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Aug-24-2009 13:54printcomments

Why I Write

There are millions of fine Americans, many of whom I know or know of. I would venture that a sizable proportion of Salem-News readers are among them. There’s just not enough of you.

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Courtesy: canberra.edu.au

(CALGARY, Alberta) - I’m sure that some readers, over the last five months, have wondered where I, as a Canadian, get the chutzpah to criticize and analyze America and its culture.

America, as the most powerful nation on earth, is legitimately open to criticism from everyone. But that’s not my rationale. My analysis and criticism of America is only about 1% of what I write about and it comes from a different motivation—the de facto takeover of Alberta by American interests.

The current Premier of Alberta is a farmer named Ed Stelmach. In the 2006 leadership race he could have been beaten by Ted Morton, now a Canadian citizen, but born in Los Angeles and raised in Wyoming. I don’t think delegates had anything against his being from the U.S. The issue was that his policies were too far to the right, which is saying something in this right-wing province.

Cattle ranching and oil were the founding economies of Alberta at the end of the 19th century. Through the 20th century, the border with the U.S. was almost completely porous and American citizens flooded across. I’m not opposed that that happened, because American citizens flooded into most of the other provinces, as well. The difference is what brought them here: The oil industry.

Houston, North

I was once told by someone who has lived in both places that culturally, Calgary and Houston are virtual twins. I remember, growing up in the 1950s a lot of the popular songs on the radio were oriented towards American listeners—particularly those from Texas and Oklahoma. (I didn’t understand it then, but now it’s obvious in retrospect.) One song I remember as being very popular was “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. I doubt if that song was played much, if at all, anywhere else in Canada.

The fundamental issue for me, and where my criticism comes from is that these Americans have brought with them into Alberta many of the worst aspects of American culture.

Alberta is strongly anti-government and anti-federal government in particular. When Ottawa does something the Alberta right wingers don’t like, a minority of Albertans start to talk about separatism. And separatism doesn’t always mean forming a separate country, but rather joining the United States.

In 1980 the Canadian federal government, following of the energy crises of the 1970s, implemented The National Energy Program (NEP). Inflation and interest rates were out of control and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Liberal Party) was attempting to ameliorate the negative effects on Canada’s industrial base, primarily in Ontario, by attempting to equalize energy prices across the country.

Albertans went crazy (to use a charitable term). Bumper stickers popped up all over the province saying: “Let those Eastern bastards freeze in the dark”. In a province-wide address provincial Premier Peter Lougheed likened Alberta to a private home where visitors arrive and come onto the front porch. In Lougheed’s argument, the feds had walked right into the living room and tried to take over the household.

Alberta went into recession in 1981 and many Albertans blamed the NEP and the federal Liberals, conveniently ignoring the fact that the recession had started the year before in Ontario and was actually a global recession. Now, nearly thirty years later, Liberals still cannot get elected in Alberta and people who were not even born then, still blame the Liberals and the NEP. Any federal legislation by a Liberal government is automatically seen as another attempt to re-introduce a new version of the NEP or its equivalent.

The federal government instituted a national gun registry a few years ago and the Alberta government said it wouldn’t enforce it. I don’t know anything about the merits or demerits of the Registry, but Albertans showed a high resistance to it. Catherine Ford, a former columnist and editorial writer for the Calgary Herald said that gun control protestors “take their cue from the U.S. National Rifle Association, as vile a lobby group as ever tried to impose its misguided will on a public willing to be duped.”

Americans are not their country

Let me make clear that I don’t hate Americans, just many of the political leaders and the policies they implement that hurt not just Americans, but everyone else in the world. There’s a saying here in Canada—If the elephant rolls over, we’re all dead. At the same time, I have little respect for the people who continually vote for such scoundrels. At the same time, what I just said about Americans, applies similarly to Albertans.

Even though neither is still in office, two men are still at the top of my backpfeifengesicht list: George W. Bush and Ralph Klein, the last premier of Alberta. I recall Antony’s eulogy to Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” If Bush and Klein were struck by lightening tomorrow, the world would still not be a better place.

There are millions of fine Americans, many of whom I know or know of. I would venture that a sizable proportion of Salem-News readers are among them. There’s just not enough of you.

I see myself as a Canadian first and Albertan/Calgarian second (the last two not necessarily in that order). For everything I hate about this province (and I’m a second generation Calgarian), the best way to describe Alberta is as a watered-down America. One saving grace is that we have universal health care—thanks to a Liberal government of the 1960s.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, as any crossword puzzle player knows, that Alberta and America, both have seven letters and both start and end with an A.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which explains why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue, although a lot of his views could be described as left-wing. He understands that who he is, is largely defined by where he came from. The focus for Daniel’s writing came in 1972. After a trip to Europe he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Alberta, and Calgary in particular, was extremely conservative Bible Belt country, more like Houston than any other Canadian city (a direct influence of the oil industry). Two successive Premiers of the province, from 1935 to 1971, had been Baptist evangelicals with their own weekly Sunday radio program—Back to the Bible Hour, while in office. In Alberta everything was distorted by religion.

