Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day

I put the Maple Leaf out in front of the house today to celebrate our northern neighbors' closest equivilent to Independence Day. I think our neighbor on the other side of the world's longest demilitarized border deserves a neighborly celebration.

When covering the American Revolutionary era with my students, I like to pose the question why the U.S. didn't go the way of Canada in terms of its independence from Great Britain. An equally good question: Why didn't Canada go the way of us in declaring their sovereignty so provocatively from the mother country?

I often like to think about he symmetries in U.S. and Canadian history. We share many of the same foibles (moments of great insensitivity to immigrant groups, internal conflicts between suppressed minorities and the majority, frustrated relations between natives) and many of the same points of greatness (remarkably multicultural societies, a willingness to fight for other peoples, nuanced federal systems of government, a proud tradition of civil liberties).

History often doesn't give us the chance to experiment. But sometimes you can see two societies with much in common evolve in different ways. Canada and the U.S. provide an interesting lens through which we can see similar (but not identical) lands, political cultures, and populations evolve into distinct societies.

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