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Monday, April 19, 2004

The rough guide for deserters

Saturday, April 17, 2004 - Page F2

Home is the place where they have to take you in,
Robert Frost wrote. In the case of the American army
deserters now arriving in Canada, home is the place
where they want to give you a lethal injection. So all
they're asking of Canada, their new home, is a bed in
the spare room of a Quaker family, and all we ask of
them is that they never complain they can't see the
puck. That remark makes Canadians crazy.

These young men -- there have been at least two so
far, and probably women to come -- are different from
the Vietnam lot in that they weren't drafted. The
United States itself is different in that it's worse.
Such is the huge divide between rich and poor that
these young people signed up so they could afford to
go to college. They thought that National Guard duty
meant, say, guarding supermarkets against looters
during the next Mississippi flood. Then they were in
Iraq with American soldiers and mercenaries and some
pissed-off troops from Poland and Italy.

Little did they know that the man who stole the 2000
election would boast with that unnerving, uncertain
grin that he was "a wartime president." Osbert Sitwell
once wrote a poem about Junior's very situation: "I
think, myself,/That my new war/Is one of the nicest
we've had;/It is not war really,/It is only a training
for the next one/Besides, we have not declared war;/We
are merely restoring order." Trouble is, Mr. Sitwell
wrote this in 1919. How embarrassing for Mr. Bush, a
Chihuahua chewing the pant leg of history.

Read economist Paul Krugman's The Great Unravelling
about how Dick Cheney's army of the radical right has
given the rich tax breaks the way you pump food down
the throat of a fat goose until they flap their wings
to signal they're full, thanks, and you keep squeezing
the bulb. The poor and middle class got comparatively
nothing to such an extent that for the first time in
history, Americans on average are becoming shorter
than their European counterparts, who are raising
ceilings and lengthening beds. Americans, through the
19th and 20th centuries, were two inches taller than
the peasanty Brits; now they're half an inch shorter,
the result of bad food and no health care for the

I'm not saying the deserters signed up as part of a
long-term plan to avoid having short children, but
that's how it worked out. You may think the United
States won't execute them if Canada sends them back.
But the U.S. Army no longer even recognizes shell
shock (a soldier who had anxiety attacks after seeing
an Iraqi sliced in half was recently charged with
cowardice, which means a firing squad). Even Bill
Clinton, in 1992, upheld the death sentence of a man
so profoundly brain-damaged that when he was given his
last meal, he said he would save his pecan pie for

Peaceful young Americans coming to Canada, here's a
tip: Put your children in French immersion. It'll pay
off. Take classes in plumbing; a good plumber in this
country can make a fortune, and no householder will
begrudge it. This is also true of electricians and
carpet cleaners; they are universally incompetent. I
once had my carpets cleaned by a blind man who created
a whole new set of stains. Then he put on his glasses
- "Now I can see!" he said - and wrote out the bill.
But I didn't call his boss to complain -- Canadians
never do. I just bought scatter rugs.

In Canada, racism is not us. Take a ride on the
Toronto subway and you will see the world riding
together in perfect amiability. Would you mind getting
your hockey gear off the seat and your backpack out of
my face? Thanks.

You must now believe in peace, order and good
government. Don't pursue happiness; let it find you.

Hold doors open for women, as Canadian men can no
longer be counted on to do this. I hold doors open for
both women and men, without being thanked, and I hiss,
"You're welcome," but not too loudly in case I get
punched in the head from behind.

If you want to understand politics, grab the whole
range of American politics and move it left. Our
current Liberals are conservative Democrats, our New
Democrats are Naderites, except younger, cooler and
not getting Democratic death threats; our
Conservatives, who used to be Reform, are Radical
Right Republicans on Nyquil. They don't like
immigrants; I'd vote NDP if I were you.

Religion: If you have one, don't mention it at
parties. The subject does not arise here. Army
deserter Jeremy Hinzman is a Buddhist; you can talk
about that, Jeremy, because people think it's yoga.
Jeremy's a nice name. None of the deserters so far
have been called Billy Ray. If you are, change it to
Jeremy -- there's a good Canadian.

Learn the name of our PM. Then tell us, because we
forget. Don't refer to breasts as hooters, headlights
or a great rack. Just call them breasts. Yes, we do
smoke a little dope, on Mondays, CBC comedy night.

Recycle like you mean it. Read Fire and Ice by
pollster Michael Adams about how Canadians are growing
ever more different from Americans. Then read Margaret
Atwood and Doug Coupland, shop at Roots, stop in at
Tim Hortons for a pile of Timbits on your way to your
plumbing class. Arrive in a Prius or a Smart Car,
which shouts, "I care about the environment," and you,
short Buddhist, are a shoo-in for citizenship.