With the American presidential election around the corner, a word addressed to our neighbours (sorry: neighbors) to the south.
The narratives constantly spewed by the 24-hour news cycle can be distracting, even disorienting. It’s not your fault if you find yourself more interested in the issues being splashed on your TV than the ones you actually have the power to change.
Your nation is approaching an important moment in its history. Please, if only for a moment, stop obsessing over Canada’s politics and take an interest in your own country before your presidential election.
I know the system is rigged against you. The flashy showmanship of the Canadian political scene has long been an American obsession, and the phenomenon has reached new heights thanks to the borderless nature of digital and social media.
Add to that the 2015 election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the dashing-yogi-playboy, scion of history’s greatest leader, and it’s no wonder that America’s political sphere is so often characterized as being too slow, too dull, too lethargic to attract many eyeballs – but don’t let that stop you from participating in your own democratic process!
We all know the cliché: the average American thinks his country has a prime minister instead of a president. But recent – totally real– poll results prove just how much truth lies at the heart of that exaggeration: while 92 per cent of Americans could identify Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott – only 11 per cent had even heard of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump (a N.Y. based real estate heir).
First of all, don’t blame yourselves. America’s preoccupation with our government is only natural when you consider the near-constant stream of political bombshells, each more titillating than the last, that Canada’s political system has had on offer for generations. What man, woman, or child doesn’t remember where they were the moment Kim Campbell broke the glass ceiling in 1993? Who can forget the day when Justin Trudeau might have accidentally jostled MP Ruth-Ellen Brosseau? The world breathed as one as we watched the Canadian Senate expenses scandal of 2012 unfold. These shared experiences have strengthened the bond between our nations, bringing us closer together as a subcontinent.
But 2016 represents dangerous new territory for this so-called “Northern Exposure Syndrome.” With our stranglehold on your culture gripping citizens and media on both sides of the world’s longest border, many of you seem to be ignoring your own nation’s election campaigns in favour (sorry: favor) of the faceless, substantive issues facing Canadians today: the CMHC’s warning of a potential mortgage crisis; the addition of nine new non-affiliated members to the Senate; a nation’s soul-searching attempt to reconcile its shameful treatment of its indigenous First Nations. Editors everywhere know that these are the sexy, dynamic stories that sell.
There’s no sense comparing the relative importance of one country to another. America matters just as much as Canada, no matter what the media tell us, and American culture can be just as exciting as Canada’s! Your political figures are perfectly fine! American fans of political dynasties like the renowned Ignatieff, Jackman, and Taschereau families could definitely find something of interest in less familiar American names like Roosevelt, Adams, Clinton, and Bush.
And speaking of the Bush family: American fans of etalk host and prime ministerial offspring Ben Mulroney might be shocked to learn of William “Billy” Bush, American political dynast (related to two presidents!) and former host of Access Hollywood – an American version of etalk.
American culture has interesting and important issues worthy of your attention, even if they aren’t easy to find. Your democracy can’t thrive if its own citizens are too busy looking across the border to see their own backyards. So the next time you’re online, consider looking up Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald Trump before you go back to retweeting Liberal parliamentarian Joël Lightbound. You’ll be glad you did