AS president of the Foundation for Eternal American Readiness (FEAR), I've followed the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and I've concluded that everybody is wrong (WRONG).
Opponents of NAFTA claim Mexico will take our jobs, pollute our water and smother us in cheap imported sombreros. NAFTA supporters argue that the treaty will reduce illegal immigration and increase American exports as more Mexicans order cheap American jewelry from the Home Shopping Network.
What everybody overlooks is the menace from the North. Canada poses a far greater threat than Mexico to American culture.
According to the so-called "American" and "National" leagues, the United States and Canada are one country already.
Although baseball is our national pastime and not Canada's, a Canadian team is the "world" champion, currently defending that title in Philadelphia, the cradle of American liberty.
As a loyal Orioles fan, I know that Cito Gaston is the worst manager in baseball: All his teams do is win. But if we continue to allow Toronto to take many of the best players out of this country, the Orioles may never again finish first.
Canadian currency is another threat. Canadians call their money "dollars," even though one of them is worth about 75 cents American. What's worse is that their coins look like ours. Anyone who visits an American city near the border is sure to get Canadian coins in change for American money. A few pennies may not seem important, but they add up.
If every American had just one Canadian dime in his pocket, that would cost this country more than $6 million (American). That's enough money to pay for a slick-fielding first baseman who hits for power and doesn't spend his career on the disabled list.
Canadians already control much of the media. It is scandalous that so many Americans get their evening news from the heavily-accented Canadian Peter Jennings. Perhaps it's no coincidence that every NAFTA story on Mr. Jennings' show concerns Mexico, not Canada.
Canadians are also taking over show business. A few years ago there was pandemonium in New York when an English actor played a Eurasian in "Miss Saigon," yet no one objects when Canadians impersonate Americans. Granted, the death of Raymond Burr ensures that this Canadian will never play another American, but William Shatner and Michael J. Fox continue their masquerades.
The crisis in comedy is even more acute. Are John Candy, Bill Murray, Martin Short and Mike Myers really that funny? I, for one, find it hard to laugh when I think of Americans cadging meals at soup kitchens because their roles have gone to Canadians.
Dana Carvey and Rich Little have become wealthy by impersonating American presidents, yet I've never seen them imitate a Canadian prime minister. What's the matter: They can dish it out, but they can't take it? It isn't that American leaders are mocked by foreigners. Americans are perfectly capable of making fun of their own.
It isn't just Canadian actors who want in, it's everybody. Canadian immigration is a greater threat than that of Mexicans. Mexico City, with 20 million inhabitants, is 600 miles from the American border. But 600 miles north into Canada there are more moose than people. Most Canadians live on the American border, and if NAFTA passes, they'll all ski south after the first blizzard. Some people worry about "wetbacks" crossing the Rio Grande, but I say it's more important to keep icebacks up in their icebox.
Canadians make sneaky visitors. Mexicans must prove they belong in this country and are told that they look or sound foreign. But Canadians pass for Americans all the time. They're not even asked to take off their shoes so that immigration officials can look for snowshoe calluses. A surprisingly large number of Canadians are tanned. Either they come down here to our country and lie all summer on our beaches and then take those tans out of our country, or else they spend so much time facing south while trying to sneak over the border that the sun burns their faces.
Despite all these concerns, it's still possible that Congress will ratify NAFTA. In that case, the president should negotiate a side agreement including these provisions:
1. All Canadians in this country must wear maple-leaf tattoos on their foreheads to distinguish them from real Americans.
2. All Canadians who live within 100 miles of the border must move another 100 miles north.
3. No Canadian comedian may mock an American leader without also mocking an important Canadian (assuming that there are important Canadians).
4. Peter Jennings must begin each news broadcast with the words "how now brown cow" so every American will be alerted to his accent.
5. All Canadian money must bear the words, "NOT AMERICAN MONEY -- IN GOD WE DO NOT NECESSARILY TRUST."
6. No Canadian beer will enter the United States until Canada provides a full accounting of American MIAs and POWs from the War of 1812.
7. No Canadian baseball team may defeat a team from any city that was the site of a battle in the War of 1812 or of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Terry Ross writes from Baltimore. His pen name is Zeno Phobes.