At some point driving across Canada, I began to think about the concept of civilization. It was probably on some long unbroken prairie.
There are a number of different ideas about what creates and defines civilization. To my unscientific mind, it has nothing to do with agriculture, cities, art or music. It is the creation of a broader us.
Humans defensively have always thought of us and them. First there were families, then clans, and then tribes. Eventually we had city-states and regional confederations. Then the nation-state arose.
The most destructive force in the world is not nuclear fusion; it is cultural division.
When groups retreat from the unifying force of civilization to tribalism, we get strife. Religious and ethnic wars, whether in Ireland, Serbia, Iraq, Sudan, the Middle East or elsewhere are nothing but tribalism. A colonial heritage hampered Africa, but I believe the real failure to develop along with the rest of the world is due to tribalism.
Therefore, I think all U.S. school children should be taught in English to help bind them to our nation, a nation that respects differences. But at the same time, I believe all U.S. school children should have the opportunity to learn a second and even a third language in order to help bind us to the rest of the world.
It is important to hold on to cultural and ethnic roots, but those differences should not be used to divide. As a child, we learned the U.S. was a melting pot. But that’s not correct. We did not melt into something completely new. We held on to bits of our diversity. The U.S. is not a melting pot; it is a stew with a blend of many flavors.
I like Canada and I like Canadians. It is probably because they are so much like us. But I strongly suspect Canadians don’t like to hear that from U.S. citizens. They would point out they have their own distinct government, culture and history. They might also mention they handed us our butts when we tried to invade them during the Revolution and War of 1812. Nonetheless, we have more in common than we have differences.
And so on to Quebec. We observed that much of the United States is using bilingual signs in areas with large Hispanic populations. As we traveled from Calgary to Ottawa, most signs were in both French and English. We were even told that to get a job with the Canadian government, one must speak, read and write in both languages.
Then we entered Quebec. It is beautiful. The people we met were consistently friendly and very helpful. We would recommend a visit.
However, as soon as we crossed the border from Ontario on a ferry from Cumberland, the signs changed. Where formerly they were bilingual, now almost all signs (all Quebec government signs) were only in French. That is not pride; that is tribal. Come on guys; get with it!