Monday, January 22, 2007

Jordan Swift: A Modest Appraisal

Wow! This is just agonizingly awful to read!

Ottawa Sun columnist Jordan Michael Smith undertakes to describe "The Meaning of Canada," and gets unbelievably confused about the correct use of a certain literary device. I can't help but reproduce the thing in its near-entirety (wackiest bits emphasized):

Canada is the “No Running” sign at the swimming pool. It’s the speed bump on the road beside the elementary school. It’s the immigrant who arrives on Monday and says “Canada” on Tuesday when he’s asked where he’s from.

Canada is the handicapped parking spot, the ramp for wheelchairs leading up to the movie theatre. It’s the car pulling over to the side of the road so the fire engine can pass it. It’s the igloo in the backyard of the house, the complaints about the snow on the second day of winter.

Canada is the pair of indoor shoes that is left at school. It’s the Ringo Starr of the international arena. It’s the feeling one gets upon seeing a Maple Leaf flag floating in the wind.

Canada is the remembering of John A. Macdonald. It’s the forgetting of our other Founding Fathers. It’s the street in my hometown shared by a mosque, a church, and a synagogue.

Canada is the marshmallow in the hot chocolate, the sprinkles on the ice cream. It’s the little brother in the family, the youngster nobody takes seriously. It’s the pencil sharpener on exam day, the eraser you can’t find.

Canada is the policeman riding a horse in the age of the automobile. It’s the awkward teenage years when you’re not quite sure where you belong. It’s the cottage weekend, it’s the Christmas Eve day.

Canada is the mixture of America and Europe, it’s the establishment of our Constitution in 1981. It’s the crowds for the Queen’s visit. It’s the fortune of the North, it’s the blessing of a boring history. It’s toques in April, it’s the snow being wiped off the skate blade.

It’s the tortoise beating the hare, it’s the mittens attached to the child’s jacket. Canada is the state staying out of the bedrooms of the nation, it’s the vote of non-confidence.

(The whole thing needs emphasis, I know. A sliding scale was used.)

As a piece of irony, though, dingbat's column works to staggering effect, illustrating in its very form the extent of Canadian confusion and inanity; our grand sentimental ambition lost from the outset in a bunch of godawful slogans that are, apparently, supposed to be deep and profound metaphors but, simply, aren't. (Either deep or profound, or even metaphors.) I mean: it's the pencil sharpener on exam day, the eraser you can't find. What on earth could this ever possibly mean?! ... But if that were the point, then ... Touché, Monsieur Smith!

Or It's the Ringo Starr of the international arena? So Canada is an ugly, untalented, drug-addicted old letch who claims to be English, but has spent the last 30 years of his life as an American? ... Withering stuff.

Or It's the forgetting of our Founding Fathers AND the blessing of a boring history. Indeed, only in Canada can a judgment follow from an admission of a fairly sweeping ignorance. (This is a brilliant use of Founding Fathers too--which, of course, is the more likely term to describe these guys--rather than the Fathers of Confederation. It could only have been made more poignant by a line proclaiming the stupidity of Americans, and how they think that Canada is basically just another star on Old Glory.)

The business about the immigrant needed a bit more, though. Something like: It’s the immigrant who arrives on Monday and says “Canada” on Tuesday when he’s asked where he’s from ... But then says "I don't really know anymore" on Wednesday, and "that white lady said I was 'facilitating cultural genocide' when I answered 'Canada' " to the same question.

Actually, this could become a pretty fun game. Coming up with outrageously stupid "Canada is ..." statements to while away the long January nights. Here's my first attempt:

Dude! Canada is the noble Beaver, who's got the razor sharp wit of Canadians like Norm MacDonald, and who lets everybody eat his tail for nourishment during the cold and unforgiving winter.

To be sure, though, Canada is summed up most perfectly in the compound absurdity of items like this.