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September 10, 2008

Out Where the Midwest Begins

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

We're on a swing from Boston to Québec, Montréal, Toronto, Buffalo and Rochester.

The prospect of seeing Toronto, Buffalo and Rochester again dredges up a thought I used mull over back when I lived in the East: Where does the Midwest begin? Or to put it another way: Where does the East leave off?

State boundaries being what they are, New York State is considered eastern. But to me, Buffalo and Rochester always struck me as Midwestern. On the other hand, Pittsburgh -- almost due south and a tad west of Buffalo -- strikes me as more Eastern.

Toronto seems Midwestern to me, as does Ottawa. And in the Canadian context, they aren't Eastern. That has to do with the pre-Confederation areas of Upper Canada and Lower Canada -- roughly equivalent to Ontario and Québec, respectively. From the perspective of the core of eastern, original Canada, Upper Canada was "out west."

What Ottawa and Toronto share with Buffalo and Rochester -- but not Pittsburgh -- is comparatively flat terrain. That is, the terrain can have hills, but mountains of even the smallest sort are absent. Many parts of the north-of-the-Mason-Dixon line East are hilly and cramped, making the region topographically different from the vast flat areas along the Great Lakes.

There is another difference: the Midwest was settled later. A lot later. Boston, New York City, Albany, Philadelphia, Québec and Montréal were settled during the 1600s and were well-established cities by the late 18th century. For practical purposes, Midwestern cities (including Buffalo and Rochester) didn't get going until the 1800s. That, and the flatness and room to easily expand, seem to make a difference that I can sense.

But maybe I'm wrong. After all, I spent the best part of ten years in the New York City, Albany, Philadelphia and Baltimore areas. That might have distorted my perception. I'm curous: Would someone from, say, Chicago, Indianapolis or Columbus consider Buffalo and Rochester Midwestern or Eastern? And what about Pittsburgh?



posted by Donald at September 10, 2008


That's a fascinating insight as read by this Ottawan. The city does indeed have aspects of Midwesterness about it, though it feels Eastern in its people: cold, unfriendly, elitist, all filtered through its qualities as a government town: sluggish without being serene, tense without being energetic, possessed of sufficient money to have far far more of a sense of style than it does, but too cautious to spend that money on anything so frivolous.

Great place to raise kids, though.

Curious, Donald. I notice you write Montreal and Quebec in French, that is with the acute accent. Do you also pronounce them that way: Mo'-ray-ahl, Kay'-bek?

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 9:39 AM

Welcome back to Canada, Donald!

You're right about Ottawa and Toronto not being eastern cities, as what is truly eastern Canada comprises the Atlantic provinces, east of Quebec - New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador; and since Ottawa and Toronto are in Ontario, they can't be eastern.

BUT from the perspective of Canada's western provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), EVERYTHING east of Manitoba, including Ontario and Quebec, is considered "Eastern Canada"; you'll find them referring thus, in speech and written material. You don't find people in Atlantic Canada lumping Ontario and Quebec in with the west as "Western Canada", though. That's because Ontario is close enough culturally and politically to the Maritimes, that they wouldn't dare lump them together with westerners. And by the same token, westerners will feel vindicated in lumping all of us who live east of them, together.

Now, properly speaking, Canada has no "Midwest", since the political and cultural divide between Manitoba and Ontario is quite sharp - maybe not in northern Ontario, close to Manitoba, but for the rest of the province, it is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think of the American midwest as being generally referring to the states that border the Great Lakes, other than New York; basically the old "Northwest Territory" in yesteryear. These states are sizeable enough in population, with mixed industrial and farm economies, and several big cities. But the northern Ontario side of Lake Superior and Lake Huron, is sparsely populated, and doesn't have much in the line of farms, nor a lot of industry other than forestry and resource-related. As such, you don't have the economic clout within Canada, of that region, comparable to the American midwest's (northern Ontario is basically a colony of southern Ontario, economically and culturally speaking - except close to Manitoba, where the ties are more east-west than north-south); and you don't have the sort of culture that corresponds to the culture of America's midwest, per se, in northern Ontario.

Some may argue that Manitoba could be seen as a "midwestern" province, since it is more politically moderate than the rest of the western provinces, yet they consider themselves simply as westerners, so that won't work.

So, IMO, the only "Midwestern" context that places in Canada can be compared against is the American one, because there is no real corresponding Canadian "Midwest".


Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 9:57 AM

I should also add that Ontario and Quebec together comprise what is termed 'central Canada', despite being geographically eastern.

Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 10:09 AM

From my perspective, Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh are firmly eastern. Even Cleveland shades towards eastern.

To me, it is more about the attitude of the people living there.

Posted by: Hoosier on September 10, 2008 10:11 AM

The Midwest begins in Pittsfield Massachusetts!

When the Yankees got to the Eastern slope of the Appalachian chain, that is the Midwest. Or to be less flippant, it is starts west of Lake Champlain. Certainly you are in the Midwest by the time you reach Erie, PA. Ethnoculturally, the Midwest is the upper tier settled by Yankees and Scandinavians, It is the culture that makes the Midwest. Rural upstate NY, Northwestern PA, northern halves of OH, IN and IL, all of WI, MI, IA and MN, Northern MO, Northeastern Kansas and the parts of NE, and the Dakotas east of the 100th Meridien. Midwestern cities are a culture unto themselves, distinct from the rural and small town Midwest. This complex of cities is a melange of ethnicities, the heartland of American trade unionism, with lots of Catholics, Blacks and other exotica. Sometimes you see the cities of the Great Lakes referred to as a unit, i.e. the Rust Belt, surrounded mostly by a Midwestern hinterland. On that analysis, the cities of Upstate New York are part of this urban "Midwest".

Joel Garreau's old but still good book The Nine Nations of North America addresses this.

Posted by: Lexington Green on September 10, 2008 11:22 AM

I have *got* to read that Garreau book. And fun to learn about the nuances of regions in Canada too. A question for our Canadian tutors here? If Canada were to split up along its already-present fault lines, how many new countries would there be? And which ones would they be? Quebec gets all the attention, but there seem to be a lot of other boundaries too.

Like I say, secession is on my mind these days ...

I grew up nearish Rochester, and I think the whole "is this the Northeast or Midwest?" question is very a propos. If I had to choose I'd say "Midwest" -- in terms of look, feel, and psychology, Rochester has a lot more in common with Dayton OH than it does with Boston. Many of the kids who were my buddies and schoolmates wound up at midwestern colleges, and settled there, feeling very much at home.

That said, Rochester has a side to it that the usual midwestern cities don't seem to have. Namely, it's much preoccupied by NYC and the northeast. It has something of a complex about them. Feels inferior and anxious, and meek by comparison. I don't imagine that Cleveland (let alone Chicago) agonizes too too much about this.