Although he had published a few pieces (unpaid) in the local daily, the Calgary Herald, it was not until 1975 that he could actually make a living from journalism when, from 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman (1979-1993), Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting with the CBC. You can write to Daniel at: Salem-News@gravityshadow.com




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HTC August 27, 2009 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel, As inexperienced as you may think I am, I will respond to you why I write. I write because I despise hypocrisy. I’ve traveled coast to coast in Canada and the US, visited Asia, South America and Africa (though Europe should soon be on my agenda, pending the appropriate finances). The impression I’ve garnered from my travels is that so many in the world seem to have this strange notion of anti-Americanism. In my younger days, I’m ashamed to admit, I partook in that exercise as well. My experiences in the Canadian military, travels abroad and my activism in the Canadian firearms community lead me to the conclusion that such anti-Americanism is unfounded, unfair, and inappropriate. Consider this: ALL the major elements we come to accept as common of our modern lifestyle in the developed world were created in America: social, economic, political, and technological. It seems to make absolutely no sense than, why we are critical of the US when throughout the world, contradictory elements exist that we would consider completely unacceptable. Don’t believe me? Try living in the Kibera slum in Nairobi for a week and tell me how different it is from staying in the worst place you can imagine in the US. I’m sure you’ll try to throw back the argument that most of the problems the world faces are “American made” but that is a gross simplification of many complex global issues. Was tribal partisanship in Africa caused by America? Maybe. How about Islamic extremism in Afghanistan? Maybe as well. Global financial meltdown? They sure had a big hand in it, but it’s called a “Global” financial meltdown for a reason. Conversely, think of the huge advancements and accomplishments as a species we have made over the past 100 years and ask yourself, how many of them would not have been possible if not for America? The computer age, the internet, the automobile, the television, the defeat of Communism and Fascism. How different, and how much more worse off would the world be, if not for America? I won’t defend the US to the point of saying they don’t or didn’t have their hands in many of the problems our world faces, or that differences between us and Americans don’t exist – but I won’t go on a diatribe claiming that everything that goes wrong in the world is America’s fault or that there is anything worse with American society than there is with Canadian society. To me it represents the biggest form of hypocrisy for any Canadian to believe their country to be a land of tolerance and acceptance, than stand on a soapbox about the evils of the American way of life overtaking our own. While you’re at it, you might as well mention how Jamaican immigrants in the GTA, or the Asian immigrants along the West coast (and in Alberta) bring with them gang violence and spread the drug trade as it is ingrained in their culture to behave that way (I’m Asian as well and know this first hand). It is hypocrisy to come up with sweeping generalizations about people and apply them as an excuse or scapegoat for the problems we face, especially when it is considered acceptable in one context, but not in the other.


Henry Ruark August 27, 2009 12:35 pm (Pacific time)

Paul August: Nor should know make personal observation without proof from someone in authority with full knowledge,worth the documentation. Yrs re effects of laws to control arms in hands of the public definitely demands something beyond your singular statement, in itself rather revealing of mind-set and perhaps even bias or intent.


Henry Ruark August 27, 2009 10:01 am (Pacific time)

Friend Daniel: Yrs surely reaches standard of causing perhaps-unwanted cogitation ! But some responses remind me over again of early-learned apt statement: "Can lead to water, but can't make 'em drink. Can lead to cogitation, but can't make 'em think". Then, too, far deeper than Freudiana, is psychological realities of denial, displayed and demonstrated far too frequently in the most loquacious seen here.


Paul August 27, 2009 8:33 am (Pacific time)

"take their cue from the U.S. National Rifle Association, as vile a lobby group as ever tried to impose its misguided will on a public willing to be duped." That statement was and still is grossly incorrect. 2,000,000,000 or 2 Billion later and the system has yet to have solved a single crime. It has also yet to have made any measurable effect on public safety. One should not talk to a topic they obviously know nothing about if they have to fall back on a quote from a columnist made years ago.


Andrew August 27, 2009 4:44 am (Pacific time)

From the writer's bio: "He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label"... yet has no problem say that Ted Morton was too far to the right for "this right-wing province"... hypocritical? The entire section under the heading "Houston, North" is predicated on the fact that someone told him once that culturally, Calgary and Houston are virtual twins. Someone told me once that the moon was made of cheese. True to form, the left lets emotion drive their paradigms, not facts. This is garbage. The very things he disparages are what make Alberta great.


