Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Our Canada: 10 reasons to celebrate

In English, the word "our" is ambiguous. It refers, on the one hand, to "our, not your." On the other, it means, "belonging to all of us." In Te Reo Māori, the language of the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand/Aotearoa, there are distinct words for each: to (pl. "o") mātou is exclusive, to (plural "o") tātou is inclusive.

Today, then, I celebrate to tātou Kanata. And so should we all--t
ātou katoa. But what's to celebrate? Here's my list o' ten: add your own in the comments.
  1. We aren't Americans. (Hold on, don't get irritated--that's what Americans are saying.) All of the things that the benighted Washington Times finds to criticize, most of us read immediately as virtues. Hence, I suspect, most of us are amused, not outraged, by the linked editorial. Obama is like us? Well, good for him. Have a Labatt's Blue and a piece of backbacon, Barack. And don't forget to work on your French. (H/t.)

  2. Canada is a breathtakingly beautiful place to live. This is what I mean. And this. And this. And this. And this. It just goes on and on.

  3. We have basic guaranteed rights and freedoms. That doesn't mean we are truly free, of course: bourgeois legality doesn't make it so. But we are free, to a very great extent, to struggle for freedom. And we are free to argue about freedom. Take freedom of speech: some claim we are being silenced by Stalinist bureaucrats, and they argue this at the top of their lungs, day after day, month after month, with no commercial interruption or trips to the Gulag. Somehow our Stalinists fail to function. Good.

  4. Medicare. Yes, there are delays, inconsistencies based upon geography, all manner of things that need fixing. But people here don't go bankrupt for medical reasons, everyone has access to health care based upon need, not their wallet, and the standard of care is high. (Don't believe everything you hear.) In Canada, your income isn't a matter of life-and-death. Rich or poor, you get the same top-of-the-line medical service.

  5. Neither stones in a mosaic or more metal for a melting-pot, Canadians get along. Sure we have our ghettoes (or not), our tensions, our backlashes, even the odd bit of bizarrely incompetent terrorism on snowmobiles, but we prefer cutting remarks to knives and sarcasm to bullets, when we aren't trying to be civil. And the latter (in comparison with too many other countries) is something that a lot of us work rather hard at. The main point, though, is that we talk to each other. Or yell, but that's just another form of talking, isn't it?

  6. Canada's first peoples have a shot at justice. They haven't got it yet--nowhere near--but in some countries indigenous peoples don't get to settle land claims or get funds and an apology from a hostile government as reparations for decades of appalling, sometimes bestial, treatment of their kids. Poverty, isolation and foot-dragging on land claims continue to take their terrible toll. But the people affected aren't taking any of it lying down, they have a lot of allies, and there is reason to hope.

  7. Separation of Church and State. A no-brainer in the 21st century, one might have thought. And one would be very wrong. But for every Pastor Steve and Bishop Freddie and "Dr." Charlie, there are a bunch of churchy people who are content to do churchy things. Still, alas, on my nickel, but we're working on that.

  8. The weather. It's, no pun intended, an ice-breaker. From the Carleton University Handbook for international students:

    Most people you will come in contact with will be friendly, however international students often remark that while Canadians are “polite”, they can appear to be distant or cold. The best way to strike up a conversation with a Canadian is to talk about the weather—weather is an important aspect of Canadian society.

  9. The food. Whether it's rogan josh or beaver tails, pâté de foie gras or apple strudel, you can be sure that Canadian cooking offers the best choice available. Anywhere. And don't forget that country food. You haven't lived until you've tasted umingmaq. My mouth is watering as I write this. The Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife used to do maple-glazed chops. Not any more. But that was almost quintessentially Canadian, eh?

  10. Canada Day. Never mind the stupid drunks who misbehave in our nation's capital, Canada Day is special. No tedious military parades; no appeals to nativist patriotism; no godawful speeches (well, some). It's party time. A time to feel good about ourselves and where we live. Fireworks. Fast food from booths. Picnics. Inconsequential blog posts like this. There are millions of motives at work here, but what's the collective result? Mostly, summer fun on a day off. What could be more Canadian than that?
So, for just one day, never mind our ridiculously undemocratic electoral system, our far-right ideology-driven minority government, our foreign adventures and our dimming international reputation, the deliberate pollution of our environment with government approval, the talking heads who constitute "journalism" in this country, the pitiful lack of true grassroots power or involvement. These are all the sort of thing that keeps a progressive's blog humming, but today let's raise a glass or two, if not to what we are now, then to what we can be.

To all the nations, then, warring in the bosom of a single State: First Nations, Inuit, Québécois, English, all of our immigrant communities, not to mention Western Alien Nation, and, God help us, SDA Nation.

Yup. My Canada includes Stephen Harper. It even includes Kate McMillan. Just don't ask me to party with them. Not today.

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