The truly bright side of things is that struggle requires us to focus on the things that matter the most to us.
By Keanin Loomis
Published December 16, 2011
Being a voracious consumer of current events, despite the known consequences to my mental health, it seems that there are only two kinds of stories right now - the bad, which are ubiquitous, and the not-so-bad, which are sprinkled about to serve as rays of hope.
Case in point: the Globe and Mail's November 16th Report on Business contained an editorial titled "A Scary Prediction For The Collapse Of Paper Money" preceding an article titled "Optimism Growing About North American Economy".
The barrage of bad news and the schizophrenic predictions about the future of humankind have exacerbated our collective depression - if not specifically the economic kind, certainly the clinical kind.
We try hard to grasp at green shoots, but we have to remind ourselves that we're only four years into this shit. No one should be surprised that it will take a lot longer to unwind a decades-long, credit-fueled inflation of wealth that had nothing to do with reality.
Obviously there are a lot of structural issues globally, and particularly in the US economy, that need to be worked out to restore confidence. However, I can't help but feel that if things turn out okay in America, it will be only by mistake.
It's not like there are any good guys in Washington, but even if a panacea were found, it seems a sure bet that Republicans on a path to destroy government would come out against it.
Seemingly at the precipice again, when you think that politicians in Washington really have to buckle down and concentrate on fixing things, the US elections are about to suck all the air out of Earth's atmosphere. Good luck getting anything done until at least 2013, which itself is the start of the 2016 presidential campaign...
So, with nothing to be optimistic about in Europe either, I count myself lucky to be in Canada during this time of turmoil, gripping the pillow tight while waiting for the nightmare to end.
I'd guess that 98.9% of the estimated one million other Americans living in Canada feel the same. In fact, more are renouncing their US citizenship now than ever before. Ostensibly it's to avoid double taxation, but they wouldn't be doing so if they hadn't given up on the idea of America in the very first place.
Though happening right overhead, Americans have been fairly oblivious to the not-so-bad story of Canada. It is here that a tolerant and hardy folk have created North America's Scandinavia, determining that good government and a strong social contract beat made-for-TV political dramas and surrendering one's faith to the Holy Trinity of God, the Son and Capitalism.
Managed growth was not so sexy in the 2000s, but it sure looks good now. Though not without problems, things in Canada would be pretty decent if we weren't so vulnerable to what was going on in the USA.
Instead of feeling smug or victimized, however, a recent Ipsos poll shows that Canadians now pity Americans for the state of their society (while descending on their malls and thumbing through Arizona and Florida real estate guides to pick over their fire sales).
Canadians have always claimed to be more evolved, patriotically pointing to lower tuition rates and free health care, but now they have 100% confidence in saying so. And with good reason.
Realistically we are perhaps only a third of the way through our economic malaise if you look back at the length of time it took to endure the Great Depression. Regardless, despair over events that are outside of one's control obviously doesn't do any good. We have to believe that things will get better or there would be no reason for carrying on.
Just like our grandparents were indelibly affected by the Great Depression, this time in our lives will impact us and our children forever. Surviving through turmoil is a character builder and even as we struggle to figure out a way out of this mess, we should feel chastened about how we got here.
The truly bright side of things is that struggle requires us to focus on the things that matter the most to us. I may have lost a job and a house two years ago, but I held on to my wife, my kids and my identity. This sequence of events brought me to Hamilton, where I have found meaning in a satisfying career and purpose in an authentic, urban community.
Having moved twenty-five times in my life, I can say that Hamilton, itself a not-so-bad Canadian story (is a not-so-bad story wrapped in a not-so-bad story a good story?), is the first place that actually feels like home. I know it's not the experience of every Hamiltonian, but it is here that I've truly learned to be happy with what I have.
Not living in one's home country can be alienating, but not so for Americans living in Canada, where cultural differences are very subtle.
In fact, if you're like me and look on in horror at the ideology espoused by the Tea Party, I find my values are better suited for Canadian living, where the entire 20th century isn't in danger of repeal.
This essay was first published in the December, 2011 issue of Urbanicity.
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