More specifically, down to Buffalo, which is just a couple of hours' drive from Toronto. Why did I go? Oh, for something to do. Not that there isn't a lot to do in Toronto, of course, but we wanted to get out of town, and it was a lovely day for a drive down to Niagara, then over the border, first to East Amherst, out past the airport, where we found a great road-side drive-in restaurant, then to a bookstore of a major national chain.
As for the bookstore, right next to the Walden Galleria, let's call it... Borders.
Now, it's a decent bookstore, but it used to be a lot better -- I've been going there on my Buffalo trips ever since I moved to Toronto in '95. I thought it was even better than Barnes & Noble. It had a fantastic book selection, especially Fiction, History, and Politics, with a lot that I couldn't find here in Canada, including from American academic presses, as well as a similarly fantastic music (including small and independent artists) and movie (including foreign/Criterion) selection. But even the in-store cafe, now a Seattle's Best (i.e., Starbucks), isn't what it once was.
Maybe Borders has been cutting back, or maybe it's just the unfortunate reality of the brick-and-mortar trade now, what with so many of us buying their books and DVDs online, and with iTunes changing the way we buy music. Whatever the case, it's been a disappointment my last few trips there, and yesterday was no exception.
But here's my point: When I walked in, the first thing I saw, right in front of me, was a display that prominently featured Sean Hannity's Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda
. Putting aside the fact that conservatism has been a bankrupt and losing ideology for many years now, and that Obama's agenda is hardly radical -- while I'm still a fairly enthusiastic Obama supporter, I and many others on the left, including the moderate left, have been extremely critical of his generally right-leaning agenda
(the moderate Republican health-care plan, the Wall Street bailout, the Afghan War escalation, the continuation of some of the worst aspects of Bush's national security state, etc.) -- what struck me was the fact that a major bookstore in what is a fairly Democratic state (if not the most Democratic part of that state) decided to feature a member of the right-wing insanitarium (and Fox News propaganda machine). Okay, he was right next to Giada De Laurentiis
, the (overrated and irritating) Food Network star with the prominent rack, but still.
Now, you might say, so what? Hannity's books are popular, and Borders just wants to make money. Fine. I get that, even if I don't like it. But, as I discovered later, the Politics section prominently featured the work of Glenn Beck, with two shelves reserved for his books. Yes, yes, Beck is extremely popular, too, but it struck me as something other than a coincidence that Borders' customers, myself included, had right-wing extremism shoved down our throats as we browsed. Okay, there really is no left-wing equivalent to Hannity and Beck, Limbaugh and Coulter, but still.
So who's to blame? Corporate Borders? This one Borders in Cheektowaga, New York? Who knows? But suffice it to say that it reminded me that while I used to live in the U.S. for many years, and while I write about the U.S., have a blog that focuses on the U.S., and generally focus a great deal of my attention on the U.S., I take so much comfort in being Canadian and in living in Canada, where our bookstores and our culture and our politics and our very way of life are not polluted with such right-wing inanity and insanity. We may have a Conservative government in Ottawa and our share of conservative public figures (many of whom, like David Frum and Mark Steyn, head south), but it's just not the same -- at its worst, it's more like being governed by moderate Democrats, along with a few moderate Republians, within generally liberal parameters, as we are, more or less, a solidly liberal, if not always Liberal, country.
I love America. I really do. That's why I spend so much of my time in virtual America, watching it, blogging about it, immersed in it. But there's an awful lot I don't like about it, as I make clear here over and over, and it's when I'm face-to-face with that awfulness, with Hannity and Beck and those like them, with conservative ideology and the extremist theocratic-libertarian views that are so prevalent down there, that at times seem to dominate the political landscape, when I think, you know, this is what you have to deal with when you live in America, that I recoil, repulsed, and take such pride in my own country.
We Canadians are very American in very many ways, you see, but in the ways that perhaps matter most, we are very much ourselves.
Labels: books, Canada, conservatives, Glenn Beck, personal, Sean Hannity