Uneasy relations: It’s never easy being America’s close neighbour

Rick MacLean
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U.S. President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau talk in Trudeau's office in Ottawa

You could see it coming, but I just kept thinking, maybe this time. Maybe this time.

Canadian Steve Bauer and American Alexi Grewal were charging to the finish after cycling a punishingly 12 laps around the 190.2-kilometre course in the road race at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

The Russians weren’t there (they were boycotting the event), so despite a pack working desperately to track them down, the gold medal was clearly going to one of the two men up front.

Bauer was the little guy, five foot six and 159 pounds. Grewal stretched a lean 150 pounds over his six foot two frame. Bauer was leading with Grewal right on his tail.

“Perfect position,” I thought, staring at the TV screen, a cycling fan all of a sudden, and shook my head. “Bauer’s doing all the work. Grewal’s going to shoot by him at the end.”

“Go, go, go,” I heard myself yelling at the TV. Then it happened. Grewal shot ahead, winning in a time of four hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds. Inches behind was Bauer.

“Not bad,” I thought. “A silver medal. Not bad.”

Then I caught myself. Not bad? How very Canadian, expecting the rider from our huge southern cousin to beat us somehow. Our U.S. cousins would never think that way.

We may speak the same language, well mostly, eh. And we may live next door to each other, but there’s something difficult to define that makes us as different from our American cousins as elephants and apples.

And Donald Trump proves it.

There’s something awe-inspiring about watching what’s happening south of the border. A guy whose hair looks like it blew off a haymow and stuck to his head. A guy who suggested blocking all Muslims from entering the United States. A guy who disavowed the Pope without a blink, but hesitated to condemn a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

He’s going to the presidential candidate for the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republicans? Really?

Canadians can only shake their heads in a mixture of bemusement and shock. Bemusement because it’s too funny to be real. Shock because it looks like it’s very real. And if he’s elected, we’ll have to live with it.

It won’t be easy. But then, it never has been.

When prime minister Lester Pearson gave a scathing speech on American involvement in Viet Nam in 1965, U.S. president Lyndon Johnson was waiting for him the next day when he visited the White House.

“You don’t come here to p--s on my rug,” he growled, grabbing Pearson by the lapels.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau tried to help Americans understand what it’s like being their neighbour.

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt,” he said in 1969 in an address to the Press Club in Washington.

Trudeau knew something about “the beast.” He had to deal with president Richard Nixon, who once told his aides Trudeau was a “clever son of a b----” and an “a--hole.”

The comments were captured on the White House recording system.

“I’ve been called worse things by better people,” Trudeau replied.


Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

Organizations: Holland College, Ku Klux Klan.He, Republicans Press Club in Washington.Trudeau

Geographic location: United States, Los Angeles.The, Viet Nam Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Aongasha
    March 06, 2016 - 09:11

    So typical. Leftists/Progressives etc. bleat on forever about human rights, freedom of expression, the public good, yadayadayada. But as soon as someone comes along who they don't agree with, all those fine platitudes go out the window. The people are always right, except when they don't agree with these great defenders of humanity.

  • jeff
    March 06, 2016 - 07:02

    Hillary for prison. The people have caught on to the media at last. Trump is popular because they no longer fall for the attacks and love him more as he snubs them. Infowars.com has a great 35min. interview with him one on one. He will never be allowed to make it even if they have to rig the election if bashing does not work as it has not so far.

  • Cromwell
    March 05, 2016 - 15:02

    I question the temerity of questioning the rationale of Americans having the opportunity of voting for a political candidate like Donald Trump, who at least seems to represent and express the concerns of a majority of American voters in recovering his country from devestating mismanagement, while in Canada, our 'Dear Leader' seems hell bent on fast forwarding the eventual capitulation of a once great nation through the auspices of political corrtectness. As many of his socialist ilk have done, Mr. McLean has purposely 'reworded' Trumps comment re Muslims to serve the socialist agenda - Trump actually said he wanted to put a temporary hold on Muslim entry to the US, from designated Middle East countries, until the US government had a plan to better deal with the legitimate concerns of radical Muslims entering Western countries. During the short reign of 'Dear Leader' Trudeau, Canada now has the ominous distinction of having the fastest growing Muslim population in the world, overtaking Ireland for this dubious honour. It must be asked why Muslims, who for the past 3 decades have shown absolutely no intent or desire to effectively integrate into any western culture, continue to flood these western countries - look at the current situation in the UK and Western Europe, and recognise that within the next 5 - 10 years, this situation will exist in Canada. For Americans, voting for Trump appears to be a way forward to regain control of both the USA's economic and political confidence. I wish that Canadians had the same confidence.

  • Do You Believe
    March 05, 2016 - 08:39

    Do you believe that the United States has been going in the right direction with the theft - waste & corruption . Politicians that say one thing to get elected & then change nothing . Loss of all their jobs to countries that deflate their dollar (Canada included) borrowing money to give & protect other countries with their military & get nothing in return other than abuse from the leaders of these countries . You may not like Trump but you will have to agree that he is changing the way American people are thinking about themselves . He may not succeed as the old boys want to stay at the trough & are doing every sleazy thing they can to bring him down . I believe if he succeeds , the US will be run like a company with the share holders being the working people as it should be .