Monday, November 03, 2003
Canada And Cynicism

One of the things I've noticed while living up here is that Canadians are incredibly cynical. If a politician says something, then it must either a) not be true or b) have some hidden, self-gratifying agenda behind it. Like I wrote earlier, outgrowing naivete is a good thing, but you can also go too far the other way, as well.

Take, for example, the myriad of Canadian friends who chuckle at me when I suggest that George W. Bush truly is a Christian (like he says he is). Never mind that even his political opposition acknowledges the truth of this claim; if a politician says it, it's not true.

Heck, I can't resist - look what life-long Democrat Zell Miller (former Governor of Georgia, and current senator) has to say about W.:

I first got to know George Bush when we served as governors together, and I just plain like the man, a man who feeds his dogs first thing every morning, has Larry Gatlin sing in the White House, and knows what is meant by the term "hitting behind the runner."

I am moved by the reverence and tenderness he shows the first lady and the unabashed love he has for his parents and his daughters.

I admire this man of faith who has lived that line in that old hymn, "Amazing Grace," "Was blind, but now I see." I like the fact that he's the same on Saturday night as he is on Sunday morning. And I like a man who shows respect for others by starting meetings on time.

Now, I guarantee you - Canadians will look at this, realize that the speaker is a politician, and immediately begin to discount it ("A politician said it? Well, then, it can't be true, huh?").

The problem with this cynical attitude, other than being extremely annoying to those of us who are less so, is that it tends to lead to an adoption of Conspiracy Theory mindsets. Just look at the experience my mother recounted to me about a recent trip to Mennonite country. She and a friend had gone to shop, meet the people, and get a taste of the atmosphere and aesthetic that they enjoy so much; and they came across a Mennonite woman who insisted that she had previously liked George W., until, that is, he sent that bovine with Mad Cow Disease to Canada as a payback for not joining in the war on Iraq.

Did you get that? George W. is so concerned with Canada's backing that he tries to undercut the Alberta beef industry by sending a cow that carries the disease that destroyed a good deal of Europe's cattle industry into Canada. That way, he would be justified in cutting off economic ties to the Great White North.

Right. Yeah. Never mind that the reason the US had such a prolonged ban on Canadian beef was that Japan was pressuring them to do so:
Japan has threatened to ban beef imports from the U.S. if it reopens the border to Canadian beef, something that could happen as early as late August.

This was acknowledged by Canadian officials when they attempted to lobby Japan to relax its pressure on the US. (Scroll down the page to "The Current: Part 3" to get the story, or just stream it from here -- link via CBC Radio).

Oh, and there's this:
If the cow is confirmed to have been born in Canada - as it appears almost certain - it would become the first homegrown case of mad cow disease in North America. [emphasis added]

But can you see the futility of all this? In this particular case, my mother's never going to see this woman again (as far as she knows) and the woman is a Mennonite, so she won't ever read this Internet post refuting her claims. Besides, even if she did, I've dealt with enough cynical CTs to realize that mere facts and information won't convince them to change their minds. America has no beef with Canada (I know, I know, but I couldn't resist!), but so long as the cynics can believe that GWB is a liar with their destruction in mind, they are (perversely) happy.

I've seen too much of it up here, and I'm beginning to believe it's a sort of "Mad Human" disease. Hope I don't catch it. Fortunately, it's easily combated - and you don't even have to become a vegetarian. All you have to do is take everything you hear with a grain of salt, and fact-check everything on which you base your opinions. It would be nice if there were some kind of vaccine, but that's probably too much to ask.
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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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