USNA embraces the idea of Canada/U.S. conflict
Thursday, May 30, 2013 06:00 am
Canada and the U.S. have often had a testy relationship, with the U.S. pushing the boundaries of that relationship on more than one occasion.
And while we may seem to be the best of friends today, there may well come a time when this friendship collapses and the U.S. seeks to expand its reach, either through military might or economic influence.
It is the latter that is brought to us in a new graphic novel, USNA: The United States of North America, created by writers Allan Stanleigh, Davy Longworth and Harry Kalensky, the original bass player for Trooper, who was with the band when it released “Two for the Show” and “Boys in the Bright White Sports Car.”
This 211-page black-and-white comic presents a dystopian future where the U.S. and Canada have willingly amalgamated, with the U.S. getting the better deal, amid drought, food rationing and war with Central America.
And it is a takeover that inspires a rebellion in Canada, with people seeking to restore the flag and all that it stands for. For the rebels, the fight is not about borders, but ideals and all things that define Canada.
It’s an idea that Stanleigh said takes him and Longworth back to the 1980s.
“When I first met Davy in the mid-’80s, I was looking for a way to enter the film industry and he was already a very established actor in Vancouver,” Stanleigh said. “One day he came to me and said, ‘I was in the shower and had this vision of these tricked-out armoured tractors and combines converging on a group of soldiers in the Prairies.’ And then he said ‘and I saw these letters USNA’ and he knew it meant United States of North America. We just took off from there with this concept.
“We’ve taken it a step further and said, ‘OK it does happen, and it does happen through an economic takeover. ‘In these times, although there’s not a lot of rhetoric about Canada and the U.S. amalgamating, there’s always questions about how different we are from the U.S. and would it be feasible to do something like that and would it be worthwhile?” Stanleigh said.
The idea that the U.S. would take over Canada is not farfetched or without a firm basis grounded in fact.
In the foreword, written by Calgary author Will Ferguson, winner of the 2012 Giller Prize for his novel 419, Ferguson reminds readers that throughout much of Canada’s early history, the U.S. had its eyes on Canadian soil, leading to a surprising number of failed attempts to grab it.
During the American Revolution, the newly formed United States of America under Gen. George Washington, unsuccessfully invaded Canada. That was followed by the War of 1812, which also failed; the Fenian Raids between 1886 and 1871, along with a couple of smaller skirmishes, such as the Aroostook Cold War and the 1859 “Pig War” on San Juan Island where Canada and the U.S. nearly went to war over the death of a pig.
“These conflicts were fuelled by an American belief in ‘Manifest Destiny,’ a doctrine that claimed the entire continent for the United States. It was the threat of an imminent American invasion that was one of the driving forces behind Confederation, after all. There was safety in numbers, as the union of British North America demonstrated,” Ferguson wrote. “Canada’s central defense plans were predicated on an assumed invasion from the United States well into the 1920s. But Canadian history itself is no stranger to violence. Far from adhering to the myth of a nation forged in peace, Canada’s path to nationhood is in fact ‘a story soaked in bloodshed.’”
So it’s fitting that what begins as an economic and political amalgamation devolves into bloodshed with the secretive Strategic Home Alliance Defense Organization (S.H.A.D.O.) resorting to any means possible to destroy the people’s rebellion and maintain the USNA.
The rebellion is a coordinated effort, reaching across Canada and including First Nations, farmers, fisherman, intellectuals and former soldiers from Atlantic Canada to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains.
“We tried to make it so the groups doing something are not the military per se; that’s in keeping with that vision of the tractors with the guns on them converging on the soldiers: that is the symbolism that this is a real people’s rebellion.”
Even though our sense of nationhood has grown and continues to do so, given the history of relations with the U.S. and even our obsession with our southern neighbour, stories like USNA resonate. It’s both frightening and fun to imagine the U.S. invasion.
And what happens next for the USNA and the people’s rebellion? Stanleigh would say, stay posted. The image of the armoured and armed tractors bearing down on SHADO troops ends Book One and opens the door for a sequel and a prequel. How does the rebellion end and how does it all begin?
“We’re just sketching it out right now,” Stanleigh said.