Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Home and native land by the dawn’s early light

File under: Character Writ Large, Home And Native Land, I Read The News Today, Oh Boy. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 4:43 pm.

I wanted to comment on Diana Moon’s evisceration of a particularly egregious FrontPageMag.com article, because her characterization of US/British sentiments could be applied almost just as well to US/Canada ones:

I took one trip to Britain, in the summer of 1989. George Senior was a-comin’ fer a visit and the hot topic on every BBC show was “Is the special relationship still special?” Now, I knew what this special relationship thing was, but to see the anxiousness displayed on the British media was, well, surprising. Of course, I couldn’t help but note that when a British PM comes to the US, there is no such reciprocal anxiety…which might account for a certain resentment on the part of the British towards the overwhelming power imbalance…which I did not encounter.

Yeah, that about covers it, except that while the British are (from what I can tell) obsequious (in that formal British backhandedly contemptuous way) toward the US, Canadians are more passive-aggressive. My Canadian readers will recall Prime Minister Martin’s campaign this past summer, which featured the Liberal leader assuring us, in turns, that 1) we wanted so very much foster a close relationship with our good friends the Americans and by God we would under a Liberal government; and that 2) we’re not American, with their privatized health care and their Iraq war and their votes on abortion, okay, we’re Canadian, we’re different, THANK THE LORD GOD WE’RE NOT AMERICAN. Witnessing the US presidential campaigns from my vantage point north of the 49th, I found myself thinking more than once - the Republicans are calling Kerry a flip-flopper? They have no idea. But anyway, similar dynamic - wee Canada sitting up north, chewing its nails and assuring itself that if it behaves properly (and unlike those brutes the Americans, it always behaves properly, it’s Canadian for heaven’s sake!) then the US will love it. Meanwhile, south of the border, the US making its decisions and formulating its views pretty independently of anything Canada thinks. (Independently, that is, when they’re not trying to piss us right off.)

I was reminded of this last night, watching an unintentionally hilarious CBC piece about Machias Seal Island, one of four (!) disputed islands that lie on blurry segments of the Canada/US border. According to the US, the island is part of Maine; Canada maintains that it’s property of New Brunswick. The latter doesn’t sit terribly well with one John Norton of Kennebunkport, Maine*, who leads puffin tours of the island. His family has been in Maine for hundreds of years, apparently, and the last five generations of his family have fought for the US government to take Maine’s property claims more seriously. He defends the island with a righteousness that makes me kind of selfishly glad that the US troops are all tied up in Iraq for the time being. Meanwhile, Canada has had a lighthouse on the island since before Confederation, which seems like a pretty strong case for Canadian ownership; but at the same time, our federal government actively allows its fishermen to fish off the Island coast before the Canadian fishing season has started…as long as American fishing season is underway. Cakes and consumption, Canada.

In any event, Norton is adamant: “Eye lead puffin tours of Machias Seal Island, YOU. ESS. AY,” he enunciated from his boat, with all the passion and clarity of a stage actor. He then continued, “Canadians are very smooth…they can stick the knife in your back and twist it around” - cue crude arm gesture - “and say ‘thank you’.” Norton’s family has run the puffin tours for generations, but he still feels threatened by New Brunswick (that’s threatened by New Brunswick, for those of you keeping track), and he won’t back down: “Canada,” he announced, “will have to shoot me in the head” - this he demonstrated visually by pointing his finger at his head in the classic “shooting self in head” position - “to keep me off this island.”

From there we met Paul Cranford, a Cape Breton fiddler and writer who’s worked as a lighthousekeeper on Machias for the last decade. “It’s Canadian territory,” he told the camera calmly, and chuckled, “though I know John Norton thinks otherwise. Sure,” he continued, “the island is disputed…but there’s no real animosity.”

And then the camera cut to Cranford walking through the overgrown Maritime fields against a backdrop of Celtic music, which it then showed him playing on his fiddle.

And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is Canada/US relations in a nutshell.

* I’ve been to Kennebunkport, and I would postulate that there is no one else in the entire state of Maine - save perhaps his family - who’s anything like John Norton. Mainers make Canadians look unfriendly and impolite by comparison. Tell an average Mainer that there’s an island disputed between Maine and New Brunswick, and you’ll probably get an answer along the lines of “Oh, is there? Well, you can have it, you know, if you want it. Is there anything else you want? Another island maybe? Really, just let us know.”


  1. They may be nice, but they’re really strange.

    But you’re always going to find a nut like that in any property dispute. We got lots of people like that here in NYC, but they get very expensive lawyers to fight their battles. Lord knows, I’ve seen enough stupid lawsuits in my co-op.

    - meep — 10/18/2004 @ 6:06 pm

  2. I could name a certain first family that has been known to reside in Kennebunkport, ME, which has also been known to get violent when it comes to international disputes…

    - Kenny — 10/19/2004 @ 1:31 am

  3. True dat, but they’re not FROM Maine, which makes all the difference. Don’t know about the larger cities in the state, but I don’t think anyone ever moved to Waterville, except maybe to go to college. That’s why half of the streets weren’t labelled - if your family hasn’t been here long enough for you to know your way around town, what are you doing here, anyway?

    - Moebius Stripper — 10/19/2004 @ 10:56 am

  4. It’s Jonesport, not Kennebunkport!

    - Heidi Hinkley — 3/31/2005 @ 6:56 am

  5. I visited a U.S. enclave called Point Roberts which sits on a peninisula just south of Vancouver. It’s COMPLETELY surrounded by Canadian territory. It’s expensive to maintain: border crossing, school, post office, etc. The whole enclave is only about 1 square mile in size. Why we just don’t give it to Canada is puzzling to me.

    - EdWonk — 7/30/2005 @ 3:32 pm

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