Tuesday, 1 July 2014

MAPLE LEAF GRIEF

I'm not proud to be Canadian.

My twin brother and I were born in Edmonton in 1979 to my Canadian-born mother and French-born father. My mother's progenitors came to Canada as far back as the 1800s and kept coming over the span of several decades.

I'm not proud.

A lot of people's Canadian roots evidently run deeper than mine. My father moved to Canada after having lived in France, Algeria, and French Guiana. He emigrated here in the 1970s and has never looked back. He by no means rejects his Gallic roots, but he identifies himself as Canadian and Acadian more than anything else. He has more Canadian flags and paraphernalia in his home than the dollar store on June 30th.

I'm still not proud.

Like everyone else, I didn't choose my country of birth. I didn't get to go over a list of potential options, size up their pros and cons, put it all in a database, and make an informed decision. If I HAD been given the choice, I like to think I WOULD have chosen Canada.

Then I'd be proud. But I'm not now.

There are many fine nations and peoples across this vast world. Some have wonderful weather. Others have rich soil that permits a variety of delicious crops year-round. Some nations have graciously reserved people, others have friendly and gregarious folks.

I'm not proud to be Canadian.

Other places are hostile in their climate, environment, or populace. Some nations are dangerous; others are dangerously selfish. I definitely wouldn't want to have been born there.

That doesn't mean I'm proud to have been born here.

Some countries, like our wonderful neighbours to the south, are so similar in so many ways that one wonders why we bother with arbitrary distinctions like borders. If the Maker had sneezed while he was shaping me, I could have ended up in Arkansas, and I'm sure I'd have been perfectly happy there. But I ended up here instead.

I turned out Canadian. That doesn’t mean I'm proud to be one.

See, I didn't take any action, speak any words, exert my will, or hope and pray that, please God, let me be born Canadian; I just was. And I am so grateful.

I'm grateful, but I'm not proud.

Canada is a vast land. We are unbelievably blessed to have so many natural wonders. Other countries would love to have a fraction of our rich forests, prairies, mountains, and coasts. Very few nations indeed boast such a variety in their landscape.

I love how beautiful my country is, but I'm not proud.

Our people are quintessentially human. We are known for being polite and humble, but also for being insecure and passive-aggressive. Most of us have no tolerance for intolerance, but those of us who are more backward-thinking are as considerate and likeable in our daily lives than the rest. We try not to lose sleep over those we disagree with, but we're always ready with an open door and open arms to reconcile with those we've argued.

I love my country's people, their foibles and their great qualities, but I'm not proud.

Lastly, there are all the reasons that are advertised in the media or at multinational conferences: our strong economy, our beloved democracy, and our public health care that is the envy of much of the globe. As good as these reasons look on paper, and as easy they make our lives, they aren’t as important to me as everything else I’ve mentioned.

As a Canadian, I have lots for which I am appreciative. But I’m not proud to be Canadian.

Being Canadian isn’t an accomplishment on my part. I can’t brag about “owning” my nationality or any piece of country, much as I’d like.

I can take the time every day, though, to remind myself just how fortunate I am to live here. I can tell everyone who will listen that Canada’s land and people are among the finest around, because I really think it’s true. I can thank fate, the stars, or just the luck of the draw that I was born here. And I can love, or at least accept, every bit of this incredible country and my countrymen.

I can do all of those things. And while I wish that I could take the credit for the fact that I was born here, live here, and will live here forever, I can’t.

And for that reason, I’ll never be proud. I feel blessed, ecstatic, and fortunate.

Oh, ya: I feel pretty fucking smug, too. And that, I believe, is much more important than being proud.

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