Monday, 1 March 2010

Anthem is as anthem does

Another Saint David's Day, and as it's my first one with an iPod, I've uploaded a bunch of Welsh ditties, including Bryn Terfel blasting .

I can sing "Land of My Fathers" quite literally: my maternal grandfather came from a long line of Carmarthenshire blacksmiths; my maternal grandmother's grandfather was from Montgomeryshire, and various branches on my paternal side sprouted from Monmouthshire and Radnorshire. Way back when I was nine, our school choir used to warble a rarity: a patriotic Canadian song entitled "They All Call It Canada". It begins with a stirring intro: Side by side, and step by step, our fathers were marching along... It occurred to me, even at that young age, that this lyric didn't apply to me. I'm a first-generation Canadian and none of my fathers built a road to the future, with a spade and a smile and a song... Not in Canada, anyway.

This has the effect of making my patriotism for the land of my birth somewhat muted. I love Canada, but as King Lear's Cordelia put it, according to my bond. Up until these past two weeks, this hasn't made me an oddity; Canadian patriotism is traditionally an unaccustomed and rare beast, and we have tended to view the hand-over-heart stance of the Americans as being a wee bit histrionic. Until this past month.

The papers have been coated in photographs that seem to be entirely of red and white and gold. Even before Canada managed to haul in fourteen gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the ground-swell was building steadily.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think it's rather nifty that Canada did so well, ignoring the odium of "Owning the Podium" (which agency came up with that crap?). I was touched by the human triumphs and tragedies, but a bit put off by the purple prose which came close to the BBC's spouting at Diana's funeral for pure fulsomeness. And delightful as it is to see everyone united in pride and excitement, I am somewhat disturbed to see the story of an iceberg the size of Luxembourg breaking off Antarctica and the story of one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history killing 700 Chileans (the last time I checked) being relegated to p. A12, even in The Globe and Mail.

Still, this morning CBC Radio ran the earthquake first and the Olympics second, so maybe our sense of proportion is returning. And lest you think I'm a total party-pooper, here's two rather endearing examples of Olympic-related patriotism, Canadian-style: The first is a flash-mob organized by imagine1day. Now, in the official video, you see the front rows of the flashmob, all very young, very pretty. But dammit, I love this amateur video which captures the crowd a few blocks back and features all shapes, sizes, ages, and coordinations.

The second needs some back-story. Not too long ago, I did a post about Canada's most notorious massacre. Alas, we've had some since then. One was at Dawson College in Montreal, about 3½ years ago. So I was particularly touched to see this:

So "yes" to pride, celebration, fun, healing. And compassion. Let's get back to it, shall we?

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