Crossing the Border

Canada, our neighbor to the north and my place of birth, is a country that is almost our twin, we have the same background, the same type of demographics, the same type of history and a similar type of government. On my recent vacation I interacted with my large extended family and met some new faces. What follows are my reflections, I do not suggest that ALL Canadians feel this way. Despite what many Americans believe, Canadians aren’t really very fond of Americans, we are viewed more like an over bearing older brother. Canadians tolerate us but also whisper behind our back. My recent visit confirmed that impression, in fact, I think Canadian disdain for America has grown.  Canadian women especially have a more negative view of Trump's America with just 38 percent holding a favorable view of America, down 32 percentage points from 2012.  In case you haven’t figured it out, this increase in lack of respect comes from our president. NEVER in all my interactions with my Canadian family and friends was I ever asked about politics, never before was I asked who I voted for or how I felt about the current political climate in the US the way I was in my recent visit. When re-engaging with my relatives the question of who I voted for came up, cautiously, “So, how do you feel about your president?” I responded quickly with, “I hate him and didn’t vote for him.” The sense of relief on their part after my answer was palpable. We didn’t discuss Reagan, Bushs’ or Clinton in the past.

After years of living in the US as a LEGAL Alien I decided to become an American citizen about 10 years ago because I realized that my life was here, in the US, particularly in California. The likelihood of moving back had become less and less realistic. When I decided to become a citizen I embraced it fully and became active in my community, if I was going to live here, I thought, I should involve myself. It’s no secret that I loathe our current president, however, hating our president does NOT mean I don’t love this country. In fact I despise our president BECAUSE I love this country. I think we have achieved great things and been a part of abundant affirmative progress. Sadly, #45 is walking us backward and I am not ok with the changes that are in the works due to the current administration. Right now, from what I saw in Canada, Canada is moving ahead of us, the US. I am happy for my family and friends in Canada but miserable about the direction #45 is taking us.

Here is what I saw and I accept that it was not a scientific process with strict academic guidelines- the following are observations. I saw that my cousins’ children have better jobs and better pay than my children (who all have degrees). They aren’t burdened with huge student debt. They aren’t worried about health care. They are confident enough in their jobs to make future plans. My kids have already experienced plant shut downs, layoffs, lack of job opportunities and advancement in the less than 10 years they have been in the work force. We could afford access to universities for all of our children. College isn’t a luxury. It really isn’t even a choice. If we want to stay competitive in the world then we need educated workers. Despite what so many old white men complain about, (yes, grumpy old geezers exist in Canada too, several of them are my uncles) the reality is that the good old days when they entered the workforce with nothing but a high school diploma (or less) and worked themselves into high paying jobs that enabled them a comfortable middle class lifestyle for their families are gone. And it won’t be coming back. The ratio of tuition to wages has not kept pace, tuition has skyrocketed and we all know what wages have done. We can’t possibly offer affordable higher education to our children?  There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Canadians scratch their heads in wonder that we are still fighting for affordable access to health care for all. They simply do not understand. Do they think their system is perfect? No, they don’t, however, they wouldn’t give it up for ours. Last year my mother had heart surgery and her co-pay was about $10,000. My cousin’s husband also had heart surgery recently- they paid no out of pocket expense because they pay for their health care in affordable premiums. Another cousin of mine takes methotrexate, I have a US friend who takes it also- the same drug, same manufacturer. The price in Canada? $82 for 3 month supply. In the US?  $236. As my cousin says, “I am willing to pay for your child’s broken leg today because I may need you to pay for my family’s health problem tomorrow.” That’s what insurance does, we pay premiums in the event of an emergency- so that we are prepared. They do complain about wait times, especially in the rural communities I visited. It isn’t perfect but they at least know that in an emergency they are covered. We can afford health care for all. And before you ask how, here are links that offer financial solutions to that question. What is preventing us from being the fair country we espouse to be is greed, plain and simple greed.

I saw that in race relations, they seem ahead of us, not far ahead, but they have made more progress. I saw no hate groups being discussed on their news, no race riots going on. I even watched an advertisement for cosmetic products at a local drugstore on TV that included a variety of people; white, indigenous, Muslim, senior, male and EVEN transgender! Imagine if a store put a commercial on TV that included transgender in the south. We tell businesses that they can refuse gay people service. In California I have been seeing ads including gay couples on TV but they are few and far between. I noticed a stark contrast in the journalists on television news- very few Barbie and Ken cookie cutter reporters, reporters reflected more accurately the general population, with different ethnicities, ages, and sizes, most of the female reporters had healthy body proportions and wore clothing that was not as revealing as what the women on FAUX news wear. Sadly, Canada has the same problem with Indigenous people as we do in the US.

Climate Change was not a debated topic, it was a given that the fires and floods going in British Columbia and Ontario (just as we have been having fires and floods raging in the US) stem from Climate Change. The discussions were more about solutions and worries. I was in some farming communities, one community with a paper mill and one with a mine as well as small cities. The people in the community didn’t mock Climate Change concerns. It wasn’t questioned.

As the scientific evidence for global warming continues to mount, the Canadian public is increasingly coming to accept this reality and take the issue seriously. A majority is clearly concerned about climate change, and about the potential consequences in terms of weather events, environmental impacts and in particular about what it may mean for future generations.  

Lastly, and sadly, I was there for the shooting in Toronto  and in New Brunswick . Here again the discussion in public and on the media was different. I did not hear one single utterance of ‘thoughts and prayers. A former police chief was asked about his ideas and he discussed ‘better police staffing, stronger laws, better checks and balances’. Many, many folks made the comment, “we don’t want to be like the US, we want to find a solution to this”. The general Canadian reaction was; “We need to find a solution.”, not ‘there’s nothing that can be done’ as our politicians say here.

No, I do not want to move back to Canada, nor am I sorry I renounced my Canadian citizenship to become an American. I can still love my country AND be concerned. I can still be patriotic AND recognize that we are falling behind. I don’t want to live anywhere other than my home, I want to work on improving my home for the future, for my children and grandchildren. I am not working for myself, I don’t want my kids to have what I had- I want a BETTER future for my family. Right now, they have less than I did and the actions of the current administration are exacerbating the problems that need fixing, equality issues of gender and economics, environmental issues and social issues. Sometimes we have to leave a problem to see the situation from a new perspective, sometimes we have to listen to the critiques of others to understand where we are failing. The view from above was not pleasant, I was not surprised but I was a bit ashamed. We are being laughed at and criticized by our neighbors, it’s not a good feeling, however, we can change that, each one of us, in our little way. And yes, voting is one way that we can all make a change. My children are here, my home is here, heart is here and I want to be proud again.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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