O Canada

Much fuss has been made over the New Brunswick school that didn’t begin every day by playing the national anthem.

Let me tell you, as someone not far removed from secondary school, standing for the national anthem every morning, sleep deprived and irritable, did nothing to build my patriotism.

The jingoistic patriotism that can be distilled to a celebration of military conquests, national anthems, and a blind belief in national superiority is dangerous. It makes for a kind of nationalist narcissism. Think of a person who is excessively boastful: he or she projects high-self esteem, but in reality it is fragile. I suspect the same trend – a shrinking and increasingly marginalized white working class – is behind this insecure patriotism in Canada as in the United States.

Recently, the Premier of Saskatchewan asserted that his province “is the best province in the best country in the world.” I think this demonstrates how absurd these kinds of statements can be. By what measure is Saskatchewan better than any other province? Maybe it is because all of the Premier’s friends and family can be found in Saskatchewan. It’s a good province, no question, but it’s not the best.

I consider myself a fan of Canada. I wouldn’t want to be a citizen anywhere else. We have achieved some remarkable things, not least of which are the sustained coexistence of French and English, our compassionate provision of social services, and the reasonably successful implementation of multiculturalism.

At the same time, I can recognize that we are terribly wasteful, the indigenous peoples have been treated horrifically, our social services can be improved, our economic performance could be better, and our actions on the global stage are not very important. None of this makes me unpatriotic.

Just as Saskatchewan is only a good province, Canada is only a good country. Canada is not the best country in the world any more than the US, France, or Iran. But I wouldn’t trade it for any other.

(photo credit)


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