By Jim Poling Sr.
When the gates creak open on our pandemic prison I plan to take a long, peaceful road trip.
When I think long road trip my mind usually swings south. Trips like Route 66 with all its great history and its wonderfully varied scenery.
The Canada-U.S. dollar difference sometimes dampens enthusiasm to travel in the States, but the loonie has been gaining strength against the greenback over the last year. Auto fuels are cheaper down there. So are motels and food, and the people who serve you smile and make you feel welcome.
However, I’m a bit down on the U.S. these days. Actually, I’m a lot down on the U.S. these days.
It’s a place that seems to have lost its sense of purpose. Some days it looks like a country gone insane.
The politics have become so radicalized and polarized that you wonder whether the United States should be two countries, instead of one. Longstanding biological racism, and now growing cultural racism, are tearing the place apart.
It used to be that if you stayed out of ‘bad’ places in the U.S. you didn’t have to worry about being caught up in violence. That’s no longer the case. There is so much violence, much of it gun violence, that you could become a victim anywhere in the country.
The Gun Violence Archive reports there have been 14,500 gun deaths in the U.S. to date this year (roughly five an hour) and 180 mass shootings, which is more than one a day.
Just staying in your vehicle during a U.S. road trip will not guarantee your safety. There are roughly 100 traffic deaths every day in the U.S., a large part of them attributed to texting and to impaired driving.
But that’s negative stuff. Positive images are pulling me toward a Canadian road trip.
Positive images like those brilliant Newfoundland travel TV ads – flowers dancing gently in an ocean breeze, people hiking spectacular coastlines and kids exploring caves built by Vikings. Images of colourful houses, colourful people and happy calm.
Maybe all of us should be thinking Canadian road trips. Or, better still, thinking more Canadian, period.
Canadian culture is not as strongly definitive as it should be. It’s like a tulip struggling to grow and be noticed under the thick canopy of an oak forest. And that canopy is the suffocating American culture spilling over from the south.
We have the same language, similar geography and some of the same customs as Americans. On top of that we listen to American music, watch huge amounts of American television, drive American cars, eat American food, follow American sports teams and buy huge amounts of American goods at American stores like Walmart.
Canada is ranked one of the highest countries for education, yet only a small per cent of educational book publishers are Canadian.
Especially worrisome is the trend toward less Canadian produced and reported news and more news from the U.S. A mix of news sources can be a good thing, but my guess is that Canadians probably watch more news from CNN, ABC, NBC and other American networks than they do from Canadian channels.
Canada’s newspaper industry is failing and a couple of major American newspapers see opportunity in that. They see readers and revenues in the news deserts created by the closure of 250 Canadian newspapers in the last seven years. Cutbacks in Canadian journalism resources increase by the day.
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have been increasing Canadian coverage. Their digital editions easily let them direct Canadian advertising at Canadian readers, therefore eating the lunches of our news outlets.
Canadian news, reported on Canadian news outlets by Canadian journalists, is a lifeblood of Canadian culture.
We all need to think about how we can start doing more to stop American culture from washing away our Canadian culture, and how we as individuals can strengthen our culture.
When COVID-19 is over I intend to do that with a Canadian road trip and by spending as much money as I can in small Canadian businesses that have been suffering so deeply under the many restrictions made necessary by this terrible disease.