LEGAL EYES—All American?

by Eva van Loon

I’m offended by those dirty political ads, like the one insinuating there is something wrong with the moral fiber of a certain leader because he once likened our flag to a beer-can label.
Our flag does rather resemble a beer-can label. Or, maybe beer cans resemble our flag? Didn’t the flag come first, anyway? The ad-writer is probably too young to remember the horsing around that went into the choice of that flag. Why wouldn’t patriotism go with a great Canadian beer, anyway?

These ads must have sprung up sometime during my decade in the US. The stinkiest aspect of ‘Murrican politics has somehow slimed its way through the border and is furring over our political system like black mold.

If you aren’t frightened by the infestation of personality cults in our politics, you haven’t seen how different the American legal system is from ours, or how law depends on how politics works.

The difference between Canada’s system and a monarchy is that our queen is a figurehead, there mostly to show us what graciousness means. The difference between America’s system and a monarchy is, they don’t call it that, and they dethrone their king every four years—or shoot him if they can’t wait that long—so that the corporatocracy can install another member of American royal families as its puppet. (Sometimes that doesn’t quite work, as when the people voted in that upstart Obama—no wonder he’s graying so fast.)

Oddly, the personality difference between the two systems shows up in a memory exercise I teach, in which the student memorises the 44 presidents forwards and backwards. Students soon note how many presidents are interrelated—two sets of fathers and sons, a grandfather and grandson, nephew and uncle, the Bushes to the Pierces. In the Canadian version of this exercise, there’s none of this family-relations stuff among the Prime Ministers. The pattern is distinctively Canadian: McDonald, McKenzie, McDonald; later, Meighen, King, Meighen, King, Bennett, King; still later Trudeau, Clark, Trudeau. We kick a party out when we’ve had enough; bring it back when we’ve had it with the alternative. In our much shorter history, there’s more change in the parties, and more new parties, than in the entrenched old American story of the Donkey and the Elephant. Even this brief history lesson illustrates how different Canadians are from Americans.

I worked the 2000 and 2004 election for the Dems, and discovered large holes, the like of which I never saw in many Canadian elections I worked. America is not a democracy, if ever it was. Proof? Few Americans grasp the principle of a minority government, whereas Canadians understand how minority governments provide checks and balances. Canadians relate to the Prime Ministers as public servants who has yet to prove themselves to their public. Americans relate to the president as a father figure, who at all costs must keep a white cowboy hat on his head.

Perhaps the present tense is no longer appropriate. The principles of ownership of the land and environment, and the sense of entitlement to the American Dream, form the insidious subtext to American law. Superficially, some areas, like negligence and family law, on TV seem similar to our own, but fields like constitutional and criminal law are different enough to have come from another planet. Guaranteed, these are differences most Canadians would not care to endure.

We’ll be fighting to keep Canada Canadian in the coming years, as US systems struggle and collapse and we are looked to as a fresh source of resources and space. Let’s kick off the game by refusing to emulate American politics. Refuse to entertain such despicable tools as personal attacks and insinuations.

We’re sure to have another election as soon as a wannabee king sees an opportunity to get a majority government—tell these politicos where to stick their personality cults by voting only for parties that never indulge in these shameful ads.

Join the Beer Can Party? We could string bunches of red-and-white beer cans on flagpoles and rattle some sense into these bad-mannered politicos. Look to the Queen before putting out your nasty ads, o Ottawans. Learn a little graciousness.