We could have celebrated Canada’s 149th birthday or our 151st but we like round numbers. I suppose somebody in the government looked at the calendar and decided that 150 years was a good excuse for having a party and spending some money. Fair enough—I am always up for a bonne fête celebration. But what, exactly, are we celebrating?
If you wander through the stores, it appears to be a great time to celebrate bargains. The ultimate humiliation this week was seeing Canada 150-themed flip-flops (not made in Canada) for $1.50. Nothing says national pride like trampling on our national symbol at the beach.
In practice, most of us see Canada Day as a celebration of where we live. We also appear to see it as an opportunity to either make money or save cash on Canada 150-themed flip-flops, tic-tacs, T-shirts and stuff. Mostly, given the summer timing, it’s an excuse to party. I am just happy we are five months away from snowflakes; that’s all the excuse I need.
Patriotism is stored energy that, when stored in your emotional bank account, can be used later. Like money, you can do a lot with it once it’s in the bank. It is neutral in itself. Most revolutions make a withdrawal from your patriotism account to overturn rulers. Governments make withdrawals to send folks off to war and to protect the homeland. Some have even used patriotic inertia to promote xenophobia, that’s the fear of anything foreign, not the fear of people who practice Zen.
This is where I hit a significant speed bump. Patriotic flip-flop selling opportunities aside, I approach these celebrations with caution. While I appreciate the familiar things I have been raised around, I understand that they are common to many other democracies. Some of our cousins to the south seem to feel they are the leaders in terms of freedom. It is important to remember that many countries can legitimately celebrate freedom as well as decent governance, education and security. I would like to think that to be Canadian is to be humble and polite about all of this. Some accuse us of being too polite. However, only in movies is rudeness cool. In real life, politeness is rather nice; we are, after all, trying to build a society. My hope is that we can use that patriotic energy for good rather than building walls of fear or chest beating about how great we are. After all, we still have a lot that needs fixing. Not the least of which is our relationship with Indigenous people.
Never the less, I observe this sesquicentennial birthday by reminding myself that I’m happy to call Canada home. Moreover, I celebrate that we are not the only country filled with peace-loving people. We hear a lot about walls these days. I will celebrate the fact that we are one of the bricks in the global wall that tries to stand against discrimination and poverty both at home and abroad.
Finally, I celebrate those who want to come to Canada and help us build that wall.
Happy 150th to you this 2017. You’re looking good for your age.