As a Canadian, I have been an inveterate US watcher for maybe 50 of my almost 65 years.
Until today I have prided myself on this. The US is the most politically and economically important country on the planet and I’ve been making the effort to try to understand the country’s mechanisms, machinations and impact on the world. Good for me.
And my fascination isn’t just economics and politics. Over the years my interest has broadened to include the American media, American lifestyle and much of the rest — in fact, most everything but US celebrity, which somehow escapes me.
And mine is no casual curiosity. I start every day reading about what’s up with the US and how is it impacting the world.
I have rationalized this voyeuristic fascination with what I once called the ‘Ten Year Rule.’ To understand what is happening in the United States is to learn what will happen in Canada in about 10 years. However, with the dreaded rise of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (a Bush wannabe) I now think of it as the ‘Four Year Rule.’
So, while friends immerse themselves in the provincial backwaters of the Canadian political scene, I have been gloriously riding the oceanic current of Americana. And because of my studies (US 101), I will understand Canada many years before Canadians understand themselves. This is serious, even important scholarship. Again, good for me.
But it was all bullshit. I found that out this morning. Sarah Palin told me.
To me, Sarah Palin is the very personification of Americana. She’s good-looking, stylish, smart with a strong family, passionately held views and values and the confidence to boldly speak out. Talk about American can-doism: she is the very embodiment of it. If there was ever a single person who is a walking personification of her country and culture, Sarah Palin is it. And the masses love her for it.
And so do I. She is so irresistible I’m already taking a second look at American celebrity. Maybe I’ve been missing out on something.
But Sarah Palin has found me out. This morning, while watching a youtube of her interview with Katie Couric (herself a wonderful caricature), Gov Palin taught me that my fascination with the US has never been an important quest to understand my Canadian tomorrows. No. My fascination with the US has always been about what the United States does best: entertainment.
The thing about being the ‘biggest’ is that there is an implication that you are always the best. Certainly, we hear that as a constant message coming out of all the states. We are fed that refrain so often we come to, if not believe it, we believe IN it. We give the US every benefit of the doubt. So when they tell us someone is stupendously bright and brilliantly intelligent, hey, we tend to believe them.
When Sarah Palin walked onto the stage at the Republican Convention I was mesmerized by an unknown leader of the free world, maybe even THE leader of the free world. But who is she? Her speech told us a little about her and a lot about her Conservative attack skills.
And then in ensuring days we learned more. Not a lot, it just sort of dribbled out in innuendo and rumour, none of it as fact. The weeks after the Convention were stunning American theatre where the woman on the pedestal shrank before our eyes as the reality dawned on us that her constructed persona was all artifice. The man who would never sacrifice a war to win an election had mastered a wonderful slight of hand: he had sacrificed his country to win over his base.
This became crystal clear in the Katie Couric interview. The ‘verbage,’ as Palin calls it, that flowed so freely from the governor was so simplistically sophomoric and oddly inarticulate that we became utterly convince that her incompetence is so absolute that McCain-Palin really would be a third George W. Bush term.
That interview was the moment when I finally understood that I hadn’t open the newspaper ever morning to actual learn about the last 24 hours in the life of the preeminent Superpower, the United States of America. No. My less noble intent every day had always been to pick up the most current thread in an on-going and highly entertaining sitcom about a bunch of people I loved to watch but don’t really care much about — so many Jerrys and Georges and Kramers and Elaines who I forget that moment the show is over.
So why do I do this to myself? Why have I spent so much of my time in such an absurdly empty pursuit? There is an answer. Because I can’t stand to study my own country — that is far, far too serious to me.