Friday the 13th, December, 2002
Canada Media ReviewThat's what moving about, this traveling is; it's this inexorable glimpse of existence as it is during those few lucid hours, so exceptional in the span of human time, when you are leaving the customs of the last country behind and the customs of the next one have not yet got their hold on you. -- Louis Ferdinand Celine, "Journey to the End of the Night"
So I come back to the U.S. after being in Canada a few days and I open my AOL and there's a picture of a frowning Trent Lott. "Bush let's him have it," the headline yells. Then a subtitle, "Calls Lott's remarks 'offensive'". This trite, stage-managed political coverage is insulting. It seems to target a 12-year-old mind. It's nauseating. Especially after being out of the country a few days.
One of the most beneficial things about traveling is that is gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different cultural framework, which is practically the only way to get any perspective on the cultural framework you ordinarily inhabit.
All of Canada doesn't register very high on the awareness of Americans. It's the very next country and most Americans barely realize it's there. Our media doesn't cover it. It's barely seen as significant. It's right next door, so to speak. Good thing it doesn't have Weapons of Mass Destruction! (Or does it?)
Canada is a British Commonwealth nation and very closely aligned with the U.S. in many ways. Seen as an ally, it is taken for granted by Americans. The Canadian government is generally going to go along with the U.S., especially if the U.K. is going along. But in more subtle ways, it differs from the U.S. ("America?") significantly.
Canada has its CTV all-news station, which is on the CNN model, but doesn't go so far into the blow-dried-floozy-as-newsman model. It has a little bit of a BBC vibe blended in. Because American media is so turned inward, such a self-involved culture, it makes Canada seem far away. Though it's geographically close, it feels closer to Europe than to the U.S. in many ways.
As examples of how different it is, during the few days I was in British Columbia last week, the Canadian national paper The Globe & Mail reported that a committee in Parliament was recommending decriminalization of marijuana, and that Parliament ratified the Kyoto protocol. It reported on the U.S. drive for war with Iraq, but it was about something another country is doing. It reported the U.S. seizure of a Korean ship and subsequent withdrawal and uncharacteristic expression of respect for international law.
Canada's government does not stray far from that of the U.S. as a rule, but the cultural dialogue of Canada is not dominated by American corporate media, so there are subtle differences in all the reporting.
On Monday, December 9, the Globe & Mail's lead front page story was "U.S. war preparations intensify as Baghdad challenges its Western critics". Splashed across the entire width of the front page is a picture of four American GIs running in a line, each with his hand on the one in front of him, running in the dusty Kuwaiti desert bent low "to avoid the blades of a Blackhawk rescue helicopter during an exercise."
The soldiers, the story reports are "training in Kuwait as war with Iraq looms." Looms for no reason except that it is being pushed against all reason and principle by the Bush clique. And here are four young Black American men who are being forced to risk their lives, to endure dehumanizing conditions for a Big Lie being told by the Bush administration.
The U.S. war machine is sending African Americans to fight and kill Iraqis. I would remind them of Muhammad Ali's answer: "I ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong."