July 1, 2012 | 6 Comments
I’m not feeling too bullish on Canada these days. There’s a lot wrong with this country. We have a government that cares more about petro-dollars than about people. Basic workers rights take a backseat to GDP-desires and the convenience of middle class vacationers. Stephen Harper is a grand disappointment in many many ways. However, he has made some wise moves – liberalizing trade, reducing supply management, relegating Michael Ignatieff to a brief footnote in the history of a once-great party. He has even made some defensible, if rather meaningless, moves – eliminating the census, eliminating the gun registry.
His party, unfortunately, is still hung up on abortion, gutting the refugee system, mega-jails and military toys. Think about that the next time someone decries the centralization of power within the PMO.
Last Spring brought so much hope to Canadian politics. Hope wanes, though, as the bright lights cast nothing but shadows of lesser beings. Thomas Mulcair may indeed deliver the next great political victory for the NDP. And it’s oh so nice that the NDP seems so much more interested in the next victory rather than good governance, principles or shame.
Petro-dollars have a charm all their own.
The Liberals (isn’t it grand that we get to list them third these days?) are continuing to demonstrate their love affair with irrelevance. Sure, Martha Hall Findlay shows that even a Liberal can be wise on supply management, but the apparent infatuation with a green MP whose greatest asset is two syllables and whose most memorable moment is a charity boxing match demonstrates the un-seriousness with which they view their own plight.
You see, this is primarily a political blog, so we tend to be obsessed with politics.
Maybe I should have more faith in my country. Maybe I should (as I wrote two years ago) concern myself more with the actions of my fellow Canadians than with preening of our politicians. Lord knows politics shouldn’t have nearly as much importance as we afford it. I know many good people, who do many good things.
That’s the half-glass-full viewpoint, and it’s a worthy one to hold, however there’s a problem with it. Recently, my wife mentioned… someone (sorry dear, I can’t remember the name)… who wrote something to the effect that any language we use to others people – that creates some sort of us vs. them dynamic – is a form of violence (sorry, again, honey, I can’t remember the actual quote). Such a statement is, no doubt, a touch hyperbolic (but as noted two years ago, I’m down with the hyperbole), but there is much to commend about it.
To celebrate Canada Day is wonderful in many ways, but nationalistic celebrations entrench these established divides. Go! Canada! Go! chants at an Olympic hockey game are fun, sure, but such exuberance turns into booing the anthems of other nations (as if singing the anthems of nations at sporting events -anthems that don’t even represent a significant majority of the participants – has much merit at all). The rah rah-ness of simple celebrations will and does morph into My Country Right or Wrong – a powerful statement that has caused immeasurable suffering.
Canada, in all its simplistic stereotyping, is supposed to be a nation above this. We are, we ironically claim, a humble nation, a peaceful nation, a polite nation. Yet, despite all that, we are nation that often defines ourselves most by what we are not. And what we are (supposedly) not is Americans. We have universal health care (without any silly debates about the definitions of “tax” and “commerce”). We have gun control. We are a nation of peacekeepers. Etc., etc., etc.
But can anyone tell me how defining ourselves by claiming we are unlike our closest (metaphorically and literally) neighbours is anything but other-ing them?
Nationalism – and its little brother, Patriotism – demands that we value country first and principles second. We are all, I suppose, expected to adopt a Mulcairian stance when our adoration of nation conflicts with the ideals we hold most dear. Dissent, it is said, is the highest form of patriotism, but even this argument kidnaps the valor of dissent, subjugating it to the higher value, patriotism. In reality, dissent has nothing to do with patriotism. Dissent, ironically, is a form of fidelity. It is fidelity to one’s thoughts, beliefs and ideals regardless of what the tribe demands. It is showing allegiance to something greater than country, for there are so many things that are greater than country.
Canada, as great a nation as she may be, is worthless in comparison to its citizens. Canada has no value except in its ability to empower, protect and nurture individual Canadians (and, hopefully, those who just happen to have been born outside our imaginary borders).
If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering what my point is. Well, I don’t have one. Canada Day is extremely problematic for me. Nonetheless, I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful Canada Day. I will be spending it with my family, camping with many others, brought together by something far more powerful than patriotism, love.