In Praise of Parliament

I have had the great pleasure of working in Canada for eleven years now, commuting from my home in idyllic Tonawanda, New York, which lies between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, to St. Catharines, which is just west of Niagara Falls, Ontario. I work for an international charitable organization (which prudence forbids I name for their sake), so I have the opportunity to see some of the social welfare infrastructure on both sides. I commute by way of the Rainbow Bridge, which takes me past the sublime Niagara Falls.

When I pass over the border into Canada late on Friday mornings, I marvel at the sight of thousands of residents of Toronto making their way into the USA. For the longest time, I thought they must be coming for tourist reasons, to enjoy some of the natural wonders of Western New York, which are many and various, and are not developed at all, like Niagara Falls, Ontario, which has become, essentially, a miles-long gigantic menagerie of gentlemen’s clubs and hotels attached to the gaudy casino overlooking the Falls. But I was wrong, and I feel pity.

My good friend Sam Hammond is a Canadian, of The True North, strong and free, and the Canada he purports to live in is a nearly perfect Parliamentary System, where society is laid out according to a nearly strict Rationalist order, with restrictions on free speech to limit pesky questions from the fringe right or left, with restrictions on religion to limit any obstacles to the advance of benign technological progressivism, with restrictions on the press to limit knowledge of the machinations of government, which are almost perfectly pure, where society is forcibly compassionate, with a generous welfare system which distributes vast wealth to the underprivileged, to the losers of life’s lottery, with a system of free healthcare, accessible to all–it must be infuriating to have to line up at the border to enter the USA, waiting ninety minutes, every Friday during a ten-hour window, not including the drive time from Toronto, to dine affordably, to shop for groceries, to buy cheap booze, to acquire household amenities, and to get basic medical attention at our innumerable private health facilities, which vary between religious and for-profit (the horror!). The return trip is just as frustrating, finding that comfortable gray place between outright lying to the good people of your own Canadian Border Patrol about how much you’ve acquired, and merely understating the declared goods wrapped in blankets and towels beneath your feet and in the trunk. You’re just trying to have what’s best for your family, eh?

If I were in that queue, I’d be infuriated: I mean, America is the Forrest Gump of the nations, right? And to be quite frank, Niagara Falls, USA is a sphincter of Western New York. It literally smells bad, the result of some manufacturing process that exploits the Niagara River as a source for energy; the roads are worse, after a century of mafia-controlled graft; the routes are inscrutable, thanks to New York City’s own Robert Moses (Western New York’s Haman). Buffalo is revitalizing, but it fell a long way since its heyday, struggling against New York State’s suffocating politics. And Canadians know it; they know that Niagara Falls, USA is our Leah to America’s Rachel, and they love her. They’ve also seen the pictures of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, Jacksonville, Disneyland, and other growing cities of Texas and the Southeast. They know about the great medical institutions of St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boston, the cultural innovations of San Francisco, Madison, and Los Angeles.

And New York City: would those of you dwellers of Manhattan please start wearing colors so that Torontoans can stop wearing black?

Seriously, how did such stupid people–lookit: all those religious people in the Midwest and the Southeast–how? Just how? How did such stupid, superstitious, unthinking, uneducated, illiterate, gun-toting, Puritanical, and (miraculously) boorish people luck into such prosperity? Such advancement? Why do they persist in this quaint idea of their Founding Fathers, who, for some mysterious reason, eschewed the greatness of a Parliamentary System? The messiness of their elections, their intolerable populist shrieking, their government shut-downs without the friendly crafty plots of a Governor General, their tradition-less 300-year old culture (except murder; they’re good at murder), and their lack of stolen jewels for the monarch–how is it that they are the wealthiest, happiest people on the planet, so much so that droves of people pour in through their borders, enough to create an immigration crisis? Luck, or theft, or something, I dunno.

The Presidential System sucks.



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