Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An open letter

By Grace

To the American media, commentators/pundits and politicians:

The United States and Canada are neighbours, each others' closest allies and biggest trading partners. And hey, we both know that we make fun of each other once in a while - or a lot; you like to think that we live in igloos and drive dogsleds to work, and we joke that half of your country actually thinks it's true. You make fun of our health care system, we make fun of yours, it goes on and on. We Canadians are a relatively friendly bunch and we can take a few jabs about our dollar or our "accents", laugh it off and move on.

However, Fox News took it too far.

Fox's "Red Eye", recently aired this:

Normally, no one in Canada pays attention to a 3 a.m. program like this, so it went unnoticed for several days. However, the video was loaded onto YouTube, went viral and unfortunately for host Greg Gutfeld and his cronies, the Canadian media outlets broke this story on the day that we were to receive four of our war dead back from the war in Afghanistan. What was said on the program was offensive enough to cause Minister of National Defence Peter McKay to demand an apology from the Fox.

In the city, we have what's now officially called the Highway of Heroes. It's the route along the 401 and Don Valley Parkway on which the bodies of the Canadian war dead are transported home after arriving at the military base in Trenton, Ontario. Earlier this month, I watched as a motorcade containing the caskets of our fallen heroes passed by and it brought me to tears. Today as I drove along, I saw people lining overpasses, waving flags and carrying banners saying "We Will Remember" to greet today's motorcade and the remarks from "Red Eye" cut deeper.

I was furious when I saw the clip, but rather than turn it into a rant, I'm writing this as a plea for empathy and intelligence from American broadcasters and politicians. Because this is not an isolated occurrence.

I remember this political ad from 2006 from the Republican Party. In the United States, it caused controversy over the Caucasian female who whispers "Call me!" at the end. In Canada, we were insulted by one statement:

"Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."

There's this pervasive attitude that Canada is not contributing to the international fight against terrorism - or perhaps, not enough by American pundits' standards. Or that it's something to be mocked. And while the statements might seem innocent or funny to an audience in the U.S., when they get aired abroad, they're doing a lot of damage to Canadian-American relations.

Just last month, when President Barack Obama was visiting Canada, he made the following remarks:

"All I did was to compliment Canada on not only the troops that are there … but also the fact that Canada's largest foreign aid recipient is Afghanistan... We just want to say thank you."

Greg Gutfeld and his panel undid and overshadowed a lot of that goodwill that was fostered between the two countries with their comments. He's misinforming his audience and distorting real issues - it's irresponsible and, in regards to his choice in target, malicious and supremely disrespectful. All you have to do is read the comments at the bottom of the first YouTube video to see how incensed the population has become over the show. And while one might brush these aside as rantings of some Internet denizens, I will say this: every time I hear American broadcasters and politicians make snide remarks about our war effort, I remember the following:

- Canada is in Afghanistan because our allies were attacked on their own soil, and we refused to let the wrongdoers get away with it. When we were asked to help hunt down Osama bin Laden in that country, we went. And now, our military is handling the majority of the work there.

- To date, 116 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

- The first four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan died from so-called friendly fire from two American soldiers who were told by their superiors to "hold fire"; an additional eight were injured. The U.S. pilots rolled in and dropped a bomb on the Canadian troops while they were training. I found the punishment of the pilots, which consisted of a reprimand, being found guilty of dereliction of duty and a fine, outrageously lenient.

- Our commitment was set to end this year. In 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which includes the United States, scrambled to give Canada reinforcements in order convince us to extend our engagement there. That is the significance of our contribution in the region.

- The stretch of highway on the 401 between Trenton and Toronto did not need to be called the Highway of Heroes until our involvement in the Middle Eastern region and transporting war dead became an all-too-common occurrence.

Every time American broadcasters and politicians make ignorant comments, I think, "So this is the thanks we get for our sacrifice." And I think that the price we've already paid in lives, in resources is already too high - especially if this is how Americans feel about what we're doing. I am deeply offended by these pundits and politicians who mock the Canadian Forces, and I'm not alone on this. For their work and sacrifice, the men and women of the CF deserve nothing but respect.

So, keep making fun of our maple syrup-based diets, plaid flannel wardrobes, our frigid climate, our obsession with all things hockey and curling, the way we use "eh" at the end of sentences. We can take it. But our war dead and our contribution to your war effort - it's no laughing matter and it's off limits.

Enough is enough.

And in regards to invading Canada -- try it and we'll bring back Laura Secord and go all 1812 on you.

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  • Thank you for a cogent post on the topic from the Canadian perspective.

    If you need a soundtrack for your last sentence, you definitely want "The War of 1812" by The Arrogant Worms.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 AM  

  • Geeze, idiots, is all I can say. I wish these people would stop embarassing me. Count me as glad to have Canada as a neighbor and ally. And, thanks for putting up with us all these years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 PM  

  • Unfortunately the response from those nattering nitwits who should be contrite seems to be that the offense is a coy pretense and that this is all a staged distraction from how truly awful Obama and his cowardly Democrats are.

    It's really too bad the Slander Monkeys don't remember Juno Beach and D-day and what Canada did for freedom. It's to bad they have forgotten how the Canadian Embassy in Tehran hid Americans when Iran was holding hostages and the Brave Hollywood soldier Reagan was giving them missiles.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:45 AM  

  • A thorough response. Fox News is little more than a network of propagandists, ignoramuses, obnoxious frat boys and bigoted airheads (created and owned by a rich, conservative Australian). Normally they bash France, but it's not as if they know better or even care when it comes to Canada, France, or even the United States, for that matter. Eviscerate away...

    By Blogger Batocchio, at 1:40 PM  

  • Maybe if you guys would take back Mark Steyn, and hold him incommunicado for a while (blessed relief!), America would feel less like making fun of Canada. :)

    More seriously, I think the word went out to Fox and other right-wing news sources and dens of punditry during the Bush administration to denigrate Canada's military for one reason--Canada's health care system.

    National budgets are flexible, but only within fairly narrow limits--especially for a population of only 33 million or so--and if Canada bends to the many previous Bush initiatives to increase its defense spending, that leaves less for a health care system that is embarrassing to the elite in the U.S. To the people running the U.S., it would be better to have that system dysfunctional or abandoned entirely, because the contrast--especially considering the U.S.'s overall wealth and number without health care--is particularly offensive to the wealthy right-wingers.

    And, of course, the side benefit of Canada spending more on weapons would mean they would probably have to buy some from the U.S., or might find it necessary to employ some of our crack contractors, such as the ones who have done such a bang-up job in Iraq....

    By Blogger Montag, at 1:24 AM  

  • I'm sorry.
    That just sucks, and so does Fox, usually at least 10 or more times a day. I've never even heard of that stupid show, because watching Fox usually sends me into anaphylactic shock. Americans who think, feel, and who aren't cyborgs do not think or feel this way about Canada.
    Screw Fox.

    By Anonymous Christy from TN, at 8:25 AM  

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