Appeared in the North Shore News – September 16, 2011
I’M uncomfortable sounding upbeat. It’s so out of character.
But – in the face of assured opinions that are becoming conventional wisdom, which has proven unwise so often in history – that America is in terminal decline, finished as the world’s uncontested superpower . . . well, I’d hedge that bet.
The solemn marking of the 9-11 anniversary was a corrective to the confident stereotype. Not the skin of self-celebrating showmanship – the Americans are as adept at that as the British are at staging incredible royal weddings and funerals – but the underlying substance that can’t be faked.
Oddly, they are a strangely unknown people, even by their nearest neighbours, who are not always pleased by the propinquity – while enjoying a rising conviction of their superiority.
Americans have an inner toughness, the connective tissue of a powerful national faith that stunningly unites even, or especially, so-called disadvantaged groups, and, yes, a Godfaith too, that confounds the picture of a bankrupt, high-unemployment, appallingly fat people stuffed with fast foods and the listless escapism of violent films and stupid television, warring unwisely abroad and dysfunctional at home.
They unfurl a flag at a football game that looks half as big as the field.
They puzzle their secular Western allies with unashamed public prayer.
They have a track record of resilience. They have an instinct for reinvention. Problems are, in a curious way, their most important product – challenges to solve. Don’t count them out. The referee has never reached anywhere near 10 in their narrative of frothy exuberance and hair-raising dives.
The obvious global contender for No. 1 is China. Too obvious, if New Brunswick-born Troy Parfitt, who spent a dozen years in Taiwan and South Korea, is correct.
His book Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travel in the Two Chinas won’t be the last word, but as North Vancouver resident Jonathan Manthorpe agreed in a Vancouver Sun review: “China is unlikely to be an influential superpower because its current regime has no vision, its economy has developed no capacity for innovation” – thus the fake Western luxury goods and the continuing industrial espionage that includes a Canadian branch – “and there is no sense of optimism.”
Economic power alone won’t make the cut, Parfitt assured CKNW’s Sean Leslie, and its class/income divisions with 800 million in poverty make the United States look red socialist.
The Americans have severe problems, including combatting terrorism with growing unfreedom in order to protect its freedom. They need more fresh green vegetables and a better night’s sleep.
Speaking of terrorism: Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently said “the major threat (to Canada’s security) . . . is still Islamicism.”
Bob Rae and all the little and big liberals went nuts! You can’t say that in inclusive, tolerant Canada!
Not one of them asked: But is he right?
And add this to the Harper file: Unless I missed it, nobody among the left liberals acknowledged the Conservative prime minister’s graciousness in granting New Democrat Jack Layton a public funeral unprecedented for one of his status since D’Arcy McGee’s in 1866. Not one of that surly, bitter deposed establishment or its media footmen had the decency to return Harper’s graciousness.
But enough frivolity. The coffee shop in Dundarave’s mid-24th block, Ariel’s, has closed, the second on the site to do so.
Quiet. Peaceful. Nice. What went wrong?
Quiet, peaceful and nice, that’s what. We are a herd species, fearful of solitude and of being left out of the scene, the action, the gossip. Nearby Starbucks and Delany’s and the Bakehouse prosper. Ariel’s patrons bought a toonie’s worth of coffee and settled back for a morning’s newspaper reading. Fatal.
I empathize with MP John Weston’s decision to move his family to Ottawa from his West VancouverSunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding. That West Coast commute meets the Criminal Code definition of abuse.
I dined recently at the Saturna Island home of Pat Carney, retired senator and trade minister during Ottawa’s most gruelling task of the time, negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. She’s pounds lighter in weight and heart since leaving the weird MPs’ polarized diet of official banquets and hasty takeout/airline chow, and has resumed her journalistic career – there’s a weightloss program for anyone – notably with a superb piece on Ireland’s economic woes.
Speaking of the media, again – horrors! Is it possible that all North Shore mayors will be acclaimed in November?
Darrell Mussatto and Richard Walton, mayors of the City and District of North Vancouver respectively, waltzed back to their offices unopposed in 2008. West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones is leaving gracefully and Coun. Michael Smith seeks the office.
Two months to municipal elections and no others are in sight. Former councillor Vivian Vaughan has been following West Vancouver town hall closely and mused about running but, on further musing, likely will run for a council seat instead.
Wake us when it’s over.
© Trevor Lautens, 2011