Americans are getting ready to celebrate our Thanksgiving, which, unlike the Canadian version, is far past the actual harvest and has lost much of its original meaning of actually “giving thanks.”

For us down here, the holiday has become synonymous with three things — orgiastic consumption, football and the Official Start of the Christmas Shopping Season.

But while most of us will pause, if but momentarily, to give thanks for our ability to consume far more of the Earth’s abundance than other nations, I thought it would be novel to give thanks to that most ignored and unappreciated of America’s friends (if we can be said to have any left) and neighbours, Canada.

We many not realize it, but we should thank Canada for many things we take for granted as originating in the U.S. So instead of taking South Park‘s “blame Canada” approach, as we engage in our annual mass slaughter of factory-tortured turkeys (Benjamin Franklin’s original idea for the national symbol), let us raise our bottle of Sleemans and thank all of you for the following:

Laughs — love it or hate it, there would have never been a Saturday Night Live if it hadn’t been for a stable of comedy talent from Canada, led by SNL founder Lorne Michaels (who also gave us Kids in the Hall) with original cast Canuck Dan Ackroyd.

In fact, thanks to Canada and most notably, Second City Toronto, the list of America’s favourite comedians reads more like a who’s who of Canada: the whole SCTV cast (the funniest show ever on TV, in my humble opinion), Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Rich Little, Leslie Nielsen, Jim Carrey, the Greens: Tom and Red, Norm MacDonald, Howie Mandel and, most currently, Samantha Bee of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Okay, Canadian John Aylesworth did foist Hee Haw on the American public, but the pluses far outnumber the minuses.

Peace, order and good government (an example of) — while Canadians may feel somewhat incredulous of this in light of the Gomery investigations, remember that scandal would have amounted to penny ante pocket change down here. Perhaps the best example, I can think of is whenever I get to see Question Period in Parliament, I wonder “why can’t we do this?” I know the answer but I still wish we would drop the pretense of politeness and go at each other like they do in Ottawa.

Klaatu — remember them? You guys had us going down here for awhile back in 1976 when we thought they might, just might be the Beatles in disguise. They were still okay though, but we would have liked them anyway without the hype. Unbelievably, they’re still around, at least in re-releases and a fanatical fan following.

All right, there are better examples of Canadian music we should be thankful for: Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn, The Cowboy Junkies, k.d. lang, Diana Krall, The Crash Test Dummies, Rush, The Tragically Hip, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan etc. etc.

Ok, ok, Anne Murray, Céline Dion, and, (sigh) new American Alanis Morissette too.

Now for some fun Canadian foodies:

Ginger Ale — sick kids all over North America were comforted by the invention of Canadian John McLaughlin because as all mums knew, flat Canada Dry was good for a sour tummy. Then we grew up and discovered that ginger ale made a great mixer with:

Canadian whiskey — traditionalists love Canadian Club but it doesn’t matter — if it’s true Canadian whiskey, made in Canada, it goes down smooth and easy, unlike some other whiskeys made elsewhere. On Thanksgiving, the CC will flow all over North America. Fine Canadian whiskey kept Americans suitably inebriated during prohibition, which, consequently, helped make the Bronfmans one of Canada’s wealthiest families. Americans can enjoy that whiskey along with another Thanksgiving staple:

Instant mashed potatoes — thank (or blame) Canadian Edward A. Asselbergs, who invented the dehydrated potato flakes in 1962.

And last but least, two very important things every American should thank Canada for:

Our “non-negotiable” lifestyle — okay, this is tricky and I don’t want anyone to be mad at me about mentioning this. You folks don’t have to sell us oil, natural gas, lumber and water but you do. You’ve been royally screwed in the process to be sure ($5 billion worth in lumber for which I am embarrassed by my government) but I for one am cognizant of the fact that much of the fuel for our “way of life” comes from Canada (number one for U.S. oil imports at 17 per cent compared to the Saudis with 14 per cent: 2003 statistics). This comes as a surprise to many Americans, but those of us who know the real deal appreciate the fact that despite the lousy trade deals, if it weren’t for Canada, we’d be hurting — bad.

A place to go — no, not just for vacation, but, um, “just in case” if you get my drift (or draft). But rest easy — a draft is still not likely and most of us just talk a good game about leaving. After all, there’s always another election coming around and most of us possess the almost childlike faith that whatever bad has happened can be set right. We’re funny like that.

But you’re always there for us, and for that and so many other things, as this American carves his slaughtered bird on Thursday, I’ll be grateful for the fact there is a Canada.

If anyone wants the giblets, I can send them.

Keith Gottschalk

Keith Gottschalk

U.S. Keith Gottschalk has written for daily newspapers in Iowa, Illinois and Ohio. He also had a recent stint as a radio talk show host in Illinois. As a result of living in the high ground...