2013.10.28

Thoreau lived in the age of Manifest Destiny, a popular doctrine that urged Americans to explore and settle their vast country, but he thought this one township was nearly big enough. To his active imagination, Concord was America on a reduced scale: The town had a sandy eastern plain, glaciated hills to the north, a river savanna down south, and western grasslands, part of them called “Texas.” Seen in the proper light, these 26 square miles were an ample slice of Destiny, an inner continent to discover and explore: “The whole world is an America, a New World.”

William Howarth, “Thoreau: A Different Man”, National Geographic March 1981.

This is already a great paragraph about Thoreau and Concord, but there’s something even better in here for Canadians. We learn Manifest Destiny differently than Howarth describes it here. In Canada, we learn it as America’s belief in their divine right not only to explore, but to claim. Not only their country, but their continent. The thing they wanted to claim is the place where I live. You say “Manifest Destiny”; I think “54-40 or Fight”.

I’ve been thinking that I should write more about the places where Canada and America intersect. Because I live twenty minutes from one of those intersections: the border between British Columbia and Washington. I grew up listening to Canadian music, but watching American movies. I speak American English, but write British English. I have an abundance of sushi and nowhere to get good fried chicken.

I read a lot about America, but always as a Canadian. I see through you, in all the ways that scare you. But I also see myself.