Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading and Remembering

This morning, I decided to depart from my more usual routine of scanning the New York Times online and, instead read a few pieces from the Globe and Mail out of Canada. Almost every time I read Canadian papers I come away with a sense that, by and large, Canadians are more intelligent than people from the U.S. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stupid and close-minded Canadians, but I regularly see signs that Canadians are more progressive than we are.

Take, for instance, this morning's reports about the new ban on using hand-held devices while driving in Ontario. The Ontario ban, which goes into effect tomorrow, October 26, apparently is just the latest Provincial ban in Canada. Only California, to my knowledge, has instituted anything similar in the States. In the Dallas area, there are spotty bans on using hand-held devices only in school zones. That strikes me as utterly idiotic. "Let's try to ease into this thing; let's stop killing kids and see if it catches on." What horseshit! It only takes a few minutes on city streets in Dallas to see that people who are talking on cell phones are menaces. They weave across lane boundaries, pull slowly in front of oncoming traffic (oblivious to what could be their impending death if the oncoming drivers also are on cell phones), drive a good 20 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit, and otherwise behave as if they were drunk. OK, enough; my intent was to write about Canadians, not cell-phone addicts.

In Ontario, there are significant fines associated with breaking the new law. But even there, they have not seen fit to associate the criminal behavior with boosting insurance rates. But they're at least talking about the issue!

After deciding that Canadians have the right idea about cell phone usage while driving, I read another piece, by Doug Saunders, that argues that neither Reagan nor grass-roots democracy movements led to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. It's a short piece, but I think it offers some reasonable arguments that neither "cause" for the fall of Communism was much of a "cause," after all. In fact, Saunders argues that Reagan's belligerent howls and his muscle-flexing prolonged Communism by giving Communist hard-liners greater sway than they would otherwise have had.

On an unrelated note, I get annoyed when I hear people chide others for calling people from the U.S. "Americans." Their point is that "Americans" should refer to people from the tip of South America to the fartherest reaches of northern Canada. But they never offer any reasonable alternatives. There are none! We can call people Canadians because they are from Canada. We can call people Mexicans because they come from Mexico. We call people Peruvians because they come from Peru. And so it goes. But can we call ourselves United States of Americans? That's silly. So we shorten it to Americans. But if that's truly unacceptable, then I sugest the only reasonable alternative is to change the name of our country. Let's consider changing it to Capitalistica, so we might call ourselves Capitalisticans. Or we could change it to Imperial, which would allow us to call ourselves Imperialists. Or we might change it to Ruff, giving us the opportunity to call ourselves Ruffians. Or maybe we could just agree that Americans is probably a reasonable compromise.

On another note, my wife and I spent most of the day yesterday at WorldFest in Addison. The event, which continues today, is a celebration of cultures around the world, with entertainment, foods, and goods from around the globe. Among the attractions were showings of a number of film shorts; we saw six of them, several of which were very good.

One day soon I will write about the mega-celebration of my brother's 70th birthday; it was a family reunion and birthday celebration rolled into one and it was worth doing again soon.

1 comment:

bev said...

Interesting post. Being a Canadian - one who has traveled around quite a bit of the U.S., I find that there are some significant cultural differences. In general, Canadians are more conservative - not politically, but just in how they conduct their lives. Most tend to be quieter and the old joke about how we say "I'm sorry" when someone steps back and steps on our toes is actually very accurate. I'm not sure that we're better or safer drivers - in certain areas this is very true, but less so in others (urban driving seems to bring out the road warrior in most people). Some of the most courteous drivers I've encountered during my travels are in southern Arizona where most seem to be in no great hurry and will make a space for people to merge, change lanes, etc, or give you a wave to make a left turn. On the other hand, I've seen some truly scary driving along the coastal highways of Oregon and California, so these are not my favourite places to drive (I happen to be in that area right now, btw). Politically, I think we're more inclined to listen to all sides and not think we're right "just because". There are other differences as well - a lot of funny little things too involved to get into here.