We will celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. Fireworks displays. Friends, family and neighbors gathered around barbecues with a few cool ones at hand, to add cheer. Waterfront activities, relaxing in cottage country, attending a local concert or some special celebration; it seems everyone is planning an activity to enjoy this special occasion as we start the summer and kids’ holidays.
The temperatures are soaring, but there is a chill caused by the pronouncements of the illustrious leader of our friendly neighbors in the south. Trade barriers, tariffs and countervailing duties are upping the ante by the minute and no one knows quite how all this might play out. My wife and I had recently canceled our plans to travel south as we are not the archetypal “Canadian smugglers who come to buy US shoes, wear and scuff them to make them (sound – seriously – he said that before correcting himself)/look old and take them back to avoid high Canadian tariffs.”
Yesterday, at a grocery store I overheard two very vocal ladies looking for apples state that they would not be buying anything that was sourced from the US. Their conversation reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall and the proverbial line “Good fences make good neighbors.” Many of you may recall this poem, but I reproduce an extract that has stayed with me over the years:
“… I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go ….
…. Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
The poem’s title is a metaphor for mending human relationship, the need for both friendship and separation between two humans. The narrator informs his neighbor and they start work together to mend the wall. But, the narrator does not see any purpose for the wall. The narrator says that he has only apple trees which would never cross the border and eat up the neighbor’s pine cones. Moreover, as they do not have cows that might wander over there is no possibility of causing offence to the other. The narrator wants to put this notion into his neighbor’s head, comparing him to a stone-headed savage while the neighbor only repeats his father’s saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
It appears that humans are starting to excel in putting up fences. It is debatable whether these are producing good neighbors. It is not just the 49th Parallel North, but across almost all geographies. First, conditions are created to label the “other” and ostracize them for all the ills that continue to befall “us”. Then threaten and try hard to decimate “them”. Castes, cultures, religions, classes; anything and everything is game these days to build up populist themes. Where have all the leaders gone? Today, we only have politicians/lobbyists interested in polls.
Et tu, Canadians? Will we succumb to the spread of the venomous, putrid fumes coming over the border or continue O’ Canada, to stand on guard for thee. Canadians may be envied by others around the world, although we are certainly not perfect. Still, while always ready to say sorry, be gentle and remain polite we refuse “to be pushed around.”
Happy Canada Day, all!