So an attempt at a final verdict: Midwestern, but conscious (excessively so) of living in the shadow of the NE. Which maybe makes it its own little micro-region? I dunno.

It breaks my heart a little that western NY doesn't have more confidence in itself as a culture unto itself. It's actually a cool area with a cool history, and through the 19th century and much of the early 20th century it had a rowdy and assertive personality. But for many decades now it has felt like loser-ville. My suspicion is that post-WWII development bulldozed all the personality and confidence out of it. It became nothing but a nice place to raise kids, yawn.

Oh, if I can urge a side trip on you: Visit the Finger Lakes area. Draw a line between Syracuse and Rochester, then put yourself anywhere from 20 to 50 miles south of that. That's the Finger Lakes region. Very beautiful: hills, snakey N-S lake after snakey N-S lake, quaint towns, lots of farming and forests, some decent wines and cheeses. Avoid the reds, enjoy the Rieslings. (Konstantin Frank on Keuka Lake is very worth a visit -- Keuka is gorgeous, and the Frank winery is beautifully sited. Make some of the best wines in the region too, even some excellent bubbly ...) If you have a taste for cappuccino-drinking college towns, Ithaca is like a tiny version of San Francisco, perched on pretty hills overlooking the southern end of Cayuga Lake. And this is a fab time of year in the area. If you're ever able to visit during autumn-leaf season it can be a mind-blower -- like the entire map has been spray-painted by God in bright flourescent colors.

Looking forward to reports from your trip. The Wife and I used to get to Toronto every year or two -- we were big fans. Sophisticated yet kinda Midwestern, cool arts scene, "multicultural" in a nice way, great food, theater and music to be found. And foreign in smallish ways, but ways that count. An hour and 15 from NYC, yet after a weekend there you really did feel like you'd spent time in a very different culture. Europe-meets-Cleveland or something. Fun. And the cleanliness and niceness are fun. I know a lot of Canadians who think that Canada's "niceness" is a drag, but after months in rude-and-aggressive NYC I was always delighted by it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 10, 2008 11:44 AM

Where does the East end and the Midwest begin? It's where people stop calling carbonated beverages "soda" and start calling them "pop." By this standard, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are in the Midwest, while Rochester is right on the dividing line. Note, however, that Milwaukee and St. Louis are firmly in "soda land" despite being geographically in the Midwest.

Posted by: Peter on September 10, 2008 11:48 AM

I would agree about Buffalo and Rochester. They both share many aspects, other that terrain, with Midwestern cities like Cleveland and Detroit. Ottawa, when I was there,seemed Midwestern to me but to Canadians it, and Toronto, seem to be the same as the east coast is to Americans, liberal and elitist. There is also one aspect to the Midwest that seems left out of most studies, the fact that most of the Midwest south of a line running from Columbus, OH to Peoria, IL to south of Omaha is very Southern. The areas north of this line were settled first by New Englanders and later by, for the most part, Germans and Scandinavians in rural areas and Germans, Italians, Greeks etc in the cities. South of this line the rural areas were settled mainly by southerners (such as Abraham Lincoln from Kentucky) and you do not see as much immigrant influence later on. Of the few cities south of this line Cincinnati and St. Louis, share characteristics (along with Louisvill, KY) of having a large German populations but not much other ethnic groups other than Wasps. And Kansas City and St Louis are in the former slave state of Missouri.

Posted by: Robert on September 10, 2008 12:10 PM

MB: While I don't think Canada is likely to split up, despite Quebeckers, Newfoundlanders, and Albertans sometimes making such noises, if it were to nevertheless happen, I'd imagine this scenario:

Obviously, an independent Quebec.

An independent Newfoundland and Labrador.

Those are the only two scenarios I'd bet on. As for the rest, let's consider firstly, western Canada. While there is a fair degree of minority separatist sentiment in western Canada, it is highest in Alberta, but there, it tends to be coupled with annexationist sentiment; i.e. almost all the separatists I met in the four years I lived in Alberta, wished Alberta would join the U.S.; that is, they weren't looking so much for Alberta or the West to form a new country, so much as to leave Canada and join the U.S. Thus, I imagine if the West were to leave Canada, it would quickly destabilize as an independent entity, with Alberta wanting admission to the Union. (And probably getting it, because of its oil reserves.) If that happened, it would split the new western entity, and however reluctantly (probably fairly reluctantly in the case of Saskatchewan and Manitoba; less so in the case of B.C.), I'd foresee the rest of the west applying to join the U.S., too, eventually.

As for Ontario, and the Maritimes (the Maritimes being Atlantic Canada minus Newfoundland and Labrador, which were once an independent Dominion, and where many folks dream of recovering that status); I can't see Ontario and the Maritimes, separated by an independent nation of Quebec, holding together. There'd therefore be two possibilities; either both Ontario and Atlantic Canada would become independent countries, or one or both would end up joining the U.S.

Of course, if America doesn't want new territories, none can join. Yet I can't foresee much opposition to admitting any Canadian provinces that wish to join, though you'd have a better grasp of that, as an American, than I would, as a foreigner.

Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 12:38 PM

Peter: I noticed that, myself, when I lived in Albany / Schenectady for a year; they said "soda" there, but a Buffalo guy said "pop", just like we Canadians do. And it has been noted, that the accent of Canadians from the West to Ontario basically, broadly, sounds pretty similar to the mid-western American accent - but to my mind, it also sounds much like the Northeast U.S. accent. Yet I met a Michigander in western Canada once, and I immediately knew he was from the NE U.S., which he confirmed, since I could hear the inflections from having lived a year in the NE, myself.

Accents are funny things; only outsiders can really notice them.

Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 12:42 PM

My own guess, Michael and Will, about secession and possible joining the US: Alberta and British Columbia have been creating a dense network of administrative and legal and economic ties over the last several years. Canada has a free trade agreement of sorts with the US and as part of NAFTA, but the provinces actually place a lot of restrictions on trade. Alberta and BC have been quietly removing many of those.

This is important, because if secession happened, the prairie provinces would not be likely to form a single unit. Saskatchewan in particular is too one would want them. Alberta and BC, despite their reps as Texas North and Lotus Land North respectively, would make a good pair, and I believe this is reflected in their growing closeness in the areas I described above.

But more, if they should want to join the US, they would and could only be admitted as a pair. Alone, either would throw off the Senatorial balance, A to the Reps and BC to the Dems, and coming in alone, either would be mortally opposed by the party that their entrance would hurt. Come in together, the Senate stays balanced, the House wouldn't be much affected because Alberta with its smaller pop tends to go right harder and deeper than BC goes left. So that would balance out.

