With maple leaf flags flying proudly from the porches of homes, faces painted in red and white, and a general buzz of energy in our communities, it’s easy to swell with Canadian pride. However on this Canada day I chose to sit back and reflect a bit on why it is that I am so proud to call myself a Canadian.
As with many things in life, we tend to trust in the things that we have experienced and know and come to find comfort in; That which is familiar. We defend our own with enthusiasm and fervour. I believe that nationalism can stem from these same roots, and fuel our love of place, home and identity. But Canadians are not alone in our national pride, in fact I would argue that in our own conciliatory way, we make room for the thought that others might too have a justification to be proud, and that perhaps we don’t have it all figured out.
The FIFA World cup is taking place right now, arguably the worlds most defined display of nationalism and patriotism as it manifests in each competing nation around the globe, and even those whose roots tie back to historic homelands. And it is in this climate that our National Day takes place, and it has led me to wonder about my own preconceptions, and the true merits of my national pride. Am I simply adhering to the base sentiment that I am watching unfold around me, or do we truly have something unique to be proud of?
I have had the privilege to travel extensively in my life, to over 40 countries on 6 continents. In that time I have been exposed to many different cultural realities, beautiful geography, and unique ways of life and I have been left with the question of who am I to proclaim which nation does it best or which culture is most progressed in its practices. There has been a beauty in each and every individual national identity, and good reasons for pride to flourish in each group of people. And ultimately there have been such differences as to call any system of measurement or analysis into question. Yet in all of this, my pride for being Canadian has only increased along side my exposure to other nations.
In the most cliche way, I have diligently sewn a Canadian flag onto the backpacks I have worn as I walked the world’s streets. At first it was the thing that one does, and so I too confirmed to the world that I was Canadian. As I traveled more, and set my bags down next to Germans and Poles, Australians and Argentinians, at train stations and in hostel store rooms, I came to realize that we were amongst the few that did this.
Most often, as a general rule of thumb, if you are the only nation to do a certain thing on the international stage, it is reason to question your practices. However with the wearing of the flag, red and white and proud, I somehow didn’t feel like I was imposing, or bragging, or overstating. Instead I felt as though the world understood that this huge, yet little nation, was welcome to state its pride in the open. I felt as though we represented a call to something larger, more symbolic of what a nation can be, than just what our nation is.
To be Canadian is to be aspirational, to be courageous and strong, and yet humble and reasonable. We are a people of pride, and yet we leave room for others to be who they are, and welcome them to join us in our ever evolving understanding of what it is to be a Canadian. We help when we can and lead by example.
I am proud to be Canadian, and yet I wear the yoke of our reputation with an understanding that it is up to each and every one of us to manifest these values in the way that we live our lives. Whether we wear a uniform, or a suit, coveralls or jeans, we are all peacekeepers, and patriots, and advocates for the belief that everyone matters and hate and prejudice have no place in the world.