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True Patriot Love

Since residing in Canada, almost 14,000kms away from my hometown of Melbourne, I have been contemplating aspects of my identity more than ever before. I have lost count of the number of times I have introduced myself as being 'from Australia', immediately distinguishing myself as the outsider, a subject of curiosity for locals. Yet the longer I stay here, the more I feel that I could easily identify with 'being' Canadian. This past week, however, I felt more like a tourist, visiting Niagara Falls, watching the Pride Parade and taking a harbour cruise in Toronto. I spent Canada Day in cottage country doing what many Canadians do, spending time with family, activities by the lake, eating and drinking.


As we cruised along the clear fresh waters of Lake Minden, I noticed the display of patriotism that has become so familiar to me in this great northern land, the Canadian flag that flies from every vantage point, not just on notable days, but every day of the year. I quite like this flag because, unlike the Australian counterpart, it does not include the Union Jack, and is relatively apolitical, with the innocuous emblem of the maple leaf, rather than some potentially offensive reminder of colonization. Flags and anthems are amongst the most overt displays of patriotism, that complex beast that is so readily misconstrued and misused. I detest the lyrics of most national anthems, for their colonialist origins and invariably military/paternalistic fervour. Yet, for some unexplicable reason, I have at times developed a lump in my throat while listening to the swelling melodies played at sporting events, as national champions stand proudly on the podium. This is more about empathy and admiration than patriotism, as I am often equally moved by the hard-fought achievements of competitors from 'rival' teams and nations. I guess there's something compelling about the hand on the heart as a national flag is raised.

At Toronto Pride, I was struck by the disparate ways in which the Canadian flag was displayed, and wondered how some 'true patriots' might feel about this appropriation of their national symbol. The traditional maple leaf juxtaposed with the rainbow flag constituted a striking representation of the celebration of diversity that many Canadians proudly claim to be a marker of their identity. The iconic leaf was emblazoned on PFLAG T-shirts and festooned on community service vans as reminders of Canadians' commitment to fostering a safe, supportive and caring society.


This year, the world famous Toronto Pride parade attracted media attention for reasons unrelated to half-naked men in leather chaps. This year, the parade coincided with the Canada Day long weekend, creating a potential 'conflict of interests' for many traditionalists. My partner and I decided to return from the cottage a day early, to watch the parade. The Mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford)elected to remain in cottage country with his family, sparking both criticism and praise from his constituents (with numerous signs screaming "screw the cottage"). According to Ford, he made the choice of cottage over community because his daughters had complained that they hardly see him on weekends. This 'family first' decision was publicly condoned by Rob's brother, Councillor Doug Ford. Despite the fact that this weekend was traditionally set aside for family gatherings, the debate about the duties of a civil servant is a no-brainer. For the mayor of the city, attendance at Toronto Pride is an essential part of what Sergiovanni describes as "symbolic and cultural leadership". Ford's non-attendance at one of the city's major cultural events signalled where his priorities lay, while highlighting an attitude that still prevails in even the most 'progressive' of societies.

The concept of patriotism is still inextricably tied with notions of loyalty and duty to family (by implication patriarchy), and within the conservative dogma in particular, 'family' is still part of a heteronormative paradigm. As one citizen hypothesized in an online forum, Mayor Ford would surely not have chosen the cottage over the NFL finals. You see, patriotic fervour is analogous with sporting fanaticism, while national pride fosters and aspires to the same ideals of achievement and domination over 'the other team'. Perhaps then, the shadow side of patriotism results from this conflation of pride with superiority, thereby contributing to the presence of xenophobia and the development of a sense of tribalism (the 'us against them' mentality). Those who do not belong to the dominant country, clan or culture are automatically perceived and treated differently. Cue the cries of "Un-Australian" or "Un-Canadian", as applied to anyone who dares to speak against the ruling political parties or espouse values that contravene so-called 'accepted norms'. 


Contrary to the status conferred on those who display unwavering allegiance to their country, within both Australia and Canada, there is generally less admiration for those individuals and groups who are courageous enough to express political dissent, especially if they happen to be protesting against ruling conservatives. Patriotism seems to have morphed into Nationalism, as the personal becomes political. For my part, I reject both 'isms', preferring to be proud of the endeavours, achievements and visions of those who strive for human rights, social justice, equity and harmony, regardless of their country, creed or culture. If my job entailed demonstrating my pride of the LGBTQ community and supporters who gather in solidarity to celebrate diversity and inclusion, then I would give up a family get-together at the cottage anyday. After all, surely we who attended Toronto Pride are simply another manifestation of 'family', proudly flying the Canadian flag in a demonstration of 'true patriot love'.

9 Comment count
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No love lost...

Agree with most of your views here, and also understand the issue of the identity you raise. I find that as people move out of their naturalised residences, there can be some sort of ghettoisation. Breaking out of it could be the first real step to accepting the larger humanity, as opposed to geographical ones.