No other part of Canada would ever be admitted to the States as states. Ontario would never be allowed in. Its population would vote heavily Dem, and if it were a state I think it would be close to or in the top ten in population. The Reps would never let a true Blue state of that size come in. Senatorial balance alone would be fatal, but even if that problem could be finessed, the Electoral College and the House would be permanent Dem majorities with an American Ontario. Reps would never let her in. Never.

Quebec: too much trouble, too Dem.

Maritimes: too much dependency, too Dem.

Newfoundland: special case, long and close ties to the US (was debating joining you guys at the same time as joining Canada). More likely to be admitted as a Territory.

Only Alberta and BC, and only as a pair, would even be considered by the US as potential states.

Ontario would be a workable independent state, and would probably allow Sask and Manitoba to join her. Those two would suck up their absorption into Ontario more easily if they could get Ontario itself to split into new provinces, say into North, South and East.

Quebec would be f*cked. Heh. The cold world they'd separate into will care much less about their pur laine culture and language than we wimpy compromising Anglo Canucks do. An independent Quebec would have way more English language instruction than it does now.

Heh again. I don't like separatists.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 1:20 PM

In North America, it's history, politics and power as much as geographical location that determine whether a region regards itself as "eastern", "central", or "midwestern".

In the US, power resides in the east. Chicago is known as midwestern because in spite of its size and economic importance, it is not part of the early American power center, originally located in the eastern port cities.

In Canada, the true "east", what we call the Maritime provinces, were strategically important but never economically powerful. Economic power flowed to the St Lawrence port cities of Quebec and Montreal, thence to Ottawa, some time later; and to the Great Lake port city of Toronto. They are economically and politically "central", which is why they are known by that name, although most of them are close, as the crow flies, to the American midwest.

p.s. Here's why Ottawa is not midwestern, and is in fact more cosmopolitan than DC. When I lived in DC in the early 90s, I once spent a whole day looking, unsuccessfully, for a copy of The Times (of London). Not a single newsstand or bookstore in the heart of the DC government-banking-international agency area carried a copy of it or any other big international newspaper. In "downtown" Ottawa, it would be hard to find one that did not do so.

Posted by: alias clio on September 10, 2008 1:37 PM

Patrick, my fellow Canuck; I indeed agree with much of your analysis. I imagine for pride alone, Ontario would want to remain an independent country.

I don't imagine Quebec would ever want to join the States, so that's a moot point.

As for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, I really can't see them embracing Ontario; yet I do wonder, if faced with the alternative of joining with the States, if they might. You may be right; it might be a definite possibility, that they could be persuaded to join with Ontario in an independent country. I know Manitoba is more likely to; they call the forested, non-prairie part of their province next to Ontario as "Mantario" in their tourist literature, and it's the same time-zone as the part of Ontario next door (though not Thunder Bay); I could see ties between them and Central Time Zone N.W. Ontario persuading them to throw their lot in with Ontario.

The Maritimes? Less obvious, as to what they'd want to do. Probably they'd prefer to be independent, but might not want the economic consequences. They'd definitely be Democrats, just as they're Liberal now, and welfare, basket-case drain on whatever country they belong to, so indeed, America might be reluctant to take them.

Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 1:41 PM

BTW, Patrick, where are you? I'm an Ontarian. You are, too, aren't you?

Posted by: Will S. on September 10, 2008 1:44 PM

Ontario and the Maritimes are both "the East Coast" in American terms, but in different ways. Toronto/Ottawa = New York/Washington (a pathetic delusion, I know); Maritimes = Maine. Newfoundland = the Maritimes' Maine, but with oil - hold on, that makes no sense.

I agree with other commentators about the likely fault lines in the West. The North is probably up for the highest bidder. They are likely to be long-term subsidy cases, but might be worth the price for strategic reasons.

Ideally (that's to say, in fantasy) I would also have an independent Vancouver Island, and perhaps the Gulf Islands could survive as tax haven and so on.

Posted by: intellectual pariah on September 10, 2008 4:03 PM

PatrickH, you're Canadian? On a second thought - why am I surprised?

The Laws of Blogosphere, agan: check out this thread to Brian's post. Especially the song. And then hit youtube for Ontario sucks! song, by the same.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 10, 2008 5:13 PM

I need to root around in the boxed books and find my copy of The Nine Nations of North America ... if I still have it. I might have lent it to someone to get them to read it. Lots of interesting ideas for anyone mulling the notion of "where are the borders really located?"

Posted by: Chris White on September 10, 2008 5:32 PM


You know it's strange, I had a very similar set of thoughts to your own a couple of weeks ago. I didn't really extend it up into Canada though. The difference with Canada is that "the East" doesn't remotely have the power in Canada that it has historically had in the US, and still does. The only big center of power in the Canadian east these days is Montreal, and that's predominantly French (though less so in that city's power elite I understand), so it's quite different. Historically the power center may have been Quebec City and then Montreal but after the English conquered the Frencies in that spat (7 years war, a world conflict that heavily involved India and the Caribbean as well) just before the American revolution, power soon moved to thoroughly English Toronto, did it not?

Anyway, what I was thinking about like you was western NY state and how everyone thinks of NY as quintessentially Eastern, the epicenter of Eastern in fact, while that's actually only true of points south of Albany. It fades going west and is thoroughly midwest by Buffalo. I myself wouldn't have known where to put Rochester. Don't know enough about.

As for the dividing line generally, it seems to me very clear, for the most part, both currently and historically. It's the Appalachian Mountains. They sort of peter out and become a very broad but not very high set of hill mountains in Western Pennsylvania and well just sort of give up the ghost in NY, except for an extension in the Catskills and then across a broad plain, an echo in the Adirondacks and Green and White Mountains which are historically and culturally very different. The Adirondacks were unpopulated wilderness until they became a locale for summer camps in the late robber baron era, while the Green Mountains are narrow and the valleys on both sides are thoroughly New England.

The people of the Appalachians proper, that is south of Pennsylvania but with echos in that state's ranges, are of course neither Easterners nor Midwesterners at the fundamental core of their cultural identity, but Appalachians.

The southern end of this mountain chain doesn't end until the northern part of Georgia, which is of course part of the deep south, and that goes on over west until the Texas Louisiana border, without ever becoming Midwestern all the way down there at all. (Actually Texas significantly east of Houston is more deep south that Texan, but some of both. That however is another subject.)

The Midwest vs Southern cline starts happening in Arkansas, which is really more Appalachian, or much of it is, and esp. Missouri, the southern part of which is also more Appalachian than Midwestern, but the northern and western parts of which are entirely Midwestern.

What have I left out? Oh Kentucky. Well it should be all midwestern geograhically but is actually more southern for historical reasons. And partly Appalachian. And there's a finger of the south that sticks up into Indiana, for reasons I don't understand and would love to know.

