Sunday 29 September 2013

Americana is Alive!

I am visiting my American sister-in-law, Julie, this weekend (she now lives in Canada).  She has decorated for Thanksgiving.  Two pumpkins add colour to the garden.  A decorative plate filled with vegetables and candles sits on top of the kitchen table.  A harvest wreath hangs on the front door.  Pumpkin stickers decorate the windows.  Miniature pilgrims serve as salt and pepper shakers.  A turkey perches on the couch while a ceramic turkey sits on the stovetop.  Thanksgiving cutouts hang on each of the bedroom doors.  There is no mistaking that Thanksgiving is upon us. 

Americana is alive and well.  Americans have a sense of history that we can only dream of.  They know their history.  They know how their country was formed.  They know what they value.  They have a sense of roots. 

When I travel in the United States, I notice the American flags which fly proudly over the businesses and the homes.  Americans are sure of who they are and what they represent.

When I go shopping with my friend Heather in the United States, I see plenty of Americana.  She takes me to a discount store called Ollies.  Their book section is full of hard cover picture books, many of which fall into the Americana category:  Abraham Lincoln Crosses a Creek, George Washington, Buffalo Girl, I Have a Dream (Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech).  Not only can you buy Americana books, but also decorations. The Walmart has Thanksgiving wreaths, cookie cutters, crafts.  And yet our Dollarama had only one little corner dedicated to Thanksgiving compared to a whole row of Halloween items.

Where are our Canadian history picture books?  Where is our Canadiana?  Our sense of history is not nearly as clear and as strong as our American counterparts.  We don't teach it in school the way the Americans do.  American schoolchildren cannot forget the American history that was drilled into them when they were young.  American folkheroes are alive and well:  Paul Revere and the American Revolution; Benjamin Franklin and the discovery of electricity; Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address; Thomas Edison and the discovery of the lightbulb.

While Canada is lacking in a sense of Canadiana, we do have a history -- it's just a matter of learning it and promoting it.  We have our inventors:  Sir Frederick Banting and insulin.  We have our war heroes.  We have our leaders.  But we don't talk about them the way the Americans do.  We can learn from their example.

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