[Canadians on America]

Part of the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection.

0:00Copy video clip URL A group of seven students at Laval University in Quebec discuss their attitudes towards the United States, responding to questions from videomaker Joe Angio. Themes of America being powerful and a leader in technology emerge initially as the students seem bashful in front of the camera. Upon prodding, they begin to reveal their more negative conceptions of the U.S. “I don’t believe that it is a country of liberty. I don’t… The government doesn’t take responsibility for all the people of America. Socially, it’s not a good system.” “They have a lot of problems, especially with racism. They are in decline… They have a lot of problems with the international community. They made a lot of mistakes, I think.”

6:55Copy video clip URL The students react to Angio’s question about America’s self-positioning as “the policeman of the world.” They are predictably cynical about this self-styled role, except for one pro-American male who supports America’s intervention in Kuwait. The students debate various tactics that should have been used in lieu of war with Iraq.

19:06Copy video clip URL Brief image problem. Then the discussion of the Persian Gulf War continues. One student questions the purity of America’s intentions in intervening in Kuwait in the name of human rights but not, for example, taking any action regarding apartheid in South Africa.

21:30Copy video clip URL Angio asks the students about American cultural domination (Hollywood movies, TV, etc). The students in general seem frustrated by this situation, but are not nearly as passionate as they were about American politics. They discuss the problem in French for a little while, after having some difficulty expressing their exact thoughts in English. “It’s a form of cultural imperialism. Just because Americans have a lot of money, people from other countries have no place for their cultural identities. But I like the American culture, of course.”

27:23Copy video clip URL Angio asks the students if they sense most Americans’ ambivalence towards Canada. The response ends up being more about the particular situation of French Canadians in relationship to English-speaking Canada and America. “I am a North American, and I live the American way of life. I have the same car as Americans. But I have the French language, that is the difference. In my cultural influence, it’s more from Europe. I’m more connected with Europe. And I like that part of my identity. I’m not just an American… A part of me is very different. We have a special culture because we speak in French.”

31:10Copy video clip URL Brief image problem, then another student resumes the discussion on the place of French Canadians. “I spent four months in the United States, and I never felt a difference in the culture… The only difference is the American is more a showman. It is the only difference.” Another student dissents strongly with this, saying artists, filmmakers, and creative people have extremely different cultures in the French-speaking world vs the United States. The pro-American student claims that Americans have pride in their culture, while Canadians do not, which prompts some outrage in the other vocal student. They debate Canadian nationalism. He thinks Canadians should be more proud of their culture, while she feels that their disadvantaged situation prevents them from being able to celebrate their culture (by sustaining a widely-distributed Quebecois film industry, for example).

41:00Copy video clip URL Angio asks how the students feel about the actual American people (as opposed to the American government, or American culture). “I think in America, people are very individualistic. Unlike Europe, people only think about themselves. There is no community. Everybody thinks about their problem, and not others.” She is challenged by another student, who claims this is more a problem of big cities everywhere, rather than America specifically. The student persists: “When I go to America, I feel very alone… You are nothing, you lose your identity.” “It’s a very big country and it’s hard to have a definition of an American. Because you have many states, and if you travel in the United States, you can have a feeling of community, because if you are in New York it is very different from Oregon.” She then mistakenly assumes racism is only a problem in the South because she thinks there are not very many African-Americans in the North.

46:17Copy video clip URL End.



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