Oh, Canada! Trump and Cruz could use a history lesson

Lost amid the Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem senator: Dean's speculation about Trump cocaine use not 'useful' Axelrod: Dean ‘nuts’ for linking cocaine, Trump Would Trump call Christie 'Mr. Piggy' or 'Mr. Housekeeping'? MORE-fueled kerfuffle over Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Cruz: Clinton 'tired' and 'formulaic' during debate The Trail 2016: Fight night MORE’s (R-Texas) Canadian heritage is a perplexing question: Why do the two Republican front-runners think a connection to Canada is such a bad thing?  The truth – admittedly an alien concept to the likes of The Donald and The Ted-ster – is that they could learn a lot from our neighbors to the north. 

At the top of the list is politeness, a subject on which the brusque and megalomaniacal pair could use some remedial training.  Comedian-director David Steinberg – who, like Cruz, was born in one of Canada’s western provinces – enjoys playing a game whenever he climbs into a crowded Canadian elevator.  He deliberately bumps into people, just to see how many of his countrymen offer a thoughtful “Sorry” even though they're not at fault.

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Humor is another appealing Canadian quality that, alas, is in short supply in the snarky personas of Trump and Cruz.  Canadians love to laugh; indeed, behind those venerable “American” comedic institutions – Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and Second City – are a slew of Canadian writers and performers.  Americans don't think of Samantha Bee, Mike Myers, or Martin Short as “Canadian”; we think of them as television and movie pals who make us chuckle.

Beyond wit and civility, there’s that small matter of Canada's historic fealty to human rights and freedom.  During the early-to-mid 19th century, when half the U.S. was benighted by our unspeakable original sin, Canada was the Promised Land, the final stop on the Underground Railroad for thousands of escaped slaves who had been brought to the U.S. in shackles.

Trump and Cruz should also be reminded that Canada was fighting Adolf Hitler and fascism for more than two years before the U.S. entered World War II.  Young Canadians stormed beaches and liberated Europe arm-in-arm with American G.I.'s and British Tommies.  Canada's casualties during World War II were significantly higher, per capita, than the U.S.'s. 

Canada was also our steadfast ally in the Cold War and has proportionately committed more resources and troops to the war against terrorism than almost any country.

Economically, Canada remains far and away the U.S.’s largest and most important trading partner. Every day, our two countries exchange tens of millions of dollars’ worth of goods and services.  Winston Churchill once described the U.S.-Canadian border as that “long frontier from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, guarded only by neighborly respect and honorable obligations . . . an example to every country and a pattern for the future of the world.”

But here’s the clincher that Trump and Cruz will never get: Canadians believe in taking care of one another.  They see quality healthcare as a fundamental right, something to which all Canadians are entitled, “according to their need for such services and irrespective of their ability to pay,” as their law famously states.

Skewering Canada may help Trump and Cruz with the xenophobes who sadly dominate the GOP primaries.  But it betrays their contempt for history, economics, and diplomacy.  Instead of censuring Cruz’s Canadian birth they should be celebrating it.  

Memo to The Donald and The Ted-ster:  Oh, Canada:  it’s stood – and stands – on guard for us!

Gay is a writer and historian.  His latest book is SAVAGE WILL, a true World War II escape saga that commemorates Allied solidarity.