Volume 92, Issue 67

Wednesday, January 27, 1999

unaffirmative action


Looking south - most likely not

Erecting problems

Looking south - most likely not

Re: Keep separation alive, Jan. 19

To the Editor:

A recent trip to the United States has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

At the center of gravity of the political landscape of the world sits Washington and, so global news is America's business – they have assumed the role of the planetary police. American citizens, with this collective authority, have a new role. They must be aware of the world around them.

On a business trip with my father in Florida last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Americans diverse in their origins. Self-proclaimed "Southerners" (actually pronouncing "eggs" as "aigs") made for pleasant conversation, as they seemed to contrast with the northern Americans ("Yankees") as clearly as Quebec does with the rest of Canada.

They carry with them a distinct culture, years of traditions and a speaking style heavy in accent that made the Yankees at this Florida business convention scratch their heads while trying to understand them. So, there I was, surrounded by the varied voices of Americans when I engaged in conversation with an elderly man from Chicago who happened to own a rather successful business.

We spoke briefly about business issues before boredom subdued talk. He brought up the Quebec sovereignty referendum of 1995 and asked my opinion. After hesitation, I told of the immense factors that were involved in creating the poor relationship that Quebec shares with the rest of Canada and how a decision on separation would entail inconceivable and surely irreparable damage to the country.

I explained how the feelings for Quebec are mixed across our nation and that fostering a nationwide sentiment on the issue is rather difficult. I spoke words similar to those found in Brendan Howe's article of Jan. 19 – respect calls for preservation of culture is vital in our nation. It's what makes our country what it is.

Smiling, the man put his hands behind his back, cleared his throat and demanded silence. He told me he knows Canada pretty well. In fact, he regularly makes trips to Stratford, Ontario to watch plays with his wife. He says that Canada is so similar to America its almost impeccable in it's lack of differences. He liked what he saw on his Ontario and British Columbia trips but cared very little for Quebec and the bundle of problems they own. His praise for Canada was, I notice, a half-ass appeasement to make me smile.

Then he hit me with it. He said that if Quebec ever separates, he thinks the American government will "take over" the other nine provinces. An amalgamation, he insists, is inevitable. Almost conveying the idea as praise to Canada, this man articulates the idea quite well, saying it's only necessary and it would be beneficial to both countries. I wanted to laugh from the outset, but I was harmed with the seriousness of his face. He might have been well into his 60s, an enterprising citizen of America and keen on an idea that is outrageous in the eyes of most Canadians.

Maybe it's a poor instance of ignorance unreflective of the American intellect, but it has been supported by my other experiences of Americans asking about Canadian presidents, not knowing our capital, considering Quebec to be another country, etc..

This experience in Florida (Southerners corrected me – it's "Flawh-da," silly Canadian!) took me aback. I hope for the world's sake, the citizens of the most influential nation in the world are more aware of the other countries that this world consists of, including the one north of their border.

Deepak Sethi
Science I

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