You may have seen the series of ads on TV recently that feature a soothing folk music and clips of diverse gatherings, beautiful landscapes and a sense of opportunity and hope. These ads are part of the American bid to adopt what was once the Canadian dream – a dream that has been under dismantling since Harper took office in 2006.
After 11 years of war mongering and fear, US President Barack Obama attempts to rebrand the United States as Liberal, Compassionate and Diverse – all the things Canada used to pride.
However, in the peak of George Bush’s US Presidency, Canada took a hard turn right in 2006, bringing in a Conservative government whose sole aim was to rebuild the Canadian identity as a militaristic, overbearing and arrogant nation – much like what the United States used to be.
Every interaction on the international scene has been a failure for Harper as foreign leaders question his motives and tell him to get out of their affairs. On the portfolio of the Environment, not only is Canada the outcast, it is the hated.
Canada is now more militarily involved and ruthless towards immigrants. A woman was separated from her ailing son and the Canadian government has relentlessly attacked her presence. Canada now has a black mark for human rights. Not only was the charter ignored, a UN inspector found aboriginal communities living in third world conditions.
Canada’s deteriorating reputation started with Harper and follows the lead of former US President George W Bush and his Republican ran government. In 2011, Harper labeled an internationally known scholar, Michael Ignatieff as a glorified opportunist with ambitions to instill American principles. Last I checked, the man ran on the same principles the Obama administration is using as their new vision for America – one that was distinctly Canadian. Not only did Harper brand Ignatieff as an American, he used this attack to hide the fact that the Americanization of Canada was strictly led by Harper himself.
In the ad, we can see what we used to be. From the shores out east to the big cities in Ontario and Quebec to the farmlands out west. We can see a united people, happy and diverse – a hallmark that Canada once mastered. Now, all we see is a nation – the second largest in land mass in the world – “mired by thick black tar” (UK’s The Guardian during the Copenhagen summit) and imposing economic views on European nations who gladly gave Harper the directions back home.
However, below the fancy ad is a grim reality in the United States that will take a good while to repair. A shattered reputation and a treasury emptied by reckless spending on the war on terrorism – one that would have plunged Canada into the heart of Iraq had Harper been Prime Minister instead of Jean Chretien. However, what the ad shows is a firm mandate for American renewal and a call for a new American dream. What we see is Obama’s bid to integrate the features in which Canada had pride into an ailing nation scared internationally for its military might and its wasteful conduct. It is a symbol of Obama’s fundamental shift in American policy towards a more Liberal society, the first that can be seen in quite a long time.
If there is anything more striking than Obama’s transformation of the US identity, it is the complete reversal of roles on the world stage with Canada. Canada’s share of tourism is on decline – guess where they’re going. If there is one thing that is clear from the ad, it is that the United States has adopted Canada’s vision of a model society while Canadians have effectively thrown it away.