EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the March 8, 2004, issue of National Review.
The other day I settled down with a copy of the Toronto Star, the Great White North’s biggest-selling newspaper, and here’s what I read: “As the United States descends into fascism, the importance of Canada, North America’s only civil society, is greater than ever.”
Thus the opening sentence of an article by Christopher Hume. Mr. Hume doesn’t write about politics or global affairs. He’s the architecture correspondent.
Any American abroad comes across similar sentiments every day of the week — in a theater review in Australia, the sports page in Ireland, the gardening-tips column in Belgium. But Mr. Hume’s intro had a particular piquancy because he was writing about the “sense of openness and welcome” of the new plaza on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y. He didn’t mention it, but the Peace Bridge is so named because, when it was opened in 1927 by the Prince of Wales and Vice President Dawes, it marked a century of peace between the U.S. and Canada since the War of 1812. It is, therefore, a monument to shared assumptions. Charles Gates Dawes, before achieving the obscurity of the vice presidency, was the composer of an engaging little tune subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and others:
“Many a tear has to fall
But It’s All
In The Game . . .”
Very true. And as Nat went on to observe:
“You have words with him
And your future’s looking dim
But these things your heart can rise above . . .”
When one reads, in a discussion of traffic-booth design, that the United States is descending into fascism and Canada is North America’s only civil society, one’s heart is naturally inclined to rise above, to regard this as one of the many insignificant tears that fall in the enduring game between two longstanding friends. But, when such teardrops fall every single day, you start to wonder whether it’s not something toxic in the air.
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