here.
You may be wondering. To an outsider, there’s not much to distinguish Canadians from Americans.
As a Canadian I am at pains to let you doubters know that we are, in subtle ways, and not all of them to do with stretch Lycra, quite different. For example:
- wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chairman Mao suit, however time-saving and practical, and value individuality rather than conformity—though this frequently involves shooting you in order to steal your sneakers that light up when you walk so they can look like everyone else;
- would rather not pay for that neighbour’s triple-bypass, thank you very much! except when it’s your dad, in which case there’s always “GoFundMyTripleBypass dot com”; and
- are rarely seen inviting members of their childcare collective to a hearty “pemmican brunch to be followed by a session exploring toxic whiteness. Raffle for odd sock from Justin’s last jog!” kind of event.
Canadians, on the other hand:-
- generally do not carry firearms to an Anglican christening, unless this takes place somewhere north of Moose Factory, in a clearing;
- value consensus (our word for “there’s a person-called-Trudeau on the ballot, and I like his hair—DONE!”) over drama (“let’s vote in a moron, then organize a March on Washington to vent our outrage when he does moronic things”); and
- realize that universally-health-cared citizens make better workers, which we call “capitalism”, and we’ll even pay for your carburetor replacement, eh?, which we call “insurance”.
Canadians can be smug, no doubt about it. But secretly, we fret about our place on the world stage. Our continual role as peacekeepers and rabid do-gooders makes us, we fear, the Cinderellas of global conflict.
We lack, it must be said, the gumption to bomb the fuck out of the Middle East for decades, and, adding insult to loser-dom, we lack the iconic tall buildings which would invite iconic terrorist attacks once the Middle East gets “peeved”.
Americans have so much gumption, so much derring-do, they’d probably bomb the fuck out of the Middle East, then go there and create the terrorist organization for them!
Hey, just goofin’ around!
Canadians are confused, too, at least this one is. Because I don’t get why multiculturalism— that old Canadian canard whereby lots of different people from all different cultures are free to do their own thing—is “communist”, anathema; or why “e pluribus unum” —“out of the many, one”—is thought to express “individualism”.
Because it seems to me the kind of slogan, the paean to total conformity, that would eventually net you, oh, just off the top of my head, a President who gets an endorsement from the KKK.
As if that could ever happen.