November 2002 (v5 i3)
Hogging All the White Meat Since 1997
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America Is Not the Greatest Nation in the World
Canada is, and it owes its existence to us
by Todd Nienkerk, Managing Editor

Poverty. Inadequately funded schools. Virtually nonexistent health care. Questionable elections. Energy shortages. Racial tension. Pervasive violent crime. Though their very mention is cliché, these things disturb us because, as Americans, they are part of our culture.

Don't get me wrong: I really do like this country. I don't spend my afternoons moping around the West Mall complaining about how the American Machine is a soulless moral cesspool. It would be hypocritical of me to pontificate on our shortcomings as a nation, to blame it all on American self-interest and isn't it just awful that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? neglecting to mention that I was raised in cushy suburbia and can attend college and have digital cable with HBO and play videogames until I fall asleep on the couch, my stomach full of cheap pizza while leftovers spoil on the table, uneaten.

Why is America so powerful? Why does it dominate the globe militarily, economically, and culturally? There are myriad explanations: geography, circumstance, a post-Cold War era power vacuum, etc. But let's face it: America is on top because it is a ruthless, frightening son of a bitch. At each turn, the United States has conned, manipulated, terrorized, decimated, and impoverished all who stood in its path. It's why we have theme parks, SUVs, and all-you-can-eat buffets. America must exist as a dominating world power in order to support the comfortable lifestyle to which we have become so hopelessly and delightfully acclimated.

Even more important than maintaining consumerism, however, is the fact that the United States must dominate the world in order to support the greatest nation on Earth: Canada.

Long neglected and often forgotten, Canada rests gently on our back, not saying much of anything as it enjoys the free ride. Like all advanced civilizations, Canada has a collective abundance of free time-even more than we do here. (What else could possibly explain its preoccupation with ice hockey, the NASCAR of the North?) It doesn't waste its time fretting over military concerns, nuclear treaties, or the escalation of violence in the Middle East. Why? Because Canada knows that the US will always play the protector. Like a masterminding geek that has befriended the school bully, Canada can sit back and ponder the fine points of life-foreign language-based succession, for instance-safe in the knowledge that it can always rely on its bodyguard to keep it safe.

Canadians realize this, and they revel in it. They see us as we see the Japanese-possessing an industriousness that is both impressive and laughably absurd, like watching a movie in fast-forward. To them, we're a country full of hyperactive rats darting from one piece of cheese to another in some sort of twisted capitalist square dance.

Walking around a Canadian city is like stepping into an alternate-dimension America in which people exercise, use public transportation, and buy guns purely for sport. They only spend money they have, they use their taxes to-gasp!-pay for schools and medical care, and, as Michael Moore discovered in Bowling for Columbine, they don't lock their doors! Is there anything more frightening to an American than an unlocked door? Not even the notion of an unloaded automatic can scare an American more than a door that hasn't been thrice locked and deadbolted. We see locked doors as a way of keeping the 'bad guys' out; Canadians see them as shutting oneself in.

What Canada lacks, however, is excitement. Canada has the pizzazz and intensity of vanilla ice cream served in a paper cup. What makes American life so wonderful is its unpredictability. Road rage, middle schoolers plotting mass murder, saturated fats… As an American, I could die at any moment in any number of ways. As a Canadian, there's only one way to die: of old age, napping in front of a cozy fire, happy and fulfilled.

Where's the fun in that?
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