Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Guns, Ammo, Knives, American Flags

When I arrived in Monroe, Louisiana, one of the first signs I saw advertised:

Guns, Ammo, Knives, American Flags

That was on the sign of a Citgo gas station.

To many Canadians, that sign epitomizes the United States. Now, I've travelled the U.S. enough (26 of the 50 states) to know that the country is far more than guns and flags. Still, there was something humorously stereotypical about it.

The theme for this blog, as much as it has one, is the culture shock of a liberal-minded Scottish-born Canadian now living in the conservative Deep South. In all fairness, I'm not a typical Canadian. You probably figured that out by the "born in Scotland" part. I'm also an avid "Civil War" buff. My wife Alana likes to tell folk that I know more about American history than most Americans. That may be true, but as I'm finding out, knowing American history and knowing Americans are two different things.

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1962. My parents moved to Canada as part of the big emigration wave out of Great Britain in the mid-1960s (we arrived in Canada's centennial year, 1967). I grew up in Oshawa, Ontario, about 50 km east of Toronto. I attended Wilfrid Laurier University (big mistake!) in Waterloo, Ontario, about an hour west of Toronto, and I lived in Toronto itself for 12 years. Now I'm in Monroe, a small city mid-way between Shreveport and Vicksburg, Mississippi in northern Louisiana.

For those readers who think "New Orleans" when they read "Louisiana", Monroe is about five hours away from the Crescent City. It's also about five hours away from Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, and Memphis. (We like to say that Monroe is five hours away from some place interesting). So, it's like Monroe is in a different state than New Orleans, which is true culturally and politically, if not true geographically. Monroe is in the middle of a rural, conservative area known for its fishing and hunting. Monroe has its charms (it has a lot of good restaurants), but if I come across as somewhat critical of the city, that's because there's not much "there" there.

Thanks for reading, and I'll try not to be boring.

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