Report on the Ongoing Canadianization Project

The Milwaukee trip over thanksgiving was its usual pleasure (though this was our first trip to Milwaukee for said purpose). One of my colleagues commented that she found Americans’ devotion to thanksgiving bizarre, a sentiment echoed by other Canadians I’ve met. I don’t have a profound answer except to say that like Halloween (my other favorite holiday), it is largely pointless and fun oriented. In our case, we decided it was a holiday to celebrate (with) friends, and indeed that is what I like most about it. Thanksgiving is all about celebrating the good and voluntary things in like. But I explained it to my colleague a little differently: I said I was working on taking more time off, and TG was a good excuse. And it was, even if it wasn’t totally “off.”

Milwaukee, or its suburbs anyway, was uncanny for me — familiar and yet strange. Wide streets, big houses, little suburban downtowns, gridded streets and bitingly clear skies, especially when it was really cold on Thursday. Wisconsin does not look exactly like Minnesota, but it’s similar enough that it turned on my “home” switch. I guess it reminded me how exotic I still find the spaces of Montreal — my childlike fascination with the metro, with the narrow streets, and even my glee at the bizarre and utterly unique layout of our “loft” apartment are all propelled by some kind of sense that I live in an exotic, different, wonderous place. So I guess I’m getting both sides of that wonder travelling back and forth. Or something.

Politically, the trip was also a bit of an eye opener. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is your average conservative midwestern newspaper, filled with banal accounts of local goings on, and no real international coverage — despite plenty of jingoistic editorializing. Example: on the op-ed page one day was a commentary on a school teacher who required her students to write antiwar letters for some exercise. Now, I’ll grant that teachers requiring kids to take a political position is not something I support, at least not on that level. But their supposedly neutral solution? To have the kids write letters to soldiers’ families. Yeah, that’s so much better. Reminds me that a couple years after I graduated high school, my school had compulsory rallies in support of the second Gulf War. Good thing I was gone or I might have gotten into even more trouble than I did. But that’s another story. My point is simply that for all the Globe and Mail‘s conservatism in the Canadian context, I am somewhat spoiled by the tenor of Canadian politics. I couldn’t even read the “A” section of the Journal-Sentinel I found it so upsetting.

On the political note, I found myself sitting next to a self-professed Canadian conservative on the flight from Montreal to Toronto. I haven’t had many decent conversations with people who vote conservative, probably because there are hardly any in Quebec. When he learned that I teach at McGill, he asked if I had encountered any anti-American sentiment. The content of my answer is worth another post, though I might have covered that sometime last year. I can’t remember. Anyway, pretty soon we were talking about trade regulation (he wants less of it), socialized medicine (he’s absolutely devoted to it), food additives (he’s against them), foreign policy (he believed the Bush administration on Iraq but is now really pissed about being lied to). You know what he sounded like to me? A moderate member of the U.S. democratic party. Not on everything, mind you, but it was an interesting way to pass the time on the flight, and he clearly liked educating me about the conservative platform. Oh, and he thinks Harper is a lame leader.

We got home late Saturday night and spent Sunday recovering, which of course means watching football and lounging around the house (okay, and going through piles of email, but that’s another thing). At 5:30, the Grey Cup came on, and started out as a B-O-R-I-N-G game. “Wow,” I thought, “it is a lot like the Super Bowl.” We switched back and forth with some NFL games. But the second half really took off and we were pretty glued to the set, especially for the overtime, which was delightfully different from the NFL’s sudden death. More a slow death, really. Even though I was rooting for the Alouettes (I still have yet to reside in a city whose professional football team was won a championship during my presence. coincidence? Hmmnm. . . .), their disintegration in overtime was spectacularly entertaining.

Oh, and Carrie said the landlord gushed on the voicemail about my new bilingual outgoing “leave us a message” voice message. And I’m listening to Death From Above 1979 as I’m composing this message. So I guess the Canadianization and Quebecization project (that’s a long “o” in “project”) is going pretty well.

That’s the report for now. Next up, some thoughts on theory with a capital T.

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