By Lynn Ashby 29 Aug. 2011
Just when we thought the Canucks had grown up and left the nest, they move back in with Mom. In case you missed it, here’s the news item: “Canada’s Conservative government, stressing ties to Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy, is reinstating the names Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy after a gap of 43 years.”
Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of the defense staff, explained, “The initiative to restore the historic names of Canada’s three former services is aimed at restoring an important and recognizable part of Canada’s military heritage.” It seems that back in1968, the Canadian Liberal Party removed the “royal” designation when they amalgamated the branches of service and called the military simply “the Canadian Forces.”
Note that the announcement refers to the “three former services,” but does not mention the Canadian Army, which long ago sold off its rifles and commenced to nation building. Actually, Canada is the only country which has erected a monument to its army of peacekeepers. Honest. And we must suppose up north they don’t have a Marine Corps. Maybe they use the Mounties, although charging a beach in those high-collared bright red tunics seems a bit dangerous.
Next our northern cousins will add a Union Jack to their Maple Leaf flag and return to singing “God Save the Queen” in place of “O Canada,” which was quite pretty the first 54 times you heard it during the Winter Olympics. None of this will go over well with the 7-million French-Canadians. Of course, when your chief of the defense staff is named Natynczyk, he’s probably not French, as I was telling French President Sarkozy. They are still “subjects.” I wouldn’t want to be called a subject. Being a predicate or an adverb is fine, but subject sounds like some peasant toiling in the fields as the king’s carriage rolls by.
Now, some of you Canadians are thinking, “What aboot the colour of your shed-yule, eh? And what business is it of yours?” Well, speaking of business, the U.S. and Canada have the largest trading partnership on Earth. We share the longest border in the world — 5,525 miles — and we speak almost the same language. Vast numbers of Texans have worked in the Yukon in January and lived to tell about it. A lot of Canadians live in Texas. We gave you NORAD. You gave us Justin Bieber and Celine Dion.
But the Canucks protect themselves from the Goliath to the south. While the Toronto Sun could, and did, buy The Houston Post, vice versa was not allowed by Canadian law. Nevertheless, the Canadian publishers were great people – loved sports and gin, not in that order. With that (excuse the cliché) 400-pound gorilla camped on their southern doorstep, and with a population a bit more than one-tenth that of the U.S., it’s easy to see why Canada wants to protect itself.
This subjugation to the British monarchy is not unusual. Two years ago the eastern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted to remain under the rule of Queen Elizabeth II — they rejected a plan to replace her with a president chosen by Parliament. In one form or another, 15 former parts of the British Empire still pay homage to Her Majesty. She is still their monarch; her face is on their money. Some countries (Australia and New Zealand being the most prominent), use the Union Jack as part of their flag. These countries, or colonies, still have a governor general who is the Queen’s personal representative. It is usually a local loyalist, and the job is mostly ceremonial, but not totally.
Still, I’ve never understood some people’s fascination with the British royals, especially among Americans. Didn’t we fight a long and bloody war to toss out the Brits? However, historians estimate one-third of the Colonials were loyal to King George III and fled when the revolutionaries won. Where did they go? To Canada. Today the British, with their dry sense of humor, annually put up a small sign in their consulate in Houston: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we will be closed July 4th.”
Our Founding Fathers were so spooked by the British royalty that our Constitution strictly forbids royal titles and foreign awards were frowned upon. In the Boxer Rebellion, Marine legend Smedley Butler was wounded, but rescued a British soldier under fire. Butler was recommended for the Victoria Cross, Britain’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor, but in those days members of the U.S. military were not allowed to accept foreign decorations.
A few years ago when then-Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson visited Texas, reporters slavishly referred to “Fergie-mania.” Why? During the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate, who seem like nice folks, American reporters gushed over the couple, their lifestyle, what they were wearing, and I kept hearing, “Americans are fascinated by them.” And, “We’ve always had a love affair with the royals.” Maybe the TV types do. I don’t. Nothing personal, it’s just the contrast of all the gold and lace and servants running around, and then a few weeks later to see thousands of poor, out-of-work youths about the same age rioting for jobs and flat screens.
Still, most Brits have little trouble supporting the House of Windsor, to the tune of about $66 million in U.S. dollars each year. Forbes magazine estimated the Queen’s net worth at around $450 million US in 2010. Buckingham Palace says that’s “grossly overstated.” The recent royal wedding cost an estimated $163 million. If the Brits are happy being subjects of the crown, and paying the bills, that’s their business. I just wish they’d first paid us back for Lend Lease.
As for our good friends the Canadians, they are back in the royal fold, subject to being subjects. They have been good neighbors, ignoring the fact that we invaded them twice and tried to annex the place. And we can only wonder what Texas would be like today if the Spanish had conquered Canada while the Brits and French had landed at Vera Cruz.
We end with the story of a young man applying for a job at a large company. The CEO, who liked to do his own hiring, asked, “Where are you from, son?”
The young man replied, “Canada, sir.”
“Oh really? Why did you leave Canada?” asked the CEO.
The young man replied, “They’re all just loose women and hockey players up there.”
“My wife is from Canada.”
“Really? What team did she play for?”
Ashby rules at email@example.com