In her article “I Am Half-Canadian,” Pamela Swanigan seeks to define Canadian cultural identity by comparing and contrasting it to the often highly regarded identity attributed to Americans. Born in the USA to parents of mixed racial origin and later immigrating to Canada, Swanigan offers a unique view on many of the common fallacies that come up when one envisions the culture of the United States.
Contrary to the popular view, that depicts the United States as an all-welcoming “melting pot” of cultures and races, Swanigan contests instead that American culture is one of constricting self-definition and pigeonholing. She argues that American culture is neither open nor accepting of diversity, instead forcing people to strictly classify themselves into certain racial and linguistic categories- “everyone’s forced to pick one definition and stick to it.
” Having personally experienced this phenomenon, as a woman of mixed race working in a traditionally male field (sports writing), Swanigan is extremely influential in presenting her case, offering a number of examples as to how Americans are boxed in to certain classifications and social expectations. She further goes on to remark on the close-minded nature of such a view, which leads many Americans to be suspicious and vaguely threatening- a stance that directly contradicts the traditional view of the United States as an open and accepting country.
Swanigan contrasts this with the relatively fluid and undistinguishable collective culture of Canada, where a lack of strict individual definition leads to the misconception that Canadians have no culture at all. Instead the author seeks to dispel this myth by suggesting that this lack of identification is in fact the ideal that America claims to promote, which its neighbor to the north that has achieved.