One View from the Top of the Continent

Back in the days of Gulf War I, I chose not to own a TV set. Well, I had a tiny black-and-white set which I kept in a closet and never used. (At that time, I hadn’t watched any serious TV since graduating from high school in ’83.) So, when the U.S. launched its Desert Storm operation against Iraq in January 1991, I stayed tuned to CBC Radio. There was a lot of talk about what was described as CNN’s sensational coverage of the war breaking out, but I hadn’t seen those images except for a few snippets in the days and weeks that followed if I happened to be visiting a friend who had a TV set.

Eventually I broke down and got a colour TV (because I wanted to rent movies) but, to this day, I make due with “peasant TV.” I could probably afford some form of cable or digital TV, but I’ve avoided getting it because I’m afraid of how much time I’d end up channel surfing instead of working, which could be a real problem for someone who works at home and knows himself to be a procrastinator if he doesn’t make an effort to put it in check. Therefore, I have a choice of only 4 stations, all Canadian and 1 in French.

Although Canadian TV stations carry a lot of American programming — especially Global and CTV, respectively — newscasts are distinctively Canadian in style and content. There again, based on the bits I’ve seen at friends who have cable, Global seems to be more “Americanized” in style, tone and presentation. Even the fact the late Izzy Asper (who built CanWest Global as we know it) believed the other Canadian media outlets are more sympathetic to the Palestinians than the Israelis leads to Global News “sounding” more American than Canadian. As a result, we’ve been treated to original Global programming — a “documentary” a while back on the Israeli/Palestinian tensions at Montreal’s Concordia University comes immediately to mind — that presents all Palestinians as terrorists and “freedom haters.”

But I digress.

The point I was mulling over when I thought of writing this blog entry is that most of the news I get from the United States does not come from TV. Of course, all Canadian media outlets do talk about the latest major developments in the U.S. but, obviously, the operative word here is “major”. Like everywhere else, the capture of Saddam Hussein last Sunday got a lot of air time — more than most Canadians would have liked given that nothing “new” happened once the capture was done and over with. Whacko Jacko got covered, too — usually one “story” per night, and not every night at that. For you see, there’s plenty happening in this little country of 31+ million people to fill the airwaves, not least of which the fact we have a new prime minister who seems intent on making big changes, or the fact that the Progressive Conservative and Alliance parties have agreed to merge in a bid to “unite the right,” or that nearby Prince Edward Island is the first Canadian province to seriously consider an electoral system of proportional representation, an idea regulars of aMMusing know I passionately want enacted throughout Canada.

So a lot of the news I get from the U.S., I get from a selection of websites and personal blogs, and that certainly skews my perspective. For months now, Len of has been following and promoting Howard Dean’s bid to become the Democratic nominee for the 2004 presidential elections. As an outsider looking in, I have come to conclude that if anyone can unseat Shrub and his cronies, Dean’s the man. When Al Gore decided to endorse Dean, I wondered to myself if that would be a good or a bad thing (i.e., getting the support of a man who gave in even though he had won the popular vote). But while I’ve known about Howard Dean for a good while, it’s only in the last week or two that Canadian news outlets are beginning to mention his name — and not very much at that. And certainly few are my friends here who even know who he is.

Basically, the impression I get from Canada of the American political arena can best be described as follows: that if one were to transpose an American centrist politician onto the Canadian context, that centrist would figure on the “moderate right” segment of our political spectrum. In other words, the equivalent of the Canadian left doesn’t even show up on the American spectrum; our centre is the American left; our right is the American centre to right of centre; the American moderate right and the “neocons” hardly register on our political spectrum. Canadians’ religiosity and moral stances must be mapped on a different scale. Thankfully, I say.

Yet it is because Howard Dean is an American-style centrist that I believe he stands a chance of becoming America’s 44th president. Even a right-leaning Canadian centrist like Paul Martin wouldn’t stand a chance, just as Dean might not stand a chance in Canada given his stance on guns, among other things. (Or, at least, he’d be a tougher sell, although with Canadians having voted in the likes of Moose Jaw Brian Mulroney in the ’80s, maybe not.) I think most Canadians — and I count myself among those — want the U.S. and Canada to get along while respecting each other’s differences. I think the minority of Canadians who have said they wished Canada had join the U.S. war on Iraq are speaking to that desire. However, the majority, myself included, wished not to go along with this war because we couldn’t even comprehend the arguments coming from a right wing that doesn’t exist here. But I think we would recognize the language coming from a President Dean, since it wouldn’t be completely alien to us. And I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be completely alien to the people living in other western democracies as well.

Now, whether there will ever be a President Dean, I don’t know. And I mean that literally: I can just as easily imagine there being one as I can imagine four more years of Shrub. Perched as I am on the top of the continent, I am astounded by the success of the terrorist bullying tactics, constant revisions of facts and double-speak coming from top U.S. administration officials. I wonder — worry about — that just as many Canadians have come to wonder what’s the use of voting in a “first-through-the-gate” electoral system that favours the formation of large majority governments and nullifies an opposing vote, if there aren’t as many Americans who have become as defeatist even though they hate what their country has become. And I also wonder how it’s possible for so many people who aren’t stupid by any means to have lost their ability to see through such glaring instances of lying and deception.

So with the deck thus stacked, is there any real hope for Dean? All I know is if the Democrats give the nod to one of Dean’s closest rivals, Shrub II will be voted back in because there wouldn’t be enough difference between him and the Dems’ candidate, so might as well go with the devil you know. At least that’s how it looks like to me, from the top of the continent.

What Could It Mean?

Man, did I ever have a strange dream the other night! It’s not that it was “spooky” strange or “unsettling” strange. Just strange, as in “What was that about?” or “What could it mean?”

It was simple, actually. Stephanie and I were pouring over maps of the eastern seaboard because, that evening, we were starting a roadtrip. Our plan was to make it as far north as St. John’s, Newfoundland, and, on the map, there were all these little spoke-like detours. At the end of each of those detours, we were supposed to do something to shock the locals, but WHAT exactly I’m not sure. Ultimately, we would then come back down the coast and our final destination was to be Mobile, Alabama. I mean …why go to Mobile from Jacksonville via St. John’s?!

Our trip was supposed to start at 7:00 that evening. I had arrived in Jax a few hours earlier, completely exhauted, so I napped on what I believe was Annette‘s mother’s sofa. I woke up from my dream as I was standing outside Annette’s mother’s house, minutes before 7:00, waiting for Stephanie and Annette to pick me up.

Not only does the whole trip seem to have no point, but can you just IMAGINE Annette travelling to Canada in the wintertime?! I mean, I’m not sure she could ever be persuaded to visit in July, let alone December!

It still makes me wonder how the mind works, though, when it goes into dream mode. As usual, I’ve been visiting their blogs and checking the Hosting Matters discussion forum daily, but really it’s been a quiet few weeks on those fronts. The only connection I can make is that there might be vestiges of regret for not having done my roadtrip to Montreal with Indiana Jones, but even that seems to be quite a stretch.

Whatever, eh?