I had the misfortune of spending just shy of a year in the country many Americans love to endearingly refer to as the "kindest place on earth," where, incidentally, all of my positive stereotypes of the place were shattered. In case you aren't familiar with our northern neighbor, Canada is a snowy landscape thought to be populated by a polite, simple folk. Liberal leftists envy its progressive politics, with the country having beat America on legalizing gay marriage by about 20 years and also with having a somewhat successful universal healthcare system. And in the tumultuous atmosphere of current American politics and a plethora of tragedies unfurling daily, we all like to think there's a similar, if not a little better, nearby place we can run to.
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Three decades ago, the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood gave a famous lecture to an American audience about Canadian-American relations. It remains, to this day, the most precise articulation of Canadians' unbearably smug sense of superiority ever offered. In it, she addresses her childhood in northern Quebec in the s. My attitude towards Americans was formed by this environment. Alas, the Americans we encountered were usually pictures of ineptitude.