Last week we took my brother and his family to the Rodeo. They were visiting from the UK and the Lynden Rodeo, at the end of the Northwest Washington State Fair just across the US border, is fabulous. It’s not too big, not too glitzy, just a local event for those who appreciate a cold beer, a corn dog and some curly fries while watching grown men and women eating dirt. You can even do a bit of shopping at the few stalls, and get yourself a rhinestone studded belt, a ten gallon hat and some light-up boots, plus a giant pair of longhorns to hang over your door. The cowboys and cowgirls are on the circuit, competing around the US and Canada, and the standard of roping and riding is just breathtaking. Not bad for $12 admission fee.
Anyway, the start of the competition is a parade of the flags of the sponsors, then the flags of the military services, then the flag of the Prisoners of War and Missing In Action. We all stood and sang the national anthems of Canada and the US. Now, here’s the point – I love the Canadian National Anthem. It’s catchy, stirring, easy to sing and very rousing. Canadians are not as jingoistic as their immediate neighbours and, as with everything Canadian, if you don’t want to sing it, you don’t have to. But I love it, and the girls sing it regularly at school so we all joined in and belted it out. As we finished, the guy in front of us (also Canadian) shouted “Yeah! Let’s play hockey!” and turned to us for a high five. I think I heard a sharp intake of breath from our guests, and maybe felt a little shudder – how awfully colonial and thoroughly unBritish.
From a new immigrant’s point of view, there is definately more patriotism in Canada than in the UK, and some may feel uncomfortable with that. When we first arrived, we noticed how many people wore teeshirts, hoodies, hats and badges clearly displaying “Canada” or the flag or just the maple leaf, and it seemed a bit weird. However, as new immigrants, we are also profoundly grateful to our new country for welcoming us with open arms and I think, in a city of immigrants, that goes for a lot of the residents. It is refreshing to feel that it is not uncool to be proud of your country, but also nice that even long term Vancouverites were surprised by the outpouring of loyalty that the Olympics produced. Bottom line? It’s a great anthem, so enjoy singing it and let the cynics find their own path.