Indianapolis had a huge "copperhead" (Southern sympathizing) faction in the period leading up to the Civil War. During the 1920's KKK revival, Indianapolis and Indiana were one of the few places in the north that saw big KKK rallies.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 10, 2008 5:45 PM

I am indeed of the Canadian persuasion, Tatyana. Though American women have been massively influential in my life: my first girlfriend was American, 2 of my best friends (in the flesh) here in Ottawa are American, and there have been others. I really like Americans, more than I like Canadians, actually. Not that I don't like Canadians--we really are nice people--but there's something still so guileless, so open about Americans that I can't help but like them.

Clio: you're right about the cosmopolitanness of Ottawa. I was a little hard on our hometown, but it is really a very nice little burg, to tell the truth. My frustration with the city is that its cosmopolitanitiousness--to cadge a linguistic move from Moira B--is derived from the large number of out-of-towners here. You yourself are in many ways an out-of-towner, having been formed by experiences far from this little lumber town. Me too.

IP, if the Island became a nation, I'd move there in an instant.

Will S, like you, I'm an Ontarian. For some reason, I thought you were a midwesterner (Canadian version) (or maybe I'm thinking of Thursday?). "Ontarian" is such a dopey word, isn't it? It sounds like an alien species from Star Trek:

"The Cardassians and Ontarians have made an alliance, Captain!"

That sort of thing. Beyond Ontares sung by Uhura. You know, I'll bet you more Americans think of Ontario as that place in California, you know, that car town with all the races. I'll betcha!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 6:10 PM

Thanks, Tatyana for the reference to the song. I used to get drunk at Arrogant Worms concerts in my university days. Drunk on beer of course, these being Canadian concerts. Fun band.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 7:45 PM


Not that I don't like Canadians--we really are nice people--but there's something still so guileless, so open about Americans that I can't help but like them.

I'm curious what you mean. I would have thought Canadians saw Americans as more tumultuous, probably more competitive, and more impatient. That sort of thing. More alpha a guess. But less nice or secure. Actually that sort of thing is what I usually do hear.

Whereas I think Americans in general, across various ideological and other divides, think of Canada as 1) colder, 2) nicer, 3) duller, 4)even more PC than we are (good or bad depending, which is something of a wonder for those right of PC), and 5) more socialist. Whether or not everyone would immediately come up with those five I think everyone would immediately agree with them. Almost.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 10, 2008 8:28 PM


Oh, and something else. And I'm sorry fair Canadians, because this one is going to be a bit unkind, because it's hard to see this one in a good light, whereas all the previous definitely can be. Canada is and Canadians are perpetually followers.

When was the last time Canada ever led in anything significant? Sweden is small too, way smaller, but it sure has. Whenever Canadians get to the leading stage, or ambitious for it, they move to the US. Seems to me.


Actually part of my motivation for this last is to get schooled where Canada HAS led. Note, having "more troops per capita" in this peacekeeping mission or that does not qualify as leading. It's righteous following.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 10, 2008 8:33 PM

Americans are seen as tumultous by Canadians, more impatient, all of that. But also guileless, open, artless, frank and honest in a way that dour, sour, introverted, northern, scots presbyterian Canadians simply are not.

As for Canadians being "nicer" than Americans, I've always disagreed with both Canadians and Americans who say that. We are "nice" people, but our niceness has an element of the desire to avoid confrontation, a squeamishness, lack of assertiveness and timidity that is what can pass for "niceness" to less reserved people.

Duller? Well God yes! Dougjnn, America is the most powerful military and political presence, the most powerful economy and the most powerful, dynamic world spanning culture IN HUMAN HISTORY. We are going to be dull next to that, of necessity. The mystery is why Canada, more exposed, more open than any other culture, people, polity on Earth to this FUCKING TITANIC ENTITY CALLED THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, even exists in the first place. Reason the ultimate: we are very different than you in our souls. This difference is not entirely or even mostly to the advantage of my countrymen. But it is real, profoundly so. Canada would not be here were it not.

All that having been said, if you want to understand Canadians, you can actually get a not too bad insight into us by looking at the personalities and values of the citizens of some of your northern states. Joel Garreau, whose book has been mentioned here by a few commenters, is quite valuable in this regard.

But my own angle on that: Canadians are a lot like Minnesotans. Like the people in Fargo. We are also a lot like the people of Vermont. And the people of Maine. The Americans of these states are known to be: cold, nice, dull, PC (Vermont esp, Minnesota too)...sound like anybody, dougjnn?

Which brings me to the end of this oration: to understand Canadians you need to understand that we spend most of the year in a climate that will kill us if we do not take serious action to protect ourselves. This fact, combined with the FUCKING FRACKING FRICKING GODDAMMED DARKNESS that looms over this country for TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND MONTHS OF EVERY YEAR, means that Canadians (like Minnesotans) are actually mildly clinically depressed--dysthymic is the word.

Ask yourself: what would be like to be Garrison Keillor feeling really really down? That's how we feel almost all the time. We are a nation of depressed Garrison Keillors.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 10:30 PM

Oh, and dougjnn, about Canada being followers: we invented multiculturalism! There's something we didn't follow with. We led! Yay....yay...Canada...way to go...Canada...yay...

I do have to say one thing though that may upset American readers. Americans suspect or know that they are disliked by many people of the world. If Americans heard that they were disliked or despised by people for being rude, or ignorant, or greedy, I don't think they wouldn't be particularly surprised.

But Americans are despised by many many people in the world for something that might surprise them (and you): did you know that Americans have a reputation for being cowards? I mean physical cowards? That not only are Americans not thought of as unusually brave frontier cowboy types, they are thought of as terrified, cringing, hyper-litigious, safety-obsessed physical cowards. This belief about Americans surprised me when I encountered it--Americans are generally pretty brave people, at least the ones I've known--but many people, especially in Europe DESPISE Americans as being among the most cowardly terrified people on earth. And American men are thought of as particularly unimpressive in this regard, generally being seen as fat, henpecked schlubs and yes, cowards.

Odd, isn't it? Are you surprised? I was.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 10, 2008 10:39 PM

Sorry, Patrick and Will...Ontario has just come under the the withering glare of the Master himself. Apparently, your liberal journalists are the reason God made cats.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on September 11, 2008 12:00 AM

Heather Malick is a journalist in the same way that Naomi Wolf is a philosopher. She is genuinely pathetic, and an embarrassment to my countrymen from several places on the poli spectrum.

For one thing, consider that she is 400,000,017 years old and yet won't just die already and therefore stop writing. Look at her examples. She has never left the sixties. But the sixties are gone. Therefore HEATHER MALICK DOES NOT EXIST.

As for the "Master", Robert, he's, ah, overrated. My take on him isn't as harsh as Udolpho's--he does have talent, a lot more than H Malick, animated corpse, but he's nothin' special. The U man has more or less got the measure of him.

