Volume > Issue > Canada: No Longer Morally Superior to the U.S.

Canada: No Longer Morally Superior to the U.S.


By Preston Jones | July/August 1997
Preston Jones, an Anglican, is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Ottawa in Canada.

No Star Trek fan am I, so neither Spock nor Kirk is welcome in my home. But at my parents’ house when I was a kid, Spock and Kirk, ever ready for some great adventure, ministered to me regularly. Since leaving home, I’ve happily managed to forget the gist of every Star Trek episode I saw in my youth, save one: “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

Some readers will recall that some tribbles — tiny, cute, and cuddly — were taken aboard the starship Enterprise by Lt. Uhura. Nothing as charming as these purring furballs could be any trouble, surely. But the tribbles’ astonishing fertility led quickly to difficulties. Before long there were tribbles in kitchens, tribbles in beds, tribbles in the infirmary, tribbles in elevators. Kirk lost his cool, the crew went berserk, and everyone learned this homely lesson: Some things we find initially attractive are ultimately obnoxious.

It was while reading late-19th-century Canadian nationalist literature recently that I was reminded of the tribbles, for Canada, universally recognized as a nice if chilly place to live, is now paying the price for its pride in embracing what at first seemed a plausible idea, namely, that it is morally superior to the United States.

Until recent decades Canadians had good reason to consider their country the moral superior. Unlike the American rebels, who in their heady revolutionary days tossed tradition off their shores, many colonists who remained loyal to England — true conservatives — migrated north into Quebec and what would become Ontario and Canada’s Atlantic provinces. “We leave,” wrote one loyalist when en route from upstate New York to the Ottawa Valley in 1773, “not because we do not see…that the king of England seems pernicious, ill-minded or insane, but because we do not believe…that we can yet cut ourselves off from Europe, from tradition or from the past.” When civil war broke out in the U.S. in the next century, many British North Americans looked on smugly, noting that such bloodshed is precisely what one would expect in a country in which individualism and acquisitionism run amok.

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