by Kevin Burton
Yesterday we heard some thoughts from Stephen Marche, a Canadian writer and commentator, on the turmoil in the United States (“How Is Canada Reacting To US Implosion,” Feb. 18).
Marche looked forward, but spent a lot of time looking back, to George Washington’s farewell address after his second presidential term. Washington warned that extreme partisanship could wreck the democracy. Marche thinks that time has come and Canada and others better get ready for America as we have known it to disappear.
Today we continue his comments from a Jan. 2 article in the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper.
“Increasingly, the question facing those who care about the United States is how, not if, the republic will end. There are several possible scenarios.”
“At least one former general has already called for a Myanmar-style coup. Senior figures in government – senators, governors – have started openly discussing secession. Hard-right partisans, the ones who sparked the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, have not been quietly ruing the day; they’ve been planning for the next time.”
“Countries require solidarity to survive. Solidarity in the United States has evaporated. The American political system is very dry tinder indeed. One spark is all it will take.”
“Northrop Frye once defined a Canadian as “an American who rejects the Revolution.” Canadians are, to a large extent, Americans in resistance to America. Sometimes that resistance is shallow – “Yankee, go home” – and sometimes it goes deeper.”
“The Canadian experiment has been built, in large part, around the American experiment: They have the melting pot, we have the cultural mosaic; they have the free market, we have sensible regulation; they have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we have “peace, order and good government.” We have been defined, from the beginning, by the successes and failures of a country that is not our own. Now that the American experiment is failing, where does that leave us?”
“An American collapse will change Canada’s position in the world and our sense of national identity. It will force a reinvention from the ground up. Once again, Canada will have to respond to the American reality. Once again, we will be in resistance. We already are.”
“Obviously, every political and corporate leader should prepare for American chaos – at the border, in the markets, in international institutions, in the spillover of their toxic political discourse.”
“But a U.S. retreat from the world, as it turns inward to try to quell its own chaos, will expose our own vulnerabilities, too. The sheer power of the United States has given us the capacity for a particular breed of self-righteousness, which will be sorely tested in the coming years.”
“The luxury of U.S. military protection – of U.S. security in general – has allowed us to forgo realpolitik for more or less straight idealism. The challenge will be to preserve our ideals in the absence of that security. Our national self-interest and our faith in the international rules-based order have been more or less aligned. How will we act when they aren’t?”
“Confederation began during the first U.S. Civil War. The next civil war will require as much vision and fortitude on the part of Canadian leaders as the first. The question that faces Canada is not just “What do we do?” It’s “Who will we be?”
“Washington’s farewell address, every bit as powerful and important a document as any of the Founding Fathers’ writings, was once as popular and as studied as the Declaration of Independence. School children across the U.S. used to memorize and recite passages. But its popularity waned after the Second World War, when shared national purpose was an easy sell. “
“Perhaps the time has come to revive the farewell address. Senators and congressmen and presidents would do well to listen to what Washington had to say: ‘The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.’”
“At a Trump rally after the election, a reporter spotted a pair of Republicans wearing shirts that read, ‘I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.’ Centuries before, George Washington, riding out of thriving Philadelphia toward the lush hills of Mount Vernon, foresaw what the failure of American democracy would look like. It looks like them.”