When I lived in South Korea between 1997 and 2007, Koreans would often ask me, “What’s the difference between Canadians and Americans?”
It’s a fair question. Many people around the world have asked me that same question. I won’t pretend I have the one answer that will make people go Ohhhhhhhh…so that’s it!
Instead, I will offer something from today’s Toronto Star that pretty much encapsulates one of the fundamental differences between our two great countries, the melting pot and the mosaic.
In an article titled “Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to pay tribute to Gord Downie in Olympic gala skate,” we have now learned that Canadian Olympic superstars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who just captured gold for their second time in figure skating, will skate to The Tragically Hip’s “Long Time Running” on Sunday for the Pyeongchang figure skating gala.
Which brings us back to the original question: What separates our two remarkable countries?
We in Canada are a country of people who love to say “Soooory.” We apologize to others when they are in the wrong. We hold the door open for strangers without expectation of being thanked.
Canadians have been accused of being somewhat bucolic and provincial at times compared to their American brethren, and while that’s true (now and again), Sunday’s skate by Virtue and Moir will capture the very best of why I am proud to be Canadian.
They are unrivaled Olympians in their discipline, loved by an entire country, and will honour a near and dear Canadian who passed in 2017 who, it just happens, was a good friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I can guarantee you that more Canadians will watch that skate live than have watched our men’s or women’s Olympic hockey teams.
Why? Because we love to be united in Canada by the sentimental. We revel in it. We’re flawed and imperfect as a country because, by definition, we are composed of human beings. But we try really, really, really hard to rise up past the shit that so often sinks other countries.
This comes in stark contrast to (yet another) horrible mass shooting at a school in the United States, where the Second Amendment will continue to plague and divide an incredible country, one in which its president needs a bullet list of questions to come across as empathetic when meeting with survivors of the latest massacre in Florida.
In Canada, we celebrate diversity and honour that which unites – not divides – us, even if it’s something as silly as a poet, a hockey game, or a prime minster weeping in the House of Commons because our country lost a beautiful person that brought out the best in all of us.
If that stands as provincial and bucolic, then I guess that’s what we are as Canucks. And I’m proud to be one.
On a side note, and for all those who love the Hip, I think Virtue and Moir could have chosen two other songs to skate to, “Wheat Kings” or “Nautical Disaster.” But they didn’t. They chose “Long Time Running.”
Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that these two rock stars, our national sweethearts, are bringing us closer together as a country in a time when nations, kind of like the one just south of us, are being ripped apart by violence, hate and propaganda.
Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, my love for you is boundless, my gratitude eternal. You are real-life superheroes.