Come Tuesday and barring any Bush/Gore-style recounts and lawsuits, our long national Election 2016 nightmare will be over. Celebration of that fact might be the only thing the majority of Americans can agree on.
Depending on how the presidential race turns out, nearly half the country will see the result as evidence that The End is Nigh for the good ol' U.S. of A. The Republican and Democratic nominees are seen in such dire, devilish ways by their foes that talk of "rigged" elections, revolution and fleeing the country has become commonplace.
Our collective consternation has not gone unnoticed by the world beyond our borders. Monty Python's John Cleese told me a couple of weeks ago that "Nobody in Europe can begin to understand" the vitriol and stupidity that's happening in the U.S. election. And a Toronto ad agency created a Twitter hashtag campaign a few weeks back — #TellAmericaItsGreat — to help Americans weather the nastiness by reminding us what makes the States special.
Such a magnanimous outpouring of support from our neighbors to the north made me curious what Canadians really think of our election this year — and what I might need to know if a run to the border is indeed required due to an American Civil War come Nov. 9. So I headed up to British Columbia 10 days before our Judgment Day, er, Election Day, and talked to some friendly Canadians. I may or may not have listened to Neil Young, Rush and the complete works of Bryan Adams on the drive. (I did not, but I did listen to the four-fifths-Canadian rockers The Band.)
One of the stereotypes of Canadians I've learned through my repeated viewings of Strange Brew is that they are a friendly folk (who also love hockey and beer), and that proved true as they talked about our election — usually laughing before even hearing my first question.
"I'm enjoying the comedy, it's priceless," says Tim Naas, who works in the Patagonia store in Nelson, the resort town a little less than four hours north of Spokane. Naas has a Canadian friend living in Montana; he likes to ask if she gets hit on a lot by guys hoping to get Canada's version of a green card. He thinks any American expats would enjoy the free health care, miss America's craft beer and need to get used to Canadian manners. "We're a lot more apologetic up here," Naas says. "So get used to people saying 'sorry' all the time."
Travis Russell at Rossland Beer Company says the U.S. election has been a big topic of discussion in the small town an hour southwest of Nelson. "We're directly affected, right? We're a border town," Russell says. "Anybody who's willing to hop the fence due to the election process — you're my kind of person. Go ahead."
Down the block at Clansey's Cafe, Mike Meloche says Americans should know that marijuana isn't legal in Canada — yet — but "we're friendly. Overly friendly." The U.S. election is impossible to escape; people he talks to are "going crazy. It's all they're talking about. They're shocked and awed, and [talking about] how funny it is that it's gotten this far."
Cameron McDougall works at Ainsworth Hot Springs, and he thinks Americans who move to Canada might have a hard time acclimating to life north of the border.
"You gotta get used to the lifestyle, it's pretty laid back here," McDougall says. "I see Americans come up here, they're like springs. They're wound-up."
I think most of us could probably make that adjustment. In my time in Canada, I found things that would make me feel right at home, from taco joints to Southern BBQ, and things America could use more of, like liquor store delivery cars. The biggest challenges were remembering that kilometers per hour aren't the same as miles per hour as I drove, realizing that my spelling would take a beating for a while — centre instead of center, etc. — and learning that money that has clear windows and trains and old English women on it is, indeed, real money. And that money goes surprisingly fast when one starts eating poutine and venison chops on the regular.
Those friendly Canadian locals would certainly help with the transition, though. Not only are they inherently nice, our ugly election has made them even more so.
"I feel sorry for the American people right now," McDougall says. "It's a little embarrassing. I've seen a couple of elections that were bad, but that one has to be the most controversial election ever, right?"
Controversial — that's one word for it. ♦