Sunday, July 01, 2007

Canada Day Is Not Like The Fourth of July

On the same day Howard Zinn of "The Progressive" exhorts Americans to "...renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed." an Ipsos Reid survey informs us that 39% of Canadians believe that Canadians should not be able to hold dual citizenship.

Zinn confuses nationalism and patriotism. Last Fourth of July, Christopher Dickey wrote a piece called "U.S. Nationalism Run Amok" for Newsweek in which he discussed Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism." Patriotism, Orwell wrote, is “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.”

Dickey elaborates, quoting Orwell:

Nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” Patriotism is essentially about ideas and pride. Nationalism is about emotion and blood. The nationalist’s thoughts “always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. … Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.”

Flags, pledges of allegiance, anthems, and all that singing, then, are patriotic symbols. Americans believe the United States is the best country in the world and celebrate that on the Fourth of July. We do need to curb the nationalistic behavior, but not necessarily the patriotic celebrations. Americans need something to celebrate.

Here in Canada, it's harder to find people celebrating flags, pledges of allegiance, and Canadian identity. If you're ever going to find it, it's on Canada Day, when Canadians are issued flags at government expense, and encouraged to celebrate...not being Americans. Perhaps I've confused quiet patriotism with noisy nationalism. It takes some getting used to.

When polled by Ipsos Reid, 69% of Canadians said common history, heroes and symbols make Canada a successful society. Just what are those symbols?

Maple Leaf 87%
Beaver 74%
Hockey 73%
Mountie 72%
Canoe 39%
Timbit 31%

(For any non-Canadians who may have stumbled in here, "Maple Leaf" refers to the Canadian flag. "Timbit" is what American call a "donut hole." You get them at Tim Hortons.)

Surprisingly, duct tape didn't make the list. I see cars here held together with duct tape. And they've got a canoe, but no beer. What's up with beer not making the list?

We will celebrate the Fourth of July in this household, at least I will celebrate it. I have some cheap red, white, and blue decorations and banners which arrived in a CARE package several years ago. I have "Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America" on the CD player. I have a Weber grill. And I absolutely have beer. It's Belgian.