I have lived most of my life near the Great Lakes. This meant that more than a few trips and vacations were taken to Canada.
Despite the fact that Canadians and Americans are largely similar, an American tourist in Canada (at least this American tourist) easily recognizes that he is in a foreign country, even if it is not all that foreign.
For example, charming Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, simply does not feel American. Typically, this is because of the pictures of the Queen of England on the currency.
Similarly, parts of Toronto feel decidedly different from the US of A. There are the occasional locations, for example, that feature persons dressed as guards from the tower of London.
Finally, Quebec has a strong European flavor. This is due not only to the strong French cultural presence, but to the very architecture (which is, of course, a physical manifestation of the French cultural roots of Quebec).
At any rate, despite the great similarities between Canadians and the United States, Canada is recognizably a different country.
Despite the differences between Canada and the States, when the phrase "it's like a different country" is used by a traveler, this traveler is more likely to have come back from the Deep South than from Canada.
Visitors to New Orleans, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia have all remarked to me that they found the South "like a whole different country."
"The people are different," you might say. "They're like a different nationality."
This should not be surprising to the tourist versed in history. Both Canada and the South were invaded by the United States. The Canadians successfully defended their native soil. The Southrons were not so fortunate.
Nearly 150 years after the end of the War Between the States, the South remains a distinctively different region of the globe. It is, culturally, "like a different country."
Americans appear to have no difficulty accepting Canadian independence. Why not accept Southern independence as well?
As Woodrow Wilson explained the right of self-determination in his famous "Fourteen Points" speech,
"It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak. Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of international justice can stand. The people of the United States could act upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle they are ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything that they possess."
How about it, America?
The South is not equally different from the North as Canada is different from the North. Arguably, Southerners are more different from Yankees than are Canadians. Vermont and Massachusetts are not entirely unlike Ontario, in which case, there is arguably a stronger case for Southern independence than for Canadian independence.
August 3, 2002
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2002 David Dieteman