To America -- that is to say, the United States -- I say: We owe our neighbors to the north an apology.
For too long we have regarded Canadians as the nebbishes of North America -- a nicer, maybe wimpier version of ourselves, Pollyannas in parkas -- a mild-mannered country whose national police wear operetta-red tunics, whose dollar is almost always worth reassuringly less than ours, and whose culinary quirks extend to gravy on French fries.
My fellow Americans, we were wrong. Canadians have evidently been hiding their colorful selves under all that thermal fleece. The Dudley Do-Right nation that helped American hostages escape from Iran gives birth not only to diplomats and decent folk, it gestates Justin Bieber and Rob Ford.
Ford is the crack-smoking, big-drinking and generally loutish Toronto mayor whose latest peccadillo was a jaywalking-and-public-drunkenness arrest in Vancouver, where he went to attend a funeral. He's a late-night punch line in every North American time zone, and yet he lumbers on. A limited-issue bobblehead of him sold out in a trice: A nation of true moralists would have put Ford in the stocks, not on a bobblehead pedestal.
And now young Bieber, that nice religious boy who has said Canada is "the best country in the world," is in fact accumulating quite a wild record for himself in the U.S.: accusations of drag racing after drinking and drugging, of smacking a limo driver, of felonious vandalism for egging a neighbor's house. And his private jet was searched for marijuana as he arrived in New Jersey for the Super Bowl.
Actually, once you begin to look for them, there are rowdy, randy Canadians all over the Great White North.
Fifty years ago, an Iron Curtain femme fatale slept her way through the Canadian Cabinet; everything was handled quite discreetly.
The mayor of a city in Quebec faces trial this summer, accused of “gangsterism” and other charges in connection with a multimillion-dollar corruption case, although his lawyers object to the summer court dates because, as one said, “I still need holidays…. I don’t want to sacrifice my house at the seaside next summer.”
The more you look, the more you find:
-- Skin-baring Playboy gals Pamela Anderson and Shannon Tweed.
-- Former Housing Minister Alan Redway, who had to resign in 1991 because he joked as he was boarding a plane that his friend was packing a gun. (A Kentucky congressman who actually was packing a gun at an airport because he “completely forgot” he had it agreed to a plea bargain, and no time was served.)
-- Conrad Black, the newspaper mogul convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in a U.S. court and sent to prison. He’s out of prison now and, naturally, has a talk show -- on which he went easy on Toronto Mayor Ford.
-- Margaret Trudeau, the bipolar wife of 1970s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, partied with the Rolling Stones, hung out at Studio 54 and smoked dope in front of her Mounties security detail.
No wonder that one very famous Canadian American is indignantly working to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Calgary-born U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the tea party darling from Texas, is obviously embarrassed by his native land.
One of those Canadians, the aforementioned Conrad Black, said he believed that Cruz was "making a mistake" by shedding his Canadian self.
"He'll never go higher in the U.S. electoral system than he is now, and Canada's a better governed country than the U.S," Black said.
Maybe so -- until Rob Ford becomes prime minister and puts Justin Bieber in his Cabinet.