|Montréal, November 24, 2001 / No 93||
by Martin Masse
On December 1st, Canadians are invited to visit the Big Apple and take part in a show of solidarity during the Canada Loves New York Weekend. They're asked to come and shop, go to the museums, theatres, restaurants, and take part in a big rally with mayor Giuliani and governor Pataki, their Canadian passport serving as entrance ticket. The Prime Minister himself, sporting a Canada Loves NY baseball cap, enjoined us all to participate and ensure a big turnout at the rally.
I might have gone to New York that weekend if not for the fact that the NY friend I regularly visit is doing the opposite journey, coming up to Montreal for a couple of days to change his moods after the emotionally charged past couple of weeks. If I had gone though, I would not have attended this official rally with politicians. It's not "Canada", this abstract state entity, that loves NY, it's me, a real person, and thousands of others. And showing a piece of paper that confirms that the part of the continent in which I live is under the control of one state entity instead of another seems like a very inappropriate way of identifying myself.
Look at a map of North America (see picture below). Montreal and New York sit at the two ends of a system of waterways that goes straight from north to south, the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain and Hudson River. From the early time of the colonies until the mid-18th century, this was the main communication route in the interior between the St. Lawrence River basin and the Atlantic seaboard. It was the main route for trade – but also for armies – between New France / Canada and the American colonies / USA.
Relations between Montreal and New York, antagonistic or friendly, go back centuries, and I don't need an official rally to express my love of this city and my solidarity with its residents after the September 11 events. I go to New York once or twice a year to visit my friend. We shopped at the Borders bookstore in the Twin Towers just a couple of weeks before they were destroyed. We did that not because we thought it would please the power holders, but simply because it was a nice shop, with a very wide choice of books, something created by entrepreneurial creativity in a free market.
The main hassle when I go to the Big Apple is having to stop at the customs. The bus trip is long enough, but I don't mind that, I read a good book and enjoy the view of the White and Greens Mountains of Vermont and upstate New York. But having to submit to the aggressive questioning, the inspection, having to wait 45 minutes just because some bureaucrat had to fill his quota of searches for the day and detained one of the passengers of the bus, that feels like a real waste of time and energy. Of course, that's another exclusive gift from the two imperial capitals (the cities marked with a big star on the map to show their inflated importance) that share control of the continent.
There is very little justification for this border. Canada and the USA are one integrated economy, one mostly English-speaking civilization, essentially an excrescence of British society and polity in the New World. Of course, this is far from a monolithic society, and there are many regional subcultures composing it, as well as groups that do not historically find their origin in the British Isles: the Native Indians, the black slaves and their descendants, the various immigrant groups, the French Canadians, etc. But then, any one of these divisions is probably more significant than that separating Canada and the USA, an historical accident deriving from the fact that two British North American colonies (Quebec and Nova Scotia) did not follow the thirteen others in rebelling against the English Crown. This division is no longer relevant today.
I've always felt more like a North American than a Canadian. Which is why I find it particularly silly and offending when I get accused of being "anti-American" because I do not toe the official pro-war line in the current conflict. George W. Bush and the various warmongering pundits have repeated it since September 11: You're either with us or against us. Since I'm not with the U.S. government, then I must be anti-American.
Many of those who react in this manner probably don't realize how thoroughly they have imbibed statist ideology. They confound the state with its people, the government with the culture and way of life of those who live under it. The weirdest thing is that some of them are confused libertarians who actually believe that the U.S. government is the incarnation of freedom, and don't understand how I dare criticize it. Wake up, pals!!!
The decline of American freedom
Yes, despite slavery and the persecution and dispossession of their lands
inflicted on Indians, the United States of America was at its foundation
and for many decades afterwards the freest and most blessed country in
the history of the world, an example of the kind of society and government
we libertarians wish for. But that model has long since been diluted.
WW1 also saw the creation of the income tax, as well as the Federal reserve. Both are still part of the arsenal of state intervention in the economy. Of course, taxes in the U.S. are still much lower than in Canada and Europe, but they are at historically record high levels there, as is public spending. As for the Fed, it is the main source of misery that the U.S. Leviathan has bestowed upon the world. Its irresponsible manipulation of monetary levers was to create the Great Depression and all the subsequent economic downturns since, including the one we are now experiencing.
The so-called "New Deal" of the 1930s was simply the American equivalent
of the corporatist and fascist state-building that happened in the same
period on the Old Continent. It did not end the Depression but rather extended
it, and constitutes the first major step in the creation of an American
Welfare State. Other steps were taken in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
constitutional libertarian government or an imperial tyranny?
George W. Bush declared an extraordinary emergency that empowers him to
order military trials for suspected international terrorists and their
collaborators, bypassing the American criminal justice system, its rules
of evidence and its constitutional guarantees. The presidential directive,
signed by Bush as commander-in-chief, applies to non-U.S. citizens arrested
in the United States or abroad.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan have dramatically accelerated a push by the Bush administration to strengthen presidential powers, giving President Bush a dominance over American government exceeding that of other post-Watergate presidents and rivaling even Franklin D. Roosevelt's command.Some historians and political scientists call this "the Imperial Presidency". When one man or a small group of men can deprive people of their rights and imprison them without charge, have billions of dollars at their disposal to spend, can launch a war even if the Constitution does not allow them to, can decide the fate of millions in other countries, what kind of government is that? A constitutional libertarian government or an imperial tyranny?
Even the government of what was once the freest country in the world is just that – a government. One should not be blinded by the glorious history of the USA, and by the rhetoric and propaganda that we hear today. The logic of a state is to extend its control within its borders and project its power outside of them. The American state is no exception to this rule. Those who do not see this are either totally ignorant of history, naive in the extreme, or deep down authoritarian supporters of a big government whatever they may say.
The worst possible solution
Since Canada and the USA are so similar and close to each other, I used
to think we should just merge the two countries and have one big united
continent. There is quite a bit of support for that idea in Canada, and
strangely enough in French Quebec more than anywhere else.
Le Québec libre des
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