Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

Sympathetic Canadians tweet support for Americans: You guys are great

The presidential campaign has exposed deep divides in American society and has left many in every political party anxious about the future. During this time of political tension, our neighbors to the north have one thing to say: America is just great.

Some Canadians watching as American politics have hit rock bottom again and again in recent weeks decided that the United States needed a cross-border pep talk. Thus was born a social media campaign called "Tell America It's Great," complete with a hashtag, a Twitter account and a series of YouTube videos.

It was the brainchild of the Garden Collective, a creative agency based in Toronto, and in the videos, a diverse and polite group of Canadians earnestly recite all the things they like about the United States.

"Sometimes friends just need to look out for each other," Shari Walczak, a founder of the agency, said on Sunday.

"Hey, guys!" says one cheerful man in the campaign's main video, which was filmed on webcams and smartphones. "We're just up here in Canada talking about how great you guys are down there, and we thought we'd just send you a little bit of a love note."

His testimonial is followed by two dozen more Canadians warmly praising the United States for things like its diversity, its space program and for being the birthplace of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

"You guys are great," one woman on the video says. A second woman, sitting beside her, agrees: "You really are great."

To a jaded American eye, it may all look like the most Canadian thing ever.

"I guess we are living up to the stereotype aren't we?" Walczak said, laughing. "We have managed to personify the whole country with this one initiative!"

Walczak said she and her co-workers started the campaign as a labor of love — they are not using it to sell anything, she said — because they wanted to make a positive contribution to an election season that has been downright depressing.

"Every morning we'd come together at work and there would inevitably be a discussion about another negative piece of news about the election," she said. "We look at it through a Canadian lens, but all of us have friends, family and colleagues who live in America. We realized they're immersed in it day-in and day-out and how awful that must feel."

Over the weekend, many Canadians chimed in to cheer up their neighbors to the south by tweeting their favorite things about the United States. Walczak said the hashtag #TellAmericaItsGreat was intended as a play on Donald Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again."

Canada and the United States have a unique relationship. They share the longest land border in the world, and their economies, societies, law enforcement and defense operations are deeply entwined. Over $1.8 billion a day changes hands in cross-border trade, and roughly 400,000 people travel between the two countries daily.

Those ties were further cemented last year with the election of Justin Trudeau as Canada's prime minister. The young, handsome and frequently shirtless liberal politician has become a symbol of a forward-looking nation, as well as a king among memes.

Of course, every four years American political partisans of one stripe or another swear they will move to Canada if the presidential candidate they oppose wins.

Trudeau has been gamely fielding questions about a potential flood of immigrants from the United States for months. In March, he told an audience at American University in Washington that he found the idea "humorous."

President Barack Obama teased him on that visit about the frequency with which Americans threaten to decamp for Canada: "Typically it turns out fine."

Walczak said that close relationship is one reason Canadians were watching American politics so closely. "Everything is so intertwined, we can't help but realize that we'll also be affected by the outcome of this election," she said.

Another reason: an embarrassing twinge of recognition. The rise of Trump and the descent of the campaign into a spiral of scandals and sexual assault allegations reminded Torontonians of the city's experience with Mayor Rob Ford, she said, "when everyone was laughing at us around the world."

Ford, a conservative populist, was caught on video smoking crack cocaine in 2013 and later said the drug use happened "probably in one of my drunken stupors." He died of cancer in March.

So, Canadians may like America, but if they could vote (instead of just tweet) which candidate would they be more likely to choose?

"I am pretty sure most Canadians would vote for Hillary Clinton," Walzcak said. "Our right-wing is like the Democrats.

"Some people have tweeted that they think Justin Trudeau would win the election as a write-in candidate, but we are not giving him up."

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