Busted Halo
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June 15th, 2003

Low Impact Patriotism

The Quieter National Pride of Canada Day

 
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I’m relieved July 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, unattached to a weekend. It means, yay, that I won’t have to mark the Canada Day holiday by accompanying my husband on a three-night excursion to his parents’ lakeside “cabin.”

No toilet, no way
There’s no way I’m up for lugging my two-year-old son and eight-months-pregnant belly off on a prolonged visit to a place with no running water or beds fit for sleeping. Yeah, the fresh air’s nice and the scenery is lovely, but right now I’m just too fat and uncomfortable to care. I’d be more gung-ho if there was an actual toilet.

My husband is among the many Canadians who love spending our country’s birthday at lakes and cottages and campgrounds. There’s no better time of year for being outside, building campfires, eating out of Coleman coolers, and swatting at different kinds of bloodthirsty insects.

This year, stuck in the city, my husband will have to settle for joining me on an outing to the local fireworks show. July 1 is Canada’s biggest day for fireworks. Millions of us head off at dusk to catch the annual displays. We seem to like that kind of thing, sitting in fields on a warm evening, gazing up at the sky.

A quieter patriotism
Fireworks—loud, colorful, demanding attention—aren’t really an apt symbol for the Canadian way of being patriotic. We are usually reluctant when it comes to making a big public fuss of July 1. When we do, we come up with things that seem contrived, a little forced, a party thought up by some official Canada Day committee in a boardroom somewhere.

It’s like the concerts that our national broadcaster, the CBC , televises live from Parliament Hill every year. The events go on for hours, with speeches from government figures and commentary from TV news people trying desperately to look like they’re having fun. The musical entertainment always includes at least a few fiddle tunes and some well-known Canadian singers half of us have never heard of. The whole spectacle is just so painfully self-conscious.

Every now and then on Canada Day a car or pickup goes cruising down the street with a large Canadian flag flapping out its window. People turn their heads, wondering, no doubt, at the brazenness of it.

Not that we aren’t proud of our country, or that we have a problem with recognizing the anniversary of our confederation. We just tend to be proud quietly. It seems to make us uncomfortable, the prospect of getting all boisterous about how happy we are to be Canadian. We probably wouldn’t know how to go about it anyway.

Mouthy Joe Canadian
Maybe that’s why those Joe Canadian beer commercials from a while back were so popular (long story, see web site ). Joe, with his every-person pro-Canada ranting, was a role model for mouthy, un-self-conscious nationalism. Never mind that he was the centerpiece of a beer advertising campaign. People just loved the way he fearlessly shouted, without a hint of irony, “I am Canadian!”

 
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