Posted by: PatrickH on September 11, 2008 8:46 AM

dougjnn I live in Southern Illinois and know people from souther Ohio as well. Both places are very southern not Midwestern. Both have had huge KKK histories as did Indiana. General Logan was dispached to Illinois by Abraham Lincoln during the civil war to keep the southern third of Illinois from going with the Confederacy. I live just west of Peoria and in the area where I live there were many secret gatherings of souther sympathizers and many people who fought for th south.

Posted by: Robert on September 11, 2008 9:33 AM


A few points: Montreal didn't stop being Canada's financial center until the 1976 election of Quebec's first separatist government under Rene Levesque in 1976. That was when many banks and insurance companies began to leave the city and move out to Toronto, fearing that the province would become politically unstable and perhaps hostile to them. These fears never quite materialized, and Quebec did not separate, but the exodus drained away some of Montreal's vitality.

Another point: Ambitious Canadians move to the US because they can: we nearly all live close to the border, many of us within a day's drive of NYC. Swedes had no similar option, until the emergence of the European Community. They had to make the best of what they had, not plan to move elsewhere.

Final point: If you want to understand Canada, it's important to remember that it is a more conservative country than the United States, and that the US is more liberal than Canada. Yes, I know what I'm saying, and I'm right - according to the original, traditional meaning of these terms, a meaning without which it is impossible to make sense of the two nations' differences. The US is a nation of radical Whigs; Canada is a nation of Tories.

How did this work out "on the ground"? Well, until the late 19th century, the British gov't was still attempting to set up an "established" Anglican church in Canada: a portion of all public lands were set aside as "clergy reserves". It didn't work; Canadians who were not already Catholic or Presbyterian embraced Methodism en masse. Britain also tried to replicate the class system and social structure of England in Maritime Canada, setting aside large parcels of land for sale to big landowners who would rent it out to tenant-farmers. That didn't quite work either. Few immigrants who moved to Canada had enough money to become landowners in this fashion, and anyway the land and the climate were not suited to tenant farming. The Brits were determined to prevent both a Revolutionary war and a Civil war in Canada, and so they gave us a system of government in which power was, in theory, concentrated in the central government; it's one of the ironies of history that this didn't quite work either, and that political power in Canada is today in some ways less centralized than in the US.

Finally, both the French and British Crowns were determined to ensure that Canada remained peaceful, and both carefully controlled the kind of immigrants they permitted to come here. Religious dissenters, rebels, and troublemakers were not allowed.

Social democracy is in some respects a conservative social force, the antithesis of revolutionary socialism, and Canada's embrace of social democracy is in a sense the measure of our conservatism. American "liberals" in the modern sense gravitate towards a kind of (conservative) socialism with regard to money and property, while preferring a libertarian approach to manners and morals. European social democrats arrived at much the same point via a different path.

Posted by: alias clio on September 11, 2008 10:43 AM

Since I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and now live in Chicago, perhaps I can answer the question.

Buffalo and Rochester are Eastern. Pittsburgh is Midwestern-ish, because of its proximity to Ohio, but still considered Eastern by many people. The Midwest really starts with Ohio, Wisconsin, etc.

Posted by: Hope on September 11, 2008 10:48 AM

The "Ontario Sucks" song is actually by 3 Dead Trolls in a Baggie, an Edmonton comedy troop. Same with that "War of 1812 (The White House Burned)"; everyone wrongly attributes both songs to the Arrogant Worms, who are quick to give proper attribution.

Posted by: Will S. on September 11, 2008 12:23 PM

Clio: spot on, esp:

"Final point: If you want to understand Canada, it's important to remember that it is a more conservative country than the United States, and that the US is more liberal than Canada. Yes, I know what I'm saying, and I'm right - according to the original, traditional meaning of these terms, a meaning without which it is impossible to make sense of the two nations' differences. The US is a nation of radical Whigs; Canada is a nation of Tories."

I've tried to make this same point myself, elsewhere. We're the people who kept the monarchy and rejected revolution, and even our collectivist, social-democratic tendencies flow more out of old-school British conservatism than socialism, per se; hence the overlap between Red Toryism and the CCF/NDP. It's too bad there's almost no defenders left of that school of conservatism in Canada, since the passing of George Parkin Grant, one of my heroes.

Posted by: Will S. on September 11, 2008 12:38 PM

Having grown up in Arizona, I'll tell you what you are: Eastern. The East starts at KC.

Posted by: arizonan on September 11, 2008 12:49 PM

[Sound of bloghost hurriedly looking up "Red Toryism" and "George Parkin Grant" on Wikipedia ...]

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 11, 2008 1:15 PM

Somehow the fact that PatrickH is Canadian escaped me until now. I'll need to keep that in mind as immigration, health care, secession, etc. are discussed in future threads. Interesting how many Canadians and Aussies show up here. Equally interesting to note the sides they support in certain of the above issues.

Posted by: Chris White on September 11, 2008 1:37 PM

Anything east of colorado is Eastern from where I stand here in sunny California.

Posted by: JV on September 11, 2008 1:45 PM

This map shows some of the cultural divides, based on one particular signifier: do the locals say "pop", "soda", or "coke" when referring to a generic soft drink?

The northeast is solidly "soda" country, the Midwest is "pop"-land - and the border is just east of Rochester (and Pittsburgh).

("Coke" is found in the South.) There are some anomalies, like the "soda" islands around St. Louis, in eastern Wisconsin, and in the Miami area, the "pop" intrusion into Oklahoma, and the "coke" outcrop in central Indiana.

I had thought of Buffalo as being "Midwestern" rather than "eastern", but Rochester... that's another question, and an interesting one. Incdentally, there area those who feel that Appalachia extends right across Pennsylvania and New York into Vermont and New Hampshire, where there are a fair number of poor, rural, mountain-and-hill-dwellers...

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on September 11, 2008 3:55 PM

many people, especially in Europe DESPISE Americans as being among the most cowardly terrified people on earth. And American men are thought of as particularly unimpressive in this regard,

Funny because Americans are always stereotyping European men as effeminate. Although certainly the relation between the sexes is different there, I assume American women have a worldwide reputation as raging viragos.

Anyway, it seems like a funny sterotype, not because American men are so brave, but because many Western Europeans (Germany/Northern Europe particularly) don't seem all that macho. What experiences led you to this conclusion?

Posted by: MQ on September 11, 2008 4:01 PM

Did you kill my last comment? Sorry, it wasn't intended to be aggressive. Oh, well, if you feel it was inappropriate, maybe you're the best judge. Yeah, you can delete this one too.

