My former home was tired, and much of that society either didn’t work at all, or was showing its age. Moving to a new country became an exciting adventure rather than – as it sometimes felt - some kind of betrayal of old values, and bringing my young children to a place where they could be more free (and by extension, happier) turned into an aspirational goal. We would become Canadians.
Surprisingly, despite having prepared myself for it, leaving Britain was still a wrench. Mostly, I felt sad at leaving behind my oldest friends, but I also left behind everything that was familiar - everything that was comfortable - and that too was hard. Any sense of disquiet was overcome by the excitement of arriving in a new country that we would call home, and Canada rapidly became our favourite place on earth.
Many years later, we are all, indeed, Canadians – we have pieces of paper to prove it. Am I, though, patriotic about this enormous place? If I’m honest, not in the same way that I used to be about my hereditary birthplace - but then, my ideas about patriotism - along with my ideas about my country of birth - have evolved. Blind patriotism is the sibling of nationalism, and neither is a force for good (witness the worst excesses of the redneck American flag-wavers/wearers). There is much about Canada to be proud of, but as for every country, things which we prefer to pretend never happened. Sometimes we are successful in keeping them quiet, although dark secrets, I find, only tend to fester. The appalling scandal of the Residential Schools system will linger – quite rightly - for generations to come.
I am proud of much that Canada stands for on the world stage today (the recent disagreement with the evil regime in Saudi Arabia and refusing to back down in Trump-initiated trade negotiations being examples), and I am pleased and proud to identify as a Canadian, despite my English accent. I feel protective of Canada, of BC and of our little island in a calm, shimmering sea. But, I know the lady (Canada) has flaws.
If anyone (including old friends) claims these days that their country is better, I’m liable to make a farting sound with my lips and tongue (quicker and easier than pesky words, I find), but I’m mindful of the mistakes – some of them terrible, even horrifying – that were made in our history, both ancient and modern. We are not alone. Name me a country without a troubled past, and I’ll give you five with blood on the walls. Canada is no exception to the latter. It’s an ugly side of human nature which we seem unable to escape; the strong will, inevitably, overwhelm the less strong or the peaceful. Cultures will be ridden over and erased, replaced with whatever the strong wish to impose. We are a violent species.
Conquest is a nasty, horrific, messy business. Boasting about it (cue: the imperialism live and well in English ‘Gentleman’s Clubs’ or that redneck flag-waving habit of our neighbours) is simply shitty and un-evolved.
Glorifying patriotism as a virtue is a kind of madness I wish we could overwhelm and utterly eradicate. In fact, while we’re at it, why not simply recognize patriotism as the root of so much evil, which it clearly has been and continues to be?