Gaffes worth half a laugh
DO CANADIANS REALLY EXIST?
Do Canadians really exist? Yes, that is my question. Is there really such a
whimsical folk who believe in such things as mounted police wearing red uniforms
and modified cowboy hats, water wells with hand pumps, pancakes made with milk
fresh from the cow, and wood burning stoves? Or are they, like so many other
famous creatures, folks and fairies of legend simply a product of someone’s
As a child growing up in Wisconsin I lived within 200 miles of the alleged
border between our two countries and yet never once remember running into one of
these purported bipeds. Are they like gnomes, small and hard to see, ghost-like
wraiths that can turn invisible at their whim? Or are they like leprechauns that
one just happens upon by chance? If so, then one probably has to go all the way
to the Klondike for his gold.
Many stories and legends exist about these ‘Kanucks’, but I like to
have hard evidence to go along with my fairy tales, like an actual hide from one
or at least a skeleton. It is as sketchy a legend as that of the Sasquatch or
Bigfoot to which no one has produced a patch of fur of either.
When I was a child I had been told there was a Santa Claus. There had been
enough evidence to support this; there was no reason to question it. At
Christmas time there were pictures of him everywhere and presents under the tree
on Christmas morning. Every department store had a Santa letting kids sit on his
lap, each asking for things that even Fort Knox couldn’t pay for. But
eventually cracks in this facade began to show. At the tender age of 27 I began
to suspect that there was something seriously wrong with this Santa
myth. For years there had been no more presents even though I had put up a tree faithfully
every year. The department store Santas always got angry when I tried to sit on
their laps. Eventually I understood that it was all a myth and with it came the
realization that some sort of mass hypnosis was at work here that so many people
would try so hard to support such a fictiousness, much like Big Brother in the
book 1984 or Hitler at the Nuremberg rallies.
But Santa was not the only fabrication. There was also the Easter bunny, the
monster under my bed, Peter Pan, and the mad hatchet man from down the street
that my older brothers told me would creep into my room at might and get me if I
wasn’t good (this legend might actually be true because I did find some
suspicious looking bones behind our garage one morning that I can only surmise
as belonging to some other poor kid who hadn’t been quite good enough,
although my mom insisted they were really rabbit bones). Later these myths
changed to beliefs in strange things like Don Juan of Carlos Casteneda fame, or
that there is a Lock Ness monster, or other such whimsies such as that Britney
Spears was a virgin or, of course, that such things as Canadians exist.
With time, most of these bogeymen, although sworn to truly be by many well
meaning people, turned out to be will-of-the-whisps. I deeply suspect this to
be true of Canadians as well. The Canadian myth, however, does not want to die.
No matter how often I try to beat it into the ground it rises again like a
French speaking Frankenstein.
Genuine, authoritative sightings of Canadians differ as to their
descriptions. Some report them to be extremely grizzled from head to foot like
an abominable snowman, only twice as abominable. Others say they are chunky and
squat, much like Santa’s elves or Rosie O’Donnell. I tend to
believe that if they exist at all they are like wild, unclothed cannibals running
through the woods naked, howling at the moon while shreds of their last victim
still hang form their mouths. I myself would never go anywhere near the northern
territories without having a silver crucifix and a gun well loaded with silver
bullets within reach just in case.
Just like the Santa myth, there is an entire folklore to support the belief
in their existence. Canadians, like Santa, are supposed to inhabit a land of ice
and snow and to have reindeer. Supposedly they survive by eating lichens and
cold fish covered with maple syrup. Certain commercial companies have used this
mythology to increase the mystique their products, for example Canada Dry(R)
Tonic Water, Canadian bacon and, of course, Canadian maple syrup.
Such sport teams as the Blue Jays and the Toronto All-Stars are actually
American inventions utilizing Canadian design to make them seem more classy. The
players are just really good American actors and the whole sports thing is
arranged on huge Hollywood sound stages. Although many swear this to be an
exaggerated claim remember that such teams as the Cleveland Indians don’t
have a single redskin among them and that most of the Pittsburgh Pirates have
never been on a ship in their lives.
The question we must ask ourselves concerning the Canadian legend is
“Is it a safe or harmful illusion to believe in?”. The second question
is “Is there any way we can make some money off of this?” Is the
legend perhaps another attempt by government to pull the wool over our eyes like
they did when they got us to believe that Iraq had WMD’s, or that Saudi
Arabia is an ally of ours or that Ronald Reagan was a great president? Or is it
simply a harmless fairy tale about a land where men can wear ear-flap hats and
not be considered doofs; where mothers still tuck their children in at night
under self-made patchwork quilts extra thick with goose feathers after having
told them a fairy tale about giant lumberjacks, where the houses are made of
long planks cut down and hued by the owner himself. It is a dream land where
bear meat and whale blubber make up the majority of the diet thus saving
countless acres of tropical rain forest in other, more exotic parts of the
world from certain destruction. It is a place where the rivers run free and
wilderness still stretches undiminished in every compass direction but stops
abruptly at the U.S. border. The though of such a country which has a simple
maple leaf as its emblem instead of lions and swords and stripes and bars and
other such fancy nonsense appeals to the simple in us. We perhaps need our
delusions that such a place as Canada exists just as children need fairy tales
and teddy bears to cling to- it is something familiar and friendly in a world
that can be cold and fearsome.