Posted by: intellectual pariah on September 11, 2008 4:30 PM

American men are seen as henpecked in the UK where most of my relatives come from. (They would also think the same of Canadian men if they were familiar with Canadian society or ever thought about it, which they don't)

A typical story is that of a British couple I knew who spent several years in some supposedly conservative area near Dallas, Texas. The women there thought the wife was crazy for doing all the cooking and housework, and being American busybodies, wouldn't mind their own business. When they returned to the UK she was noticeably more assertive (that's the nice word) with a typically (North) American female sense of entitlement. I could tell similar stories about British couples after being in Canada for numerous years.

British men have more space from their wives. North American men's lives revolve around their family. They don't have a 'local' where they can go to get away from the wife and brats and hang out with the lads a couple of nights a week and Saturday afternoons. But things are changing. With each passing year American cultural norms become more common.

The whole world is internalizing America. Men crying in public is also more common now in the UK. Only a decade or so ago men displaying emotion publicly was seen as an American thing.

Then there's that whole wearing protective pads in American sports thing. It is almost impossible to discuss sports with any European without them mentioning that.

Posted by: CanadianObserver on September 11, 2008 6:02 PM

I'll assume there's some kind of delay before posts show up here.

Posted by: CanadianObserver on September 11, 2008 6:05 PM

Patrick, don't you find that the gifted Udolpho's usual tone - ie choking-on-breakfast-because-the-rest-you-are-so-gullible - gets fatiguing? Bit of a knit-browed mullah? I've never been able to get into Mencken, so maybe that splenetic, hyperbolic style is just not for me. ( eg "3:10 to Nausea". Yes, Udolpho, I hated that revisionist crud too...but don't make me hate your review!)

Posted by: Robert Townshend on September 11, 2008 6:09 PM

Clio -- Thanks for all that on Canada. Learned some things. For one, I had no idea that Montreal survived as THE financial center of Canada for so long. I knew Montreal was also big there in that too, but... What's the core of Montreal's economy now?

On Canada having been historically more conservative than the US, I'm well aware of that. Basically the US was the part that rebelled in 1776 and Canada was the part that didn't, although 1/3 of the US citizens at the time, albeit spread around, were of decidedly loyalist sympathies. I'm also well aware that some 100,000 of these emigrated to Canada after our revolution/war of independence and in doing so significantly swelled the number and percentage of English speakers in Canada, which was still then very sparsely populated, Quebec City etc. aside. As well I know Canada stayed conservative for a long time. But then it became significantly more leftist. Yeah sure in the gradualist way of the rest of the Anglosphere, no surprise there; for one thing the French Revolution was an object lesson of the downsides of the other way, and they were the traditional Anglo enemy. It does seem surprising to me in a way that Canada went as socialist as it did. I guess my thinking always was, without knowing this, that if Britain got national health insurance then obviously that was the right thing for Canada to do too. And so on. Or was it otherwise?

Posted by: dougjnn on September 11, 2008 7:30 PM


A Euro view of American men as henpecked is I think probably pretty accurate on a comparative basis, at least versus the continent. I'm not at all sure we are compared to the UK, though I think the style is more abrasive here. I'm thoroughly fed up with American feminism myself to the point of deciding to call myself an anti-feminist. It's well past time for major push back, and a new synthesis.

As for cowards, I don't think so. My guess is that trope got started over American high tech weaponry, and our preference for killing from the air and avoiding our own troops massive casualties in urban combat if we can avoid it.

To which I say nuts.

For one thing the whole issue only comes up because we don't simply flatten cities that get in our way militarily anymore, if we can avoid it. Compare the Russian practice previously in Chechnya and recently in Georgia.

But you know what? I almost prefer the Russian method. That's not really true, because if you CAN save supposedly innocent civilian lives (which are often not so innocent) you should do so. But not at the cost of a JUST objective. Wild disproportion is not good but it's become ridiculously namby pamby in the West, Europe and yes in American left circles as well.

War is hell. It's also been a crucial engine of our social and technological evolution from hunter gatherers, and probably before that, to big bained fast talkers using highly complex recursive language structures.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 11, 2008 7:42 PM

dougjnn: Canada's national medicare program is actually, primarily, a made-in-Canada thing; the influence of a prairie, populist, social democratic, Methodist "Social Gospel"-influenced party, under Tommy Douglas (a Baptist minister), was most instrumental in pushing for Canada's medicare system. So I don't see that Britain's admittedly similar program had all that much to do with it.

Posted by: Will S. on September 11, 2008 8:48 PM

Robert, yes Udolpho can be fatiguing in large doses. As can Lileks. Udolpho's criticisms of Lileks are over the top, to be sure. But I still think he's got what's wrong with Lileks: that preciosity, that smug twee quality that can be so grating.

Chris, now you'll have a reason to ignore what I say even more than you already do!

MQ: dougjnn captured one side of the complaints I heard and read about American cowardice. I noted that I've not met very many cowardly Americans, and I suspect the complainers about Americans being pussies haven't either. The knock on Americans for being cowards goes a little like the Michael Moore line on how white passengers on the 9/11 planes were cowards because they didn't get up and thrash the puny Arab hijackers.

Here is a sample, admittedly impressionistic of the kind of thing I've heard from many Europeans about you pussified Americans:

You bomb the hell out of people from 30,000 ft or shoot at them from 75-ton tanks. You don't fight close up or hand to hand because you're too afraid.

You're too afraid, and that makes you unable to take casualties. One coffin comes home and you think it's the end of the world. You kill a million people in the 3rd world then abandon your allies because 100 American boys die.

And when those coffins come home, what do you do? You cry. You weep. You sob. What are Americans but the world's worst weepers, tear-streaked blubbering fatties always looking for "healing" and "closure" after events that always leave everybody else dead, and you reaching for your Kleenex...

And blabbing blabbing blabbing to your therapists and counsellors and talk show hosts about your "feelings" which you seem to think other people care about. Always too scared to deal with your problems in silence and dignity.

And if you have some problem, you sue. Lawyers! Crying to the law! You scrape your fat Yankee knee on a rock, and next thing you know, you're suing somebody. And there are rocks everywhere...

Because your local news with their Eyes in the Skies are constantly hovering over you, cameras trained on the latest runaway car being driven by a meth/PCP crazed addict member of one of the Satanic kidnap rings that exist on every street including the ONE IN THE HOUSE RIGHT NEXT TO YOURS who kidnapped a child in broad daylight and is now fleeing the scene pursued by the SIX HUNDRED MILLION police you have clumped on every street corner in their armored cars with their SWAT teams in ARMORED VESTS IN CASE SOMEBODY LOOKS AT THEM FUNNY and their submachine guns ready to shoot because cops are people and they have every right to be frightened too...

