Oh, sure, he has some bitter things to say about separatist Quebecois, and cringes at the evident scourge that is general Canadian niceness, and relentlessly mocks Farley Mowat, and gets understandably pissy at those who rail against "hypenated Canadian identities" (e.g., Chinese-Canadian). But in the end, his real venom seems to be reserved for--wait for it--American Patriots.
Now, my grasp of American history is, by this point, fairly pathetic, and far be it from me to put up much of a defense of my country's oft-wrongheaded ways, but really? The Patriots? I suppose it would be anathema to American public school history class curricula to present a sympathetic view of the Loyalists, and perhaps that's why Ferguson's portrait of them seems so bizarrely soft, so weirdly one-sided. All I know is that reading his alternative view of the American Revolution raised in me the unusual desire to stand up against the Canadian view of things.
Why the vitriol? Is it because the Patriots were all truly the rich, misguided, raving assholes Ferguson makes them out to be, or is it because decrying the Revolutionaries almost automatically involves celebrating the Loyalists, who, not coincidentally, became some of the first European Canadians? Could it be that Ferguson doth protest too much?
I found the chapter on Loyalists-cum-Canadians especially irksome and amusing in light of the fact that it's closely followed by a chapter called "America Is Sexy," in which Ferguson outlines what he calls "the...five (5) axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:
- Boy, we hate Americans.
- We really do.
- I'm not kidding. We really hate them.
- So how come they never pay us any attention?"
Another insightful Canadian shared something similar with me several years back, and I've always found it funny because it seems so painfully true. We Americans are apparently like the junior high school boys to Canadians' mature and sweet tween girls: they think we're overly loud and obnoxious and full of ourselves and immature and impoolite and sometimes kind of jerk-like and...hey! Hey! How come they won't sit at our lunch table? Hey! Where are they going? Don't they think we're cute?
Of course we think you're cute. But we're too enchanted by the brassy eighth graders who will laugh at our Beavis and Butt-Head references and make out with us behind the cafeteria during study hall to pay you much mind.
Ferguson's vaguely curmudgeonly reconsideration of the American Revolution (to which I can't help feeling the puckish desire to retort, Sorry, perhaps we, too, should still be tied to the crown of England) doesn't detract from the rest of his book, which is an insightful, interesting, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny ramble through various bits and pieces of Canadian history and culture. It was, all told, a painless--and even pleasurable--way to ingest some Canadiana, and I'm looking forward to reading his other stuff.