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Canada column trite, disappointing

As a Canadian going to school in the United States, I'm very interested in American perceptions of Canada, and the title of Matthew H. Hersch 94's column caught my attention ["America should get to know Canada," March 15].

I read Hersch's article in the hopes that it might have been slightly meaningful and maybe even a little bit funny, but it turned out to be a disappointing and painful experience.

His condescending tone and general lack of coherence made his article seem like a shot from the hip, which wouldn't bother me at all except that such a sloppy effort got center stage on the opinion page of The Tech.

Hersch managed to bungle the argument supporting his obvious assertion that Americans could benefit from learning a thing or two about Canada. His article was so full of trite irrelevance and glaring contradictions that I find it hard to believe that Hersch himself is convinced by his own writing.

Early on, Hersch claims that Americans like Canadians because they "look like us, act like us, and sound like us." Hopefully, Hersch was kidding when he wrote that. That's a hell of a criterion to pick your friends by.

Later in the article, Hersch

states, "Montreal . . . is always a big tourist attraction just for its strangeness." How can Hersch reconcile these two statements? Is Montreal not part of Canada? Do French Canadians look, act and sound like Hersch? Do native Canadians look, act and sound like Hersch? What about immigrant groups?

Maybe Hersch was only trying to point out that in recent years, Ottawa has looked, acted and sounded like Washington, which would be tough to deny. But that's not what he wrote, and his lack of attention to that distinction suggests a serious lack of understanding of Canada and in fact of the United States as well.

Hersch: "For all of our differences, Americans are largely the same." Maybe Hersch should take a walk through Roxbury sometime, or distribute copies of his column to some of his Native American pals who live on reservations.

Hersch also suggests that Canadians "don't express love of their country or identify themselves nationally with the fervor that many Americans do." Amazingly, Hersch fails to see any connection between this and his earlier statement, "As all Americans know, if you're taken hostage overseas, just scream `I'm Canadian!' and you'll have no problems."

I assume that Hersch was trying to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek with this latter statement, but there's truth in what he writes. American travelers abroad frequently try to pass themselves off as Canadian, because they know that Americans tend to be regarded as self-centered, ignorant boors in many places, whereas Canadians are often much better received.

To acknowledge this fact and then to boast of American patriotism is inconsistent on Hersch's part. That fellow citizens would so readily deny their nationality ought to be a slap in the face of any patriotically minded American, not something to snicker about.

The funny part of it is, people typically don't care where you're from, provided you respect their language and culture when you're a guest in their country.

Given its sloppiness and lack of self-consistency, one can only hope that Hersch's article was dreamed up at the last minute to fill space in The Tech. Unfortunately, the article said almost nothing meaningful about its intended subject, but rather preached loudly on the ignorance and shortsightedness of its author.

Tom Quinn G->