December 8, 2008

William Stafford and John F. Kennedy on Canadian-American Relations

I was just finishing some forms to renew my US and Canadian passports...and I thought of how of any two nationalities, it may the easiest to reconcile the dual nature of being American and Canadian. I was reminded of a poem by William Stafford entitled At The Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border.

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed-or were killed-on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

"At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press.

Reading it I was somewhat reminded of the Peace Arch sitting on the exact international boundary between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, BC. The signs read "Children of a common mother" on the American side and "Brethren dwelling together in unity" on the Canadian side.

Despite its faults, the Canadian-American relationship is one of the strongest in the world, with the US and Canada being the world's largest trading partners and haring the world's longest shared border in the world.

I think that what John F. Kennedy said in 1961 still holds true today:

Geography has made us neighbours, History has made us friends, Economics has made us partners and necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.

What unites us is far greater than what divides us. The issues and irritants that inevitably affect all neighbors are small deed in comparison with the issues that we face together--above all the somber threat now posed to the whole neighborhood of this continent--in fact, to the whole community of nations. But our alliance is born, not of fear, but of hope. It is an alliance that advances what we are for, as well as opposes what we are against.

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