|Pretty climate map of North America|
It's natural to think that if the US is an adolescent, then Europe is a continent full of adults, and there seems to me something to this. Some European countries have the air of people who have been through a lot of trouble and just want some quiet time to enjoy life. They're like, OK, enough with the constant fighting and complaining! We've got better things to do.
I moved to Canada a few years ago, and I started to think, Well, if you think of Europe as the parents and the US as a kid, then clearly Canada is a kind of sibling. Both the US and Canada are kind of like the children of broken homes -- the offspring of parents who don't always get along peacefully and who occasionally use the kids to get back at one another.
The thing is, I think, that where the US is a pain-in-the-ass ungrateful teenager, Canada is like a sensible younger child -- say, an eight or ten year-old. You know those kids: they basically have it together; they like doing things with the family; they have excellent senses of humor and mostly, they're annoyed and mystified by the behavior of their adolescent siblings.
Can't you picture it? The scene: an afternoon picnic with extended family. America is texting under the table, rolling her eyes at her great-aunt, and picking a fight with some cousin. She gets up to leave early, pissing everyone off. Canada says, "Why do you always have to be so difficult? Mom says we're going to all play scrabble and then go out for ice cream."
I love the United States, but as everyone knows, dealing with adolescents is exhausting. In the excellent book White Noise by Don Delillo, there's a boy adolescent, Heinrich, who basically argues with everyone about everything. There's one moment where his father, Jack, finally says something to which the boy responds "Exactly." Jack says something to himself like "I paused, savoring the rare moment of agreement."
I often travel between Canada and the United States, and I'm always amazed, coming back to Canada, by the absence of anger. It's like you've been with Heinrich arguing all day and you're mad and worn out and irritable and then you encounter the younger kid, who gives you one of those knowing looks kids have, and says to you, "Hey, you wanna go to the aquarium or something?"
And you're like, "Yeah. Yeah, I do."