Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Almost Canadian

I spent the weekend at the Fort Worden Folk Harp Festival and had a terrific time as usual. There were about 45 harpers there who came to learn techniques and repertoire from the five presenters and also to visit with each other. There's a core group of about 30 that come every year, and as you can imagine, we're pretty good friends after 25 years. We've seen each other through divorces, job losses, deaths, diseases and suffering of every kind. We've also celebrated each other's triumphs and joys, all in the context of our shared love of music and the harp specifically.

Most of the people who come every year are from Western Washington, but there is a contingent from British Columbia as well. I make sure they get a special shout out at the Saturday night céilidh since they have to face a US Customs agent to get there. I figure they deserve at least that.

As we were packing up to leave on Sunday morning, one of the Canadians, a dear woman about my age, pulled me aside because she wanted to tell me that she thought of me as "almost Canadian." I thanked her, and told her that my Dad was from Ontario and she responded with "O, then you are Canadian!"

Over the last seven and a half years of being in love with a Canadian man, I've been exposed to lots and lots of anti-Americanism from his friends and family. Usually when this happens, at some point the ranters will say "Oh, but we don't mean you, Seumas, you're not like other Americans!"

There's a part of me, naturally, that stiffens at that moment. I am like other Americans. Lots and lots and lots of other Americans. I've learned, however, to hear comments like that in a different way. If I take a step back I can hear something more like "you're nice and I like you."

Being accepted by people from other nations as "not like other Americans" is an opportunity to change that stereotype.

So, to all my Canadian friends, I want to say thanks for giving me the chance to show you what other Americans are like. Thanks for letting me learn a little about what it means to be Canadian. I hope I continue to earn your friendship and understanding.


michael sean morris said...

You're welcome! I'll always be grateful to you for bristling at my own anti-Americanism especially, in much the same way my Christian friends keep me from calling in the lions.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful way to think about this. But, aren't all Canadians like Bob & Doug MacKenzie and William Shatner?