Re: Two meanings in "American"

Douglass Drozdow-St.Christian (stchri@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Tue, 21 Feb 1995 09:06:12 +0001

some wag once commented that while American identity is based on a claim
to something - I am American - Canadian identity is based on a claim to
not be something - I am NOT an American....

it was always fun, when travelling in Europe, to watch Canadians and the
pains they went to to ensure no one mistook them for americans. Indeed, i
found that when in england it was very very very useful to make it clear
you are a canadian and not a 'yank'....

now, apropos of nothing other than a morning of wet snow and post
pneumonia doldrums....the much talked aboud amorphuousness of canadian
identity [ canada is the birth place of official multiculturalism, after
all] is something most Canadians i know prize and what extent
i wonder does the fact we seem at times to define ourselves in the
negative contribute to this, and inversely, to what extent i wonder is
the often remakred upon arrogance of American's simply a function of the
positive "I am " character of many american's claim to national identity...

this is changing here, of course, thanks to the jeremiad of complaints
about beint robbed of their distinctiveness that have emanated from
quebec in the last 20 years....

but i still wonder if an identity based on a negation is not, in terms of
tolerance and the flourishing of diversity, a more positive approach than
the more exclusionary american approach????

as i said, apropos of nothing at all....


douglass st.christian
anthropology - mcmaster u.
hamilton - canada
416 234 9978