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Tragically hip: Why do we care so much what Americans think of us?



Maybe you've heard; Canada is finally cool.

It only took 150 some-odd years, about as many soaring Celine Dion power ballads and the ongoing (and hilarious) butchering of the word "about," but we did it, y'all. We've been anointed as "suddenly hip" by the big-city folk at the big-city New York Times, whose writers presumably wear designer skinny jeans to work and drink something called soy milk in their lattes. (FYI: A latte is sorta like a fancy-person double-double, and a Timbit dies every time one is ordered.)

In their infinite wisdom, the tastemakers at the Times pointed to our "muscular, blue-eyed, social-media-savvy" prime minister, mischievous pop wunderkind Justin Bieber (he "can speak French," you guys!) and the rap stylings of meme machine Drake, among others, as clear evidence of our newfound status as global purveyors of style.

"The notion that our neighbor to the north is a frozen cultural wasteland populated with hopelessly unstylish citizens is quickly becoming so outdated as to be almost offensive," the paper gushed.

It's the kind of condescending, winking generalization that some could, and have, deemed actually offensive. Oh look at those hosers with their goofy pop stars and hunky prime minister. Aren't they just precious?

But along with the backlash was the usual chest puffing that seems to come every time even the faintest stamp of approval arrives from below the 49th Parallel. A not insignificant segment of the Canadian Twittersphere exploded with the sort of jubilation you feel on the day your suave older brother finally realizes you weren't such a dweeb all along. It struck a nerve in me that's been hit many times before: Why in Anne Murray's name do we care so much what Americans think of us?

I get that our media landscape is inundated with American culture at every turn and that it's hard not to constantly look to the global superpower for validation after living so long in its shadow. But it's time to come out from under its star-spangled thumb and forge our own path — even if it doesn't tidily converge with our southern counterpart's.

Surely, we've already taken the first steps. Trudeau's ascension into office this October was a genuine repudiation of the traditionally American conservative values that Stephen Harper tried so desperately to instill. And even when one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history devolved into mud slinging and spiteful rhetoric, it paled in comparison to the travelling carnival of hate that is Donald Trump, ™. (Or, for that matter, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, etc., etc.)

Even before that, in the frenetic aftermath of 9/11, Jean Chretien broke the historical mold by refusing to join America's ill-fated foray into Iraq in a rare moment of Canadian defiance.

At the time it felt like a watershed moment. Like Canada had finally found its footing on the international stage. And yet, even still, we remain hypervigilant of America's perception of us. Just last week defence minister Harjit Sajjan was quick to downplay the fallout over Canada's exclusion from a high-level anti-ISIS coalition meeting in Paris that included U.S. allies France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands.

The panic set in almost immediately among some segments of the national security and political commentariat, a not-so-subtle reflection that our unyielding and inherent desire to impress the big, bad US of A — pacifist values be damned! — had seeped into our geopolitics, too.

Personally, I'm perplexed. Whether or not you believe the typical Canuck falls within the traditional definition of cool (whatever that is), there's no denying we've got some good shit going on up here. Socialized healthcare, multiculturalism and a little stick and puck may not be the sexiest of calling cards, but gosh darn it they're ours, and no gun-toting, SUV-driving, occasionally offensive Amurikan is gonna take that away from us.

Besides, with any luck the Biebs will just stay down south forever, thereby upping our cool factor by about a zillion per cent.

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