You say, "Patriotism seems to have morphed into Nationalism" I'd say it is the other way. And rarely good.

The obsessions with flags really bothers me and how we should treat it with 'respect'. Who are the other "we"?

Perceptive analysis, Cindy.


PS: Also brought back memories of my Harbour Cruise in TO and, of course, the amazing N. Falls. You must have been to Niagara-on-the-lake. Very European ambience. Discovered it too late or would have stayed overnight.

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Patriotism in Reality Does Not Exist

"Patriotism" is a huge turnoff to me, and in reality--not to mention existentially--it does not exist. In essence, it's nothing more than kids at a high school raising their index finger at football games and shouting, "We're number one!" (Or fans at baseball games, etc.) It insinuates competition and divisiveness where there isn't any, and shouldn't be any. Am I proud to be an American? I guess. Though if I was born in Canada, I guess I'd be proud to be a Canadian, and if I was born in Romania, I'd be proud to be Romanian. I was born in New England, so I watch all the Red Sox games, and so I guess that makes me a Sox fan. But if I was born in Cleveland, I'd watch all the Indians' games, and I guess I'd be an Indians fan. It comes down to me being a baseball fan, more than a team's fan, bigger picture versus smaller picture, and I suppose also that means I'm a fan of being alive, more than I am to be alive in a particular nation. Or, the whole planet is one whole nation, and we're all one big team. Or, at least, I think we're supposed to be.

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One Big Team

Thanks for your response, Steven. I couldn't agree with you more. If only team allegiance did not spill over into tribalism. Lately I feel as if the powers that divide us are growing stronger than those that unite us, and that too many people have forgotten how to appreciate life itself. Cheers, Cindy

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Interesting post, Cindy. I felt like piping up by saying that psychologically humans instinctively affiliate with the perceived safer/stronger leader and often give up on consciously held ideals when push comes to shove. The deepest drives are to reproduce ourselves (in some way) and to secure one's safety. However those things result in affiliation in a community is complex and layered.

Since you have touched on so many things here, the discussion could be long and interesting. Philosophy, biology, sociology, and other ologies all could make a case as they would try to explain the human condition.

I personally am competitive but only if the playing field is level. When it tilts unfairly to one side or another, the game loses its appeal very quickly. When a leader or an entire country dominates and subjugates others - and cheering is heard in some way - the point of it all changes and becomes ugly. Patriotism is fine if respect is upheld and sportsmanship maintained. It is a very fragile thing, however. Overall, given the chance, I believe most people enjoy a sense of purpose and belonging, a chance to test themselves in some way, which is how I view competitiion. If only we could guarantee the respect and conscious positive regard for others uniformly as a species!


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patriotism - nationalism

"I reject both 'isms', preferring to be proud of the endeavours, achievements and visions of those who strive for human rights, social justice, equity and harmony, regardless of their country, creed or culture."

So good to hear these words! Thank you.

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Thanks, Sylvia. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I just wish more people felt an allegiance to the human race instead of their perceived/contructed race or nationality. Cheers, Cindy

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Security and belonging

Christine, your response gave me much to think about, especially "The deepest drives are to reproduce ourselves (in some way) and to secure one's safety. However those things result in affiliation in a community is complex and layered."  Following the massacre in Norway, I am despairing, trying to find some hope in what is becoming a very dark landscape. I shall blog about it soon. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. Cheers, Cindy

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Pats and Congrats


Congratulations on your challenge-winning,thought provoking, comment producing post.

I agree with many points you and others have touched on especially the ones Christine raises including the socioeconomic reasons humans follow a strong leader to remain safe and reproduce which is apparent today and is also the same drive seen in people who advocate for others.

If invading soldiers marched into my neighborhood (ah hem)and threatened my family, I'd become more attached to my country if soldiers from my country saved our lives. Who can deny this would happen? And does happen? I think it is the root of patriotism. The need to survive is hard wired and why humans picked sides, developed nations and inevitably formed an emotional bond (identified as patriotism) to their county.

There is a fascinating PBS documentary based on Jared Diamond's book called Guns, Germs and Steel I highly recommend to everyone.

And Steven, I know what nation you belong to if you watch all the Red Sox games. I belong to Red Sox Nation, too. (We're going to see them play in KC in four weeks. We get great seats.)


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Taking Sides

Thanks for your pats and congrats, Jules. I've been busy moving prior to our imminent departure from Canada, so haven't been visiting redroom as often as I would like. Your comments always take me down a new tangent, making me want to add more to my blog. I agree that the survival urge is hard-wired, but I think the problem arises when 'patriotism' is equated with 'protecting' a piece of turf from the perceived threat of 'outsiders'. Now you've got me going again! I shall save it for another blog.
Cheers, Cindy