This is my first time in Canada. It was with pleasure that I told a funny talkative taxi cab driver that I was from the United States. Suddenly he went quiet. He was of Arabic descent he said “You people do not like me”. I try to explain I had not voted for Trump and I was different. Quiet for a while more. Finally, he said, “Girls (meaning my two daughters) you have good father here.” And he chatted us up for the rest of the trip.
We are in Vancouver the land of outdoors. Vancouver is one of the most diverse cities I have been in. There was one moment as I was in a shop browsing I found myself surrounded by four other sets of people babbling on in four different languages. I wanted to shout, “This is America speak English.” Vancouver should be very careful. We all know the story of Babel.
The citizens of Vancouver are very nice. As they get off the bus they yell ‘Thank-you’ to the bus driver. The people smile and even the staff smile and say with genuine ease ‘I hope you have a good rest of your day’. Even though they have said it a billion times that day there is an enthusiasm in their words. They were definitely not the dreary words you receive most of the time from American staff.
So kindness and forgiveness are Vancouver speak. But so is a proud sense of the beauty of the land they find themselves in. They are as one might expect in the land that gave birth to Greenpeace very eco-friendly. They have the Pacific Ocean to the West and surrounded by mountains to the North and East.
The citizens of Vancouver are braver than me. They cross swinging bridges like the Capilano Bridge like its nothing. When I cross the bridge it involved many a promise to God, holding on to the ropes with both hands, clenching of teeth, and swearing if another young twerp rocks the bridge I will kill them. Of course this murder could not happen on the bridge where my hands are too involved holding the ropes.
Of course the land hungry early settlers of Vancouver showed their insatiable greed as all European settlers did. They pushed the Native Americans off their lands and did their best to decimate their cultures. How the Europeans could come to a village with their huge totem poles and great houses and decide that their culture was inferior or not worth preserving is beyond me. But it was never about civilizing the ‘natives’. It was always about making an excuse to wrest their land from them and seeming pious at the same time.
But now the Canucks are doing their best to do right by the cultures they once harmed greatly. Yet it was not until 2008 that First Nations individuals could make complaints of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Change comes slowly even among nice people. The Museum of Anthropology has a great room where the totem poles stand in all their glory. It was a sight as magical as I have seen in any Museum even those exhibiting the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians artifacts.
Which brings me back to my Arabic cab driver ‘friend’. We in the United States have the awesome responsibility of making others feel at home in our great democratic nation but in the current climate we are rejecting Blacks, Arabs, Mexicans, and many others. We are becoming less of a great people by doing this and the world is watching us create our own smallness.
Canada is on the rise. We may win a trade war with them but we are losing a basic humanity test with them.