Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back in the USA...

We arrived home tonight after a GREAT six days in Montreal - and I have a bunch of competing feelings. First, I have totally fallen in love with Montreal - and I am fascinated by the challenge of embracing two languages and at least two cultures so intentionally.

I was speaking with a woman last night - our waitress - who told me her father was Irish and her mother was French. She spoke French at home and eventually learned both French and English in school. She loved both cultures and languages and said: "If you live further north you can get away with just French, but I come from a mixed family - and work in downtown Montreal - where everything is blended. It just come so automatically."

Man, do I wish that was true for many of us in the United States. I know parochialism knows no boundaries, but it is so easy to look the other way in the USA and NOT see how small the world has become. Already, in tiny Berkshire county, there are over 10,000 Latino folk living among us and they are rarely acknowledged - let alone embraced. But the same was true in Tucson, too, with Mexico just 20 miles South. I am not suggesting that Montreal is paradise, but they have certainly learned to flawlessly speak one an other's languages and celebrate one an other's cultures regardless of what the politicians think, say or do.

Second, I read a number of insightful op ed columns in a variety of newspapers speaking about what the US health care debate might mean for Canada. Isn't that interesting? In a host of careful and well reasoned ways, it was noted that as the US tries to figure out the best way to share universal health care in the USA, the folk in Canada might do well to pay attention so that they could fix what isn't working in their system.

What's more, it was suggested that Canadians could even help some ordinary Americans discern what benefits might be gained by making certain that the whole body politic was included in health care rather than giving in to the current fear mongering of the Republican lunatic fringe! What's more, some of the Canadian editorials even urged their people to take American political passion seriously so that the status quo gets shaken up!

And third, this place knows how to promote itself for tourism! Gay Pride Week - Jazz Festivals - Francofolies Music Festival - Film Festival - Blues Festival! And then there is all the winter activities. As my little New England town works to reinvent itself by embracing both the arts and tourism, it is clear we have to do an even BETTER job of promotion. There is a lot to offer in our town: beauty, compassionate citizens, well-educated and competent politicians, an incredible outdoors, local artists, great schools and a real estate situation to die for!

My wife and I get our souls refreshed in Montreal - and we'll be going there often - but we'll also be borrowing some of their wisdom to share right here. Like brother Chuck Berry said...

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