Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quebec Views America

I traveled to several locations in Quebec last week. Everyone wanted to talk about Trump, and those who didn't had the topic suggested to them by my co-travelers who, because his idea of a good time is to talk with a group of strangers for an entire evening, would ask "Waddya think of Trump?"

People in Quebec City were uniformly horrified.  Two young women assured us that he had written an executive order that very day banning all abortions in America,  and the others in the conversation were not surprised by this. A man stated that he had cut off all veterans' benefits that day as well, which was confirmed by a second man at the table. We had not heard any news ourselves, so were unsure exactly what had been done, but assured them that this was not possible.  We spent time explaining about Congress, the Supreme Court, and what the reach of previous executive orders had been, including Obama's. These were educated people we were speaking with.  (The less-educated folks we met later in the week, out in the rural areas, weren't critical.)

Then they went into the familiar litanies of complaints - Americans make violent movies and are always killing each other.  Plus, when there are Canadians in our movies we kill them first.  Tom Hanks was mentioned in this regard.  Somebody struck a nerve, I guess. Someone is watching these terrible movies and TV shows. Addiktv is very popular. We don't care about poor people.  That sort of thing. I repeatedly heard the claim that they know a lot about us but we don't know anything about them. That is a shallow truth.  They know who are presidents are and we seldom know who their PM is. Much of the rest of that truth is a product of comparative size.  I don't know much about South Dakota either. I know a fair bit about China.

Later in the trip a man assured us that California had voted to secede from the US.  He had heard it on the news that very morning.

I don't want to blame the news outlets directly.  It is likely that what they reported was much more modest and technically true.  Heck, they may even be trying to calm down an excitable populace, though I doubt it.

But I bring this up to illustrate what is behind the complaints that America is hated or a laughingstock - complaints we have been hearing for years that are recently intensifying.  This is Canada I am talking about.  They border us and know us far better than any other country. Yet haven't a clue. They seem to have a (trained?) popular response and built-in disapproval. I recall this was and likely still is true of the educated class in Great Britain, including even Lewis and Tolkien. I think I hear that song coming out of Western Europe especially, though that is largely impressionistic.  I heard the opposite in Romania.

I will mention in passing that Americans are very tolerant of other nations criticising us, some even encouraging it. I wouldn't dream of telling a person from another country what they should do, it's very boorish, even rude.  But it seems a common sport when it comes to America.


Grim said...

In fairness, Quebec is no blinder about the heartland than is D.C. or Hollywood.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I expected them to have that sort of DC/Hollywood misconception, so it wasn't the intensity that surprised me. In fact, the American anti-Trumpsters are more intense, likely because they believe they have more skin in the game. It was the gross inaccuracy of facts and lack of understanding of how our system works, not in details, but in spirit.

Quebec may be even more different. They take many of their cues from France culturally, at least in the city: food, custom, fashion, decoration, and a clear celebration of some radical figures in their history. It struck me as more similar to the generalised American fondness for things British, past and present, than to the hyphenated-American pride hearkening back to our various ethnicities.

Christopher B said...

FWIW I recently read remarks by a couple of Canadian commenters at Instapundt to the effect that they cut off other Canadians anti-Trump rants by quizing them about Canadian politics.

Grim said...

One of the things I noticed long before becoming a Catholic was that everyone in the world felt entitled to tell the Catholic Church what it ought to do. Even what it had to do, if it wanted to continue to pretend to any sort of moral authority at all. Generally these people knew quite a lot about their own preferences, and almost nothing about the underlying theology.

America's like that. The Catholic Church is the largest single religious organization in the world, so everybody's got an opinion. America is the biggest single power. You don't have to know more than that to know what you'd like it to do, or to be, or to become.