Divisions

Mark Joseph is an American multimedia producer (I’m not exactly sure what that means, I know what the words mean, I just don’t know how a multimedia production differs from, say, a film or a TV show), talk-show host, columnist, author and publisher, about whom I knew absolutely nothing until I stumbled upon an article he wrote for Newsweek. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, modest proposal sort of idea about dividing North America into two more or less politically compatible federations:

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The United States of America, he suggests, is the Trumpian red states, as the Americans call them, plus Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while the United States if Canada is the rest of Canada, y compris Québec, plus the America blue states that voted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and still think Justin Trudeau has more than one digit in his IQ. The article is a humorous bit of fluff, it’s three minutes of your life you’ll not get back, but it’s funny.

It does, however, hark back to some more serious notions about the socio-economic and political divisions in America:

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Nine or eleven, there is no doubt that the divisions in North America are more complex than just English vs French vs Spanish or Red vs Blue or rich (tech and service) vs poor (rust belt) and they predate Trump vs the Liberal left or Trudeau vs Tories.

It’s important, I think, to see North America as a socio-economic whole: First Nations, Anglo-America, Black-America, Franco-America and Hispanic-America bound together, often unwillingly or unhappily, by geography and shared history.

Most of us, North Americans, live in five zones …

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… three of them, on the Atlantic seaboard, are rich and have strong linguistic and cultural ties to Europe, one, on the Pacific coast is equally rich and has strong ties to Asia; one, in Mexico, is poor and illiberal.

This is an old map (2008) but the relative wealth (GDP per capita) is largely unchanged, I think:

real-gdp-map-new

… there is little correlation between GDP and electoral politics. There is some between GDP and social and linguistic history. The liberal regions are rich, the illiberal ones are poor. Our larger cities, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Houston and Vancouver are, mostly, rich, but there are important outliers like Mexico City and Montreal which, for a variety of reasons, political corruption being amongst them, have failed to capitalize on their population density and favourable geographic locations.

There are many differences between the nations of the North American continent. But there is much more that unites us. We are ALL settlers, even the First Nations came here, from Asia, only a few thousand years ago. We all came for the same reason: opportunity. Our continent is rich in land, water and resources, especially in what Professor Garreau calls the ‘Empty Quarter‘ (second map) which may be wealthier than Africa or North-East Asia/Siberia; it can be even richer if we can manage those resources prudently and share them productively.

I am not advocating for either political separation or greater unification, although I would not be surprised if both happen in the lifetime if my grandsons, who are both preschoolers. Canadian national unity is always fragile and I’m not trying to fan and flames. I am somewhat surprised to read, more and more often, that the political divisions in America are also fuelling talk of separation. I don’t know how serious that talk is; that it happens at all should be worrisome.

I am arguing for freer trade within Canada, and within North Amerca, too, including (and I can almost hear Maude Barlow cursing in the background) getting Canadian water to rich, sun-drenched farmland in Southern regions.

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