Although I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, a scant 53 miles from Windsor, Ontario, I almost never heard the word "Canada" uttered by anybody.
Weather maps on the TV newscasts and in the newspapers included data from distant areas of the US but nothing from The Mysterious Land Without A Name just to my north.
While dispatches from foreign correspondents stationed in places as far away as Germany and Japan were delivered almost daily to my doorstep, not a single comment, sigh, or peep from anyone in The Huge Pink Blob ever seems to have made its way the short distance south to Ohio.
I came to think of Canada as The Huge Pink Blob early on in life because that's what it was depicted as being on the jigsaw puzzle map of North America I had. While all 50 US states and their major cities and roads and products were shown in exquisite, colorful detail, the provinces and territories of the second largest country on earth were reduced to nothing more than one long, monochromatic smear cut off by the top edge of my cardboard distraction long before the North Pole regions performed the same service in the real world.
Mexico was the similarly monochromatic Orange Pie Wedge way to my south. I learned far more about Mexico in my youth than I ever learned about Canada, however. Mexicans sometimes even made their way into comic books and movies!
Canadians, in contrast, were reduced to sending me hard-to-decipher messages via Windsor's AM 800 radio station, CKLW. It seemed like such a lonely radio station, way off by itself at the far end of the dial as if trying to hide from me. The few times I accidentally found it, it apparently tried even harder to pass itself off as an American station by playing the same sort of music all the other stations were (with the exception of WTOD and its truly otherworldly country and western ditties).
I can vaguely vowing at some point in my youth to one day find out more about Canada and give it its due.
That day is now!
Consider what I've learned just this evening, ye self-centered Americans, and weep!
----- Canada is one of the world's few developed countries that is a net exporter of energy!
----- Canada is the number one producer of uranium as well as of zinc and/or potash! (My sources aren't entirely clear.)
----- Canada has the longest coastline in the world! (Over 125,000 miles - or over 200,000 kilometers, as they put it in the original Canadian.)
----- Canada has more lakes than ANY other country!
----- Canada has the soundest banking system in the world! In the words of mortgage specialist Pam Martin, "I am very pleased to see the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for the third consecutive year. Canada's banks and other financial institutions are sound and well-capitalized, and were less highly leveraged than their international peers heading into the financial crisis. In contrast to many other countries, none of Canada's banks required bailouts. Even during the worst days of the credit crisis, our financial institutions' health allowed them to continue to raise capital. The strength of our financial sector is the result of a sound regulatory regime, including capital requirements for financial institutions that are well above minimum international standards and higher than in many other jurisdictions, and a more conservative risk appetite among financial institutions.... It's no wonder that international leaders around the world praise Canada's financial system as a model for others to emulate."
----- According to John Weston, a member of the Canadian Parliament, Canada is bouncing back from the current recession faster than any other country in the G8!
----- People all around the world love and respect Canada more than any other country! According to a recent story in USA Today, "The USA has slipped three notches to No. 4 in an annual ranking of nations with the most favorable brand performance, says a new study. Climbing to the top spot (from No. 2 in 2009) is Canada, thanks in part to its success in hosting this year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.... Now in its sixth year, the survey (produced in partnership with BBC World News this year), queried 3,400 business and leisure travelers on five continents, augmented by expert focus groups, on their image associations of various countries in five categories, including tourism appeal, quality of life and value systems."
Pretty impressive, eh?
And it gets even more impressive when you realize that everyone from Alanis Morissette to Celine Dion to Howie Mandel to Jim Carrey to Doug Henning to Keanu Reeves to Mike Myers to Pamela Anderson to Sarah McLachlan to Stephen Pinker to Morley Safer to Shania Twain to Marshall McLuhan to James Randi to William Shatner chose to be born in Canada rather than ANY other place in the universe!
Had I ever heard of Canada before *I* was born, I just might have chosen to enter this life in Vancouver or Toronto myself.
If it wasn't so late, I'd be mighty tempted to start a Canada Appreciation Society.
As it is, I'm reduced to paying homage to that great country in this entry, then calling it a night.
If you're not an easily tired, ridiculously lazy American like me, I strongly encourage you to start such a society on my behalf.
Canada deserves no less!
And if the ghost of Pierre Trudeau doesn't pop up to thank you, I will.