Do Canadians really exist? Yes, that is my question. Is there really such a whimsical folk who believe in such things as mounted police wearing red uniforms and modified cowboy hats, water wells with hand pumps, pancakes made with milk fresh from the cow, and wood burning stoves? Or are they, like so many other famous creatures, folks and fairies of legend simply a product of someone’s over-inventive fantasy?
As a child growing up in Wisconsin I lived within 200 miles of the alleged border between our two countries and yet never once remember running into one of these purported bipeds.
Are they like gnomes, small and hard to see, ghost-like wraiths that can turn invisible at their whim? Or are they like leprechauns that one just happens upon by chance? If so, then one probably has to go all the way to the Klondike for his gold.
Many stories and legends exist about these ‘Kanucks’, but I like to have hard evidence to go along with my fairy tales, like an actual hide from one or at least a skeleton. It is as sketchy a legend as that of the Sasquatch or Bigfoot to which no one has produced a patch of fur of either.
When I was a child I had been told there was a Santa Claus. There had been enough evidence to support this; there was no reason to question it. At Christmas time there were pictures of him everywhere and presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Every department store had a Santa letting kids sit on his lap, each asking for things that even Fort Knox couldn’t pay for.
But eventually cracks in this facade began to show. At the tender age of 27 I began to suspect that there was something seriously wrong with this Santa myth. For years there had been no more presents even though I had put up a tree faithfully every year. The department store Santas always got angry when I tried to sit on their laps. Eventually I understood that it was all a myth and with it came the realization that some sort of mass hypnosis was at work here that so many people would try so hard to support such a fictiousness, much like Big Brother in the book 1984 or Hitler at the Nuremberg rallies.
But Santa was not the only fabrication. There was also the Easter bunny, the monster under my bed, Peter Pan, and the mad hatchet man from down the street that my older brothers told me would creep into my room at might and get me if I wasn’t good ( this legend might actually be true because I did find some suspicious looking bones behind our garage one morning that I can only surmise as belonging to some other poor kid who hadn’t been quite good enough, although my mom insisted they were really rabbit bones). Later these myths changed to beliefs in strange things like Don Juan of Carlos Casteneda fame, or that there is a Lock Ness monster, or other such whimsies such as that Britney Spears was a virgin or, of course, that such things as Canadians exist.
With time, most of these bogeymen, although sworn to truly be by many well meaning people, turned out to be will-of-the-wisps. I deeply suspect this to be true of Canadians as well. The Canadian myth, however, does not want to die. No matter how often I try to beat it into the ground, it rises again like a French speaking Frankenstein.
Genuine, authoritative sightings of Canadians differ as to their descriptions. Some report them to be extremely grizzled from head to foot like an abominable snowman, only twice as abominable. Others say they are chunky and squat, much like Santa’s elves or Rosie O’Donnell. I tend to believe that if they exist at all they are like wild, unclothed cannibals running through the woods naked, howling at the moon while shreds of their last victim still hang from their mouths. I myself would never go anywhere near the northern territories without having a silver crucifix and a gun well loaded with silver bullets within reach just in case.
Just like the Santa myth, there is an entire folklore to support the belief in their existence. Canadians, like Santa, are supposed to inhabit a land of ice and snow and to have reindeer. Supposedly they survive by eating lichens and cold fish covered with maple syrup. Certain commercial companies have used this mythology to increase the mystique their products, for example Canada Dry(R) Tonic Water, Canadian bacon and, of course, Canadian maple syrup.
Such sport teams as the Blue Jays and the Toronto All-Stars are actually American inventions utilizing Canadian design to make them seem more classy. The players are just really good American actors and the whole sports thing is arranged on huge Hollywood sound stages. Although many swear this to be an exaggerated claim, remember that such teams as the Cleveland Indians don’t have a single redskin among them and that most of the Pittsburgh Pirates have never been on a ship in their lives.
The question we must ask ourselves concerning the Canadian legend is “Is it a safe or harmful illusion to believe in?”. The second question is “Is there any way we can make some money off of this?”
Is the legend perhaps another attempt by government to pull the wool over our eyes like they did when they got us to believe that Iraq had WMD’s, or that Saudi Arabia is an ally of ours or that Ronald Reagan was a great president? Or is it simply a harmless fairy tale about a land where men can wear ear-flap hats and not be considered doofs; where mothers still tuck their children in at night under self-made patchwork quilts extra thick with goose feathers after having told them a fairy tale about giant lumberjacks, where the houses are made of long planks cut down and hewed by the owner himself.
It is a dream land where bear meat and whale blubber make up the majority of the diet thus saving countless acres of tropical rain forest in other, more exotic parts of the world from certain destruction.
It is a place where the rivers run free and wilderness still stretches undiminished in every compass direction but stops abruptly at the U.S. border. The thought of such a country, which has a simple maple leaf as its emblem instead of lions and swords and stripes and bars and other such fancy nonsense appeals to the simple in us. We perhaps need our delusions that such a place as Canada exists just as children need fairy tales and teddy bears to cling to- it is something familiar and friendly in a world that can be cold and fearsome.