Daniel Johnson August 27, 2009 1:00 am (Pacific time)

Daniel: I stand corrected. Yes, Alberta is more a Texas-lite. And HTC, read Catherine Ford's 2005 book "Against the Grain", then you can write back to me. Otherwise, your callowness is too obvious. But, as an Albertan reading this site, I think that's great!


HTC August 26, 2009 8:20 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel Let’s face it. The Americanization you speak of is a Canada wide phenomenon and I’d wager a healthy amount that many take issue to your claim that American’s in Alberta have brought “many of the worst aspects of American culture.” I think your criticism of the US, if anything, reflects on your own insecurities and your own denial of the fact that you believe Canada to be an inferior country to the US. An Albertan myself, I am very strongly pro-liberty socially, economically, and politically. If you want to take the perspective that that makes “anti-government” than that’s your prerogative, and if you find it strange that I would rather join the United States than have my personal liberties and freedoms curtailed because of opportunistic politicians in Ottawa trying to impress French speaking Quebec, or Toronto-Danforth that is your prerogative as well. I may have been born in 1983, and my brother in 1981, but when the NEP was put into place, my parents lost their house. My brother today works as a Field Engineer with a natural gas company and by his own words “we still feel the ripple effects of the NEP, due to the capital loss from to that program significant long term infrastructure investments weren’t made, and the industry still is trying to recover.” My father is an executive vice president for a major Canadian oil company, and by his own accord, the NEP "turned the clock back on Alberta over 15 years." As for the Federal Gun Registry, you yourself said it – the Alberta economy was (and to a lesser extent still is) still oriented around ranching. One thing you fail to mention that huge spans of Alberta are remote or rural areas – two factors that thus give birth to a gun culture, which urbanites (both American and Canadian) consider backwater or hillbilly. Alberta has one of the highest ratios of firearms ownership to population in the country, and I guarantee you, the overwhelming majority of them are opposed to the registry. I know this, as I myself am an urban firearms owner, heavily involved in the Canadian Firearms community. For your information, I don’t take my queue from the NRA, but I am vehemently opposed to the gun registry because it’s a hideous intrusion into my private life, poses no benefit for public safety, and is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money. You go on to be critical of Alberta Premiers for being “Baptist evangelical” but fail to realize that being a Canadian you’re part of a country that “is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God,” and thus your criticisms are irrelevant. (See the Charter or Rights and Freedoms: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/1.html). For any political party to hope to have a chance to be elected into power, they can and in the past have completely ignored Alberta and the rest of Western Canada (as is most clearly evident by Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Chretien, and Paul Martin). If that isn’t motivation enough to be anti-Federal Government, I don’t know what else is. I consider myself Canadian, just as you do. However, I don't fear Americans or feel so insecure about my nationality I feel obligated to criticize them. After all, I bet for every of "the worst aspects" of American culture you can think of, I can probably name two of "the best" we've gained in return. Here's a few for you to think about: the internet, online newspapers and the ability to write for them.


Daniel August 26, 2009 12:23 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel actually Alberta is more like a watered down version of Texas , and Texas is like a whole nuther country . Maybe we can annex them off to form a new nation , and throw in Oklahoma to boot , call it Altexahoma . I remember watching the yellow rose at the movies when young , it was the first time I saw a women get shot in a movie , we certainly have gotten a bit more violent in the cinema since .


Henry Ruark August 25, 2009 8:29 am (Pacific time)

Friend Daniel: Forigve: Yrs typical of many even in U.S., but "suasion" is only one major tool of anyone seeking to be "strong" in office. Ever since "Old Hickory" Jackson, many other major ways exist, most "invisible" since buried within party-pattern. Then there's malign misuse, as in Bush/Cheney (reverse ?!) with cabal confirmed to consolidate attack on real vulnerabilities. TRUE public opnion can bring,recently demonstrated (Nov. 4 !) massive mandates demanding reform...now well underway despite desperate attacks to devastate, deny, delay and defeat. Watch what will be coming next, for test of both the pattern and this President.


Daniel Johnson August 24, 2009 4:31 pm (Pacific time)

Mike H.: I had high hopes for Obama, as many people did, but I think it might turn out that he is still too much a captive of the overall system. The only real power the president has is of suasion. He can veto, but that's the extent of his power. It's all the senators and representatives that have to be re-elected in the field who can be problematic. In Canada, the prime minister has nearly autocratic power which is both a good and bad thing, depending on your orientation. Thanks for you encouraging comment.


Mike H. August 24, 2009 2:12 pm (Pacific time)

Pfeifengesicht: A face that desires a fist in it. LOL I learned that one a while ago. Good article, thanks for writing with respect. What do you think of our current president?

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