Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So. . . I'm Not Crazy

Every once in a while we receive a wonderful gift--someone graciously confirms that you are not paranoid, not a whiner, and not losing your mind. For example, recently in hockey, I had been feeling victimized by someone else in my group who never passed the puck to me and, in fact, would even steal the puck from me when she was on my own team. I fussed and fumed about this, sometimes out loud, sometimes to myself, and after a while, I just stopped complaining because I didn’t want to look like a whiner. Then I started to wonder if I was just imagining these on-ice injustices. But, in a conversation with another player recently, I learned that the particular gal who seemed to me to be a puck hog was quite often not invited to various pick-up sessions and not invited to play on tournament teams for that very reason. At first I wondered if the joy I felt at gleaning this information was only due to some selfish Schadenfreude. But, no, the happiness was really a sense of relief that I had NOT been imagining this “mistreatment.”

Since I’ve moved to Canada, my biggest gripe has been the silently condoned anti-Americanism that comes through so often in conversations and in the Canadian media. My Canadian friends have assured me that I am too personally affected by such comments and stereotypes, and have stopped short at saying that I am exaggerating at the very least, or even imagining this hurtful phenomena. I tell them that so many of their generalizations of Americans are not true, and when I can sense a slight bit of animosity showing through in comments about Americans, my insistences that Americans don’t feel any such loathing towards Canadians are met with immediate refutations, assurances that, no, no, Canadians don’t dislike Americans—I, again, am taking it all too personally.

But, fortunately for my sanity, I recently had one of those moments where my supposed paranoia was proven to be, at least a little bit, based in reality. In late January, a Yahoo! news story titled “Is Anti-Canadianism the new ‘Anti-Americanism’?” The article was about a separate article in Slate magazine concerned with Americans, who previously held no ill will towards Canadians, suddenly voicing negative opinions towards the Canadian nation mainly due to disagreements between the two countries about the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. I didn’t find either of these articles, in themselves, to be too earth-shattering, but what did snag my attention were the online comments at the end of the Yahoo! article.

“William’s” comment stated, “As a Canadian I am sorry that our friends in the U.S. have included us in their countries to hate.” This prompted 23 replies by the time I viewed the comments. Some of the replies:

“Kristina:” I am a Canaidan living in the US. I have never seen American hating on Canadians whereas I see Canadians hating on Americans constantly. My husband endured a horrible childhood because he was an American in Canada.

“James T.” Kristina, you’re right, I’m a Canadian living here in the States for two years on a job, and do not see the same level of hate for Canadians that buffoons (like on this chat thread) have for Americans.

“ambereyes:” Thank you James and Kristina. I am from the States and I moved to Canada when I was 29. We learned in school that Canada was our “friendly neighbor to the North.” But I don’t see that. I hear slanderous comments about Americans almost every day. The interesting thing is that when people fire off racist comments about any other race, someone will step up and say that is not appropriate, but when the rant is against Americans, it seems completely acceptable and rational and nobody steps in (at least I have not seen it in 11 years). . . .but it still hurts.

“Don’t Hurt ‘em:” I agree Kristina :) Discrimination against Americans is the last form of socially acceptable bigotry in Canada. . . .We Americans still love you. We don’t really care that much. I was just curious why a country like Canada, which considers itself so friendly, diverse, and welcoming has such rampant anti-Americanism. Anyway . . .Google: “Before You Flee to Canada, Can We Talk?”

So, now I had my verification that I was not being overly-sensitive or imagining things. Then, I Googled the article suggested by “Don’t Hurt ‘em.” Wow, if I felt somewhat vindicated by the comments on the Yahoo! news story, the “Before You Flee. . .” article from the Washington Post, though written in 2004, really helped me to realize that I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable in my own American skin while living in Canada.

As the author, Nora Jacobson, of the “Before You Flee” article so articulately stated, “An American who attempts to correct a misconception or express even the mildest approval for the policies of U.S. institutions is likely to be dismissed as thin-skinned or offensive, and as demonstrating those scary nationalistic tendencies that threaten the world.”However, unlike Jacobson, who says she would not apply for Canadian citizenship because of the anti-Americanism she experienced, I have applied for citizenship.

I can only hope that by just being myself and by being honest, upfront, and conciliatory with those around me, I can help to disprove some of the unfair assumptions about Americans that lead to prejudice.

But one thing is for sure—I will no longer entertain the notion that I am paranoid or imagining things when I’m told the anti-Americanism in Canada is not as pervasive as it seems. It is very real. And, as “ambereyes” stated, it still hurts.

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