O Canada!

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has had a long love affair with Canada. But he knows all four verses of The Star-Spangled Banner.

(Lange) I was watching “Jeopardy.” They had three sharp contestants who came up with the names of bands and rock groups I’d never heard of; they had the Periodic Table and solar system down cold; and they aced the category on vice-presidents.

But Final Jeopardy was Canadian Cities. The question: What Canadian capital city’s name means “queen” in Latin?

Their answers were “Quebec, Vancouver, and…” — by that time I had my face in my hands. “Jeopardy” airs in Canada, too, and they were justifying the complaint Canadians voice about their smaller, but more powerful neighbor: that most of us know virtually nothing about Canada.

Years ago, on a canoe trip up North, we met some Canadian canoeists. They kidded us about our ignorance of our national anthem. They’d seen Roseanne grabbing her crotch. “Do you fellas know it any better than she does?”

They were kidding the wrong man. I happen to know all four stanzas of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The second and third are execrable. As I started the third — “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore…” — they cried out, “Okay! That’s enough!” and further declined to hear me perform “O Canada!” Which some of them didn’t know, either.

I suppose we’re familiar with our next-door neighbors to the extent we consider ourselves interdependent. I go to Canada a lot, and think it only polite to know the difference between a confederation and a republic, understand the parliamentary system, and express temperatures in Celsius. But Canadians know us much better than we know them.

They’re often irritated at Washington’s unilateral decisions — the way a small farmer might feel if an agribusiness put up a hog farm right next door. Sometimes I ask Canadians what they think of us. “You really want to know?” said one young man. “First, stop calling yourself Americans. We’re Americans, too. I think of you as a country of loud, gun-toting bullies.” Not much need to read between the lines there. Once, during a lecture in Canada, I waved a laser pointer toward the audience. “Sorry,” I said. “You know, in parts of the States these are illegal.” Someone shouted, “You didn’t keep shooting each other, they wouldn’t be!”

The Canadian media perspective is still British, and goes back much farther than ours. Bill Clinton didn’t get half the drubbing north of the border that he got at home; Henry Hyde got it far worse, for asking gross questions irrelevant to governing. George W. Bush is characterized in far-too-simple terms, as a buffoonish bull in the environmental china shop. For our part, how often do you see a commentary on Canadian affairs in any of our media?

In any event, even though our problems are similar, the misunderstandings aren’t going to go away. But in offering a mirror to each other, we can each learn more…if we will.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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