Monday, June 21, 2010

Canada rises: “Responsibility, Determination, Courage”

by Bernie Quigley

For the Hill on 6/21/10

America is torn between its self and its unself – Bumper stickers in Vermont say 49% of Americans don’t like America. Canadians do like themselves. And Americans who do not like America are starting to like Canada. The way that Americans who do not like America used to like Vermont instead. But if you are looking for a home for your American unself, Canada is probably not the place. It is not a negative of America, nor is it any longer the “introverted half of America” as Robertson Davies once said it was. It is a rising force in the world all of its own.

When war clouds rose over Iraq after 9/11 I entertained an editor friend at The New York Times with the claim that the real story was Canada. Canada was awakening. The Canadian Century was rising just ahead. Today, as the G 20 arrives in Toronto, Canada is the center of the world, East, South, West and the Great White North. It’s banking system and economy are the envy of the world. There are two people responsible for this: Dick Morris and the captain of the Canadian women’s hockey team in the 2002 Winter Olympics, Hayley Wickenheiser. Secondary players, Rick Mercer and Mary Walsh, of the antic Canadian comedy, “This Hour has 22 Minutes.”

When Bill Clinton, on the advice of Dick Morris, went after the deficit, Canada, as it tends to do, followed America’s lead with Prime Minister Paul Martin. Then, unlike America, they kept going with that, killing off a massive government deficit and leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses. Then the rise in popularity of the clever comedy series began to create some space between the U.S. and Canada.
And so did the war in Iraq. In 2002, Jonah Goldberg published an essay called "Bomb Canada: The Case for War” in the National Review, suggested that the United States "launch a quick raid into Canada" and blow something up -- "perhaps an empty hockey stadium." But Canadians understand that it wouldn’t be the first attempt.

Which is why things got hot in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mitt Romney was there running the show, and a great show it was. Dick Cheney was there in the bleachers, pouting, and there was much talk – very much talk – about a repeat of the “Miracle on Ice,” the Winter Olympics in 1980 when an amateur American team beat the U.S.S.R. The rising neocon movement in the U.S. saw this game as “the end of time.”

When the American women’s team stomped around on the Canadian flag in the locker room before the game, Captain Wickenheiser got pissed. That singular moment may have made Canada whole, and the Canadian women beat the Americans. And with all the gods present– Wayne Gretsky, Mario Lemieux, Pat Quinn and Don Cherry – the Canadian men’s team beat the Americans, winning their first gold in 50 years.

But the coolest part was after the women’s victory when head coach Daniele Sauvageau gathered the team around her for a final word on the virtues that would carry the women and their families through the difficult times in their lives. Huddled in a circle, she said three words to them: “Responsibility, Determination and Courage.”
Anyone who had seen Dougie Gilmore, the Sultan of Silent Suffering, crawling off the ice on his hands and knees with a broken leg on his last game for the Leafs at 40 years old would understand. It was a breathtaking moment, like a prayer.