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Independence Day is a moment for Canadians to recommit to being different from the U.S.

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Old Glory, the Star Spangled Banner, the current and probably terminal version of the national flag of the United States (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the Great Republic immediately to our south.

Normally, as befits our national character, we Canadians celebrate this occasion with restrained fondness for our American cousins, coming as it does just three days after la fête du Canada.

On the 242nd observance of this occasion, however, owing to the unexpectedly fraught relationship of our neighbours with most of their neighbours and allies, including us, perhaps our feelings will not be expressed quite so warmly this year.

So, sorry, as we Canadians are wont to say, there may be a lousy turnout at the U.S. Embassy's annual July 4 beanfest in Ottawa today, as befits two nations on the precipice of a trade war if not, thank God, the other kind. Not much we can do about that, eh?

In the great nation to the south of the great nation immediately to the south of us, meanwhile, citizens have taken a more forceful step, responding to the stream of vituperation and racism from President Donald J. Trump, whose policies are the proximate cause of all this Canadian ennui, by electing a real socialist who is also a real nationalist to lead them through the foreign crisis that is widely expected to complicate the domestic one Mexico is already experiencing.

If you don't think the boardrooms of America are not extremely displeased with that development, notwithstanding a congratulatory tweet from @realDonaldTrump, the first virtual president of the United States, think again. The Wall Street Journal, the American oligarchy's official mouthpiece and ideological testament, didn't merely compare Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, as might have been expected in the aftermath of Sunday's Mexican election, but to Franklin Delano Roosevelt!

¡Ay, qué horror!

If Justin Trudeau deserves to have a can of whup-ass opened up on him by the President of the United States just for saying at a news conference that as prime minister of Canada he'll stand up for Canadians, one can only imagine what the flaming Trumpster will soon be saying about AMLO!

Still, the generation of neoliberals that now runs Washington may despise FDR with abiding passion, but he did save capitalism from itself for an earlier generation of their counterparts, so their country may yet require an AMLO of its own to survive. But don't expect that realization to come easily to the kind of people who subscribe to the WSJ.

Frustration with Canadian defiance and anticipation of the Mexican vote result may account for why Stephen Harper, the former Canadian prime minister, was invited to the White House for a secretive covfefe-klatch with President Trump's remaining loyal retainers last week, if only to reassure the insecure president and his floundering flunkies that not all foreign leaders are insufficiently obsequious.

If only someone on the White House staff hadn't forgotten that Harper is no longer actually a prime minister, it could have been very comforting for them to imagine a head of government from somewhere in the world would get on board with the fevered delusions of the crumbling "single superpower" of the 21st century. This is probably true even if Harper did happen to be on his way back from giving a nice speech to the cult-like extremists of Mojahedin-e Khalq.

At least Harper, possibly alone in a restive crowd of former American friends, would understand that while the legacy of the 18th-century rebellion against the British Crown was that one no longer need to bow or curtsey to a monarch, that does not apply to the kings and princes of reality TV. And that is a category that most certainly includes the aging TV host who now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As for the rest of us Canadians, like the Mexicans, we should be seriously contemplating the long-term management of our relationship with the United States, so pacific throughout most of the 20th century, now that we have unexpectedly entered a patch of rough waters and are uncertain whether this is just a squall or an actual hurricane.

So this would be a good time for citizens of both countries to remember that our fellow Americans' foundational documents were carefully parsed to qualify the notion that "all men are created equal" according to the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God by ensuring that everyone understood some people weren't that equal at all.

The United States lives to this day with the unintended consequences of its 18th and 19th century slave economy. And so do we and the Mexicans, as people who have no choice but to share this continent with the United States.

The U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights and arguably the American Revolution itself were intended to preserve slavery in the face of both jurisprudence and nascent popular revulsion throughout the British Empire that made it clear its days were numbered. Don't tell me the American rebels couldn't read the handwriting on the wall.

The Legislature of Upper Canada outlawed slavery in its territory in 1793, the first in the Empire to do so, only two years after the new American Republic approved the Second Amendment to its constitution so citizens of the United States could maintain militias in the face of the ever-present threat of slave rebellions.

Today, the legal remnants of this ugly policy sow terror within the borders of the United States and release a tide of firearms that threatens to overwhelm our borders.

So too the worst features of the Republic's government -- so beloved by the most reactionary forces in Canada, who love every American idea except the good ones -- among them the uniquely sclerotic U.S. Senate, designed from the get-go to render the United States virtually immune to democratic reform.

And from the success of this uniquely conservative revolution, too, comes the United States' dark history of delusional exceptionalism, ordained by God, that has caused so much tragedy in the first few years of the 21st century and now looks to be coming home to roost on the North American continent.

There is an old saw that Canadians define themselves as who they are not -- to wit, we are not Americans, notwithstanding the fact we resemble them quite a lot and share the American continent with them. This is not such a bad ambition, and a manageable one in a complex world despite our similarities.

It's how we got to be about the freest place on the planet, and one of the most peaceful. It emphatically does not make us, as Harper famously compared us to the United States in December 2000, "a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status."

Given the events that have led up to it in recent weeks, Independence Day 2018 offers a perspective to help Canadians recommit themselves to the idea of our uniqueness, and ponder the steps we need to take to make ourselves less like our neighbours.

While we work that out, polite restraint, and this Independence Day even a chilly reserve, would seem to be in order.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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