Frightened of foods that are full of pathogens and fat and transfat and fatty acid fat and salty salt and pesticides that were sprayed on fruit to kill the AFRICAN BRAIN SUCKING TITTY FLIES that are invading America via the fourth dimension to EAT OUR CHILDREN but the pesticides will give you CANCER which exists everywhere in everything and everyone and will kill you if it hasn't already and there's got to be somebody to shoot or sue because cancer is caused by all those emotions put inside you by your evil abusive parents and by MEN who look at you transgressively with their lustful eyes and your children too and the whole world is dangerous and evil and horrible and you've got to be SAFE SAFE SAFE all the time from any imaginable danger and if you have to bomb everybody into nothing you'll do it...

And then cry and share and hug. Together. And heal. And achieve closure. And then, inevitably, find something else, anything really, to be afraid of.

Except what you really should be afraid of. You. And your insane manufactured made up fears. "We have nothing to fear", said one of those manly Americans that used to exist before Oprah, "except fear itself."

You have, say those Euros from whom I've heard all that kind of talk (edited for insanity by Yours Truly), forgotten everything those words mean.

You're cowards, they say, not because you're afraid but because you love being afraid. You've come to depend on your fears.


Oddly, I get the impression many of the people I heard this kind of talk from think Americans are like this because that's what they see of America on television. It's too bad, really. Americans aren't that horrible. They're not that cowardly. They're not that crazy and not that dangerous. There's nothing to be afraid of, all you anti-American peoples of the world! Americans aren't really like what you see of them on TV!

Remember: Just because you see something on television doesn't mean it's real. And if it isn't real, how can it be dangerous?

Posted by: PatrickH on September 12, 2008 12:15 AM

oh dear dear.
Patrick: too much triple espresso this morning?

How such an innocent subject like in this post turns into continental/subcontinental mud-throwing?

Not that those America-accusers you so masterfully imitate (erm) are wrong, in principle. Especially when one sees the insides of the courts and hears stories day-to-day, like I do.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to get it checked against European reality if you want to justify the righteous finger-pointing. For instance, the whole entertaining passage about "cameras trained on the latest runaway car",& : as I just confirmed during trip to London, CCTV cameras are everywhere on a scale impossible in America. I don't know, maybe it's the concequence of EU nations not being cowardly - and importing lots of immigrants from countries where stealing from infidelsand raping their women is considered a honorable thing to do. Maybe by some other reason - but I assure you - it feels quite uncomfortable to find out wherever I went I was followed with recording devices. See the Flickr link at lower left @my blog. [flickr has a limit of photos to be posted, so twice that many shots remained only on a memory card]. What a brave thing to do, H.M. Government!

Posted by: Tatyana on September 12, 2008 10:15 AM

Just thought - it might sounded like a self-plug, so I'll post an example here instead of making you go and sift through my amateur pictures.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 12, 2008 10:19 AM

I agree Tatyana. I really don't see any evidence that Americans are cowardly at all. It's the America that is beamed around the world on television that seems to be the source of much of this bigotry. I was surprised when I encountered it in recent years, as I was expecting to hear more of the usual tropes: greedy, ignorant, etc. The vehemence and frequency of the accusations of physical cowardice shocked me as I heard them made again and again, often using the same examples (the bombings in the post-Yugoslav wars seems to have particulary exercised Euros of all ethnicities).

But also repeatedly mentioned was America's seemingly endless ability to enter collective panics over non-existent threats like Satanic cults, child kidnap rings, second-hand smoke, and so on.

I would say that these slurs on Americans aren't quite the same as direct accusations of cowardice as such, so much as the assignment to present-day Americans of a kind of collective hypersenstivity and tendency to panic that I (not the anti-Americans) ascribe to something like the Oprah-fication/feminization of America.

Some of the, ah, triple-espresso enthusiasm you detected in my outburst is no doubt my own crankish gloss on this latest manifestation of anti-American feeling.

Do you mind Tat if I ask why you were surprised (surprise then retracted) that I'm Canadian? Is it my tendency to go berserk on people when they disagree with me? A general sense of extremism, febrility, emotional lability, all combined with discourtesy of expression bordering sometimes on outright abuse?

That's my Irish and Franco-Yank sides coming out. The Canadian side disappears when I get. in. the. mood. for. a. fight. I don't drink any more, but I do have those Irish tendencies highly developed.

As a leprechaun-like Irish character once said on the Simpsons:

What do drinkin' and fightin' got to do with the Irish?

Well, everything!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 12, 2008 12:01 PM

No, PH (as we're on a nickname basis now), I had no idea about your roots, remarkable as they are. It's just I noticed that canadians, rather than to discuss their own canadian matters, prefer to concentrate on us, poor unsophisticated slobs (or "guileless, open, artless, frank and honest", if you will) neighbors across from Windsor bridge. Or maybe it's my self-selecting data pool; could be that, too. And also, that canadians, on average, seems to have lot more time on their hands during business hours for the net, comparable only to a few and limited american groups - retirees + non-profit social workers + artsy types/journos and such.

Ask an American, even an American blogger and limit it more by including only politico American blogger - who are the main figures in Canadian parties...or even how many political parties are in Canada. And what was the latest scandal. Other than notorious Human Rights Comission and its deeds, known from Mark Steyn &Co ordeal (and he lives in NH) - I doubt very much the average poll-taker will be able to give you as much info as it seems an average Canadian can produce about our affairs.

I won't speculate on the reasons; I'm sure you'll enlighten us, in extensive detail.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 12, 2008 2:40 PM

I would not want to bore you with anything more about Canada or Canadians, Tatyana, any mention at all of Canada even in the midst of long orations about America being enough to make you reach for the snooze button.

As for Canadians paying more attention to the US than the reverse, I trust there's no need to "enlighten" you with the reasons why. Despite you coming up with dumbass thumbsuckers like this:

I doubt very much the average poll-taker will be able to give you as much info as it seems an average Canadian can produce about our affairs.

That is probably true of most peoples on Earth compared to Americans, not just Canadians. Name or describe any scandal in any country right now other than America. Name their political parties and who leads them. You might be able to, Tatyana, but I doubt that many Americans could.

And your interpretation of my description of Americans as "guileless, etc." as meaning "unsophisticated slobs" says more about you than about my description. I contrasted American openness and frankness with Canadian dourness, sourness and introversion, and even went so far as to say I like Americans more than I like Canadians.

But Americans aren't alone in their guilelessness. Here I am, guilelessly, openly, frankly, artlessly having what I think is a polite friendly conversation with Tatyana (!). Well, well, well Mr Naif, that's just not the way things work with Tatyana. Have you learned nothing?

Guess not. Why am I surprised when I read yet more of the needless truculence and defensiveness, the useless, gratuitous digs that sooner or later you inject into even the most polite discussion, Tatyana? No, I haven't learned anything. Trusting you enough to respond to your comments is a mistake I've made before. Patrick the Guileless Canadian bends over for another poke up the behind from the Sourpuss Slav, who repays courtesy and interest with bile and insults.

