Torturous comparisons 1

August 28, 2008

Terence Kealey's screed about the ingrained moral turpitude of the United States ("Siege mentality", 14 August) shows that the myth of American exceptionalism is not restricted to those who believe that the US is uniquely good.

Kealey seems to revel in the equally simplistic idea that the US is uniquely evil. I don't doubt the historical accuracy of the bloody events he describes, but post-1776 British history provides equally rich examples of torture, arbitrary murder and genocide.

Indeed, his offhand invocation of "blacks screaming under the lash" reminded me immediately of the loving descriptions of the tortures inflicted on convicts in Australia by British prison governors in Robert Hughes' book The Fatal Shore.

Kealey's white-hat-black-hat comparison of Canada and the US is laughable. For example, how much research lies behind his statement that "not a single Canadian" believes that George W. Bush is a good president - a few conversations with like-minded academics during his recent visit to Massey College?

Again, it is nonsense that Canadian food is "European, not American". No doubt Kealey enjoyed agreeable dinners at fine European restaurants in Toronto, but he could have done the same thing in Boston or Chicago. He presumably never went north from Toronto to places such as Sudbury or Kapuskasing where he would have found the same kind of food he would have found if he'd gone south to Syracuse or Watertown. And he must have missed the Tim Horton's donut shops throughout Ontario - a Canadian business founded in the 1960s by a retired Canadian hockey player.

In case anyone wonders, I have an American passport and university education, a Canadian childhood and brother-in-law, and a British academic career, so I think I'm at least as qualified as Kealey to compare the three countries.

D. R. Ladd, Edinburgh

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