Two Very Different Neighbours

By:  Rachel Marsden

On the 4th of July, a crowd of thousands gathered on Brooklyn's Coney Island to watch people stuff as many hotdogs down their throats as possible in five minutes.

Eating as a competitive sport, not just a means of survival. ESPN commentators going into detail about the various techniques involved (i.e. "chipmunking") and how these "athletes" control their stomach muscles in order to maximize scarfing.

At that moment, I was acutely reminded that I was not in Canada anymore.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is actually considering a request by "big candy" (again, only in the U.S.) to allow actual chocolate to be omitted from chocolate and replaced with flavoured veggie oils.

And people wonder why they gain weight just from eating normally. It's because you're pretty much eating plastic. Canadians are tolerant, but draw the line at our snacks becoming a stunt double for Lego.

I learned another lesson about the difference between the two cultures when I appeared on a TV show with presidential candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

After allowing Kucinich to speak virtually unchallenged for several minutes, the host then said that Kucinich had one more minute before the commercial break.

Ever the seasoned pro, Kucinich used the opportunity to machine gun the rest of his liberal talking points. With a few seconds left, I said that I loved how he waited until the last minute, when he couldn't be challenged, to spew all his crap.

Apparently, people here just don't talk that way to politicians.

Growing up in the birthplace of talk radio (Vancouver, B.C.), I'm used to talk show hosts throwing their curve balls hard and fast, and publicly calling out politicians on their spin, rather than just doing it behind their back. The politicians always return for more because there's pride in surviving a grilling. And it's exciting, compelling entertainment.

This approach reflects the fact that, unlike in the US, even Canada’s Prime Minister has to stand in the House of Commons every day and personally respond to flying questions and accusations from the people.

Despite working in U.S. politics and media for most of my adult life and having more knowledge of and love for America than many of its citizens, there's one question that I'm often asked: "As a Canadian, what qualifies you to talk about U.S. politics?"

As a Canadian, I was unfortunately unable to personally attend every event in American politics since the Civil War. Since I was born a few miles north of the Canada/U.S. border, I had to learn about and witness them through books and media -- apparently, unlike my American counterparts.

In my hometown, the two main news anchors were English and American, and the top talk radio host was a Scotsman. No one thought twice about it. Maybe it's because in Canada, we know our politicians are idiots who don't have all the answers.

Heaven forbid that an entrepreneur with international experience and a global perspective wants to come to the U.S., pay taxes, and reinvigorate the national debate. Apparently in this industry, those types of people are only allowed to sign our cheques.

Nowadays, even if the U.S. government certifies someone as one of the top political commentators in the world, you're more likely to end up talking about Britney Spears' crotch. If the winning strategy for the war on terror was in there, you can bet we'd have it by now.