Until I read your latest, my day has actually been really great, if you must know the truth. A friend is advancing towards an important career milestone that I am helping him to achieve, yesterday I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of charcuterie at a downtown restaurant with another good friend, the weather is foggy and humid and made for long slow nightime strolls. Life is generally pretty darn good up here in Canada land.

Too good to let you ruin it. Nighty night and goodbye to you, Tatyana. Hope never to talk to you again!

Posted by: PatrickH on September 12, 2008 9:44 PM


Oddly, I get the impression many of the people I heard this kind of talk from think Americans are like this because that's what they see of America on television. It's too bad, really. Americans aren't that horrible. They're not that cowardly. They're not that crazy and not that dangerous.

To the extent there's any truth to any of that it's true of the leftly liberal elite side of America.

I should know. That's what I was born into, in suburban NY, father a biglaw partner. I went to a top prep school for chissakes. Followed a similar path, sort of, but with lots of rebellion. And I'm thoroughly anti-PC.

Oh, and it's also the Jewish influenced side of America. More than half of my best friends are and have been Jews etc., but I'm sorry, that's where a lot of it comes from. It's all a post WW-II transformation from the stoical, can do, self sufficent, don't complain but get it done American self image. The whole victimology culture starts there. Starts with the Holocaust, which was an undeniable victim situation, but then radiated out to victimization of blacks pre civil rights -- which was also undeniable, and has been on a roll ever since. It's been on a roll even though each new situtation and all the endlessly maintained older victim classes are less and less clearly victims. All this was a general leftist thing, but it had a Jewish legalistic flavor to it and was lead by Jews. Who I greatly admire but I'm sick and tired of never being able to see several sides to many things.

Posted by: dougjnn on September 13, 2008 8:30 AM

So sorry I ruined your day, PatrickH.
I would lie if I say you did the same to me.

It's a good (no, great) morning here, in Brooklyn, NY.

Sun is bouncing off the old bricks and shingles of the church across my window, sparkles on the shields and rosettes of the stained glass and the gorgeous fragrant flower border below. I woke up late, took a long delicious shower and am now contemplating my choices for breakfast - to get the freshly baked honey muffins from the Greek bakery down the block or do not leave my kitchen (added bonus of staying negligee) and make a complex omelette instead. I have two invitations from friends for today, besides long-postponed plans of visiting Chinese garden on Staten Island, but I think I'll decline and rather take care of my lovely nest...I haven't decided yet.

WTF, you'd say, what everything she wrote above has to do with the topic, either the original in the post or the one that evolved in the process? -Nothing, exactly as much as your recital of your day/night/dinner/your good deeds to your friend/weather of yesterday, in your attempt to link me and my opinions to your well(or not)being.

The spectacle of a grown man throwing tantrums is embarrassing, Patrick. It makes me think I extended my respect to a wrong person, and I hate doubting myself.

There was nothing defensive in my comment yesterday. You asked why I was surprised to find out you're Canadian (and then retracted) - and I answered; honestly, openly spoke my mind. Exactly in the manner you say you find attractive in us Americans. You find that truth inconvenient - well, too bad. I know other people here who share the opinion. Which, incidentally, contains no disrespect or mockery (or "bile and insults") of Canadians - it's just an observation based, I admitted, on a very limited data pool.

Unlike your comment.

You even managed, besides calling me names, offend all Americans, repeating the old and tired lie about them being ignorant about the countries beyond our borders.
If you want to know, I am constantly amazed, to this day, after 16 years in this country, how much unexpected knowledge of the world, its affairs, history and trivia could one stumble upon in an American-born American. The knowledge that is mostly pursued out of genuine interest in the topic, not out of business considerations (although that is as legitimate reason as any) or out of reason of "know ye enemy" (although that is a legitimate reason, too).
A software writer was quoting Mayakovsky to me - really reading the verses, by heart, not just a line or two. A customer in a flower shop where I worked as a florist (a black customer, at that), turned to speaking Russian - quite passable Russian- when he heard my accent. All kinds of people have varied and seemingly unnecessary to their occupations and lives body of interests and knowledge about decidedly non-American topics.

Again, if you want to know my opinion, after a few minutes thinking, I don't find the fact that Canadians (or Mexicans, for that matter. Or even Poles or Germans) are knowledgeable about America all that astonishing. After all, we are the superpower. All your business depends on us. In all your interests- cultural,business, military, political etc- we are the factor. No wonder you're bothered to educate yourself about us, the open-hearted candid giant to the South. No wonder (although much pity, on the weakness and human failing) there is also the other side of the medal: envy, vitriol and impotent stomping of feet.

OK, you say Americans know little of other countries. Tell me Patrick, what and how much average Canadians know - not of Americans, but of the rest of the world? What do they know about Bukhara? 12th century Bulgar state between Volga and Kama? Of Peruvian knitting wool varieties? Where is Angostura bitters in their cocktails originated? Who built forts on Malta? Why are there Ancient Greek temples on Corsica? Let them list aboriginal tribes of Australia. I very much doubt they will pass the test - and why should they? All this is irrelevant to their lives. There are more pressing matters of everyday survival.

However, I would be impolite if I didn't thank you, for entertainment you provided to me this fine morning. This mixture of condescension, whining, self-pity, wounded pride and general rather un-chivalrous tone is an item to admire. I'd even call it authentic. That's what I usually seek in my foreign travels - authenticity. And represent myself as such, in return - for example, explain ignorant locals that not all who speak native Slavic language is a Slav, ethnically - even if they are called a Slavic first name. Just as not Johns who speak English from birth are descendants of AngloSaxons.

Interesting to learn from you, Patrick, about Canadian dourness, sourness and introversion - I haven't noticed any of it in my yearly trips to Montreal for the last 8 years. But you, obviously, better situated to make observations like that.

Hope to speak to you again,

Non-Slavic American,

Posted by: Tatyana on September 13, 2008 10:59 AM

Tatyana, thank you for the whirlwind tour of world cultural hotspots you so gracelessly provided. I must confess I am not at all distraught over my (and my countrymen's) failure to share your (and your acquired countrymen's) passion for and knowledge of Peruvian knitting wool varieties and the (whatever) of Bukhara, that font, that mother, that wellspring, foundation and origin of, of, of...your comment!

You didn't ruin my day, Tatyana. There's no need to pretend to be sorry. You just disappointed me again, that's all. I'm glad you had a great day too. I wonder, did you choose to stay inside, make a "complex omelette" (my favourite kind! I find simple omelettes overly simple and, uh, simplistic and to suffer from what the French call simplisme) and exercise the "added bonus of staying negligee"?

Better yet, don't tell me.

I really do wish I liked you more than I do. If only you seemed nicer, it might not be so impossible a challenge. Just to seem nicer. Why is that so hard for you?

Posted by: PatrickH on September 13, 2008 8:03 PM

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