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.

11 comments:

Mark said...

I and my family (wife and 2 kids under 3, one born in Canada) are Americans living in Toronto since January, 2005. I agree in principle with the discussion on differences in patriotism impacting the celebration of Independence Day vs. Canada Day. I think the statement about the government issuing flags to citizens is a bit far-fetched, however --- I have seen not evidence of that in Toronto, and in fact had to pay CAD$16.99 at a Canadian Tire to get a Canadian flag to be hung from our deck for our Canada Day/Independence Day cookout over the weekend. I haven't been to Kelowna yet (have been to Vancouver and Victoria several times) -- do they really have free flags there? We technically have a right to fly the flag (our daughter was born here, and as such, as dual-citizen status...we just spend the morning today at the consulate getting her US papers filed). But $16.99 for a 3'x6' cheesy-quality flag seemed a bit extreme... I haven't read all of the posts on your site as I just discovered it, but intend to do so. We miss good Mexican food as well (having lived in AZ, TX, and with a brother in San Diego -- no shortage of good Mexican in those places...never mind the great stuff you get in places like Juarez and Matamoros). - Mark & Family, Toronto, ON

catester said...

Hello, Mark -

Yes, at the celebration on the waterfront here, everyone got a flag (oh, maybe 3"x4", or whatever that is in centimetres) or a little flag pin. You could have both if you wanted both.

When I originally posted, I included a link to a video where people were handing out free tee shirts in Ottawa, I think it was. The link went 404 and I edited the post to take out references to free tee shirts and to remove the dead link.

Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I hope you enjoy the other posts.

Happy 4th of July!

Richard Niemeier said...

In my experience traveling to Canada many Canadians feel Toronto is not a true representation of Canadians. Many would say it is Americanize. So I would never base my views of Canada solely around what happens in Toronto.

By the way I lived for 6 months near Bloor and Young. I would recommend Toronto to anyone to live in. The theatre district, movie festival, the transportation system, and the different ethnic neighborhoods make this an exciting community. It has to be my favorite city that I have visited. Not that I am by any means well traveled.
I was a little taken aback by the gay pride parade when I was there. But I think it was because I was a stranger in a strange land and much younger. I also, feel it is all of this diversity that makes the city what it is.

But to comment on nationalism and patriotism.

I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America For the fact that we are willing to make mistakes in trying to do what we believe would improve the global community. Military actions we have supported and championed like Iraq and Afghanistan. Not that it is all a bed of roses, unless of course you remember even roses have thorns.

It is apparent to me that the USA is one of the great societies that ever existed on this planet. For us to continue we need to find solutions too many things that tear at the fabric of our very fundamental ideals.

One of which I believe is capitalism. Capitalism is a beast that is hard to tame and very well may be why many people are more nationalist. Capitalism in and of itself requests a certain level of conformity. This I feel causes us to request the conformity from other nations and individuals. If we could find a way to request and end goal without influencing the process by which they get there. Maybe then we would allow people to interact with us without altering their respective societies and cultures.

I am certain it takes a brain much smarter than mine to reach the ultimate solution. Which is how to create the greatest community in our galaxy by becoming a global community?

Valerie said...

Hi. I've been in Canada since '95, in Toronto about nine years. Yes, there are Canada Day town events where flags are given away at government (taxpayer) expense, but they're usually not really big. So it's not far-fetched as much as it is inconsistent. The street is "Yonge". I don't know about Toronto being Americanized - there's still a ton a British residue, yet some proximity and a lot of American channels on tv. As well, there are even more different languages flying around all the time. I think Toronto has more in common with American cities of its size, and really cities of its size around the world. Everybody has "the right" to fly pretty much any country's flag, which becomes very clear around World Cup time. Being proud of a country's willingness to make mistakes is indeed nationalism - I'd be prouder of one that admits those mistakes and explains why they were made in painful detail. Canada's not too great at that either.

To me, Canada Day is the day to celebrate my country and Independence Day is that day they celebrate in the country where I grew up, and good for them. But I see people here do plenty of celebrating for their native countries' holidays, so it's all good.

Great post, Cate.

catester said...

Thanks, Valerie!

I hope to visit Toronto some day and explore. I miss being in real cities, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Cate - Get out of our country. You are an insult and just another uninformed, idiot.

catester said...

I'll certainly take that under advisement, Anonymous. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Sheila said...

It dismays me that anonymous thinks that because of the anonymity of the internet s/he can leave hateful comments.

Growing up, the 4th of July was a major holiday in my hometown of Warren PA, where they have the longest continuously running 4th of July parad, a town festival and fireworks. The town I live in now only has fireworks, and they are on July 3d so the mayor doesn't have to pay holiday pay to the city workers. This attitude, plus our present president, are probably why my attitude towards what I see as "fake" patriotism grows more negative. The 4th celebrates person freedoms we won... now we only lose them.

catester said...

Thanks, Sheila, for the comment.

Your town's holiday cost-cutting measures make me wonder if the USA I sometimes miss is even there any more!

Maybe we've all moved on in the past 10 years. I guess that's a more realistic view, eh? ;-)

Thanks again.

Tina said...

True 'nuf.. Canada Day is not like the fouth of July.... why would you expect them to be? Canada and the USA are two different cultures and countries.... true we are both from western culture and have much more in common to each other then say a European country. I am Canadian - raised in Atlantic Canada then lived in Toronto for 7 years and Ottawa for 4 years... then moved to Michigan for 4 years where I found many things very very different .. all subtle things that make you realize that yes indeed you are in a different country and I thought it was a difference in Canada and the USA... UNTIL I moved 7 months ago to the southern USA in North Carolina.... and let me say that The north and south USA are different enough that I again experienced some culture shock.. this time I found myself longing for things in Michigan such as coney dogs and the Detroit Pistons... whereas moving to Michigan from Ottawa I was longing poutine and the Ottawa senators and the Grey Cup... change and difference is what makes the Western Culture so unique and free... we thrive on our independence and while every place celebrates each holiday differently we are still all of western culture and need to appreciate what we have in the moment anad relish the times of the past... both countries are fabulous and should be banding together... so while Canada Day and the Fourth of Jully are not alike.. why should they be?? Lets just celebrate our lives in the moment and treasure our freedom and western civilization and privlidges we have the luxury of living. and gosh do I miss Tim Horton's, eh ?!? ;)

catester said...

Thanks for the comment, Tina. I agree with you that there's a big difference in cultures throughout the US, too.

Why would I expect Canada Day and the Fourth of July to be somewhat alike? I guess because Canada Day is a celebration of Canada and the 4th of July is a celebration of the United States. My post was meant to comment on the differences between the two cultures, and used those symbolic days as a jumping off point. I wouldn't expect them to be the same, any more than I would expect Canadian and American culture to be the same. That's roughly what this whole blog is meant to be about.

Sometimes I do a better job of communicating that than other times. ;-)