I had to make a quick trip to my favorite country just north of the border. It has always amazed me, especially being this close, just how different Canada is from the United States.
I have known many Canadians (what a pleasure!) and their attitude to just about everything could not be more different from the average American’s – especially those conservative, upright, puritan citizens of ours. You have to look hard to find someone who takes life so seriously in Canada. At least, that’s the way it appears to me…
As soon as I land, I find myself in the actual land of diversity (especially true in the larger metropolis areas of Canada). Aah, so this is what a diversified population in the West really looks like. America, are you listening?!
And then I experience something else that tells me what “liberal” really means.
I am to introduce a provincial minister (read U.S. Senator or Congressman) to the audience at a very focused conference – not a large one but there are probably a couple of hundred interested people in the audience. Given his portfolios (he has two) and the province in question, this Minister is quite a powerhouse, controlling several billions of dollars of spend each year, and he has the additional onus of having to show visible progress that makes a difference to citizens’ lives.
Definitely a well-known icon in the public there!
This Minister was quite a personality, and I say that in the most positive sense. He was passionate about his vision and goals for the province, and he was convincing in his articulation of these to the audience at this particular conference. Interestingly, he was not playing at a popularity contest but instead laying out the challenges he faced while he worked towards his objectives.
As he was making his speech, he said something that to my Indian-American mind, was quite amazing. Amazing because I would be hard-pressed to hear anything close to this in public, either in the US (or India – well, fuggedaboutit). What’s even more amazing to me is how casually he said what he did. The thing is that it probably didn’t even register with those liberal Canadians. It did register with this liberal American because I had never heard anything like it. In public. By a politician no less.
As he made his speech, he started on a story in order to make a point. And then he slipped in a comment that didn’t even make the audience blink (that’s really what is so remarkable!).
He said (and I paraphrase) –
I was telling my 86 year old mother that we needed to go to a wedding. I’m gay so my mother asks me – is this wedding boy-boy, girl-girl or boy-girl? Pretty nice for an 86 year old, eh?
How many politicians do you know who would even admit that they are gay? Does your culture and society even allow it?? Gay rights? Nah, I call it human rights.
I aspire for a time when American and the world treat this just as naturally and freely. I hope that, notwithstanding a strange tea party dynamic that has entered the scene here, we can say it’s on the horizon finally. I hope. We can even say the pope agrees now! [Well, almost].
But oh Canada, I do admire you so!