We North Americans aren't that different from each other - many of our values, laws, and ongoing debates are quite similar. Our cultural influences are much the same. We like to visit each other. We're often lumped together when traveling to other parts of the world. We're two very developed, very democratic, and perhaps very ego-centric, countries. (And I can see Alaska from my hoWse!)
But, having visited the US several times and with some very close friends living there, I can safely say that there are several things I adore about Canada that are seemingly lacking in large pockets of the grand ol' US of A.
There are countless reasons that I insist that you vote tomorrow. But there are specifically three main reasons that I politely suggest you vote for Barack Obama. Like three genie wishes. Or three magic beans.
Number 1 - Abortion is legal in Canada.
Abortion is legal, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future, if not forever. We are not reopening the abortion debate, despite some regular and recent attempts.
Now. Depending on the person and how he or she presents the argument, I can in some cases tolerate an opinion different from mine on this.
I cannot, however, over-state the importance, in my opinion, of allowing a woman to make FREE choices that are best for her and her body. I mean, we make adoptive parents jump through a shit-ton of hoops, and even bio parents do an awful lot of planning and soul searching before making a decision to grow tiny humans. I would like to trust women (and their partners, and their doctors) to make good decisions, even when I know many of them can't or won't. That's what being FREE is about.
Even if we took this abortion choice away, I cannot even begin to fathom how the fuck we would regulate it. Would a judge decide for me? Would there be a list of criteria? Would I have to prove I was raped? Would there be a scale of "rape legitimacy"? Would there be a binder full of women representing a series of case studies and indicating who is abortion-worthy and who is not?
This is a fundamental paradigm about woman that ties into all sorts of questionable policies and approaches that I simply do not support. Birth control. Equal wages and career ambitions coupled with flexible work hours (for men AND women). Parental leave (which is a full 12 months up here). Support in the workplace. Support at home. Politicians talk a lot about support for families, but they talk little about support for the parents that lead them.
Number 2 - Gay marriage is legal in Canada.
The government does not attempt to pass judgement on our relationships. Well, sometimes I'm sure it does, but legally, if I love someone, I can marry that person and I am offered all the rights and privileges and responsibilities that go along with that.
Hubby and I didn't think we needed marriage, but we wanted it, and we love it. It makes me want to cry heavy, ugly tears that a country as apparently progressive and innovative as the United States (a country that allowed SLAVERY not many generations ago - from which black Americans escaped to Canada) could possibly withhold this right from all its people. Let alone that everyone sits in judgement on the issue.
I support you, and whomever you love, no matter who you are. To be honest, I'm not even opposed to polygamy if everyone is a willing partner and there's no observable harm to the children. Call me out if you wish, but it's really where I stand. People deserve to be happy. Just let people be happy.
Isn't that what marriage is about? Isn't that the "sanctity" we should be protecting? The sanctity of a happy marriage and caring families and a supportive society that loves thy neighbour? In fact, maybe I have a problem with those sham "I'm pregnant so I better get married" marriages that end in pain and suffering and broken homes for kids that potentially were never wanted in the first place. Where's the sanctity in that?
Number 3 - Health care is free in Canada.
Ok, so free is a tricky word. We have high taxes here, and in some provinces people pay a "premium" to support their health care system. We all pay for it, and it ain't perfect, but at least anyone who needs to can go to the friggin emergency room or receive radiation for their cancer without some ridiculous fee. And hell, people can even get cancer and not be kicked out of the system or denied. SHOCKER. We may wait, but patience is a virtue and good medical care is worth it. Trust me.
Some of you might call that - gulp - socialism. Well, guess what? I'm not only a dirty liberal but I'm a crazy socialist too.
Tax me all you want if it means that when I go to the doctor I don't get an invoice afterward (nor a statement from my asshole insurance company telling me the exact price of every goddam nurse and every fucking tube they stuck into my orifices).
Tax me all you want if it means that groups of inter-generationally and socially disadvantaged people with whom I share this country need some fucking support.
Tax me all you want if it means I get TWELVE FULL MONTHS OF PARENTAL LEAVE.
Tax me all you want if it means I can have full-day kindergarten/preschool in Ontario, or $6 a day daycare in Quebec for my kids.
Tax me. I will live within my means and I will contribute. And I will sleep better at night because of it.
Now. Please don't mistake me here - if you're an American I value and appreciate you, and your opinion. And I don't know everything there is to know.
But if you refuse to vote tomorrow - no matter who for - I will hunt you down and kick you in the shin with my "poke-the-eye-out-of-a-snake" boots.
And if you're undecided, consider voting for your current president, who, despite his faults, has the drive and determination to accomplish something great for your country - and who has a vision for your future that is actually quite revolutionary and entirely well-intentioned.
Or consider moving to Canada. We'd love to have you.