11/02/2014 05:42 EST | Updated 01/02/2015 05:59 EST

What Americans Get Wrong About Canada

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You're wrong about Canada. NBC, Global TV, CNN, ABC, on the news and on the screens. We've been through a lot since October 22, collectively, as a country. But how can you stand and say that we've lost our innocence, how can you print it like a litany, false sympathy for our tears? I've been from one coast to the other, and I can tell you that we don't live inside a bubble. There is no big white snow-dome to shield us from enemies foreign or domestic. This is not our first tragedy, not our first brush with mayhem and death. We have seen massacres, rebellions, deportations, kidnappings, executions. Bad things have been done to us, and (sad to say) we have done some bad things ourselves.

We are not innocent, but more importantly, we are not lost.

There is an implication, snide and largely unsaid, that Canada needs to grow up. That we have been too trusting, too naive. Friendly hosers on the world stage, hands in our pockets, beers in the fridge behind our unlocked doors. Empty guns just for show, or no guns at all.

This is false, an image of us that exists only in caricature, maybe as a way to explain us to Americans.

Our country was young once -- everyone is young once -- but we grew up a long time ago. Like a hundred years ago, as the first guns of the great war began to sound. And even then, even at the moment we tore free from Britain's clumsy embrace, we were nothing like innocent.

Canada is a huge country, encompassing hundreds of different cultures, most of them at odds with each other. We contain the descendants of Japanese-Canadians who were tossed in internment camps, the descendants of Chinese labourers who built our railways for a dollar a day.

We contain over 600 First Nations governments in an uneasy peace. We are a country of 35 million people, and some of us must be armed because we also have ten million guns. We contain immigrants and refugees, native sons and draft dodgers, gay people and laypeople, rednecks and born-again atheists. We contain people who fled religious persecution, and people who spread religious affiliation. We are all of this and more; we are Canadian. And like our bilingual ingredient labels say, we may contain the occasional nut.

This mixture of cultures does not betray us, these differences do not weaken us. This diversity, this hopeful, stumbling idealism is part of what makes us Canadian. We're an imperfect people in a kind of crazy world, but at least we have this place, this country shaped of frost and beauty, of awkward tolerance and the striving to help one another. This is only Canada, a land of lingering forests and wide open spaces. Where we celebrate what separates us, as much as what brings us together.

This is not innocence, and we will not change. We may be quiet, we may polite, but our dreams run deep as bedrock.

This is Canada. We contain multitudes.


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