Canadians overwhelmingly approve of this country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. In fact, 88% of us think so, a surprising number given that the media approach to the crisis has been mostly fraught with disaster. (When school begins, we’ll see if they were right.) We join with most other countries in the developed world in being quite happy under the circumstances.
But 47% of Americans think the same, a surprisingly high number given that Trump’s approach to containing the pandemic – dishonest, inept, chaotic and cruel – has objectively been a disaster. More Americans died from COVID-19 during the four-day Republican National Convention than September 11. What are they so happy about?
You have to wonder who the folks at Pew Research spoke to in their survey of national responses. Maybe they picked at random, but only from the Americans in their back pool at the time. Or people wearing hats. If that includes red baseball caps, here is your answer.
I checked their methodology, and it turned out that they mostly spoke to Americans on cell phones, with only 20 percent on landlines. In Canada, 49 percent of respondents were on landlines. People on landlines are at home indoors. Are they not by definition in the safest place of all? No wonder they are so satisfied.
The numbers surprise me because overall, the news of the pandemic is bad news – overwhelmingly for female employment and frontline workers.
Having said that, why are Canadians happy and Americans so much less? The US constitution recommends “the pursuit of happiness”. That’s why they smile so handily, even give their huge, sinister novels happy endings, talk about “challenges” rather than “problems”, stick inspirational quotes on their walls, and buy so savagely and badly.
They are trying to hide the economic slide that began in 1980, when the destruction of the working and middle class began and the rich began to become the hyper-rich. They are not happy. There is no American dream.
This is why white Americans shoot guns so generously now. They believe shooting black people will make them happy, which is briefly assumed.
Tony Soprano’s mother Livia got it right when she told her grandson AJ: “The world is a jungle, and if you want my advice, Anthony, don’t expect happiness. You won’t get it.
CBC reporting extended to Pew, citing a delightful Léger poll that asked Canadians and Americans which country had better handled the outbreak. Apparently 87% of Canadians said their national response was “a lot” or “a little” better than that of the United States, while only 38% of Americans agreed. Good. But take this. Almost as many Americans – 37 percent – said the United States responded better than Canada. (And 25% gave no answer, probably because they had never heard of this “Canada” the Leger was talking about.)
No matter how miserable Americans are, they always think they are outperforming everyone else. It is quantified American exceptionalism. While Canadians don’t expect happiness, not really, although they certainly do enjoy his visits.
Several decades ago, Margaret Atwood declared our national theme to be survival, while the American theme or cultural obsession was “money as a sign of divine grace or providence.” In 2003, she changed things a bit. “Did we survive?” Has Canadian culture survived? Arguably this is not the case, not against the American attack.
She also said that we are a nation of rugs. When one of us has a little bit of success, we pull out the bottom rug, and in the age of social media, that has never been truer. No one is better than anyone, Canadians believe, and that is an enviable trait in a pandemic.
Americans, however, are scrambling for anything that will signal their superiority to everyone else, perhaps subconsciously knowing as 200,000 deaths approaching they have braced themselves and mismanaged COVID-19.
But if they were bad, they think, they were even better than any other country, including boring Canada. Yes Americans are dead, but they like to believe they were happier before they expired than any foreigner.
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