Open Letter to America from a Canadian Gets 500 Replies

by Alice Cherbonnier
See letters responding to McDougall's “Open Letter to America from a Canadian”:

    Response Letter Batch#1
Ever get discouraged about the state of our Union? Want to rant about our seeming lack of interest in other countries, our childlike fixations on sports, our seemingly willful ignorance about what’s going on—not only about world issues, but right down to what’s happening in our local communities?

Not all of us are like that, of course. But too many of us are. How bad is the situation? Well, when Canadian Robert McDougall forwarded us a raging letter to the editor—so hot it almost burns off the page—we wondered: Will this resonate with anyone besides us? And we posted it in the op-ed section of our August online edition.

To our astonishment, the “Open Letter to America from a Canadian” was quickly linked all over the Web—by conservatives, progressives, libertarians, even a parent education site. We have received over 500 letters about it, from all over North America, plus England, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and Finland. A printout of the first 450 letters takes up over 200 typeset pages. The shortest reads “Decaf”; the next-shortest (three different submissions) told us to “F*ck Off.” On the other hand, we received several heartfelt rejoinders that were Open Letters to America in themselves.

About 30% of the letters are more vicious even than McDougall’s—and use even more rude words—but in disagreement with him. These generally informed all Canadians that they have no business criticizing the US because (a) the US protects Canadians; (b) Canadians are weaklings who are US wannabes; (c) The US is the strongest nation on earth and doesn’t need anyone telling it what to do, so butt out—eh? (Here’s a short one: “Hey, McDougall. Bite me. What did Canada ever do, anyway?”)

Another 5%, mostly Canadians, agreed in principle with McDougall and expressed concern that our Neighbor to the North suffers from many of the ills Mr. McDougall attributes to the US. (“...The only difference is that Canada is not under global scrutiny because nothing happens there that anyone gives a damn about.”)

Another five percent questioned in the strongest possible terms our editorial judgment in publishing McDougall’s letter.

But then there were the 60% of letters that agreed in whole or in part with McDougall. One reader from Minnesota called his letter “amazing” and said “I feel that the solution to this embarrassing ignorance is for American media to pick up editorials and articles from critical outside perspectives in order to enable Americans to see ourselves as we truly are.” Indeed.

Overwhelmed with responses, we will gradually publish the letters we have received at Please drop by and learn what people really think.

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This story was published on September 4, 2002.